Tag Archives: life

Contradictions

Life is full of contradictions.

I am attending a research retreat on mindfulness and contemplative practices at the beautiful Garrison Institute. I am learning a lot of interesting things, and meeting a lot of like-minded and excellent people – the kind of people with whom I could have deep conversation about the unreal nature of reality, unlike most people from other walks of life would politely and tactfully excuse themselves when I get a bit unreal.

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Twilight Years

At some point in our life, we come to accept the fact we are closer to death than life. What lies ahead is definitely less significant than what is left behind. These are the twilight years, and I have come to accept them. With darkness descending over the horizons, and the long shadows of misspent years and evaded human conditions slithering all around me, I peer into the void, into an eternity of silence and dreamlessness. It is almost time.

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Conducir en la India,,en,He tenido el placer de conducir en muchas partes del mundo.,,en,Ser bastante observador y tener tendencia a teorizar sobre todo.,,en,También he llegado a formar una teoría general sobre los hábitos de conducción.,,en,cada lugar tiene un conjunto de normas de conducción,,en,una gramática o un dialecto de conducción,,en,Si tu quieres,,en,En Marsella,,en,Francia,,en,si enciende la señal de giro en una calle de varios carriles,,en,la gente te dejará entrar inmediatamente,,en,No es porque sean conductores educados y considerados,,en,todo lo contrario,,en,pero una señal de giro indica a los conductores,,en,intención de cambiar de carril,,en,no es una solicitud para dejarlos,,en,No buscan permiso,,en,simplemente te están haciendo saber,,en,Será mejor que los deje entrar a menos que quiera una colisión,,en,En Ginebra,,en,Suiza,,en,la señal de giro es realmente una solicitud,,en,que generalmente se niega,,en,conducción,,en

I have had the pleasure of driving in many parts of the world. Being fairly observant and having a tendency to theorize about everything, I have come to form a general theory about driving habits as well.

You see, each place has a set of driving norms, a grammar or a dialect of driving, if you will. In Marseille, France, for instance, if you switch on your turn signal on a multilane street, people will immediately let you in. It’s not because they are polite and considerate drivers (quite the contrary, in fact), but a turn signal indicates the drivers’ intention to change lanes, not a request to let them. They are not seeking permission; they are merely letting you know. You’d better let them in unless you want a collision. In Geneva (Switzerland), on the other hand, the turn signal is really a request, which is usually denied.

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Internal and External Successes

Success can be internal or external. External success is easily measured in terms of money and material possessions. The internal one is measured in terms of less palpable yardsticks, like happiness, peace of mind etc. External success is related to extrovert qualities, like articulation, and depends on what others think of you. The internal one, on the other hand, depends on what you think of yourself. It is made up of things like duty, honor etc. Confusing one with the other leads to misconceptions like identifying money with happiness, for instance. You need one for the other, but they are definitely not the same.

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How to be Successful in Life?

When I talked about the dimensions of success, I used the word dimension with an ulterior motive. I want to define success for you in a formal way. You see, an entity that has many dimensions is a space, similar to the three dimensional space we live in. When we have such a complex multi-dimensional space to define success in, we have to apply some good techniques from physics to do it right. Don’t worry, i am here to help.

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Dimensions of Success

Money is only one dimension along which success can be defined. There are many others, such as sports, music, art, acting, politics, professions and even more abstract things like articulation, soft skills, philanthropy, wisdom, knowledge etc. Excellence in any one of them can be thought of us success. Success is easy to spot — look at any one of the celebrities and ask yourself why you know them. The answer is usually one of the dimensions of success — and fame its byproduct.

Excellence in any field can translate to money, which is what Eddie Felson in the Color of Money tells the younger pool player. This transformability often leads us to mistake money for the measure success, which, by the way, is the theme of the afore-mentioned movie. Towards the end of the movie, when Felson realizes that there is more to life than money, he says, “I just want your best game.” Ability to hang with the best game anybody can dish out in any field is excellence; and it has to be reckoned as success. This excellence is probably what the ancient Greeks called arete.

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Definition of Success

We all want to be successful in life. What does success mean to us? Because success is goal in life, when it is not achieved, we get disappointed. We are then, to be blunt, unsuccessful. But the word success can hold anything within. So if you we don’t know what success is, disappointment is inevitable. We really do need to define it.

Let’s go through a few common definitions of success and see if we can draw any conclusions from it. By the end of this series of posts, I hope to give you a good definition that will make you successful in life. What more can you ask of a blog?

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Autism and Genius

Most things in life are distributed normally, which means they all show a bell curve when quantified using a sensible measure. For instance, the marks scored by a large enough number of students has a normal distribution, with very few scoring close to zero or close to 100%, and most bunching around the class average. This distribution is the basis for letter grading. Of course, this assumes a sensible test — if the test is too easy (like a primary school test given to university students), everybody would score close to 100% and there would be no bell curve, nor any reasonable way of letter-grading the results.

