January 27, 2013

On A Dinner Table

No. It's not about THAT.


Nothing HAPPENED on the dinner table. In fact, I don't have one. And that's the point.


It occurred to me out of the blue about the fact that I do not own a dinner table while most people do. (Of course, when one talks of India, probably it would be truer to say that most people in fact don't.)


But clearly the readers of this blog would likely belong to the dinner table owning class. So, the point is this: how essential is it to own a dinner table?


Does one's quality of life degrade in any noticeable manner (let alone significant manner) on account of not owning a dinner table? Clearly, the stark fact has to do with our sense of priorities. We make these choices and so many of them. Some of these choices are conscious and some are unconscious. There are individual choices made and societal ones too.


Individuals choose to worry over dresses or dining tables or door frames or dogs or whatever.

January 19, 2013

The Mission With An Infinite Multiplier Effect

It occurs to me that there is one human endeavor which stands apart from all others in terms of what its outcome might mean for the human species.


Humans have taken control of their fate in a way that no other species has been able to do. No other species even comes close.


Our endeavors are extraordinarily diverse. We create art, music, painting, sculptures, literature, etc. We have invented language to communicate our thoughts to each other. We invented publishing and thereby learned to pass on the knowledge of one generation to another.


Thus we can say with some certainty what happened a hundred years ago. Once we are able to accurately keep track of events, we can create a history of our species. Before we had written history, people used to pass on their knowledge in the form of spoken stories -- the realm of mythology.

Since the last couple of centuries, the most important human endeavor would appear to be science as it has led to new discoveries and inventions that have improved human lives in countless ways.

January 14, 2013

The Curious Case of the Closed God

While walking in the evening the other day, I was passing by this temple close to my house at 9 p.m. I happened to overhear a couple of couples who are standing there and discussing something.


The subject matter of their discussion was the great dilemma they were faced with. You see, the temple gates had been locked. God was apparently closed for business for the day. So, they were discussing about what to do. Where to find another God who'd still be open for the day.


I'm thinking, God must do some skillful time management: think of the millions who keep asking for favors (and that too in these recessionary times) not to mention the wannabes who want to win lotteries and dancing competitions on TV and singing competitions of TV.


God must be a pretty patient creature though to tolerate these flocks who keep bothering for every tiny little thing.

January 09, 2013

LETTING GO by Atul Gawande from the New Yorker

Sara Thomas Monopoli was pregnant with her first child when her doctors learned that she was going to die. It started with a cough and a pain in her back. Then a chest X-ray showed that her left lung had collapsed, and her chest was filled with fluid. A sample of the fluid was drawn off with a long needle and sent for testing. Instead of an infection, as everyone had expected, it was lung cancer, and it had already spread to the lining of her chest. Her pregnancy was thirty-nine weeks along, and the obstetrician who had ordered the test broke the news to her as she sat with her husband and her parents. The obstetrician didn’t get into the prognosis—she would bring in an oncologist for that—but Sara was stunned. Her mother, who had lost her best friend to lung cancer, began crying.

The doctors wanted to start treatment right away, and that meant inducing labor to get the baby out. For the moment, though, Sara and her husband, Rich, sat by themselves on a quiet terrace off the labor floor. It was a warm Monday in June, 2007. She took Rich’s hands, and they tried to absorb what they had heard. Monopoli was thirty-four. She had never smoked, or lived with anyone who had. She exercised. She ate well. The diagnosis was bewildering. “This is going to be O.K.,” Rich told her. “We’re going to work through this. It’s going to be hard, yes. But we’ll figure it out. We can find the right treatment.” For the moment, though, they had a baby to think about. 

“So Sara and I looked at each other,” Rich recalled, “and we said, ‘We don’t have cancer on Tuesday. It’s a cancer-free day. We’re having a baby. It’s exciting. And we’re going to enjoy our baby.’ ” On Tuesday, at 8:55 P.M., Vivian Monopoli, seven pounds nine ounces, was born. She had wavy brown hair, like her mom, and she was perfectly healthy.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/02/100802fa_fact_gawande


January 08, 2013

The Challenge of Being Learned in the Modern Age

Clearly, this is a problem without a solution. We live in a world where knowledge is being created at an ever growing and ever increasing pace. In literature, there are the classics that are must reads. Then, there are modern masters who have written perceptively about recent times. Then there are the contemporary writers -- the ongoing literary endeavor to capture the human condition and place it within the context of the 21st century. One needs to read all of this. There's history. And science. Biographies and auto-biographies. At least, some of them must be read. So, how does one find the time to read them all.


For those involved in scientific work, the pace of change is even more staggering and perhaps nausea-inducing. Admittedly, different branches of Physics, for example, are at different stages. The Standard Model and Supersymmertry and String Theory have been the cutting edge in our understanding of particles and forces for a few decades now. However, observational astronomy is perhaps going through a golden age with astonishingly capable space-based observatories looking at and mapping the universe across the breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum. Astronomy has placed before us incontrovertible evidence of astonishing phenomena such as gravitational lensing or the thousands of planets being discovered around nearby stars in our galaxy by the Kepler telescope.

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