Thoughts Sans Boundaries

Life… (cont.)

Posted in life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on December 23, 2009

I posted the link to my previous post on facebook and I received the following comment:

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning)

Dutifully, I googled Viktor Frankl and his book Man’s Search for Meaning. I have linked them to save you some time to search. After reading through that and also mulling over the statement above for a while, I re-read it many times for two reasons – one, as to what exactly the author is trying to say and two, why was the comment posted as a response to my post. Anti-climax; I am still trying to figure out the answer for both the points. But, it did get my thoughts to run along other paths, which I thought I’ll write them up as a continuation to my previous post.

The author summarises that we have the onus to determine what our life is supposed to mean by being responsible rather than seek it as a external purpose that we collect (or realise) and apply it on our lives. Which makes sense if we look at the meaning of life from an individual’s point of view – a point of view that is taken by most people when they lack purpose due to an externally imposed circumstance like adversity. Part of my reason for the previous post is taken not from an individualistic view but rather at an existential level as to why evolution provided reason to humankind and is there a purpose behind it. Of course, I realise now that it probably did not come across as clearly as it should have. But as I said before, the comment put me through another path of thinking about the meaning of life from one’s life’s perspective.

The pondering of this question, in most cases, arises when the environment imposes an adverse situation on us. This is not to say that during happy occasions we don’t think about these questions, but more often then not, we are busy being happy that we let little such philosophical questions arise in our minds, lest we lose the moment of happiness we possess. That brings me to one of the key root causes of these thoughts – adversity. Now, adversity has many a forms that you could write a thesis on them but I am particularly intrigued by one element – pain. Pain as in mental agony and not anything physical. Pain that’s caused because of the loss of a dear one, defeat in a cause etc. Let’s narrow this down even more and try to focus on pain that is caused solely because of a situation where you don’t have anything external to blame it on. To quickly draw a contrast to the book by Viktor Frankl (note: I’ve not read the book and my brief knowledge comes from a quick glance at Wikipedia), he talks about the state of mind that exists when one is in a concentration camp and how do deal with such a situation. We need to note here that this adversity and pain is caused externally by a force that you don’t and can’t control. What I am referring to is a situation, where you seem to be the only one that could potentially be ‘blamed’ for the pain that’s causing you.

I think mind here takes an interesting form. Speaking from personal experiences, it first desperately seeks something external to put the blame on. Not finding any, one starts to introspect to find what could have caused the situation. Many a times you realise that the one suffering is pretty much the cause of it as well. Like failing in an examination simply because one did not prepare well for the same. But on some occasions, you actually don’t find yourself to be responsible as well for the situation causing the pain. Or let’s say, the degree of your responsibility it not high enough for you to take the full blame. Then you face a roadblock where you are unsure what to do next. You ponder more, examine the situation with multi-various lenses, simulate the incident in different forms and from different perspectives but still the answer eludes. If the degree of pain being suffered is all encompassing you then it leads to a state of paralysis, where you don’t function in the way you normally do. Then the metaphysical questions are raised as to the purpose of life. The interesting conundrum is that at a holistic level you know you need to take responsibility for life but are paralysed by an event that prevents you from taking the next step of being responsible. You are still bemused by the situation which seems to have no form.

We all come across such incidents in our lives and we get through it somehow – fading memory being one of them. But some leave a lasting impression on you that keeps coming back like a boomerang every now and then to haunt. What do we do under such circumstances – many seek religious help, some seek medical etc but these are safe deposit boxes that temporarily hold on to your issue giving you the illusion that it has been resolved. But depending on how intensive the issue is, it always comes back.

I do not know the answer to deal with them and I have my own demons to fight but I see a clear purpose in raising a metaphysical question here and follow the path of seeking the answer. The reason I say this is not because, I need an excuse to stare at a blank wall in the premise of thinking but rather that this approach could potentially put us on a path of dissecting the problem in a methodical way and peel the skin of the onion, one at a time. In the end, will it help tide over that situation and give you lasting peace… I don’t know. But you could potentially peel the last bit of skin and realise that there is nothing left anymore to peel. The sense of nothingness in everything could help you deal with it. Maybe…

Peace.

