Saturday, May 18, 2024

Thoughts on Life, Death, and Overcoming Fear

I've been pondering a topic that's universally relevant yet rarely discussed - death and the anxieties it evokes. As I delve deeper into understanding it, I feel compelled to share my thoughts and invite your perspectives.

Some of you might know of my deep-seated fear of death. I've grappled with it for a while, seeking ways to lessen its hold on me. This fear transcends the physical aspects of dying, like illness. It's a more profound existential concern.

For a while now, I've been contemplating two main approaches to comprehending death: through a religious lens and a secular one. As a Muslim, I've dedicated significant effort to understanding the purpose of life and death within the Islamic framework, and I find comfort and coherence in its teachings.

However, I've also explored death from a purely secular perspective, but haven't yet unearthed anything particularly groundbreaking.

This has led me to wonder if my fear stems from a fear of missing out (FOMO) – the idea that the universe will continue to thrive long after I'm gone, and I won't be a part of it. To address this, I considered the possibility that as I age, and perhaps life's novelty wanes (though thankfully, that hasn't been the case so far!), my attachment to this FOMO might lessen. Perhaps, it could eventually lead to indifference towards death, or even a preference for it as life loses its luster.

Is this just a theoretical notion, or could it hold practical truth? The image I've attached (an old woman, presumably content) gives me a glimmer of hope that such acceptance might be attainable.

I'd be grateful for your thoughts and any insights you're willing to share on this topic.

Monday, January 01, 2024

A LookBack at Year 2023

As the fresh breeze of 2024 begins to unfold its chapters, I find myself pausing to reflect on the whirlwind that was 2023. It was a year that brought with it a multitude of experiences, emotions, and milestones. Here's a look back at some of the highlights that made 2023 a year to remember.

A Year in Books

My journey through the pages continued unabated as I devoured 126 books. This is the highest number of books I have ever finished in a single calendar year. The majority were audiobooks, perfect companions during my travels and downtime, but I also treasured the tactile feel of paperbacks and the convenience of Kindle reads. Each book was a new adventure, a new learning experience, and a new perspective gained. I started the year with a target of 60 books but crossed that mark halfway in the year and hence targeted for 100 books, which also I crossed within the first 10 months. My 2024 target will be again 60 books.

On the Road

Speaking of adventures, 2023 saw me embarking on an epic 8-day solo road trip across the USA, covering 5700 miles of diverse landscapes and stories. I covered Shoshone Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton, Arches National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon amongst others in my Tesla. This grand expedition, along with several shorter ones, was a testament to the joy of exploration and the freedom of the open road.

Professional Milestones

On the professional front, I played a pivotal role in Twin Health's significant Series D fundraising of $50 million. Contributing to this milestone was not just a career highlight but a step toward revolutionizing healthcare of chronic diseases like Diabetes and Obesity through our health tech startup.

Family First

2023 was a special year for family achievements and gatherings. My son, Ahyan Zaman, took a bold step toward his dreams by applying for undergraduate programs in musical theatre. Meanwhile, my wife and daughter had a fantastic trip exploring the rich cultures of Tajikistan and Malaysia. The year began with a heartwarming visit from my parents to our home in the San Francisco Bay Area, filling our space with laughter and memories along with a great Hawaii trip. My brother Russel's first visit led us on a series of adventures across the USA, including a memorable trip to Florida to meet with cousins and New York to meet with my Uncle's family.

New Beginnings and Unexpected Turns

I embarked on a new creative venture, launching my YouTube channel Leader's Whiteboard, where I've delivered 17 episodes so far, aiming to inspire and connect with fellow industry leaders and engineers.

However, life had its twists when my Honda Accord was stolen. Remarkably, with the swift action of LoJack and the Fremont Police, it was recovered within 24 hours - a small saga that reminded me of the resilience and community spirit that we often take for granted.

Looking Ahead

As I step into 2024, I carry with me the rich tapestry of experiences from the past year. It's a mix of knowledge gained from books, the freedom tasted on open roads, the satisfaction of professional achievements, the joy of family time, and the excitement of new ventures.

