The Distant Cheeping

They are so clever!

A week ago, I felt that pressure was suddenly building up inside my head. There was a mild heaviness that didn’t seem to go away. I have never had a headache in my life. But, one night, I was turning back in my bed, trying to sleep. I never had sleeping problems. There was suddenly a sharp pain that never came back. I was having mild bodily disturbances on and off which I have never had before. Doctors often dismiss it telling me: “Wait, you are confusing me now.” I almost never sleep in the morning-even during Magazine production when I often have to skip sleep. But lately I am sleeping at my desk or office sofa for hours. While I was listening to a talk, I noticed that my eyes were drooping, even when I had slept six hours the night before.

When I went to a hospital nearby, the doctor asked me many questions: “Where do you work? How many hours do you work? Do you read a lot? When you read, do you read from a computer? How many hours do you sleep?” I have averaged four hours of sleep for many years.  I am always hooked to the web. I rarely read hard copies.  He just asked me to do a vision test, brushing off everything else.

When the doctor did a test, she found nothing wrong, and said that I can wear glasses only if I want. I was sad, as I have wanted glasses since I was a child. She sent me to another doctor. After a test, she asked me “Does anyone in your family have glaucoma?” No. “Do you know what glaucoma is?” I didn’t have any hard knowledge. She said: “Intraocular pressure ranging from 5 mmHG to 21 mmHG is considered within the normal range. Yours is 22 mmHG for left eye and 24 mmHG for the right eye, which is considered highly abnormal. However abnormally higher intraocular pressure doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has glaucoma.” When I asked her whether it is serious, she said: “It is not at all serious. I simply have to rule out that possibility for record keeping. If true, you have to be under lifelong treatment and observation.” She asked me to do a visual field test the next day itself.

There is no risk factor that applies to me. I am in my 20s. There is no history of glaucoma or diabetes or any illness in my family. I am not of black ancestry. I do not have nearsightedness or farsightedness. There is no history of injury to the eye. I do not use steroids.

I wondered why it is happening to me all over again. I never had any problem that bothered me in a fundamental sense. I have never known any responsibility save that of supporting myself. I can agree with H.L Mencken here: “Millions of them have to make their livings at tasks which really do not interest them. As for me, I have had an extraordinarily pleasant life, despite the fact that I have had the usual share of woes. I never felt it as oppressive, for no one was dependent on me, and I could always make extra money by writing bad fiction and worse verse.” As much as I despise the media, as much as I hate writing within a prescribed framework, I have never known any work-related pressure. For months, I have woken up every morning thinking that this is very close to eternal bliss. I am free to do whatever I wish to do.  

The best thing about my present job is that I barely have to work. It is a joke here that I type like a mixie and finish my work like an athlete. The narcissist in me has always loved that aspect of the job. I have always idolized Gail Wynand who wrote a brilliant editorial denouncing all advocates of careers for women and threw it on the desk of the first editor in sight, and stormed out of the room. He never needed to read his pieces over. I wept when Dominique said “Gail, what a great journalist you could have been.” when she heard that Gail Wynand had written all the copy himself. My heroes were journalists like Niranjan Mazumdar who replied that only his typewriter knows what he is going to write when a frantic editor made the mistake of rushing into his room in a rush hour to know how on earth he would pull it off. Niranjan then went on to write a perfect article in twenty minutes. My favorite economists are not unreadable charlatans, but men like Murray Rothbard who wrote eight single-spaced pages an hour. His work went straight from the typewriter to the published version, with a far more stylistic prose than that of any academic one can ever hope to read.

After the visual test, the doctor said, “It could as well be physiological. You have to do an OCT and CCT.” I have the courage to do many things that most people would not even attempt, but I am a sissy when it comes to physical pain. The last thing I want is a blade in my room. I cannot even stand the prick of a needle. Nurses often chuckle. Anything that pains my body is a big “No” for me.  The doctor said: “It is painless. You are a young male. The pains in your life haven’t even begun.” After the two tests, he said: “A person might be having high intraocular pressure simply because he was born that way or because intraocular pressure appears higher than it actually is because of a higher corneal thickness. In your case, it looks like it. The tests can say that whether I will have any problem four years in advance and there is no such sign yet. The heaviness and strain are in all likelihood because of dryness. It is perhaps a computer related ailment for which there is no specific treatment except proper rest, sleep and care.”

