For the last two months, I have been going on regular walks in my small town. It took some time to get used to my beat because I was confused about whether I wanted to take a different route every day or continue on a specific route. After several days, I settled on the one that I currently take.
As I get out of my house, I am greeted each morning by four of the puppies on my street, who are the most eager in the mornings to show their excitement. They climb on my legs with their pointy paws and want my attention. I spend a few minutes with them and commence my walk. On the route, sometimes I meet a neighbour who I say hi to. I arrive at a small commercial junction where there are carts selling hot food to morning commuters and stationery shops and pharmacies. I cross them and walk along a big abandoned park. I walk through school squares and corners where men in soiled clothes fix tyres of bikes and bicycles.
In so many days, I have gotten familiar with the little black pup who plays by the roadside in a specific spot, next to a small shop that sells tea, biscuits, chocolates and I suppose cigarettes as well. I have gotten familiar with a specific house that seems to be raising chickens. Yet new things happen every day on familiar routes. For example today, I was stopped by a blue car by a young girl who stuck her head out and asked me the directions to a neighbouring school. She was not in a school uniform, so I was wondering if she was coming to meet a friend or just visit the school because she wanted to take admission there.
Another day, in the house that is raising chickens, I saw a young man get into a fight with a dog. The man seemed to be keen on keeping the dog out, but the dog kept barking and showing her disagreement at that. After having been around dogs for a while, I know a little something about dog barks. And this specific one was a tone of complaining, it was almost humane, as if like a negotiation. She was not aggressive, she was not scared as she barked. It was almost like, “I want to be inside, but you’re not letting me. I am so not happy about that.”
Anyways, on my walks, my constant companion is the Audible app. I have been listening to audiobooks for a while now and finally, I have proper over the ear headphones to protect my ears as I indulge in this. I just finished two books on economics:
- A Little History of Economics by Niall Kishtainy
- The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
I recommend both books, in that order, if you are someone who is a beginner like me in economics.
I have pondered over years now, why some people get to live a comfortable life while others don’t. I have wondered often, as a child, what it would have meant to be born into a different, wealthier family in West Bengal. Or a different part of India. Or the world. Or what it would have meant to bear a different surname.
I am reading economics with the purpose of understanding why economic inequality exists and how it’s connected to human nature. Are some people worse off because others want them to be worse off? Or is it that our world, this universe, is a poem in randomness? Is it that no matter what anyone wants, in the end, nothing is in our control. Our good intentions do not change the world as much as we would like to think. The same goes for bad intentions.
The powerful have abused the powerless at all times in the natural world. Three of my puppies regularly bully the smallest one. I have to feed him separately for him to even manage eating one morsel of food. Maybe the natural tendency in this world is to survive as well as we can, even at the expense of others.
Yes, the butterfly effect holds. Yes, the actions of a few good actors can inspire others to be better themselves. As is the case with a few bad actors. Perhaps for every Gandhi, there will be a Hitler, in every generation. Collectively, over the course of our lifetimes and those of our future generations, there is no way to ascertain if as humans we will grow more conscientious and more humane. As there is no way to ascertain that the world is definitely headed for doomsday. Neither is true and maybe both are true. We as individuals are too small to grasp the mechanics that drive this Universe. All we can do is merely observe and make notes.
What is the point of economics? What is the point of astrophysics? What is the point of the theory of relativity if we truly are blinks of the eye of evolution? If in the grand scheme of the Universe, we don’t matter as much we’d like to think.
Yet, if there is no meaning to anything, how does one live 60-70 years of their lives? How does an animal as complex as humans survive its journey on this Earth? What should drive them? Because we are complex enough to understand empathy, to feel myriad emotions, to feel capable of taking actions which at least in the short term can make things better (in our opinions. Can we really make anything better in insolation for one thing, and not make something else worse off? Are we capable as individuals to make realistic tradeoffs at all times? – these are still questions which we need to think about). So if we do not give ourselves a sense of purpose, will we not kill ourselves and those who come in the way?
Maybe that’s why economics. That’s why astrophysics, that’s why religion, that’s why meteorology. We are constantly feeding the need to know more, the experience more, to fuel our brains as much as we’re fueling our physical hunger of food.
Yet, in recent times, you see the Western world looking Eastward to ancient Hindu/Buddhist philosophies. In the study of knowing oneself better. Maybe all that we want to know lies within us and there is nothing more that we’ll never need.
Maybe all paths do lead to Rome. In fact, indeed all paths do. Because no matter who you are, to dust you shall return, and that is the only truth.
We in our limited capacities cannot comprehend everything. We will not live forever to know how the story of Earth or humanity finally ends. We have to make peace with understanding that. And in the moments when we feel low, feel hurt and powerless, we should remind ourselves that there is really nothing in our power, even if we were arrogant/ill-informed enough to think so.
To be at peace with randomness, that’s my prayer. Maybe we all have the strength to endure.