Saturday, March 10, 2012

The difficulty of being good at Harvard - Part III - Soul

Let me jump to the disclaimer right away. I started writing this blog partly hoping that it would crystallize my amorphous thoughts. To give some channel to the circular nature of my thoughts. I did not have a readership in mind. Though I do not delude myself into thinking that this will be read by a lot of people, I am humbled when people mention that they enjoy reading my reflections. So, I have to accept that I think of a reader when I write nowadays. As much as I write to myself, I try to speak to people who might be thinking like me out there. I also started to think of critics who make a mockery of my spiritual inclinations. As much as I am least bit ashamed of having a part of me which is irrational, I think of those self proclaimed rational people with scientific temper. If you belong to that tribe, let me warn you that this will dissapoint you. 

There is much of what happens around in the world I cannot rationalize. That is a weakness of my limited intellect and even more limited wisdom of my experience. As much as I am willing to learn what science has unraveled so far, I am doubtful of it's ability to explain why things happen the way they do. Till the time neuroscience, microbiology, particle physics, nano technology cannot answer the root of our being, I have the right to be agnostic about science itself. I also have the right to be faithful of my own experience.

It is in that spirit I write about the struggles so far of not having the space to talk about what I deeply believe in with folks at HKS. And these conversations come so naturally with folks at HGSE(Ed School). Why is that educators and everybody interested in education have a strong correlation with being deeply spiritual? On the flip side, why is that everybody interested in power of harder nature - economic and political are hesitant to talk about the spirituality of their lives. What drives them to do good? Why are they born? What is the purpose of our finite lives? Why is spirituality or soul or consciousness such a taboo word in power corridors? Is it because of the proximity to religion and the all familiar distasteful baggage religion brings with it? Or is it because that when you are in power, it corrupts you and you believe that you always have been self made rather than by some fortuitous turn of events combined with your hardwork?

I struggle everyday just taking my head to Kennedy school. What motivates me is mostly irrational. I believe and go with my intuition. I then retrofit it with my rational mind. It is hard to get myself excited about writing Stata code, or solving dynamic general equilibrium models, or figuring out the endogeneity problems. I easily get excited about any discussions on nature of motivation at work place, life long learning and how it happens and what makes people make the decisions that they take. I am even more excited when I hear narratives which talk of excellence in the spiritual realm and in the realm of public service. Not the showbiz kinds but the quiet, untold humble stories of daily good. It is in those narratives I find more oneness with the world than in the game theory of it all. Sure it is exciting to solve those problems on paper. I find it much harder to listen deeply when it happens in real life. Swami Vivekananda said the key to all knowledge and wisdom is in the silence of your mind. I tell myself on most days to resist the impulsion to talk, just shut up and listen. Listen very deeply to the things which are common. Listen very deeply and empathize by truly being the other person where the uncommon comes from.

As I meditate more and more everyday, I have grown in this wisdom that silence within is the music of nature. It has all the answers for the questions you struggle with on a daily basis. It unties the circular nature of our thoughts which bog us down.  I can't point to science to convince me why it happens so consistently and so successfully. But I have faith that the only power I have like Gandhiji once said is that of a mute prayer.


  1. You may find "The Art of Learning" by Josh Waitzkin interesting.

    from TFI, BITS etc.

  2. Hello!
    Yogesh referred me to your Harvard posts. Enjoyed them!
    Since you mentioned you are a believe of Darwinism, I thought you would enjoy Dawkins (and science's) take on meaning of life.