I went on a meditation retreat (#184)

Recently, I went on a solo meditation retreat somewhere close to the Himalayas for 4 days.

The shadow of me sitting cross-legged on a rock.

It was a powerful experience and I am glad to have done it.

Since the time of planning and telling relevant people about my plans, this was looked at by some almost as a suicide mission.

A sixteen year old going all alone TO MEDITATE in a new city, a new state, among the cold mountains, with bad connection, chances of landslides, likelihood of being eaten by a leopard, getting kidnapped or worst of all—getting converted to becoming a full time monk and never returning home!

Why can’t you just meditate here?

I’ve always wanted to go to the Himalayas and just meditate there.

In a sort of joking manner, (I say “sort of” because I’m very well capable of doing this) I’ve felt for the longest time that becoming a monk is the best career option on the market.

Monks are like the happiest people in the world! And if nothing works out, I’mma go be a monk in the Himalayas.

The Himalayas.

The reason I actually wanted to go to the retreat was– well there was no particular reason. I just felt like going there one day. I wanted to go somewhere adventurous, somewhere peaceful. And I wanted to go there as soon as I could.

I realised that nothing was stopping me from actually doing it. If not become a full-time monk just yet, I could still go on a short retreat. With my own money. Entirely on my own.

And so exactly 21 days after the first thought that “I could just go”, I booked plane tickets to my desired location, and a not-so-fancy stay lodge for the period of time I intended to stay there and boom, it was happening.

I’m writing these words on the plane back “home” (I write home in scare quotes because I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. What is home? Is it the place we spend most of our time at? Is it the place we’ve actually invested in buying an actual home and wholeheartedly crafted according to our whims? Is it the place where we get “the best food”? I don’t know. I think the world is my home and everywhere I go, it’s my duty to make it actually so.) That was a huge bracket.

As I write these words on my way back, I feel elated. And humbled. One of my big intentions from the retreat was to get freed again from vanity and recognize the fact that I was no one and no-thing. But of course, pride is such a thing that it is possible to take pride in one’s humility itself. And becoming humbled like most other things (e.g. being happy, calm or at peace) isn’t a one-time thing. It’s like becoming healthy or losing weight. One needs to consistently put in the work to REMAIN in that state.

The reason I feel elated is because I did something truly adventurous. It wasn’t an easy ride. I had my fair share (though reasonably few) of anxieties. Especially when the lights cut out on night #1 of the retreat. That was rough. But I tried remaining calm and that worked. An absence of photons in the visible wavelength of light is generally OK and something I can handle. Sure, the unfamiliarity of the situation caused some concern but if the world were to be my home, I must act like so. The point is, I undertook a serious challenge. And many of the concerns regarding my doing so by family and friends were probably for good reason.

What if something happens to you?

Well, then that would be way better than if nothing ever happened to me. That’s why I never let any of those concerns give me second thoughts about going on that adventure.

All in all, doing something bigger than myself is what makes me feel so elated right now. (Also, on the airport I caught the sight of someone who seemed to be backpacking India. I made up the courage and calm required to go start a conversation with her though she was reading—which is a very good excuse to not disturb a stranger you wish to speak to. “They’re busy.” But I went up and started talking anyway and found out some cool things about her and that again makes me feel quite good. There was no need even for the slightest hesitation. Talk to strangers, kids.)

Now let’s go into the specifics of the retreat and I’ll explain the humility aspect of it.

I experimented with non-dual mindfulness. Not for the first time did I do this but I really wanted to “get it” this time on the retreat and feel humbled by my true first person nature.

I used the Waking Up app created by Sam Harris and meditated for about 5 hours on day #1. The second day, I felt more lousy. The fact that it was raining outside made it a bit worse. On day #1, I went outside and sat on a rock and did my thing. I also walked very intentionally every now and then because you just can’t physically sit that long. Walking meditations are a thing. But on day #2, I had to stay indoors for some time and do the best I could there.

I was almost completely disconnected (but perhaps felt more connected than I ever had been). The only communication was with my parents whom I occasionally had to send updates to via texting. And the two people (and lone dog) at the stay lodge who gave me food and a little company when it got dark and cold.

Otherwise, there was no “work”. I made a resolution to reading no books, writing not for publishing, and of course no social media. I meditated, I ran, and I wrote in my journal. That’s all.

Me running.

I was there for four days and three nights but I really got only two days to meditate completely. It was peaceful otherwise too.

