I just finished driving up route 1 with the family and it was BEAUTIFUL. Every few minutes there seemed to be a vista to stop and take in the views. Vistas a few minutes apart weren't even enough. It was wondrous and so beautiful...and so easy to appreciate on vacation. That last part is kind of sad.
I wrote this almost a decade ago. It was when Zahra and I first moved to Bangkok. We visited a bunch of the sites and there was one memory that so vividly returned as we drove along the coast.
We saw a flower market. It was beautiful just like this drive was beautiful. There were thousands upon thousand of flowers and all different colors. The flowers were overflowing and there were so many petals that some fell in the gutter and were floating to the sewer.
The market was bustling and people were going from here to there doing their work. They seemingly had become immune to this explosion of color and beauty. I also vividly remember how I felt. I had my new camera and resolved then to not stop noticing and trying to capture the wonder around me.
A LOT of great stuff has happened for me this last decade; most of the stuff wasn't on vacation. I re-resolve to have my proverbial camera ready (and my phone camera) to capture the memories and beauty right in front of me everyday.
I picked up a random book from the bookshelf. After reading a few pages that seemed oddly familiar I realized that I had read this back in my school days and it was one of my contributions to the library. It's a mathy book so it didn't take long to realize:P
The book has some interesting analogies about different ways to think about randomness. I've learned and thought a lot about the random nature of things since I last read this. All sorts of things happen from the everyday to the unthinkable. Some things are expected and some things are a complete surprise. There are all sorts of adjectives that could apply like beautiful, horrible, catastrophic, wondrous, and the list could just go on.
Thinking about randomness and expectation occupies much of my workday. At work, I mostly spend my time thinking about bad things that could happen. I make sure that I spend more time in the day thinking about good things that have happened.
I've come to the conclusion that there's really two main views - thinking things are just random or thinking things happen for a reason. The first thinking is based in part that stuff just happens and there's little to no relationship or meaning. The other end of the spectrum is thinking there's a plan and an order. Things that happen follow a pattern and they are predictable.
No matter what the view the same things happen.
The book has a very illustrative story that helped me to see just how much where a person falls on this spectrum is a matter of choice.
A person walks past a wall with seemingly random holes in the wall and thinks nothing of it. Another person comes by and draws a target around each hole with each hole as a perfect bulls-eye and then marvels at the wall.
I find myself drifting on this spectrum.
When it comes to Zahra, Yusuf, and Nooriya I'm usually the giver of hugs. Today I got random hugs from all of them! That's a bulls-eye.
At work and in my statistics education I am asked a lot to think about what will happen. This is mostly math-y and a lot of scribbling on paper. It's all pretty nerdy and uninteresting to most, at least when I talk about it.
I've learned over time in work and study the truism that something doesn't happen until it happens. At work the unthinkable storm or earthquake or fire or event happens and it happens often. It happens every couple years unfortunately and is still a surprise to most people.
Another truism that I often hear comes to mind, we don't know until we know. I believe we can get so used to something that we are unaware of what's around us on so many levels. Someone once explained a sort of complicated physics concept with a parable of a fish in the ocean. The fish is in the middle of the ocean. It never sees the shore or the sky or the ground. All the fish knows is water; it doesn't know there is a world it doesn't know...until it knows.
The difference between a theory, a law, an axiom, a hypothesis, a conjecture is sometimes very slight and things fit in these categories. The things in those categories can change over time as they have over time in many math areas of study and probably physics too. Being one or the other is a matter of knowing or not knowing. Sometimes we just don't know yet.
Statistics is used to argue for and sometimes simultaneously against many things. For example, arguments of scale are often made. The existence or not of aliens is one of those things where this logic is used. Earth is so small and there is so much out there. As a result, there is this overwhelming probability that there's something somewhere. This last sentence is sound and so full of holes at the same time. A long time ago, a bunch of smart scientists basically on their lunch hour equivalent talked about this very thing. A great scientist responded with something like, then where are they?
These are some random thoughts that come together for me. They all are about wonder. I forget that there is a wonder here that is the reason I love math and am pretty sure it's why I've always been drawn to it.
The statistics part of me reminds me that we just haven't seen it yet. I love being Yusuf and Nooriya's parent. They've renewed a sense of wonder in me the same sense of wonder that motivated me to study in the first place. Now I wonder what they will see.
The last few days in Mumbai have been eye opening in many ways.
There are soooo many people. It's amazing! They all go about their business seemingly independent of one and other.
Things here are so different than what I know and I'm so glad to be reminded of that. The people dress differently, eat different foods, and are concerned with different things it seems. Everything looks and feels just different.
It's shocking at first and seems strange. There's traffic and an energy and I don't see any order...and then I do. There's an energy here and a harmony that's now unmistakable. Everything works. Not like I expect, but it works.
One reason I'm glad I'm here is that it's opened my mind in a way I had thought it was always open, but really it wasn't. I thought I appreciated different points of view (or at least that there are many of them) and assumed some things universal. I appreciate now that I don't and can't really appreciate how different things can be...and still be in harmony.
I want Yusuf and Nooriya to be here again and again and understand at a much earlier age what I've just now begun to understand.
My mind is thousands of miles away from what I'm used to, both figuratively and literally. And I'm the better for it.
I've heard countless stories and recountings of the past from my parents and their generation. Always with some liberties and a little bit of rose colored misremembering I'm sure.
I heard more stories about humble beginnings and "how things used to be". I usually nod my head and listen and maybe roll my eyes a bit if I'm being honest. This time was different. It was made quite clear for me that I can't TRULY know. I might be able to acknowledge or try to appreciate or something other than those words, but I can't know.
Usually, I reject the need to have experience in order to have perspective. In this case, I'm rethinking that. I had a way different starting point in my life, mostly because of my parents. Yusuf and Nooriya have a different starting point and a long long long time from now hopefully a much better end too. And that's the dream. I'm pretty sure that's been the dream for generations.
I can't know what I don't know. I can try to though. I benefit so much from listening to those stories, that history. I think I would be doing Yusuf and Nooriya a disservice if I don't repeat and repeat what a "simpler" and tougher time their parents had. Even if I get a bit of eye rolling in response.
I have a growing section of "business" books in the library. The books are full of what seem to me to be a couple simple ideas said over and over in different ways.
I love reading these books. However, they are never about work or business for me. The books always instruct me to figure out what's important and focus on that. And the books are full of catch phrases and various ways to "be the best".
I've read so many of these books over the years. Each time I read one I stop to think about what's important. And what's important really hasn't changed and it probably never will...that's a sign that it's important.
I read about this guy who is 88 and made this commitment to walk every day. It's been 18 years. And counting.
I love his spirit.
"Life is about a series of habits, and you can have bad habits that are hard to break and you could also have good habits that are hard to break. If you fill your life with good habits, you should lead a better life," said Gentile
I hope I can have this perspective often and for many many years to come. Habits are made over time...and it's never too late to start another.
Today I tried to teach Yusuf about Inshallah and that we never know what will happen tomorrow. It was a great lesson for me to think about and attempt to articulate.