Advay (my 8 year old) asks me: “Appa, what is the meaning of meaning?”
Having read a lot of philosophy, this question appealed to the philosopher in me. I paused for a while, pondered over the question and tried to grasp the depth of such a question. After spending a while in deep thought I said – “well meaning is likely meaningless, because it is absurd”
The words freedom and responsibility mean different things to different people.
When someone says “Sam is free to do xyz“, it could either mean “Sam can choose to do xyz, if he ‘wants'” OR “Sam is not ‘banned’ from doing xyz, so he can potentially do it” OR “Sam can try out xyz ‘for size’ and discard it if it doesn’t suit him.”
When someone says “Sam is responsible for xyz“, it could mean “Sam caused xyz” OR “Sam is to blame for the mess that xyz has become” OR “Sam is accountable for xyz, should something go wrong.”
In my opinion both these words are poorly understood. Alteast not understood properly enough to leave one with access to action and integrity required to “make something happen”.
In my view, there is no such thing as freedom. There is only responsibility. Freedom is that feeling one has while being responsible. Freedom cannot be exercised, it is can only be felt as an outcome of being responsible. One can only exercise (or assume) Responsibility.
This is a story of how Advay (my 7 year old) pulled together random experiences from scrubbing coconut shells, to dismantling an old washing machine, to discovering a motor to making an electric coconut scrubber.
Our family has a lot of music enthusiasts. My sister-in-law (my older brother’s wife) is a trained vocal artist. Their oldest son (Avyay) has taken training in Mrudanga and Advay has sat around him during his practice sessions several times. My cousin brother, Sujith, plays the Guitar. Another one of my cousins, Suhas, plays drums.
Advay (my 7 year old) has developed a fascination for the written form this year. It started with the need to read his favourite story books and then with the need to capture his expression in words.
He was doing a good job expressing his ideas & thoughts through drawings. For instance: after he came back from a trek that he went with his mother, he spent some time capturing what he saw on the trek by drawing it on paper.
Nandini recently found out about “Open Day at IISc”. She was excited to go with Advay (my 7 year old) for that event. On Saturday they both got on the Metro and reached the IISc campus.
Through the journey, Nandini explained to Advay what Open Day was and the opportunity that would be available to him. That he would get to see a lot of “science-stuff” and it would all be very interesting. Advay was very keen to check it out.
Tight rope walking is scary because there are no rails to hold on to while walking on the tight rope.
So, it causes an obvious anxiety about walking on the rope. Anxiety stems from the fact that, without support, one might fall off to the left OR to the right OR forward OR backward OR slip from both legs and crash land on the abdomen OR many other possibilities. If only there was a railing that one could hold on to, walking on the tight rope would be much easier.
Each and every one of us has at some point in our lives paused to ponder over questions like “Who am I?”, “What is the meaning of life?”, “What is the nature of reality?”, “What does it mean to exist, to be?” and so on. As we pondered over these questions we came up with answers or more broadly speaking ideas. Some of us continue to keep the question open and enjoy the inquiry along with all the insights it opens. Some of us are clear that we have in our possession the perfect answer or the perfect bundle of ideas for an inquiry into these questions. Nevertheless, we continue to be fascinated by these questions. I don’t think humanity will ever get tired of inquiring into these questions.
Pardon my cheap shot at free publicity. I couldn’t resist naming this blog post after Stephen Covey’s magnum opus “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“. It was one of the first “real self help” books I read in my life. Up until then I was mostly reading books on personality development, which taught me techniques for manipulating myself and others in an effort to produce results. This was one of the first books that boldly spoke about getting real and genuine. I loved the book. It helped create a lot of value, substance and results in my life.
Having said that, I dont like the idea that there are 7 or 8 or 20 or any finite number of ways in which people can be effective, or authentic in the case of this post. There are plenty of ways, perhaps a lot more than we can discover in one lifetime. Each person striving to live an authentic life can and for the most part does invent ways to be authentic. In this blog post, I share some of the strategies I have learned from books, seminars, other people and also those that I have invented for myself to live an authentic life. My excitement about sharing what I have learned about Existentialism comes from the very real possibility of learning from others about the strategies they invent (or adopt) for living an authentic life. Knowing that no one can ever simply be authentic, offers unlimited opportunity for personal exploration and growth.