Sunday, 3 June 2012

Stress: A Killer or Essential for Survival

The following article is based on "Stress: Portrait of a Killer" by PBS National Geographic.

  Everyone knows it, almost everyone have experienced it sometime, in smaller way during our everyday chores, or in extreme level during some important events. Exams, deadlines, problems, crisis - all of them have one thing is common - Stress. Its everyone's inferno - but do it has any purpose behind? Why is our brains wired so that we have this experience of stress in first place? Does it solves anything, or it has any evolutionary purpose?
  Stress does have a purpose - to save us, to guide us, to keep us into the direction that we should be going. This may sound strange because we have a negative connotation when we talk about stress, but it actually do have a purpose, even has an evolutionary benefit.
  Stress is not state of mind, its something measurable and could turn out to be dangerous at extreme levels. If we talk about any normal mammal except most primates; for them stress is something that may just last as few minutes of screaming and rigor, after which either stress is over or they are no more alive. The role of stress for them is when they are being chased, or they are chasing someone - and there is an immediate crisis going on. However for primates - with larger brain, though their caloric needs are increased - but still brain has an advantage; since now they don't have to chase long to fill their caloric requirements, neither they are often being chased by some predator. They are not stressed by these, rather they are stressed by the social and psychological turmoils brought by their own species.
  When an animal is stressed running for their life or when we bring stress for other reasons; the basics are same - lungs start working overtime to pump enough quantity of oxygen in blood stream and heart races to pump that oxygen throughout the body. But for an animal, once it escapes this crisis, their stress response shuts down; however for human beings, it cant seem to find the off switch.
  Stress is a mean by which body prepares itself to rise up to any challenge; whether that challenge is life threatening, trivial or just for fun. If we get right amount of stress, then we consider it as stimulation or motivation. Two hormones central to stress response are - Adrenaline (or Epinephrine) and Glucocorticoids. The goal of life should not be to avoid stress, rather goal should be to have right type of stress and in right quantity - then we may even start liking it, and a very trivial example of that would be roller coaster rides.
  In baboon society, its found that those who are higher in hierarchy are generally less stressful. Or looking it in a different way, those who are less stressful, happen to be healthy and bigger, making them dominant and gets higher in hierarchy.
  Similarly in our work culture, those who are apt in handling stressful situations, who knows the way out of it are more likely to go higher in work hierarchy. As compared, those who lack the ability to handle stressful situations, are more likely to perform not up-to their potential even though skilled, and so fail to attain those higher levels.
  As quite expected, stress beyond a certain level, the level after which in our general terms we start experiencing its ill effects and start considering it as stress - has some real bad effects for our health and well being in long terms.
  30 years back, ulcers were considered as the very cause of stress and persons state of mind. Later Australian scientist figured that ulcers are actually caused by a bacteria, and later cure was found and pills were developed. But this finding brought some new interesting questions - this bacteria is found in almost 2/3 of world population, but then why does it causes ulcers in just fractions of them?
  Research revealed that when a person is under stress then body begins to shut down all non essential systems, including some of immune system activities. Its quite clear that when immune system is shut down, stomach bacteria can run wild! So stress causes to shut down the ability of body to repair stomach walls, after they gets damaged by this bacteria; and that explains how the stress can be the reason for causing ulcers in few.
  Acute stress can go as bad as damaging the brain cells. Its very well known that acute stress affects the hippo-campus region of the brain and thus causes the person to lose the ability to make new memories. In worst situation, it may even damage parts of brain cells causing to lose some of the previous memories as well. Not an acute situation, but a perfect realization of this could be, and I think everyone can relate to this as well - times when we stress our minds before exams, staying late at nights; but just before the exam, we get a feeling that we don't remember anything at all.
  Stress can also change the way a person deposits fats, the way it gets distributed across the body. Those who are stressful are likely to have fat mostly distributed more towards center, i.e. abdomen region. Fat deposit on trunk or inside the abdomen are more dangerous than those deposited else where in the body, since they produce different kind of hormones and chemicals that affect body in a more worst ways.
  Another evil of stress could be accelerated aging, and though its been realized quite long time, reason for it is a rather newer and an interesting finding. Telomers are ends of chromosomes (a repetitive nucleotide sequence) that protects the chromosome from deterioration and from fusing with neighboring chromosomes, just like the plastic caps we have on shoelace. Over time, with each cell division, the telomer ends become shorter as not whole of chromosome sequence gets copied. Its claimed that once the telomer end reaches a certain critical level, then from that point the cell can no longer divide, becomes inactive and eventually dies. According to recent finding, the stress causes an increase in the rate of telomer degradation and hence increased aging process. The length of a persons telomer can directly be related to age, and how much stress they are into and for how long.
  Last but not the least, is the way stress affect personal experiences of a person. With stress, one become incapable to experiencing the same amount of pleasure into things that other less stressful one might experience and enjoy. Pleasure feeling is related to the level of dopamine receptors in the brain. Those who are stressed are found to have lower levels of these receptors. So effectively for them sun don't shine as bright or food don't taste as good. 
  I end this article with words from my father that says these same thing, but rather in a more beautiful and concise way - 
 Dil mein jo ho umang to har saha bhali lage,
       warna bhali sii cheez bhi dil ko buri lage.
Kuch aisa kar dikhao, jamaane me dosto,
      ki jiske baad phir tumhari kami lage.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Do you follow the belief or the believes are paralyzing you?

