Fragmented thoughts of a fragmented mind

04 Jul 2013

In pursuit of knowledge

I was browsing my facebook feed this morning when I came across a link that my friend Yu-mei has shared. I had goosebumps rising all over me while reading it and it provoked me into thinking about my younger self. Apart from the couple of years I wrote essays for my political science modules, I don’t think I spent much time thinking critically. At least not in the depth this young writer seemed to be at ease with.

Perhaps it is unfair to be so harsh on my younger self, for I have spent those years as part of a spiritual journey to find the meaning of my life. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be otherwise, on hindsight. There is the thought that one can possess intellectually, but having a spiritual core to process that thought is important to me as well.

So now the question is, at this point in my life, where I am slightly 2 months over 32, can I still pursue knowledge? Can I still fill up my soon-to-be middle-aged brain with all these complex thoughts and concepts by various thinkers throughout history and resurface with my sanity intact? Can I still develop my mind to process thought in multiple dimensions?

It is during recent years that coincided in my growing interest for a better humanity when I started to get painfully aware of how ignorant I am. My knowledge of history is extremely superficial, I never questioned the impact of colonization, I am only starting to learn how specific movements led to the evolution of societal culture.

While I hold idealistic, potentially naive ideas of how humanity can be, I find myself questioning – am I truly naive because I don’t understand the full complexity of the issues, or is my perceived naivety simply so because the majority says so? I find myself wanting to devour texts on economic theories, history, philosophy, politics because I needed context and a basis for my ideas. I will have no idea where they stand, if I didn’t know what was there before.

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I watched this video interview of @ev last night, and he mentioned that if you’re trying to make something new that never existed before, there is no way of knowing how it would work or be successful, or how long or far it would take. He was referring to a product in the context of technology, but on the same parallel I was having an email exchange with a friend on Sugata Mitra. I told her when I first watched his talk (which is the TED prize winner for 2013) I cried my heart out.

I cried my heart out because this individual, had a beautiful idea in his mind and pursued the execution of the idea for decades of his life. We see him making a wildly successful talk at TED this year, but how many of us saw the prior decades of research which made a 20-minute talk possible?

What is that thing that drives someone to devote decades of his life with no way of knowing how it will turn out in 10-20 years time, to one idealistic idea?

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This is an era of instant gratification. We no longer seem to hold any form of patience to see things out. Would individuals like Sugata Mitra cease to exist with the next few generations? Everything is about having a quick response, every idea needs to validate within a month, or perhaps in some rare case scenarios, a year. Sugata Mitra took more than a decade to fully validate his idea.

I have been a victim of instant gratification and social conditioning. The fact that I even question whether it makes sense for a 32 year old to pursue knowledge is a testament of that. Most of us are so obsessed with our age milestones, we spend so much time trying to retain our younger self, that we forget that we have an older self to nurture.

Who is the 40 year old do you want to be? I ask myself these days. I feel very optimistic that if I am now very conscious of what I want to do with my life, if I make a deliberate effort in the remaining 7 years 10 months to just better myself in the areas I choose to, I could have a good shot of becoming the 40 year old whom I want to be.

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