Where will you be swept off to?

I stepped outside the door last week of August 2011. After 15 odd years of relentless running I had the opportunity to step back and consider the runner, the running and the race.

The Hobbit

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Am yet to be ‘swept off’ but the journey so far has been exhilarating, surprising and challenging. Below I share a little of what I have realized and learnt so far.

  • Context changes everything. Including what you know of yourself and others.
  • What remains after labels are stripped away is character.
  • Not every relationship sprouts.
  • Serendipity does happen!
  • Full-time employment or startup is a question of which challenges you wish to take on.
  • Power unveils character.
  • There is generosity in unexpected places, seek it.
  • Conventional wisdom on anything breaks down at the fine-print.
  • Complete freedom is harder to handle than it appears. Empathize with men who elect to be constrained.
  • What you do when you can do anything is driven by character.

All considered, I feel I should have walked out the door sooner. And yes I do have things other than aphorisms to talk about 🙂 I shall do another update on my startup, progress so far and thoughts on next steps.

And am curious, what did you learn last year about the world and yourself?

Note: The picture above is of The Hobbit.

To Create Anew or Propagate the Old?

Humans beings instinctively avoid danger. It is an evolutionary safe-guard nature has perfected over many million years. The careless dozing ape would become meal to the predator waiting on the ground. The ape-man who did not hunt, or forage, for food would die of hunger. But every species has not come this far without taking a few risks along the way.

There are the few who venture a little further. This is not a uniquely human trait, rather it is something hard-wired within the evolutionary impulse. The ape that ate an unfamiliar fruit or berry, had a fair chance it would die. The ape-man who ventured near a forest fire for the warmth, dared to steal a ember in spite of the dangers involved.

Or as Satprem often says, and I paraphrase, “the first fish to peek out of water suffocated at the alien environment and the first amphibian to venture onto land would have suffered the hell of terra firma

But make no mistake, without these little reaching outs there would be no man or technology or social media or anything else. Evolution pays for its progress with the daring of a few experimenters.

So the question is, are we the early experimenters of our niches in evolution? Or are we merely the propagators of the old and the has been?

Of course, we could choose a narrower perspective for answering this question. Perhaps we consider society and our role in it. Or even just the work that we do and its impact. The spirit of the problem remains, even if we changed the context in which we ask it. What do you think?

Re-invent Thyself

It is the season for resolutions. Wordy eloquence matches the flight of ones ambitions. Here is dreamy grandeur that would have put Rome in its heydays to shame.

If there is one characteristic that marks out human beings it is in our ability to envision a grand future for ourselves. The heavens of the religious and the certainty of the scientific folks amongst us would assert this.

I have been thinking a little about what resolutions I would take upon myself. A lot of candidates presented themselves. But the essence of all these was simple. Captured in two words, they arrived like a commandment rather than a resolution. 

Re-invent Thyself.

Identity and The Fragmented Self

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Identity and the Fragmented Self

The question of identity, the who we are part of the riddle, is fraught with a beguiling complexity.

After all what could be more complex than one’s self. This palpable, tangible being that is us. Asserting itself in every pang of hunger, the stir of desire and in the rushing headlong into life.

In the relationships that tether our being within time and a social setup.

In our accomplishments. The pieces of paper that attest to our knowledge.

In the ID cards that brightly announce our affiliation to a soul-less entity.

In our calendars, schedules, the GTDs that have captured the major facets of our living.

No less in our agony and torments than our dreams and aspirations.

Each a mirror, a specific reflection of what we are within a specific context. Of a role that we play.

Remove all these. Relationships. Ideas. Memory. Experiences. Strip away the verbs that somehow seem to imbue our nouns with meaning.

How to define what remains, this enigma? Are we as a child? A pristine spot of consciousness? Or a orphaned animal out in the wild of reality?

Which brings us to the question. Are we merely an aggregation of connection end-points established with the external world, within the bounds of a specific time and space.

Are the pulls and pushes of the external the only terms of our living? Is there no independent existence to the ‘I’?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

The Duality of Self

Come Together Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney

The Self is eternal says the Scripture.

the self is transient says me.

Immutable is the Self says the Rishi.

more mutable than mutation is the self says me.

Immortal is the Self says the Veda.

piffling life to perish in moments says me.

Infinite delight is the Self says the Voice.

the obverse of delight is the self says me.

An Ideal beyond the reach of mind.

and flesh that cavorts in mire.

So is our strange inheritance, to oscillate between being anointed with the will of the Gods or to satiate the cravings of(/like) an animal.

Many Selves – The Inaugural Post

Taken by Flickr User: happyhorizons

Image via Wikipedia


I am a blogger based out of Bangalore, India.

My old blog was getting a little too cluttered- with Sri Aurobindo, Terrorists and Singularity jostling for space on a single browser window.

Hence I decided to have start this new blog, dedicated to topics that make up our sense of self, our aspirations and our highest goals.

Why the name “The Many Selves” ? –  I have noticed that what we are in our normal moments is only an aggregation of the many facets of us hidden inside. We are either the result of one predominating tendency, or a handful of them coming together to deliver a summed up experience.

Just as our emotional selves has its ups and downs, like us feeling peppy or depressed at different points of time, the notion of what we are also changes over a period of time. Or even many times within the same day.

I believe we become what we are.

But there is no single clear route by which we have arrived here. And our destinations too will not be reached in a known manner.

Regardless, the way to proceed forward in any endeavor is to confront, harness and utilize these individual selves.

The new blog will be a place where I share my thoughts and insights pertaining to this goal of harmonizing and letting the aggregate self move forward.

