Most Astounding Fact – View, Listen and then cry with happiness

Neil DeGrasse Tyson shares the most astounding fact about us, atoms, stars & universe.

When I look up at the night sky, and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up — many people feel small, ’cause they’re small and the Universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars.”- Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Seriously, how can you not?

Seriously, how can you not?

I have seen this video a thousand time now. I have it on my laptop, I have it on office laptop, I have it on my cellphone, I have it on my iPod, I will soon be having a poster too. I don’t know what is so mesmerizing – the voice or the fact itself or the music? I think it is a perfect combination of all three.

Seriously, my body, my mind, my every cells, my every atoms feel absolutely awed when I reflect on that fact. Somehow the image I get whenever I hear this is of the most beautiful night sky I saw when I was in Hinkley, California. I went to live on a ranch amidst the great Mojave desert and experience a side of America that I had never thought about. Penny, the owner of the ranch, had picked me up from the Barstow Greyhound bus station and we drove for about 30 minutes till her ranch at Hinkley.

When I stepped out of the car, I looked up and told her – “This is the most number of stars I have ever seen with my naked eye!”. She replied, “Do you know why that is?”. Why? “Because there are less people on this side of the world. We are in the middle of Mojave desert and welcome to the Aquarius Ranch!”  🙂

 

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One of the domes at Aquarius Ranch, Hinkley California

 

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Sigh!

Sigh!

 

Irreplaceability

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A few weeks back I saw a beautifully scripted film called Adaptation written by Andy Kauffman.

The film is basically an attempt by Andy to adapt a book called “The Orchid Thief”. He has so much trouble adapting the book into a movie that he ends up weaving his troubled attempts with the story from the book. Lots of fiction within a non-fiction (reminds me of everyday Life itself)!

In the book/movie there is an eccentric character named “John Laroche”. His passion for orchid flowers moves the author so much that it makes her realize what it is really like to be passionate about something in life. He was really crazy about orchids – so much that he knew almost all the species and sub-species of it with their scientific name!

The author states “I suppose I do have one unembarrassed passion. I want to know what it feels like to care about something passionately.” Hence the book.

But halfway through the film something bothered me. Actually, not bothered, but something that re-confirmed what I have myself felt a lot of the times. But we don’t generally want to accept or share about such a thing. Halfway through the novel we learn that orchids weren’t the first passion of John. Long ago he was very passionate about fishes. And when the author asks what happened to it and then John replies:

"Fuck Fish" - John Laroche

“Fuck Fish” – John Laroche

John Laroche: Then one morning, I woke up and said, “Fuck fish.” I renounce fish; I will never set foot in that ocean again. That’s how much “fuck fish.” That was 17 years ago and I have never stuck so much as a toe in that ocean. And I love the ocean.

Susan Orlean: But why?

John Laroche: Done with fish.

And with that he moves on to his next passion – orchids. And then later to pornography!

I wasn’t sure at first how to react to such drastic changes. But then later I thought we do the exact same thing hundreds of times in our own life too. We hold something dear to us, feel proud, feel passionate about it and then just like that one day it goes away. We move on.

This made me think more and more specifically on people that come and go. People get replaced in our life just like passions got replaced in John Laroche’s life. The people we feel passionate about get replaced one day or the other.

Friends get replaced.

Lovers get replaced.

Pets get replaced.

Parents too get replaced for some.

This brings me to the topic of this post – Irreplaceability.

I am not going to touch the subject of replacing one’s family member. I strongly believe that no matter how messed up your family or how dysfunctional it is, the sense of irreplaceability will always be there even if you don’t want to express it.

But on the other hand I am unsure about the other people in our lives. If you are old enough than you have seen and observed and went through the process of replacing friends, lovers, relatives, pets, etc. At one point we make promises to ourselves and to others to stay close forever but on a long enough timeline only a couple of people end up with you. Everyone else gets replaced.

I am trying to understand why we choose to replace someone who once was so dear to us. Hence this essay.

One reason that comes to mind immediately is lack of staying in touch. I believe this is primary reason that “affects” our school friends. Once you move on to something completely else including moving away geographically, then the emotional distance keeps getting larger and we eventually replace the school friend with a person who we are interacting with on a daily basis.

Next is emotional investment. I believe this primarily affects the lovers, ex-lovers, friends who get friend-zoned, etc. You get attracted to a person and start an emotional relationship. But when things don’t work out, one or both will start distancing away. We start coming up with millions of reasons to stay away, not stay away, etc. etc. etc. Yet, at the end, it is nothing but us realizing that the emotional investment is not paying off and so let’s move on.

There are other interesting reasons too – betrayal of trust, impulsive-based decisions, introversion, jealousy, etc. In our lifetime, we will probably experience each of it.

