Book Review – Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

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Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever thought of a comic book about maths, philosophy and logic? Well that’s what this is! It’s a fun and cool comic based on the life of Bertrand Russell which is almost close to reality. We see how the foundations of logic and maths were laid by eminent people during that time amid war and strife. Overall it’s an interesting read with some pretty nice graphics! Also it’s a quick read. I guess it is even more fun if one has read or studied some of the concepts discussed here atleast at a high level. Would love to read more books like these which depict science stories via comics!

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Book Review: Meditations

MeditationsMeditations by Marcus Aurelius

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book indeed is an insightful read!

It was on my books-to-read shelf since some time. I had another version of this book and it was a difficult read. I could not read it beyond a couple of chapters. Then I picked up the edition translated by Gregory Hays and this was a great read. Specially the long introduction in the beginning lays a nice foundation covering multiple aspects like Marcus Aurelius’s life, stoicism, as well as discussion about the contents and style of the book. This gives the reader an idea about what to expect ahead in the book.

Content wise the book is filled with learnings and lessons learnt by Marcus Aurelius. Although I don’t agree completely with his philosophy but most of the messages in the book are deep and thought-provoking. As mentioned in the Introduction, Marcus wrote this book for himself and it wasn’t to be published or read by others. And this is clearly reflected in the style of the book. Although the book has chapters, but it does not seem to have any logical separation of the content. Also some of the ideas keep repeating throughout the book. Probably, it throws light on things which Marcus frequently pondered upon. In my opinion, it might be interesting if all the thoughts can be arranged topic wise. Also it will make a nice calendar book with a message to ponder each day.

Some of my favourite lines from the book are:

  • “People try to get away from it all—to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like. By going within. Nowhere you can go is more peaceful—more free of interruptions—than your own soul.”
  • “The tranquillity that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.”
  • “The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”
  • “If anyone can refute me—show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”
  • “Our own worth is measured by what we devote our energy to.”
  • “The soul as a sphere in equilibrium: Not grasping at things beyond it or retreating inward. Not fragmenting outward, not sinking back on itself, but ablaze with light and looking at the truth, without and within.

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Models of Self

Each and every one of us has a core being or Self. It is basically everything that represents us, our characteristics, our features, our likes and dislikes, our fears, our triggers, our qualities and everything else… A point which is everything we actually are!

Then we have an image of our Self, which is how we perceive our Self to be. It is not an actual or true version of the real Self but our model of who we think we are!

And then there are models of our Self made by people who interact with us. From our friends, family and acquaintances, everyone who knows us creates a representation of our Self (and we in turn create models of their Self). People with whom we interact frequently, save a model of our Self for future use. On the other hand, even strangers whom we meet momentarily, create a model of our Self, however it is mostly temporary and is soon lost.

Thus let’s say a person A who is in a 50 seater bus has 10 family and friends. He will have approx 1 + 10 + 50 models of his Self in the universe! 11 (1 + 10, his own and his family and friends) are permanent, whereas rest 50 are temporary and will be deleted probably when he gets down the bus. I like the example of a similar concept from the movie Coco, where a person actually dies when nobody has his memory (model of Self) any more.

Our model of our own Self is the most important thing for us. There are some characteristics of ours which we like and thus project in our model of Self. On the other hand, there are some characteristics, which we don’t like and we try to project its opposite in our model of Self. However hard we try, we always know when we are not being true to our Self. It’s one thing to not know some of the qualities of our Self and it’s another to project the negation of the qualities of our Self. In the long term, such inverse projections might be very detrimental. There are also some features of our Self which we ourself might not know due to a variety of reasons! And discovering these characteristics can lead to a much more complete representation of our Self.

Most people form a model of our Self, based on the model which we project. So let’s say if I project that I’m kind and repeatedly show this quality in my behaviour then people believe that I’m kind and create a model of me which is also kind. Also, if we project a lot of things which we are not, then the peoples’ model of our self, our own model of our self and our true Self are very different! And it is difficult to navigate in life with drastically different models of our Self.

