Should be reading more and writing less, but well...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Of Quests and Barriers

Just watched Anupama yet again, and am feeling a mix of satisfaction, goose bumps, tears, and optimism; but most of all, I am left wondering at how some failed relationships [in this case, the doomed father-daughter one] can never be overcome. One cannot really move on. One can move on in life, but that particular relationship slot [for the lack of a better phrase] will always be a void.

On the other hand, these relationships are mostly not affected by long-distance, attention-deficit, character flaws, and other parameters that can affect (say) a romantic relationship heavily. Is this because of our long standing childhood relationships with parents that are mostly exclusive? Is this because of the birth-happens-only-once factor? or something more sublime?

In my futile quest to rationalize emotions, I try to analyse love; and as I tackle parental love, I am confronted with more barriers than with most other loves. The rationalization seems to stop much, much earlier. This love seems to be an unoptimizable parameter in the overall scheme of life. Is this due to cultural conditioning? Or is it this love's mammoth scale? Or is it biology? Or is it something sublime regarding the nature of this love itself?

But Bhagat Singh optimized over this love as well; And so did Juror #3 and his son in 12 Angry Men; So, claiming that any love, or anything else for that matter, is beyond optimization in life's overall scheme of things, seems a little too premature. I notice that I am getting back into the analysis and with that, expectedly so, am also hitting the barrier I spoke about earlier. With thought experiments and fuzzy principles running amuck in my head, I end this iteration of optimization.


Why don't you just listen to the wise men from the 60s and let it be? I've realized that analysis leads to nothing, except perhaps an A on an economics paper.
The best things in life, like parental love, are better left untouched. Unanalyzed.
Nice pic btw - perrier?
I guess its just helplessness, curiousity, boredom, and selfishness that brings about this desire to analyse and compartmentalize, in the hope that it leads to lesser guilt, and higher satisfaction - to everyone. Not sure though, and even this is some kind of meta-analysis, which sucks even more.

Not Perrier; some Nasik vinyeard based champagne. The expression in the photo is possibly mood-driven.
Good to see a post after a long time. What did this analysis lead to ? More fuzzy thoughts ? once again you(we)are left with questions unanswered ! Parental love in most cases is unconditional. I think its biological may be soemthing more sublime, we cannot question that! unconditional, almost unaffected by any parameters.
yeah, good to see a post after a long time, tej... :D

but tell me something... what do you mean by optimization of a particular love or relationship??
@Jo: The terminology is due to my attempt to model life as an optimization problem with changing objective functions.

Strictly speaking, "Optimizing over love/emotion/relationship" is wrong. It should be - "Optimizing some other objective [undefined as of now] by violating said constraint [particular love/emotion/relationship]."

To elaborate further - Our physical movement, time, emotion, physical ability, etc. are all in limited quantities, and we have objectives which we want to attain using these faculties. Each such objective (over time), needs some amoung of these faculties. How much we can spare to any such objective is bound by constraints like marriage, parental duties, love, financial commitments, etc. Some of these constraints can be violated without worrying much. But some constraints are more binding.

To be free to do whatever that catches my fancy at any time (objective) - long term or short term, I must be able to violate as many constraints as possible. And I was wondering whats the nature of parental love as a constraint and whether it can be violated at all or not.

Blame the tech. jargon on current life.
well... why do we love our parents? because they are our parents or because of what they have done for us? then, they are so many parents who don't do much for you other than probably giving birth... and there are parents who go one step ahead and make life difficult for you... so do those children love their parent(s) too? there are some who get away from such parents as soon as they can... and there are children who love even such parents and be kind to them... i suppose, some amount of love or the bond or whatever can't probably be completely broken off, even in such difficult situations... even the hatred a child might have for such a parent is actually a residue and a huge influence on how that person's life turns out... if we take a 180 degree turn and look at the other side... there are so many cases where children are abusing their parents even without any such reasons... so doesn't that show that parental love is also like any other constraint - as violate or inviolate as anything else is? it is again subjective - depending a lot on the person, the experiences of childhood, the circumstances in life... does it really have a special place?? may be i'll start a thread on plaza when i'm in the mood.. :)
and yes... i agree that in some cases, the void remains even if one moves on in life...
@Jo: Yeah, thats what I was talking about. One one extreme, even if the constraint doesn't even matter [you know what I mean], you cannot take it out of your life. And, on the other extreme, people just violate it out of callousness.

But the interesting scenario is in between, when you want to stay somewhere along the line, preferably tilting towards the former extreme, but also not being totally bound by this one constraint.

I guess thats life.
Let me state the optimization problem of Life, in standard terms - the Linear Progg problem with profits, goods, raw-materials.

Raw-materials: your faculties like - intelligence, emotions, attention, hardwork, patience..
Goods: your objectives/goals/duties or things that you do/achieve in life - Success, Happiness, Love-or-Care-for-parents, Romantic-Love, Freedom, Marriage...
Profits: With each of the above goods, there's some profit associated, for instance someone may associate more profit for Success than say Marriage.

Also, each of the 'Goods' is a linear combination of the 'Raw-materials'. For ex: Success is a linear combination of hardwork, intelligence etc.. Marriage is a linear combination of (lots of) patience, hardwork (not sure abt what kind of hardwork..), (less) intelligence.. Romantic-Love of (very little or none) intelligence, (loads of) emotions..

Variables: How much of each good to produce? (X_i for good 'i')

Objective function: Maximize total profit. This is a linear combination (with profits for the coefficients) of the amount of good of each type that we produce.

There are constraints on how much (totalled over all goods) of each 'Raw-material' we can use - these are our physical limitations.