There are many popular personalities whose thoughts would really inspire one, but at the same time some thoughts will also bring instant denial; so when do one decide that someone is worth to be glorified as an inspiration; probably the time when they are so inspired and influenced that they start following blindly.

   Just finished the movie 'Malcolm X' played by Denzel Washington; and like any of his movies; I found this one too has times when it seems to be showing 'larger-than-life' picture. I mean, sometimes in most of his movies, it tries to show the important event in such a dramatic way that the whole meaning and significance of the event is lost before the beaming illustation of the event portrayed.
   Be-aware that this is more than 3 hours long movie and I warn for spoilers. It starts with teenage life of Malcolm X, when he was better known as Little or Red; to him being involved with a hustler, committing a burglary, caught and send to jail, all in first hour. In the second hour is his time in jail when he met so called Brother Baines (John Elton Bembry), his inclination towards Islam, devotion to Elijah Muhammad and voracious apetite for reading. Third hour actually sees the formation of Malcolm X, his growing influence across major cities but later separation with Elijah Muhammad after rumors of Muhammad's extramarital affairs and his assasinaton.
   Throughout the movie my impression of Malcolm X kept changing. As movie started, to me it looked like another movie on crime in cities, black oppression and ghettos. Of course I already knew a little about Malcolm X as black leader of 60's, so I expected the movie would be more than that; but at one point it crossed my mind to switch to something else, just because of over-excessive dramatization of the events. Till that point in the movie's first hour, my impression of Little or Red was as a black guy with some sort of complex in him, that he tried every possible way to look like whites and adapt their style. He also seemed to be confused if he should feel pride or cursed for having the lighter skin and reddish black hair, which came from his Scottish maternal grand-father as her mother was born cause of a rape. He found the society seems to favor the white skin; whereas from his mother he experienced extreme hatred towards every drop of white rapist blood in them.
   With movie moving on to second hour, I sure had formed little interest as how the faith of a person changes from no belief in any God, or any kind of supreme power to fervent believer of Islam. This time my impression changes that he sure had feeling of scorn and rebel against Whites, and a lack of self identity stretched between black and white community. With Brother Baines convincing him that blacks should be higher than white as first humans were black but white managed to establish their supremacy; and even for Gods, Jesus been born in Middle-East ought to be dark skinned as compared to his usual portrayal as blue eyed and light skin; and that blacks in America are originally African and Muslim first, who were brought to America and white identities were forced on them; convinced him to create an identity of himself, as Malcolm X. Even interesting is his intense devotion to Elijah Muhammad; and firm belief in views like - only solution to end the black oppression and discrimination is to have separate lands cause they can never be mixed; it seems like he has become too blind to have stopped thinking and just following the path as prophesied by Elijah Muhammad.
   Even his every speech were pepped with, "The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us..". And I thought, do he keep saying that cause he is not sure about verity of Elijah Muhammad teachings and so this way tries to save himself from the blame in case turns out otherwise, or he really want to give all the credits down to him. I think, when someone is preaching, its not that much of a significance where it is learned from; but whats more important is if preacher himself has belief of its veracity and the reasons why he or anyone should believe.
   After the rumors are found that Elijah Muhammad has extramarital affairs, and he himself accepts and reason them to Malcolm X; we see tensions forming between them. With the feeling of betrayal by his own people, by the same institution that he lead and realization that blacks still lack unity within themselves; he realizes his own mistake of how blind he had became. At the same time he decides to visit Mecca, Africa, and Europe where he further realizes that Muslims are not just restricted to black or Africa. Of course he must have known it before, but after the visit of Mecca, a pristine and spiritual experience and having lived and shared meal with Muslims from all across the globe, white, black, red and brown; we see the formation of new Malcolm X, now known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Malcolm X. He understood whats more necessary is not to rebel against white but first to unite his own black people. Unfortunate though, within a year from time he left the Elijah Muhammad and soon after his return, he is assasinated while preching at a Muslim Temple.
   Of course fervently and blindly believing someone is wrong, everyone knows that. But are we confidant that when things are presented to us in manner that they would seems to fit exactly with our lives, with our experiences; that we would not limit our thoughts to personal knowledge, experiences and prejudices, that we will think at much higher level, at more humanitarian level, at more universal level.
I present a story told of Swami Viveknand at World Congress of Religion, Chicago, 1893 -
'... a story which would illustrate the cause of this variance. A frog lived in a well. It had lived there for a long time. It was born there and brought up there, and yet was a little, small frog. Of course, the evolutionists were not there then to tell us whether the frog lost its eyes or not, but, for our story’s sake, we must take it for granted that it had its eyes, and that it every day cleansed the water of all the worms and bacilli that lived in it with an energy that would do credit to our modern bacteriologists. In this way it went on and became a little sleek and fat. Well, one day another flog that lived in the sea came and fell into the well.
"Where are you form?"
"I am from the sea."
"The sea! How big is that? Is it as big as my well?" and he took a leap from one side of the well to the other.
"My friend," said the frog of the sea, "how do you compare the sea with your little well?"
Then the frog took another leap and asked, "Is your sea so big?"
"What nonsense you speak, to compare the sea with your well!"
"Well, then," said the frog of the well, "nothing can be bigger than my well; there can be nothing bigger than this; this fellow is a liar, so turn him out."
That has been the difficulty all the while.
I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christian sits in his little well and thinks the whole world is his well. The Mohammedan sits in his little well and thinks that is the whole world. l have to thank you of America for the great attempt you are making to break down the barriers of this little world of ours, and hope that, in the future, the Lord will help you to accomplish your purpose.'  [1]
   Finally, I wish before we allow any ideas or prejudice to sink in and take over our mind, we allow ourselves to be more capable of acceptance, appreciation and honor for not just different religious or cultural views but to all sorts of people, concept and belief we come across.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

