Turtles all the way down

Us humans spend most of our time in our head and sometimes things take a turn for the worse when our head starts behaving like a completely different invasive kind of individual who doesn’t agree with you, or obey you and its whole objective is to destroy you. When you’re dealing with any kind of mental illness you often forget what it’s like being not in your head all the time. You forget that there is this huge world out there, there are people who do love you in their broken way, most importantly, you forget that you’re a person too. You’re so in your head that sometimes the universe seems small compared to the vastness of the infinitely tangled labyrinth of our mind and, I know how difficult it is no to get lost or find your way out.
As John Green quotes in his book Looking for Alaska –

You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the past.

And that’s exactly what is happening to our girl Aza in the book ‘Turtles all the way down’. Aza is 16 years old, who suffers from OCD, which often manifests as a fear of the human microbiome. She is constantly worried about getting infected. So, before I go further, let us have two minutes of silence for people who think Monica from Friends is what OCD looks like. Very Cute!

Okay! back to reality- Aza spends an awful lot of time in her mind, trying to convince it that she will not get infected but her mind usually wins all of the time, and the result is picking scabs, bleeding, changing band-aids, washing hands, reading about the infection, panicking, and doing it all over again and again and again. She is so caught up in this deadly routine that she doesn’t realise how it affects other aspects of her life. She needs to constantly hide this version of herself from everyone, she cannot kiss or even touch a boy without thinking about getting infected, she has no idea how people around her are also struggling in their own lives, but the worst of all is she doesn’t know where her mental illness ends and where Aza starts.

Reading this book was like reading my thoughts in the third person. I do not suffer from OCD, but the thought process during the panic attacks is the same, the effect of Anxiety has had on my life is the same. I thought Classic literature is difficult to read but this book made them seem like an easy read. It was like going through every panic attack all over again, watching the broken and helpless hearts of my parents, realising how hard it is keeping up with any romantic relationship or even friendships. But it was also oh so comforting and relatable- to know that I’m not alone, for the first time it made me feel like a normal person, it was enough to know that someone out there knew this is not the end of the world and things can always get better when you decide you are not your mental illness.
So here’s one my favourite quote from the book (there are many because, duh, John Green)

Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.

PS: John Green, has himself struggled with OCD and anxiety for most his life, and he intentionally wrote this novel keeping in mind teenagers like Aza.

PPS: If you deal with any kind of mental illness, this book will help you understand yourself a little more and if you do not deal with any kind of mental illness, this book will help you understand those who deal with it a little more.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Why you should read The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde at least once:

  1. Oscar Wilde was an advocate of Aestheticism (a movement that argued that art should exist for the sake of art only). There’s a heavy undertone of aesthetics and art throughout this novel.
  2. To know what life was like for British aristocrats in the 19th century. (It was splendid)
  3. Long monologues between characters filled with amazing perspective and wit, which still stands true in today’s society.
  4. To realise how a persons influence at a young age can change one completely. And yet it’s our choices that make us who we really are.
  5. And, of course, the most important one, you can have it all- worldly beauty, a lifetime of youth, never-ending wealth and immense power, but they are never enough. You cannot escape your conscience.

In the end, if you could watch your soul deteriorating from better to worse with every choice you make, would you still keep making those choices?

The only solution to the Existential Nihilism

Let me tell you a story- Colin Singleton, is a prodigy, who keeps dating girls with the same name(Katherine) over and over again, also, keeps getting dumped by them over and over again. Like a lot of prodigies and highly intellectual people everywhere around the world, he loves creating patterns and connecting dots between random stuff. He loves it so much, that he unknowingly creates an epic pattern of failing every romantic relationship he gets in. Colin fears two things in his life- 1. No Katherine will ever like him and he will keep continuing being a dumpee. 2. He will never matter to anything and will never be a genius (FYI: being a prodigy is different than being a genius). Colin’s fears sound very familiar. Ah, wait! Those are exactly the things I am afraid of. Colin once asks his best friend, “How do you stop being terrified of getting left behind and ending up by yourself forever and not meaning anything to the world?” Good question Colin, I’ve been wondering that let’s see, from the beginning of my time.

Colin needs answers, and now so do we. He sets himself to kill two birds with a single stone- coming up with a mathematical theorem, which will predict the future of any relationship, which in return will prove that he is a genius and that he matters. But it’s never that simple, is it? After a whirlwind of summer vacation, Colin has multiple epiphanies:

How you matter is defined by the things that matter to you. You matter as much as the things that matter to you.

You can make a Theorem that explains why you won or lost past poker hands, but you can never make one to predict future poker hands. The past is a logical story. Its the sense of what happened. But since it is not yet remembered, the future need not make any fugging sense at all. In that moment, the future- containable by any Theorem mathematical or otherwise – stretched out before Colin: infinite and unknowable and beautiful.

And if the future is forever, then eventually it will swallow us all up. In another 2400 years, even Socrates, the most well known genius of that century, might be forgotten. The future will erase everything- there’s no level of fame or genius that allows you to transcend oblivion.

I guess he is more than right. I, in no way, will matter or be remembered once I am dead after few decades. So why care so much? Why tiptoe around life for some stupid rules some dead-soon-to-be-forgotten people set to measure our success. We can choose whoever we want to be and if that doesn’t make us anymore unique than we already are, who cares! At least we’ll be happy with actually living our lives trying to do things that matter to us. We may not live forever, but our stories will! And, as John Green says in the book, “Maybe life is not about accomplishing some bullshit markers“.

From the book- An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.