If we could sensibly quantify traits like intelligence, insanity, autism, athleticism, musical aptitude etc, they should all form normal Gaussian distributions. Dónde te encuentras en la curva es cuestión de suerte,,en,Si tienes suerte,,en,caes en el lado derecho de la distribución cerca de la cola,,en,y si tienes mala suerte,,en,te encontraras cerca del final equivocado,,en,Pero esta afirmación es demasiado simplista,,en,Nada en la vida es tan sencillo,,en,Las diversas distribuciones tienen extrañas correlaciones,,en,Incluso en ausencia de correlaciones,,en,Consideraciones puramente matemáticas indicarán que la probabilidad de encontrarse en el extremo correcto de múltiples rasgos deseables es mínima.,,en,Es decir,,en,si estas en la cima,,en,de tu cohorte académicamente,,en,y en cuanto a tu apariencia,,en,y en atletismo,,en,ya eres uno en mil millones,,en,razón por la cual no se encuentran muchos físicos teóricos sorprendentemente atractivos que también sean tenistas clasificados,,en. If you are lucky, you fall on the right side of the distribution close to the tail, and if you are unlucky, you would find yourself near the wrong end. But this statement is a bit too simplistic. Nothing in life is quite that straight-forward. The various distributions have strange correlations. Even in the absence of correlations, purely mathematical considerations will indicate that the likelihood of finding yourself in the right end of multiple desirable traits is slim. That is to say, if you are in the top 0.1% of your cohort academically, and in terms of your looks, and in athleticism, you are already one in a billion — which is why you don’t find many strikingly handsome theoretical physicists who are also ranked tennis players.

El reciente campeón mundial de ajedrez,,en,Magnus Carlsen,,no,también es modelo de moda,,en,que es noticia precisamente porque es la excepción la que confirma la regla,,en,Acabo de descubrir lo que realmente significaba esa expresión misteriosa "excepción que prueba la regla": algo parece una excepción solo porque, como regla general,,en,no existe ni sucede,,en,lo que prueba que hay,,en,una regla,,en,Volviendo a nuestro tema,,en,además de la minúscula probabilidad de genio prescrito por las matemáticas,,en,También encontramos correlaciones entre genio y patologías del comportamiento como la locura y el autismo.,,en,Un cerebro genio probablemente esté conectado de manera diferente,,en,Cualquier cosa diferente a la norma también es,,en,anormal,,en,El comportamiento anormal cuando se juzga según las reglas de la sociedad es la definición de locura,,en, Magnus Carlsen, is also a fashion model, which is news precisely because it is the exception that proves the rule. By the way, I just figured out what that mysterious expression “exception that proves the rule” actually meant — something looks like an exception only because as a general rule, it doesn’t exist or happen, which proves that there is a rule.

Getting back to our theme, in addition to the minuscule probability for genius as prescribed by mathematics, we also find correlations between genius and behavioral pathologies like insanity and autism. A genius brain is probably wired differently. Anything different from the norm is also, well, abnormal. Behavior abnormal when judged against the society’s rules is the definition of insanity. Así que solo hay una delgada línea que separa la locura del verdadero genio,,en,Yo creo,,en,La vida personal de muchos genios apunta a esta conclusión,,en,Einstein tuvo extrañas relaciones personales,,en,y un hijo que estaba clínicamente loco,,en,Muchos genios terminaron en el looney bin,,en,Y algunos que padecen autismo muestran dones asombrosos como la memoria fotográfica,,en,destreza matemática, etc.,,en,Toma por ejemplo,,en,el caso de los sabios autistas,,en,O considere casos como Sheldon Cooper de The Big Bang Theory,,en,quien es solo un poco mejor que,,en,o diferente de,,en,el hombre de la lluvia,,en,Creo que la razón de la correlación es el hecho de que las mismas anomalías leves en el cerebro a menudo pueden manifestarse como talentos o genios en el lado positivo.,,en,o como obsequios cuestionables en el lado negativo,,en, I believe. The personal lives of many geniuses point to this conclusion. Einstein had strange personal relationships, and a son who was clinically insane. Many geniuses actually ended up in the looney bin. And some afflicted with autism show astonishing gifts like photographic memory, mathematical prowess etc. Take for instance, the case of autistic savants. Or consider cases like Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory, who is only slightly better than (or different from) the Rain Man.

