Sid Carter

Less is more than enough

Almost 2 years ago, in the summer of 2012, I was on my way to a music festival. It was perhaps the most satisfying time ever, including trying to get to the festival and back. In the process, I ended up hitchhiking with a stranger I had met just a week ago. We ended up going from Germany to Portugal within 4 days, not having spent a single penny for any ride. That was pretty fast, by hitchhiking standards. I had to ask random strangers if they would give me a ride, strangers who spoke a language I didn’t speak or understand. I had to learn enough German/French/Spanish/Portuguese to ask people if they would give me a ride and to say thank you in those languages. We had a 1% or lower success rate trying to get strangers to give us rides.

It worked. We eventually reached the music festival in Portugal.

I didn’t have my laptop then, and I had just recently lost my phone in Tokyo, after an unfortunate incident. Less said the better. So, I bought a cheap talk and text phone in Germany. I could use that anywhere in Europe, so long as I spent lots of Euros. I didn’t actually end up using the phone, except when I needed someone to call me, instead of me calling them. A friend of mine in Berlin lent me his tent and sleeping bag, which I ended up using at the music festival and on my way back to Berlin, via Scandinavia.

The music festival itself was a different kind of crazy, in the best way possible. There were no advertisements and it was unlike any music festival I had been to. To be fair, I hadn’t been to any others before this. The composting toilets were the cleanest I had ever used. I could either take communcal showers or shower in an enclosure. There was dust all around and it was 35C (95F) or more during the day. It used to get quite chilly at night. I barely ate very much while I was at the music festival, either because I wanted to save the little money I had brought or I didn’t have the appetite or the energy. There were all kinds of people and yet, I never once felt scared, except for that one time when I woke up from sleep, hot, sweaty and scared that I would end up dying alone. Perhaps the scariest moment of my life. I chalked it down to the heat. I went to listen to music at the dance temple, maybe twice or thrice. I thought it was the same kind of music. You’ve listened to one, you’ve listened to all, is what I thought.

All things considered, I loved that festival. Everyone was respectful of one another, friendly, and beautiful. It was like heaven on earth.

I had nothing. Well, almost nothing. Barely ate and yet, it felt so very satisfying and comforting. After the music festival, I hitchhiked back to Hamburg, and from there up north to Stockholm, where I stayed with my cousin’s family for a couple of weeks and eventually returned to Berlin.

All in all, a very eventful and eye-opening journey. While on the journey, I learnt a lot about myself, my own prejudices and biases. I realised I couldn’t learn unless I gave up what I already knew. And giving up, letting go is not easy. You have so much invested and you think, I can never give this up. I may not be able to live without this knowledge or this phone or maybe this jacket.

I was wrong. Everytime, I left something, let go off an idea, I ended up learning something new or finding something else. I stepped out of a pattern or a way of thinking that was not helping.

And so, the time has come, like many things before this. I thought I couldn’t quit Quora, until I did. I’ve never gone back. I thought I wouldn’t use Facebook. I’ve used it, a bit too much now. And so, it’s time for me to delete my facebook.

I got in touch with people I had forgotten long ago. I made new friends. I added a lot of snark. Over time, it’s usefulness has shrunk. And like Dad sometimes says, it has provided diminishing returns. And so, I have to ensure I focus on things that create positive value.

So, it’s a goodbye to all my facebook friends. I will still be here, living and breathing, in flesh, blood, and bones. If you ever need to get in touch with me, you know where to email me.

Adios! Auf Wiedersehen!

You're still carrying her?

I’m not a Buddhist or a Muslim. Or even a Hindu. Definitely not a Christian, a Jew or an Atheist.

If anything, I am a combination of all of these, a reflection of everything I’ve learnt over the years, since the time I’ve gained consciousness. Many moons ago, I came across the following story in the context of Buddhism and since then, it has remained a favourite of mine.

Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping, because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.

But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time.

Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. "I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.

There are many ways to read this. The way I read it and understand it – to not hold on to any idea or dogma for too long, without questioning the reasoning behind it, lest I behave like the monkeys in the monkey, banana and water spray experiment.

Also this:

I never wish to be easily defined. I’d rather float over other people’s minds as something strictly fluid and non-perceivable; more like a transparent, paradoxically iridescent creature rather than an actual person. — Franz Kafka

The need to want to win or to keep fighting

Perhaps there are some kinds of debates where people don’t want to find the right answer so much as they want to win the argument.

There seems to be a need to want to win. Or perhaps it’s a need to fight something or the other. If you login to facebook or any of the multiple social networks out there, you are asked to be outraged. That you are wrong and you should take a hard look at yourself.

Outraged at what you ask? Anything and everything!

You have got to be angry. The world is so wrong. You have to fight against something or the other. You are given a choice – you’re either with us or against us, made famous by George W Bush.

You can’t be nowhere in the middle. Where’s your sense of outrage? Why aren’t you fighting? CNN said something – aren’t you up in arms? Fox News said something nasty – don’t just nod your head, DO SOMETHING! Jon Stewart mocked someone else – Let’s all laugh at the loonies and get outraged at the insanity that is around us. And so it goes…

Perhaps that is right for most everyone.

I know it’s not right for me. I may not like everything that goes on around me, that doesn’t mean I have to fight everything, and get my metaphorical panties in a twist.

Being outraged has rarely ever helped me. If anything, it’s always made things worse.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

Before I want everyone to be tolerant, I have to be tolerant myself. Before I tell anyone to not fight, I have to not fight myself. If anything, I have to face my own contradictions. So, if anything needs to change, I will start with myself.

Now, pass me that sheesha, will ya?

Choice

In the last few minutes of the movie Looper, Gordon-Levitt’s character Joe realizes that the only way to stop the kid from becoming the rainmaker is to kill himself. And so, he chooses to kill himself and stop the cycle of violence.

Over the last few months, negativity and cynicism have flooded my soul and my thoughts. I have often looked into the mirror of my mind and wondered who I was looking at. I mean, I knew it was me, but it was a Dorian Gray version of me. You follow?

I did not like what I saw in my mirror. I had to do something. I had to act if I wanted to protect my soul, so I could be happy when I looked at myself in my mind’s mirror. I had no choice.

And so, I decided that I would try and remove negativity and cynicism, bit by bit from my life and to focus on positives.

It’s been three days since I decided that and I can say I have been pretty successful. I have not whined or complained online about anything. I do occasionally exhibit some cynicism, but am trying as much as possible to curtail it and turn it into a positive.

Voice

Touch was an important step, removing the stylus between the user and the interface. And touch has changed how we interact with devices and experience them, ever since the release of the first iPhone.

Now, it’s the turn of voice recognition. Typing using an on-screen keyboard still feels cumbersome. I would rather speak and have my words written, cause often what I’m thinking doesn’t make it to the screen in the time it takes for me to type it.

Siri on the iPhone has matured. Cortana on Windows Phone seems pretty good. Google Now is pretty good and now we have Amazon’s Fire TV which recognises voice commands too.

Voice recognition is maturing and I think, time has come to for it to take it’s rightful place. Voice recognition is where things are at, going forward.

At least, that’s what I want the most now. ;)

Update: I started writing this post yesterday, when I saw the news about Amazon releasing Fire TV. And then today, I read this – Speech Recognition Pioneer Novauris Bought By Apple. I might be on to something here, just saying. :)