Monday, 17 November 2014

The depths of my mind

This article is long and boring. But if you still want to make it interesting for you, you need to think as I think and feel as I feel. I have written this after putting a lot of thought over the past few weeks. These are some thoughts I have had as a kid and these are also the thoughts that lurk in the back of my mind even now, only to show up when I am alone or when I take my morning shower. This article is also as random as the flow of thoughts in my mind and I have tried to compile them together. I would request you to try to associate every line of this passage with your own life and thoughts. So here goes:

What would we think of when we are old, and we know that our end is imminent? The present moments, days and even years - what would they mean to us in the end? When you are living the final days of your life - when you're about 80 years old - what would you think about life, your days and experiences on this planet? And every cherished moment you had in your life? Would it seem as though you were just 20 years old a while ago, and you woke up one day to find yourself at 80, along with a bunch of memories from your dream? A lot of people whom we consider the most important - our parents, siblings, friends and relatives, every person we thought to be our own - may not exist then, or fate would have taken them far, far away from us.

How about this - we believe only in things that we can see or perceive. We can either see the things that have a corporeal form, which are tangible, or perceive our surroundings using one or more of the six senses we possess. These means allow us to understand our world and comprehend everything around us, which make us believe that they are real. When I see you, I am able to tell if you are cheerful or gloomy today. We perceive something, and then we find out what it is. Take an example, we knew that light is made up of many visible spectrums. We perceived it through our eyes when we saw a rainbow or when we saw the light diverge into seven colors through a prism. We also knew that there is something present in the sunlight that gives us a hot sensation. We conducted experiments, made instruments that detect those rays and found out that light contains an infrared spectrum too, that is 'hidden' to the human eye. From this, we can conclude that there exist things that man doesn't know. Because he can perceive them, he becomes curious and finds out the science behind them.

But wait. What if there are things that exist, but in a way we cannot perceive? There are three dimensions in space that we know - the x, y and z axes. We also know that there exists a 4th dimension that we call spacetime. There are 5th and 6th dimensions as well. But how would we have known the dimension of spacetime before we quantified it? What if there exist other dimensions and objects that we don't even know yet? Furthermore, what if there exist stuff that are not even objects as we know, or fit existing definitions of physics? You must agree that we are made up of two discrete units - the body and the soul. Why is it that the soul can't be perceived separately? We do know that the soul is not a 'thing', but it is for real. So how do we ascertain that for sure? And if it is indeed real, where does it go after a person dies?

There have been times when I have wanted to run away from the world, and also myself. These are the times when I have felt lonely when I was a kid - the few days after my summer holidays when I would return from my cousins' place and would get ready to go back to school. This is also the kind of feeling after watching the last episode of some cartoon series when it came to an end on Cartoon Network. That was the time I really understood the meaning of void or nothingness. This brought me to the question - "What is nothingness?" It is easy to say that an object has nothing inside it, or that the space is nothing but vacuum. My point here is that we assume nothing to be something. The word 'nothing' or 'vacuum' itself is treated as an object. It never gives us the true feeling of emptiness. If I ask the question - "What would exist if there was nothing in the universe?", your answer would again be "Nothing" because you consider the universe itself as an object of reference. So if I rephrase the question to "What would exist if there were no universe at all?" what would you answer?

When I look up at the stars, I realize how insignificant we are. For every grain of sand on Earth, there are more than 10000 stars in the known Universe. Even if each star had two planets revolving around itself, imagine how many planets would exist. And it is estimated that there might be about 11 billion Earth-like planets that are revolving around Sun-like stars. Being insignificant is not all, but we do not even know why, how or where we exist. We know that an atom is the smallest known particle (lets not talk about its constituents here). What if an entire Universe existed inside that atom? And what if the Universe that we live in is itself an atom inside another Universe? Have you ever been into a room with mirrors on all sides? Then you must have seen your reflection inside another reflection which is again inside another one, and so on. That is the kind of effect I am talking about with respect to atoms and the Universe.

Now think about time - if we could somehow get at a distance of 65 million light years away from our planet, with a very, very powerful telescope, we would see dinosaurs walking here on Earth. So what really is time? There is a difference of a few microseconds between us and the International Space Station that orbits the earth. It is because time passes much slower in there than on the Earth. The faster you travel and the closer you get to the speed of light, the slower is the passage of time. So time isn't the same quantity as we measure in seconds or minutes, time is something entirely different. If we could somehow get 1 light year away, we can travel back and forth to create and recreate multiple instances of the Earth in time. If a person dies in an accident, and if you could suddenly travel back in time and save him, he would be alive in one instance of time and dead in the other. What's worse, you could travel back in time and prevent your parents from meeting each other and you wouldn't be born in that time. This would be an anomaly and cause an anachronism in history and time. I sometimes have a thought that there is a snapshot of the state of the Universe for every least division of time. Also, how would it be if there were higher life forms than us - outside the atom of Universe that we live in - how much of our time would constitute a second or a minute for them? If our Universe itself were an atom in their world, then think of how many similar atoms would be present in the world of those higher life forms.

Let us not talk any more mathematics and physics. We know that we have evolved from apes in a process spanning millions of years. The apes themselves evolved from lesser creatures, and the chain goes all the way down to single celled organisms. What if the same single celled organism had thrived in a different planet, and evolved in a different way and in a different time? What if the evolved species do not have a form or their sense organs like anything we know? Now that we know that there are many Earth-like planets, somewhere, in some remote galaxy, some form of life might exist. What's more, we still do not know even if our dear neighbor Mars has/had life forms. We also do not know if we would evolve any further. There is a hypothetical divider in the timeline of evolution that says that the process of evolution cannot go on any further. This line of division is known as The Great Filter. We do not know if we have hit this line yet, or if any civilizations have surpassed us. They might already be around us, but maybe it is just us and our technology that is too backward and primitive to detect their presence. The following is an excerpt from the article in the above link:

"We’re completely wrong about our reality. There are a lot of ways we could just be totally off with everything we think. The universe might appear one way and be something else entirely, like a hologram. Or maybe we’re the aliens and we were planted here as an experiment or as a form of fertilizer. There’s even a chance that we’re all part of a computer simulation by some researcher from another world, and other forms of life simply weren’t programmed into the simulation."

So, why are we all so busy with our lives? Why do we set goals, work our asses off to become and achieve something in our life, when we do not even understand the true meaning of life itself? Is all this - education, work, everything - a distraction from what our lives are all about? We don't even know if reality is indeed real. We choose to ignore the reality and get busy with everything that we have artificially created. If you want me to answer those questions by myself, I would say that the puzzle of life is too mind boggling to solve. Right from high school, I have been dealing with algorithms and programming. In college, I learnt about optimizing code to enhance speed, efficiency and yet solve the problem. So how would you apply optimization to the problem of your life? The problem statement is to attain the highest possible position and garner the greatest amount of money and happiness in the given period of life using the resources you have (money, energy and time among other personal constraints). You need to take decisions in such a way that it satisfies all these conditions and yet takes you to the result. These are the times when you need to make the most important decisions in your life. Take an example - why should you choose one job over the other or who is the right person to marry? And how would that choice take you further in the path of your life? In such times, I project a visual map in my mind about all the events that might take place in my life when I make that decision and pitch both the maps (decisions) against each other. I think that helps me to take better decisions.

P.S: If you could relate parts of this article with the Interstellar movie and question the timing of this post, well, let's just call it a coincidence. Moreover, if you have already watched the movie, you might have a clearer picture of what I am talking about.

If there are any such thoughts that you have and haven't found the answers to them yet, please do share them in the comments section below :)