Random Musings #36: Reflections on Relativity!

Nope, we are not continuing down the ‘scientific’ path and following up Sir Isaac Newton’s ‘Laws of Motion’ (Random Musings#34) with Albert Einstein’s ‘Theory of Relativity’! Kevin Brown has already done a splendid job of that in his book ‘Reflections on Relativity’ and so we will leave it to experts like him!

This is in the context of realizing often that two concepts, on analyzing the difference between them, are actually more the same than different!

Relativity and relativism being apt examples.

‘As nouns, the difference between relativity and relativism is that relativity is the state of being relative to something else while relativism is the theory, especially in ethics or aesthetics, that conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them.’ (wikidiff)

Heavy? Again?! But these are integral life truths, aren’t they? And we do live them day in day out. In almost every, if not every, aspect of life.

While we are individuals, we are also who we are relative to others. And our conceptions of truth and moral values are relative to those of others. This makes us individuals even more. And also connects us to others even more. One underpinning the other.

I digress though. It is rather tempting to get into the above meatier matter and we will, another time. Not that what I talk about below is not connected with this, anyway!

I was actually reflecting on a relatively (!) ‘lighter’ matter of relativity and relativism in the context of ‘money, space and time’. In that order, while also alphabetically arranged.

Money. How much money is less, sufficient or more? To make, to spend, to hold, to give. What is the elusive formula which completes the equation between money and happiness? Whether happiness increases in proportion to the amount of money one makes, or has, is a topic of extensive study and debate. Theories have ranged from a) they vary proportionately, through b) they vary proportionately until a level (the satiation point; Princeton University even putting a $75,000 number, in 2010, to it!) and then happiness tapers off, to c) they vary inversely! I suspect that this conundrum will continue to the end of life! Compounded by the fact that not only do we grapple with this in our own context but also, sometimes even more, take it on ourselves to have an opinion and to judge in the context of others!

Now, how does it work for me is a fair question to answer.

Money does matter and continues to matter. There came a point of time though from when earning money has been more about acknowledgement.

And like you, I believe in value for money. A case in point: needing a photo, recently, for a new ID card, I had the choice of a studio at the neighborhood Spinneys centre which charges the equivalent of US$22/-. Knowing this to be at least twice what is a reasonable price, I drove down to Al Quoz, less than 10 minutes away, and got it done for under US$6/-. And felt good about it.

As a typical Taurean, I do enjoy the good things in life. Both material and, even more, experiences such as holidays and the like. But am happy when material things that I splurge on last for a while. Like the pair of Lacoste shoes I was wearing a couple of days ago that a friend noticed and remarked as looking good. Which made me recall that I had bought them some 10 years ago!

Holding is good, for the inevitable rainy days. And giving, is personal and private.

Space. How much space is less, sufficient or more? To live in. The classic house versus home question. Most of us want big houses to live in while all of us need cozy homes to return to at the end of the day.

A recent visit to a childhood home brought back a flood of memories. And a reflection that each of the homes we live in has its own character. I do have a distinct memory of every home that I have lived in so far. Two childhood and young adulthood homes at Madras. Then as a working bachelor at Hosur, Hyderabad, Bombay, Bahrain and, for a brief while, Abu Dhabi. Early married life in a cozy flat at Abu Dhabi and then moving homes, in Dubai and Singapore, no less than nine times with an impending tenth. Without a doubt, each of these have left a bit of their character in me as also a bit of me was left behind in them.

Time. Now, this is a biggie! Time, it is said, is the only truly finite resource. How much time is less, sufficient or more? To live. To learn. To change. To forgive. To forget. To give. To take. To wait. To be patient.

While generally a patient person, I have previously wanted things sooner than later. And been impatient when it took time. A boss in my early work life did think and say that ‘Patience is the virtue of donkeys’ and that may have rubbed off on me!

With time, and life lessons, I have learnt to appreciate that good things are worth waiting for! A flight which was delayed no less that 5 times still took us on a trip for a joyous occasion and to meet with loved ones — old and new! With every other flight on that 8-leg fortnight’s trip perfectly on schedule. A 24 hour to a maximum 30 days approval process taking 93 days was a test of patience but made it all the more valuable and to be grateful for when it eventually came through. And similar patient waits continue on other things, big and small!

Valuing time is clearly also about enjoying things while they last and learning to make the most of any situation, again, while they last. Like the saying goes ‘All good things come to an end’. And like another saying goes ‘This too shall pass’. Time, good or not so good, is finite!

The relativity of money, space and time. And their relativism.

Einstein was apparently miffed with philosophers and is said to have said “They play with the word…like a child with a doll…it does not mean that everything in life is relative”.

I do tend, though, to lean more towards the French philosopher, mathematician and social scientist August Comte. He formulated the doctrine of positivism and is regarded as the first philosopher of science. And had a view that:

“Everything is relative; and only that is absolute!”

image credit: kensworld20 — WordPress.com

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Prabhakar Kesavan

Prabhakar Kesavan

Aspiring to make and leave an impact…

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