Category Archives: Musings

Experiences Musings Personal Growth

A change in the direction of my life

About 4 months ago, I wrote about my decision to quit writing full time for now and do it along with a regular day job.

In this while, as you might have noticed, I have posted very infrequently. I have been busy doing quite a handful of things. I recently took up a job in software development. For sometime, I tried to get a job in organization development but that was not working out as soon as I would want it to. So I came back to my old love.

I also decided to move to New Delhi from Bangalore. Making both these changes has been quite demanding.

Before I continue further, I want to say that this post talks entirely of what is going on in my life. Usually, I don’t write such posts but I think I need to keep my readers informed about the direction I am moving in. I feel that you, as a reader of this space, deserve to know what I, the writer of this blog, stand for. So here goes…

 ….

When I started writing, I was fired by the idea of doing something that I deeply connect with, the idea of creating something of my own, of being my own boss, of earning money from my own passion. In the last year and a half, I have seen tremendous growth and I feel like a very different person now.

I am still in love with most of that original idea. There have been some new realizations though that have led to slight changes in my inclination.

What holds

Growth and expansion. With this blog, I got an avenue not only to share my experiences and life lessons with you all, but also to grow as a being and allow myself to expand into my potential. I have gained some rich experiences, like working totally on my own, giving full attention to what I like doing for a whole year and a half, taking this year and a half off from professional work and then getting back at it, looking for a job in a new city of my choice, and I have experienced first hand the effort it takes to make the context switch when you move from one line of work to another…

I still coveat such experiences.

Expression, writing, analysis, observation. This is a place where I feel totally connected with myself and I feel that life force is flowing through me unimpeded. I feel pure and complete. This still holds and keeps me strongly bound to the blog.

I want to continue expressing myself though writing, and other means, I want to continue seeking more knowledge about life, I want to observe this world, and I want to use my mind to analyze and try to make sense of what I see.

Creating things. I still am in love with creating new things, whether they are a piece of software, an article or a book. This I intend to continue.

What gives

Being my own boss. I am not so keen on being my own boss now. According to my current understanding of things, the idea of working alone came out of my habit to keep to myself. I have always avoided connecting with others. But now I feel that, to find deep happiness, one needs to connect deeply, both with one’s own soul and with the souls of those around. There is a deep joy in working with others towards a common goal. With my new job, I see an opportunity to work towards this.

Being a personal development enthusiast. If you have read my About page, which was created towards the beginning of the blog’s life, I call myself a personal development enthusiast. I now realize that my enthusiasm is towards the greater and all encompassing field of life itself. I am more of a life enthusiast! I am an analytical thinker. I am an observer… of life, of people, of myself. I am a seeker… of knowledge, of truth, of wisdom. 

My interest has also started building up in the fields of philosophy, psychology and sociology.

This is causing an expansion in the kind of topics I write on. You might have noticed this in the last few articles already. I am yet to change the About page though. :)

A respite for my cash flow

As far as earning money is concerned, I feel I am OK, for the time being, with getting it from software development. I have always enjoyed software development and it seems to get me money easily. This is not to say that I have abandoned the idea of making money from my writings and my expressions. It is just that I am not too keen on monetizing this persuit for now. For now, I want to just focus on continuing writing from my heart and improving at it.

This move has an added advantage – I just have to write to express myself freely and to create good value. In the past year, whenever my focus was on earning money through my writings, I felt that my writings got a little disconnected from my heart. I wasn’t writing as freely. Whatever was coming out, I wouldn’t feel it truly and clearly reflected my soul.

I feel it is possible to have both but for the time being, I want to focus on just writing and writing well. I want to write from my heart, without much thought to whether the article will attract attention and whether it will turn up on search engines etc.

With this job, the concern about a negative cash flow, that I had while I was writing full time, would be gone. Of course there is the brute force method of just keeping at it until it starts earning me money. I don’t think one way is better than the other, they both probably work. It is just my personal choice and comfort with this particular path right now.

What I expect in the coming days

With this job, and its demanding nature, I see a challenge in managing my writing. I have purposefully pushed myself in this corner. I see a lot of adventure and learning in the days to come and I am excited and eager for it.

Well, this is where I am right now. I am kind of enjoying this uncertainty and feeling very excited and free in the moment. These changes have forced a lot of readjustments and a lot of rethinking about a lot of things. I feel all these changes will spark new realizations, new observations and new insights which I intend to share on this blog. :)

Until next time…

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Musings Personal Growth

To flourish, how much do we depend on the state of society?

