Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

I had read this book a long time back and I thoroughly enjoyed it then. Recently, an especially striking part of it resurfaced in my mind. Since no one was prepared to endure a verbal explication of my thoughts I decided to put it down here.

Memory as the foundation of intelligence

There was a part of the book which resonated deeply with me. By the time we reach adulthood, there is not a single cell in our body which we had when we were a child. The meaning of this was shocking to me. Just imagine, my whole person has been materially replaced. But, still, there is something about the new person which follows from the child I once was. There is a continuum of existence, of experience, of thought and consciousness. I feel a deep connection with that child and I believe I am him despite not possessing his body. What is responsible for this phenomenon. There is something that permeates us and links us through time and changing biology. It is memory. That web of experiences, emotions, thoughts and memories that will mark me as unique and make me feel like I have some value, make me feel that despite all my failings, I am someone special. That is the magic of being able to recollect.

It marks time and adds life to existence. It makes one feel that he/she has lived for 10  or 80 yrs. It follows from this that if I wanted to feel myself, by which I mean my personality, my character, my uniqueness more strongly, then it is imperative that that web of experience be made denser and more extensive. Only when we learn to embrace experience and feel emotions strongly do we get to feel the intensity of the life that we are in possession of.

I know it sounds like sugary philosophy. But, this is something I had already realized. This was what sparked my passion for traveling, reading, cycling, weight-lifting etc.. I realized that being a grown-up is not about being “in-control”, being cynical, or being difficult to excite. It is not about having a routine. Settling-down is not what defines it. It is about realizing that we now have the power to make things happen and at the same time remembering the things we wanted as a child. To use our enhanced ability to satisfy the child in us and to keep that spirit alive. To never forget our most ardent desires and to always have the energy to go out and fulfill them.

If every day were the same then there wouldn’t be anything special about living for a long time. The “length of life” is something that should be measured not in time but in-depth and breadth of experience.

When we have lived life, it adds a certain color, dynamism and intensity to our character, I think. It makes a person seem intelligent and attracts people to him/her. A collection of memories can help us assimilate more things. It is a case of more knowledge leading to even more rapid acquisition of knowledge.

I really enjoyed that book. There are a lot more things in it that are worth thinking about when you have the time for it. I came across the author while reading a piece about Conlanging on the New York Review by him. I liked his style of clustering ideas and concepts around his personal experience as he gets intimate with the subject. This led me to the book and I am thankful for it. Hope you guys too enjoy the book and let me know about your thoughts on it…

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Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Its been a while since I posted something and it is definitely not because of a lack of interesting things to write about. The pace of my life is increasing and exciting things are happening all the time! In the midst of all this it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time to indulge my oldest passion, reading books.

I heard about this book while reading about Christopher Mc Candless a.k.a Super Tramp on whose life and death, the movie Into the Wild is based. The book describes the author’s experience with staying in the woods, relatively insulated from civilization and people, fending for himself and living by the barest means possible. It was a book which deeply resonated with me.

Living in the wild with little separating us from the elements which shaped and sculpted us. Without all the ceremony, pomp and wasteful superficiality of society. Time that would have been wasted on going through the tedium of the every day life of an average guy devoted to study of books, nature and self.

The whole book actually poses just a very simple question. What is it that you really want from this life? Are all the things that you are doing right now really helping you achieve those aims? Aren’t we a little too distracted by the toys and trinkets that society dangles in our faces to realize that the price being paid for them is the pursuit of a deeper and more self-contained contentment? Do we attach enough value to self-cultivation and independent thought?

There is one whole chapter dedicated to Solitude and I simply adored it! When we are among friends or in a crowd we tend to think and act in a particular way. But, those same guys when left alone tend to become altogether different people. I have always thought that one must not restrict oneself to only one mode of thinking.

On the whole I found the book to be highly stimulating and thought-provoking. Also, the language of the book creates a strong impression of scholarship and erudition. This is not at all surprising considering the deep and varied reading of the author.

Of course, I did not completely agree with all the things in the book. But, I could see that the truth of the writing depended on the person reading it.

I am someone who believes that we as a species and as members of a terrifyingly lonely system of life in this vast universe have a duty to dream big and work towards a greater destiny than simple self-satisfaction and inward reflection. We need to work as a team for a future that will thank us for our efforts. I started getting these ideas after reading more books on popular science, especially those by Carl Sagan. What is the approach that most makes sense? Feel free to share your thoughts here!