I’m not sure if I grasped the no-self point experientially. I always got it theoretically though. I just need to feel it. Maybe on my next retreat. Or during a “regular” day of meditation practice.

I want to maintain a composure of humility. I’ve been generally thought quite proud and boastful to an extent and I want to lessen that to a healthy degree. It will take consistent work. Which I’m ready for.

With the present retreat, I got time to rest. And I needed it, not gonna lie.

I’ve been being pulled in many directions for some time now and that stops me from literally doing anything. And so I while away my time checking email and my Twitter notifications for the 34th time of the day and get saddened upon not finding anything quite stimulating.

But without any of that, I actually could take each step on the retreat. And so I intend not to fall back to my frivolous habits when I get back “home”. Instead, I’ll intentionally carve out time blocks for certain activities and actually try very hard to follow them this time around.

I took pictures on my retreat but without caring much on how they came out. I’d just click them during the day and check them in the Photos app at night. I think there’s a certain way to take pictures without being entirely sucked up by the act of doing so and hence not being able to be present and actually enjoy the real view (which FYI is so much better than that on the camera). I tried to use that way of taking pictures. For the sake of capturing moments, as it were.

That’s pretty much it.

I’ll always be a work in progress and always at the beginning. Yet, this was very fun.

Until the next one. But for now, all I have is the here and now. Each step.

How to Journal for Increased Productivity, Meaning and Motivation (#183)

Note: I’m assuming you’ve already heard “journaling is good for you”. And that you’ve somewhat been convinced. Carry on if that’s the case. If not, spend half an hour watching “journaling” videos on YouTube and come back here to add meaningful structure to the habit that’s going to change your life.


I’ve been using some journaling / reflection frameworks recently for increased productivity, meaning and motivation in my life. I want to share those same frameworks so you can get value from them too. Hope this helps!

The daily

Every day I ask myself two questions (one in the morning and the other in the evening) as American polymath Benjamin Franklin would ask himself.

From Franklin’s diary. Source: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The morning question: What good shall I do this day?
Evening question: What good have I done today?

I answer these in my physical notebook journal. You can do what suits you best. Pen and paper is good because it leaves aside all the distractions from your devices. If you can maintain a distance from the ease with which you click “new tab” on your laptop, you could use a digital note-taking system. Just FYI, a pen and paper also feels good.

The weekly

To track and reflect on the week I ask myself three questions (inspired by James Clear this time around)

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What did I learn?

I do this too in my physical notebook journal.

The monthly, quarterly and yearly

The same questions we asked for our weekly review can be duplicated into the monthly, the quarterly, and the yearly.

I don’t do monthly reviews. I think they’re too small a scale to really do something of sizeable quantity. They sort of overlap with the weekly ones. I do quarterly and yearly reviews. And I do these on my Notion database for easier access and organization even if I don’t open them for a while.

What I have to do vs. what I want to do

Productivity needn’t be cold. You can add intention to the things you do (and probably save your life) with the help of this framework.

Make a Venn diagram consisting of one circle with all the things you “have to” do. And the other circle will have all the things you “want to” do. The intersection part will be a combination of things you “want to” and “have to” do.

If there’s a lot of things in the “have to” do space and I figure I’m not doing many things I want to be doing, then I know there’s something wrong and I change my path accordingly.

Example diagram

There’s also another (more cold) framework called the Eisenhower Matrix that can be used to figure out perhaps in a simpler way what you need to get done. You essentially lay out things you have to do in terms of important / not important and urgent / not urgent. It’s a cool framework but I don’t use it because it doesn’t take the “want to” aspect into it; hence not making me think with a deeper layer of intentionality about what I’m doing.

I do the Venn diagram in my physical notebook journal. I carry my journal everywhere.

Conclusion

That’s all. These frameworks really help me. Feel free to duplicate them for your own use and make the best of the art of reflection.

When you should take someone’s word for it (#182)

Hint: never.


Nullius in verba is our motto here. In Latin, it roughly means “take no one’s word for it”.

When people hear that phrase, a common argument that pops up against it is that you sometimes have to take someone’s word for it. You can’t personally recreate the whole of human knowledge now, can you?

There’s a few misconceptions in that argument because you actually DON’T have to “personally recreate the whole of human knowledge” to not take someone’s word for it.

Misconception #1:

You have to learn the whole of human knowledge to understand everything that can be understood.

