Pursuit of Happiness or Pursuit of Meaning?

Why am I being so fickle? From the highs of getting admission at INSEAD just a couple of days ago, to the current state of frustration is so puzzling.

During the application process, I kept pushing aside my true feelings of whether I want an MBA or not so I could focus on the application. I thought I could make that decision if and when I get the admission. However, during the process, I probably faked the ‘why mba’ question so well that I actually started believing in it.

So here I am – with an admission offer for a year to spend across France and Singapore. Is it the opportunity my quarter-life crisis is desperately waiting for to open myself to a plethora of opportunities and make life more meaningful? Or would it just be a wasteful exercise and just dialing back my career by a couple of years?

Let me put it this way for you Nikhil – if money was not an issue, would you go? Yes absolutely. The answer is obvious. It would be an exciting adventure and just homage to one of my favorite life quotes – ‘it is not the number of years you live, it is the life you live in those years’. I would meet a ton of interesting people from all walks of life. There would be fun, studying, friendships, hardships, success, failures. It will add so much to my life experience.

So – the simple answer is yes. I will go ahead and join INSEAD no matter the associated financial costs. What I have to ensure is that I maximize my experience. I have to be fully committed to study and network inside and outside the classroom.

I have to accept that INSEAD or even marriage is clearly not the final destination. Frankly, there is no final destination. The acceptance of life as is, and enjoying the journey with its ups and downs, would lead to inner peace and satisfaction. Continuing to challenge the status quo and building upon new ideas will be the cornerstone of flexing my brain muscles.

Broadening my perspective to understand the same problem from different viewpoints would open new doors, and possibly some of those would lead to even more doors and one of them just might capture my true imagination as my life’s meaningful pursuit. So cheers to a life in pursuit of meaning rather than happiness!

 

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Tamasha Review – Pot of tea?

Watching the movie Tamasha on Friday was a reaffirmation of the belief to chart your own path in the limited time one has on Earth. However, the treacherous path is to find one’s purpose and meaning in life. It is like making and tasting a cup of tea. Everyone has their own approach and method to make tea and then even the same cup of tea is liked differently by each person. Someone likes it strong while others like it sweet. Someone likes ginger tea while the spouse likes cardamom tea.

We need to understand and appreciate others’ perspective that they could like their tea to be different. And most importantly, it is a personal decision.

Similarly, everyone has to chart and make their own life. Each has their own likes and dislikes that shape their perspective of the world and what makes them happy. Molding someone into a shape that is approved by the society leads to tremendous inner conflict. Some can handle it while others cannot do it easily.

Hear your inner voice. Try working on different elements of your hobbies in spare time and actually do something about it. Make your own cup of tea, just the way you like it – only then you will enjoy it to the fullest.

Rambling

It has been a busy past couple of weeks. After hitting rock-bottom in January this year, it has taken a lot of effort to put things back on track. Reading a ton load of blogs, articles and podcasts has helped in the perseverance to even try and make sense of life and its meaning and purpose.
Having the right partner is an important choice and factor in one’s happiness. Hopefully I am on the right track there. Having met her earlier this year and knowing her more every day, I feel incredibly lucky that she would be my life partner. She is just too nice a person. The fact that she is so beautiful is just like the slight hint of delicious icing on an already perfect cake. I frankly do not seem like good enough for her but I am glad that she picked me as it allows me the opportunity to grow as a person and become wiser. I consciously try to be aware of when I get irritated or angry, and that process should make me recognize the stupidity of such measures.
Anyways, with all the uncertainty around our relationship, things have taken a turn for the better in the last couple of weeks. The families have agreed to take things forward and hopefully 2016 will be THE year (keeping fingers crossed).
On the other hand, I have been trying to find what excited me. Reading a lot about the futuristic technologies in conjunction with the ancient history is captivating. Virtual reality is the next big frontier on the cusp of changing the landscape of how humans perceive the world. Space is another key frontier that people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos are ready to explode into. Artificial intelligence and the questions surrounding the origins of life, once answered, are set to change the destiny of the human race. Tremendous research and advancements in our understanding of the human brain, the field of neuroscience, is so fascinating. Especially since the majority of the people with my background are focused on app building and startup phases, I have the opportunity to jump over the hoop and try to play a role in these exciting technologies. There is a very limited probability that I would do that but I really need to step up and do it for a change.
It is just an incredible time to be as a human not withstanding the terrible happenings around the world due to terrorists wrecking havoc in some places. Such events are so sad. Just imagining the hardships being faced by such a large population in terms of refugees and the people facing such grim life situations in the Middle East, I should feel incredibly lucky. However, it does lead to discussions around the possible solutions and it hurts to hear the often intolerant views on religion. But then, it is introspective as well. If I do not want others to have such strict opinions on these very complex issues, how am I in any way qualified to pass judgements on their opinions? I just wish media realizes its importance in shaping the opinions of the world and make efforts to develop feelings of love, empathy and compassion amongst everyone. People have to start considering religion as a personal rather than cultural phenomenon. The goal of a person’s life should be to grow wiser and not just old – by growing the ‘good’ feelings of love and compassion while trying to get rid of negative emotions like anger, jealousy and hatred. Or should it? Solutions cannot be generic – they should be customized for every individual but overall, they should lead to peace and prosperity. But then, who am I to even say anything? Just wish a peaceful future for humanity. Amen!

