A new arithmetic

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Mental disorders with fancy names? A fear-inducing warning on global warming? A scholarly study on the stock market with colorful charts? Possibilities of a manned Mars mission? Rise and fall of a glorious civilization of the past?


This article is about none of them and is going to just reintroduce you to the basic arithmetic we learned from middle school, but with a slight twist!

1 + (-1) = 2

One plus minus one is equal to Two.

I can already sense the visible confusion building up in your brain tempting you to move away from this erroneous article. Meanwhile, your common sense is jumping in authoritatively and shouting out the supposedly correct answer, 1+1=2 as well. But wait, may I request prolonged patience from you? Put aside your common sense for a moment, for it has done enough good to you already. By the end of the article, this equation will make perfect sense to you, or at least I hope so.

Death, any moment!

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Imagine a war field. Death surrounds you from all corners. Any moment, from any direction, just a tiny bullet, and you are gone. Death is certain, it’s closer to you than your own shadow! You would expect that the soldiers in such an ambiance would be deeply sad, with a long and dejected faces reflecting the dark and mournful image of death. But this is where our common sense fails miserably. Soldiers with death so near and certain, on the other hand, are reportedly fresh and ecstatic and their faces illuminated with the energy of life. What is happening here? No. it doesn’t necessarily mean the soldiers are sadistic and are liking the killing. It’s an illustration of the infallible equation I just introduced to you, moments before.

When death is certain, life opens. In the cursed moments of death throwing stones at you, magical flowers of life blossom. It may be realized that indeed a war field is required to show us the importance of priceless moments of life. We were otherwise unaware; we were otherwise zombie-like. We never knew what life is. Life never happened to us in the comforts of our homes. We did not live, we simply existed in a vegetative state. We woke up in the morning, we bathed, we ate, we rushed to work, we returned home, and we slept. We never lived. Life was so remote to us. We were clinging to the far-away echo of life. Now the extreme war field has revealed life to us, with each heartbeat a boon, each breath a valuable present, and each passing second so meaningful. For this very experience of life that war provides, it is so much desired by the soldiers. Where else can they behold the beauty of life, other than in the vicinity of death?

Speeding car!

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You were in a speeding car intending to end your life in a violent crash. The poor vehicle is already crossing 140 km/h and death is literally around the corner. With a movement of just a millimeter of the steering, you are crushed to death immediately. Here again, the mysterious angel of life appears before you with a mischievous grin on her face. You wished for death, but Life is presented to you. You thrive with the energy of life that you never felt before. Have you not noticed the fact that the people redeemed from death appear full of life?

Common sense!

Our common sense falls flat on its face once again. Our limited common sense says, ‘If you want the experience of life, load yourself with more and more life. but in fact, it should be stated this way: ‘If you want the experience of life, load yourself with death

Life + Life not equal to more life

Life + death is equal to more life

Want to experience me, life says, go get a glimpse of death.

Want to experience health? Fall sick.

Want to experience a relationship? Be lonely.

Want to experience food? Be hungry.

Want to experience a beautiful Sunrise? Go through the darkest night.

Have you not noticed this? You are super thirsty. Each cell of your body demands water. Your tongue is dry as a desert. You almost died from dehydration. Finally, some water! A bottle of drinking water. Haven’t you felt it tasted like an elixir? Never before in your life have you tasted anything sweeter than this tasteless water.

lonely or together?

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Imagine that you are surrounded by people 24 x 7. Kith and kin crushing you from every space and time. You crave for breath; you crave for me-time. You do want to escape to the deepest of woods, the loneliest place in the Himalayas, a virgin island where no man has ever set foot. Imagine also that you somehow managed to find such a gifted place in this land-hungry world. Freedom finally! Everything seems awesome for the first few days. The earth below and the sky above, the chirping of birds, and the wandering clouds! It’s surely heaven! Days pass by and you find yourself missing your family. Your loneliness haunts you and your being longs for the warmth of people. There is no spouse here to wake you up with a bed coffee. There is no ‘Mom’ here bringing breakfast to your study table by 8 A.M. There are no children here to annoy you with their useless enthusiasm. There is no uncle here to visit you by 7 P.M and irritate you with his political blabber. Your dad is no longer present here and is always complaining about your negligence. You start missing everything.

To feel the warmth of a relationship, loneliness is required.

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Yes. It’s beautiful to travel single with no maps and no one to control us, no one to nag us. Let me refer to a beautiful Tamil movie by the name ‘96’ (2018). The leading character of the movie is a lone wanderer. He is shown scuba diving, hiking mountains, trekking in jungles, sitting on beaches, feeding wild animals, roaming hot deserts, traveling across strange cities, conversing with taxi drivers, and what not. He compares himself to a vulture that leaves no trace in the vast blue sky.

Yep, all cool and fabulous. But for how long?

How long can we live in the woods? Sit on the beach? Roam in the desert? How long can we converse with the seemingly non-responsive stars and trees? A taxi driver will entertain us till he drops us off and after that? We are surrounded by stars, trees, animals, and shallow strangers. Three is no one to connect to in the depths. There is no one to caress and cuddle, there is no one to share the beautiful experiences of the day. We are as lonely as a vulture with no paths in the sky.

Loneliness reveals to us the value of the relationship.

