Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In awe am I

A student met with me for the first time.  She is new to the state and the university.  As always, my first order of business was for me to know a little bit about her, and for her to know who I am.  "I like to know who my students are and where they come from.  I want the student to also know who I am," I told her.

And then, of course, I had to be funny.

"That way, students can then decide whether or not they want to work with somebody else instead of me," I added.

Fortunately, she, too, thought it was funny!

We are now a couple of weeks into the term and students are getting to know me.  "Are you being sarcastic now?" one student asked/commented in class.

"I have no idea what sarcasm means" I replied.

After the class laughed one student added, "it is difficult to tell whether you are being serious or funny."

I thought to myself that, well, it is the story of my life! ;)

The older I get, the less I take myself seriously.  I think with age, I have come to understand more and more that nothing really matters.  We die.  We will be quickly forgotten.  Once that is internalized, everything becomes a joke.

But, to get to that level every minute of the day is not easy; a mere mortal I am.  Like everybody else, I too think that the world revolves around me.  Well, of course, there is a yuge difference in scale between me and the POTUS, for instance, on how we think it is all about us.

Even a scientific understanding that it is not all about us is very recent, compared to the length of time that we humans have been around.  We are yet to truly understand that.  In the cosmos, we are insignificant.  Nothing.  But, we have been spinning stories that made us feel special, and we have one hell of a problem walking away from those stories that are deep within us.
We prefer religious and anthropic explanations that the universe was created and fine-tuned for us because they put humans right back in the center of the cosmos anthropocentrically—it is all about us. But 500 years of scientific discoveries have revealed that it isn't about us.
When I look up at the sky, I am always reminded that the cosmos does not care.  It simply is.  And, as insignificant as I feel, I am awed by it.  If only more of us would be awed by our insignificance!


Ramesh said...

It takes enormous self understanding and courage to be able to see that we are truly insignificant. Forget on a cosmic scale, even on a very earthly scale.

Take a trivial example - Jayalalitha for instance. She was a virtual goddess two months ago. Today she has been completely forgotten.

We really are mere fireflies in the tapestry of time.

Sriram Khé said...

Not even fireflies, my friend. We are insignificant. Nothing.
And yet we think we are everything!

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