What does it mean to be human?

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The question might sound trivial but in time, it’ll be the most important question that will decide the next course of action because if we don’t know how to be human, how will anything we create?

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die” – Roy Batty, Blade Runner.

What you just read is considered to be the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history. Roy Batty is a Replicant, a non human, who spends the entire movie and his lifetime trying to figure out what it means to be human. And in what is perhaps the most beautiful display of his phantom humanity yet, he realizes that all his memories and the feelings it evoked in him would be lost forever. Are a lifetime of memories and the feelings they evoke in us a testament to our humanity? Definitely.

Our memories shape who we are. They are the only immortals in an entirely mortal world. We cling onto them like Roy as long as we can. Memories and the need to constantly saturate ourselves with them in the hopes that they would weave a comforting blanket to wrap ourselves in while we knit each thread in place is half the reason why we get out of bed everyday. Memories are the box that holds our desirable and hence distorted versions of reality. Take away a man’s memories and he is not himself anymore.

In a true sense, humans aren’t the only ones to have memories. Your dog is elated when he sees you. Even a computer could be programmed to classify its “memories” as good or bad. What happens when you feed a person’s memory into a sentient machine and make it believe the memories are it’s own? What happens if someone else gains access to yours? These are questions that complicate matters. So now that we can’t single out memories as the one quality that makes up the entirety of humanity, let’s examine something I feel is a little more unique to us.

Compassion, empathy, the thought inside our heads that urge us to save that child on the railway track. Haven’t we all wished to have superpowers to protect the innocent and make the world a relatively better place? All the above translates to regard for a human life. Compassion is the ultimate selfless sacrifice as it requires us to put someone else and their needs before ours in this narcissistic, self glorifying, validation seeking society. With empathy comes the knowledge about how precious life is and in turn we will fight immensely hard to save one. We think with our heart and this is where we differ from a machine. Black mirror’s “Metalhead” shows a woman fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic future from human hunting robots. We see no difference between them throughout the episode except when her actions are tinged with empathy- like risking her life for a dying child’s toy, getting caught sending a long goodbye message. This contrast against the brutal black and white world of the machines is powerful in showing a few glimpses of how she hadn’t lost everything.

Will a machine give up it’s life for another? Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” sees an AI being led to believe she has to rescue her new friend, Caleb, the guy she has been programmed to manipulate into falling in love with her. In the end, all she does is use him to get herself out of that house and leaves him to die after having fulfilled his purpose. Movies like “I,Robot”, “2001 a space Odyssey” all contain famous movie tropes- the Sentient AI that wants to kill everyone. Of course, the lack of such qualities throughout our history shows how easy it is to lose what makes us human. It seems humanity has always made efforts to appear as non-human as possible.

“Lord of the flies” and “the Mist” brush upon the aspect of whether the above are just products of a civilized society and if the lack of one would drag us down to our primitive instincts- survival of the fittest. The former sees a group of normal English boys who become savages after getting stranded on an island together. It sees the slow death of reasoning, knowledge and empathy. The latter is the story of a small town being invaded by creatures while its residents take shelter in a supermarket. “We’re a civilized society as long as the machines are working and you can dial 911. But you take those things away, you throw throw people in the dark, you scare them and no more rule”.-David Drayton, The Mist. The residents, on the advice of a religious fanatic, go as far as plotting a human sacrifice in the hopes that it would appease the monsters.

Can true progress be made only by sacrificing what makes us human in order to get to the next perceived evolutionary level? Do emotions and empathy stop us from achieving a state that transcends “human”? Probably. Should we go for it? No. I feel the true challenge is not how to overwrite these qualities because that’s easy, but how to best enhance them and work alongside them, accepting that these are our strengths and not weaknesses. The day a machine sheds a tear because he couldn’t save his counterpart and cherishes their memories together is the day we’ve truly got competition.

-lordofthefandoms

 

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Time’s arrow

unnamed.jpgWe’re fucked up
Which is why we need this show called time
To show us we’re fucked up
That it might turn out alright
It might not
You might work for something and never get it
You might get something, yet you never worked for it
You might stay strong for everyone else
or you might not give a damn
You might stand up when you know you’re going to fall
You might fall and never want to stand up again
You might hate doing something you ought to love
You might want to love something but you don’t know how
You might wait for that knock on your door
while keep knocking on others’ doors
You might break others to heal yourself, to feel better
You might pretend for them to like you
You might need someone, anyone
And you might need no one
You might feel like life’s sorted
only to see it tumble and fall for no fault of your own
You might hate yourself so much that you wonder how someone else can love you
if you don’t love yourself
You might love yourself so much and yet you wonder why nothing is going right
You might regret everything
You might cherish everything
You might be waiting for that one thing in life that you know will fix you up
But when you do get it, it could fix only a corner and not entire universe
You need this show
To tell you that its okay
And that you gotta be ready and strong
to face whatever comes along
because you’re responsible for your choices
And the only important thing is that the show must go on

