Monthly Archives: October 2016

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[] presents Mid Life Crisis

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This post will discuss an universal phenomenon discovered around 1960, called Mid Life Crisis by psychologists. I would rather term it as Mid Life passage. The post is written by a 40+ man, presumably in the thick of it.

In 1960s, economists or psychologists studying human happiness or well-being were considered very strange or “alchemists reborn” by the mainstream practitioners.

The situation is very different today,so different that a venture is returning positive return on investment within six months.

If you are 40+ , working professional, have a family with attendant parameters – spouse, children, EMI for home, car, then look at the curve below very intently :

20101218_xjc736 - Copy (2).gif

The U-bend of Life or U curve – Courtesy – The Economist 

This is very famous U-curve which seems to be of the same pattern over a huge population samples in many cultures. Some researchers did collect data over 500 zoos and found out that chimpanzees also validate the curve and some academicians consider this U -curve as a biological condition rather than a human condition alone.

The implications are very interesting. Let me present what the insights of the curve I gathered and this may explain many things which are tormenting you but you are not able to get a “scientific” explanation. You shall thank me if you continue reading.

I. Before you reach 50+, the next 10 years, on an average will be very troublesome. You are on a free fall in terms of happiness, health, ambition, energy, libido, relationship, loving your work.

II.  The above is independent of professional success and financial security. Do not fool yourself that you can escape U-curve just because you are successful. It is not clear yet but it appears that your brain and mind both have re-calibrated what is meant by success and achievement.

III. You may suddenly feel that Life has sped by you and what you have achieved is nothing. You have nothing to show for. You shall find your office and work a kind of prison  cell and home – solitary confinement.

IV. You shall think about death a lot. To get an idea what it is – please consider your phone showing a lone bar of power left and you are in a situation where you cannot charge in next 5 hours.

V. You shall become customers of those businesses that a) helps you grow new hair b) tightens your skin c) makes you look younger d) inject vitamins and all super-human supplements e)  helps you look younger and attractive f) sells wigs g) sells viagra and such stimulating pills

VI. You shall make impulsive buying

VII. You shall be suddenly interested in music, playing an instrument, joining an art school, planning exotic travels. You did nothing of them earlier.

VIII.  Trying to associate socially, emotionally and romantically with people 20 years younger than you ; they bore you mostly but you think that their is a radiation theory of youth and you shall be able to capture some of this “radiation of youthfulness”. You may prove yourself a fool but you will not care.

IX. Even though you have a good job and  good salary, it will be an effort for you to drag yourself in the morning to your work / office.

X. If you have old parents, every phone call from them will make you tense.

XI.  You shall quite often muse : “How my children’s generation will be able to work, earn and lead their lives ?”

XII. You shall see people – achievers, celebrity in the TV and will ask yourself – “Look… he is two years younger to me.. but where is he now….”. You shall discover that school-mates, college-mates, ex-colleagues – all were in some universal conspiracy to torment you, to re-prove your own worthlessness. Facebook photos posted by friends will burn you.

XIII. You shall have an intense longing for your childhood. You shall think more of the past then of the future.

XIV. Sometimes, you shall think of leaving the metropolitan (you have worked hard to be in such a company HQ since you were 25) and going to some secluded area, in some small town and become a clerk there. Or may think of leaving the job (which you cannot for at least 15 years because of mortgage) and starting a small dhaba or coffee-shop or bookstore.

XVI. Sometimes, you shall look at the mirror and think : “Who is that fellow ?”. If you are less polite and unforgiving, you shall quip inside while you look at your spouse : “How unattractive !”

If you identify some symptoms (no need to admit, a nod will do) matching, do not be bitter or sad. Look again at the U-curve. By 50+, you shall again start becoming happier, so much so that you shall be reaching your peak happiness when you are 60+. This explains why grandparents sometimes are much more emotionally closer to the grandchildren than the parents. Their happiness is almost at the same level.

How to go through this Crisis or Passage ?

As U-curve clearly demonstrates, being more successful or achieving more will not help you at all.

Research on this has indicated that something called “wisdom” is something that can make the passage less painful and less bitter. The neuro-psycho configuration that is causing the crisis, in other way is preparing you for “wisdom” where if you remain truthful to the passage or rather to biology, you shall find that your reaction to achievement, ambition, success will be different.

The challenge is not the crisis but an engagement with it. This can only be done once you are detached. Hence the first advice to Arjuna in India’s omnibook of wisdom, the Gita declares :

“dehino-ashmin yatha dehe kaumarng jaubanam jara

tatha dehantra prapti dhira statra na muyati”

“Just like a body changes from boyhood to youth and then to old age, thus a man of wisdom does not become sad while the body takes another body (death of the current body and taking another new body )”

In the Gita, body meant both physical body of five gross elements and three subtle elements called mind, intelligence and ego.

This detachment will not just come when you need it. This needs practice.

Let me do some more research and I shall write a post on the practice aspect of it.





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Pure mathematics and Poetry

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[Formalized discussion with my son, a student of class VI – a victim of maths teaching in contemporary schools ] 

Pure mathematics and poetry, in vulgar eyes appear to be useless. People who are exact solutions to “cost-benefit analysis equation” in the most rigorous manner will definitely think so. Pure mathematicians and poet – these two species are most-unprotected in this world. Let us see how :

  • Since 300 BC, some people are mesmerized by the property of prime numbers. A prime number is a number, greater than 1 and that is divisible by 1 and itself. For example, 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19…..They ask the following questions and dedicate their lives in finding their answers.

a) How many such numbers are there ?

b) How are they distributed in the number line ?

c) Is there any “neat” way by which we can tell how many prime numbers are there, say in between 10,0000 and 10,0000000 ?

d) Why is that in between 1-10, there are 4 prime numbers ( 2,3,5,7) whereas between 90-100, there is only one (97) ?

e) If we know a large prime number, when will the next prime number will be ?

f) Do prime numbers appear in number line without any order or pattern or there is some pattern and we are just not able to discover it, since last 3000 years.

