Saturday, January 27

Of Science and Depression

A topic that I feel is amazingly underrepresented in modern psychology. Poets and artists have the luxury of creative depression. They can languish. They can complain about the unfeeling world. They can be neglected and ignored. They can be misunderstood or not understood at all. They can glamorously cut their ears off. The can go into a decline and die gloriously in penury on the streets. Monuments will be built for them. Their art will be feted. Their tortured souls extolled. But scientists! It's a whole, different story, and a very sad one.
Can you imagine Einstein having torments of agony trying to explain relativity to uncaring citizens? If he explained the theory to a grad student, and the grad student (poor chappie) had no clue what the great physicist was talking about, the said g.p would 1. be totally oblivious that the grad student had not understood it (mainly because grad students early in their career, as toddlers even, learn the art of nodding and looking alertly attentive - its an art form really) 2. assume that the grad student has no clue what gravity is in the first place, never mind a grand unifying theory and therefore be truly unperturbed by the grad student's lack of comprehension (in fact Albie might have had a fainting fit if the grad student had immediately understood the magnificence of the theory and asked pertinent questions) 3. not only ignore all signs of incomprehension on part of g.s but also reel out a series of experiments that have to be completed by the end of the week, to be included in a grant proprosal, to be written up and submitted on his desk by day after tomorrow.
It is indeed the sad lot of us scientists that we have to stuggle on with eternal cheer and optimism, explaining theories that people actually care about and which make a difference to the world at large. Not for us the incomprehensible squiggles on a large white canvas that will then be misinterpreted continuously for the next eight centuries by pompous art critics (in fact any incomprehensible squiggle will be called into question by the Thesis Committee and investigated to an inch of its life *sigh*). Nor the communion with stars in the bareness of space enclosed by four walls (mainly because it is of course logically impossible to commune with stars in the presence or absence of bare space), the blinding life-changing truths revealed by the inner soul and accepted as gospel (cos of course the blinding epiphany has to be subjected to *some* sort of experimentation -preferably in triplicate- before any conclusion can be safely reached, let's not even get into the number of reviewers who have to pass it before it can come close to publication), or even the comfort of estrangement from kith, kin and the world at large (for one, any Indian family would be unbearably proud of having a child who's a scientist-which of course is why there are no geeks in India- and for another, there are always other grad students grubbing for free food, snotty PIs shadowing your every move, warring post-docs each wanting a share of the pie, I mean it's a whole different world inside a lab, believe me! And a very crowded one, full of opinionated, arrogant, extremely intelligent people). Since all the respectable avenues for depression and a cheerless existence have thereby been removed from the average scientist's grasp, there is no choice but to be happy.
Imagine this scenario. A bunch of cancer cells arrive in the lab, the cells are plated, diluted and squinted at under the microscope. Now, if you were a poet or an artist, it would have been the work of a moment to picture the exceptionally brilliant, popular, 18 year old cheerleader who is right at this instant lying pallid and comatose on a hospital bed, waiting to hear news that could well be a death knell, depending on strangers to decide if she will live or die. This could lead to the creation of an epic poem, a masterpiece on the uncertainty of life etc etc. But since (for all events and purposes) you're a grad student, the conversation you'll have will be along these lines:
Grad Student 1: Wonder which patient these cells came from. Life can be so uncertain. One moment you're alive and the next minute you're dying of some genetic mutation that you might or might not have inherited from you great grand mother on your father's side. It makes you thi-
Grad Student 2 (with great excitement): Dya see that knob like thing on the left hand side corner of the field. Doesn't that look like aneuploidy? Man!! These chromosomes are so screwed up!! This is just perfect!! It completely proves our hypothesis.
Grad Student 1 (galvanised into action and elbowing GS1 out of the way): OMG! You could be right!!! But wait, though there's a knob-like thing there, look at the right hand side corner where you will see.......

See, what odds we have to struggle against? This whole week I've been struggling to stay depressed, but I've realised that inspite of the complete lack of sun over the past week, the cheerless grey skies, the incessant rain, the lack of any results from my various experiments, the having to work overtime, the fact that I didn't get some news about something that I was hoping to get news about, inspite of all this, I cannot keep up the depression. Science is a killer that way. I give up!

