An I for an Eye, a Soothe for a Truth

By Balaji Prasad

“It's your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you." - Rumi

“Can someone help me solve my problem?"

“Maybe," I say. “It really depends on whether it is your problem, or it is just a problem: one that lives outside of, and independent of you."

When a problem becomes a “problim"

The creators of the word “problem" could have put an “i" in it rather than an “e", had they been a little mischievous, for surely they would have foreseen that most problems would center around an I; otherwise, they wouldn't be problems at all, would they?

There are, of course, problems that don't have an I in them, such as math problems, or SAT problems. I, and others, can help with those for sure, at least more easily than with the problems that have an I in them. Why? Because we don't have to deal with an owner who is entangled in the problem. When there's an owner inside the problem, swirling around indistinguishably from it, it becomes difficult to tell where the owner ends and where the problem begins. And that is a problem! Or more correctly, a “problim", if we put the I in there to remind ourselves that it is not just a good old math-type problem; it is an ornery problem with an I that twists and turns it into something far more complex.

An I for an eye

The code of Hammurabi said that when a person who commits a crime and takes away something from another, the perpetrator must suffer the equal fate of having to give up the same thing that they took away from the other.

Hammurabi may not have had his eye on the I, but we can co-opt his law and apply it in a different way. We shall say that the penalty for giving up your eye is not to give up your I, but make you suffer the pain of having one. And, what is the I, but a thing that sees through other people's eyes rather than its owner's?

That sounds like a terrible thing: I would have to ignore what my own eyes see, and live my life based on what someone else tells me that they supposedly see. With this harsh ruling of Hammurabi, I would go from being a first person to being a third person! Perhaps even a third-rate person.

Is this too far from the truth though? Maybe this is what has happened, unbeknownst to us. Maybe we do often see through the eyes of others. If the expert says x, then x it shall be. And then we find out that the “expert" was wrong. “Oh well," we say, and move on to the next expert's opinion on things at a different point in time. Are we doomed to repeat the same thing over and over again? Why is it that even when the truth is accessible through our own eyes, that we suffer the Illusions that come to us through the eyes of others?

A soothe for a truth

Maybe our chains of illusion come from the second part of Hammurabi's Law: “a truth for a truth". In the current context, I will take a little liberty with that statement, and make it “a soothe for the truth", to see if that offers an explanation for why illusions are sought.

Could it be, in general, that it is not the truth we are after? Truth in this universe consists of lots and lots of things, much of which is irrelevant to us. It is only truths that are germane to me in my universe that matter. And what might that universe be?

It consists of all kinds of things floating inside my head, some of which have a tie to things that exist outside my head, but lots of which do not have to have any such allegiance to reality. Furthermore, I have a great deal of emphasis on some of the flotsam and jetsam in the waters of my mind, and I have very little emphasis on some.

How likely is it that my flotsam and jetsam are the same as someone else's? Unlikely, I would say in some cases. But pretty likely in some cases, if the flotsam floated in from the mainstream ocean into the little sea that is inside my head. So, the illusions created by the mainstream will dovetail rather nicely with the illusions I have already ingested into my head over time, if I have not been curating carefully. And I will find these illusions soothing.

If It soothes, it must be the truth. Or maybe not. Maybe it would be good to make an attempt to live in the real universe, and while not all the flotsam and jetsam inside can be weeded out, maybe some of it can be. We do de-weed our gardens once in a while. Couldn't we do that with our heads as well? Then maybe I can be me, someday?


Balaji Prasad is an IIT/IIM graduate, a published author, SAT/ACT Online and Offline Coach, interview, resume, and career coach at NewCranium. Contact: 704.746.9779 or