Recently, I was reading a book – The Immortals of Meluha. Here is an interesting short excerpt from it  :

Any successful society needs stability. Stability allows a person the freedom of choice. People can pursue their dreams only when they are living in a society where survival is not a daily threat.

In a society without security and stability, there are no intellectuals or businessmen or artists or geniuses. Man is constantly in a fight or flight mode. Nothing better than an animal.

There appears to be some truth to these lines and they got me thinking.

We are the creamy layer. The simple fact that we have an internet connection on which we are reading and sharing this article makes us a part of a fortunate few on this planet. There are so many who are born into a life of extreme poverty, strife and a lack of opportunity. There life and dreams can be cut short by a single stray bullet or disease or any of a number of umpteen reasons that don’t bother us, the creamy layer, as much.

Srinivasa Ramanujan, the great Indian mathematician died at an early age of 32 due to tuberculosis, that did not have a cure then. He solved many mathematical problems at that young age. These problems had baffled many eminent mathematicians of his time and before. Some of his writings are still studied to help find meaning in other complex problems. Who knows what else he could have accomplished, had he lived longer. But he succumbed to something out of his control.

People as a collective

On a collective scale, people seem to flourish more in stable societies. We all know of a lot of famous entrepreneurs, geniuses from the developed Western world today. But how many such people do we know of from, say Afghanistan? Or The Congo? Or Somalia?…

It seems that as a collective, it is important we try to create such a society. A society that provides minimum survival for all, a society that allows people to follow their own calling, to express themselves in ways they want to.

The dilemma

In spite of all that I said above, I have also believed in a person’s control over his destiny.

This belief and attitude is best summed up in the last lines of a very popular and inspiring poem, Invictus :

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The Law of Attraction, which I consider a very helpful perspective and which explains a lot of my experiences, states that a person fully creates his/her experience in this world. It says that, from the smallest events that happen in our lives, to the big and seemingly uncontrollable ones, everything is the mere manifestations of our repeated thoughts. Hence, it implies one’s life is absolutely and totally in one’s own control.

This dichotomy raises some questions in my mind –

Exactly how much of stability does one need, if any?

From what little I know of famous and successful people, it seems quite a few of them were not born in the most secure of conditions. Examples that come to my mind are Ramanujan himself, Dhirubhai Ambani, Dale Carnegie and Wilma Rudolph. They seemed to work against odds to get what they wanted. Even a lot of successful people, who were born in to a relatively stable life(Eg. Bertrand Russel, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs), embraced instability and insecurity often in pursuit of their calling.

It seems that insecurity could not keep them from achievement and progress. On the contrary, it some time seems to be the very thing that drives these people to achieve extra ordinary feats.

Looking from the other end, it also seems that too much of comfort spoils people. Obesity, which seems to be a big problem in the ‘secure’ Western world is only now coming up in India, that too only in the progressive and more ‘secure’ cities.

So what is the right mix of stability and uncertainty? Too little seems to make man an animal in a fight for survival. Too much seems to spoil him and leaves no reason to strive.

When I asked my wife whether she likes to have security in her life, she said Yes. When I asked her whether she would prefer the utmost form of security, where survival and all the things required for a comfortable life were guaranteed, she was not so sure.

She likes adventure, trying new things. And adventure always means a bit of uncertainty and insecurity. If things were to be made very easy, she might loose the drive to do anything.

It seems to me that struggle cannot be escaped, it should not be escaped. It is essential for growth, it is essential to find meaning and satisfaction. Only the type of struggle differs according to circumstance.

To what extent does a man’s fate depend on circumstance?

Ramanujan died of tuberculosis at the early age of 32. Society at that time did not have a cure for it. While Ramanujan’s end was probably out of his hands, the effort he made to come out of the anonymity of the remote reaches of India were his own. They probably came out of a will to reshape his destiny, a determination to do something, rather than out of a sense of helplessness at the lack of opportunities and bad luck.

So, does man depend on the state of society?

I suppose it boils down to which perspective an individual decides to believe in. To illustrate this point, I will recount a story here that a friend of mine told me, when I put the same question to him :

A man went to a learned sage and asked him – “O learned one, to what extent is my destiny determined by fate and how much depends on my own efforts?”

The learned one smiled and asked the man to stand on one leg. The man complied.

Next, the learned one asked him to lift up his other leg too. The man tried all he could but failed.

“How can I lift both my feet in the air Guru ji?” he asked.

“You are right my son, you cannot. You have both the legs at your disposal. The choice to lean on one rather than the other is all yours!”

The man understood the meaning of the wise man’s words and left satisfied.

 

Until next time…

Image: Vlado

Musings

Looking for everlasting happiness?

