Thoughts & Reflections

Think beautiful, live beautiful.

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Distant Love

She cries in pain, in anger, in sorrow,
For her love to return, to a lovely morrow.
And days seem to trudge, slower every day,
She remembers moments, with love and gay.

“Aha !! I wish, I wish you were here,
In arms of your love, to wipe every tear.”
She words these verses, to friends and foe,
As sings her story, with gaiety and woe.

The wait so tiring, so troublesome to her,
She tries in vain, the sadness it incurs.
She shuts her eyes, to memories of past,
Reliving emotions, if moments could last.

Her eyes now shut, it brings them close,
As distances fade, to the love they chose.
Memories made, with love of myriad shades,
Bringing her to joy, as her sadness fades.

Dedicated to one who knows 🙂

Of Randomness and free will

An interesting dinner conversation with a physics and a computer networking graduate student led me to write this rather abstract article today. The topic of discussion was whether there exists free will or not. We discussed basically two aspects of the question. One of the viewpoints (that I supported) was that if the universe is made up of fundamental particles that follow certain well defined sets of laws, then perhaps the universe is governed by a set of stringent deterministic and completely predictable rules. This would imply that our actions are all predestined and thereby the notion of destiny may not be a hokum. Perhaps, we are supposed to fall in love with a certain person and we cannot control it :P. However, our current knowledge of fundamental particles (let’s say) says that laws of nature are not completely predictable. There is a lot of randomness (uncertainty) in the way particles behave. For example, we believe that a particle behaves more like a wave at a fundamental level and is probabilistically present in space. The question then arises is that whether the uncertainty is fundamental to particles i.e. is a particle really present at multiple places or is it the shortcoming of our model of understanding, tools etc. For example, can we really come up with a certain technique that would tell us with very high accuracy that a particle is present in a certain location for all practical purposes. If so, then the only remaining aspect we would need to know is that what were the initial conditions of the universe to be able to predict what is going to happen next.

Now, the trouble here is that we cannot for sure say that a certain initial condition is “the” initial condition for the universe could have been in very many different states at the outset. To overcome this problem one could imagine a finite set of initial conditions and then use the theory (let’s say the prediction function f()) to predict the outcome for each of the possible initial conditions. By observation we could eliminate the starting conditions that do not satisfy our observations to be left with a small set of practical initial states. However, we still cannot rule out randomness because (a) it may not be possible to have a finite set of conditions, (b) we may not be able to rule out all but one initial condition through our observations. Besides, it is evidently not clear that there are only finitely many variables in the theory. If there are infinite variables in the theory, then can that be called as randomness. In other words, is random fundamental to nature or just a shortcoming of our constructs.

The other view-point is that randomness may just be fundamental to the nature, and that there does not exist a fundamental theory that explains each and every phenomenon. Besides, even if get a theory working we cannot be sure that it is “the theory” since, the set of observations to be made are infinite (considering time to be infinite) and that to fit that to a curve is not experimentally possible.

The deeper question to ask is that given a black box that can compute a curve on an infinite number of data points, with infinite variables can randomness be 100% removed. Is randomness really a fundamental to our nature or is it just the lack of understanding of the laws of nature / limitations to our computation abilities / mathematical models that gives rise to randomness. To take an analogy, in a pragmatic world, we believe a coin toss to be a random event. Though, given the values of all the variables involved such as the air resistance, initial momentum of coin, the gravitational force, the nature of the coin. etc. one can surely calculate the number of rotations of the coin and thereby the result of the toss. For a coin toss, therefore, the statement that the result is probabilistic is because of a lack of observational factors that we do not account for. In a sense, the result of a coin toss is random, when at least one of the factors is unknown or the function of coin rotation (the theory of coin tosses) is unknown. Therefore, randomness (here) is a conditional notion and can be eliminated.

This leads to us to the question, if randomness can be accepted to be a conditional concept, then is free will too? Was I destined to write this article because of the initial state of the universe was state A and not state B? Is randomness, then, an effect of our understanding of nature (or rather the lack of it) rather than the causation of our conceptual understanding?

If randomness is a notion borne out of of the fact that the theory of nature just has too many variables, it might well be possible to progressively reduce the randomness through better understanding of the nature (thereby introducing more variables in the equation). It would then mean that as human race progresses and becomes more smarter the amount of determinism in our lives would increase. Can we thereby say that determinism is a much advanced state of existence than randomness ?

I believe, given an ideal world with infinite resources for computation a theory must be possible to predict our action and that randomness (thereby free will) is a conceptual way of accounting for the lack of understanding the complex nature.