Update: I know that someone's going to point out that Einstein had what could be considered as a nervous breakdown during his career, so I counter that by saying it was complicated by a bilious stomach!! How can you romanitcize a nervous breakdown when it's accompanied by a stomachache????!!!!


Anonymous said...

ha have a whacky sense of humor..go Chennai Gal Go!

Anonymous said...

lol!!! good one. :)

p.s: there's ample scope for wallowing, depression and all other sorts of grey artistic emotions when one is dying in the ditch of writing, in year 5/6/7....

Revealed said...

@anon: Ty muchly :D

@TGFI: The horrors in store :P. Ty for the cautionary wise words.

Anonymous said...

oh did you mean ty "machi" or..?:P
Though I doubt whether you would be familiar with that lingo...isnt "macha" like more prevalent among the f. of the s. in chennai?


Revealed said...

@tmwwt: I can honestly say I have never used 'macha' :P and i'm as f. of the s. as it gets :D
(mebbe it's what the kids are calling each other these days ;)

Anonymous said...

What is f. of the s.? 'Fair of the Skin'? 'Fathers of the Sons'? 'Farmers of the Soil'? Curious.

Revealed said...

@mt: I interpreted as female of the spps (as in deadlier than the male, n suchlike). Mebbe I got it wrong? :P

Revealed said...

@mt: U read the entire post and that was the only thing u felt impelled to say. Food for thought methinks :D

Cloudy said...

You should have a section called 'Gems' (or anything you like, of course) and add this post to it. Remember to provide link on right. It's a beauty.

Glad you aren't depressed :) And of course, I'm first!

Revealed said...

@Cloudy: I hereby declare you Flaffee of the Week. And *of course* this has nothing to do with your comment on Gems!! It has everything to do with your general intelligence, perception, aesthetic sense, sense of humor etc.

Psst did I tell ya I love ya? ;)

Anonymous said...

well, never mind the bit about the grad students and the rest of the humor.

all that kept aside, i think you make a very good point. we, as humankind, have a tendency to worship only that which we cannot understand or explain in so many words. hence, art/abstract paintings/poetry is exalted more often than not merely for its obscurity and ambiguity. we call it the unconscious mind of the genius artiste behind it.

what we undermine and devalue is what we understand. that is science. the theory of relativity, modern inventions, breakthroughs in technology, great inventors and scientists are never put on the same altar as poets or artists.

but i feel they, in a slightly different way, are greater. because they bring to our minds that we never understood before. they show us what we are capable of, and how great mankind is. this might be a bit of ayn rand coming out of me (im currently reading 'atlas shrugged'), but somehow i feel the 4-stroke i.c engine is no less a wonder of man than 'the mona lisa'.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

@Revealed : Alright alright will take your word for it...ah you would be surprised what the "kids" these days are calling each other.
On the other hand maybe not.

@Mockturtle: Actually it is a more simpler female of the species...:) Call it the Wodehouse influence..the latter of course would have made a reference before but with "revealed" being an unabashed Plum fan I presumed it would be obvious...

@confused and baffled : Yup you have a point there...but then Rand wasnt exactly saying all Art is useless. (ok that was Wilde ). I wonder which stage of Rand-phase thou art in...For her views on Art read her non ficiton Romantic Manifesto....

And on a totally irrelevant,presumptuous note..does anyone else think the coochicooing of "cloudy" and "revealed" is like ying and yang? :P:P Was the nicks coincidental...or...?:)

Anonymous said...

"U read the entire post and that was the only thing u felt impelled to say" - actually I was starting to comment on artistic angst being similar to the spells of self-doubt that some scientists experience, but then I read through the comments and my curiosity was piqued.

Revealed said...

@C&b: I should have let *you* write the post!!! Excellent point mon ami. But Rand...i dunno. You have to realise where she's coming from, and take her with more than a pinch of salt (or so i think, what do i know?)

