Ain’t no cookie for Mt. Everest

You know why scaling the mount Everest is so goddamned difficult? Because you can’t do it for a cookie! A lot of things we do in life have an immediate payoff. Eating douses hunger. Sleeping provides rest. Busy work wears off the day. Moving the hand away from the hot plate prevents pain. Easy stuff that we don’t really fuss about. The difficult things are good for us only in the longer run or have an indirect benefit. Eating your veggies. Being financially wise. Controlling the urge to poison your enemies. These difficult tasks, as good as they are for us, require discipline and psychological trickery; an assemblage of proactive or forced carrots and sticks. We get by.

But some tasks are so herculean and life defining, that no reward (or punishment) is big enough. Such tasks are their own reward. You know accomplishing them will transform your being to an extent that your life will acquire a new meaning. Their perceived monstrosity overwhelms our senses to the point of submission. There is no fight or flight; we just freeze. The worst part is, they do not provide any sense of gratification as you progress because the going only gets tougher. There is no felicitation for doing them half way either.

But there are huge “head fake” rewards of even attempting such endeavors. Every other step challenges you to push your thinking deeper and wider. The willful exposure to struggle increases your threshold for perseverance. Failing at them teaches you about yourself and affords a sense of humility. So, if you ever find yourself standing at the base of your Everest, just start climbing. No matter where on the way to its top you crash and burn, you’ll be stronger, wiser and more accomplished than your undecided self standing frozen at the base. And the scenery up there is breathtaking; it alone, they say, is worth the effort.

Constant Cadence

The optimal way to cycle is to maintain a more or less constant cadence; that is, the rate at which you pedal. This is not easy on a single speed cycle, but on a geared cycle you have all the help you need to keep pushing at an optimal constant rate. So, when you are riding uphill and it becomes increasingly tough to pedal, you just shift the gears down but maintain the cadence. You obviously lose speed, but the combination of a lower gear and optimal pedaling speed results in the best usage of your resources. You could stay in a higher gear and put more effort in pedalling, but that would tire you down. Gearing down and pedaling at the same rate is your best bet even if it means that you move slower.

This trick, like everything else about cycling, has an analogy in life. When you face a rough patch, or obstacles, or an unexpected lack of results, maintain your optimal cadence, your rhythm. While riding uphill in life, you automatically shift down to a lower emotional and mental “gear”. The win is in not letting the situation affect your cadence. Put in the same number of hours. Maintain your schedule. You will probably be less productive, but you will be better off than resisting the change or giving up altogether. In life, like in cycling, you can only control how much you pedal. The result varies.

On Moving Mountains

You don’t move mountains. You don’t bulldoze them with the brute force of your will. They are stronger than the forces of your nature. You erode them. You chip at them with the strength of you determination. You annihilate them bit by bit with the power of your perseverance. You don’t need an unstoppable force to conquer an immovable object, you need an unending resilience that refuses to back down. Come what may.

Police evicting Kejriwal from outside Sheila Dikshit’s house a year ago.
Police evicting Kejriwal from outside Sheila Dikshit’s house a year ago.

Progeny of Ideas

[Best read in Sir David Attenborough’s voice. :D]

One of the most powerful and elegant natural processes that has shaped all life on earth as we see it, evolution, is brute force. Organisms are not born perfect for their surroundings. They adapt to them gradually over generations, thanks to natural selection. Millions of offsprings with varying traits are procreated, but only those most suited form the succeeding generations, carrying the fittest genes ahead. The failure rate is astounding.

Our work and our creations carry the most basic gene the world deals with, our ideas. Every piece of work done by humans is an attempt to ensure the survival of their progeny of ideas. In this sense, the process of creation is the intellectual equivalent of reproduction, and the resemblance is remarkable. Ideas are not born perfect, they have to be improved over several iterations, and very few make it in the vast and unruly jungle of human knowledge and conscience. The strong ideas stick; persevering through generations and centuries, either directly or in various mutated forms. Though, the signatures they leave on their living or non-living bearers can not always be traced back, their legacy lives, long after they were first expressed. The weak ones either die obscure deaths at the hands of social predators (cultures, norms, and such) or starve because they fail to gather enough interest to thrive upon.

Consider this analogy and then think, who are we to ever give up? Be it ideation, creation or attempts at achieving a particular goal, we are supposed to be unabashed and brazen at failing. If nature needs brute force to create the remarkable world we marvel at and get inspiration from, we for sure should not mind picking ourselves up and starting all over again after falling ever so often, unless one doesn’t mind disappearing (without a trace).

Zeroes & Emotions

You know how a zero, though itself equal to nothing, can make a number larger [or smaller] when applied the right way? Well, the same is true for emotions. By itself an emotion is nothing but a chaotic concoction of untamed force and aimless wandering, incapable of achieving anything worthwhile. But when its power is controlled by self-discipline and channelled by an unflinching determination towards a cause one thoroughly believes in, mountains can be moved.

The placement matters, a lot. Put your emotions behind your efforts, and you make progress. But, put them ahead of your dreams, and you get reduced to insignificance. After all, what good is a zero when placed before a number? Who cares about fractions? In fact, emotions are the forces that shape the world around us. When used for a negative idea, they create holocausts. When used, and collectively applied for freedom it leads to the fall of human misery and captivity. And they are not done making our history, they will shape our future as well; Through you. Take care. Emote some.