2012 – The Year That Was

One year is not a very long time, so to speak. But what can change in one’s life in that one year has no boundaries. If I look back at where I was at the start of this year and where I am now, there are hardly anything in common.

I’m not in the same job as I was a year before, neither am I staying in the same home and city. The set of people I was talking to most in January and those with whom I interact with these days are totally different. Even at the deeper level of thoughts and consciousness, I am a very different person now than what I was a year ago ( thought still not very sure about this). I am thinking and acting about the same stuff differently, and have already done some things in this year which I thought I would never do.

The year started with a big change on the professional front – as I left Yahoo and got busy in setting up my own company. I enjoyed writing product specs, then coding most of them myself, releasing beta releases of my product and getting feedback from prospective customers. Then started the process of making business plans, pitching for funding to investors and forming partnerships with other entrepreneurs.

2013 - Happy New Year

2013 – Happy New Year

Working from home had another perk – I got to spend the maximum time with my parents, unless when I was out with friends or for work related meetings. Before I got the biggest jolt of my life in July, I enjoyed and cherished every second I spend with my parents in Bangalore. Although my mother was troubled by a leg injury at the beginning of the year, she was duly enjoying my being at home full time. We used to play and tease each other, and often run around the house chasing each other on trivial issues. But the most important thing was – she was truly happy and enjoying whatever Bangalore had to offer.

As the year ends, all these conflicting thoughts and emotions are settling and giving way to a peaceful state again. The anger and the upset is still there, but I guess there is less mental holding on to it now. It’s not like the emotions are not there, but now I am not so caught up in them.

It is said that the “mind” is our biggest treasure, the one thing which separate us from animals. But it can also be our biggest hindrance. The mind likes to think – about the past pains, about the future dreams, and so on. If we get too caught up with it, we risk missing the right here right now, this very moment. We can only cherish the present moment if we learn and practice to separate from our constantly spinning mind. And it also doesn’t mean that the pain will go away. It will stay with us, and there is no place to go. But it is all OK.. Just as it is!! There is no where else to go. Pain or pleasure, it doesn’t make any difference.

What is Reality?

In my experience over the last 28 years of education, work, entrepreneurship, social activism and living in Delhi, Jaipur and now Bangalore, I have seen my beliefs change many times. My idea of right and wrong, how to treat people, how to earn money, how to live life have all gone through tremendous changes as I have met different people from all age groups, occupations and different sections of society. Politicians, armymen, social activists, judges, entrepreneurs, economists, software engineers, students, artists, police officers, government employees, senior citizens, foreigners and more – It has been a wonderful experience meeting and interacting with them.

As I have seen varying point of views about all topics from different people, I sometime wonder what reality is? What is wrong for one person is only right for another? Most of us are very narrow in thought and limited in our circle of education and employment, and these two areas shape our thoughts and emotions. I wonder at the powerful meaning this simple quote by Einstein captures –
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

realityPhilosophers like Immanual Kant and John Locke, both suggested centuries ago that reality is something we construct for ourselves. I somehow wonder – Is the world we see while awake any different in perception from the world we see (dream) while asleep? Everything is created as an image in our minds, whether our eyes are open or closed. In dreams too, we see and interact with people, we have emotions like anger, love and they appear very real to us until we wake up. Dreams can make us scared, sweat like we would do with normal emotions, all while asleep.

The illusion comes, and many problems of life, when we start believing what we see as the ‘ultimate reality‘ rather than just one frame of reference our mind has decided to show us. Indian philosophers in the past have spoke of this as ‘Maya‘. It says that we deceive ourselves when we think that the objects we see are the objects themselves.

Most of our reality is shaped by our senses of vision, sound, touch, smell and taste. And it is scientifically proven that our senses can only comprehend a fraction of the physical realities of light, sound, etc. Furthermore, there are many more realities which we have no way (or senses) to understand and measure like magnetic field and electric charges. Other animals sometimes can detect these in varying quantities, like dogs have a better sense of smell and sound.

Another example to highlight that everything we say and believe as truth is only an illusion is the “Earth is a sphere” discovery. In ancient times, it was believed that the earth is flat. It was so much a part of everyone’s reality that ships used to go a certain distance in the ocean and then come back due to the fear of falling off the surface of the earth. Everything we believe and see right now is nothing different from this example.

I would even say that the concepts of space and time are totally shaped by our mind, even when it is very ‘real‘ to us with scientific proof. But we can’t hold space and time like we can hold a table or a chair, and so they are more about some concepts we have created rather than an ‘absolute truth’. Now contemporary physics have begun to validate this viewpoint too, though I will need to spend more time researching to make a credible claim on that.

As human beings, we are conditioned to see our culture, language, politics, religion as reality, which is only an illusion. This illusion is then passed on from generation to generation. Without even knowing, we spend all our lives driven by this ‘reality’. It takes real courage to question and challenge these beliefs and assumptions and bring in a more mature perspective on how to lead our lives.

I will end with this powerful quote around the same question I started with – What is Reality?

What we call reality is an agreement that people have arrived at to make life more livable. ~Louise Nevelson