Vice versa is also true. Do you want to experience the beauty of loneliness? Do not pack your luggage for a long and lonely journey. Instead, go into a relationship. Be deprived of freedom. Get an over-affectionate partner who haunts you with love. with the suffocating love and care, you cannot have any secrets; you feel naked. Your partner wakes up with you, and goes to bed with you, like an ever-accompanying shadow of you. As the Hindi song goes, ‘Tujhe dekh dekh sona, Tujhe dek kar hain jagna’

A lovely Couple 

A meaningful tale to you:

A king’s daughter is caught just before eloping with a horse keeper. The enraged king immediately orders the pair to be separated. A wise minister approaches the king and requests him to punish them in a unique style. A punishment not of separation but of the union.

The couple is tied together by a tight rope for days together. Too much proximity. The body odor, sweat, the excretion. They are no longer attracted to each other. Familiarity breeds contempt! After the punishment, the couple parted ways with each other, to everyone's surprise.

If you want to separate something from something, first bring them close together.

A Quantum message

Think of gravity, the force we are all familiar with. Gravity weakens with distance. If you want to separate two gravitationally bound bodies, you just need to take them far apart. Move the moon away from the earth so that they are no longer bound. Move the earth so far away from the Sun that it’s just a free-roaming, stray planet now. Gravity confirms common sense. Our poor common sense is at least saved once this time! Bring the objects together, gravity is strong; Take them apart, gravity is weak!

Time to hit our common sense again with force. This time let’s take the strongest of the forces in the universe, the strong nuclear force!

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Think of quarks (technically, the strong nuclear force) the constituent particles of protons and neutrons inside a nucleus. Try separating two individual quarks and better luck with that. They ferociously unite back in no time like a loving couple. There is no way to separate quarks by taking them away. The only way to separate them is to bring them together. Yes, bring them together. But we cannot produce such high temperatures artificially in our labs to bring them close together. Only in the early moments of our universe, right after the big bang, when the temperature is unimaginably high, quarks were seen hanging lonely without a pair.

To separate quarks, bring them together!

Time for some literature!

The world-famous Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar seems to have caught a hold of this. He mentions this concept in one of his couplets (1104), of course not in a scientific context of strong nuclear force, but in the context of love, a force much stronger than the strong nuclear force itself. To quote Sudhanantha Bharthi’s translation of Thirukural: 

Away it burns and cools anear,
Wherefrom did she get this fire?

Let us go back to the equation, 1+(-1) =2

It should make sense at least partially by now. If not, let me throw some more examples at you.

Take religion and spirituality.

Saint or sinner?

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Take your time to answer this question suitably.

Who will obtain the grace of God easily?

(a) A devotee who is sincerely in the worship of God round the clock.

(b) A merciless thief living in the woods robbing travelers of their possessions.

Poor common sense is hit in the face again. As you may have guessed right by now, it is option (b)

The merciless thief is none other than the Sage Valmiki who composed the ever-green epic Ramayana.

Angulimal (wearer of a garland of fingers), a ruthless killer is brought to the path of compassion by the enlightened Buddha in minutes of time. He was so blood-thirsty, no other brutal animal could be compared to him. But he fell flat at Buddha's feet like magic! It’s as if the peak of violence and compassion exist close to each other somewhere at the heights of heaven.

Remember the rule.

  • Need the experience of life? go die.
  • Need the experience of friendship? Deal with enmity.
  • Need the experience of peace? Stay in a marketplace.
  • Need the experience of love? Separate!
  • Need the experience of cold? Be hot!
  • Life needs contrast!

Motion picture

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The motion picture was invented. The inventors were excited! To make a video, they just had to display a still frame immediately followed in place by another still frame, and so on. Alas! But when the film was finally played, everyone was shocked. There was a constant whitish blur on the screen. The inventors overlooked the golden rule that to experience light, we need darkness. They needed blackness, blankness. A short darkness lasting for split seconds in between the frames was needed to make the motion pictures look alive. Just like sleep is needed at the night for the human brain to process daily activities effectively.

“I close my eyes to see”- In a movie of three hours, do you know we keep staring at the blank screen for several minutes? No, I don’t mean blinking of eyes. Literally, the blank screen is caused by the interval between the frames.

Tea time with Satan!

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We keep trying to avoid Satan in the journey toward God. We fear sins and embrace good deeds. we condemn the so-called ‘bad people’. We undertake the pilgrimage, help the needy, offer alms, and what not. We are proud of ourselves. Working hard to deserve the attention of God, we may now call ourselves ‘the selected ones’. We reserved a special seat for ourselves in heaven. We will be a royal guest of celestials when the day arrives.

Finally, the long-awaited day arrives. We are being taken to the abode of God. The path is illuminated with the radiance of thousand Suns. Angels are singing divine greetings in the sweetest of their voices on either side of the path. The aroma of thousand flowers fills the space. You cannot contain the excitement; you are just a few doors distance away from God. You will soon behold the God almighty, who is all-good, all positive, all virtuous, non-evil, destroyer of demons, the enemy of the bad.

The last door wide opens in climatic chaos and there you go! Behold God almighty in all his glory. Wait, what is that Satan that is sitting next to God? It can’t be happening. Yes, you are right. God is seen leisurely sipping a cup of tea sitting along with Satan!

God + Satan is not equal to Zero

God + Satan = more God. Satan makes God even more God-like. God and Satan complement each other.

Now, this equation should make perfect sense to you, shouldn’t it?

1 + (-1) = 2

.    .    .