@t_m_w_w_t: Heh @ ur presumptuous commentary on Yin and Yang. But totally didn't realise how complementary our names were until you pointed it out :D. As for Rand, like I said, she was a little over the top for my taste. I mean of course I love Roark (and will do so till the day I die), but honestly she's a bit overwhelmingly capitalistic.

Revealed said...

@mt: Hmm so basically tmwwt's comments are a bigger draw to this blog than my own posts :P. I can live with that :D.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

@Revealed: We really need to work on the blog comments lingo...does "heh" stand for "he he" or "huh" ? Or something else altogether? :|
Rand? overwhelmingly Capitalistic?Really??? Now who would have thought of that from someone who wrote Capitalism :The unknown ideal and The virtues of Selfishness ? :D:D

You really like Roark ? I personally felt Toohey was the most realistic and brilliant character...and let us not even talk about the pseudo-intellectual whore Dominique Francon...her characterization will always be a mystery to me..more so because it was Rand..

( as an afterthought I have nothing against pseudo intellectuals or whores btw...)

anyway as always we are going off tangent from the topic of the post...:)

Revealed said...

@C&b: Pinch of salt (in this context) = they also show us exactly to what levels of depravity humankind can sink.

(At least art in general can't be accused of that)

Also, i've often thought that art is exalted not just cos its divine, sublime, blah blah, and not just cos it's a mode of self expression (and we as a spp are rather hot on communication), not even just cos it's incomprehensible to some, but simply cos the pulpit needs a congregation to preach at.

Revealed said...

@tmwwt: Heh = hehe. Normally. It's more self-deprecating than he he which normally just conveys innocent laughter and enjoyment of a wisecrack/quip/attempt at hilarity etc. Heh on the other hand is an acknowldegment of a hit, sorta thing :D.

How can you not adore Roark??? The conviction is enough to make me stay irrevocably in love with him. And I loved Dominique too (though usual disclaimer about not representative of my views/opinions on whores etc). Roark is definitely not realistic but he's like the Greek gods, what man could be if only.

Sorry about the obvious capitalism comment but I couldn't think of any cleverly subtle way of stating the obvious! I mean someone just escaping the claws of communism n all, so I don't blame her, just saying keep it in mind.

As for not sticking to the topic, I've given up on it :P. Mail me for more non-topic conv :D.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

@Revealed: Why should "heh" be more "self deprecating"? :| or did you have some other word in mind..? by "heh" do you mean "touche"? ok ok much ado about nothing perhaps but one likes to get things clarified..:P:)

mmm...Roark simply because he is not realistic . And neither consistent in his convictions perhaps. And Dominique??what did you really like about her???

mmm..I really didnt get the connotation of pulpit and preaching with respect to the art..mind expatiating?

Revealed said...

@tmwwt: It doesn't matter if you aren't consistent in your convictions as long as you're completely convinced for as long as you're convinced. Right? There's something so alluring about someone with conviction. And don't quote the 'Doubts are Good' set of quotes at me now!

Re: Heh. See, you have to say it out loud (in your head or literally out loud) in order to get it. Hehehe is when ur actually giggling or laughing, right? Heh on the other hand is an unwilling laugh, it's tinged with a certain subtle recognition of something funny where you 1. did not expect it 2. did not *want* it but the overwhelming funniness of it forces a laugh from you. Make sense? That's how I've always seen it. Of course, touche would be appropriate, but since I'm neither a fencer nor an ardent fan of fencing, it doesn't do all that much for me, besides seeming a tad outdated.

Re: Dominique. That question leaves me stunned. Any woman who would go to that extent to get what she wanted has my respect (unequivocally!). Besides she's so screwed up that I find myself in deep empathy with her.

Re: Preaching to the pulpit. Any religion needs infidels. Otherwise I believe the practitioners would lose interest. Imagine having no1 to scorn, to ridicule, to predict the most dire fates for? What price the god without all that?

(Heh would be a good response to the last point, cos then it would indicate understanding of the tongue-in-cheekness of the comment, while still slightly disapproving of the cavalier and slapdash attitude towards a serious question.)

The Man Who Wasnt There said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Man Who Wasnt There said...