Apart from creating a model of our Self, we also care how others create a model of our Self. We have high expectations of how others should perceive us and think about us and we act accordingly, sometimes even with it’s not true. The more people we interact with the more models of our Self we care about. Ideally it is great if we don’t think or care about what others think about us and just be the way we are! However that’s hard to do. In that case, another option is to have fewer relations which in turn leads to opinion of fewer people we care about how they model our Self.

If one is really lucky, then one might find a mentor who can see some part of the true Self and not just the version which we are projecting to the world. These mentors can be crucial on the road to self discovery as they can point us towards something which we ourself do not know about our Self.

It is of utmost importance to discover our true Self. Because that’s the only thing which is permanent and real for us. Rest everything in the world are other people just like us and the environment in which we exist. Our Self is the only thing which exists with us all the time! It is there with us since our lifetime, from our birth to death. We may have a lot of family and friends, but each one of them is busy maintaining and projecting their model of Self. No one is truly there with us in this world. We come alone and we go alone. And we only see the models of other people and never their actual Self. We get to interact our model of Self with others’ model of their Self while we are alive. That’s why our own actual Self is the ONLY truth that we know of, for sure.

Probably that’s why it is such a big deal to discover our Self. And our Self is always with us. We need not necessarily go on retreats and trips in order to discover our Self. We can find our Self wherever we are! Whether it’s while sitting in an office chair or relaxing in the bed. However, some places might be more conducive to discover our Self that others and one can always go there if it helps, for example a mountain or a beach!

Discovering our Self is not an easy task! I’m not even sure if it is possible to do it in a lifetime! One of the ways of discovering our Self is by learning to focus our mind to look within. And inside, it’s like an ocean! It contains everything, the good, bad and ugly. The good part is fine but it’s really hard to accept the bad and the ugly aspects. However, each of us has all three aspects and the sooner we accept it the more true we can be to our Self! Self discovery is a three step process: Discover, Accept and Project. Discover the characteristics of the the true Self. Accept your Self and its characteristics as it is. Project these characteristics in the model of your Self.

Our goal should be to project the model of our Self and behave in ways which match the characteristics of our true Self. In this way, other people will also build models of our Self which are similar to our model and our true Self. And thus all the models of our Self will have a lot of things in common, and the similarity among the models will be high.

Let’s move on the road of Self discovery!

IC : https://pixabay.com/photos/audience-crowd-people-persons-828584/

Book Review: The Theory of Being

The Theory of Being: Systems science from a traditional Indian perspective

The Theory of Being: Systems science from a traditional Indian perspective by Srinath Srinivasa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are a few books out there which can completely change how we think and model the world around us as well as ourself, and this book is one such book!

Most of us perceive the world and ourself in a machine hermeneutic way. It is discussed in detail in the first half of the book. Basically it is a mechanised design where everything is a component of the overarching system and performs its defined role. We may ourself not know how deeply such principles are ingrained in us, and affect our day to day decisions and actions!

In the second half of the book, a new model is introduced titled Theory of Being (as the title of the book). It completely contrasts from the machine hermeneutic way and looks at everything as a being. All the related terms and concepts are explained in detail and clearly distinguished from the usually believed meaning of those concepts. For example, most of us think that dharma means religion, but actually it doesn’t! Overall, the theory is just mind-blowing! Once we understand it, it completely changes our point of view. It is elaborated how this theory can be used to rethink and redesign systems with suggested steps which can be taken in order to build sustainable systems. Finally, the book ends with an intriguing vision of how the future might look in both machine and being oriented worlds!

The core principles of the Theory of Being come from the Indic thought. However, if we pick a related scripture and read it, it is really hard to understand and more importantly difficult to relate. This book presents an interpretation of that Indic thought which is understandable and relatable to a person who has some basic knowledge of systems thinking, basic mathematics and game theory. This book also shows how little we know and how superficial and flawed our knowledge is regarding our our own rich Indic systems and theories.

Also, this is one of those books, from which one can understand something new, every time it is reread! I have read some parts of this book multiple times and every time I got some new insights to ponder! Many lines lead to an aha moment! An amalgamation of the core theory along with lots of interesting examples, personal experiences and anecdotes, makes it an amazing read!