Here's to 2024 - a year I hope will be filled with health, happiness, and success for all. May it be a year where we continue to grow, connect, and make a positive impact in our own lives and the lives of others. Let's make it another year to remember!

Wishing everyone a spectacular New Year!

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Epic 8-Day Road Trip Adventure to Far Horizons

Greetings, fellow travel aficionados! Get ready to be swept away on an exhilarating ride as I recount the incredible tale of my 8-day road trip in my Tesla Model S spanning over 5700 miles across the captivating landscapes, magnificent national parks, and cherished memories. Join me as we delve into each day's highlights, from cascading waterfalls to towering summits and everything in between. A little context before you think why I am in a lonely road trip during this summer. My son Ahyan went for a 3 weeks musical theatre summer course in UCLA where I dropped him 15th of July and picked him up from there August 5th at the end of this road trip. My wife Shusmita and daughter Suhaila went for a trip to Malaysia and Tajikisthan 14th July where my mother-in-law joined them from Bangladesh for the Maylasia part of the trip. Shusmita and Suhaila will be back 7th August while I needed to stay within USA boundary just in case Ahyan needs something. 

Day 1: Speed and Natural Wonders

Embarking at the crack of dawn (6:45 am), my journey kicked off with an impressive 800-mile drive on day one alone! A picturesque detour led me to the breathtaking King's Beach on Lake Tahoe, followed by a rendezvous with the majestic Shoshone Falls, aptly nicknamed the Niagara of the West.

Day 2: Yellowstone's Marvels

Fueled by an early start and a need for speed, I pushed the pedal to reach a heart-pounding 153 mph en route to Yellowstone National Park. Basking in the glory of Old Faithful Geyser and the vibrant Grand Prismatic Spring, I relished the day's captivating sights. I saw many geysers and hot springs in the park but Grand Prismatic is the epic of all. It's the 3rd largest hot spring in the world and simply breathtaking!

Day 3: Wildlife and the Grandeur of Yellowstone

Yellowstone continued to mesmerize with encounters with diverse wildlife, including bison, elk, antelope, and even a coyote. Yet, the crown jewel was the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, adorned with its upper and lower falls, and a series of panoramic viewpoints that left me in awe. I covered Mammoth Hot Springs at the start of the day and then drove to Lamar Valley primarily to watch the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States. It was just before sunset when I was able to catch up with the Artist Point after doing small hikes to the falls.

Day 4: Grand Teton's Enchantment

Grand Teton National Park stole the spotlight on this day. A spectacular tram ride in Jackson Hole led me to a mountaintop restaurant (10450 ft above sea level), where I savored mouthwatering waffles while feasting my eyes on breathtaking vistas. I spent some time just sitting out there. Exploring the Natural Museum of Wildlife Art and the iconic Antler Arches of Jackson added a touch of culture to this unforgettable day.

Day 5: Rediscovering Arches

With Yellowstone well explored (barring Yellowstone lake), I altered my plan to rediscover the wonders of Arches National Park one day earlier. Gazing upon otherworldly rock formations like The Windows, Balanced Rock, and Garden of Devils, I embarked on a hike to the upper and lower outlook of the famed Delicate Arch. Nature had its own plans, however, as a sudden storm forced me to admire it from a distance while I was planning to take the 3.2 miles hike to get to it.

Day 6: A Scenic Voyage

Cruising along the Scenic Highway 12 from Red Canyon to Bryce Canyon National Park was a feast for the senses. The mesmerizing "hoodoos" of Bryce Canyon ignited my wonder, Thor's Hammer made me stay in the Sunset point for longer; and encountering horse riders on the way to Sunrise Point added a touch of authenticity. Venturing further, I embraced the vibrant landscapes of Zion National Park, which I likened to a red-hued Yosemite.