This post, like the previous one, might leave more questions than answers. Perhaps this is in keeping with my current state. :)

They say he only knows the taste of water who has traveled through the desert for it. If you are thirsty, water tastes sweeter than honey. But if you have a ready supply of drinking water, there is no excitement in the, now simple act of drinking it.

This seems to go for everything. There was a time when my father strictly restricted eating chocolates, watching movies and even TV. I craved for these things. Getting to experience them in some rare moments would make me excited and happy beyond all bounds. Now, when I have easy access to all of them, none of them feel as desirable. These are but a few examples of so many other things in life that loose there sheen once they become an easy and everyday experience.

So can the same be said of happiness? We all look for lasting happiness, I wrote an eBook on the topic. But is it possible to have everlasting happiness? If one has a ready supply of happiness, if one can be happy all the time, won’t happiness become boring, mundane and, consequently(and ironically), make the person unhappy?

If the only constant in this world is change, wouldn’t continuous happiness be an anomaly?

The happily ever after

Most of us, at some point in our lives, create a dream of a perfect life. It is the best that can happen, it is the point beyond which nothing would be needed. There would be no wants and nothing more to achieve. This dream, when realized, would keep us happy for ever, it would get us the kind of ‘happily ever after’ we come across in the stories.

But can there be a happily ever after? My experience says that a situation that I get to experience continuously, no matter how desirable in the beginning, does not keep me happy for ever. All situations become boring after sometime. When it did, it seems it was not the situation that gave me happiness, it was probably the challenge or the novelty of it.

Challenge is exciting and fun, when it makes me do something I have never done before, when it requires me to go up a level, when uncertainty of success is involved. Doing such a thing makes me feel alive. Probably, it is also the growth experience that this challenge provides. It is the process of my expansion, brought about by this situation, that gives me happiness.

Sometimes, happiness seems to come from an activity I love, like watching movies. Or it may come by being with some people I like, friends, family. But if I get to do this activity continuously or I get to be with these people all the time, the situation becomes routine and unremarkable.

I am tempted to say that trying new things and people gets me happiness but then trying new things and people all the time can become routine itself and become less desirable. :)

 The discontinuity of happiness

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. -Carl Jung

Jung seems right to me here, happiness would lose meaning without sadness. Happiness, it seems, can only be had in bits and pieces, it comes only in highs and lows. The greater the elation you feel on the highs, the greater the sadness and misery at the lows.

I don’t completely see his point about how to face this reality though. If, as Jung says, you decide to face things with equanimity, you can avoid big miseries, but wouldn’t you also loose the highs you feel? Wouldn’t equanimity be boring? What would you rather have? – big highs at the cost of big lows, or an equanimous feeling? Or would you have something in between – where you probably stay somewhat grounded but allow some space for experiencing the highs and lows?

An acquaintance of my wife’s, told her that his wife, who is a classical singer, doesn’t like talking after she has sung for a while. She goes into a sort of a depression. This happens to many of the other singers that this guy has seen over the years(courtesy his wife) who, after going through the high elation of being one with a song, realize that it is gone now. They understand that there is no point in holding on to it for it cannot be continuously had. They cannot sing for ever, they will have to come back to it later. It leaves behind a vacuum that is filled with a lot of sadness.

This is the reason he thinks why many artists resort to drinking heavily or even drugs, they try to recreate that bliss through artificial means.

It seems the misery is the price for the high you get, and the level of the lows you can bear will decide the level of the highs you can have.

*****

So what do you feel about it? Can happiness be continuous? If it cannot, what attitude would you prefer to have towards it – would you accept the big lows to experience the highs? Or would you prefer equanimity?

Until next time…

Image: Lavoview

Musings

World politics and group dynamics

This post is in continuation of the previous one :

American nuclear policy, world politics and group dynamics – a discussion

The way different countries behave in an international setting is interesting. The way they try to safe guard their interests, the way they may display selfishness, aggression, benevolence, suspicion, friendliness, positivity, negativity, right wing tendencies, left wing tendencies… all of this so strikingly similar to individual tendencies and behaviors in a group.

When I hear of international events involving multiple countries, I often imagine them as individuals interacting in a group.

Leaders

From time to time, certain countries emerge as strong individuals. They have worked on their progress for some time and are now very strong. Some others, particularly the ones described in the next section, start looking up to them for help. These strong nations then find themselves in the role of a leader of sorts. From here, the path is very treacherous. To not let ego build up, to not build up a self righteous image, to not become selfish and greedy, to not start feeling insecure about loosing this high pedestal is a unique challenge to such nations.