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Life…

Posted in life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on December 21, 2009

Bismillah,
(Arabic phrase from Quran that means ‘in the name of God, the merciful, the beneficent’)

Like many people, I muse about life. I ask some of the cliched questions such as the meaning of life, is there purpose for human life, what should we strive for, is evolution a mere accident in the unimaginable size of this universe etc. And, like most people who ask these questions, I don’t have a definite answer. In fact, there is not even a glimmer of hope that I would find a definitive answer.

I come from a culture that is known for pioneering this study and many a treatise have been written from time immemorial trying to address these and other questions. This innate nature to question would probably not be as strongly entrenched in me, had I not been born and brought up in this microcosmic society (I beg for pardon if this usage of microcosmic society in the sentence is a wrong usage, but I hope you get the point I am driving at). This has an even bigger impact on me since my parents have brought me up with the independence to raise these questions and boldly try to find the answers however rational it may or may not seem. Here I should digress to say a bit about the people who have had the most profound impact on me. I have been blessed with some of the best people one can have the opportunity to know in their life. This includes my parents, my brothers and one friend (whom I consider my teacher and brother in more than one way) and his family in India. I do not wish to name anyone to guard their privacy. But this digression is important to emphasise that few people have this opportunity to meet so many great souls and learn from them to differentiate the different shades of grey that we encounter in our lives.

Coming back to my earlier point on whether these questions are rational enough to ask or not and the reason for which I say that is because, I have had the opportunity to experience scientific way of approaching and the loosely put religious or spiritualistic way of approaching on various aspects of life that portray the different shades of grey that we very often encounter. The thought of rationality appears in this discussion because, science demonstrates to you through the concept of reasoning (and hypothesis and proofs) that the universe is an immensely vast place and the fact that life exists in this piece of rock that we call earth among the uncountable number of such rocks is a mere accident and unavoidable given our knowledge of chemistry. So, if science were to hear my appeal to it to find the answers, it would reply back that there is simply no point in asking this question as it is merely philosophical in nature and having an answer (if an answer exists) will have no bearing on existence (or life as I term it here) itself.

On the other hand, humans have conceptualised (or experienced) God which has given birth to religion in many forms depending on the environment in which it was born. This is not a debate about whether God exists or not but more a philosophical inquiry in what is the purpose (if there is something called a purpose) of life. So from this perspective, if I raised this question to ‘religion’ (and I put this in quotes because that is probably the easiest way to collectively refer to any form of thinking that is not scientific in nature), the answer would be quite different depending on which school of thinking that I raise this question to. But most of these diverse group would agree that self realiasation and experiencing God is the key purpose of life. Now we can debate in length about the concept of God itself and many scientific minds would immediately dismiss it to be a brainwashed concept handed over through many generations. But I do not wish to dismiss it likewise. I think, merit should be given to those thinkers who claim to have experienced God and achieved self-realisation and tried to hand over their experiences so other may also experience the same. I can specifically speak for (if momentarily I take upon that arrogance) the thinkers in the today’s Indian sub-continent. The reason why I do not dismiss like the many scientific minds, even though I reasonably understand the scientific process is because, the thinkers and philosophers in this region did not attempt to teach dogma but rather urged everyone to think, ponder, question and challenge their hypothesis and seek the ‘truth’ for themselves. They provided the tools for people if they needed but never insisted that they use their tools. And this broad minded approach akin to the scientific approach of allowing theories to be disproved by others, does not allow me to throw away their claim of vivid experiences simply because I cannot demonstrate that in a laboratory.

We have all been trained well in the scientific process – learning all branches of sciences in our school curriculum, has enabled us to easily embrace the scientific method but the same cannot be said about the self inquiry school since none of their tools have been taught to us in a structured manner for us to embrace or dismiss the benefits that you can achieve through self-realisation or realisation of God. If for example we take the simplest of the tools – Faith, most of us do not have the greater strength to sustain faith. Even though we try it at different points in our life, we soon lose confidence in it and relapse to our scientific method of approaching a problem. I am not suggesting here that when someone is suffering from a cardiac arrest, the people around that person sit next to him / her and say that we’ll keep faith and hope it cures. That would be madness at least in the context in which we deal with our lives. But faith as one of the tools, here takes a larger role to sustain it to achieve self-realiasation among the using of other tools such as self-inquiry, meditation etc.

