标记档案: 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. 你看, 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. 事实上, 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, 欧洲核子研究中心. 作为一个作家, 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. 现在, 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?


我想相信我的人生目标是追求知识,,en,有一个高尚的目标,,en,这可能只是我的虚荣心,,en,但我真的相信这是我的目标和宗旨,,en,但是本身,,en,追求知识是无用的目标,,en,人们可以使它有用,,en,通过应用它,,en,去赚钱,,en,归根到底,,en,或者通过传播它,,en,教它,,en,这也是一种崇高的召唤,,en,但为了什么目的,,en,以便其他人可以应用它,,en,传播它并教它,,en,在那种简单的无限回归中,生活中所有高尚的追求都是徒劳的,,en,因为它可能是徒劳的,,en,什么是无限更高尚的,,en,是为了增加我们的集体知识,,en,在那一点上,,en,我对我一生的工作感到满意,,en,我想出了一定的天体物理现象,,en,伽马射线爆发和无线电喷射,,en,工作,,en, which is, 毫无疑问, 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, 例如, 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, 在我看来, 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 (喜欢 gamma ray bursts and radio jets) work. 我真的相信这是新知识,,en,几年前,当我感觉自己是否因此而死亡时,他立刻就有了一个瞬间,,en,因为达到了目的,我会快乐的死去,,en,解放,因为这种感觉,,en,现在我想知道,,en,是否足以通过一个小小的便利贴说明为我们知道的东西添加一点知识,,en,要么接受,要么离开它,,en,我是否也应该确保我认为的任何内容都能被正式接受,,en,添加,,en,这确实是一个很难回答的问题,,en,想要被正式接受也是一个要求验证和荣耀的要求,,en,我们不想要这些,,en,我们要不要,,en,如果知识与我一起死去,,en,有什么意义,,en,确实很难,,en,说起生活中的目标让我想起了这个智者和他那沉思的朋友的故事,,en,智者问道,,en,你为什么这么卑鄙,,en, 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? 然后再, 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? 你想要什么?,,en,这位朋友说,,en,我希望我有一百万美元,,en,这就是我想要的。,,en,你为什么要一百万美元,,en,那么我可以买一间漂亮的房子。,,en,所以这是一个你想要的好房子,,en,不是一百万美元,,en,你为什么要这样,,en,然后我可以邀请我的朋友,,en,和他们和家人度过美好的时光。,,en,所以你想和你的朋友和家人度过愉快的时光,,en,不是一个很好的房子,,en,这就是为什么问题很快就会产生幸福的最终答案,,en,和最终目标,,en,没有智者可以问的一点,,en,你为什么想要快乐,,en,我问这个问题,,en,但我不得不说,追求幸福,,en,或开心,,en,听起来像是人生终极目标的合适人选,,en?”
The friend says, “I wish I had a million bucks. That’s what I want.”
“好, why do you want a million bucks?”
“好, 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. 这是为什么?”

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, 有时, but I have to say that the pursuit of happiness (or happyness) does sound like a good candidate for the ultimate goal in life.


走向他生命的结束, 毛姆总结自己 “外卖” 在一本书名为贴切 “在小结。” 我也感到一种冲动总结, 要充分利用我所取得的成绩,并企图实现. 这样的冲动, 当然, 有点傻在我的情况. 对于一件事, 我清楚地取得没有什么比毛姆; 即使考虑到他年纪大了很多,当他总结了自己的东西,有更多的时间实现的事情. 其次, 毛姆可以表达了他对人生, 宇宙和一切不过如此,我会永远能够. 这些缺点,尽管, 我会刺伤它自己,因为我已经开始感受到到来的亲近 — 有点像你在最后几个小时的长途飞行感觉. 我感觉好像不管我所要做的, 我是否已经实现与否, 已经在我身后. 现在可能是一样好时间,因为任何问自己 — 它是什么,我所要做的?

我觉得我的人生的主要目标是要知道的事. 在开始时, 它像收音机和电视的物理的东西. 我还记得发现前六册的快感 “基本无线” 在我父亲的藏书, 虽然我没有机会了解他们在那个时间点说了什么. 这是一个兴奋的拉着我通过我多年的本科生. 后来, 我的工作重点转移到类似事情更基本的东西, 原子, 光, 颗粒, 物理学等. 然后就到心灵和大脑, 空间和时间, 感觉和现实, 生死 — 这是最深刻,最重要的问题, 但矛盾的是, 至少显著. 此时在我的生活, 在这里我要带什么,我做的股票, 我不得不问自己, 它是值得的? 难道我做的很好, 还是我做的不好?

回顾我的生活至今,现在, 我有许多事值得高兴的事情, 并可能别人认为我没有那么骄傲. 好消息第一 — 我已经走过了漫长的从那里我开始了一种方式. 我生长在一个中产阶级家庭,在印度七十年代. 印度中产阶级在七十年代就很差以任何合理的世界标准. 而贫穷是我周围的一切, 与同学辍学从事低贱的童工喜欢背着泥和堂兄弟谁买不起一平方米一天只吃一顿饭. 贫困不是一个假设的条件困扰未知的灵魂在遥远的国度, 但它是一个痛苦和感觉到的现实都在我身边, 现实我逃了盲目的运气. 从那里, 我设法爪我的方式向上层中产阶级的存在在新加坡, 它含有丰富的大多数全球标准. 这段旅程, 其中大部分可以归因于盲运气在遗传事故方面 (如学术情报) 或其他好运气, 是一个有趣的在自己的权利. 我想我应该可以把一个幽默的旋转它,博客它有一天. 虽然这是愚蠢的邀功这种偶然的辉煌, 我会小于说实话,如果我说我不感到自豪.

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? What are we doing here? And where are we headed? Quo vadis?

Of all the books of this kind that I have read, and I have read many, 剃刀的边缘 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, 完美. 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. 和, 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. 和, as a book on what life is all about, and how to live it to its spiritual fullness in our hectic age, 剃刀的边缘 is a must read for everybody.