Some may start using propaganda and intimidation to hold their position of power. On one hand, they might keep drilling into other nations that they are working for everyone’s benefit, that they are the best and most responsible nation to lead others, and, on the other hand, they would use intimidation against those who show even the slightest dissent or displeasure with their leadership.

Such leaders don’t believe they are doing any harm. On the contrary, they come to believe they are doing good for everyone and they are the ones best suited for this job. With their own understanding of things, they do the best they can(keeping their selfish interests just a little ahead of others). They lack faith in the abilities of others. They will not give much thought to the way others think and feel, especially if it goes against their way of thinking.

Like just about everyone else, they have an explanation for what they do.

There are also those who will be able to take this as a role of responsibility, rise above personal interest and work for general good. Germany’s role, in the European financial crisis today, looks like such an example. 70 years ago, they were the biggest threat to Europe’s security, now they are one of the biggest players in bringing about balance and sanity in these hard financial times for Europe.

Sidekicks

You also find those nations(and people) who like power but think that they can’t get it on their own. They look for the next best solution they can imagine, a leader to align with. These ‘sidekicks’, once they see a leader emerging, will instantly align with it. They don’t like to think of themselves as slaves but in essence that is what they sort of eventually become.

Also notable is, they like only intimidating leaders. The all inclusive leaders, appointed by general consensus, confuse them. Inclusive leaders make everyone equal and merit is based on one’s value. Since the sidekicks have just about equal value to the rest(maybe even less) and are used to gaining importance by associating with the powerful, they feel less empowered and would rather have an intimidating leader come along and take on power.

Intimidating leaders and side kicks perfectly complement each other. The leader needs them to establish his authority, and they need the leader to feel powerful.

The sidekicks, if they increase in numbers, create a collective culture. If anyone raises a concern or a question, that nation is severely outnumbered and may be forced into submission or excluded from the group.

Those who flow with the tide

There is also a mass of those who have nothing particular to say on any issue. They seem to lack confidence and  have no drive to do well. They seem to not believe in the possibility of being better. Majority trend is what they monitor and follow. They have few ideals and a lot of fear. They will always be looking for the safety of being in the company of many.

They do little, and are usually poor countries where little is happening by way of progress or nation build up.

The confident, non aligned ones

There are those who will dare to not follow the general trend. They may not be very powerful but believe in themselves. They have a friendly and positive outlook. They will not take sides, not accept masters and promote fairness in dealings where decisions are taken by consensus.

They will usually have a few close friends, who are like themselves. They will also have a lot of admirers who admire their courage but dare not show support for fear of the more powerful and that of the general mass.

The rebellious

Some go a step further, they become rebellious. They challenge and work counter to the way things are going. They feel they are at the recieving end of injustice, they have little faith in talks and consensus and are quick to pick up fights.

They look like angry individuals who regard everyone with suspicion. They demand for things to be done according to their idea of right. At the smallest disagreement, they will decide quickly that they are being discriminated against and may leave.

It is difficult to deal with them and it takes a lot of time to convince them that they are among friends.

*****

These roles may look very black and white, and that is in fact right. I see a lot of overlap in the roles of the same nation in different situations(sometimes, even in the same situation). Also, countries seem to grow like individuals. Over longer periods, they seem to grow into different tendencies.

It is important to remember that, when one sees countries as individuals, it is a method of convenience and does not explain everything about countries. It is not the be all and end all of things. Nations are made up of thinking, acting individuals. At times, the acts of a few will radically change the way a country thinks or behaves.

Image: renjith krishnan

 

 

Musings

American nuclear policy, world politics and group dynamics – a discussion

A recent news headline caught my eye – ‘India is finding it more and more difficult to import oil from Iran because of the increasing US sanctions against the country.’

For those who don’t already know, US has been very strongly condemning the nuclear policies of Iran. While Iran claims that its efforts are aimed at the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, America, and a lot of the rest of the world believes otherwise.

This brought to the fore a question I have had in my mind for quite some time – How does the US justify itself about having hoards of nuclear weapons but asking others not to have them?

Also, it intrigues me how the dynamics between nations and large groups closely resembles the behavior of individual people in groups. With this post, and the subsequent one, it is my intention to highlight this analogy.

To facilitate better understanding, I think I should first give a brief historical account of the development of nuclear technology and the politics related to it. This post is entirely dedicated to this explanation. I will take up the analogy with group dynamics in the follow up post.

The history

During the Second World War, America started its research on nuclear weapons(they started in 1939). They were the first to create an atom(fission) bomb in 1945. They soon put it to use against Japan which, as claimed by the US Gov, put an early end to the War. Till date, they happen to be the only country that has used a nuclear weapon.