You don’t! You don’t have to memorize and know every single fact to fundamentally understand everything that can be understood. Facts can be looked up. And predictions derived. If you understand the deep underlying theories behind everything, then you know at a high level how everything works. And this can all be understood by a single person.

As new theories succeed old ones, our knowledge becomes deeper as our fundamental theories become more general. Our deepest explanations and theories are becoming so integrated with one another that they can be understood only jointly.

We can have explanations that can reach the entire universe.

Note: this doesn’t mean one doesn’t need people. In his famous essay, “I, Pencil”, Leonard E. Reed argues that no one person—repeat, no one, no matter how smart—could create from scratch a small, everyday pencil. People’s minds are a bank of knowledge. We need access to them to solve more problems and for the act of creation to occur. Rather, even to create the most mundane of items such as a pencil. People are better working together, best if they do without any constraints on their thinking.

Misconception #2:

Seeking and understanding good explanations = taking someone’s word for it

This is a big one. If a person is trying to understand something by asking some “expert” a doubt, this (confused) way of thinking concludes that person is taking the expert’s word for it.

No!

That person is seeking an explanation. Not blindly taking the expert authority’s word for it. If the explanation is not satisfactory (i.e. not hard to vary) then that person will not take the expert’s statement into account. At least the rational person won’t.

For example: If the “expert” says, “To sleep well at night, switch on a strong white light that flashes right onto your closed eyes”… The person seeking good explanations will ask, “How will that affect my sleep in a positive way?”

That person wouldn’t blindly take the expert’s word for it.

Similarly, if a person who seeks good explanations asks a sleep expert: “How can I get better sleep?” and the expert answers: “Make sure not to expose yourself to any sort of blue light that would be flowing out of your digital devices 2 hours before bed. At night time, choose to switch on some calming red light while you perhaps do some physical book reading. Blue light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. Artificial blue light makes your human brain think its morning, not shut-eye time. So it stops producing a lot of melatonin. A hormone that’s produced more of in darkness. All kinds of light suppress melatonin production but especially blue light. Red or dim yellow light does so the least and can actually be soothing while getting ready for bed.”

This answer would be taken satisfactorily by the seeker of good explanations. Perhaps the person might also ask for some research studies on the point. And this completely wouldn’t be taking anyone’s word for it. It would be understanding a good explanation behind why you shouldn’t expose your eyes to blue light before bed. [1]

Seeking and understanding good explanations ≠ taking someone’s word for it

Misconception #3:

Following someone’s instincts and intuitions = taking someone’s word for it

Now the critic might think, OK fine, but at urgent times when you have to listen to someone, that’s taking someone’s word for it. Like if you’re on a plane with Maverick from Top Gun and something goes wrong—and let’s assume you are a complete doofus when it comes to planes—and Maverick shouts at you to pull up a lever, you don’t question him but pull that lever!

Top Gun: Maverick

You’re supposedly taking his word for it by trusting his instincts.

But are you really? That choice to pull up the lever too is somewhat independent thinking. The person you’re with knows what he’s doing. Or rather you know or you suppose he knows what he’s doing in the literal split second time you have to think. You know that you’re dumb when it comes to planes and if you don’t follow Maverick’s orders you both might die.

Perhaps when Maverick tells you to pull the lever and as if it weren’t obvious enough, you ask him “Why?!” and he screams back, “We’ll both die if you don’t!” that should be enough if you a priori know that Maverick knows his stuff when it comes to planes and that you’re both in quite a lot of danger so following his orders seems to be the rational thing to do.

So when are you actually taking someone’s word for it?

Now it might seem like: OK, so when is someone actually taking someone’s word for it?

There are many instances of when people take someone’s word for it.

  • When they don’t seek good explanations and be satisfied with arguments from authority
  • When they mistake “it is written” as a justified explanation
  • When they mistake supposed intuition for explanation
  • When “trust” supersedes the need for a good explanation
  • When anything is out of bounds and accepted (perhaps obligatorily) as unquestionable

It’s the (completely different) ways in which people don’t take someone’s word for it, by…

  • seeking good explanations,
  • understanding deep underlying theories,
  • accounting trust for a good enough explanation

that removes the need for taking someone’s word for it.

And so stands tall our motto:

Nullius in verba


Endnotes

[1] – This wasn’t an example of a direct explanation. Rather some advice built from a good explanation about human sleep. This was due to the nature of the question: “How can I get better sleep?”