I have many a times tried to use these tools to try to understand or seek answers to the questions in my mind. But like most people, I give up, because it is hard, does not align with my predominantly scientific mind, does not have interim results to encourage me to sustain etc. Here, people who solely follow the scientific approach would pooh pooh me saying that there is no point in even trying as one is never going to achieve anything through this. But I resist the temptation to agree with them and give up for reasons stated above. Even if I never see the light of the day in this approach, I think I would be contented that I did experiment with a non-scientific approach to experience the elusive self-realisation or enlightenment and was not pigeon holed into thinking only in terms of hypothesis and proofs in a laboratory.

So, why do I seek answers in the first place? I don’t start asking these questions to achieve enlightenment as I think that is at a farther point of my journey of life but rather to deal with the unexplainable experiences – painful and pleasurable that goes on in our lives and to deal with them with more maturity and with innate strength especially if the experience if painful. When I usually have these discussions with my brothers, I try to give an analogy that people are, in some sense behind a huge wall blocking their vision. So when you attempt to jump up and have a look on the other side, you get a glimpse of it depending on how high you can jump. The ability to jump higher comes from the eagerness to pursue the objective of knowing what is on the other side of the wall and also by gaining more awareness about what you saw during the previous glimpse. So effectively, the more aware you become and more eagerness you have, you can jump higher and higher, until one day you can jump over the wall and maybe that’s what many who have jumped over call it as enlightenment.

The sheer act of attempting this is an enriching experience in itself. No matter if you believe in God or not, or believe in the concept of enlightenment or not, but the journey to self-inquire and peel the skin of abstractness and unexplainable episodes in your life is an exciting one. I constantly endeavour to do this albeit I lose the strength to pursue, but as I said before, being blessed with the some of the great souls in your life, helps you to regain your lost path and pursue it again with new vigour.

Peace.

Knowledge is free

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 12, 2009

Wonder if there is a study which talks about how many people would like to have education but cannot afford it; especially in a developed country where education is not subsidised by the government. I think most of Western Europe is out of this equation.

Now, why would such a study be interesting? To start with, it tells how much the government is lagging in laying the foundation for a better future. The way we measure success and economic prosperity today is primarily through how rich the people are. Although I strongly disagree with this approach, I can’t do much but live with it. The way people can become rich is by producing more and the society consuming the production at an every greater volume so we see a constant increase in production and consumption which leaves people with enough money, employment and security. But the biggest flaw in this approach is the concept of consumption itself. What we are consuming is this planet’s resources and the more we consume, the lesser the available resources are and it will deplete if not immediately but at some point in future. We would have accumulated so much of garbage that we would have to colonise another planet just to dump them!

Anyway, back to my core point of this post, fundamentally we need to shift the focus of economic prosperity from wealth to knowledge. Of course we would still be a consuming population but the shift in focus in terms of how prosperous a person is will be from money to knowledge. And I think this is imperative we recognise this if we need to save this human species from self-destruction. Unless we understand the workings of the Universe and constantly create conducive environments for the people to live, we would disappear like the Dodos. Ancient India had recognised this as an important aspect of life and the economy was never around how someone can make money but rather how knowledge, education, art and literature could be fostered and opportunities created for the peoples of the society. We are living in a world were everybody wants to be a trader. It is not practicable and it will only lead to a collapse which we are seeing now.

For a nation to be advanced from a knowledge perspective, it needs to give opportunity for every person to be able to seek that knowledge, try them out and see if they are able to acquire it and find a suitable niche where they can shine and where they feel contented simply because they have physically seen their own limitations. This does not leave room for any anguish and jealousy and retarded complaining that one did not get enough opportunity to survive in a better way. And the only way it can be done is to ensure every person gets free and fair access to knowledge and facilities. I think governments everywhere should recognise it and start preparing for a platform to meet its needs if it wants to be a knowledge leader in this globalised world.