I have been here before. There can’t be a better week to go through it all again. A year back, on this day, doctors said that it is probable that I am having cancer. There was no risk factor that applied to me. I felt as if life should have gone out of me. For long, my attitude towards life was at best expressed by these words of Nathaniel Branden: “I do not know what anyone else wants out of life, or thinks life is about, but for me, right here, right now, everything I ever wanted is in the room with me. I feel completely fulfilled. All that’s left to want is that this will go on for a very long time.”

It was a scary thought, but once you have accepted the reality, even death looks like the most definite one among many possibilities. I lost the desire to connect to anyone. I felt as if many things which immensely mattered to me didn’t matter to me anymore. When I got the biopsy report, it was only an inflammation.

What are the lessons I have learned apart from the obvious fact that doctors cannot be trusted?

“Life is not such a big deal. Many things are not as bad as you imagine. Even when I felt that my days were counted, I slept like I do on any normal day. I closed my eyes, and I soon fell asleep. The sun rose in the east and set in the west. I learned that you do not feel depressed when your actions have no bearing upon what you are going through. I read what I love to read.”

I learned a lot in the last one year. Much of what I learned were things which I have known all along. But, learning, introspection and experiences have reinforced those convictions. Some of them are:

Sanity has nothing to do with social conformity and everything to do with the functioning of one’s mind, i.e., one’s psycho-epistemology. The whole world is insane. Well, almost.  When thinking through a problem whether social or personal, a rational person would always ask the following questions among many: “What are my premises? What is my conclusion? Are my premises true? If these premises are by no means obvious, did I reach them through the right means? Do the premises themselves lead to the conclusion? Am I smuggling in a hidden assumption? Is there a rationalization involved? Am I denying the obvious? Am I worthy of suspicion?” Even the fact that such questions exist do not occur to an insane person. Contrary to what many of her critics and even fans believe, Ayn Rand was very much sane when compared to the average Joe or even the average Ivy League professor. When I read her money speech, when I read what is true in her world view, I see ruthless rationality. For all her ranting, there is sanity in her writings that is almost impossible to see elsewhere.

Nonsense is everywhere:Rationalization plays a much larger role in nonsense than many believe. Lack of intelligence and originality aside, the biggest culprits are: Poor erudition, selective blindness, suspended consciousness, anecdotal reasoning, prejudice, conceit, unwarranted assumptions, bigotry, religion, and systematic biases.

As Manu Joseph says, “Political correctness is not a form of sophistication as people claim or imagine, it is a form of cowardice, the lowest form of human communication.” When I read politically correct literature, I feel tempted to paraphrase Linda Wachner, the toughest female boss on earth:  “You’re eunuchs. How can your wives stand you? You’ve got nothing between your legs.”

You can sharply increase your well being by being selectively unnice. I am the biggest fan of being nice on earth, but I no longer write blank cheques to being nice. When I read in the blog of a compassionate lady that we should think thrice before extending our niceties to the average Joe, I wholeheartedly agreed. As the great Niccolo Machiavelli taught us, anyone who has ever tried being nice to monsters that are not so nice will soon find themselves crushed beneath their ugly feet.

Selective meanness has socially beneficial effects. You should only feel good for being selectively mean. Mean employers will gleefully take in low class people. Low class employees cross the boundaries the moment they sense that no one is watching over them. They are easily tempted to cheat, and are convinced that “It is all your fault” irrespective of the truth of the matter. Mean employers are capable of firmly disciplining these character disorders when they shirk their responsibilities, rob, drink or hit at female co-workers. There is no way a nice employer can profit from dealing with them. Mean employers, on the other hand profit by keeping a close tab and paying them less at the same time. The world in turn, gets some value out of the worst of its inhabitants. As low as it is on the probability scale, if there exists an employee who is low class and value driven at the same time, he gets a foot in the door. As Bryan Caplan concedes, there are such rare exceptions among poor workers like grad students and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Idealism and morality are overrated. In intellectual professions, intelligence, passion, and common sense are underrated. A sense of morality cannot be taught. You either have it in you or you do not. What holds true anywhere else holds true in academia, journalism and writing too.  What the writing profession needs is men with wit, talent and erudition.There is only one unpardonable sin: incompetence.

Libertarians should learn to write well and by all means place themselves within the market where bad writing is heavily penalized. Reading Rothbard, Mencken and Rand is pure joy when their critics in the academia are often viciously dull, and for a reason.

The biggest problem on earth is low intelligence , not poverty, wars, or even corruption. Irrationality is the root of every social problem. If people were smartly selfish, the world would have been a wonderful place to live in. Political Irrationality is almost always a derivative of low intelligence, as fools and dullards are hardly capable of thinking calmly.

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