Lighthouse No. 25

My Lighthouse. My philosophy.

Hello there!

Welcome to another edition of ‘The Lighthouse’!

September 30th was the birthday on one of my favourite poets, Rumi. Here is a passage that is close to my heart:

Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands,
or your own genuine solitude?
Freedom, or power over an entire nation?

A little while alone in your room,
will prove more valuable than anything else
that could ever be given to you.

My Lighthouse. My Philosophy.

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Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash

For years I wondered what would be my guiding philosophy in life? A lighthouse to guide me, and to help me navigate safely. 

I thought of coming up with long and lengthy philosophy; one that had deep meaning with lofty words. Over time I looked at how life unfolded and realised that life is only about two things:

  1. constant change

  2. and, how well you adapt to these changes.

My life philosophy turned out to be a combination of teachings from various sources - the Upanishads, Stoicism, Buddhism, Darwinism, and finally, Bruce Lee. Hence, "Everything changes", and "So, be like water".

Everything changes. So, be like water.

Water is the best example of something that can adapt to any situation. Visual perception of this ability is what drove me towards accepting and assimilating this philosophy. Inherently water has no shape, water has no form. This is where its power resides. It takes the form of whatever is around it.

Pour water into a container, and it will take its shape. Subject water to cold temperatures and it freezes to form ice. Warm it, the ice will thaw, and you have water again. Heat water and it vaporises. Cool the vapours down, and you have water once again. Whatever you subject it to - it adapts. It doesn't resist, it doesn't complain.

Even in nature, water flows where it finds a place to. A river finds an obstacle, and it takes a path around it. If water finds a crevice, it will flow through it. If there is an obstruction, it waits till there is a build-up of water and then flows over it. Whatever you subject it to - it adapts.

But, does it mean that water is a victim of its circumstance? No, do not fool yourself into thinking that. It is an illusion. In fact, water is finding its true nature from its circumstance.

The sheer thought of being like water is a powerful one. To be able to withstand, adapt, and change your opinions like water will result in a better life. Every time I have walked this path of embracing change, it has led to me beautiful destinations. If I had not undertaken the journey, I might have withered away.

Holding onto preconceived notions, and being rigid will only break you down in the long run. If you want to thrive, you must be ready to embrace change.

Is any man afraid of change? What can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And can you take a hot bath unless the wood for the fire undergoes a change? And can you be nourished unless the food undergoes a change? And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Do you not see then that for yourself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the universal nature? ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 7

The best way to adapt to changing circumstances in life is to be like water. If you come across an obstacle, work your way around it. If there are people who seem to be criticising you, leave them to find people who inspire you. If you have a job that is in conflict with your personal values, change it.

Sometimes progress will be slow, but water smoothens even the hardest of rocks with persistence. The smooth pebbles you find on the river bed or on the beach were all pointy and jagged rocks. Water tamed them. Water is an influential teacher.

Here are a few instances where I've done a complete U-turn on my beliefs, or built new ones where there were none:

In the last 6 months, I've reminded myself of water one time too many. We are swimming in a sea of chaos, we aren't aware when the storm is going to subside. The wait seems to be unrelenting. How does one approach times like these? Be water my friend.

I'll leave you with the master himself.

Here’s some interesting stuff I came across:

  • Marie Howe’s tribute to Stephen Hawking and Our Belonging to the Universe via Brainpickings: This is a beautiful ode to the singularity that existed prior to the Big Bang. Although we see a varied life, a varied Universe around, at one point of time all of this was condensed into a single point. The poem is a tribute to everything that we are and everything that we once were. This was my best find of the week!

  • Bring Back Handwriting: It’s Good For Your Brain by Markam Heid: I have to confess - my handwriting is bad. Its probably one of the reasons I maintain my daily journal on Notion. But I’ve been reading stuff that provides evidence that writing by hand has tremendous benefits when compared to typing out your personal logs on a keyboard. There are two reasons I use my computer instead of a book/ diary to maintain my journal - I can search easily, and It takes lesser space. But now that I’ve gleaned the tremendous benefits of writing a morning journal, I may be giving the hard format a try in the weeks to come. Here’s one piece that is linking to various research articles. My Notes.

  • 7 Tenets of Zen Black by Zen Black: ZB has been a great source of learning for me - from their blogs and their tweets. If you are on twitter, give @z3nblack and follow and you will not regret it. The title says it all. My favourite one is this - “If the pursuit of quality is negotiable, so is your character”.

  • What’s Your Passion? by Tinkered Thinking: Tinkered Thinker (TT) is another of those gentle souls who’s taught me a lot in the past few months. Out of the blue I wrote to TT asking help on the GPT-3 which I published a few weeks earlier on the newsletter and TT graciously offered to help me out on it. TT exposes the sham that is ‘Passion’ and instead nudges us towards ‘Curiosity’ which is a healthier option. I was a firm believer in ‘Passion’ too, but since I’ve destroyed that myth, I’ve grown to be more curious of things. My notes.

  • What I Have Lived For by Bertrand Russell: This is the prologue to Bertrand Russell's Autobiography. The three passions that Russell seems to have lived for and that for which he would gladly live his life again. “Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.” Here’s a link to the handwritten version of the same prologue. My notes.

Book Ideas from Cal Newport’s Deep Work:

Image courtesy: Amazon

Deep work - “Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” ~ Cal Newport

The information age is a double-edged sword - there’s information and then there’s the associated noise. With the costs of access to information plunging, everyone has information at their fingertips. But how many people are able to leverage that information productively? You can figure out an answer to this yourself. There’s every avenue available to distract yourself from doing work that deeply matters to you - personally and professionally. This book talks about what Deep Work is, and what the rules that you need to follow to get productive and meaningful work done.

Cal Newport, by the way, has no social media presence, just to ensure that he does not fall back on doing Deep Work.

Ideas I gathered from the book.

Here’s a link to the Goodreads summary.

Kindle store links: India/ USA

Here’s a thought I’m ruminating on:

“ If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.” ~ Lao Tzu.

See you next weekend!


Prashanth 🍻

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