Use the Internet – Change a life

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 11, 2009

I recently discussed an idea with my brother about building a portal that would connect non-profit and voluntary organisations with people willing to volunteer for short periods in a week thereby amassing a significant number of man hours towards a social cause. The way the idea works is like this. The website would dedicate a page for any organisation that requires volunteers or donations for a social cause – could be in nursing, education, animal welfare etc. Each of these organisations would first need to register and they would be invited to write about them in that page which would be sort of a wiki controlled by that registrant. Once they describe enough for someone to get an idea as to what the organisation is involved in, then they can create ‘Events’. Events are those activities conducted by that NPO which calls for external volunteers or donations in order to run it. An example for an Event would be volunteers required to spend time in the old age home entertaining the old people. Every Event would have several attributes which describes the Event, specifies what is required – volunteers, cash etc., what kind of skill set required – nursing, no skill etc, date and time of the Event and so on and so forth.

This portal would also invite Volunteers – any kind of people, non-skilled people to professionals to register themselves and generate a unique identity in the portal, sort of a social networking structure. You could also make friends with other registrants. Each individual who registers would also have a set of attributes – times they can volunteer, skill sets they possess etc.

What the portal does is it enables NPOs to search within the list of Volunteers as to who matches to the Event created by the NPO and access their profile, free times available for volunteering and invite them to participate in the Event. It also allows the Volunteers to search for appropriate Events where there is a match between the times they are available to the times when the Events are conducted and register themselves. It would be a simple process similar to booking a sports hall to play an indoor sport! As this is voluntary and given that many of us could easily spend couple of hours in a week volunteering for a social activity, my gut feeling is that there would be a point of inflection when there are more people actively available to volunteer than there are social projects existing. This would in turn drive a new initiative to create new social projects – A tennis coach could volunteer to teach tennis to under privileged kids for couple of hours in a week etc.

This has to be highly localised given that the volunteers have to be within the same city where the Event is taking place but I don’t see why this can’t be scaled up to large projects as well such as earthquake relief etc. I haven’t seen anything like this on the Internet although there are many sites – more vertical for specific projects such as blood donation sites etc.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this idea and one last thing; the site can support itself with advertisements or donations similar to what Wikipedia is doing thereby releasing any financial commitment on anyone’s part.

Sewers in India to social support in Singapore

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 10, 2009

Couple of things prompts me to write this post. When I asked my brother as to what did he thinks of my post yesterday, he said that it was fine but there wasn’t much value for him in it since it did not have continuity to it and it was just random thoughts. Today he shared one other post from another blogger called Mr Wong Says So who commented on a news item in Today newspaper and went on to explain how the Singaporean government thinks that $330 is enough for the needy and poor to survive for a month. So I decided to write more along those lines.

Thankfully, I am not in the business of determining the amount of money to be dispersed by the government to the needy. I am sure Dr. Vivian has trouble bridging what he believes and what he is expected to do and convince a parliament and the people at large. Now, in a country like Singapore where the concept of poor is very different from what the term means in a country like India, it is easy to point the finger at a person like Dr. Vivian and say how he could be so insensitive and expect a person to live with $330 a month. But if you are a little bit read and travelled, you understand that everything is subjective and relative. Perspectives drastically change with just adding or removing few variables into the equation.

What do I mean by that? In yesterday’s post, a complaint about a complaint by a reporter about squalid working conditions of under privileged people, we see that things are much worse in a country like India where a huge number of people are living on less than a dollar a day. When Dr. Vivian says that people should learn to be self-reliant and / or depend on the immediate family for support rather than the State, as otherwise we cannot run an efficient and lean government, he is stating what is rational and what is expected out of every citizen. But what about those people who do not have a base to begin anything to become self-reliant and how could an immediate family support when they potentially are in same or similar conditions. Naturally they turn to the State for support but then again, the government cannot be feeding everyone as that is not its function.