P.S.- I have had multiple insightful discussions on many concepts and ideas presented in this book with Prof. Srinath and these discussions have greatly helped me in understanding it with more clarity.

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Self Esteem vs Ego

Angel vs Demon

Ego can be defined as the feeling of “self”. I don’t think ego is bad. Ego is just knowing the difference between ourselves and others. As the popular quote by Aristotle goes – “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Everyone must have a sense of self-respect and self-esteem. Without these two qualities, the world starts extracting unjust benefits from us in every possible way, which is not good. Also its a big gift to know one’s self-worth. However when this ego is boosted more and more, a person starts having a superiority complex by which he starts feeling that he is superior that everyone else. And this may include one’s parents, teachers, elders and other wise people. And i think this is where the problem begins. So further, lets consider ego in its extreme form and analyze it.

Due to highly egoistic attitude, people start taking things for granted. They consider that they are the kings and queens of the world and even start behaving like that. And worst of all, they also expect others to treat them in the same way ! I can say that such attitude is highly detrimental specially for students. If students consider themselves the master, then there is no way in which  their master (teacher/Guru) can give them knowledge. As they say, how can a teacher fill a cup when it is already full. Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” We need to  empty our cups before comings to our Gurus. And believe me there is nothing wrong or embarrassing about it. Its always good to make a fresh new start.

Its always good to be respectful and humble.  Our elders may not be always correct (they are also humans like us) but we must always remember that they have more wisdom than us because of their experience. They have seen more life than us and i am sure there cannot be a better teacher than life. We must not always blindly agree with what others say, but at the same time we must have faith and respect in them. We must not confront them rudely however we must be able to express our views to them. They are our well-wishers and work towards our best interests. So instead of disrespecting others, i feel that it is always better to look at the positive aspects of others and try to inculcate those qualities in ourselves.  After all who are we to judge others. I think if we feel the urge to judge someone then we should rather judge ourselves. An awesome thought i heard today which made me think all this is – “Even the cow gives milk only when you sit down near its feet on your knees, and not when you ride on its back.”

There is a very fine line between self-esteem (the angel) and ego (the demon).  Only the smart ones can see the difference between these. This is the thing which we need to master. If we can determine whether our actions will boost our ego or our self-esteem then we can consider ourselves to be “wise”. To the ones who want to be wise, here is a quote by Confucius which i like a lot –
“By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
I think is some cases its wise to learn from others experience as well. I consider myself blessed to have such parents and teachers who always encourage me to express my views and at the same time argue and stand for my views. “Lucky me !” 🙂

On a lighter note here is a news flash !
“The earth revolves around the sun. This might upset a few out there who still think that the world revolves around them.” 😉

Book Review – The Fountainhead

Since a long time i was planning to read The Fountainhead. But my final semester exams, the thickness of the book and its small font prevented me from reading it earlier 🙂

But it was worth the wait. It is an awesome book. Ayn Rand the author has described all the characters of the book to such a minute detail that they literally come alive in front of the eyes.  It is a 1943 novel but almost all the scenarios described in it are valid even today. It is a bestseller and millions of copies have been sold all over the world in many languages. The book is mainly based on the life of two architects who compete, struggle and fight with each other to get success, money and recognition.

I specially loved the character of Howard Roark who maintains his individualism till any extent. He gives a speech in the end which is superb. Roark is an example of the type of person, a person should. Thus we can say that he is an ideal. His friend and college mate Peter is the opposite of him. He can fall to any extent to see himself good in others’ eyes. A term which i liked in this regard which has been coined in this book is second-hander i.e. a person who does everything to please others and is nothing by himself. Dominique’s speech in the courtroom again makes an awesome read.

This book has been added to my favorites 🙂 I just could not leave it once i started reading it. All the human sentiments from love, anger, revenge, jealousy, sacrifice … are filled in this book. Do read it when you get time. Its amazing ! I finally got how a bestseller should be 😀