Book Review – The order of time

The Order of Time

The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What is time and how does it flow? When a scientist of Mr.Rovelli’s caliber expounds his narrative (he is both a renown scholar and a storyteller), you are sure to be spellbound by the breadth of his topic and his ability to take you by the hand and explore it so beautifully. You will walk away with a better appreciation of time, how it flows, how space relates to it and of course with a sense of wonder at everything around you. This is a worthy successor to his exceptional book on Physics, a must read in my view for everyone – not just for the topic itself, but for getting inspired by a mind of great curiosity and genius.



View all my reviews

‘True’ and ‘true for me’ – two different things…

A friend came back disillusioned after having tried a meditation technique for a few weeks.

“The organization had statistics to prove how beneficial the course was. I even had friends who took the course and now swear by it. Why does it just not work for me – I swear I followed the instructions to a T?” he exclaimed.

This is becoming a common complaint. We do some research, pick an activity or a situation which we are sure will help us get to where we want to go – only to find that the glove doesn’t fit so well. And when this happens, we throw out the baby – in this case – my friend was unlikely to give meditation (even a very different school) another go in the future. What is happening here?

I have come to believe the answer is the difference between something being “true” and something being “true for me”. For instance – when someone talks about the speed of light being constant everywhere, we believe it – we may not have personally experienced it in all its shades, but its been verified repeatedly by many, many intelligent folks. Or when your car mechanic (a competent one) tells you your clutch is worn out, you take his advice without question – and the car is better post the fix. Fixes for clutches and scientific truths remain the same irrespective of who is inquiring into it.

When you consider ayurveda or meditation however, you need something more personal – attuned to your body type and your mental makeup. your “super analytic friend” may need to read up some of the logic-based scriptures and related techniques (say ramana maharishi’s advice of tracing “who am i?” to its source). A friend who has just experienced a major personal setback would need a totally different method – something to calm the mind like a mantra recitation or witnessing the breath perhaps. And there are further layers too within each type. For the upanishads are many and yet their goal is one – to help each of us discover our truths for ourselves. And our experience with the methods and approaches will let us know if its working.

So in short, these streams place the human being at the centre and encourage her to try out a particular path and keep tailoring it based on her experience. There is no “right or wrong” – there is only “right or wrong” for a person and/or for a circumstance. The field of validating facts has moved from an impersonal laboratory to yourself – your own body, your own mind, your own spiritual needs. 

I think this is a very liberating concept. And very interesting too. When a meditation technique doesn’t seem to work for you – you don’t have to blame yourself for not succeeding, nor do you need to judge the technique. You just need to understand its not the right one for you – at this time, it could be later on – and move on. Its also interesting – because to make the best choices, you need to understand yourself best – how else can you choose what’s most appropriate for you? This is what I told my friend – informing him of my own experiences – some which helped, some not so much. He seemed to agree – and has found another approach that seems to connect better.

What do you feel about this?

On the brink of something special – an immersive future

A quiet weekend sees me doing nothing in particular but ruminating on how ancient man seems to have been inspired by nature, with some enormously beneficial outcomes:

1. Yoga asanas and martial arts inspired by our animal kingdom to tone the body and keep the mind alert. Cobra pose, monkey style kungfu..you get the idea

2.Incorporating a knowledge of the seasons, the stars, the plan and the animal kingdoms into taking holistic decisions (effect of watching “The Gods must be crazy” I guess!).

3. Meditation gleaned from understanding spontaneity and stillness (yes together!) of nature (think about observing a flower in bloom, a dew drop at dawn or the limitless sky). These have been perceived as doorways into the infinite for aeons…

Man has looked at himself and his relationship with nature to derive meaning.And while it has worked wonderfully well, for the most part the experience is limited to the practitioner.So while the yogic man can experience the bliss of relaxation gleaned from a reading of a cat in repose, and the man who understands the effects of an eclipse on his body and mind is at advantage.

For the unaware, this is of no help at all. You need to participate to reap the benefits for the most part.

On the other hand, Science and society seem to have partnered with a focus on objective outcomes as opposed to participant-centric-holistic outcomes (quite a mouthfull!). So aeroplanes allow people to get from destination a to destination b – which was the end objective – but the bird’s sense of freedom during flight was not important, and therefore not built into the experience. Categorisation was not on ability of a person to experience flight but on ability to pay for the journey and hence we have “business class” but not “athlete class”!

But I guess this is evolving again further. Participation is again becoming a critical component in newer models while keeping objective successes on the anvil as well – fuelled by science’s forays into immersive experiences and technology ubiquity.

A few examples:

A bunch of students recently Built a car that’s powered by likes and shares – a “social” car if there ever was one!

Airlines are speculating options of incentivizing passengers to lose weight.The Nike Fuel band is allowing people to take control of their own life habits. Your performance and not your bank balance will allow you a preferred membership status!

Wii and Kinect are transforming the video gamer from a couch potato into an athlete

Groups like the “slow movement” are teaching people to savour their life better. “Externalities accounting” ensures accountants can no longer take the environment for granted and push down one dollar burgers which cost our environments USD 200 in damage!

All of which makes me think that science and spirituality (for want of a better word) are coming together to make our lives (and our ecosystem) better and sustainable. Now that’s a nice thought?

Eulogy time..

A good collegue, a friend passed away this morning. A gentle man devoured by a ravaging cancer. Over time, the disease took away his appetite,  his mobility, his stamina. It could of course do little about his smile, which continued to shine through – amidst  grimacing pain. It’s this smile, and his gentle habit that I know will inspire his family and friends forever. 

Death forces us to ponder on bigger themes.

On the fickleness of life and the futility of trying to caliberate the effectiveness of our minute lifetimes, foibles and stresses on the grand scale of evolution. What’s a hundred years (or less) matter in an evolutionary history of eons – our mountains fade away into molehills when seen in perspective. And should this insight not destress us as we understand that our life’s events are for the most part insignificant on a world scale?

It also encourages us to acknowledge the ancients wisdom in codifying a religion embracing concepts of immortality. When nature takes away a loved one from the reaches of our eye and touch, it is religion that assures us of the loved ones not being lost forever – only to our five senses. Sometimes we need to augment the scientist’s facts with religion’s truths – the mind needs the solace of the soul so to speak.

As I write this, I know its a normal day for nature – though a devastating day for ones experiencing the loss. Time and prayers will heal some, in the meantime its perhaps best to pack some goodness, a comforting shoulder and a thoughtful mind and offer these to the many who need it…..and maybe saying a hero’s story or two in praise of the departed one would help too.