Day 7: Theatrical Magic

Diverging from the natural wonders, I made my way back to Los Angeles to witness my son Ahyan's captivating performance in the musical theatre production Into The Woods at UCLA Little Theatre -- a proud parent moment indeed! He had the lead role of Baker and got a lot of appreciation from the audience and other parents of the various performers.

Day 8: Savoring Flavors and Homeward Bound

Before bidding adieu to this remarkable journey, I embraced a friend's recommendation and savored the delights of Bangla Bazar. With Ahyan by my side, I commenced the return journey to Fremont, concluding this unforgettable road trip. To cap off the day, I caught the 10 pm show of Meg 2: The Trench starring Jason Statham at AMC.

What an extraordinary adventure! From nature's grandeur to the magic of theater, this road trip was a true odyssey. Until the next voyage beckons, keep your wanderlust alive and remember, the open road awaits your next exploration!

During this trip I got time to reflect on my life, my long time topics that have been in the back of my mind. Not all of those can be explained in a written format, however, I will try to put a few from those here.

Topic 1: The Meaning of Life

The meaning of life is a deeply philosophical and subjective question that has been pondered by thinkers, philosophers, and individuals throughout history. It's important to note that there is no single definitive answer to this question, and different people, cultures, and belief systems may offer diverse perspectives on the matter. The way I think of it is that meaning of life is not one thing but multiple things. It's not static but dynamic.

  • Existential Meaning: This perspective suggests that individuals must create their own meaning in life through their choices, actions, and experiences. Existentialists emphasize personal responsibility and the search for purpose in a seemingly indifferent universe.
  • Religious or Spiritual Meaning: Many religious and spiritual beliefs propose that the meaning of life is tied to a higher purpose or divine plan. Different religions offer various explanations for the purpose of human existence, often involving concepts like serving a deity, achieving enlightenment, or fulfilling a spiritual journey. Being a Muslim, this is also my primary understanding and feeling when I think of meaning or purpose of life - to be able to appreciate the almighty creator. This whole road trip, you may consider as an alternate form of pilgrimage, an awe inspiring journey where I have thinking again and again - "fabi ayyi ala i rabbikuma tukazziban" which means "So which of the favors of your lord would you deny?" 
  • Happiness and Fulfillment: Some people find meaning in pursuing happiness, personal growth, and fulfillment. This perspective focuses on seeking joy, contentment, and self-improvement as essential aspects of a meaningful life.
  • Connection and Relationships: Building meaningful connections and relationships with others can be a source of purpose for many. Love, compassion, and contributing positively to the lives of others are often seen as integral to a meaningful existence.
  • Contributing to Society or Humanity: Some individuals find meaning in making a positive impact on society, helping others, or advancing the well-being of humanity. This can include activities such as volunteering, philanthropy, scientific research, or social advocacy. The idea is to leave earth slightly better than when we arrived.
  • Art, Creativity, and Expression: For some, the pursuit of artistic expression, creativity, and cultural contributions provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  • Personal Achievement and Growth: Setting and accomplishing goals, overcoming challenges, and continuously growing as an individual can be a central aspect of finding meaning in life.
  • Nature and the Universe: Connecting with the natural world and contemplating the beauty and complexity of the universe can lead to a sense of awe and wonder, which some people interpret as a form of meaning. In Kung-fu Panda they called it Inner Peace!
  • Philosophical Inquiry: Engaging in philosophical exploration and intellectual pursuits can be a way to seek meaning through understanding the nature of reality, consciousness, and existence.
  • Procreation: To some the primary meaning of life is to procreate, to transfer the gene and in the process being used as a vessel for the mechanism.
  • Death: To some the ultimate meaning of life is to experience death as no one can avoid it.
  • No Meaning: Some people will eventually conclude there is no meaning of life. A reasonable course of action for them will be to live for the moment.

