January 25, 2012

Being Human.

      Not blogging for the past few weeks felt as if my philosophical Photo0366side had gone into a hibernation mode. So here I am, all set to revive myself. To digest that much needed the food for thought that I have chewed upon all these days. Exams, provide us with more than enough on our platter. Like everybody else, we make grand plans that vanish in a puff as soon as the exams get over. Most notably, the grand promise of taking a long nap the day the last paper gets over. It never happens with me, blogging being my priority. Sharing my thoughts is a passion.
       Often, small worries get us down. Be them missing out an answer in an examination or a cell-phone that we want. In this post, let me delight you, excite you and take you on a journey where we shall together explore what it is being human. Seldom does a passing thought get directed towards issues regarding the basis of our very own existence and how special it might turn out to be. There is the science and there is the philosophy behind our existence. Let the journey begin.
        Being born is quite an event. No wonder our entire family tree is jubilant when that happens. I remember reading a text saying that whenever we face trouble, we should recall the fact that once upon a time our origins are to be attributed to that one sperm that won the race. But does the ‘being lucky’ part starts right there? I think that there is more that we miss out on.
     If I were to write an acknowledgement or make an acceptance speech at the Oscars Nobel Prize giveaways, maybe be list would run like this.
  • I would like to thank the universe for creating itself out of nothing. Possibly.
  • I thank the laws of nature for being the way that they are. In fact, string theory allows for a vast number—10500—of possible ‘worlds’ with different self-consistent sets of laws and ­constants. Thank you for landing me in here!
  • I thank all those events that occurred for billions of years to get the universe to the state that it is currently in. 13.7 billion years to be specific. Cheers to all those stars that exploded and all those gases that ganged up to make up more stars and galaxies. From the innumerable quantum uncertainties to the explosive supernovae, thank you.
  • Cheers to Mother Earth for landing up in the habitable zone, the ‘Goldilocks zone’. Not to hot, not too cold.
  • How can I forget that comet which seeded the Earth with life? Or perhaps to life itself for coming into being from a random arrangement of molecules? A bolt of lightening? Thank you, whatever you were!
  • To evolution, those million years that gave us the tools of survival. These teeth and those eyes, minus the tail. And to whatever brought about consciousness, the state of being aware of your surroundings and influencing it at your own will.
  • To my entire family tree, right from the organisms that arose out of the primordial soup to my ancestors for mating with the right person. For doing all that they have done. As a matter of fact, every generation you climb up leaves you with twice the number of people to thank, it is an exponential increase since we started mating sexually. I too plan to keep up your hard work and keep the wheels moving on!
  • Ah. Finally to that damn sperm that was lucky enough to find itself home. One in a million. That reminds me, one in a million sperm won every time your ancestors mated!
   Anybody game for calculating the probability of you having ended up here? The number zero will be given a run for its money. This brings me to unveil before you a beautiful quotation by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger who has indulged in considerable philosophy.
How would we express in terms of the statistical theory the marvellous faculty of a living organism, by which it delays the decay into thermodynamical equilibrium?  The device by which an organism maintains itself stationary at a fairly high level of orderliness, really consists in continually sucking orderliness from its environment.
     If that was a bit tough to chew on, let me elaborate. All he meant to say is that life is something that ‘miraculously’ manages to keep itself going on despite the odds being tremendously against it. What strikes you the first, when I tell you think about life? A picture of a micro-organism or perhaps, your very own arduous struggle? Whatever it may be, we look at it in such a superficial manner that we forget to appreciate it and its workings. That is where, everything that came before the one-in-a-million sperm gets forgotten. Sometimes, the poor sperms gets forgotten too. Sad, isn’t it?
      10500 and counting. That is a one followed by a five hundred zeros. So, the question asked by many learned folks is whether we, humans occupy a special place in the universe or whatever that there is. Whether, this universe was set in motion with the right ingredients just so that one day, we could walk on this land and appreciate its beauty, maybe bring about our own end. After all, what is the use of a universe when there is no one to observe an appreciate it? Or is it that we are just an outcome of chance? Of a probability that is of mind bogglingly small magnitude. That, we just came to be, and do not posses any special position in the scheme of things. Sorry. The question is of chance versus choice is never-ending, as I have found out. It remains one of the hottest topic that we ever discussed at the observatory.
     The Anthropic principle advocates the first case. According to it, the universe has moulded and evolved itself in such a way that conscious beings ended up observing and understanding it. It created itself in such a way that it ended up getting observed. Because it wanted to be. This argument, toes the thin line between metaphysics and cosmology. People who argue for it cite the fact that the value of the fundamental constants are just they way that they are supposed to be. Not a little more, not a little less. They say that the selectivity the universe has shown for these constants clearly portrays the fact that it favoured carbon-based life. On the other hand, cosmologists argue that we might not be so special. Why would we have to be? We might just be stranded in a universe which itself exists in a multitude of universes. What is so special is the fact that we realise that we are here. And that we are stranded.
      Would it do wonders to you if you knew that you posses around a 100 atoms that once figured in Isaac Newton’s body? Or maybe Emperor Ashok? Yes, each and every one of us. We are a part of one big recycling machine known as the universe. But where did all of these atoms and the subsequent molecules come from? Have you ever wondered about that? The answer lies in the simple fact that we are made up of star-dust. You might find this gross, but when our food and excreta are fundamentally made out of the same basic atomic and even molecular constituents, why is that we mentally place them a world apart? Why do our associations and reactions to them differ? Just give it a thought. But don't radically change the way you think about food and poop. You will stop being human. Let me quote a small part of today’s The Speaking Tree column.
“In the divine game, One becomes many. Only the One exists, as truth, as consciousness, light and love. But the play scripted by the Divine is one where not only does One become many but many become One. Oceans, rivers, mountains, streams, everything is One manifested as many.
The ocean has numerous waves; can we say that each wave has an identity independent of the ocean? The identity of the wave exists because of the ocean, just as life exists because of the divine. Each sun ray exists because of the sun. Therefore to declare, "This is my life," has no meaning. Because with forgetfulness and ignorance, the ray forgets that it came from the sun, and starts imagining that it is separate. Our situation is similar. As human beings we forget our origins and end up saying this is mine, or that I exist. It is the ego that makes you say so.
One becomes many, and the many live on in ignorance. No sooner do they lose their ignorance, than they will feel that they are part of the One, the only One which exists, and exists everywhere.”
    Being human comes with a truckload of benefits and naturally, worries. After all, nature provides for balancing all the good with some stuff bad. And we should accept that fact. What makes us humans so different from other living organisms? What quality of ours separates us? I used to think that empathy was the answer to the question. And that was, until I read this.
Sourced from www.presurfer.blogspot.com
    So, it might not be that empathy is the answer to that question. Do let me know if you think that there is any one characteristic that distinguishes us from other living beings? I hope it isn’t something like hate, jealousy or the ability to self-destruct that is the answer. That would be real bad.
     I like to wonder upon how we have made such deep and complex forays into nature that we can relish a marvellous piece of music and understand what seems to be random tapping of keys on a keyboard that eventually you can see with your eyes, decipher and understand. Smile in the end, perhaps. Creations right from the arts, sports and philosophies enrich our lives.  Humans have a powerful tool in their hands; they are called feelings. What follows is a innocent and simple poem that one of one my friend, Maithili Shankhwalker wrote a few years ago.