I define the function of the government as a facilitator for every citizen to become self-reliant and as an arbitrator of open issues and a guarantor to the weak and under privileged ensuring they get a level playing field. If this definition is adhered, I believe that every government irrespective of how rich or poor the country is, would be able to do justice to its people. In order for the government to do this, the most important thing to offer to the citizens to create level playing field is to offer education to one and all irrespective of whether they have to resources to study or not. Now, if a person refuses to acquire knowledge or skill and chooses to be lazy, then he / she deserves to be poor and under privileged. No amount of money from anyone is going to solve that problem. In fact the Dr. Vivian could declare that $330 is more than enough without doubt or guilt if he promises free education to everyone in the country who is willing to study. So goes in India. If the government steps forward to such people who clean sewers in hazardous conditions and tells them that they can acquire a skill (to clean sewers in a safe and hygienic way) or knowledge to pull themselves out of the rut they find themselves in to improve their lives. Governments who don’t do that will have sleepless nights and so would the needy and poor people

Space program or Sewers?

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 9, 2009

I just read an article on BBC. I have read many such as these where I hear an emotional voice of a reporter voicing out for the voice-less people of the society. It is an amazing feat to speak for others who find it impossible to speak themselves. Kudos to their effort. But I don’t understand why such articles are being written. Of course, I am not trying to be naive, I can think of few reasons:

a. The reporter is venting his / her frustrations when the press (or website) allows the content to be published simply because it comes from a qualified reporter
b. The press thinks that this article would generate enough clicks or readership that will warrant some revenue for the company
c. The reporter and the press are trying to create awareness among the larger public on the plight of many under privileged citizens who are suffering
d. The reporter and the press are hoping that this would elicit some responsible citizen to take up the cause with the authorities and do something about changing their lives
e. The reporter is giving voice to the voiceless and hopes that this would give them strength to take up their cause themselves and seek justice
f. The reporter wishes to shame the authorities / people responsible for making others suffer
g. A combination of the above and so on

What I fail to grasp here are few things:

a. The comparison called by the reporter on the government spending on space program vs. sewage improvements
b. The reporter feeling guilty about the plight of another human being
c. Indirect criticism of the authorities and calling all economically developed people to feel guilty through his / her article

Now, since I don’t understand the true intentions of the reporter my comments can be way off what the truth could be. But I persevere since I would like my thoughts on paper (or blog) as you interpret. I think the reporter is venturing into areas where he / she has very little knowledge, expertise or information about. A reporter’s job is to state facts and not write articles laden with facts and suggestive ideas as the reporter see’s fit. By comparing the investments on space program and calling attention that sewage infrastructure could use some of those funds the reporter has demonstrated poor knowledge about the functioning of governments and tried to spread misinformation and perceptions that the Indian government has misplaced priorities.

Secondly, why is the reporter feeling guilty? Because the reporter is contributing to the sewage fluids that another human being is cleaning or because the reporter has not done enough to uplift that person from that state to a better one or because the reporter has not challenged authority to change status quo or is it because the reporter has written a poor article on a so called prestigious news agency’s website. It leaves me wondering where the reporter’s priorities are when he / she states – “How can our so-called civil society be so indifferent to the millions like him? I, for one, am left feeling guilty.”

Thirdly, there is no direct accusation or information about any municipal office responsible for such affairs. There is no link between the so called middle-class and upper middle-class as to why they should feel responsible for the sewage cleaner’s state of affairs. I am not a heartless man to ignore another man’s suffering. But I am not that naive to put the blame on someone who is working hard to make a living with a middle-class, upper middle-class or rich status. There is clear accusation on the government not doing anything about the lives of such people but instead spending the money on space programs. India is a country where the majority are poor, majority among the poor are below poverty line, lack education, opportunities, suffer caste discrimination and work in the most squalid conditions a person can imagine, work more hours than most people with a decent life and yet earn less than they can afford to eat a decent meal. Now they are the ones electing the government. They are the ones who believe that the leader they elect will change their lives for ever or at least attempt to. The so called economically comfortable people who wash off their responsibilities by expressing their altruistic thoughts in such articles on BBC are the ones corrupting the same government elected by the majority of the poor people. Given that there is such a symbiotic relationship between these factions, and the ‘poor people’ not willing to take things in their own hands by seeking knowledge, we are not going to eradicate such living conditions.