References

Dead Poets Society: a film review (#181)

This is another article I wrote for the Taking Children Seriously website.

This time, its a film review! On the thoroughly inspiring, and somewhat infuriating film Dead Poets Society featuring Robin Williams.

Read it on the Taking Children Seriously website here.


Taking Children Seriously is a beautiful parenting philosophy that began with the views of Sarah Fitz-Claridge and David Deutsch inspired by the epistemology of Karl Popper. It is a non-paternalistic view of children: like other groups of human beings, children are people, not pets, prisoners or property. Full people whose lives are their own, not a different kind of person who can be coerced, enslaved or discriminated against. Full, equal humans, not inferior.

If you’re hearing of TCS for the first time, that description might surely raise an eyebrow out of skepticism. But Taking Children Seriously is based on a very good explanation of people and the nature of knowledge which makes it the most reasonable method of raising children so far.

To learn more, see their website at takingchildrenseriously.com or listen to my podcast with Sarah Fitz-Claridge, one of the founders of the philosophy.

Why I haven’t posted in 10 days (#180)

There’s a lot going on. But also not a whole lot. Let me explain.

Changing houses

So we recently moved houses. And I’m at this entirely new part of the city which is absolutely beautiful. Well at least comparatively much more beautiful. I’m still around in the city but there’s trees, lots of trees. And there’s a lake. A lake that looks like those heavenly animated pictures yet feels so real early in the mornings when I pass it on my run. Trees and lakes bless the city life.

That’s one aspect of the whole lot that’s been going on. When you change locations, you’re allowing yourself an entirely new environment where you can cultivate great habits again and more easily remove bad ones from your life. But it’s even more easy to go the other way and fall into a bad spiral just upon getting to a new location if you’re not conscious about the seeds you’re planting.

I’m trying to stay on the good side.

Getting paid

By the way, I’m finally earning now. But… it’s weird.

You see, I read Robert Kiyosaki a while ago. And if I am to follow Rich Dad’s advice, then I must not work for money (if this sounds weird to you, you need to read Rich Dad Poor Dad first). I should certainly learn through doing work for others. But not work for money. Because that would create the employee mindset in me. Something I do not wish to have.

So this work I’m getting paid for is essentially copywriting. Copywriting for a couple of firms.

“firms” makes it too formal. There’s really these two people (who, for the record are going to read this part of the blog post because I’m going to send it to them) whom I met online and they both have their own firms. We’re actually friends. Now apparently they might be thinking I write okay so they asked me if I’d write stuff for them. I said yes, of course! And now I’m getting paid.

So what’s weird in all this?

Well, a part of me thinks that I’m working for money which is exactly what Rich Dad told me to stay away from being lured into. But another part assures me that I’m actually working with people and I’m essentially getting paid to learn.

And I really am learning a bunch. But I’m doing it for money. See the problem?

School is being school

On top of all this I’m still regarded as a student. I don’t regard myself as a student anymore, but people tend to do. Because I’m still in high school.

And (there’s no sugarcoating this) it is wasting my life.

I get into the most unexpected of troubles at school. I “talk back” to the teacher and that is not appreciated there. I get out of class (because… I’d rather stay anywhere else than class) and just disappear for a while. So they catch me and call my parents and tell them about my disobedient behavior. And the play goes on. The only thing I like about there is my fellow classmates. At least their minds are open to different ideas.

As you can guess, I literally don’t care about school. If I did in the slightest there would be no chance of me publishing these words. As I said, I’m not a student anymore.

So why am I in school?

Well, I’m intensely searching for ways to get out. I almost succeeded by getting close to joining this unconventional online school but I didn’t do that in the end. I still have constraints put over me on selecting the alternative school and I can’t really dropout without the strongest of reasons. But I do have liberty to not care about school.

(If you can help me in my situation, please DM or email me.)

Small big things

Beyond these, there are a few “small big things” that are keeping me alive (and away from posting these blogs):

  • I recently had a podcast to do. One I was looking forward to for quite some time. But my guest had an unfortunate event come up for which we needed to reschedule at the last moment. However of course, I had been doing all the research and question drafting. And they shall be used another day now.

  • I’m doing the New York Academy of Science’s The Junior Program which is very cool. I’ve been getting to know a bunch of people and we need to work together starting soon.

There’s probably stuff I’m forgetting. Most of the while I just know I have work to do without ever actually knowing what particular work I have to do. So when I explain to my friends that I can’t come to a party because I have work to do and they ask, “what work?” I just repeat what’s already been said.