While I don't agree with all the ones listed above, these are some of the possible meanings that people may resonate with. It's important to recognize that each person's perspective on the meaning of life may be influenced by their cultural background, personal beliefs, experiences, and individual circumstances. Ultimately, the quest for meaning is a deeply personal and ongoing journey that may evolve over time. But what if the meaning of life is a probabilistic thing amongst multiple options that varies with time or context? When we ask someone what is the meaning of life, we are asking them in a particular space and time of their lives (knowing that the meaning or meanings may change over time for that same person). To answer the question, the person will need to evaluate or observe at that point in time what they think. As soon as they make an observation/measurement/evaluation, the meaning or meanings will collapse to them in that time’s state of observation. If you ask that same person at a different time, their observation may be different and you may get a different answer. Let's coin a term for this called Observerism. The idea is influenced by Schrödinger’s Cat being dead and alive (a famous thought experiment in quantum mechanics) at the same time until you make an observation or evaluation.

Topic 2: The Isms of Life

I have thought of many isms of life in this trip and decided to open up a spreadsheet to keep track of the ever-growing list of isms I am encountering with time. Here is the spreadsheet consisting of the isms, please feel free to suggest add/edit/delete in this.

  • absurdism - doctrine that we live in an irrational universe
  • aestheticism - doctrine that beauty is central to other moral principles
  • anarchism - doctrine that all governments should be abolished
  • asceticism - doctrine that self-denial of the body permits spiritual enlightenment
  • atomism - belief that the universe consists of small indivisible particles
  • capitalism - doctrine that private ownership and free markets should govern economies
  • casualism - the belief that chance governs all things
  • catastrophism - belief in rapid geological and biological change
  • communism - theory of classless society in which individuals cannot own property
  • conceptualism - theory that universal truths exist as mental concepts
  • constructivism - belief that knowledge and reality do not have an objective value
  • determinism - doctrine that events are predetermined by preceding events or laws
  • egalitarianism - belief that humans ought to be equal in rights and privileges
  • empiricism - doctrine that the experience of the senses is the only source of knowledge
  • eternalism - the belief that matter has existed eternally
  • existentialism - doctrine of individual human responsibility in an unfathomable universe
  • geocentrism - belief that Earth is the centre of the universe
  • hedonism - belief that pleasure is the highest good. if it feels good, do it.
  • holism - doctrine that parts of any thing must be understood in relation to the whole
  • humanism - belief that human interests and mind are paramount
  • indifferentism - the belief that all religions are equally valid
  • individualism belief that individual interests and rights are paramount. what’s in it for me?
  • intellectualism - belief that all knowledge is derived from reason
  • irreligionism - system of belief that is hostile to religions
  • legalism - belief that salvation depends on strict adherence to the law
  • liberalism - doctrine of social change and tolerance
  • libertarianism - doctrine that personal liberty is the highest value
  • materialism - belief that matter is the only extant substance
  • mechanism - belief that life is explainable by mechanical forces
  • mentalism - belief that the world can be explained as aspect of the mind
  • monotheism - belief in only one God
  • mortalism - belief that the soul is mortal
  • naturalism - belief that the world can be explained in terms of natural forces
  • nihilism - denial of all reality; extreme scepticism
  • optimism - doctrine that we live in the best of all possible worlds
  • organicism - conception of life or society as an organism
  • pessimism - doctrine that the universe is essentially evil
  • pluralism - belief that reality consists of several kinds or entities
  • polytheism - belief in multiple deities
  • positivism - doctrine that which is not observable is not knowable
  • pragmatism - doctrine emphasizing practical value of philosophy
  • predestinarianism - belief that what ever is to happen is already fixed
  • primitivism - doctrine that a simple and natural life is morally best
  • quietism - doctrine of enlightenment through mental tranquility
  • racism - belief that race is the primary determinant of human capacities
  • rationalism - belief that reason is the fundamental source of knowledge
  • realism - doctrine that objects of cognition are real
  • reductionism - belief that complex phenomena are reducible to simple ones
  • representationalism - doctrine that ideas rather than external objects are basis of knowledge
  • romanticism - belief in sentimental feeling in artistic expression
  • scientism - belief that the methods of science are universally applicable
  • sexism - belief in systematic inequalities between the sexes
  • skepticism - doctrine that true knowledge is always uncertain
  • socialism - doctrine of centralized state control of wealth and property
  • spiritualism - belief that nothing is real except the soul or spirit
  • stoicism - belief in indifference to pleasure or pain
  • subjectivism - doctrine that all knowledge is subjective
  • thanatism - belief that the soul dies with the body
  • theism - belief in the existence of God without special revelation
  • theocentrism - belief that God is central fact of existence
  • titanism - spirit of revolt or defiance against social conventions
  • tolerationism - doctrine of toleration of religious differences
  • trialism - doctrine that humans have three separate essences (body, soul, spirit)
  • undulationism - theory that light consists of waves
  • utilitarianism - belief that utility of actions determines moral value