What people need is facts stated on a certain situation. These facts might call for the necessary authority to take action with enough information provided by the reporter and hopefully bring about at least attempt at bringing in change. It should be left to the reader as to what is justified and what not. There is no point in stating that the country should be stop spending in space programs and spend on sewer. A society needs to go on and which means a lot of activities must go on. Sometimes, changes are slow in happening and people suffer in the process. Nothing can be done about it. Instead of pitying them and having a false sense of guilt, the responsible journalism should ensure that the facts and facts alone reach the audience. If opinion is required, the readers would naturally seek the opinion section of the site and not intermingle it with factual journalism or News.

Me and my first Marathon

Posted in endurance story, life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 2, 2009

I ran a marathon last December and completed it in about 8 hours. I never really prepared for it although I thought I was reasonably fit to complete it in 5 hrs 30 mins. Running a marathon is a funny thing. There is lot of excitement and optimism at the beginning that you will meet the target you have set for yourself. As the run progresses and you become tired, you tell yourself that this is an incredible challenge and that you are attempting something that many don’t. And when you cross the mid-way point and your legs start to cramp, you develop thoughts that it is better to give up than to damage something in your legs and that it is not shameful to give up and try next year. But if you somehow convince yourself to carry on and reach the 30-34 KM range, you start to ask in your mind some profound philosophical questions about life and pain and the meaning of our actions; most questions for which you never get an answer. But if you still manage to drag yourself towards the final few kilometres of the run, then you get to a stage where there is nothing in your mind. It is blank with no thoughts, all you feel is a dull lingering pain that seems like it will stay with you for ever and you are no longer bothered about anything. There develops an insensitiveness that you have never experienced before or thought that you were never capable of. And then the finish; for one glorious moment, you feel at the top of the world, elated, as if you have been the first ever to attempt something like this and that you are the One. But this feeling vanishes as soon as you begin to revel and it follows by an incredible amount of pain that you have never experienced before. Pain you thought that human body was not capable to withstand and that you are probably going to have some permanent damage to your body. You start to look for a corner to sit and then just pass away.

At least this was how I felt during my ‘record’ 8 hours run. But I did finish. Right after I finished I looked for my brother who ran the same marathon and he finished just under 6 hours. He seemed to be doing quite fine except for some pain in his legs and here I was completely hopeless and wishing that life would just stop there. After a couple of days, I started to get back my usual spirit and the pain started to ebb away. I am now getting ready for my second attempt at the marathon called the Sundown Marathon in May. I hope to be better prepared this time and I am still aiming for that 5 hr 30 mins finish.

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What do we do?

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on July 28, 2008

I have been pondering about the climate issue for a while now. Actually the term climate crises or issue has become so cliched that no one gives a second thought unless something big happens. Then people think about it for while, get agitated that nothing is being done and there is lot of media attention suddenly on climate change and then it slowly loses interest and the issue is dormant waiting for another big event to occur.

Looking at it pragmatically, there is little hope that CO2 emissions can be reduced. People are still exploring for oil in the Arctic circle, middle east, Americas and Russia and there is no indication of any slowdown in consumption. Developed countries are blaming the developing countries for emissions, developing countries are taking offense that the developed countries kept emitting CO2 during their industrial revolution and taking a double-standard towards developing nations. Under-developed countries continue to suffer with no hope in sight and the whole world is just chugging along.

I have been thinking about a scenario where there is no respite for CO2 emissions which seems to be likely and sometime in the future the oil runs out and we have alternate technology in place but the damage is already done. The planet is chocked with CO2 gases, glaciers have melted, most island nations are submerged and there is a huge influx of refugees from island nations to mainlands, coastal towns are submerged, unstable sea, poisonous air and erratic climate leading to drought and floods. This is a grim picture but does not seem impossible.

Let’s assume that this is how the world is going to look like sometime in the future. What do we do in such cases? I am sure one of the alternatives would be to explore the solar system and beyond for a suitable planet to colonise and humans start to migrate from this planet. So far we have not found any place in the solar system or beyond which is habitable freely. Assuming that we do find within traveling distance a piece of rock were we can set up a new base, is it going to be easy? Initially not but maybe technology will mature to make it easy. But is the effort worth it at all?

