Nimona – a Web Comic / Graphic Novel

Besides the fact that the cover and the art work is gorgeous, this comic drove a hole in my heart and firmly made a place in there for itself forever.

There’s something to be said for the people who can make you fall in love with fictional characters: their mind and their social abilities work at a whole other level. People who can possess your emotions, take control and make them go this way and that, are people to be feared or revered. I haven’t decided which. Although, I must say the feeling of helplessly falling in love with minimally illustrated characters is refreshing. This emotional abuse, this manipulation, at the hands of a graphic novel was a roller-coaster ride. It had me rooting for the characters and I was emotionally invested in the final outcome of their lives. And that is what you want for your characters and their readers don’t you?

It’s almost always the small things that make you love someone and that knowledge is what the author used against us readers. She drove us into caring for this villainous creature and we didn’t stand a chance of coming out of this comic unscathed. It was spectacular. Little things like the witty banter between the two main protagonists/antagonists (honestly don’t even know what they are) made me squeal out of love. The story spun knights, legends, magic, science, love, and mystery into a tale that you could tell had been lovingly crafted by the author. It felt like a lot of time had been spent pondering over the seemingly shallow and yet inconspicuously deep story plot.

Somethings don’t need to be spelt out and the author understood that. Somethings are felt. The nuances of relationships that form the basis of love are like a universal language that everyone understands. I loved it every minute of it.

Authors like this make me wish that I could take a peek into a person’s mind. I want to know how it works, what makes it tick, and what it is capable of. People with such deep understanding of how to incite emotions in others scares me. It scares me to think what they could do with this kind of power; someone having this kind of power to manipulate my emotions is not something I take lightly because it is something I am so rarely in control of myself.

The work went beyond all expectations and YOU NEED TO READ THIS NOW. That is all I am saying. READ IT NOW. GO.

Guns and countries

This concept of borders is man-made. A construct of society that equates to the uncontrolled selfish thought-process of a child who can’t and won’t understand the quiet pleasure in sharing. This need to own something so much older than humanity itself, seems so ludicrous. So many, hundreds of millions of lives lost. And for what? A piece of land that in a couple of generations might not even be in your hands anymore?

This us-against-them mentality pervades every facet of our lives. Look around you. Tell me who you think is “us” in your mind and who is “them”? To what extent are you willing to treat another as “them”? When do they become “us”? Why can’t we see all of humanity as “us”? Do people in your “us” category count as just your family members or your fellow countrymen? Or is it anyone belonging to your race or your religion or your sexuality or your gender? When do we stop classifying?

“Imagine a man risking what life he has left for something as absurd as a country!” said the old man.

Nately cried,” These is nothing absurd about risking your life for your country!”
“Isn’t there?”, asked the old man,”What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries usually unnatural. Surely not ALL countries are worth dying for!”
– Catch 22

I went to a gun range the other day where my friend had me shoot rifles and handguns and that is when I realized something. I realized the seriousness of firing a gun. Movies make it seem so cool as heroes fly from one corner of the room to another, firing off a million rounds an hour in every which direction. But it’s not such a joke. When you hold the gun in your hands, you feel the weight of it. It is heavy not just because of its mass, but because of the weight of knowing the destructive power of this weapon you hold in your hands. It can rip through a human being in a millisecond, taking with it all of its hopes, dreams, the potential of a person to single-handedly change the world for the better. All of it gone in a split second that it takes to fire a gun. Then consider the fact that people point these weapons at others purposefully to take their life. Is that the real baggage of war? The weight of all the potential good that is lost to this world once that trigger is pulled? To me it seems that no good can come of this “tool”; its powers of destruction outweigh its benefits tenfold.

As appealing as the idea of firing a gun is, even at a static target, I have come to the realization that guns are just not for me. After all, words have a similar kind of damaging power. Only, words you can heal and come back from. You can’t come back from death. You can’t come back from taking a life.

Your Brain at Work – David Rock

Here’s a paper I wrote for my English class, where I was supposed to talk about how this book helped us improve some aspect of ourselves. Here it goes:

Having been an avid reader over the years has made me come to a realization: you are what you read. Reading is capable of changing not only the information in our brains about facts and the world, but it can also fundamentally change who you are and how you think.

Some books are capable of changing us more than others; books we pick up with the intention of reading so we can improve ourselves. A lot of the times we unconsciously absorb information from books, other times we are nudged into consciously learning something about ourselves. “Your Brain At Work” by David Rock is one of these books.

Aimed at people who want to improve themselves and the way they manage their life, I personally found that a lot of routes this book pushes readers to take and improve themselves come naturally to me already. As quoted by Rock in his book, Kevin Oschsner, the head of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Columbia University says,

Self-awareness is the capacity to step outside your own skin and look at yourself with as close to an objective eye as you possibly can. In many cases it means having a third-person perspective on yourself: imagine seeing yourself through the eyes of another individual (Rock, ).

These are words similar to those I use to explain the very idea to friends during our serious philosophical late-night conversations. Unlike the book, however, I feel that I usually achieve this when I am alone and reflecting over my day instead of in real-time. This detachment from my situation has helped me put my life in perspective, as I take my morality, and my objectivity out with me while leaving my feelings behind and watching my interactions with the world.