I believe the reason for the correlation is the fact that the same slight abnormalities in the brain can often manifest themselves as talents or genius on the positive side, or as questionable gifts on the negative side. Supongo que mi mensaje es que cualquiera que esté fuera del promedio en cualquier distribución,,en,ya sea brillantez o locura,,en,debería tomarlo sin orgullo ni rencor,,en,Es simplemente una fluctuación estadística,,en,Sé que esta publicación no aliviará el dolor de quienes padecen el lado negativo,,en,o eliminar la arrogancia de los positivos,,en,Pero tenemos la esperanza de que al menos disminuya la intensidad de esos sentimientos.,,en,Arturo de Albornoz,,es,genio,,en,Lo que ha sido de intensa satisfacción personal para mí fue mi,,en,descubrimiento,,en,relacionado con,,en,GRB y fuentes de radio,,en,aludido antes,,en,Extrañamente,,en,también es el origen de la mayoría de las cosas de las que no estoy orgulloso,,en,cuando sientes que has encontrado el propósito de tu vida,,en,Eso es genial,,en,Cuando sienta que ha logrado el propósito,,en, be it brilliance or insanity, should take it with neither pride nor rancor. It is merely a statistical fluctuation. I know this post won’t ease the pain of those who are afflicted on the negative side, or eliminate the arrogance of the ones on the positive side. But here’s hoping that it will at least diminish the intensity of those feelings…
Photo by Arturo de Albornoz

Pride and Pretention

What has been of intense personal satisfaction for me was my “discovery” related to GRBs and radio sources alluded to earlier. Strangely, it is also the origin of most of things that I’m not proud of. You see, when you feel that you have found the purpose of your life, it is great. When you feel that you have achieved the purpose, es aún mayor,,en,Pero luego viene la pregunta,,en,ahora que,,en,La vida, en cierto sentido, termina con la consecución percibida de las metas profesadas.,,en,Una vida sin metas es claramente una vida sin mucha motivación.,,en,Es un viaje más allá de su destino,,en,Como muchos antes de mí han descubierto,,en,es el viaje hacia un destino desconocido lo que nos impulsa,,en,El final del viaje,,en,la llegada,,en,es problemático,,en,porque es la muerte,,en,Con la convicción honesta de esta consecución de los objetivos, surge la inquietante sensación de que la vida ha terminado.,,en,Ahora solo quedan rituales por realizar,,en,Como un arraigado,,en,noción arraigada,,en,Esta convicción mía ha llevado a rasgos de personalidad de los que me arrepiento,,en,Ha llevado a un nivel de desapego en situaciones cotidianas donde quizás el desapego no estaba justificado.,,en. But then comes the question — now what? Life in some sense ends with the perceived attainment of the professed goals. A life without goals is a clearly a life without much motivation. It is a journey past its destination. As many before me have discovered, it is the journey toward an unknown destination that drives us. The journey’s end, the arrival, is troublesome, because it is death. With the honest conviction of this attainment of the goals then comes the disturbing feeling that life is over. Now there are only rituals left to perform. As a deep-seated, ingrained notion, this conviction of mine has led to personality traits that I regret. It has led to a level of detachment in everyday situations where detachment was perhaps not warranted, y una cierta imprudencia en las elecciones donde tal vez se indicó una consideración más madura,,en,La imprudencia llevó a muchas elecciones de carrera extrañas.,,en,Siento que viví muchas vidas diferentes en mi tiempo.,,en,En la mayoría de los roles intenté,,en,Me las arreglé para moverme cerca de la parte superior del campo,,en,Como estudiante,,en,Entré en la universidad más prestigiosa de la India.,,en,Como científico más tarde,,en,Trabajé con los mejores en esa Meca de la física.,,en,CERN,,en,Tuve el raro privilegio de recibir comisiones de libros invitados y solicitudes regulares de columnas.,,en,Durante mi breve incursión en las finanzas cuantitativas,,en,Estoy bastante contento con mi paso por la banca.,,en,a pesar de mis recelos éticos al respecto,,en,Incluso como bloguero y programador de pasatiempos,,en,Tuve bastante éxito,,en,a medida que se acerca la hora de retirarse,,en.

The recklessness led to many strange career choices. In fact, I feel as though I lived many different lives in my time. In most roles I attempted, I managed to move near the top of the field. As an undergrad, I got into the most prestigious university in India. As a scientist later on, I worked with the best at that Mecca of physics, CERN. As a writer, I had the rare privilege of invited book commissions and regular column requests. During my short foray into quantitative finance, I am quite happy with my sojourn in banking, despite my ethical misgivings about it. Even as a blogger and a hobby programmer, I had quite a bit success. Now, as the hour to bow out draws near, Me siento como si hubiera sido un actor que tuvo la suerte de conseguir varios papeles exitosos.,,en,Como si los aciertos pertenecieran a los personajes,,en,y mi propia contribución fue un mínimo de talento actoral,,en,Supongo que ese desapego viene de intentar demasiadas cosas,,en,¿O es solo la inquietud quejumbrosa en mi alma?,,en,Archivos de vida,,en. As though the successes belonged to the characters, and my own contribution was a modicum of acting talent. I guess that detachment comes of trying too many things. Or is it just the grumbling restlessness in my soul?