Estranged entaglements

They say that love makes the world go round and that you never can realise what that feeling is without taking in a dive. I was non-believer a pro-logic person who would segregate every part of his life based on some reasonable explanation until a sudden feeling that turned my belief in these feelings upside down.  Love, I believe, as an emotion is one of the most powerful and true feeling. It may be because you are closer to the truth when in love with someone and truth is an absolute entity that encompasses our nature, our ideas, essentially our life.

The strangeness of the feeling is exacerbated by the understanding that the feeling unlike so many others does not subside away with time. What feels so strange to me is that people value the feeling coldly at times and I have a hard time understanding that why would someone not consider such an innate feeling, a feeling that connects you to the core with greater care. I find it hard that there are breakups, alienation, and estrangements amongst the loved ones on resolvable issues.

As for me, I had a very heart warming experience of that feeling, that created a refreshing sense of entanglement with a strange soul, an ephemerality of emotions that came and left behind a a long standing impression upon my life. I still try and resolve the enigma, the reason of the occurrence, of the withdrawal and therein I realize that somethings are better left unfathomed in life for there is beauty in feeling the lesser understood quirks of human emotions. While, the acceptance seeps in over time, the willingness to resolve fades away and what one is left is that perennial desire of filling in the incomplete, reliving that what got faded away in time.

It still amazes me how different people could at the same set of incidents, emotions in such a different light. For someone it could mean the whole world, while for someone it may not. Life, to me, is myriad in the way things unfold over time when you put in your belief, create a wonderful little world and yet never realizing that there are hidden factors that can ever break it in wiffy. In all the positiveness that is created out of these experiences, I think that even a certain phase of your truest emotions is a beautiful period of life to go through.

P.S. Well, this is the song that triggered me to write the above blog.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUSzL2leaFM

Here, go the lyrics:

It’s late in the evening
She’s wondering what clothes to wear
She puts on her make up
And brushes her long blonde hair

And then she asks me, “Do I look alright?”
And I say, “Yes, you look wonderful tonight”

We go to a party
And everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady
That’s walking around with me

And then she asks me, “Do you feel alright?”
And I say, “Yes, I feel wonderful tonight”

I feel wonderful
Because I see the love light in your eyes
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don’t realize how much I love you

It’s time to go home now
And I’ve got an aching head
So I give her the car keys
She helps me to bed

And then I tell her as I turn out the light
I say, “My darling, you are wonderful tonight
Oh my darling, you are wonderful tonight”

 

Faith

     Experiences, in life, can have indelible impact on one’s life and can come back biting into those lonely moments of silences we live through in our daily lives. These experiences can be that of opportunities lost, happiness sacrificed, loved ones lost, or even strange unexplained experiences. One of the ideas I live my life by is that of faith. Faith, as I understand, is one of the most essential personal connections that binds different phenomena in lives, and I allude to the faith in humans, here in this abstract. Our lives are structured in a manner that we live by a small group of individuals which are the support systems. The relationship is symbiotic and so both the parties benefit from the love, affection and support that is shared. We live by a belief that our actions will get reciprocated in the manner we carry out our actions.
     Certainly, life is a messy affair in reality and therefore, barring some very strong ideas which are more or less true, most of our other assumptions about people turn out to be false (for certain groups of people). As a child growing up my understanding of the world was that we as humans are fundamentally true and selfless and that truthful people succeed in life. Over time as I grew up, it became evident that the though the idea holds the converse may be statistically significant. My idea of perfection turned out to be far away from the messiness of reality that exists around us. 
     Experiences, I believe, over a period of time teach people to be closer to reality – to accept that we are individuals by and large and that while optimism is a great virtue to have, sometimes it falls on its head when it comes to human emotions and connections. When your faith gets shaken up there is a strange behavior that your mind develops. I call it the demon’s den and it is when your mind is at its weakest points that your mind starts wandering into that den. Subsequently, this could be heavily depressing as an individual since there may or may not be reasons good enough for you to be able to combat those emotions. 
     Somehow, I understand, that comprehending the idea of individualism is important – that we are all independent and yet at the same time at the whims of our mind. Faith is a dangerous territory when dealing with people around and experiences with unfulfilled outcomes can lead to unwanted depressing periods. 

Suffering and Happiness

Suffering is the effect of our materialism that our sensations bring about to our lives. Buddhism preaches us to seek the ultimate happiness by attaining the state of nirvana. The material happiness is just another facet of the sorrow. Hence, seeking that would never satisfy your self. 

Let us first concentrate on the Four Noble Truths [1]: 

  1. All life knows suffering. Nobody gets what they want out of life.
  2. The cause of suffering is ignorance and clinging. Wanting it is the problem.
  3. There is a way to end suffering. By learning not to want it.
  4. This is the way to end suffering: The Eightfold Path.