And in sharing these thoughts I hope you would take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your inner challenges. 

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What will you exceed today?

What yardstick will you make irrelevant? What myths dispel? What standards of ‘normal’ will you demolish? Which of your personal prejudices will you leave behind? What weaknesses squash? Whose hero or heroine will you be today? Whose savior? What mark will you leave upon this world?

In all that you do, ask yourself what you will exceed today.

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Labyrinth and Intelligence

Recently I had visited one of the offices of the company I work for. The office was a networked via walkways between a cluster of buildings over a few streets. Being my first visit, I was confused every time I had to negotiate the journey from point A to B.

This was a modern labyrinth, structured with brick and wood and glass. And every bit as beguiling as its ancient counterparts, which obviously would have served more explicit ill intent, in leading poor me on a tour of its facilities that I had rather not seen.

I perceived more clearly how I handle navigation. I am not one of those who can keep their bearing and find their way…I went by patterns, landmarks and a loose sense of which pattern was followed by another. With this I was able to negotiate the labyrinth. The errors I made, and had subsequently corrected, were used to reinforce the sequence of patterns I was to use as my navigation aids.

Not a flattering notion to have of myself, but is this how rats perform the trick of navigating mazes? If so, they must be really smart and perhaps we should give them something more decent than a piece of cheese at the end of the test 🙂

And I suppose this is how life is too for most of us, a vast labyrinth of possibilities, each leading to a different destination and its a test of our intelligence and will to negotiate it in a way that brings out the best possible outcome for us.

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Realizational Chain

I just began skimming through a book on information extraction

In the first chapter I came across the phrase which is the title of this post. Such depth and beauty in that phrase, that was my first impression when I cognized the meaning. And did not have to wait too long to know its origin, I reproduce the words of the author below…

This theoretical notion has its roots in the grammar that was written by the Indian grammarian Panini in the 6th – 5th century BC. According to this notion, meaning in a language is realized in the linguistic surface structure through a number of distinct linguistic levels, each of which is the result of a projection of the properties of higher, more abstract levels. For instance, for Panini the meaning of a simple sentence starts as an idea in the mind of a writer. It
then passes through the stage in which the event and all its participants are translated into a set of semantic concepts, each of which is in its turn translated in a set of grammatical and lexical concepts. These are in their turn translated into the character sequences that we see written down on a page of paper.

I have heard of Panini before and know that his contributions have extended beyond the Sanskrit language and has influenced advances in linguistics and the generative grammar work of Noam Chomsky. What was interesting in this quote above though was the detail of how language is wielded, or in a certain sense how language is created. Note the sentence that starts ‘For instance, for Panini…’ and follow it until end of quote.

What power or skill is it that brings about this magic, this act of conceiving a thought, placing it in the context of its environment and translating it into symbols of sound or letters! This process is like a miracle and yet so commonplace that we pay nary a thought to it. So common even kids of a few years are able to pull this feat off!

Imagine, to perceive something as intangible and bring it to reality, to even give it form is what the Creator or God is supposed to be doing, not common place folks like you and I! This notion got me thinking, if a common man can pull this feat of language, what is to prevent the giants of creation, the elect of God, to create things with a mere will? Christ creating bread and wine, Adi Shankara summoning Shiva and Narayana to receive his dying mother, Sri Krishna with his numerous acts of divine intervention, Rishi Vishwamitra creating a heaven for Trisanku..all seem within the scope of possibility. Not myths to entertain and keep chained a gullible public, but acts of such high order within the scheme of creation that only a handful of them are able to pull it off.

Sublime are the moments when reason falters and gives way to a simple awe, like a child looking upon in wonder the simple deeds of its parent. Perhaps we too are like that when witnessing the marvels of the Creator, after letting go of our vain imaginings of course!

I shall leave you with a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy“. And perhaps we need to mention modern science in addition to philosophy.

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State Machine of the Self

Man is an enigma.

For all his assured poise in regard to the external world, his position when it comes to questions on himself is shaky at best. Am not talking about the fundamental questions of existence, this is something more immediate, the who we are now, how we came to be thus and what control, if at all, do we have on what we become.

I have been thinking about certain traits of myself, not undesirable in themselves, but the absence of which would be highly desirable. I questioned myself in a series of introspective sessions thus, ‘where does this start?’. I did not use any rational technique to do this. I used the free-association way of letting the mind loose, but set the goal up-front, to see what raw data it brought up. What an experience! And I know for sure I have barely scratched the surface here.

The details of what came up are not relevant, at least to this post, but what I found amazing was this – we seem to be a very complex state-machine, fed by an enormous number of signals that determine what subsequent states we attain. Capable of multiple parallel fuzzy states of activation, we seem a massive soft machine of infinite complexity and possibility.

Every gesture has the timeless past for its ancestors. This immense legacy endows to every act the sanctity of a ritual. But this history is a burden too – It shackles our future to the past, which in some cases we would rather not have gone through. Living in the mire has endowed us with some of its characteristics.

Numerous questions come up in the light of this thought – By how much do hereditary factors control our initial state? What impact does the environment have on the signals that influence our transitions? Is our initial state only determined by hereditary factors, or is there a yet deeper past of the individual, one that goes beyond this specific manifestation of his soul? Is every state of being open to attainment from any given state? Is eternal damnation a reality?

I have no answers to any of these. Of course I could parrot the thoughts and opinions from my religious or spiritual system but that is not the option I would take. Now is not the time for talk. Knowledge does not reveal its true riches unless paid for by experience. Every release will have to be earned. The Infinite Maker, it seems, is an exacting accountant.

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