If you got something worth sharing, then share it!

Many things are known, handful are realized and just few pinch adapted. Here's the list that I know, please post your share too.

(%)   Learning history is easy. Learning its lessons is almost impossible. - Anonymous

(%)   That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach. - Aldous Huxley

(%)   Every time history repeats itself, price of lesson goes up. - Anonymous.

(%)   It's only when the tide goes out that you realize who has been swimming naked. - Warren Buffet

(%)   Wisdom is not just in having right answer for all question but more than that in knowing to ask the right question. - TriVinDreamer

(%)   I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant - Alan Greenspun, quoted by Rebecca Saxe at TED.

(%)   The grand moments forms the majority of memories that we form in life; but those other millions of tiny moments that we sometimes ignore actually forms majority of the life. - TriVinDreamer

(%)   Let men picture their God, and you get creative open minds.. Preach of one God fixated upon, and you make them all half-baked moronic sheep. - TriVinDreamer

(%)   My biggest problem is that I believe almost everything I tell myself. - Anonymous

(%)   If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right. - Quoted by Steve Jobs at Stanford Commencement Speech

(%)   But while 10 wise people cannot make a fool wise, one mere fool can drive 10 wise people mad. - Hans Bauer quoted on TED

(%)   You got to persist through CRAP! which means Crtiticism, Rejection, Assholes and Pressure. - Richard St. Johns, TED.

(%)   We appreciate to be appreciated by those we appreciate; and that explain our action, motivated towards gaining that appreciation. - TriVinDreamer

(%)   Discovery consists of seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what no one has thought. - Albert Szent-Gyorgi, quoted by William Li on TED.

(%)   Everyone is special because they have some special abilities, and I have no special speciality that makes me any special of all the special beings around me. But I am different from all of them. - TriVinDreamer

(%)   Hope does not consist of the expectation that things will come out exactly right, but the expectation that they will make sense regardless of how they come out - Vaclav Havel, in book "Breaking the Peace"

(%)   Its better being a flexible spring that has some limit for how much pressure it can sustain, rather than hard metal that shouts for every thing that strikes it. - TriVinDreamer

(%)   A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
- Robert A. HeinleinSee More

(%)   If a man speaks his mind in a forest, and no woman hears him; is he still wrong? - Anonymous

(%)   A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous. - Anonymous

(%)   I always try to go the extra mile at work, but my boss always finds me and brings me back. - Anonymous

(%)   All I ask for is the opportunity to prove that money doesn't buy happiness. - Anonymous

(%)   All mankind is divided into three classes: those who are immovable, those who are movable; and those who move. - Benjamin Franklin

(%)   A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. - Anonymous

(%)   A wise person has something to say, a fool has to say something. - Anonymous

(%)   A sharp tongue and a dull mind are usually found in the same head. - Anonymous

(%)   After all is said and done, more is said than done. - Anonymous

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Why do we need someone to clock our life?