Origins of Life #2

Spending numerous hours over the last couple of days on the literature surrounding ‘Origins of Life’, it has been a very exciting read. I cannot believe I never thought about this question yet – how did biological life evolve from chemical compounds? On the positive side, it means my exercise of flexing the idea muscle is not useless.

When I deeply think about our lives, the level of intelligence achieved by human species is just mind boggling. In fact, not just humans, the complexity of the tiniest simplest living creatures is so huge that we cannot yet fathom how such creatures came into being. How did a bunch of molecules end up being smart enough to develop into even a single cell? Mind you, one cell in today’s human body consists of millions and millions of molecules. Considering even the prehistoric times of 3 to 4 billion years ago when life is estimated to have originated, a set of molecules would have decided to bunch together. Why on God’s Earth would life spark in them? What would make them want to think about reproduction? Why would they not just let themselves be and collide/fuse/break among themselves and play around? Why would they want to develop themselves into something that is preservation-worthy; something that needs food and energy from the environment and then even be able to store information that can be passed down through generations?

It is incredibly fascinating and helps understand the fact that it took millions of years for us to evolve. However, the question about the first spark still remains? Why and how did those non-living molecules evolve to a living cell? Could it actually be a supernatural power (not as the God humans currently believe in, but some microbe from a faraway planet)? Or is it the primordial soup that the literature talks about that is difficult to fathom by the current human brain? Such a primordial soup would have lots of chemical reactions taking place that would lead to more and more complex molecular structures.

There are two ways to break down the problem here: (1) bottom-up approach where we aim to understand how these chemical compounds could have given birth to a cell (possibly the most important cellular component being a cell membrane as that allows the cell to first protect itself from the environment and then allow itself even a chance to evolve). This is the approach I briefly discussed above in even trying to understand the situation.

(2) There is also the second top-down approach, where we study the current cellular structure and then gradually break down its components to understand the absolute necessary pieces required to sustain life. Here, we understand the three key components – one, RNA, two, DNA and three, protein. As I currently understand, RNA can serve the dual purpose of DNA (carrying genetic information) and the protein (enzymes carrying metabolic reactions for energy etc.). Hence, many scientists believe the origins of life to be RNA-only world.

Obviously, I have barely even scratched the surface of this subject. I am sure the answers are not easy to get and fathom as the implications would be far-reaching. If we can create life out of non-living things, I mean – simply put – wouldn’t we become Gods? Clearly, huge moral implications for the human race, but also importantly, the scientific world would simply explode.

Origins of Life # 1

Why are there biological life forms on earth? It is mind boggling that in our observable universe, we have never come across any other biological life form – not even simplest forms like single-celled amoebas.

I mean most humans just accept that fact and let it be for the smart scientists to figure out the reason. Obviously humans have always had that curiosity and formulated varied theories to support this fact. So it is not a new unusual question. However, I want to get more understanding and knowledge of this age-old question and perhaps, gain insights into the origins of religion and other themes that resonate with most of humanity.

Strictly in scientific terms as the world accepts (it would have to be another post that discusses how religion and science are perhaps complementary and not in direct conflict), the question boils down to – how did the world full of chemical compounds lead to complex biological life forms? At Big Bang, there must have been only core elements/compounds as we understand in chemistry. Gradually, these chemical compounds would have collided, and led to creation of more complex compounds and then at some point in the early age of Earth (assuming biological life does not exist outside Earth), the molecules became quite complex and at the right habitable time, the first biological life form was created.

What led to that creation? Was it a plant or an animal? Was it just a single-celled amoeba? In the next few days or weeks, I will aim to dive into the existing scientific literature/blogs/Wikipedia, to help answer these questions.

As humans stretch their potential to become an inter-planetary species, answers to such questions will become ever more relevant in our pursuit. Exciting times ahead!!