This summer

Posted on Wed 16 June 2021 in Writing

What is a dream? all of us think of dreams as abstract ideals, far removed from reality, that we should chase with all the effort we can muster every day.

Meditating on this a bit more, does this make sense? What is achieved by chasing an ideal when you can never reach it? also, what would you do if you reached the ideal? Would you just stop? Life would lose all it's meaning, and the only place to go then would be out of a tall window. How would you achieve this dream? It's one thing to dream of an ideal life, but quite another to actually achieve it.

Coming back to practicality, I believe that dreams are pointless. All life consists of are trajectories. This is somewhat similar to the 'life is but a journey through time' analogy, but I'll get to that in a moment. A trajectory is merely a path that you follow over a certain period of time. Where one trajectory ends, another begins.

What would we do if we don't have a trajectory? Well, the readers of this article are certainly not dead, so it's natural to assume they're in one. Who decides this trajectory? I believe that this trajectory is a function of your starting parameters. In the universe of life, your starting position is completely random. We don't choose our family, our name, our religion, our sex or even the brand of diaper we poop in. When you're born, you begin as a tiny rock in the gravity well of your family, and our trajectories are basically the path this small rock will take over the course of it's lifetime.

The rock in a universe analogy works fairly well philosophically: similar rocks get into similar trajectories. Consider the example of nature vs nurture: some rocks are born bigger, some smaller. Some are weirdly shaped, and some are perfect spheres. All rocks however will undergo collisions in their paths that make them what they are, and these collisions will be different depending on where in the universe they spawn. As RL Stevenson said, 'a man who, when born in London, makes a conscientious Protestant, would have made an equally conscientious Hindu if he had first seen daylight in Benares'

Coming to trajectories: rocks at similar potentials will traverse similar trajectories. A child born in Delhi will attend school in Delhi whereas a child born in Pune will attend school in Pune. One may point out the case when the Delhi kid's parents transfer to Pune, and I would say 'Well, the parent is bigger than the child, so the child would orbit the parent and go where the parent goes'. But enough of specifics.

Without getting into emotions right now (which would need their own framework, because emotions are amazingly complicated), what determines the 'quality' of a path? Does a longer trajectory mean better quality? What about one with fewer obstacles? Before long, we start questioning what it means to be 'happy', and then branch out into emotions, which as I said I couldn't model. For now, let's use a first approximation: a good trajectory is one which gives us a sense of accomplishment. In rockland, if we dodge or stabilise a rock around us without colliding with it and losing massive amounts of mass, we've accomplished something. The larger the rock we dodge or stabilize, the greater the accomplishment.

I've done a terrible job of explaining that, but it suffices. The objective of our trajectory then is to give us the greatest feeling of accomplishment we can obtain, starting from our position in the universe. If we need to maximize accomplishment, then we would need to change our trajectory at times, which brings up the question: just how much control do we have over our trajectories?

I'm afraid this is the crux of the subject matter of this article, and I won't mind if you slept through the previous paragraphs. Many of us have our trajectories decided for us: go to school with your fellow rocks, then go to whichever college allows you to orbit it, then go to whichever company allows you to orbit it, then find another rock to orbit it with, so that your centre of mass is outside you and is preferably between both of you. Why? So that you can make more tiny rocks with the rock you paired up with. Then once your tiny little rocks have followed the same trajectory and your surface becomes more and more pockmarked with craters, spend your time reminiscing about what could have been.

The thought that we can change our paths or stray off the beaten path almost seems alien: what would happen if we float out, with nothing to tether us to or to orbit around? What would happen if we face too much debris in the way, and are eventually reduced to stardust? The bigger question is "What if we could? Would you?"

Occasionally, something happens in the universe sending out wobbles of gravitational waves, and this was a major wobble, never seen before. A year back, I was sitting at home twiddling my thumbs. JEE had been postponed yet again, and I was at my wit's end, finding it amazingly hard to cope and losing motivation every day. Life back then was easy, when there was One trajectory to follow. One path to tread. One line to take. One singular goal. Now, I'm yet again twiddling my thumbs as my first year is at it's end. What's even more scary this time is that I realize I have no concrete goals. All I have are Passions. Dreams. No trajectories.

I should consider myself fortunate: atleast I have my passions to work with. All that's left now is to chart my trajectory and follow it. What the next few years look like. What the next few chapters in my memoirs read.

So that's what I'm doing this summer.