     
The underlying idea behind Buddhism is that life is full of suffering. The wheel of time impacts you with both joy and sorrows. The primary reason for this sorrow is the yearn to have more. Happiness is an ephemeral feeling. Every individual’s primary aim in life is to end this suffering. One can attain the state of eternal bliss by achieving Nirvana, the state of knowing it all. An enlightened soul is one who not only knows the temporal nature of being but also realizes and understands it. 
To achieve nirvana you need to get rid of this desire. To overcome desire you need to follow the Eightfold Path, which preaches the following: 

  1. Right Understanding Learning the nature of reality and the truth about life.
  2. Right Aspiration Making the commitment to living in such a way that our suffering can end.
  3. Right Effort Just Do It. No Excuses.
  4. Right Speech Speaking the truth in a helpful and compassionate way.
  5. Right Conduct Living a life consistent with our values.
  6. Right Livelihood Earning a living in a way that doesn’t hurt others.
  7. Right Mindfulness Recognizing the value of the moment; living where we are.
  8. Right Concentration Expanding our consciousness through meditation.

The underlying pragmatic philosophy is to become content in life and understand life’s fleeting nature. Equanimity is the blessing that you must seek to achieve. Peace in both sorrow and happiness by realizing that everything in life is for a very short period of time and that the devil that brings you sadness is within your self. It is your own wish to achieve more, to have more that causes you pain. Once you realize that you become immune to materialistic emotions in life. 

The Buddhist philosophy might seem contradictory as it preaches to end suffering by giving up desire and yet pursuing nirvana. That is another debate. Yet the assumption there is once you attain that state of supreme understanding you stop wanting, something that does not happen with any other kind of gain in life. 

Suffering, on the other hand, can be overcome and get rid of, definitely. 

1) Source : The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path

Love – destined coincidence

I believe love, for most of the general population out there is an abstracted version of a destined coincidence. The general population just never happens to meet their soul-mates through those very cliched methods that are purported by popular, yet so sparring stories that we hear. 

We, as humans, have an innate desire to be loved, The social structure that conditions us leads us to finding that very comfortable partner that we desire to spend our lives with. Once, we start realizing this we happen to undertake the soul mate search. 

Somewhere on some corner of the world there is yet another human (rather a pool of potential mates) pondering over the same questions and thereby decides to undertake this same walk of destiny.  

Thereafter, you start weighing yourself against all those potential mates that come across. The theory that marriages are made in heaven and that you eventually find your soul mate in the nick of time, leaves non-believers like me perplexed. My belief, lies more along the lines that you tend to select your mate from a pool of more similar people and matching personalities. 

Thus, the only coincidence in the whole process becomes the phenomenon of matching interests and really nothing more than that. 

There are people who find their love mates through unusual circumstances, in random pubs, parties, through mutual friends etc. etc. Well, then there are always outliers to every theory and this one is no exception. There will always be people who would cry out loud of having found true soul mates through the grace of destiny and credit the unknown.

Realizing the good within

We presume that our thought process is a stream of ideas purported by the dualism owing to the happy and the sad components that reside in it. The structures of these two different parts of our minds are pretty similar and hence for those unrealized minds it becomes hard to understand and differentiate the origin of our thoughts. They could be from the angels or from the devils. 

Understanding the subtle difference between a optimism and pessimism, therefore, becomes of prime importance. For starters, one should start building up a mindset to analyze these thoughts before acting on them. You could cultivate a very simple notion of asking yourself whether this thought progresses your life in a healthier way without harming anyone else around you. Affirmations to such questions should belong to the optimistic side of your mind.

Another pretty clean idea that you could implement is to understand the functional aspects of those two sides. The negative side will try to project ideas where you are more inclined to give up, cause trouble and look at the insurmountable problems. These are the energy suckers, as you may understand. They tend to push you towards myriad distractions that tend to leave you with lesser energy. The positive side are energy generators and thus do the exact opposite. Hence, when having doubts, troubles or negative thoughts try to believe in your positive side, try to listen to those angels within that keep urging you on, go to the depths, analyse the situation and when you find that your decision is backed with ample facts proceed on it. 

A very simple comprehension of our life is that it is fought within the brain. The real battle is not out there, but rather in your brain. The fight between the angels and the demons within could make or break. It is this primary struggle that is persistent and all-pervading. Once you learn to overcome those devils, your vision would become clearer, ideas beautiful and efforts efficient.

Being practical versus being a quitter

The line that differs a quitter from a pragmatic person is that which accounts for the amount of effort one puts in. A practical person puts in a whole heart before realizing that the aim was out of his reach, still being positive about the quest. A quitter does not realize his full potential before he calls it quits.

Consider two guys, lets call them

Mr. Pragmatic

and Mr. Quitter.

Lets assume both of them are given a bag full of wonder coins.