Another interesting aspect of this is something we all have almost experienced. No matter how flawed your friend is, you just don’t seem to get yourself away from that person. But if you observe carefully, the reason might be just that you have not found a replacement. The day you do find another friend, lover, pet, etc. you will start drifting off. So on a long enough timeline, everyone is replaceable.

So this brings me to the following conclusions:

  • On a long enough timeline everyone and everything is replaceable.
  • The only way to avoid replacing someone is to do anything and everything you can to avoid getting replaced yourself from the other person’s life.

If you find yourself disagreeing with point 1, then obviously you are doing point 2 well enough with your real-life partner.

There is also a wonderful quotation from Coco Chanel: “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.

Please understand I am not trying to rationalize or theorize here. The problem in doing so would be simply because humans are irrational at nature. One cannot label this behavior on everyone. This short essay is just a reflection on an experience which we all humans will go through no matter where you live or your age, etc.

Well, this is all I have to write about on this topic. Hope this provides a reason to reflect on your past or present experiences related to irreplaceability.

Existentialism

It’s been almost 27 1/2 years since I came into existence; 10 and 1/2 years since my father passed away. The things I have learned in past 10 years; sometimes I wonder if my father would have been here, would I have been the same person as I am today? Passing of my father made us choose certain things that we wouldn’t have done in his presence. I wouldn’t have taken a job immediately after engineering. This would mean I wouldn’t have joined Accenture. And that would mean I would have never went to US of A and ultimately I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

More importantly, I wouldn’t have gone to the world of philosophy to get answers to the questions about my existence, my life, the universe and everything. I don’t know how else would I have found a reason to seek these answers had my father lived today and we didn’t had to go through the things that we have gone through in past 10 years.

I was always an atheist. Even though my family wasn’t. We had a big temple just in the backyard of our house. My father and mother both knew it and never forced me the dogma of religion. Although I don’t remember my father talking about Gods and Goddesses except on couple of occasions. The most memorable is when we had the mass miracle all over – idols drinking milk! That didn’t change anything in me since the news channel had already reported the capillary action was the reason behind this “miracle”. But my father spoke passionately. Although I don’t quite remember what was going in my mind when I heard him talking – was I thinking my father is just crazy to believe in this or I was just being a 10 year old naive kid sitting and listening to “elder’s talk”. I do, however, remember some flashes of their conversations.

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Look at that mustache! How can you not take this guy seriously? :p

As I grew up and read books on various subjects and became more aware about the world outside home; the more convinced I was that I
didn’t need to follow any religion to lead a good life. Morality shouldn’t be defined as doing good deeds just so that you don’t get punished by any God.  This comes up more than one time in all the Existentialist philosopher’s writings. Nietzsche’s declaration “God is dead” in Zarathustra was a critique  on the association of morality and divinity – that Christian notion of God can no longer server as the basis for morality. However, Nietzsche, was also concerned about the growing atheism and feared it would lead to nihilism – a state where nothing has any value and human existence has no meaning and purpose.

It is indeed a crisis. What do we believe in if we remove higher metaphysical entity and what do we really base our moral principles on? Nietzsche was very concerned with this question and set out to find the answer. It was his own personal crisis that led him to publish his thoughts in the book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. He claimed “God is dead” and by that he meant the idea of God can no longer serve as the basis for all values. He replaced God with the concept of Ubermensch – a goal for humanity to set for itself. Ubermensch serves to provide the value in one’s life – how? we shall read more of it.

Before I end this post, I want to say that Nietzsche was very critical about the idea for the search of the ultimate truth – the objective truth. In his book “Beyond Good and Evil”, he criticized past philosophers for perpetuating the dogma of finding truth as something out of this world. He was so against this idea, that he even went to criticize science  in the context that it does not really help in making us humans feel exceptional about ourselves – after all the more we find about the world around us, the more insignificant and tiny we feel in relation to the rest of the universe.

Nietzsche’s this viewpoint is what makes me read more and more. In essence, it says there is no point in knowing the ultimate truth. Instead of  asking why you exist, you should ask, now that I exist, what can I do with my life? What value can I provide to me and people around me.   This is the first step towards becoming the Ubermensch. When one is able to grasp this, the idea of meaningful life without the need of religion and God becomes apparent.

…to be continued.

PS: I am writing this series as I myself progress through reading and re-reading and understanding and un-understanding this philosophy. I can’t say now how frequently I will update, but I am sure I will keep thinking about these ideas until my brain ceases to function. Also, please don’t think one post or even one blog will do a justice to the concept of existentialism. Nietzsche is just one of the many philosophers and sometimes regarded as an existentialist-before-his-time.   There is lots to read about – Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus among the major existentialists.