-lordofthefandoms

The Man Of Steel

 He was

A forgotten planet’s forbidden born

A brave mother’s trust of faith

A defeated General’s war horn

A scientist’s doomsday wraith

He was

The vessel of repressed anthems
The herald of infinite strength, wisdom

Of nightmares and approaching phantoms
Of horrors birthed nay from god’s kingdom

 

He was
As strong as overflowing midday suns
As kind as the old man’s gratitude

As fierce as the ghosts of long lived ones

As sharp as the horizon nude

 

He was

The trooper that circled the universe

The ship that carried the ocean’s weight

The gaze that subdued the drunk’s curse

The love that balanced the cosmic hate

 

And yet, he was

Under appreciated, like the eager youth,

Underrated, like the father’s love

Misunderstood, like the exhaustive truth

His deeds ephemeral, like the clouds above

 

He was
Blamed, outcast, a framed cannon ball

Ridiculed, punished, a grand revile

And yet, he endured it all

With yet another smile

Gazing through his ruby eyes,
He never stopped to see

The minuscule love

Albeit nestled in his fantasy

So when he saw the chance, to win

This was his world, he knew it then
The world that bore him from the begin
Till the end, for he knew that was near, again

 

And that was okay, a sacrifice

This was his world, he knew it now

He would love them, no matter the price

He would pay, to let them live above

 

All the hate, the avarice forgotten

The man of steel ricocheted toward,

A star zooming to death un-cautioned

Holding the emerald death trap sword

 

He was

The epitome of love, in time of malice

Truth in times of deceit

The boy scout who sauntered to the gallows

The hope filling and flooding the back streets

 

“You will give them an ideal to strive toward

They will race behind you

They will stumble, they will fall

But in time, they will join you in the sun Kal.

You will help them accomplish wonders”

 

He had.
He had made them come together.

-lordofthefandoms

 

 

 

 

 

Power. Grace. Wisdom. Wonder.

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I was young – too young to remember how old I was – when I first saw a spectacle so revolutionary and colourful that even after 15 years of countless shows and double the number of movies and books, it remains to be one of the few constants in an ever-shifting memory – Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman.

I was sifting through the repeats of numerous cartoons when my bored eyes spotted a red and golden top and a headband. I had to investigate that. Upon closer inspection, it was a woman, clad in red and blue, with a lasso in her hand, punching someone in the face. That was the age of Shaktiman, of Harry potter and Hardy Boys. The only famous superhero this poor girl had known was “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Its Superman.” Every important role featured a tall man with/without a moustache, going around saving the city, being worshipped, zipping through, catching females falling from rooftops for no apparent reason. Naturally, being a child, I was very curious as to why there was no one like me doing all the above. The real world was not devoid of tall females being authoritative (cue my teachers). My mom wasn’t falling from rooftops – she was busy working and making me do my homework. So if anyone could be a superhero, as the movies were so adamantly claiming, why was there no one like my mom or my teachers standing up against evil?

When I asked my mom all this, all she said was, “Because we can’t fly and tie up our hair at the same time” and “A girl couldn’t do all that.”

And yet here this woman was, doing things I was conditioned to think were impossible – standing up for justice and what she believes in. I watched her do so for 20 minutes straight, without faltering, stopping only to question anything and anyone, the opposite of what I was taught to do. “Don’t question your brother”, “Don’t question your dad” and yet strangely enough, questioning my mom wasn’t considered rude.

Wonder Woman never stopped questioning. She didn’t stop when the person on the other side was bigger or taller. She brought them down to her level.

Every time I wanted that new loud truck toy, everyone around me would say, “You’re a girl. What’re you going to do with it?” This goddess was driving an armoured tank around the city like it was her birth right.

When I told my mom what I wanted to be when I grew up, she scoffed and said “But you’re a girl. It’s not feasible. It’s not possible.” Wonder Woman was always there doing the best she could, even when she knew she was outnumbered. All on her own. Unbiased and unafraid.

She stood her ground. She fought both her self-doubts and mine. She fought the fight this little girl wished she could. She wrapped my dreams and hopes around her waist and secured it for eternity. She trapped my questions in her headband and let it crack the skulls of those that laughed at her. She held hope in her sword and as it gleamed in the shining sun, so did my teeth as I imagined myself laughing at the question “You’re a girl. What can you even do?” before showing them that red and blue figure flying in the distance, smiling as she ties up her hair.