It doesn't matter if you aren't consistent in your convictions as long as you're completely convinced for as long as you're convinced. Right?

Not that I am nitpicking..but do you find the irony in the above paragraph? :D:D I wonder why you didn't end up just "..convinced. Period." Why 'right?' sub conscious perhaps but there lies your answer.
Yes I know you are going to say "I am not Roark" but that is the whole point isnt it? :P

Re: "Heh"...mmm...anything but "lol" please...

Re: Your reason for liking Dominique leaves me stunned! ( yes yes your blog..your opinion but hey we are discussing..:):) What did she do to her credit anyway? I mean other than probably looking deep into the eyes of Roark,Gail Wynand ( and oh well sleeping with them as well ) and saying verbally/non verbally that she "understands" ( whatever that means) what exactly is her claim to achievement? Contrast it with Dagny Taggart and you will see what I mean...

and no comments on the "screwed" up bit:D You are the best judge :P

Re: mmm..Not really sure I agree to the pulpit and infidels bit. And not sure it fits in with your definition of "heh" as well :P:P

p.s. Talking about Rand did you know there was an "Objectivist philosophy" club in chennai somewhere in the eighties?? Trust chennaites do that...wonder how no one called it the south Indian calcutta :P

p.p.s. Dont quote me...I heard about this club from my uncle's friend so for all you know it could be just be an urban legend...:)

Revealed said...

But irony wholly intended of course!!!! Tsk!!

As for me making sense, somethings some people were just not *meant* to do, and me consistently making sense is one of those things! So all your objections in that regard will just be ignored (kindly, since I understand that you don't really know me all and so it was outside the scope of ur empathy :P).

The Dominique thing I have quite a long theory about actually and let me tell you looking deeply into someone's eyes is not as easy as it sounds!! Just FYI. Taggart I can take or leave, really :P.

I can totally believe that said club existed in madras (hence of course the increased likelihood of it being an urban legend, though in my opinion there is no worse u.l than the one aobut normal guys existing).

I have just wasted material worthy of at least 3 posts in this comments section. Quite sad really.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

are you sure you intended the irony? :P Or was it the classic case of a subtle thing being so subtle that it actually was subtle without actually anyone realizing it was subtle...


Oh am quite curious to know about your theory on Dominique...many a conversations I have had on it but haven't heard a single convincing argument so far.. and no weasel arguments like one needn't make sense doesn't pass muster :) I just wanted to know if I missed a certain facet of you know a prologue or something where she goes on come up with a holistic philosophy and find out the Theory of Everything...

And why not Taggart really?
As for "normal guys" isnt it quite relative? :)

Well you know what I have wasted material worthy of plenty of posts in many comment sections since my lost post ;):P

The Man Who Wasnt There said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Man Who Wasnt There said...

*last post....
and no the "irony" wasnt intended...:P

p.s. Why is staring-into-the-eyes bit such a big deal? I have done it plenty of times ( no not in the mirror..and no not with the same sex ) and really dont get what is the big deal about it....the trick is I guess to look yet not to look....a healthy mix both literally and figuratively...

Revealed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Revealed said...

@tmwwt: Hehehehehe. OK fine, since you won't let me get out on the i dont make sense clause, I see that I shall have to force my chaotic brain into something nearing cogency.

Re:Intended Irony. Totally intended it. And it was a case of irony being so subtle as to actually make the reader doubt the veracity of it, and confuse him/herself. :D. That's the best kinda subtlety no?

Re:Dominique. She decides to make a guy she totally doesn't love marry her so that she can make a point. Just to *make a point*. Get it? I mean a lot of us have *considered* doing something like that to make a point, but to actually do it? Think about *her* conviction. And everything she does is only to demonstrate a theory, right? The whole practise what you preach thing. She actually *does* practise what she preaches. I think that's an admirable trait. And then going back to the whole conviction thing. I find something amazingly attractive about conviction of that sort. Belief does move mountains, yknow. It's just a level of belief that most of us can never attain (cos we're too intelligent, I think). Only fanatics and maniacs can rule the world, simply cos an averagely intelligent person is normally open to new opinions and points of view, and is not impossible to convince, cos there is always some self doubt. Once you let in even a possiblility of being convinced, you lose the zealot status that would otherwise allow you to become the next Gandhi or Hitler. Thirdly, she's clear about her goals. Ultimately not proximately. I think that's quite admirable. I think I would like to do a thesis on her character, really :P. And no, she doesn't come up with a Theory of Everything, cos she knows that it doesn't exist per se. That's the realisation in the end isn't it? That life is there, and that's all there is to it. So in a way, yeah she has her own theory of everything, and she's happy and how many people can you say that of?

