Personal Musings

This blog is intended to be just a jumble of thoughts that hit me and need not necessarily mean anything.

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Location: Kerala, India

Water flows ...

Monday, November 01, 2010


Somebody once asked the question, "When does a species evolve?"
He got the response," Only when it is in the edge of annihilation."

Strange. I thought that human mind evolved when it is pushed into a virtual annihilation.

But why are we forced to change. Rather, why cant we change on our own, but have to wait for a threat to appear? Frankly speaking, I don't know. But most of us change only when we reach such a point.

There may be that one exception who had changed his way on his own, but that seldom happens.
In fact, most of our training is to ensure that we change when we are expected to change.

People say we adapt, under newer conditions. The innate nature is changed, when the new condition came in. The real question, then is to ask whether these changes are revertible.
Can we change back to what we were earlier? The answer theoretically should have been yes. But, practically it rarely happens. Once we change from one state, we rarely go back to the old state. Those who are obsessed with the past, make an attempt to reach that old state, but all they are able to achieve is their perception of the old state. Nothing more, nothing less.

Things always move forward. They never go backwards. The statement appears too strong, but then it so not too far away from the absolute truth. The flow, as can be experienced by our thoughts, rarely repeat. Can they repeat? Yes. Its like random numbers we generate. There will be a set of small numbers that do repeat, but they wont repeat long enough. We may experience a set of experiences that may seem repetitive. But it is never going to be same as past.

Let us bring our focus back to the question,"When do we change?".
We like the way things are. The conservative half of us, wants to see the same things over and over again. We like to go to the same barber, like to eat the same type of food,like to wear the same color of dress. If we are doing the same things, we do not have to change. And change needs work. It needs rewiring of our way of life. It needs to learn new things about what is around. It needs us to solve new problems of day-to-day living. It needs us to do a lot of things, and that's why we don't like to change.

Are we keeping us away from change, because we are lazy then? I wouldn't put it like that. Laziness requires us to be utterly disgusted by the very thought of doing something. The conservative self is not lazy, in the sense that people continue to do what they were doing anyways. They just don't want to change their behavioral patterns. That's where the inertia is coming from. For a river to change course, the banks should change. If a hill is on the path of the river, the river wont try to climb up the hill, and then get down. It will just flow around the river, using its simple policy of "flow from top to bottom". Water simple wont flow uphill. It is not part of its innate nature. So, can we change our habits?

Let us look at the way beliefs change. There are some people who have a fixed set of beliefs. The buffaloes. They never change their set of beliefs. Their belief system is as rigid as rock. Once they believe in something, no matter what happens, no matter how much proof is given to them, they will not reverse their belief. Strange to say, many of the things that they believe are what was told to them. Like, Jesus came back to life after 3 days of death. Or, like earth is flat. Or, God is of the form of a man. The extreme versions of them form what is termed as the fundamentalist bunch. These people truly believe that whatever is being taught to them is the truth, and the only truth; and every other view is false. Then, there is the bunch of fickle-minded set of people. They start believing in one thing. They do truly believe in it for some time. And then they hear a new thing and change their belief system to the new one. At any given point of time were they conflicting themselves? No. They were having the right set of beliefs at each instance of time, they are just incapable of sticking on to one set of beliefs. Then, there are people who have semi-rigid beliefs. It is not that they wont change their belief systems. They just ask for different degrees of proof to state that the new system is the better one with respect to their current belief. Just for theoretical completion, I will also be forced to state a class of people who do not believe in anything. Frankly, if there is really a person who doesn't really believe in anything, then he is in vegetative state.

People with rigid belief set are like ASICs (Application-specific Integrated Chips). They are hard-wired to do a particular task. The only way to change them is to change their hardware.
Those who are fickle minded are like software running in a PC. When a new task is executed, then they will work in the new way. They dont have any thing fixed, and hence are easily changeable. (Is there a truly pliable person? That is going to be a quite debatable question. Let me just put this as the other theoretical limit.) Since there is nothing limiting them to one set of beliefs, the inertia to change is minimum. The third category is like programmable logic circuits (PLC). Once programmed, then till the program is changed, they are going to run exactly the same way. Most of us belong to this intermediate category. We have some set of fixed beliefs. We can change them, if get a proof. It is not that we are unwilling to change, but then we need to be coerced to change our beliefs.

The same is true for any sort of change. There are some aspects of us, which are very rigid. Right-handedness, is a simple example. Our nerves have been hard-wired to be like that. Many of the things used for biometric authentication uses these fixed parts of us. Then comes a set of daily routines. They are there for all. Most of us can easily identify with them. There will be some of us, who may have to struggle a bit to identify them correctly. These are not immutable habits. Like, say having bed coffee. We may be having bed coffee as long as we can remember. But it is not that we cant change it. If we got stuck in a place where they dont have coffee, then obviously we have to adapt accordingly. Or, the roads we choose to go to office. We usually follow the same path, but we can always use a new path if there is a circumstance. There are some aspects of us which are very easy to change. Like our dreams. We get new dreams every day.

Those things for which there is no strings attached, we can change overnight. Normally these types of changes are triggered by environmental conditions, and are normally a direct response to some immediate cause. The PLC type aspects of us are not that easy to change. we need to be coerced to change those. It is not that we cant change these aspects. It just needs a strong external impetus that can trigger our inertia to change. The the fixed things in us, that are near to impossible to change. These are primarily things that are soldered with lead in our brains. These cant be changed.

To change a man, may be a few words will suffice. To change a village, more than words are required. To change a nation, the scale changes accordingly and so too the physical impetus required for the change. For changing a species as a whole, lots more is needed. In fact, nothing short of the threat of complete annihilation can coerce the species to change.



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