Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Futility of Comparison

Comparison is a part and parcel of our lives. We compare our achievements with those of our peers. We do so with property, dressing, looks and every god-damn sphere of our materialistic life. Amidst all this insanity comes the sane advice to not compare ourselves with others. After a decent amount of analysis, I am convinced of the futility of comparison, albeit for different reasons. If people avoid comparison because of the discomfiture it causes, that is no reason at all. This reason is akin to blindfolding ourselves to the sun and denying its existence. It only gets worse with flowery phrases like “You are beautiful in your own way” and other sappy, hypocritical crap. Like always, what is attempted here is a logical post-mortem of the activity of comparison.

For comparing two entities, one needs a common basis, a constant reference so to speak. I can compare two numbers on the real line, because I have an origin to do so. The distances/directionalities of these numbers from 0 are compared here. Similarly the potential energy of two falling masses or two reservoirs at different heights is compared from a common ground level.  A common reference level is essential for this activity. Coming to people, there is NO such common basis. On the physical side, we are born of different parents-people with different body make-ups; and hence comparison on the physical front makes zilch sense. On the mental front, the impulses that the mind receives are different for different people. The mind is like clay-it’s current state is determined by the previous stress history. Again mind is not a static entity- it waxes and wanes. The very task which I had easily completed a year ago might require all of my mental energies to solve presently. You can Google “The Mozart Effect” – kids exposed to Mozart’s music for a good amount of time have shown considerable increase in their IQ levels. Though the study is far from being conclusive, you get the drift. To compare two people we need to ensure that they receive exactly similar mental training from day one. Even if we do this, we are still helpless with the prenatal fund of knowledge that one is born with – which varies from person to person.

The only thing close to constancy is the same self of mine through all this time; and hence comparing the “I” of today with the “I” of yesterday is the only logical thing to do. Comparison with one’s own self is the only rational option. And what’s more, it doesn't throw you off balance like peer pressure (a direct consequence of comparison) does.

P.S : I do not claim to have arrived this without any comparison activity of my own. It is foolish to expect to learn that the boomerang comes back with out even hurling it. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

The year gone by

I guess there have been a sufficient number of abstraction intensive posts from me in the recent times. For a change, I try and attempt a breezy introspective write up, one that is in the moment.  Change has been the only thing constant during the last year. I no longer have those semester breaks where I am literally on a holiday; catching up with friends, doing nothing for a good 30 days or so. And not to mention the care-free devil may care routine in college life. Things are considerably different. The current post is a reflection on the year gone by; how a seemingly static period has changed my relations with friends, my work outlook etc.

The dull side
A sudden and substantial lull in your activity level changes your outlook on a lot of things, probably because you have the time to think about them. I do not get to meet my friends like I used to back in college. They seem to have (at least the majority) what is called the Vicinity Effect- you tend to be closer to the people you see daily. Some of them are pure utilitarian – they befriend people based on their utility. That does pinch me once in awhile, but hey, I am helpless in this regard. But, in this day and age of mass communication, I do not think staying in touch is so difficult, provided you have the intent. I am glad I have a couple of really close friends on whom I can blindly bank. I realise that most of the others barring this half a dozen, are my friends with in the limitations of time and space. I still talk to them because it makes me feel good. There is an unknown satisfaction in not expecting anything in return.

On the bright side
I became an uncle, so it’s pretty overwhelming currently. I have furthered my research on castes and eastern philosophy. People who converse with me upon on these topics will testify this. Not that money means a lot to me, but being independent is definitely a good feeling. No matter how clichéd it is, no amount of text book learning will make up for the practical part. I feel so much more confident after a couple of assignments at work. You have to visit the Taj Mahal or be in love to understand the respective feelings; no amount of talk will do. It is the same with practical exposure, I guess. For someone who is overly critical and always displeased with one’s own efforts, I am quite happy with the work I had accomplished during the last year. Frequent blogging (I have successfully completed 25 posts), attended a conference at IIT KGP during December, bug-free coding of a couple of simulators related to my Bachelor thesis, a suave website and an up to date linked in profile are the things I got done during the last year.  I am also excited to have zeroed in on two new research areas – Fracture Mechanics and Multi-Scale Methods. I have also developed interest in the musical works of Santana, Satriani, and Smashing Pumpkins etc. Finally, I have learnt to be satisfied and contented from within myself. A good dose of mental exercise, some fine music and some soul-searching make my day. Give me my books, laptop and a continuous electricity supply; I will be happy just about everywhere.