Society rewards specialization. It would encourage you to do what you do better than anyone else. Even the people who are a jack of many traits are only respected when those traits fit into some role that society has created. So say, you play the piano, guitar, synth, flute, drums etc. for fun, it might be appreciated a bit because we appreciate exploration but you would not gain any real respect unless you play all or any one instrument extremely well.
Now the next question would be, what is “Extremely well”. This is where it can get a bit mysterious. What I am interested in investigating is if this is defined by our conditioning or something beyond. What strikes me is that, some people would literally extol a classical piece, for another person it may simply be non stimulating. The next difference that might come up might be the person’s level of concentration and ability to appreciate music, associations, musical background and exposure to variety etc. In other words, even our capacity to appreciate anything requires a certain neural wiring. There may also exist specific neural wiring for peak experiences. What creates this neural wiring?
How much is conditioned and unconditioned? Are our unconditioned selves different/hardware with which we are born? How much free will and control do we really have?
OK back to the topic, the reason I digressed was to show that the premise can be easily questioned and there is no definite answer. The attempt to answer it takes us back to the mystery which we have been pondering over for eons as human beings. The basic question is who defines “well”? Its an individual concept and a societal concept, the latter we treat as gospel whenever in doubt. And on further pondering its pretty clear, its no gospel. Different cultures too have a different idea about what’s good, bad, beautiful, ugly etc. But another mysterious question, is there anything universal and what is that?
I would assume that there might be some patterns that are universally present. Like some kinds of music or beauty may invoke the same pleasurable feelings in all. I’m not sure if some core morals get included in that like not stealing, killing, lieing and sexual violation etc.
Now back to the topic, why does society reward specialization? I guess society is like a big machine with plenty of cogs and gears. A person is like a cog, if it does not have a defined shape, it cannot perform a defined function in which case it would not be so valuable to the machine. Society is the super structure, the largest machine and we are so involved in its roles, we may forget who we really are. We are an amorphous entity and we try to make ourselves into one of the cog shapes so that we can fit into the machine. The more responsibility you take, the less freedom you can have in terms of changing your form. Its like you allow yourself to become a giant wheel with many grooves (say an executive of a big company) then you cannot change your shape drastically without affecting many others. So the idea is you learn to take a rigid form and perform a function which is dispensable by nature. So one should never derive full identity from the function, else when its term is done, it would mean a huge re-identification and might trigger a crisis.
The word ‘improve’:
Sometimes I read about some really profound techniques and exercises and in the benefits section they would merely quote that it “improves” IQ. It seems to be such a trivial gain. A mere improvement? I would expect something like, it’ll make you the smartest guy on earth. On thinking over it I also thought about the aspect of the hardware we are born with. A lion can never become a crow and vice versa no matter how hard they try. Would a similar story apply here? Do some people have an inherent disadvantage rendering it very difficult to survive in society? Every disabled person might have felt this. Like say a huge portion of our face gets burnt. Who would marry us? OR if we are extremely fat and obese, isn’t that an inherent disadvantage for being attractive? But on probing deeper I can also see that nothing really lasts. Physical beauty, intelligence, personality everything and ultimately even life is taken away from us. What we fear the most is probably our personality being taken away because that is the only thing that survives until the last moment(except in cases of brain diseases). If everything is so temporary, why are we struggling by identification with these temporary phenomena.
Even my mood/experience everyday is subject to a lot of factors outside my conscious control. We are obsessed and keep chasing all these temporary experiences and then try to preserve them with our memory. I always wonder to myself. How would I live if I had no memory or if it were to get refreshed every night on sleeping? I would be born again every day. On the flip side, I would need to relearn everything: language, walking. Memory maintains the continuity of our experience. Another way of looking at it might be, stronger the memory, stronger the illusion of continuity of our experiences.
Ok lets assume we have to live in this cog system for 70yrs. Even here, its much more complex than it looks. Would the ultimate gift to fit in well here be intelligence? since it would allow you to take up multiple roles and find it easy to fit into the system anywhere. But I don’t think the most intelligent necessarily have the most freedom. Beliefs can cripple the most intelligent like people in IIT committing suicide because of being unable to match their peers. I think the ultimate gift would really be freedom from all our beliefs OR the direct truth of everything.
Identity is like clothes:
Our identities are like clothes. They are a put on and we can change it. Our personality is simply our conditioning and patterns that we or environment has encouraged. In fact what we are really are seeds of potential. Depending upon the environment and our free will choices, different seeds get nourishment and grow and the others remain dormant waiting for the stimulus. So even our day to day identity is actually a dynamic where the unborn seeds grow whenever they get an opportunity.