When did I started thinking about it? Not very long ago - until I heard a dialogue from movie, 'Shall We Dance'; "We need a witness to our lives... Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness."

   Here I try to find all possible reasons I can think of, why do we need to have someone to clock our life, or so called to have a life-partner? And just what are our expectations? Why cant we get the same from somewhere else? And finally what we need to look for and prioritize before committing to one final decision.
   When asked 'Why do we need a life partner?'; most would definitely say; we need a life partner to share our feelings, emotions and thoughts, someone who understand, appreciate and respect them.
   One will be utmost comfortable to share their deepest feeling, inmost emotions and craziest thoughts with someone who is like their best pal. Someone who know them for a long time, understand them very well and care for them with all their hearts; like someone's mother, father, siblings or childhood friends. If one already has someone like this, why do we need to introduce a new being with such expectations?
   Others might say, we need a helping hand in the ups and downs of the life. Life is never smooth, we get into financial, social, health, emotional, all sorts of possible troubles. We need someone who care, empathize, guide and help us in such times.
   One may be into all sorts of problems, and would need help and support of people from all many different backgrounds. Why to expect from just one being to be willing and capable to help in every situation?
   Other similar view could be - Life is hard, sharing the burden helps live a smooth and reliable life. Being single, its hard to live a life taking care of things both in and out of the house. Living with someone, work and load gets shared and distributed.
   This sure got some truth, sharing the work does makes it a pleasure and manageable. But to be able to do it efficiently and make it possible to reap the benefits, we need to have fine understanding and chemistry inbetween.
   Think in terms of life science, and obvious answer is - To have offspring and to provide them proper enviornment to grow and prosper. 
   This is so obvious, that there is no argument except that we are almost 7 billion soon and growing. :)
   Talk to a creationism, and he would fervently say - We are created like that, since the early time of Adam and Eve.
   Just one argument - No one dies of being alone, many lived solitary lives and were successful too. Though it brings another question - whats the definition of success? But we know across the world, religion and culture, we have those who chose to live life of a hermit - from St. Jerome to Peter the Hermit to Hindu, Buddhist and Sufi saints to Obi-Wan Kenobi of Star Wars.
   Talk to a socialist, and he probably might say - for the social and cultural upbringing. 
   I agree partially, but cant deny it completely, unless one is totally on the path to Himalayas. :)
  Finally a very philosophical one, from movie 'Shall We Dance' - We need a witness to our lives and to bear witness into another's life. 
  This does sounds way too philosophical to be true, but at very subtle level means a lot; its not just the expectations of getting help in ups and downs, sharing the burden, understanding and respect, propagating the species or maintaining the order of the God and society. It means that someone among the billion, like a peer, like a best pal is always there to be a part, to notice, to share and be a witness of every moment of life - good, bad, terrible, mundane. What else is a human life otherwise, but the star dust.
   I think, all the above mentioned points have some significance. At least in the current society that we are born into, getting married at some point of time is the way of life.
   So finally, accepting it just as the way of life, so many of my friends happily and readily are surrendering to the risky business of taking marriage vows, I think it will be beneficial to summarize the points one should take into consideration before taking the big leap.
(%) Love should never be, 'The Basis', for getting married, rather love is the result of a healthy relationship when other factors match and fits well.
(%) Find someone with whom you have common interests; living with someone for 20 more years, you need to know how you will spend your time together - travelling, eating, sleeping or alone in a corner. With each other, you can either grow together or grow apart.
(%) Make sure you feel calm, safe and trust in expressing your craziest thoughts and innermost feelings; that they do not hurt or offend the person. This sure is the most important one not be be ignored.
(%) There are two aspects of life - principles and practise. And so are two kind - those who live for their principles and those who ignore them anytime to achieve the desired practise. Differentiate them as Democratic and Republican, if you may; but you need to make sure which one you are confortable and are dealing with.
(%) And at the very end, try to find if there is anything that you wish and want to change or improve about the person. If so, either forget about it or forget this person. Dont fool yourself that you can change someone or the faults you see are not that important. Dont let the lust, desperation, immaturity, ignorance, pressure and low self-esteem blind you to any of these signs.
   And finally an African proverb, "Before you get married, keep both eyes open; afterwards, close one eye."

References -