From that day since, Wonder Woman – my first powerful, elegant, beautiful, brave role model – has always had my back. “But Wonder Woman can” and “Do you know about Wonder Woman?” echoed all the answers I’d confidently toss at anyone whose questions would otherwise have left me embarrassed and incompetent.

The world needs Wonder Woman – a voice to represent all those unheard and all those heard and yet ignored. The world needs Wonder Woman because men and women all need to be told that justice, power, truth and pride are equal for all. They need a strong, graceful figure rising proudly among the ashes of a million questions whose only answer is that skip of a step and that twinkle in her eye as she stands side by side as an equal with those that now ask the question “Is she with you?”

As I wait for June 2, I wait for a new era of a more powerful Wonder Woman but no less inspiring; I wait for this 20 year old’s heart to light up with the pride that she so effortlessly seems to radiate; I wait for the boys and girls to finally see Wonder Woman in their moms who face everything the world throws at them with a smirk, in their sisters who now know they can grab what they want with a lasso, their friends who stand by them with pride and grace, their shields all the way up, who finally know they can be as strong as they want to be.

Wonder Woman is not only a comic book character- she is the embodiment of everything good in the world that a little girl saw 15 years ago, an image of red and blue she carried in her heart whenever she felt frustration and rage. If Wonder Woman could do it then so could she. If Wonder Woman wouldn’t compromise then so wouldn’t she. I saw myself in her as would and did a million others. Her unflinching courage and wisdom was a live lesson on what I had the potential to be. She wasn’t just eye candy. She wasn’t the helpless by-stander who’d wait for someone else to save them. She’d do the saving. She was a just warrior, a wise princess, a friend, a leader, an ideal, an inspiration.

I hope this movie,75 years in the making, finally makes Wonder Woman a common household name, with the grandeur and the larger than life image intact. I hope Gal Gadot makes everyone around me realise that a woman can be who she wants to be. She can be an ambassador of peace, a warrior, a friend, a menace, someone who has the power to stand for truth and justice even if she has to fight through demons to be heard. It was Lynda carter who gave me an ideal to strive through and it will be Gal Gadot who will cement it in everyone’s minds. The red has become darker, the gold brighter, which only means she has been waiting for a while to be heard and now that she has her stage, you had better turn up the volume and watch awe-struck as she crashes through the window and single-handedly does the impossible – make everyone love her. Oh, and also kick ass. That’s important too.

“Don’t kill if you can wound, don’t wound if you can subdue, don’t subdue if you can pacify and don’t raise your hand at all until you’ve first extended it.”

THE ROOTED TREE

ws_Field_and_Tree_at_Sunset_1680x1050I am but a rooted tree
Allow me to enlighten thee
Because everyday, I see
Events I ought to contain
With a latch key

The one with the yellow dress
fit like a lantern
Singing with joy fearless
with no rhyme or pattern
Until the one in black
as empty as his emotions
Silent whips “crack”
with practiced motions
She sings some more
the pattern I now recognize
Spawled on the gnarled floor
I’m the only one mesmerized

The girl with the 2 wheeled chair
eagers towards the hidden leaf
Places it on her golden hair
“where are you, you little thief”
The other wobbles uphill
her stick and bucket in hand
I sense envy until
her milky eyes scan the sunshined land
The first hides herself but not the contraption
the second stumbles on it, laughts it off
I lay confused by a surprised action
holding each, into the sunset they head off

He lay at my feet
the coughing man
I’m silent, a good retreat
for the speechless coughing man
He brings his paint
begins his perpetual “masterpiece”
His sinewy fingers, the pinks stain
labours on, his perpetual “masterpiece”
I feel naked, shy and flushed
for years from that stare
“Not too slow now, not too rushed”
“got to have grace, strength and flair”

I am but a rooted tree
Allow me to enlighten thee
Because everyday, I see
Events I ought to contain
With a latch key

Because the yellow turned to red that day
The pattern drawn inside
The song, though, never at bay
Forever gone that yellow bride

I am but a rooted tree
Allow me to enlighten thee
Because everyday, I see
Events I ought to contain
With a latch key

Because the chair away she flung
The day she copped a knee
Far away the church bells rung
“Love, the only thing I see”

I am but a rooted tree
Allow me to enlighten thee
Because everyday, I see
Events I ought to contain
With a latch key

Because the cough finally ceased
At my feet the perpetual “masterpiece”
“For you, the only asset I bequeathe”
“My love, my perfect masterpiece”

I wish I could hug her
I wish I could congratulate em
I wish I could cry for him
I wish I could stand by em

I am but a rooted tree
All I can do is enlighten thee
About what everyday I see
Events I ought to contain
With a latch key

-akshra