Sacrifice

Sacrifice has been a common motif in every religious tradition. Ancient Vedic rituals involved sacrificing real animals thousands of years ago when they began. However, as time went on, the sacrifices changed to more symbolic representatives of animals.

As humans evolve, it appears that the idea of sacrifice is a continuing one. But as civilization has progressed, the human mind has come to realize that sacrifices can be made on a more abstract and conceptual level.

 

Bug hunting

When developing software, one of the crucial tasks is to find potential problems in advance and fix them. In doing so, a developer needs to find ways to conceptually break the system. This is a useful way to make sure one’s code is robust and can withstand issues in the real world. This is a way to hunt for bugs and avoid major issues in the future

Pity the fool

On occasions, one feels very sorry for oneself and begins the process of self-pity. It is situations like this when one needs to stop and take a step back. Each time, self-pity is revealed in hindsight to have been a foolish decision.

Having a victim mentality leads to one releasing control of what can be changed within oneself. Of course, one cannot change things externally. For example, if a person is hit by a car, he cannot change that fact. However, if he survives, he can control what he can, namely his mental state and physical health, and possibly recover and live a good life.

Getting lost in a sea of self-pity is always a bad idea.

Learning to read

For human beings, the abilities to read and write are marvelous achievements. For the several hundred thousand years that humans were living as hunter gatherers, written records do not exist.

It was only in the last ten thousand years or so that humans began to form agricultural societies. Today, human society is primarily agricultural.

Written records exist only from around the last ten thousand years since the shift towards agriculture. On the other hand, humans have been speaking to each other for a much longer time. Hence, much of the ancient wisdom and records were carried in the form of oral recitations from times immemorial. The ancient Indian scriptures called the Vedas were carried on as an oral tradition for long before being written down.

Until a few hundred years ago, before the invention of the printing press, most people could not read texts. It appears that even those who could read usually had to read it aloud and humans learned to read in silence on a mass scale only recently.

Overall, it is remarkable that human beings have consciousness and developed the ability to read and write. At the same time, in the world of today, it has fooled many about the extent of human knowledge. One needs to keep in mind that the intellect is only one of the human appendages. It is not the be-all and end-all of everything.

Nietzsche described those who overestimated the value of this one particular quality in Thus Spake Zarathustra:

And when I came out of my solitude, and for the first time passed over this bridge, then I could not trust mine eyes, but looked again and again, and said at last: “That is an ear! An ear as big as a man!” I looked still more attentively—and actually there did move under the ear something that was pitiably small and poor and slim. And in truth this immense ear was perched on a small thin stalk—the stalk, however, was a man! A person putting a glass to his eyes, could even recognise further a small envious countenance, and also that a bloated soullet dangled at the stalk. The people told me, however, that the big ear was not only a man, but a great man, a genius. But I never believed in the people when they spake of great men—and I hold to my belief that it was a reversed cripple, who had too little of everything, and too much of one thing.

– Nietzsche

The ancient Roman philosophy

As one reads about the daily lives of ancient Romans, one runs across the two major schools of philosophy: stoicism and epicureanism. These schools, along with other smaller schools such as cynicism, contended for the minds of the citizens of the Roman Empire. However, these schools were not proselytizing by nature. Citizens were attracted to them per individual tastes and mindsets.

Alongside this, one observes that the intellectuals among the ancient Romans, such as Cicero, were not great believers in the pagan gods of the day. The attitude to religion overall was that of customary common practice, rather than having a prepackaged set of beliefs which had to be digested by each follower. It appears that it was mainly near the Eastern borders of the empire that people were more prone to pay obeisance to their potentates and thus, had a more servile attitude towards their gods.

Improving code quality

One can look at a software project and be dismayed at the number of problems it may have. Code quality is difficult to quantify but in general, readability, ease of maintainability and few basic bugs could be some of the things which indicate code quality.

One way to begin improve code quality is by beginning to clean up the code. One approach could be to employ the boy scout principle as a programming practice:

The Boy Scouts have a rule: “Always leave the campground cleaner than you found it.” If you find a mess on the ground, you clean it up regardless of who might have made the mess. You intentionally improve the environment for the next group of campers.

Daily lives of ancient Romans

We read about patrimony, evergetism, and other interesting practices of the ancient Romans.

Also, it is interesting that the Romans regarded the gods as merely one step above the humans, who were in turn seen as one step above animals. So, the cultured Romans did not believe in a servile relationship with gods unlike the peoples of Eastern regions of those times.

Slavery was seen as quite natural and part of daily life, although some of the followers of stoicism later on did have reservations with this practice.

All these and other fascinating details can be gleaned from the fascinating History Of Private Life. This is a multi-volume work encompassing periods all the way from ancient Rome to the modern day.

Knowing when one is about to make a mistake

One of the sure ways to know when I’m about to make mistakes is when I suddenly feel super-clever and feel like I can do anything. In most cases after such a feeling comes, I end up doing something I regret.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is the cognitive bias which makes one overestimate one’s own cognitive abilities. One needs to keep this in mind and watch for such occurrences. It could save one much embarrassment later.

Watching for one’s own ego (as it usually ends up harming oneself) should be one of the practices and routines one follows regularly as recommended by stoics such as Seneca.

Tinkering produces marvels

When thinking of how innovations are made, one might think that this is done by some genius suddenly thinking up a miraculous idea. However, this is rarely how it happens.

For example, Penicillin was discovered “by accident” by Alexander Fleming in his lab at St. Mary’s Hospital, London after having slaved away at tinkering and experimenting for a couple of decades.

Similarly, one can imagine the marvels of the future to be invented by tinkerers and practitioners who put in the hard work which is essential for innovation.

Thomas edison

What dreams may come

Dreams are a fascinating aspect of the human experience. They seem to occur when one has temporarily lost consciousness in the from of sleep or in cases of longer losses of consciousness in the from of coma etc. Human consciousness itself is not very well understood and dreams are a still a sort of mystery. It is almost like our we run running simulations on our basic architecture when dreaming.

Also, on a few occasions, one dreams some things which help clarify one or the other thing in real life. Dreams even foreshadow what happens in the future. Also, dreams occasionally show things which happened in the past. On other occasions, one dreams things which are completely unconnected to anything at all.

The ancient Indian scriptures, Upanishads, posit the existence of a fourth state of consciousness (apart from awake, dreaming and deep sleep) which enlightened ones attain. This is the Turiya (meaning “fourth” in Sanskrit) state.

It would be interesting to see what things mankind discovers about dreams.