Now, prime numbers are not conscious and they do not care if someone turns into an old man from a young man while pursuing them. Failure in this has no tragic consolation as one gets in unrequited love. There is a 50/50 chance that one is pursuing a chimera.

Let us observe the rough sketch of these pursuits with prime numbers :

  1. Euclid in 300 BC proved by brilliant argument that there are infinite number of prime numbers. How ?  The fundamental theorem of arithmetic says that any integer number greater than 1 is either a prime or can be expressed as a product of prime numbers in a unique way. Let us consider now a finite list of prime numbers and P = p1 * p2* p3*p4*…..p(n). Let Q = P+1. Now, Q is either a prime number or it is not a prime number.  Then comes a brilliant logical reasoning.

If Q is prime, then we have a number which is greater than P and since this interval [1 to n] we have chosen, there will be always some prime greater than the last prime of this interval and for all intervals. Hence there will be infinite number of primes

If Q is not prime, then we have some prime number p in our list that divides Q. It means it divides both P and Q. But that is not possible because Q-P = 1 and no number divides 1. So there is no such p in our list.

2. Fermat found out a result in 1650 that established a fundamental relationship between the product of 2 prime numbers. It was just playing with the rules of the numbers and no one had any inkling whether this would be of any “practical use”.

3. Riemann in 1888 found out a function called Zeta function that pointed to some remarkable connection with the distribution of prime numbers. Just note that prime numbers do no appear in a regular fashion and as we move to larger number interval, they become less frequent and very very difficult to detect.  For example, recent breakthrough research by a mathematician found out an interval of 70 million within which at least a prime can be found in case of large numbers. Now consider that to check this prime in 70 million numbers, any computer will need a finite time. And this finite time  is the key antidote for this code to be broken and necessity of this finite time arises, as if it is in the fabric of the cosmos, the way primes are distributed as numbers become larger and larger (128 bit encryption – a 128 bit number in binary will be this one decimal :340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456). This number in decimal features in the blog that provides a fascinating elaboration of how large this number is.

This property of prime numbers is at the heart of all security of Internet. As a matter of fact, “secured site” means that the site is using 2 very large prime numbers – one is publicly known(public key) but the other one (private key) – being very large prime is so further away and it will take hours, if not days to find this out using the fastest computer and most optimized algorithm. If we use brute force (i.e take a number, check this and go to next number), then the time taken will be so large that solar system will collapse with sun getting off !

Even if an algorithm and machine can make this in 10 mins, the designer of this security code can just use a time-stamp and will expire – “session timed out” in say 5 seconds. This can be used for all communication.

After 350 years from Fermat, we suddenly discovered that his “little theorem” and prime numbers are part of our everyday lives. Like electricity.


Poetry shares this with higher mathematics. If the above aspect of pursuit of mathematics can be considered to be doing something that will be “imposed” on mankind centuries or millennia later . One such poet, Shelley wrote a sentence in one of his essays which is very easy to denounce as “poetic rapture” or “over-speak”.  He said, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind.” 

If we soberly examine the Fermat’s little theorem’s impact on our lives and business today, it is really so. If you run an online business, you must be compliant to the “mathematical legislation” imposed by Nature and first discovered by Fermat while just intimately playing with them and later applied by the designers of RSA algorithm some 350 years later.

Mathematics uses highly specialized language and notation. We are beneficiaries of their work with this language but cannot directly engage if we do not learn the language. And learning the language is not easy or we just cannot pick it up.

Poets use words – used by all and the language is known and we start using this as soon as we are two or three years old. But poets do something remarkable with this commonplace entities using the same rules of grammar everybody use. And the miracle happens.

I am giving an example which connects our native city – Calcutta and a Bengali poet.

In 1856 a French poet Searle Baudelaire published his collection of poetry called “Les Fleurs du Mal” and in 1940s-50s – a leading Bengali poet Buddhadev Basu got so much attracted that he devoted an intense amount of time, attention and care to study, translate, review and spread the poems of this long-dead French poet, almost to his dying day. What is happening here ?

A combination of words, a pattern of words rather become so potent that as if they enter into one’s innermost soul, as if seizes the core of us – call it genetic code, call it consciousness, call it soul, call it “I-ness”, but the effect is remarkable.

Another striking effect is the stability of some of the codes. Some poets are being read over centuries and millennia – the  pattern has remained the same – the same old text but thousands of generations have come and gone but few in each generation respond to these codes in an intense way. There is no apparent encryption here – the text is all open – no stated private or public key here but just like our genetic code maintains its stability and integrity over millions of years although using very little matter, poetry – is strangely like these codes which run in our genes.

I think true poetry is also encryption – encryption of our soul – some souls have the private key, most haven’t.

Hence just like large primes do not seem to obey any law or some law of their own choosing which we haven’t figured it out completely but will benefit us as we walk along the time-line, true poets appear in their own choosing and guided by some unknown law.

True Poetry is the encryption for our soul, our private key  and people who can create these “keys” are those on whom “eternity casts its gigantic shadows.”