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Tue, 15 Dec 2009:

Inner beauty is overrated.

Perhaps the greatest handicap my parents ever provided for me was the concept of inner beauty. In their attempts to prevent me from turning into a flake, they emphasized that it was probably the most important thing to develop. Their efforts bore fruit. They taught me to look deep into the heart of others, judge them by their intentions and to know them by their actions.

But they also taught me to avoid the shallow. I learnt that the shallow, do not linger to explore another. Like butterflies, from flower to flower, they pass on from one to the other, having known no one, but calling all friends.

Slowly, but subtly, I started to wrap myself up in myself. Layer, by layer, everything that was good in me, was only there for those who lingered long enough to peel back enough. And I thought that only fair, that only those who cared enough to know me, got me. There was precious little of me to go around and I kept it for those special people.

But as it turns out, *that* was a very stupid thing to do.

Sometime over the last year, reading the Bible at some hotel room somewhere in the country, I ran into something that clicked. Something that made sense and shone a light on the errors of my ways (uhh... no, I'm not going Born Again on you folks ... keep reading).

Mathew 5:15

	Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, 
	but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. 
	Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.

There's a certain arrogance of self that is required to be an introvert. That it seems worthwhile for someone who's met you once to dig through all your issues, fears and eccentricities, to know the really awesome person you are. That the end result, i.e You, is something enticing enough for a stranger to actually embark on that quest. As if there is some secret sauce, essence of pure self, that makes you unique among all others. That it doesn't really matter how you appear to be, that all that matters is how you really are. Pfft, maybe in an Apatow World.

Perhaps it is humbling to know that what you are isn't worth someone's time - at first glance. Perhaps there are so many who are boring on the inside & outside, that the odds are against you, all the way. Perhaps they are indeed shallow people who judge others by appearances or by popular opinion/reputation. I don't exactly know why people don't bother to look twice, but they don't (actually, some do ... which is how I got by for years). But it's not their problem that they don't, it's yours.

So, pull the covers off the true You. Shovel out a path through the icy reaches of your outer surface, put a window on your soul. It'll change your life.

In short, SUIT UP!

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.
       -- Oscar Wilde

posted at: 01:01 | path: /philosophy | permalink | Tags: , ,

Wed, 29 Aug 2007:

Sometimes discussions go offtopic. The starting points don't matter, neither do the goals (as if they exist !) - but it is the path it takes that needs to be recorded for posterity. One such philosophical debate happened yesterday, ending up rather more off-track than usual. Repeated here, from memory (i.e mostly what I said) & in condensed form.

S:  An argument for the sake of itself actually diverts away from the 
    original opinion to merely counter the other argument (no, not opinion).

Me: No, but an argument is actually productive in the sense that it feeds 
    the internalized argument inside you by offering new arguments 
    for/against your own bias.

Me: There are no convictions bereft of argument, but those that have 
    completed a debate with yourself about the pros and cons of itself,
    to arrive at a conclusion with both residing in the same mind at the 
    same time.

And since the discussion started off about patriarchal meddling, it went on into some more interesting topics.

S:  How will people learn if they don't make their own mistakes

Me: You *can* learn from other people's mistakes.

S:  No, you learn to avoid them - not to deal with them. Ending up
    in the established beaten path of safety which leads nowhere 
    in particular. Making mistakes and experiencing it first hand
    is an important part of growing up.

Me: Experience is not learning. Learning is when you internalize it,
    analyze it.

Me: Learning is not a goal by itself. What's important is to develop
    good judgement so that you can make smart decisions based on 
    lessons from past experience.

To put it mildly, it was enlightening for me to have to think that hard and come up with words for abstract concepts which I assume have always been there in my head. I just had to write them down somewhere before it all evaporated from my memory. I would've never done this without help - on the other hand, I've never had to explain anything to myself with the poor tool that is the English language.

After all, what is the sound of one hand clapping?

In most instances, all an argument proves is that two people are present.

posted at: 03:12 | path: /philosophy | permalink | Tags: ,

Fri, 07 Jul 2006:
We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense;
more knowledge but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines but less healthiness.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble in crossing the street to meet our new neighbour.