This ability to analyze myself, just the way I do others, allows me to see things in third-person and judge myself just the way I would judge others: impartially. And I can be brutal about it too. I don’t shy away from analyzing my most embarrassing moments or some of the most humiliating situations I have managed to get myself into. I learn from my mistakes and I do not mind going back to these moments in retrospect and seeing what I could have done better to salvage some situations. I feel like it has allowed me to change myself and become a better person in a lot of respects and in a lot of ways I have course corrected. I felt like it gave me a new form of control. After all, knowledge is power. If a person knows something about themselves, it makes it easier for them to change whatever aspect of their life they feel is damaging them. It has made me a more mature person too because I realize that this neutrality will allow my moral compass to always point in the direction of fairness; regardless of whether I myself am involved in the situation or someone else is. I feel like I am more forgiving of myself and of others as I realize that everyone is as flawed as I am.

A lot of the times as I read the book, I paused and noticed the things that I was doing that were distracting me; something I should really be paying attention to. I stopped and noticed if I really was losing focus every 3 minutes as I stopped to check my Instagram. Did I really close the book and look out my living room window and daydream? Was it because it was so much easier to check out rather than pay attention to something that required so much effort to decipher and understand? I caught myself multiple times as I sat staring into space at nothing, my mind having wandered far away from the book. I learnt a number of ways I could bring order to the chaos in my mind; by consciously paying attention, prioritizing and doing the difficult tasks first.

Something the book talks about in an indirect manner is procrastination. As I read, I felt that I used to be the person who avoided difficult tasks, but I caught on early that it would just be easier to manage my life if I got things done as and when they entered my problem queue. I found that not only did it make stress-management so much easier, it has in some way really made it easier to solve the problems or tasks. I understand this now because the idea now has a name to it; using your energy in the very beginning allows me to problem-solve efficiently. I automatically prioritize my problems starting with the most difficult, or the most interesting, or according to the closest deadline, and then give my best to it. I also feel like it really does help to mix things up and allow my mind some variety. I do this with my semester courses so I have tasks which differ in content; some are programming problems, that require logic; while some call for creativity, such as writing or designing something; and others need understanding, that just require me to read a text-book.

Another thing I learnt was that it really helped me if I thought about the problem I was meant to solve when I was doing other routine tasks that did not require a lot of attention. A lot of problem solving tasks I am given in class; I discover the solutions to in the shower or in my dreams. My mind churns out the answer to my problems and all I have to do is think about them without the pressure of looking for an answer right then and there.

A lot of what the book did for me was raise awareness about things I felt already existed or came naturally to me. However, there is one aspect of life that I feel this book really will help me “fix”; gaining some form of emotional control in my life. Managing emotions is key to making or breaking relationships and I have ruined quite a few by saying and doing things because I was riled up in an emotional storm. I feel like I really need to become self-aware when I am in an emotional state where I have no control over myself. I need to take a minute and reassess my emotional state before I make rash decisions that eventually make me feel like I have dug a deeper hole for myself.

One other thing I realized I had learnt the hard way, was handling stress; fairness; and status related issues by using reappraisal techniques and applying them at work. I realized that there was a time when I used this technique to change my attitude to a more positive one and deal with nasty situations that could arise at work where I felt my supervisor was being unfair. This severe stress-causing issue made my personal and work life miserable and I realized that I could not let this situation prolong because it would break me mentally. I could either run or I could fix the situation to work in my favor in some way. I activated my “director” (Rock, ) and decided that the best way for me to deal with this issue would be to not cry about fairness, but to make myself indispensable and let my work speak for itself. This would then allow me to feel better about my own situation, increase my status, give me an emotional boost and at the same time I would be in a better position to stand-up for myself.

I believe that the older you grow the more your director starts making appearances and it is all a part of growing up. You become aware of your own motivations and start to control your basic instincts. It is great to read books like these as they reveal to you the nature of our mind and the way it works, giving us more power to control it. At the end of the day, I feel like the director, mindfulness and self-awareness come hand-in-hand with another quality: self-control. This is the ability to stop and pause and just ask yourself this: “Is this really what I want to do?”

Reading between the eyes

I believe that every time a person opens their mouth and speaks; or picks up a pen and writes; or converses and passes information in any way, they let a part of them escape. No matter how hard they try to hide it. Behind fictional words, behind humor, behind body language; the truth peeks out. Shows what people really think. Show people who they really are. Show what motivates them.

I don’t know if I am the only one who can see this or if there are others who are as perceptive about these things as I am.

Every flick of the hair, every light touch to the arm, every sneaky look, every word they say. It’s like people are open books that I can just read whenever I feel like. And it’s not like I’m overconfident, smug or conceited about this ability. Even I give out the same information every time my mouth opens. Even without knowing people know that I know what makes them tick. Most people get scared of me. No one likes me looking into their heads. They attribute it to intelligence. But is it really intelligence? I don’t know what it is. Sometimes I wish I couldn’t see it. Sometimes I pretend I don’t. Sometimes I don’t. Maybe I would actually like people if I didn’t see how selfish they are. Or how stupid.

I can see who people are when they write, when they do the things they do when they think no one is looking, or when they think no one is paying attention, or when they think they have power over someone else. I have started to meet so many evil people who truly believe their actions are inconsequential; people who like to cause pain in small ways, that I’m starting to think that most humans are assholes. People think you don’t notice when they’re being jerks. I notice it and I call them out over it. I notice when the way a person talks to me changes. I notice when the way they look at you changes too.

And I notice when someone notices me. I notice when someone catches me before I can hide my emotions behind my mask. And I have total respect for people who put me through the same x-ray vision and see right through me and see the person that I am when I am caught defenseless. People who look at me and can tell what I am thinking. They are so few and far between that I feel drawn towards them.

At one point I thought I was the only one who could do that. Overtime I realized it came to me by way of my mother and I have met this one other person so far for whom all it takes is one look. How their mind works and what motivates them, what drives them, what their intentions are and what they want from their environment. Everything is right there. Or maybe it is just the plain old matter of someone paying attention.