Tag Archives: Somerset Maugham

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. Vous voyez, when you feel that you have found the purpose of your life, it is great. When you feel that you have achieved the purpose, it is greater still. 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, and a certain recklessness in choices where a more mature consideration was perhaps indicated.

The recklessness led to many strange career choices. En fait, 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. Maintenant, as the hour to bow out draws near, I feel as though I have been an actor who had the good fortune of landing several successful roles. 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?

Pursuit of Knowledge

What I would like to believe my goal in life to be is the pursuit of knowledge, qui est, sans doute, a noble goal to have. It may be only my vanity, but I honestly believe that it was really my goal and purpose. But by itself, the pursuit of knowledge is a useless goal. One could render it useful, par exemple, by applying it — to make money, in the final analysis. Or by spreading it, teaching it, which is also a noble calling. But to what end? So that others may apply it, spread it and teach it? In that simple infinite regression lies the futility of all noble pursuits in life.

Futile as it may be, what is infinitely more noble, à mon avis, is to add to the body of our collective knowledge. On that count, I am satisfied with my life’s work. I figured out how certain astrophysical phenomena (comme gamma ray bursts and radio jets) work. And I honestly believe that it is new knowledge, and there was an instant a few years ago when I felt if I died then, I would die a happy man for I had achieved my purpose. Liberating as this feeling was, now I wonder — is it enough to add a small bit of knowledge to the stuff we know with a little post-it note saying, “Take it or leave it”? Should I also ensure that whatever I think I found gets accepted and officially “added”? This is indeed a hard question. To want to be officially accepted is also a call for validation and glory. We don’t want any of that, do we? Puis à nouveau, if the knowledge just dies with me, what is the point? Hard question indeed.

Speaking of goals in life reminds me of this story of a wise man and his brooding friend. The wise man asks, “Why are you so glum? What is it that you want?”
The friend says, “I wish I had a million bucks. That’s what I want.”
“Bien, why do you want a million bucks?”
“Bien, then I could buy a nice house.”
“So it is a nice house that you want, not a million bucks. Why do you want that?”
“Then I could invite my friends, and have a nice time with them and family.”
“So you want to have a nice time with your friends and family. Not really a nice house. Pourquoi donc?”

Such why questions will soon yield happiness as the final answer, and the ultimate goal, a point at which no wise man can ask, “Why do you want to be happy?”

I do ask that question, de temps en temps, but I have to say that the pursuit of happiness (or happyness) does sound like a good candidate for the ultimate goal in life.

Bilan de l'

Vers la fin de sa vie, Somerset Maugham a résumé son “plats à emporter” dans un livre justement intitulé “Le Bilan de l'.” Je pense aussi envie de résumer, de faire le bilan de ce que j'ai réalisé et tenté de parvenir à. Ce besoin est, bien sûr, un peu idiot dans mon cas. Pour une chose, Je rien fait clairement par rapport à Maugham; même en considérant qu'il était beaucoup plus vieux quand il résume son affaire et eu plus de temps à atteindre les choses. Deuxièmement, Maugham pourrait exprimer son point de vue sur la vie, univers et tout bien mieux que je ne le serai jamais en mesure de. Ces inconvénients malgré, Je vais essayer de répondre à moi-même parce que j'ai commencé à sentir la proximité d'une arrivée — un peu comme ce que vous ressentez dans les dernières heures d'un vol long-courrier. J'ai l'impression que tout ce que j'ai prévu de faire, si j'ai réussi ou non, est déjà derrière moi. Maintenant, est probablement aussi bon moment que tout me demander — qu'est-ce que je me mets à faire?

Je pense que mon principal but dans la vie était de connaître les choses. Au début, c'était des choses physiques comme les radios et la télévision. Je me souviens encore le frisson de trouver les six premiers volumes de “Radio de base” dans la collection de livres de mon père, bien que je n'avais aucune chance de comprendre ce qu'ils ont dit à ce moment-là. C'était un frisson qui m'a pris par mes années de premier cycle. Plus tard, mon objectif est passé à des choses plus fondamentales comme la question, atomes, lumière, particules, la physique etc. Ensuite, sur l'esprit et le cerveau, l'espace et le temps, perception et la réalité, la vie et la mort — questions qui sont le plus profond et le plus important, mais paradoxalement, le moins significatif. À ce stade de ma vie, où je prends le point sur ce que j'ai fait, Je dois me demander, était-il la peine? Ai-je bien, ou ai-je mal?