America is also the country that has carried out the maximum number of nuclear tests in the world. At 1054 tests, they comfortably outrun the runner ups, the Russians at 715 tests. Post the World War, and in the wake of the Cold War, they enthusiastically carried on with their nuclear program and military development. Currently, American military, even for a non-nuclear, conventional war, is by far the most dominating force the world has ever seen.

Towards the early nineties, after the USSR broke up and the Cold War was over, the arms race also ended. Having more nuclear weapons(which were already in the thousands and, as claimed by some, enough to end all human life many times over) seemed pointless. So they shut down the production of new nuclear weapons and focused on maintaining their existing stockpile. They have reduced the number of weapons(which numbered over 31,000 at it’s peak in 1961) to about just over 5000 in number today. The collective of its delivery systems – land based missiles(both within America and those on friendly foriegn soil), long range bombers, aircraft carriers, and submarine based forces, bring the entire Earth within their range.

The beginning of nuclear non proliferation and test bans

The US initially didn’t share their technology with other nations. The aim was to stall the production of a Russian bomb. But Russians took up the work in earnest post the World War and, owing considerably to some good espionage, they were ready with their first bomb in 1949. Once the Russians developed nuclear capability, the US changed its policy and started promoting the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. They knew Russia didn’t have enough resources towards nuclear development and pressurizing them to use their Uranium for peaceful purposes was to America’s advantage.

Meanwhile, the British, the French and the Chinese also carried out nuclear tests and developed nuclear weapons of their own.

As technology has improved, and since America had a lot of data from tests already done, it has become possible for them to do much of the testing without actually detonating a nuclear device. This has enabled them to maintain their arsenal without conducting tests.

Even as the cold war and nuclear arms race was carrying on, the US supported the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) that was aimed at ‘preventing the spread of nuclear technology and weapons’. According to this treaty, America, Russia, UK, France and China are designated nuclear powers and are allowed to possess nuclear weapons but other nations are not. This is leading to, as India claims, a group of nuclear haves and nuclear have nots.

Also notable is CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), that came later in the nineties and that disallows all participants from carrying any form of nuclear tests.

When India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear tests in 1999, America imposed sanctions against the 2 countries. The sanctions against India were lifted quickly but not against Pakistan. The military takeover in Pakistan, the US claimed, made their possession of nuclear technology dangerous. Later, after the 9-11 attacks on the US, these sanctions were lifted because America needed Pakistani help in attacking the Taliban.

Towards their friend Israel, which is widely known to pursue nuclear technology and own nuclear weapons, America has taken a policy of silence, while being very vocally against similar policies of Iran and North Korea.

Most countries(except India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel) have signed the NPT. Same goes for CTBT, that has been signed by most countries(except India, Pakistan and North Korea).

Recent developments in the US policy

The Bush administration seriously considered implementing policies to create better, more maintainable nuclear weapons and for further nuclear testing, despite having signed an international agreement against it. In 2005, America also revised the ‘Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations’, hinting that they could use a nuclear device preemptively against an adversary with WMDs or overwhelming conventional forces, should it found the same necessary. This is against the no-first-use policy that I feel should be the bare minimum that a nuclear power promises the rest of the world.

The Obama administration has cancelled a lot of such policies as far as general information goes. The current US policy promises that America will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear, NPT compliant states.

The 2012 American defense budget includes plans to maintain and modernize existing nuclear weapons.

Do these treaties assure disarmament?

The NPT just asks the nuclear powers to discuss disarmament in good faith. There is no binding obligation, no final date of disarmament for these countries. There seems to be a general consensus among the non nuclear signatories that these powers are responsible and will not use their power irresponsibly.

One argument that is sited in favor of the continued possession of nuclear weapons by responsible nuclear powers is that, even if there was complete disarmament, the nuclear weapon technology would not go away. It would still be possible for some one to build a nuclear bomb. Right now, the strategic importance of a nuclear bomb is less because there are certain responsible states that all have it. This creates a balance. If there were to be complete disarmament, the strategic advantage of having even one fission bomb, by any country, would be huge. There would be a huge incentive, especially for weaker countries with little conventional forces, to try and get a nuclear weapon.

*****

This is where the state of things stands today. The nuclear powers are promoting proliferation and ban on tests. Most of the world seems to accept this. There are some defiant countries that have rejected the idea of a few nuclear countries maintaining monopoly over nuclear weapons technology and their possession.

In the next article, I will try to draw an analogy between the attitudes of countries in an international setting and the behaviors of people in smaller groups and societies.

Image: Wikipedia