Home > Uncategorized > On perspectives: too near, too far and just about right

On perspectives: too near, too far and just about right



Quite some time back, I came up with a code life analogy, and this time around, I have a somewhat physics-y analogy to life — actually more to a part of life, but a significant part none-the-less. The part I am talking about is how we perceive and/or react to various events, happenings and experiences in our day-to-day life.ย One of the most fundamental principles in physics is that events are perceived differently depending on the frame of reference. Similarly, the perception, and hence the reactions and feelings, towards one’s day-to-day happenings are also dependent on the frame of reference. One aspect of such a frame of reference is the idea of sonder that essentially means different people with differing backgrounds and life stories can and do perceive the same events in very very different ways. But another aspect of the frame of reference, and the one I am talking about here, concerns with an individual’s perception of an event and how it varies based on his/her chosen frame of reference.


One way to look at things, or a frame of reference, which is often the default, is in immediate terms. We are used to planning out our hours, days, weeks, months and years — albeit with decreasing tangibility in that order. We also tend to attach a lot of value to near-past events. Recent successes and failures have a deep impact on our day-to-day lives. But because of it’s myopic nature, this perspective often leads to missing out on the bigger picture. Try, and it would be easy, to remember feeling down after missing a deadline, or stressed by work, or sad after being rejected or ecstatic on being praised by someone you respect/admire. While the positive feelings arising from such a perspective are to be cherished, the negative feelings can easily become overwhelming to deal with — specially because, by the very nature of things, the number of failures (or hurdles, at the very least) far exceed the number of successes ๐Ÿ˜›


The other frame of reference, which solves the above problem of dealing with unwelcome feelings very effectively, is what I refer to as the pale-blue-dot frame.ย If you haven’t already, check out theย pale blue dot. In a nutshell, it suggests that the sum total of all our experiences, feelings, and events, things that we tend to attach a lot of value and importance to, is essentially worth nothing at the scale of this universe. From the pale-blue-dot perspective, it is not worth dwelling over the trivialities of our minuscule lives. And this perspective can help look beyond the immediate failures and/or hurdles.

Missed a deadline — well, it doesn’t really matter in the larger scheme of things, so don’t sweat it.

But this leads to a different conundrum — if nothing that we do or experience (or don’t do or experience) matters, what is the point of doing anything? Where is the value in working towards a goal, if the goal itself, just as the hurdles associated in achieving it, is essentially worthless. What, then, is even the purpose of life? You can see how the pale-blue-dot can easily lead to an existential crisis. And, although the quote itself tries to answer this by ending on a note that our purpose should be to cherish and preserve the pale blue dot, it is a very high level and philosophical solution and one which is hard to actively apply in practice.

Sure, I’ll try to preserve our beloved pale blue dot, but tell me why should I work on this project? Oh, I see, working on the project would, on a long enough timescale and in a very very complicated way, contribute towards the preservation of the pale blue dot. But then again, what will it do for me?


So while the near-sighted frame of reference causes us to attach unnecessary value to events often leading to overwhelming negative feelings, the far off pale-blue-dot frame doesn’t provide any realistic tangible motivation for making progress on a day-to-day basis.ย So what frame of reference, or frame of mind, should we be approaching things from? Dear random reader, I present to you, <drum rolls> the 80-year-old frame.


In the 80-year-old frame, we look at things from the perspective of our 80 year old self. Imagine being 80-years old and telling your life stories to someone (or maybe writing them out) . Looking at things from that frame, would you care about missing a deadline or about being rejected by someone more than 50 years ago? Not really! So that takes care of being overwhelmed by immediate failures/hurdles. But what about the day-to-day motivation bit? Well, if you are telling your life stories, of which you are the protagonist, you would probably like a lot of wins spread all through the story, and if not that, at least a big win every once in a while ๐Ÿ˜‰ And the only way to get these wins in your life story is to make sure that you work towards your goals, one bit at a time. And the motivation this time is really tangible, because it directly affects the future you.


As an added bonus, the 80-year-old perspective actually makes the failures and hurdles seem much more interesting and even essential, in some sense. Think of it: can a story ever be interesting if the protagonist never faces any challenges and just glides through everything easily — now what’s the fun in that! Essentially, looking back the current you from your future self allows a third-person view into your life and makes you realize that all of troubles are just a part of a long story.


So whether you are feeling sad about something gone “terribly” wrong recently or feeling unmotivated to make progress towards your goals, I suggest looking at the bigger picture from the 80-year-old frame — a frame that is neither too far nor too close, its just about right ๐Ÿ˜€


But of course, the real question is: what frame do you use when you are already 79 years old? ๐Ÿ˜›

–Rajat Kateja


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Ankush Desai
    September 18, 2017 at 12:57 am

    I must say your analogies are always great to read as is this one ๐Ÿ™‚

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