Asking Big Questions from Life

It is sometimes funny to ‘discover’ something that is so simple and yet lies completely undetected in our everyday thoughts. One such concept is the following.

If you don’t ask big questions from life, you will not get big answers as well.

Many a times, it is just about changing the mindset and seeking to find answer to something that is thought impossible by the people around. However, after something of that scale is achieved by someone, it seems so simple that we only look back and ask why it had not been done before.

We can have a look at the history of sports to find some examples.

  • For around 80 years in international competitions, it was thought impossible to run 100 meters sprint in less than 10 seconds. 100m/10s = (100/10)x(3600/1000) equal to 36 km/hr was the ultimate barrier. Then, in 1968, Jim Hines broke this barrier by completing it in 9.9 seconds. And then there were a large number of athletes who gradually kept on improving it. The current record stands with Usain Bolt at 9.58 seconds.
  • In cricket, each over consists of six balls. It then looks incredible that six sixes had never been hit in six balls in a major cricket match. Then, it was 1968 again when Sobers became the first batsman ever to hit six sixes in a single over in first-class cricket. Here is how he did it.

Even more such examples exist in the history of scientific discovery. The fundamental concept is very interesting in the sense that it is hard to measure how big a role is played by just the belief itself. Physical demonstration and result occurs much later.

The past 60 years have in fact been very different than any other era in human history. The world started to recover from two world wars and there seems to be a laser focus among nations over construction instead of destruction. Then, man chose to go to the moon: this was the famous address at Rice University by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in front of a large crowd gathered at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962.

We choose to go to the Moon!

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the Moon! … We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …

Notice the tone of the speech, how it emphasizes on shifting the focus from bad to good decisions for the whole mankind. There was nothing as remarkable and nearly impossible than this mission of landing on the moon. And once man actually did conquer the moon, the realm of possibilities just burst open and there was nothing left in the imagination of the children of that era that was considered impossible to conquer.

The subsequent phenomenal rise of technology, particularly from Silicon Valley companies, coincides with many other developments but it is difficult to imagine any of the present day progress without the belief itself. Similarly, the existing opportunities in achieving big goals will lead to an entirely new period of development (think of self-driving cars, shipment delivery drones, Internet of Things, and advances in bioengineering to name a few).

For every such and bigger thing to happen, a major shift in creative thinking is vital. See the figure above. If you will not ask big questions from life, you will not get big answers as well.

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