“I have work”.

I don’t have work

All of this seems a lot but it really isn’t. Because I’m aware of the time I squandered when I could indeed have been writing.

I always picked up an excuse. Sometimes though, they made sense. I really needed to rest.

Sorry for not posting these past ten days.

This post too could have been a journal entry. I’m not even going to edit this more than minimally required. But I hope you liked it.

Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich: a book review (#179)

I wrote a book review of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society for the wonderful Taking Children Seriously website that was relaunched recently.

You can read it on the Taking Children Seriously website here.


Taking Children Seriously is a beautiful parenting philosophy that began with the views of Sarah Fitz-Claridge and David Deutsch inspired by the epistemology of Karl Popper. It is a non-paternalistic view of children: like other groups of human beings, children are people, not pets, prisoners or property. Full people whose lives are their own, not a different kind of person who can be coerced, enslaved or discriminated against. Full, equal humans, not inferior.

If you’re hearing of TCS for the first time, that description might surely raise an eyebrow out of skepticism. But Taking Children Seriously is based on a very good explanation of people and the nature of knowledge which makes it the most reasonable method of raising children so far.

To learn more, see their website at takingchildrenseriously.com or listen to my podcast with Sarah Fitz-Claridge, one of the founders of the philosophy.

My story from relativist to fallibilist (#178)

At one point doesn’t everything seem relative? What even is truth if not that which is true relative to the person?

This echoes the philosophy of relativism. It states that truth is relative to the individual. There is no absolute truth, according to the relativists. If there is one, we cannot know it. Because everything is relative to the individual, anyone and everyone has an equally justified truth claim; even if two claims clash, they are both true. Relativists, of course, do not make any absolute claims to truth. Except perhaps the claim that all is relative. Which is quite ironic.


Back in May of 2021 when I was taking an absolutely brilliant online course on understanding Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, a giant epiphany struck me.

Einstein’s (weird) paper in 1905 challenged Newton’s conception (which was widely held) that time was absolute.

Exactly how did young Einstein criticize such an elegant theory? Why, with a thought experiment of course! The child-like sage imagined how it would be like to ride on a beam of light.

Leaving the eccentric thought process that led to the creation of his theory behind and coming now to the actual theory, the Special Theory of Relativity says that space and time are relative. Time dilates and space contracts in “special” cases where the speed of light is involved. What you see and what I see is relative to each of us (i.e. to our place and speed).

I was learning all this in the course. It was weird and took its time to make sense to my classically accommodated brain but it was very very interesting.

Then one day, out of the blue, it dawned on me.

Isn’t EVERYTHING relative?

Of course the most profound bit of EVERYTHING was that it involved the mightiest of all, the capital-T Truth.

Truth herself seemingly became relative to me then and there.

I did not know then that relativism was a thing. I did not even bother to search about it. I was convinced that I had just formed an astounding new theory: the theory of “everything being relative”.

Not so soon later, I discovered that the epiphany I had once had, on the relative nature of everything—Truth including—was actually the common idea of an age-old philosophy called relativism.

I had simply extrapolated Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity to EVERYTHING and surprisingly that certain thought overlapped with one of the most popular philosophical doctrines of all time.

Then I sort of started to think of myself as a moral relativist. Of course I didn’t think EVERYTHING was relative. Nor did I think science and the laws of nature were relative in their intrinsic form. But I did believe that what people thought of as true or as good or bad was relative to themselves and their culture.


Then I read The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. And I’m no longer a relativist in any sense of the word.

Firstly, right off the bat; relativism is self refuting. Which means it successfully refutes its own theory as false. If all is relative, I could say that all is not relative and I would be correct as looked at from the lens of relativism. Ironically then, at the heart of relativism is a seemingly absolute claim (“all is relative to the individual”).

Next, relativists are impotent in the face of evil. They take all stances as equally true. They will non-judgmentally accept even the most objectively evil act possible as “good” if the people who commit the sin come with good intentions and themselves think they are doing good. Thus, relativists pose danger to civilization. (And that’s one reason why you do not see a relativist with high political power.)

Now fallibilism, something I came across in the book, is the stance that you could be wrong. That unlike in relativism, there actually is something to be wrong about.

Knowledge is never justified. It is conjectural and may turn out to be false. We cannot attain the ultimate Truth but we can always correct our errors. In embracing the fact that you could be wrong about something you realize the opportunity present for making progress (and improvement).

