Friday, March 31, 2006

Sounds Like a plan ?

"Hum apne iradon ko mehdood nahin karte,
Us raah par kya chalna jis raah par manzil ho"

To translate it with the obvious loss in translation -

" I do not constrain my plans -
Why walk on a path that leads to a destination"

An uncle of mine was quizzing me on what my plans for the future are and I could only manage a non commital - "I am not sure, maybe I will do this or maybe that". On this he quoted this beautiful sher (Urdu Couplet), and thereby made answering such questions a lot easier. Here it would not be amiss to explain that I am no kid just getting out of college ( though in these days I notice thats the kids getting out of college often have pretty concrete plans) . I am approaching 30 and have been married for four years, an age at which most people are at least in the initial stages of the execution of their plan for life; and I don't have one.

And what is perhaps more important is- I don't want to have one. In many late night discussions with my wife Ashi and in many introspections I have tried to understand why I can't decide on what I want to do in my life. An obvious candidate is weak will and indecisiveness but I would like to rule that out as I am, in quite a few respects - a fairly confident person and do not have any insecurities about my self worth etc.( ah... how much I have to force myself to be modest!).

So that brings us to the second candidate, which had for long been the leading explanation- I don't have a plan because I don't desire anything sufficiently strongly. I have met people who admire a CEO and his business acumen to an extent of almost worshipping her- and are fairly content in planning their life to become like her. If this admiration/worship is not directed toward a person it is directed at least to the abilities that an ideal CEO would possess. Similarly this admiration could be directed toward a mathematician/physicist/social worker/model/actor etc. My friend Chaitanya Swamy -a PhD in Theoretical Computer Science from Cornell University, says(in some of his moods), if it were not for Theoretical Computer Science - he does not know what he would have done with his life. Maybe whatever TCS's equivalent in my life could have been-does not exist, and so I am left with desiring nothing.

But further analysis reveals that I am not really a person without desire, I desire Air Conditioning , I desire good music, movies, food, good conversation, humour- the list goes on. Indeed if I were so much without desire I would by on my way to nirvana. So why do I not have a plan? The current leading explanation is this - the execution of a plan takes much effort and dedication, and if it fails it brings sadness. But, if it suceeds it doesn't bring happiness(or very momentary happiness), it just throws one back to the void. So why plan?
On the other hand quick execution of a thought brings quite a thrill- planning a vacation a month in advance takes away half the pleasure from it. However finding a good deal on Thursday and leaving for Vegas on Friday doubles the pleasure.

So what is true of a vacation is true of life. Saying, lets go and live in another country and getting there in a couple of months is exciting. On the contrary planning in a cold blooded manner to move to another country and taking years to make the move is pretty dull.

And why is the quick move exciting and the slow move dull ? Well rest and uniform motion, as Newton told us, are the same thing. And what is true of the physical world is true of the mental world. Staying in the same place and doing the same thing - no matter how good the place is, and no matter how good the work is - is moving at uniform speed. There is a name for this phenomemon - boredom. Once you settle down to a planned life and move at uniform speed you stop to feel the speed and feel only the jerks(which should get lesser and lesser as your plan works correctly).

Now, there are two ways in which one can get out of the trap of planning. One, don't plan. Two, plan too much. First is obvious but slightly more difficult in practice- for it kills many potentially interesting conversations. The second - go wild with planning, make a new plan every week , execute a few steps, change it, replace it, run two conflicting plans simultaneously- now that can be pretty exciting.

Of course there is a flipside and there are great pragmatic advantages of planning, but I would leave it to my father to discuss in his blog(and don't expect his blog to spring up tomorrow, because the last I talked to him it wasn't on his plan).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Act Of Blogging

Like a good school boy writing an essay I shall begin this blog with an introduction - commenting on the act of blogging itself.
I like writing. I have been writing ever since I learnt to write (what a coincidence!). So blogging is not something entirely new that I am trying. But, there is a non-trivial difference. This can and will(I hope) be read by other people. This warrants a change of style- primarily in the degree of modesty. The face that I show to myself is not really modest though I don't really like that too much as it can keep one from learning from others. Anyway I don't like to me immodest in public and since this blog is public I shall attempt to be modest. If someone takes a sufficient interest in my blog I would appreciate comments where the immodesty shows itself.
Somerset Maugham once remarked that one looks at one's older writing with a contemptuous amusement. I couldn't agree more. Sometimes when I look at what I had written a couple of years ago I feel I am reading a rather immature individual's outpourings and I am slightly ashamed for having written thus. Were I not accustomed to this scheme of things- multiple such "contemptuous amusement" events may have compelled me to give up writing altogether. Now I like reading my previous writings and the contempt and the amusement is part of the package that makes it enjoyable. I expect my readers to get their quota of contempt and amusement from these writings- more of the latter, I should hope.