There are also constraints on the X_i. They should be non-negative always (X_i >=0).

Our life is about figuring out how much of each 'Good' to 'produce' so that we maximize the over-all profit that we get. Generally, 'Goods' like Love-or-Care-for-parents have less profit as compared to say 'Freedom' or 'Success'. But then there is a stricter constraint on the 'amount', 'X_i' associated with 'Love-or-Care-for-parents'. Unlike the standard LP, where X_i >= 0 suffices, in life there's a higher lower-bound on this X_i. (X_i > C), where 'C' is a constant that each person determines on his own. It depends on the up-bringing of the person, childhood, conscience of the person... For some 'C' is important and very high, for others 'C' doesn't matter at all, since this 'good' is a low-profit good after all ! and also requires a lot of investment in terms of 'Raw-materials'.. "why not invest these very raw-materials in something more profitable?" is the general attitude.

Why do we look at life as a mere optimization problem where profit-maximization is the only goal, where we want to find _the_ optimal solution? Can't we do with a somewhat suboptimal solution? One where we invest more in not-very-profitable goods? One which is probably more optimal in terms of the over-all satisfaction that we derive from our investments? One with more of the 'feel-good' factor?

Why do we find the X_i > C constraint so difficult to achieve? Why is it a pain?

Rigor, thy name is Meghana! I cannot believe you actually spent some raw-materials (time and effort) in formulating this problem er...formally. Am happy.


The best part about rigorous formal writing is that it obviates redundant follow up statements, which I shall not indulge in.

But to answer your last question on why we want to formulate it this way at all: we don't have to. Its just an attempt at breaking up our complex emotional-intellectual-thought process to [hopefully] more tractable parameters. But in this case, as expected, it fails miserably because of the still intractable nature of the parameters, time dependence, unintelligible feedback loops, etc.

I give up....for now.
If we restrict our discussion to the "optimisation" part of it ,leaving aside the nitty-gritties of philosophical nature of love and its implications...i am of the opinion that there is a defining factor for parental love which lends itself for optimisation....which being the sense of security and safety a child feels in relation to its parents.

The importance of this parameter is indisputable when we consider the question of whether or not parental love can be "violated".

Given a choice between parental love (or rather i should be saying, parental approval) and another "risky-proposition"
the primary motivator to go for the other choice will not be as much as the enthusiasm one has towards that particular undertaking but the level of approval and acceptance one expects from his parents. This is so because if parental approval is not to be expected, it directly threatens the individual by pushing him out of his comfort-zone,the world with which he relates and is familiar with.

It is not really the strength of parental "love" (if such a thing exists) that stops or refrains a person but the fear of losing the safety associated with it that makes violation difficult.and then the subject rationalizes his indecision by attributing it to parental love ( Have you ever heard the excuse ...Darling I Love you with all my heart! But I cant marry you coz my parents will say no and i cant disobey them!!!)

I propose that this parameter completely lends itself to optimisation because the level of safety felt by an individual can be precisely measured in an objective way w.r.t a given situation for a given counter choice.If the choice is sufficienty lucrative /enticing/seducing there is a possibility that the fear might be over ridden.or as a corollary, If there happens to be a strong need (genuine or imagined) it is even more easier to over ride that fear since it becomes irrelevant with respect to the challenge at the moment.Please note that the process of measurement includes understanding the behavioural aspects of parents also .
for example : have the parents been over-protective? How risk taking are they?Whats the boundary line for the open-mindedness allowed in the family? How vulnerable was the person in his childhood w.r.t the world per se ...etc.

This removes those paradoxes from our problem statement such as why there are people who makes their parents suffer,or why there are parents who are cruel towards their children , or why some people love their parents inspite of their being cruel to them or why some people do not feel any affection towards their parents at all inspite of their being good towards them coz its not about love at all.Its only about the level of security and safety that a person associates with a parent figure. A person who associates a lot of safety with his parents approval ,with his being in-line with their aspirations and/or dictums is unlikely to disobey them (let alone turn hostile towards them) and a person who has a lesser level of safety associated with the above said factors need not worry too much about their approval.

and to answer the question which joe asked ..why do we love our parents ??? well it is certainly not because of what they did to us...coz that is a factor which is indeterminate...as he himself mentioned some love their parents inspite of their doing nothing...The answer is not even "biology" since there are people who are cruel towards their parents even though they did everything...If "biology" were to have the entire credence we should be loving our parents no matter what.we just wont have any other choice or any other possibility at all.period.

Love is a feeling which has "the sense of belongingness" at its core.We will love things/persons/objects/concepts that appeal to us...with which we belong. Dont get me wrong but we may give one thousand and one reasons why we feel we belong with certain "things"( parents included) but those reasons aren't really reasons (from a scientific perspective) but simply speculations,guesses and rationalizations.
All of them can be dismissed easily by anyone who did a course in Descrete Logic.
A person with reasonable knowledge in psychology will see love as nothing but a sensation generated by the triggering of a neuro-transmitter (phenyl Thylamine) in the brain...and waht more, today this can be simulated by artificial means!!!

But I dont have the cheek to say "Love" doesnt exist at all for that is what gives us hope and meaning to our petty little lives on this little blue/green insignificant planet...and yet there is no "evidence" which support the romantic claim of "Love" being Sublime...

I will leave the discussion to you guys whether love (parental or its other forms) really exists or not but coming to our optimisation problem "of quests and barriers" ...yes, Human behaviour can be optimised totally and flawlessly.

PS: Life is a tale told by an idiot ,full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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