Thinking About Thinking - 2021

Of Mountains and Molehills

By Balaji Prasad

“Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me." - William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

There are many things in this world and so little of me. And this is so even when the definition of “world" is just that part that is practically accessible to me, i.e. my world. If I dealt with everything in my world as if they were all equal then this would definitely result in many things becoming unequal, even marginalized, because, pragmatically, it is just impossible for me to devote my attention to everything. These inequalities would happen but they would happen randomly based on what my eye catches at any given point in time, often driven by what circumstances and the people that I get exposed to happen to be engaging in. If I flow along with the circumstances and people in my sphere, I am little more than a dead fish that gets carried along by the stream I happen to have been dumped into.

Life is a combination of being a dead fish and a live fish. It is neither completely random, buffeted around by circumstantial currents, nor is it completely driven by the life-form that surely exists within but which sometimes feels completely absent. If you are a deep philosopher, you might just say I am neither fish nor fowl or anything else, and I care not who I am or what I am or what I do, and what everything else and everyone else around me does. I am because I am, and there may not even be an I. But on the off chance that you're not cast in such a mold, it helps to pause, take a deep breath once in a while and ask, “How alive am I?".

A life in the land is worth two in the slush

So, assuming that there is a driver behind the wheel who likes to drive as much as possible, it is necessary to have a map and a destination — or two or three — that feels like it is worth being at. This means that it is also necessary to figure out how to find the relative worth of different destinations and journeys. Otherwise, we would be back at square one where everything is like everything else and we have only a million shades of grey and one deep philosopher. Or a pretty dejected human being.

Some things are really, really important. Really. Like food. And water. Maslow's Hierarchy, for those who are into models lays out quite well the core things that we cannot get by without. When we don't have these basics, nothing else matters much. Maslow's hierarchy is really a pyramid. As you climb higher in the pyramid and get your head in the clouds and then into the stratosphere, you start aspiring for things that have to do with what others think of you and such. Until you really attain escape velocity and become that grandmaster philosopher who really doesn't think about any earthly matters, least of all about what others think of you.

A lot of it does seem to have to do with others, and how they view you. Or, more correctly, how you speculate that others view you. Because if you think about it, others think about you as much as you think about them, and that may not be a whole lot. That makes you stop and wonder. Hmmm... do my Facebook posts really get me as much as the time it takes me to formulate them and watch for “likes" and other positive-strokes emojis? Are people really paying as much attention to my posts as they are to their own posts and the reactions to them? If not, should I be investing my time in something else that is more beneficial to me? Should my life be driven by circumstances created by Mark and Jack? Am I just a dead fish that they carry in their current while I get tossed and turned around in the tides that go up sometimes and down sometimes? Surely this is slush? Wouldn't it be better for me to find land and stand strong and stable on it, wanting none of this stuff and avoid drowning in all this? I don't mind being a fish, but at least I would like to be a fish that is alive.

Strive for inequality!

It's time for a revolution! We must seek more than equality for ourselves. The flotsam and jetsam floating around us is worthless; it's bilge. We, individually, are the most important thing in the world. These things shouldn't rule our lives and turn us into dead fish flopping about in the slush.

To be alive, we need just one important life skill: to know the difference between a mountain and a molehill. That should not be hard if we open our eyes and see the big stuff and ignore the little things that circumstances and people incessantly throw at us. Can we? Or will we feed more and more into Mark's and Jack's and others' business models and other similar things that give us illusions of “who we are" rather than being whatever we are, even if we are just small fish in the vast ocean?


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