Re: Taggart. I have nothing against her. I don't even buy the whole feminist take on the diamond bracelet and stuff. But I just found her to be a sort of watered down version of Dominique in some ways. But that's maybe cos I read Fountainhead first. Dunno. I seriously don't dislike her anything, just didn't fascinate me in anyway.

Re:N.g.I meant n.g relative to me. Hehehehe. Hence the lack of them mebbe :P.

Re:Posts and comments. I noticed that. You should be churning them out. Lost inspiration? Or no time?

Revealed said...

Re: staring into eyes. You've gotta do it with the right mix of feelings. Otherwise you might as well not do it, really. It's not like looking at nething else. Looking into eyes is serious business, almost an art form. How didja not know that?

Anonymous said...

mmm...cant resist the temptation though the comment section is taking on a whole topic of discussion ( surprise!surprise!)

Re: I wonder..if both the reader and the writer of a piece is sure about it being confused is it still confused? Yes read it again and ofcourse it is non sequitur but then until I master the art of detecting rhetorical qns sophistry begets sophistry doesnt it?

Re:ha ha...ok here goes an analogy. I personally think men/women who marry for money (dowry whatever) are the lowest of the species. But using your logic maybe I should marry someone with a rich dad. Just to *make a point*. Sure nobody will care but hey atleast I will be rich. I cant seriously believe you think your argument is tenable..:| I mean what is the whole point of marrying Keating? Ok so he is shallow ( relative to her world view and ideals) but "to whom" exactly was she trying to "prove a point"? Just to herself? So it is "perfectly" ok to take some other person for a ride as long as you go about having conviction(!) and starting proving yourself points?
Maybe I misundestood it if so correct me. Isnt your whole argument about Dominique similar to that of fundamentalists? they have a world view ( earthly and heavenly!),have "divinely inspired" convictions,and have the "strong belief" system to make even a non existing mountain move. And infact it is reasonable to assume not every fundamentalist is shallow and quite sincerely believe what they believe. That doesnt make their position any more tenable does it?:)

No I am not make a strawman...though prima facie it looks like that.

And no, she doesn't come up with a Theory of Everything, cos she knows that it doesn't exist per se. That's the realisation in the end isn't it? That life is there, and that's all there is to it. So in a way, yeah she has her own theory of everything, and she's happy and how many people can you say that of? that the realization? That's quite an existentialist outlook and there is absolutely no way Dominique had that!!! I really dont get the arguments at all..:|

Re: Ah let us not get into the "feminism" debate but our purview was to compare her to Dominique :) How exactly is she a watered down version??? Sure Dagny also probably did the Staring bit,sleeping arnd bit and "I understand your greatness" bit..but the similarity ends there. Dagny's character can actually stand on it's own. But dominique is just a shadow. She cna only be described in relation to others but on her own she cant hold a candle to Dominique. Dont you think it is a major difference??Remeber we are talking about Rand's conceptualization of characters...

( Sure all this is of merely academic interest and we should be discusisng more important stuff like where to go for lunch morrow but then this amazing contrast in the two feminine characters of Rand is worth discussing over. After deciding on the menu ofcourse. )

Re: Actually that could mean so many things..relative in which "direction"? :P

Re: Neither. Just bored both to post and not to post :D

Re: mmm...east is east west is west and never the twain shall meet....I will bet my bottom dollar majority of the men who read that will go "huh??Feelings?what feelings?Amorous ones?" Unless that was "subtle" ofcourse...:P


Cloudy said...

Sorry to butt in, but did I hear my name being bandied about? But yes, the names are quite complimentary, aren't they? Throw in some Sunshine and you complete the picture.