En regardant ma vie jusqu'à présent maintenant, J'ai beaucoup de choses pour être heureux, et peut d'autres que je ne suis pas très fier de. Les bonnes nouvelles d'abord — J'ai parcouru un long chemin depuis un où j'ai commencé. J'ai grandi dans une famille de la classe moyenne dans les années soixante-dix en Inde. Classe moyenne indienne dans les années soixante-dix serait pauvre à tous les standards mondiaux sensibles. Et la pauvreté était tout autour de moi, avec ses camarades de classe qui abandonnent l'école pour s'engager dans des tâches subalternes de l'enfant comme la réalisation de la boue et des cousins ​​qui ne pouvait pas se permettre un repas carré par jour. La pauvreté n'était pas une condition hypothétique qui afflige les âmes inconnues dans des contrées lointaines, mais c'était une réalité douloureuse et palpable tout autour de moi, une réalité je me suis échappé par chance aveugle. A partir de là, J'ai réussi à récupérer mon chemin à une existence de la classe moyenne supérieure à Singapour, qui est riche par la plupart des normes mondiales. Ce voyage, dont la plupart peuvent être attribués à la chance aveugle en termes d'accidents génétiques (comme l'intelligence académique) ou d'autres coups de chance, est intéressante en soi. Je pense que je devrais être en mesure de donner un tour humoristique sur elle et le blog en place un jour. Bien qu'il est stupide de prendre le crédit pour les gloires accidentelles de ce type, Je serais tout à fait honnête si je disais que je n'étais pas fier de l'être.

The Razor’s Edge by W Somerset Maugham

May be it is only my tendency to see philosophy everywhere, but I honestly believe Maugham’s works are the classics they are because of their deep philosophical underpinnings. Their strong plots and Maugham’s masterful storytelling help, but what makes them timeless is the fact that Maugham gives voice to the restlessness of our hearts, and puts in words the stirring uncertainties of our souls. Our questions have always been the same. Where do we come from? Que faisons-nous ici? And where are we headed? Quo vadis?

Of all the books of this kind that I have read, and I have read many, Le fil du rasoir takes on the last question most directly. When Larry says, out of the blue, “The dead look so awfully dead.” we get an idea of what his quest, and indeed the inquiry of the book, is going to be.

Larry Darrell is as close to human flawlessness as Maugham ever gets. His cynical disposition always produced vivid characters that were flawed human beings. We are used to snobbishness in Elliott Templeton, fear and hypocrisy in the vicar of Blackstable, self-loathing even in the self-image of Philip Carey, frivolity in Kitty Garstin, undue sternness in Walter Fane, the ludicrous buffoonery of Dirk Stroeve, abysmal cruelty in Charles Strickland, ultimate betrayal in Blanche Stroeve, fatal alcoholism in Sophie, incurable promiscuity in Mildred — an endless parade of gripping characters, everyone of them as far from human perfection as you and me.

But human perfection is what is sought and found in Larry Darrell. He is gentle, compassionate, single-mindedly hardworking, spiritually enlightened, simple and true, and even handsome (although Maugham couldn’t help but bring in some reservations about it). In one word, parfait. So it is only with an infinite amount of vanity that anybody can identify himself with Larry (as I secretly do). And it is a testament to Maugham’s mastery and skill that he could still make such an idealistic character human enough for some people to see themselves in him.

As I plod on with these review posts, I’m beginning to find them a bit useless. I feel that whatever needed to be said was already well said in the books to begin with. Et, the books being classics, others have also said much about them. So why bother?

Let me wind up this post, and possibly this review series, with a couple of personal observations. I found it gratifying that Larry finally found enlightenment in my native land of Kerala. Written decades before the hippie exodus for spiritual fulfillment in India, this book is remarkably prescient. Et, as a book on what life is all about, and how to live it to its spiritual fullness in our hectic age, Le fil du rasoir is a must read for everybody.