How powerful we are in that regard, I have no clue. We may be incredibly powerful if you can reach a level to really see all your seeds – born and unborn. But there is something beyond this too. What is the essence of us? What is the innermost untainted pure entity that we really are once we strip ourselves of everything. People might think stripping is just clothes. But you can strip yourself to a much greater extent mainly all your beliefs/concepts/expectations/memories/thoughts and simply be alive and see things for what they really are.
US education as an experience:
I invested around 25 lakhs for my MS. Should I consider an investment not worth if I cannot work here after 2 years? The overall set of experiences I have had here are HUGE. If I think back and remember the time I left Accenture, it seems like such a long time ago. There have been tons of memories creating a rich tapestry which I am grateful for. My identity too in many ways has undergone giant shifts and I have been relieved from innumerable things which were a problem in India. There are things like marriage where 25 lakhs is spent in 2 days and the number of experiences in that time frame is maybe 1/10000th of this 2 yr US trip. This is a huge experience for me that has created rich memories and a huge expansion in my mindset and perspectives about things.
Even if I have to go back after 2 years I am totally fine and thankful for this immense gift.
The origin of corporate race is power game
I don’t know in how many areas survival of the fittest applies today. Haven’t we bent nature and its rules to make survival easy? But I guess the concept is much wider than that. The corporate race is a kind of artificial game we have created for ourselves just like all the other competitive sports around. There are rules which need to be mastered and the person has room to be creative, improvise and use strategies within the boundaries of these rules. So its only creativity/mastery within the bounds.
But I wonder to myself, what is creativity/mastery really? Do these terms require bounds and constraints in their very definition? Even in my personal experience I can see that this competitive nature is deeply embedded in me too. I may dissect this society and corporate world because I do not fit in well but ultimately I realize that even I secretly enjoy being competitive and gaining an upper hand. Maybe I win in some situation-games and I lose in others.
God related stuff is surrender to the magical dimension
Certain people have deep faith in God and feel that God is this super powerful, all knowing entity. Whatever their conception or image of what God is, it encourages them to surrender to a more powerful force and act more selflessly with more love. In other words they simply surrender to the unknown or magical dimension. However this also makes them vulnerable to delusions. Their faith in God can be greatly misused to make them believe in just about anything. Be it rituals, moral beliefs and ideas etc.
Ultimate point of Companies
More than the ultimate point of companies I would think about the question of what are we are a human race heading towards in aggregate. Since this recent phenomenon of the corporate world and jobs can be traced back to the industrial revolution, gold and barter system before that. The whole system has been evolving and has reached this juncture today. But what is the essence driving this system or behavioral pattern itself. What is the deepest benefit that we are trying to derive. Are we moving towards that overall? Are we treating everyone equally with respect and love? The idea is if society is ultimately a system or a fabricated creation we may as well tweak it to serve us the best rather than us being slaves to it.
Sacrificing goal for the means (changing perspectives)
I saw career as a means to getting free time for creativity, leisure and things I am truly passionate about. But it seems to be getting more and more demanding. The amount of commitment and effort required seems enormous to plug in my cog into one of the companies. Not only that, there are so many companies and so many roles, each with a different set of stressors and uncertainties. What shape should I choose? Right now I have chosen the ‘User Experience’ role and I plan on sticking with that. The role is hard and there is subjectivity. But it is something I believe in and I feel it would really make a difference. What I am ultimately aiming for is freedom of time and a job for something I really believe in. But the corporate world is much more than the job itself. There are so many constraints, competitive environment, time commitment and people factors that have to be accepted.
Only resistance is painful:
I have slowly started to see the real import of Buddha’s quotes”All suffering comes from resistance”. When I get an injection in the hospital, it is painful but I do not resist it and therefore it is not suffering. But if there is something I resist, even a simple thought that keeps recurring it results in a lot of suffering. All thoughts and experiences simply come and go. When my mood is terrible, everything I project on the past and future seems terrible. When its great, everything I project seems positive. So I have learnt that I cannot trust my projections. All I can do is simply experience the moment and let the uncomfortable feelings pass away and savor ths good ones.
Want to escape fixed thinking patterns imposed by surroundings
The thing that I am usually really wary of is me getting locked into rigid thinking patterns because of an unchanging situation around me. The first thing I try to do in such a case is extricate myself from the situation.
There are so many instances when I have faced this. It could be my college group, office group etc. I think the bottom-line here is I cannot stay with people who have very different beliefs compared to me for a long time. I can stay for a short while with a desire to explore and experience what they feel and think but after that I feel like moving out and looking for a place where I might really belong. Another factor is that, I change a lot esp. in recent times, my perspectives have been drastically widening. So at every stage there is a new place where I would really belong unless the people I am with share the “dynamic” itself which I presume might be very rare.