10 million years ago, there was no wealth on earth
Wealth comes from human action. It does not exist in nature although the ingredients from which wealth is derived through human action does exist in nature. A simple example illustrative example is hydrocarbons in the ground (coal, crude oil, natural gas, etc.) They simply exist in nature. Whether it is useful or not depends on the user. Primitive life forms on earth had no use for it. Dinosaurs did not dig up coal to use as an energy source. Even primitive hominids had no use for coal. Though coal existed for millions of years, it did not become wealth until modern humans figured out only a few thousand years ago that it was great fuel for fires.
“The Man Who Planted Trees” is one of those inspiring stories that I have re-read dozens of time and I still get goosebumps while reading it.
The web is a wonderful place where if you have the required smarts, you can get yourself a pretty decent education. Just having a lot of information at the click of a mouse would not do. You have to know what to take and in which sequence. What you get out of a book — or the web — obviously depends on you. But we can safely assume that one is reasonably well educated and can reason effectively at some level. If that is so, then the task becomes one of having to choose which bits you will focus on. With gazillions of pages of information in the web, that is not a trivial challenge.
Mera America Mahan
Every time I see the painted slogan “Mera Bharat Mahan” on the rear bumpers of trucks, it gives me a jolt. The jolt is a mixture of incredulity, pride, cynicism and hope. Pride in my motherland forces a desperate hope that it is true while my innate cynicism dismisses the idea that India is great as incredible.
For many years I have wondered whether there was something that could make India great. Was there a single thing — a policy, a principle, an action, an accident, anything — that could guide India’s path to whatever greatness is potential in it? What if I compared India to other nations, both successful and failed — will I be able to discern that one single thing? I think I am slowly coming around to the viewpoint that there is such a thing that could be the candidate instrument I have been looking for. I think the US has it and India does not.
The Hubble Deep Field and the Most Important Image Ever Taken by Humanity.
Watch it and wonder. Wonder how insignificant our concerns are, how parochial our interests, how utterly immaterial even our greatest conflicts are. Watch it and wonder how ignorant the so-called sacred scriptures of humanity are. The visible universe is 78 billion light-years across. Our galaxy is huge — with about 5 billion stars, one of which is our sun. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies.
Amit wrote in a comment:
Atanu, when you have time, I’d invite you to do some research on food production and malnutrition, and write a post on it – whether lack of food is because of insufficient production, or asymmetrical distribution and inefficient use of crops/food. Because it’s a very popular sentiment that’s paraded out every time a case is made for biotech crops – that it is the solution to world hunger. Would be interesting to read your take on it.
Sorry but it is unlikely that I will find the time to do the suggested research any time soon. But for now, here’s one common trap that we sometimes stumble into: the inability to distinguish between “necessary” and “sufficient” conditions.
For the last couple of years I have been doing an informal survey. Every now and then I ask people a simple question: Have you read the Indian constitution? I may pop that question while addressing a meeting; or in a discussion with a small group; or to the person sitting next to me on a flight. I estimate that I have asked this question to about 10,000 people at random – friends, family, acquaintances, strangers. Not a single person among the whole lot has ever admitted to having read the Indian constitution.
One wonders why. Everyone surveyed was most certainly literate, most even had higher education. Many of them were involved in – or at least had a deep interest in – socio-political matters. All of them were definitely citizens of “the socialist, secular, democratic, republic” of India.
Books influence us profoundly, of course. But for a book to work its magic on you, you have to be ready. The Buddhist have a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Actually, what that means is that when the student is ready, the presence of the teacher becomes known to the student. The teacher has been around all along but the student did not have the faculty to recognize the teacher. The prepared mind is a necessary condition for books to have any impact.
Some months ago, I had recorded here the ideas of the Tathagata (It’s the small stuff, stupid) on the importance of taking care of the itsy-bitsy small bits. Today I was struck yet one more time about that truth. I was waiting at the Kandivali local train station when a huge board caught my eye. It was a listing of EMERGENCY and IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS.
Prashant has raised a very interesting point. And one of the more important statements he makes is “… several religions of the world preach that material belongings are unimportant.”