That’s pretty much all there is to fallibilism.

But the implications of this are immense. And this is also an easily misunderstood stance when first heard about. So let’s unpack a little bit.


The common conception of knowledge is justified true belief (JTB). Which is that, knowledge or truth needs to be justified. This can either be done, think the justified truth believers, through evidence (if all I ever observe are white swans, then I can justifiably conclude that black swans do not exist because the evidence doesn’t suggest the existence of them), or through dogma (for example, whatever is written in the Bible is the word of God and hence is justified and true), or through the relative nature of things (believing that truth, morality and ethics are relative—so everyone’s stance is justified according to the context of their arrival at the conclusion).

But this stance of JTB really breaks down easily and justifying knowledge or truth is really a pointless chase. Here’s why.

  • Evidence can always be overturned. With greater evidence, a black swan might magically pop into existence where it was formerly justified that only white swans exist. And so believing that a conclusion is “true” is rather futile. However strange that sounds we must accept that we cannot attain final truth as a fact about knowledge creation.
  • Dogma does not take knowledge creation into account. Dogmatists believe that all to be known is already known and anything against their creed is plainly wrong. They will accept their dogma even after it has been falsified by a better explanation. And this is where the problem lies. A lack of progress or a false understanding of the world might in the worst case, lead the dogma and the dogmatists into extinction.
  • Relativism, as already critiqued, is self-refuting.

Out of them all, it is fallibilism that does not need any justifying, which, as established, is a futile task.

Fallibilists think even our most precious theories could turn out false (i.e be falsified) with a better explanation of reality. Like Newton’s beautiful theory which was criticized by Einstein. We are all infinitely ignorant and that is what makes continual progress possible (and necessary!). Hence, fallibilists do not talk in terms of absolute nor relative truth. Only objective truth. Explanations and knowledge about the world could be falsified with proper criticisms to them. But even false theories can be useful. For example, we still launch rockets applying Newton’s (false) equations derived from his (false) theory.

Solving problems through knowledge and making progress ad infinitum is at the heart of fallibilism. Relativism dismisses any act of judgment and justifies all claims to truth. Fallibilism rejects any form of authority and justification.

And that’s why I am no longer a relativist (sorry Einstein!).


Footnotes

  • Shoutout to the incredible online course I took on Coursera. Larry Lagerstrom, the course instructor, does a very cool job explaining Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity even for the extreme lay person. Definitely worth investing the time. (There’s so much amazing free knowledge online!)

Sources:

but why can’t I ask “why”? (#177)

In school, I’m often accused of talking back at the teacher. One day, after being annoyed by a seemingly unreasonable question for the nth time, the teacher coldly demanded of me, “Never ask me why.”

I thought that was rather dumb so I scoffed and said, “What? Why?

On other occasions, I’ve heard imposing comments (as anyone who’s been to school might have made themselves acquainted with too) such as:

“You can’t back answer a teacher.”

“Do what you’re told. Don’t act over smart.”

“Never doubt the teacher.”

As it happens, if you can’t answer a question, it’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask. But most ingrained in tradition tend to shoo away such seemingly unreasonable questions—questions they don’t know the answers to or questions that are inappropriate to that which-has-always-been-done. Truthfully these kinds of questions can only be answered by saying something along the lines of “because it has always been done this way”. And of course, those answers can in turn be vexingly questioned, “But why does it have to be done the same way this time?” and that would unsurprisingly not be followed by an answer but rather words or actions that would obligate the person questioning to shut his outlandish mouth up.

It’s weird. Questions are more valuable than answers, the edit is more valuable than the first draft, yet specific forms of thinking shun out any kind of criticism to dogma and modern society tends to subtly (but strongly) dampen a person’s questioning faculties since the time the child is required to attend school.

I like to think we humans as incessantly being on the equivalent to a first draft. We experiment, modify, and learn through creation and criticism. That’s how we grow in our knowledge of our world. That’s how we progress. Never reaching perfection. But striving; creating and criticizing over and over and then some more.

Personally, I think I’d love to hear my child say “Why” as his first spoken word. Just for the kick of it. Though that might not be wished for by everyone. But I indulge in fantasy. Anyway, the point is, dampening the power of questioning; the trait behind the cause and showcase of our ingenuity and the precursor to any kind of progress, won’t help in anything but keeping tradition alive. At times, when the external force is too hard, even the tradition might fall and all will be lost.

