Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Is Your Problem ?

What is bothering you right now ? Nothing ? Well, my conjecture is that we all carry a bag of solvable and unsolvable problem all the time with us. The solvable because someone believes in ourselves and the unsolvable, because we believe in ourselves. And as the popular quotation goes, "the size of the problem is directly proportional to the size of your brain". Wrong. The problems occupy large hearts, too. Who else but, Swami Vivekananda, had said - "So long as the millions die in hunger and ignorance, I behold every man, a traitor, who, having been educated at their expenses, pay not the least heed to them".

If you are a salesman, a lawyer, or a doctor or a student, you can choose a problem of your taste. The problem may be figuring out the right set of strategies to defeat your virtual opponent in the game of civilization. The problem may be to master the fine art of cooking. The problem may be to solve the problem of others. No matter what, the problems you address - collectively leads to the growth or stagnation of us - humanity.

In this age of flat earth, it is hard to understand your loyalty, your commitments and your roots. But at least, we know, the big classifiers as following.

Are you working on something that eventually improves the chance of healing _or_ killing ?
Are you working on something that spreads the fruit of technology on equal _or_ unequal basis ?
Are you working on something that returns _or_ accummulates your personal loans to the people behind you ?

For Swami Vivekananda, it is the last question that he answered with an emphatic call. Do not care from which land you are, do not care from which religion you are. Just be respectful and return the debt. In the ritual of Hinduism, this is captured nicely in the ceremony of Sraaddha, performed after the death of a person. During this ceremony, on behalf of the deceased, one offers gratitude to the air - for supporting the life, to the water - for quenching the thirst, to the world - for being kind and nice. Be grateful for every moment you live and return the gratitude in the most kindest manner. The same level of motivation one has to pay the EMI is also needed to keep our personal loan sheet clean.

Let us move on to the other problems, of technological concern, which some of us are fortunate enough to choose. Few months back, I asked a friend employed in a top-ranked university in a country away from his home
- "what problem do you want to work on ?"
- "whatever is funded", immediately came the reply.
So, the good fortune of leading academics in the world is often caught in the fancy of the policymakers. Unbeknown to us, in the guise of advanced science, one may work on a problem - which neither brings the power of technology to the masses, nor addresses a true calling for humanity. What is even worse, is that, to get into mainstream science and technology, the entire fraternity of research sometimes attacks similar problems, be it to solve a fancy first world problem or be it to oil a war machine. Of course, as a thinking individual, one has the freedom to select a problem of one's abstraction without caring its actual usage. One has to also earn a living, after all.

Nevertheless, to embed the love for an abstract problem in young minds, with the vision of an evolving, knowledgeable and peaceful human civilization is something - one may seek. Hence, the next time you choose a problem to put your mind on, think. It is not an easy problem to select one.

In these moments of madness, with hands tied, my thoughts go with peace. A beautiful image, taken from here

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