Topic 3: Dopamine Release

I enjoy the adrenaline rush that accompanies the prospect of locating Tesla superchargers within the required timeframe during my road adventures. The surge of dopamine that floods in when you believe you've averted a potential setback by stumbling upon a supercharger, thereby salvaging your journey, finances, and perhaps even safety, is truly profound. However, what I've come to realize is that even when a supercharger isn't essential, there's still a satisfying rush of dopamine that occurs simply from discovering their availability. Frequently, I find myself pausing to recharge a bit more, even when it's not strictly necessary!

Topic 4: Books Read

I read a lot of books during this, almost all of which are via audible. Here is the list - 

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky - this large book was already half read when I started the journey. So I finished the rest of the half in Day 1 of the trip. This is often claimed as the first psychological thriller. Now I am planning to read all of his other best works, notably - The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, Demons and Notes from Underground.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - the largest book I read in recent times, 36 hours of normal listening speed. Now-a-days I listen at 1.3x speed in audible for most books.
  • Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche - a tough one, I will need to re-read it in future. just wanted to get some taste.
  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare - a small dramatization by Audible
  • What Is Life? with Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches by Erwin Schrödinger
  • Candide by Voltaire - a satire
  • Introduction to the Study of Religion by Charles Brewer Jones - from Great Courses series of Audible
  • (In Progress) The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud - finished a quarter of this large book in audible format from Youtube. so far its a theoretical but interesting book.
  • (In Progress) Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass R. Sunstein - this is the only paper book that I have been reading the last several months bit by bit. I will take a few more months before I finish. Currently done about 15%.

Exploring Crater Lake and Redwood National Park

After a delightful Twin Health BBQ Summer Party on July 21st at Half Moon Bay, I embarked on a thrilling 3-day road trip to Oregon and California, aiming to explore the tallest trees on Earth. The journey included visits to Redding, Crater Lake, Lassen Volcanic Park, and Redwood National Park.

The expedition began with a leisurely stroll across the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay in Redding, setting the tone for the adventure ahead. The following day involved detours to the Klamath Fort Museum and a visit to Lassen Volcanic Park, but the highlight was reuniting with the breathtaking Crater Lake. Its deep blue waters and vastness left a profound impression, and the lake's significance as one of the world's deepest was noted - 9th overall but 3rd if measured by average depth.

The road trip also included encounters with Mount Shasta, the impressive Shasta Dam, and a return to the Sundial Bridge. The final day brought a rendezvous with the towering giants of Redwood National Park, particularly the awe-inspiring Trees of Mystery. The Avenue of the Giants provided a humbling path through these ancient trees. I was delighted to see the elks just beside my car while driving back through Elk Meadow Cabin where we visited several times in the past.

The journey included a reflection on the extraordinary beauty of Crater Lake and the grandeur of the redwoods. I visited all of these in the past but this time after a long gap. The experience underscored the importance of preserving these natural wonders for future generations, leaving a lasting sense of inspiration and anticipation for future encounters with nature's greatness.

Thoughts on Life, Death, and Overcoming Fear

I've been pondering a topic that's universally relevant yet rarely discussed - death and the anxieties it evokes. As I delve deeper ...