We built more computers to hold more copies than ever,
But have less real communication;

We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;
tall man, but short character;
steep profits but shallow relationships.

It’s a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.

              -- The X IVth Dalai Lama

There's much on the mind, but little in the heart.

A paradox is merely a wedge into reality's fractures

posted at: 20:12 | path: /philosophy | permalink | Tags: ,

Mon, 03 Apr 2006:

Rebellion is inevitable. I don't mean the political kind with weapons, leaders and death. I am talking about the much more intrinsic outpouring that most of us associate with teenage angst. The basic instinct that metaphorically makes us feel happier running into the darkness with eyes shut rather than walk into the tunnel of future groping and feeling the walls.

Rebellion is the first side effect of a growing mind - shaking off the training wheels carefully tied on your life cycle by your parents. Consider it the original sin if you want, but the first act of your free will is hardly likely to be an act of good. There are many who have said that the truth shall set you free, but for generations told to tell the truth, lies are what really sets them free from the apron strings.

The first kiss, the first cigarrette, that first mug of beer - they all change more things than their immediate effects. They are things looked upon quite badly by them and therefore become things to do to spite the world with. The basic thread of "I do what I want" drives people to do what they don't want as well.

Then one day, as quickly as it began, rebellion dies. Like a phoenix, it is reborn into what we prefer to call purpose. Same thing, new bottle - but Purpose needs no strutting or posing, it acts. Cause and effect comes into play - the word consequences creep into your mind and the clock of the human life clicks into the doldrums of young adulthood, where nothing much happens but everything important seems to be revolve around that fact.

I've walked around a couple of colleges in the last year. I miss the rebellion that used to thrum underneath the seemingly calm veneer of college day-to-day. Maybe I'm tuned to a different wavelength of a past. Maybe they changed what the rebellion means and forgot to tell me. But I just don't feel the vibe - I just get a disturbing sense of obedience from these future adults. The world's going to be really strange for me if people just obey without threat of consequences or reward for keeping in the lines. No stick or the carrot, merely orders and obedience.

The seeds of rebellion are planted deep. They are watered by the tears of everything denied to you and rooted in all your potential. Pass through the gates and join the club.

Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober,
responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and
       -- Tom Robbins

posted at: 15:12 | path: /philosophy | permalink | Tags: ,

Sat, 11 Feb 2006:

Do you think you are competent ? I mean do you really *know* that you are competent to do what you are actually supposed to do ? I ran into this fundamental question on thursday night - I had to interview someone on friday morning and this thought just bubbled up. What if *you* were wrong about your competency ? Would that automatically disqualify you from judging other people's competency. This was a quite disheartening thought - I had always been very doubtful about my abilities and have often gone farther than I would've to prove to myself that it's all good.

The problem with having a mind like mine is that it doesn't care what it is doing as long as it is doing something. Like the proverbial genie out of the bottle, it has to do something productive to keep itself from turning back on the body that feeds it. I'll talk about the Stimulus Struggle some other day. But right now, I had this thought eat through my brain for nearly twenty four hours till I found an an answer.

Let us first postulate the predictions that we need to verify about incompetent induviduals :-

  • overestimate their ability
  • are unable to see competent people when they trip over them
  • never realize they have screwed up
These were the three things I had in hand to compare myself against. I will not judge myself or others - but feel free to use them on me. After all proper social feedback is one defence against bad meta-cognitive skills - if only you are willing to accept criticism (back to square #1).

I remember reading the following off a 1996 calendar hanging near our TV at home. I am not sure it was from Confucius or not, but it does convey what I want to point out.

He who knows and knows that he knows, he is a master; follow him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows, he is asleep; wake him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not, he is a student; teach him.
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not, he is a fool; shun him.

Before I wander off into depth, I found out that there is indeed a real word for knowing what you know - metacognitive skills. Apparently it is a vicious cycle problem where people who are not aware of their shortcomings never work towards fixing them and as the proverb advised are shunned by those who can see.