PS: I think Rand is pretentious. So hit me.

Anonymous said...

@Cloudy: say "complimentary" and "revealed" say "complementary" :D And for good measure you want "Sunshine" as well?;);)

I think to say Rand was pretentious is as sweeping as saying Rand's philosophy is all encompassing isnt it?:) For all Rand's flaws in her philosophy she kindled the thinking in an individual....for that precise reason I will always recommend her books.

Okies okies I realize am spending way too much time here just that am bored...:)
So revealed save your "heh"s will you?:P


Revealed said...

@tmwwt: You're always welcome (as long as you don't ask me to spare my hehs) to spend as much time as you want here!

The Dominique argument is worthy of more graceful language than mine. I appear to be putting my thoughts down very clumsily. It *is* an existentialist argument, but I think she reaches that conclusion, even though Rand would probably be appalled at my interpretation of the character. So since you cunningly said we have to think about Rand's conception and not my interpretation I find myself without a leg to stand on :(. Most lowering. Let's expand it to our interpretations, pls?

Revealed said...

And I don't think women/men who marry for money are the lowest of creatures. Walk in their shoes before you decide arbitrarily!

Revealed said...

N FYI she proves it to Roark! Not to herself. It's a point she's making for him.

(Gosh, I wish I'd read it a little more recently, or had a little more photographic a memory, I would whip out instances that completely prove my statements, but I only remember the feeling, not the actual incidents!)

Revealed said...

And finally,

1. Fundamentalism is always admirable as long as it's theoretical.

2. I knew u'd pick on the relative as soon as I typed it. Hehehe.

3. See, why it's an u.l?

Anonymous said...

Re : Thanks..:) Later dont tell me I didnt warn you..

Re: Which part of "I personally think marrying someone.." you didnt get? :P:) It is a principle..where is the need of walking in other shoes? And what kind of extenuating circumstances could there possibly be? Inflation perhaps?

Re: Well I mean "our" interpretations of characters will end up in only one viable conclusion " We both shall agree to differ". Th e only tenable discussion could be on the Author's perspective in relation to her conceptualization of other characters.

Re: And since when did Rand's characters started proving a point "for others"? :| Did Roark prove a point for anybody? Did Hank Rearden? DAnconia? or even Dagny Taggart?


Anonymous said...

re : "Finally " ( getting tired are we? )

1. Does that mean you like Dominique because she is a FICTIONAL character but someone like her in real life you would strongly abhor? ( analogy of theoretical Fundamentalism )

2. Relatives are picky you know...pun intended :P

3. It's u.l. because you have a "tangential" definition of a "normal guy" :P

Revealed said...

@tmwwt: The finally was cos i was annoyed at my breaking up responses into different comments instead of putting them all together in one.

1.I would abhor her in real life, of course! But who's talking about practicalities?
2. :P
3. Heh (used in lieu of touche here)

Now, for the rest.

Principles are a dime a dozen (as Marx said memorably, of course phrasing it much better). Life is not. Shit happens, and people do strange things, and yeah, inflation could be a reason. I think it's fair to say that one should walk the walk before talking the talk? (of course now you're gonna shame me by describing the acute penury under which you still relentlessly held onto your dignity and never succumbed :D) Dya listen to the Eagles? Cos they have a song that perfectly explains it.

She does it definitely in response to Roark. She thinks he's whoring himself out, and so she whores herself out. Simple, I thought!

Anonymous said...

Ah silly me..All along I thought we were talking about an element of practicality too...considering the main grouse I have against the characterization of Roark is that he is not "practical".

Actually coming to think of it my "principle" was over stated by me. There might be actually be extenuating circumstances ( Isnt there always one? I believe in God because He is the only who loves me! ) so frankly I didnt intend to be judgemental being the tolerant(!) guy I am.
And come on the walking/talking argument doesnt hold here....and you know it..:)

Anyway that's that...I promise for some time I will lay low!

Revealed said...

Oh, but why!! I was so enjoying it :P.

And the walk the walk, talk the talk argument *does* hold for this. It does! Honest!