How do I pen down feelings?
They actually mean a lot
But writing them down on a paper
Have you given this a thought?
If you come to think of it
Feelings are not a few
Every now and then your feelings
Are something new.
One sweet feeling is
The feeling of love…
It’s not a feeling that can go away,
With just a shove.
An unavoidable one is
Of happiness which we all feel
Even if it’s a feeling of grief,
Time will heal.
The dangerous ones are of desire and hatred
They are as destructive as fire and ice,
To destroy relationships and life
Either of them would suffice.
How can I forget the one of jealousy?
We all feel it once in a while
The feeling makes us really self-centred and
With it we can’t even walk a mile.
The feeling of superiority
Can do no good.
It only makes you egoistic and
A whole lot rude.
Its antonym inferiority
Is also no way positive
It just makes you under confident
And very very sensitive.
The feeling of forgiveness
Makes us divine
It brings out the good in others
Making them shine.
The feeling of sympathy
Paves way for the values of care and concern
It makes us human
And takes away qualities like treason.
The feeling of confidence that we have in us,
Gives us self motivation.
Helps us in fulfilling our dreams
And reaching our destination.
The feeling of satisfaction
Is basically an experience of fulfilment
It makes us happy,
And most of all, content.
The feelings of guilt and repentance
Would have made me feel defeated
If I had not penned down the poem
That I have just completed.
      Right from love to hate, boredom to excitement we all do experience them. Feelings are universal, in whatever language you bother to describe them. Isn’t it wonderful that you saw your life flash past you as you read the poem? How the author successfully conveyed the truth about feelings? We often take such beautiful things for granted. Again, it is human to do so. Isn't it?
     I can very well understand the fact that this blog-post must have made your mind feel quite worked up and although I can go on and on, let me top it of with some thought for you to take home!
      We humans, we are not born here to be judged by the means of any tool. Be it an exam or prejudice by another human. We are born to be and live a life for ourselves. They say, we are not born with a silver spoon in our mouth and nor do we take one with us when we die. We come from the dust and end up in the same dust. The very little time that we have to spend here, should be made as beautiful as possible. For us, for the others who undertake a journey called life alongside us. Leave nothing to repentance, for you only live once. Like like a child, I say. Yes, these days the supposed God of Death says that in a TV commercial. He might not exist, but makes a correct statement. Live to inspire others to live. Even if you fail one day or the other, accept it. Learn from your mistakes and let go of them. If you have inspired someone, you shall have the satisfaction of seeing that someone do great in life. Isn’t satisfaction all that we live for?
     Male or female, why do we draw lines? John Lennon rightly askes to imagine a world with no religion, a world without borders and countries. Wouldn’t that be in the true essence of the universe? We all come with a purpose to fulfil is what some say. If you don’t believe in that, remember that probability that brought you here. Create your own purpose. It was not your choice to be born to the parents or the place that you were born in. The other way round, your parents didn’t get to choose what kind of child they got. It is a fair game, this life. For, we all are gifted with blank paper to write the story of our own choice.
You are given the chance to be a human.
A chance to be special.
A chance to be YOU.
Live it up like a boss.
Live it up as if it is 
No copyright infringement of images intended.

