On Writing

The greatest respect an author can have for his public is never to produce what is expected but what he himself considers right and useful for whatever stage of intellectual development has been reached by himself and others.

Von Goethe


Like all kids, I was a born poet.

I was naturally gifted to see the rainbow in the oily puddle in the road.

Then – my language improved, I started articulating better, became aware of subtle nuances of communication, geometrically expanded my vocabulary and… promptly gave up on poetry.

What if I got my poetry back ?

Quotes by Richard Bandler

Brains aren’t designed to get result; they go in directions. If you know how the brain works you can set your own directions. If you don’t, then someone else will.

Do you want to know a good way to fall in love? Just associate with all your pleasant experiences with someone, and disassociate from all the unpleasant ones.

The reason people have problems is that they have too much time to think.

The best thing about the past is that it’s over. The best thing about the future is that it’s yet to come. The best thing about the present is that it’s here now.

The greatest personal limitation is to be found not in the things you want to do and can’t, but in the things you’ve never considered doing

Physics changes, but reality stays the same

“Is it true?” vs “Does it work?”

Lately, I have been so intrigued by the question “Why” that it has clouded my life-long fascination with the “How”.

Trying to answer the fundamental Why questions remains a quest – its deep, its meaningful, even sexy.

Trying to answer the How is less glamorous. It is an arena filled with squabbling crooks, missionaries, conmen, charlatans, quacks and well… those like me. Since masses care about the How more than the Why, there has been commercialization of this space too.

Here is why I care about “How”

The lack of empirical evidence is more the norm than an exception of the discipline of mind-science (to use a not-so-graceful term).

John Horgan in his book “The Undiscovered Mind – How the brain defies explanation” says… (not verbatim)

Evolutionary Biologist Erns Mayr argued that no field of biology can match the precision and power of physics, because unlike electrons and neutrons, all organisms are unique. Even then, the difference between two different kinds of bacteria or different types of horses is trivial compared to differences between two human beings, even those who are genetically identical. Each individual mind may change dramatically when its owner is spanked, learns the alphabet, reads a book, takes a drug, falls in love, gets divorced, undergoes Jungian dream therapy, suffers a stroke. The variability and malleability of the human mind enormously complicate the search for general principles of human nature.

Investigations into the human mind have failed to generate the kind of applications that compel belief in a particular paradigm. Physicists can boast of lasers, transistors, nuclear bombs. Biologists can show-off vaccines, cloning, antibiotics. By-products of mind-science are less impressive: cognitive behavioral therapy, thorazine, prozac, shock therapy, IQ tests etc.

Millions and millions of people receive inputs through psychoanalysis, which Freud invented a century ago. Psychoanalysis also fares very poorly in empirical research. Freud has been described as a cult-leader who excelled at self-promotion and also as a genius whose insights into the psyche, though difficult to pin down empirically, still “ring” true. Each of these views is defensible, and the persistence of psychoanalysis proves the inability of science to offer an obvious superior explanation of the mind and its disorders. Freudians cannot point to an unambiguous evidence of their paradigm’s superiority, but neither can proponents of more modern paradigms.

The field of social psychology – which continues to speculate about human culture – coining terms that we are so intimately familiar with as teachers – like “identity crisis”, “conventional wisdom” or “learned helplessness” – these are not scientific theories but “help us think”.

A slightly different approach then, would be to judge paradigms of thought, not on what they say – but for what they do. The question shifts from “Is it true?” to “Does it work?”

Early advocates of Quantum Physics could only describe results from esoteric experiments. Later, they had the supporting evidence from fission reactors, transistors, lasers, thermonuclear bombs – technologies that altered the course of history. For many physicists; whether quantum mechanics is true is almost irrelevant. It works.

I believe – the name, the label, the thought-movement or affiliations don’t matter. I discovered NLP and several other philosophies in a personal quest for meaning and growth and accepted that which made sense and matched my experience. This strategy has worked for me. I cannot claim in all honesty that I have not been skeptic or unfairly judgmental of certain bodies of knowledge. However, in such cases – the loss has been mine.

Reality is a purple blob

Floating heads like me are often urged to be “realistic” and “practical”
Another request often made is to live in the “real world”
In about 120 years, all seven billion human beings alive on this planet would be dead – and that is “really” realistic!
Being realistic and practical wouldn’t have mattered at all.
That can be deeply distressing or immensely liberating.
Which one is it?

Ambition or Meaning?

When I think about how I have evolved, there seem to be two main players.

Ambition and Meaning
These are the two principal actors in the theater of my life.
Ambition and Meaning.
Ambition takes center stage at times, his demeanor is assertive, his gaze fixed. He is full of passion and believes in his dreams. Ambition strives to succeed, to create, to partner, to conquer, to defeat, to win. Ambition takes a hard look at reality and proclaims “This needs to change” or “I will create this and that”. Ambition got me to be dynamic, learn skills of persuasion and negotiation. Ambition tells me I should hire an agent who will do a good job promoting me. Ambition got me to start my own company and persist in the face of odds. Ambition gets me to create new products, ideas. Ambition gets excited at the slightest mention of fames and riches and seeks glamor and the limelight. Ambition is full of energy, constantly dissatisfied, constantly striving, constantly improving.
Meaning on the other hand is much pensive. Much reflection, curiosity and intellectual honesty seem to have gone into the making of Meaning. Meaning strives to find, to connect, to synthesize, to combine, to bring together, to understand, to analyze. Meaning does not believe in perceptions. Meaning does not believe in the “outer world”. Meaning is beyond social, political, environmental and even personal happenings. Meaning only strives for intellectual honesty and believes only in the power of reason. Meaning does not care about glamor or riches or fame. Meaning only cares for an understanding, for things to make sense. Meaning seeks its place in the universe and its role in the scheme of things. Meaning does not even seek fulfillment or satisfaction – merely the beauty of “it makes sense!”. It seeks the higher truth, not worldly gratifications.
Here I am, typing these words into a screen with zillions of shimmering digital drops of lights. I run a company, care about my work. I make a difference to people’s lives – when I know in the ‘absoluteness’ of it all – it doesn’t matter. I strive to succeed, yet understand that success is an illusion. I seek fulfillment, yet understand that its impossible.
This is my malaise. Who do I choose to rule my life – Ambition or Meaning?
As of now, we continue with their uneasy co-existence.