Saturday, 29 March 2008

Black Swan, Power of Now and My Coffee

All thought is a feat of association; having what's in front of you bring up something in your mind that you almost didn't know you knew.Author: Robert Frost
Good books are always the source of good thoughts and i was fascinated by two thought provoking books in “Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle (in no particular order as a disclaimer). The two authors analyze life from two very different perspectives , Nassim was a day-trader by profession ,he calls himself a empirical skepticist and Eckhardtt Tolle doesn't call him of anything , but is an inspiring spiritual master.

Black Swan is quite heavy to read and is not that book you would want to read on the beach after a couple of margaritas being distracted by the blondes. Black Swan , nassim explains, is a metaphor which can be realized only after its occurrence and people typically understand it only in retrospect (couple of quoted black swans are Google and Sep 11 and recent ones being global liquditity crisis) and we really dont understand when we are in middle of it. The awesome part is the way nassim takes a hit on the established beliefs starting from Plato(personally I hated his “Republic”) , Gaussian bell (HR's beware) curves and so on, he questions a lot of common beleifs that we take for granted as a god given rule. Fun to read.
Another good part is the reference to lots of philosophers and it could be a start of a whole new on thinking , contrary to the common thinking of philosophy as a heavy subject reserved for bored academics with a strong inclination towards debating on useless conundrums , nassim lets us realize it to be tool to strech the mind positively. Being a skeptical empiricist with lots of questions may not be all that easy in a practical life at all circumstances ,dont ever practise it with your wife, it may be injurious to health, but there are lot of things that you could learn and I have really started appreciating the empiricists in John Locke , David hume (though they are not too skeptical like nassim) and others philosophers like descartes ("I think, therefore I am" fame),nietzche , satre and even the Aristotle (Rhetoric is awesome).

If "Black Swan" is about complexity, “Power of Now” is all about Simplicity and it talks about self realization and focusing on the present moment rather then lamenting about the past and being anxious about the future. The essence of the book is to stick to "Now" rather than seeking ourselves and our identities in the past (dont we all often hear how one's grand parents were rich and powerful etc) and future (that Maserrati car , Havana Cigars , Rolex watches etc etc). Though the concept that he explains is not something that he invented (he doesn't claim so as well, luckily), the beauty lies in the way it is presented .

The good part of Tolle is the clarity (sample in above video) that he had brought in explaining such a heavy concept of realizing self, killing ego, living in now with simple anecdotes and an easy question and answer style and one couldnt stop from drawing easy parallels between Eckhart Tolle, Ramana, Bhavat Gita , Sufisim etc. Tolle seems to be very well living in the present and has been generating books at a notable speed, few good books worth mentioning are “Stillness Speaks” and “Practicing Power of Now”.

The good thing about these two books are the way they have been accepted into the mainstream community irrespective of the heavy subjects , thanks to the capable authors. Nassim believes in the randomness (Fooled by Randomness was his first ever book) and argues that world is more non linear than we tend to think and trying to fit linearities upon an complex non linear event would not get us anywhere. Tolle believes in the orderliness of a very simple world where people cling on to the present and live the current moment and has a magnanimous vision of a New World where every body is very happy practising power of now.
Hey its, time for me to have a coffee , wait a moment , I think nassim would call coffee as “an invigorating liquid which has been made tastier by the brownian motion of the coffee particles suspended in the milk when properly heated” and tolle may call you to "just ignore anything else and enjoy the moment of sipping the coffee and be within yourself". We need them both and morethan any thing I just need my coffee NOW.

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