“Only progress is sustainable.”

David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity

It’s a personal obligation to reexamine anything that comes across as unquestioned as an obligation. That’s free and independent thinking now, isn’t it?

“Where am I going to use all this in my life?” (#176)

The TEACHER has written something on the board and all students are “expected” to copy it in their notebooks.


STUDENT: [whispers to himself] Where am I ever going to use this in my life?

TEACHER: [hears STUDENT] Your final paper depends on you knowing this word-for-word. So get on with writing it now.

STUDENT: Yes, but why is it all such a big deal? The final paper, I mean.

TEACHER: Those marks, cumulated with points elsewhere (which include your marks for discipline and obeying the teacher by the way) will determine how well you fare in life.

STUDENT: I don’t believe you.

TEACHER: Are you questioning my higher authority and knowledge?

STUDENT: [scoffs] Is there something wrong with that?

TEACHER: Didn’t your parents teach you basic manners?

STUDENT: They must have taught me but as you might not know teaching is very different from learning. Though school and “educated people” are a great means to pass on this common ideology among all malleable children’s minds in society, some of them learn to think for themselves and criticize this irrational idea of not questioning authority. And why shouldn’t I question you when you don’t provide any explanation for why you impose certain things upon all of us?

TEACHER: It is expected for all students to obey school norms and score well in their examinations and to pass school with flying colors so that they get into great colleges and everything be eased up from then.

STUDENT: Until when are you going to make us blindly believe that a good college admission will be the end of all life’s problems? Why is it that there is simply one path for us all to tread on and become “successful”?

TEACHER: Because it works, that’s why! This established teaching method of discipline and excellence has been producing respectful students for years. This is the only way to go on and lead a good, polished life. Only an unreasonable fool would question it.

STUDENT: Well then, I’ll be the unreasonable fool for as Bernard Shaw would put it, all progress depends on that critical man*.

[Bell rings]


* “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
— George Bernard Shaw

You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone (#175)

The “chasing things to get happy” strategy is a meaningless one. Desire always creeps up yet again and you start with another void to fill every time the last thing you filled it with no longer gives you the zeal it did when you first wanted to get it or at the exact moment you did get it.

How good it would be if we could learn to want the things we already have and to love the life we happen to be living instead of never-endingly jogging on the hedonic treadmill.


It’s ironic how casually we expect consistency from the most important things in our lives. This expectation then begins to take even those most important things for granted.

Not many think their parents might leave them from life anytime soon. They know they’re going to be there tomorrow. And most are busy anyway, so they’ll catch up with their parents later, right?

Yet the same neglect haunts later as regret when they’re gone and you’d give anything just to talk with them once more.

You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone. The worth is realized when it is taken away. When the assumption that it was always going to be there is shattered. When pain from association with that which was once always here and now is no more is felt. You realize what you had but now its gone.

This is powerful. The possessed are taken for granted and the same possessions now lost are mourned over.


Negative visualization is imagining your life worse than it is in the hopes of realizing how great your life already is.

This stoic technique fills that want of new things with a desire of those you already have. It reveals their deeper worth after you imagine life without them and that causes the shift in perspective. You start not to take the most important things in your life for granted anymore.

Just like the rough bland piece of bread starts to taste sweet when swallowed down the throat of a starved man’s stomach, when perspective changes upon negative visualization, the regular tastes sweeter.

In reality, most of us are already living the dream life. We just forget to see it when yet another superficial dream clouds our vision.

With seeing how bad things can go, a realization dawns on the amazing circumstances of the present.

You don’t dwell on such things. You instead allow yourself to have a flickering thought about the loss and then return to life as usual. As a result of the visualization you will find yourself appreciating and even embracing things that you previously took for granted.

Try it.

Imagine something of grave importance to you (perhaps something you don’t appreciate as much as its worth due to the rush of everyday life). Consider it being snatched away from you. Imagine what it would be like living without it. Maybe you visualize getting a call from the police about your daughter getting caught up in an accident. Perhaps you see yourself being diagnosed with a fatal sickness that puts an end to your career.

Now come back to present life. You might produce a deeper sense of affection for your daughter or more passion to work towards your next professional goal with this exercise. It puts things in perspective. Losing or experiencing any of these would be immensely painful. But we don’t give it as much importance in the day-to-day matters. A flickering moment of losing these objects throughout times of everyday business might as well fill that yet another pointless want with that which you already have.