The game is that they need to spend all their coins and fetch a bag full of goodies. Seems simple right. The catch here is that they need accurately judge the value of each goodies they actually buy.

Rules of the game are as follows:
1) The catch is that they lose if they overspend the amount or cannot get the requisite set of minimum goodies.
2) If they quit, they could keep the residual wonder coins for themselves ever after. 3) They can never reclaim any of the wonder coin that has been spent.
4) The goodies are theirs only if they achieve the goal else they lose everything.
5) The goodies required are different for each of them, though they are similar.
6) The number of wonder coins have different value for each person.
7) The value of the wonder coins diminishes with time.

Mr. Pragmatic initially sets out to analyze the value of each wonder coin and looks at the list of goodies to be bought. He then comes to the conclusion that the task at hand is a difficult one. He sets out his targets, say within X number of days, if he is not able to collect the goodies at a reason, he would move on as he could use the wonder coins in other places. He thus begins his endeavor, already with enough analysis done. He spends X-N days on this task, working ever so meticulously and positively to achieve what he set out. He does an analysis periodically to know what is the opportunity cost of still working on this task. One day his analysis shows that may be if he keeps  the coins to himself he may be able to spend his life more happily then going down the battle. So he Quits.

Mr. Quitter is ever so pessimistic about the goal, right from the start. He has already seen Mr. Pragmatic, after such a deep analysis “lose out”. He sets out and tries to achieve his goals. He gets frustrated, nervous and intimidated by the fact that others have failed. He makes some very basic mistakes of never counting his own coins, understanding their value and is greedy enough to have his cake and eat it too. He tries to spend as little as possible lest he should spend it all and then lose it all. He stares at defeat right from the start and thus continues into that hole. He gives up ever so early, comes out with a large amount of wonder coins and laughs at the face of Mr. Pragmatic.

They do not realize that the over arching goal of the game (hidden from them was) the overall value of the goodies they collected to be used in all the subsequent games.

We thus see that those wonder coins were a quanta of efforts and the goodies experiences. Those with lesser residual efforts and more experiences finally emerge victorious. The practical person has a tendency to use their efforts more and gain more valuable experiences than a quitter who is always busy in conserving his efforts.

And so you can see the fine line that separates the practical from the quitters.

Turns that shape your life

One of the very amusing things that crosses my mind time and again is how our lives are affected by the mindsets of the people around us. Through the course of our life our experiences, actions, environment, interactions etc. shape our ideologies and build up the structure in which we think. As we grow mature, these ideologies become firmly entrenched and eventually shape not only our own lives but also of those in our immediate surroundings. 

There are moments in life when you sit down and have to decide the course of your life; when you have to face your future self in the eye. Such moments are the most critical turns in one’s life. It is thus necessary to have a very clear ideology about your own beliefs, objectives. One must be clear as to what one needs to sacrifice, what one considers necessary and thus cannot give up. More often than not one is biased, in such situations, due to over-arching effects of the current situation. This could lead to incorrect decisions and regret later in life.

Life is a journey where one would have numerous turns, one meets several fellow travelers. Everyone is on the path to discovering that inner peace which would bring a sense of bliss and happiness. At times our paths cross each other’s; some become friends, with some we fall in love, some we might hate, and towards most of them we remain indifferent. The very magical part of this journey is how our mind (our guide) keeps interpreting the map to happiness. The interpretation is variable, depending mostly on our preconceived notions of the impressions that this journey has left behind. At times, we hit a two way and are forced to choose one of the paths. At times we have to do this keeping in minds our fellow comrades; and it is in this split second (that I was previously referring to) we decide what our lives would be decades down the line. This could be pertaining to your career, your family, your loved ones etc. 

An essential thing in this journey is to understand oneself (your own journey). We are different individuals, with different aspirations, different abilities, powers, resources at our disposal. Quite often, we tend to imitate the paths that others are following. We tend to believe in concepts from other lives. Intelligent people learn lessons from other’s lives, the wise ones comprehend, filter and then reapply lessons to their own lives in a personalized manner. Quite often, we fall into the trap of following the unknown roads, without understanding how our lives get affected by them. 

Sweet November

An eagerness within, that shrouds my thoughts,
Engulfing my heart, with happiness I always sought.
Of a rendezvous, of beautiful moments to cherish, 
And two souls awaiting, for this wait to finally perish.

As I sit alone, resting through this lonesome night,
And I recollect those memories, as a lover might.
I realize this unconditional willingness to be there,
When time comes to a standstill, and love everywhere.

Oh, how I yearn, this period of restless numbness,
To pass by, and give way to a joyous calmness.
For the time to arrive, to fire up that inner ember,
A blissful period, that elusive sweet November.

 

This blog post is dedicated to a friend of mine. This brings back some of my own personal feelings and so I wrote them here.

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