Nature evolved animals (including humans) and plants to co-exist without the need to go great lengths. Plants require carbon di-oxide and produce oxygen and animals require oxygen and produce carbon di-oxide. What more can we ask for from Nature. A nicely balanced set up where all one needs to do is maintain the balance. I don’t understand why we are bent upon upsetting the balance. Is it some kind of a group rush we all feel facing the uncertainty and trying out new things? Or is it arrogance that we can manage nature? Or is it ignorance – we understand but don’t internalise? Is it callousness?

I don’t know… what do we do?

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Is there a real alternative to climate problem?

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on July 28, 2008

The Indian government won the vote of confidence and there is jubilence in many quarters. What brought this political uncertainity was the deal that the present government wanted to sign with United States for nuclear technology transfer so India can meet its energy demands.

There is a great demand for energy everywhere as we become more and more technology dependent and our per capita consumption is increasing every year. The biggest source of energy known to us is fossil fuel (coal, oil etc) and nuclear fuel. Any casual reader of any news source will know that both these energy sources has significant environmental impact. One increases CO2 in the atmosphere and thereby warms up the planet and the other creates nuclear waste which is poisonous.

When one considers deeply on any other form of alternative like solar, wind or wave power, none of them offer the critical quantum that is required to make it meaningful and all of them require huge investments. So in a nutshell, there isn’t any other form of energy source that is safe, abundant, cheap and requires little additional investment to deploy without re-engineering all that has already been produced. That leaves us with a situation that there is no ‘real’ solution to the problems we are facing today such as climate change and its implications.

If at all we are serious and totally understand where we are taking the humans as a species (as well as our little planet and its other inhabitants) in the current environment, I think we need to reduce our consumption drastically. Reducing consumption is obviously not good for the economy and the comfortable life styles that we are used to but the alternate is very scary – unrest among many developing and under-developed countries, threat of terrorism and envy, environmental destruction, massive movement of population and an impractical strain on the resources of this planet. It may feel good now as we still have some resources left to tackle these problems. But we are not very far from a situation that the current resources will run out and the latent problems will surface like a huge monster.

So, reduce consumption (I mean avarice consumption) thereby indirectly bring about a better future for this planet.

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The thing I like about the Internet community

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on July 24, 2007

It is quite amazing that the people on the Internet, especially the IT technologists have this holistic view of knowledge that they strive to teach to others as much as they know and simultaneously learn as much too. One of the age old Indian system of education has been that the more knowledge it taught to others who are willing to learn, the more ones own understanding improves qualitatively. There is a saying (the translation of course does not do justice to the original saying), when translated says, that the “donation” or giving away knowledge is one of the most supreme kind of “donation” much more supreme that sharing any material wealth. The closest English one would be like, “teach a man to fish rather than give him a fish to satisfy his hunger”.

Traditionally, the concept of control was through control of information and knowledge but it has taken a 180 degree turn and the more one is taught about something the quicker the pace of development is. I am loving it!

This is one of my favourite things about web and Internet.

Caught in the Google’s view of the web

Posted in life, musings, technology by Aditya Moorthy on July 17, 2007

The title borrowed from the statement made by a friend of mine. Well, the background is that my friend who made this statement is German and apparently he has been building a house for his family. Recently the roof of his house started to vibrate during heavy winds and later found that the concrete mixture used to build it was not correct and it had to be re-built. So he is moving out of the house now to live in a hotel for few days before the roof could be repaired. Obviously this is quite a discomfort given that he also has a toddler to take care of. To ease his position a bit, I told him that there is an Indian proverb (used in my native tongue) which effectively says that when you start a project and have numerous problems in the beginning, then the later part of the project life would be much as ease. This arises out of the belief that more problems you face in the beginning then more incorrect things are set right at the beginning itself, leading to a much smoother sailing later. Of course you can philosophically apply this to life itself. The more you struggle in the younger days, the middle and older days will be relatively at peace.