January 3, 2012

2011 : The year that was.

The year bygone,
Piled bricks on my wall.
The wall of life, Unlock the future!
Remains stronger than ever.

Like a river,
Time flows unhindered.
Some drowned, and sank.
While others learnt to swim.

Battles were fought,
We were winners and losers, both.
Lessons to learn and teach,
So let’s turn a page,
Unlock the future.
     The year 2011 was one of the best cycle of 365 days that I went through for reasons more than one. In this post, I try to scribble in a few lessons that I learnt this year. A few experiences and milestones in brief with the sole intention of leaving it up to the reader to connect and relate the cited experiences with what they have undergone. For, my life is an open book.
In random order :
  1. Loving silence and preferring to be lonely doesn’t always mean that you are depressed. You seek peace. It is one’s nature.
  2. I left behind the times when poems used to flow only in times of sadness.
  3. As the audience at a workshop, I realized that if a speaker goes on explaining his work undisturbed by the discomfort in the audience, he is in love with what work he does.
  4. To do science, it is a pre-requisite to have an open mind and not a degree from college.
  5. A story always has two sides. If not, then it isn’t a story! Always support the right side of it and not the one you can easily relate and sympathize with.
  6. I learnt that one can be easily taken for a ride and then told that the friendship was mistaken for love.
  7. While trying to estimate a person’s quality, don’t listen to your prejudice. Experience the person before passing a mental verdict.
  8. I learnt that if you don’t find a reason to explain what you are doing, stop doing.
  9. The best quotes strike you when you have a bath or answer nature’s long calls.
  10. To swim against the tides, you have to be in the water. Can’t avoid getting wet and dirty.
  11. People are waiting to be discovered. Places and things too. You have to make efforts to break the ice. You might just be shocked with what you find! I was.
  12. Signalling to people to switch off their headlights during day-time is now as natural to me as breathing is.
  13. I learnt that classical music and the oldies deserve as much respect, if not more than the new hits. Music is music, today or tomorrow.
  14. Finally I drilled in myself the fact that if my fundamental thoughts and ideologies don’t match with a person, trying to maintain a relation beyond a greeting is like hunting for a living dinosaur.
  15. I tried and tried, but still forgot that ‘i’ comes before ‘e’. Or is it the other way round??
  16. I was exposed to philosophy, psychology and spirituality. They have revamped me and my thoughts.
  17. Steve Job’s death, reading ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ and obsessive thinking brought me closer to death, but not dying.
  18. I was saddened by the fact that I no longer was entitled to ‘return gifts’ at birthday parties but happy that I was exempt from those silly games. Yay!
  19. I learnt how to shave on my own. YouTube helped me a lot!
  20. I realised that science is closer to life than we think. It is life itself.
  21. I ended up respecting all the ‘M’s in my life. Mom (Madhavi), Mushtifund, MIT and a Mystery.
  22. No, I haven’t got into MIT as yet. But applying itself was worth it. Getting selected as I learnt, will be just an added bonus for being a good boy.
  23. The lyrics don’t make you fall in love with a song. It is what meaning that you see in them that drive you gaga. (pun unintended)
  24. I learnt from all my mistakes. I learnt so much that I don’t repent making the mistakes. My mistakes decide what person I end up being. Yet, they remain unintentional.
  25. If you act like a bag full of agonies, people will stop lifting up you and your spirits soon.
  26. I observed that it is no use cursing the place or perhaps the parents you were born to. It was not your choice. But what you end up doing in your life, what you make out of it is all in your hands.
  27. Everyone has their own definition of ‘love’. I learnt that I can voice out mine, but no use preaching it. Others value their own opinions as much as you value yours. Respect, understanding and trust is all that is required.
  28. I asked for it, and I got a Beatles song for my mood.
  29. Blogs and friendships. I realized that not updating them despite valuing them is a sin. If you can’t find any value, free yourself of the burden!
  30. I found a lot of other weirdoes like myself. Hence, I realised that I love being alone because I know I am not!
  31. I tried and succeeded at making people who cry, laugh.
  32. I decided to start questioning everything. Relating the behaviour of people to the sciences is fun!
  33. I learnt to share, say a sorry and throw in a thank-you from the bottom of my heart.
  34. I once told a person that I don’t want to keep the person forever with me, I just want to be with him/her.
  35. I learnt how to turn teachers into friends and use my friends as teachers for life.
  36. I learnt that symmetry is elegant and beautiful. Mathematics talks to us!! We all love it. Hence, I decided to end this list at item number 62. For now, that is!
Do let me know which one was your favourite or what is that we had in common for the last year! There is not going to be any apocalypse this year. If there is, sue me in heaven if it exists. With love, Thebiggerbang
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Me, Midas Touch by Raj Kunkolienkar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at imidastouch.blogspot.com