Stories of research, nutrition, and nature

Archive for February, 2013

High cost of living

Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Loss of a person, especially sudden and unexpected, is a strange thing. When you first hear the news, it feels unreal. How can someone cease existing? A few days ago they were still there, laughing and getting stuff done, making plans for tomorrow and next year, striving to fulfill their dreams, touching others and weaving their own unique thread in the intricate web of life.

The next day they’re gone. All that remain are memories, sorrow, confusion and emptiness. A dark aching hole where there once was a person full of life. Picking up the threads and trying to cope with practicalities that need to be taken care of despite wanting to curl up into a ball and cry.

Different belief systems see death in very different ways. In many Eastern beliefs, death is a natural part in the cycle of life. The deceased become a part of the world and their energy continues living in some other form. In contrast, many Western beliefs have the concept of an afterlife – heaven or hell – and some think that this life is all we get, like it or not.

I decided several years ago that I want to believe in reincarnation in some form. I figured it would be the best way to maintain inner peace. This might actually be a healthier way of looking at the world than believing that this life is all we have. Karmic justice means, in a way, that we can take it easier; it’s not just one shot at life, but numerous tries at good life. Our own actions dictate where we end up in the next life.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. After all, beliefs are not about facts. It hurts to lose someone but it would be much, much worse if it didn’t hurt at all. Every person is valuable and unique and should have someone who cares and mourns them when they’re gone. People are alive for as long as someone remembers them.

We are all made of stars.


How to Become a Doer?

Just read an article which contains good points especially to anyone who does abstract work. “Why can’t we get anything done?” It’s from 2000 but seems to hold true still. Some excerpts:

Measurement has become a tyranny that ensures that nothing gets done.

Studies about the way that meetings actually work demonstrate that negative people are perceived as being smarter than positive people — that is, being critical is interpreted as a sign of intelligence. You see this attitude in business all the time: The fastest way for me to seem smart is to cut you down. So you come up with an idea, and I come up with a thousand different reasons why that idea won’t work. Now everyone sees you as dumb and me as smart — and we’ve created an environment where no one wants to come up with ideas.

Learning from mistakes (and successes) of the past is useful, but there are so many mistakes that have been made that it’s impossible to learn everything. Besides, knowledge is not useful if you don’t do anything with it. (We know that from health education, for instance.)

Many people, myself included, are often paralysed with fear of failing. Doing things in the real world is scary because it inevitably means making mistakes at some point. It’s easier to just think and talk. In research, this equates to countless literature reviews and perhaps small-scale lab experiments. Going into real world means that there are lots of confounding factors, gaps in data, and things won’t always happen as expected. Lots of learning.

But the real world is where the real impact lies. That should be a motivation enough to step out of one’s comfort zone and become a doer.