He asked me for the source of the proverb and a link on the Internet. I was searching for it and got a mail from him that he is looking at the Wikiquote for Indian Proverbs while I was doing the same thing. When I told him that I was doing the same thing, he came up with this comment that we are caught in the Google’s view of the web.

How true! For me increasingly the gateway to Internet has become Google. Even if I know the URL of a site, I sometimes type the keyword of the site on Google toolbar and then click the first link that props up, which invariably is the right link. Isn’t amazing that we have become so reliant on Google and potentially Google can skew our views just by being a gatekeeper of the Internet? Thank goodness that their motto is ‘do no evil’ or are they really sticking to it…

Weary weekend

Posted in life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on July 8, 2007

It’s been an tiring and emotionally draining weekend for me. I don’t want to get into the details but the process of going through such emotions gives you the ability (or rather opportunity) to put life in perspective and make assessment of various aspects of the life. This is a chance where you can take a pen and paper and list things in order to find out what the issues are and how you can deal with it. It is easier said than done as I am currently going through it, I can imagine how hard it is to objectively put everything down including one’s own deficiencies and face it with total humility. It is very hard to the point that it becomes impossible. The mind is completely blocked with the issues that you can think no further. It is like getting caught in a quagmire and you have negative energy left to fight it. The more you fight, you seem to go deeper into the quagmire. The sinking feeling makes you worse as it seems that even though you are doing everything humanly possible, the very same effort seems to sink you more.

But having said that, the solution is not to get weary. I am writing this being still in the quagmire and I can assure you that I haven’t still implemented any of the things that I am writing about. I am hoping that writing this down at least gives me an opportunity to keep the manual in front of me and reflect and hopefully get out of the quagmire. The helplessness in dealing with issues with life is because we get confused when we face a situation that stands like a mountain in front of us and we have a small chisel to bore a hole through the mountain and get across the obstacle. Rationality tells you that you are never going to make it with that chisel in hand. On the other hand, the problem is none other than oneself. The mountain is an obstable that you create in your mind and give it shape and size. We somehow deep inside want the problem to be big and face with the helpless situation. I can’t explain why, but I have great confidence that this is true. If I am wrong, you tell me.

Now when we recognise that the problem is our own mind, then it should be easy, since you can simply snap out of that mode and put the problem outside of you and have a different perspective to it. The moment you do that, you realise that the mountain is no longer a mountain but a small pebble that you can easily kick it out of your way. The difficult part of it is taking the problem out of you and putting it in front and treat it as a different entity, separate from you, and you are an observer. Great minds will be able to do it easily, but most of us are not. I am for sure not but I strive to be there. I must reiterate here that the problems that I am talking about here are more mental rather than problems created by the environment. Things like a flood or an earthquake cannot be solved like this although this process can play a small role in addressing such issues as well. I have been fortunate to have met and known people who have the capability to view their problems dispassionately with no emotions or baggage attached to it. I am like that in most cases, but being human, I am confounded with certain issues whereby my ability to view it dispassionately fails badly. This is such an occasion.

I am going to work on it and I am sure I will figure out a way.

Meet ego

Posted in life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on July 6, 2007

I was having coffee and chatting with a friend of mine when we hit upon a great browser toolbar application and we talked about how we can start a company together. I then quickly suggested that the name of the Internet domain to be the last name of mine and his. Immediately after I said that it struck me that I put my name first before his and not the other way around. Not that there was anything wrong but I was musing on the fact that how our thoughts revolve around us being in the center of everything we think and do. However minuscule the manifestation might be but the ego still persists. Some argue that a measured quantity of ego is in fact a necessary evil as otherwise we might lose our self-identity and respect which we owe ourselves, if we were to perceive everything while putting others first instead of us. Of course there are pros and cons to this argument but the problem is where the measured quantity stops. Who gets to decide how much minimum ego a person should have, beyond which it displays its ugly tentacles.

In any case, it was an interesting mind journey that I took musing about ego. By the way, he also pointed out that there is a German proverb which many use quite commonly in Germany and it goes like this – “Der Esel nennt sich immer zuerst”. It literally translated means that the donkeys always names itself first!

Tell me your view points on ego.