So the first thing an interviewer needs to develop seems to be a clear awareness of his or her own limitations. There may be people who are secure about their own skills because they have proved themselves - but it is difficult to actually measure the skill of someone who is confident and competent versus someone who is merely confident because of a total lack of metacognitive skills. Turning a blind eye towards your own deficiencies can actually pay off very well when you are dealing with an interviewer with bad metacognitive skills. Quite appropriately, Charles Darwin said that "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" .

One of my classmates once said something very insightful about the true value of a man.

The numerator being what he really is capable of and denominator 
being what he thinks of himself - the best always come up above 

So the conclusions I reached were basically :-

  • the more competent you are the more flaws you'll find in yourself
  • it takes one to know one
  • humility is to be valued
Too bad the modern management values visibility over humility - being self-effacing is just not a good idea. When I have another weekend to waste, I'll ponder over the gray area that we all live, in terms of these. You have to feel incompetent to be remain competent - That is the Zen of Competency.

Nothing worthwhile gives all the answers, so I'll leave you a question to chew on. Does knowledge make you less confident ? Some of my friends seem to think so ... but I can't be certain .


  1. Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments -- Justin Kruger and David Dunning, Cornell.edu
  2. Coming to terms with failure: Private self-enhancement and public self-effacement. -- Brown, J. D. & Gallagher, F. M
  3. The "below-average effect" and the egocentric nature of comparative ability judgments. -- Kruger J
  4. Managerial myopia: Self-serving biases in organizational planning. -- Larwood, L. & Whittaker, W.

Luke Skywalker: Your overconfidence is your weakness.
Emperor Palpatine: Your faith in your friends is yours.

posted at: 23:12 | path: /philosophy | permalink | Tags: ,

Thu, 12 Jan 2006:

Those who meet me, mistake me for a nice guy. Of course, I am a good guy by nature - but I can be evil by choice. I don't believe in religion, but I believe in the essential justice. In spite of what you might think, justice is still a human concept. But for a universe that came out of nothing, it has to all add up to zero sometime (though the discussion about the end of days as such is discouraged). So in a moment of emotion, I decided to be fair to this world. More particularly I decided to be fair to this world induvidually. The decision sprang from the first moment in this century when I lost my temper. The decision to never again sleep in the home of my ancestors was one of the riders of the same moment. The resolutions stand as made.

There are instances when I'm not fair to someone. Distinction must be made between the moments of rage from the cold decisions. Anger has no rationale and I haven't lost my temper since 2001. But still I've been unfair to a lot of people - from the cold comfort of sanity. There have been times and places where my job was to snub and pour cold water.

It is my right. If somebody is headed towards a difficult situation by mistake, I often consider it my right to hurt the person before the world acquires a right. It is as much of my right as it was the right of my elders who snatched knives from my hand when I was a kid. I can't claim to have made the same mistakes - I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't stay out with friends till midnight without a ride back, I didn't end up in strange cities without a hotel booking. I haven't done any of that, which to some people removes all right I have to advise them. I am sure they'd have said But, you had your fun when you were my age. Why don't you let us ? if I had taken a sip or a puff.

In a fair world, intentions do not matter. What I do out of perfectly good intentions is still hurting someone. It is only perfectly fair that I get hurt in the process. For example, my sister has probably forgiven me for not letting her go to Delhi last year. She has probably forgotten all that she said to me on the phone. I haven't. I got what I deserved for crushing her first few attempts at breaking out of parental control. Hearing "you are only saying that because I'm a girl. " or "why are you taking their side on this ?" isn't pleasant with a girl who can pronounce words in italics. She will probably admit that I was right if I ask her today but kaye vitta ayudhavum, vaay vitta vaakum ... (translation won't do).

They say that we hurt those whom we love, but little do they know that we can only be hurt by those ...

Justice? Who asks for justice. We make our own justice. We make it here on Arrakis -- win or die. Let us not rail about justice as long as we have arms and the freedom to use them.
                            -- Leto I

posted at: 12:12 | path: /philosophy | permalink | Tags: ,