Self-solving problems

December 2019 was a big month for me at work. Right before the holidays, my team managed to solve a long standing problem which we were all breaking our heads over and which was costing my company a lot of money.

The winning solution magically appeared to a team member when she was meditating. Everyone was happy until my boss made an unexpected speech in which she credited yoga, mindfulness, mysticism and god for bringing forth the solution to the problem.

This left the group divided because a lot of people felt that their toiling went unacknowledged.

Are all miracles magical?

In my own experience, there have been days when I have moved mountains to solve a problem, yet failed. Then in its own time, out of nowhere the problem appeared to solve itself.

I won’t lie, at times the solutions can feel magical. In fact, the harder the initial problem and the more obsessed you are with it, the more euphoric you feel when the solution appears.

Yet, there isn’t anything mystical about this process at all. Problems are patterns and with time our brains are able to form newer and more insightful connections.

For thousands of years, men have practiced distancing themselves from a problem and coming back to it after letting some time pass.

In fact the more detailed & well catalogued your research is, the more chances you have of witnessing not one but several magical solutions. This is why detectives keep a notebook, researchers maintain note cards and movie makers build large maps of complex scenes.

Phony masters

Sometimes people who hold inaccurate models of the world (like my boss) end up with more authority and influence than they deserve. This is prevalent all around us, just look at our politicians, religious leaders & success gurus.

A quote from a book I read comes to mind [0].

Nowadays there are many public teachers whose guiding eye is not clear. This is very wrong! How dare they mount a pulpit to try to help others? If you have connections, you should not let yourself be set up as a teacher as long as you are not enlightened, because that is disaster! If there is something real in you, "musk is naturally fra­grant." See how many phony "Zen masters" there are, degenerating daily over a long, long time. They are like human dung carved into sandalwood icons - ultimately there is just the smell of crap.

We are all predisposed to believe in quick/easy explanations - this is why the internet is rife with fake news and misinformation. Nobody wants to push themselves into the slow [1] uncomfortable state of constantly questioning and invalidating redundant ideas - yet that is exactly what we must do.

After the holidays, a colleague suggested that I express our displeasure to my boss and tell her what I think was the explanation of the events, which I foolishly ended up trying in vain.

I am happy to report that I still have a job and I will perhaps never have such a conversation with my boss in the future.

Things like the influence that my boss asserts on my team members (or) the popularity of a religious fanatic among innocent fellow humans still continue to worry me, but then I remind myself that sandalwood icons made from dung will ultimately amount to just the smell of crap.

As for my team, they continue making puns and holding pointless arguments (now on zoom calls) about that speech from Dec 2019.