Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Quest for Understanding

I've always been interested in science and mathematics. It was my passion in these two subjects that drove me to take up engineering in university, which then led me, quite by accident, to a career in IT.

A career-minded person, I never was. Engineering was sort of a compromise: it gave me an opportunity to learn more of the sciences (or at least the practical side of it) and at the same time, it was a professional qualification that put me in good stead in the job market.

I had chosen electrical engineering because it was, to me, the most mathematical among all the engineering branches. I wanted to understand all the latest discoveries of science in the field of quantum physics. Mastering the applied physics of the electron (which is what electrical engineering is, in essence) was a stepping stone towards my ultimate goal: the fundamental nature of the universe itself.

I first fell in love with science and mathematics when I joined the science stream upon entering Form 4, at the age of 16. At that time we we required to study physics, chemistry, biology, modern mathematics and additional mathematics. I was especially enthralled by additional mathematics. Through "add maths" (as we called it then), I was exposed to the beautiful world of calculus, algebra, trigonometry and analytic geometry.

Mathematics gave me a glimpse of the enormous power of the human mind. I gave me great satisfaction to know that through a sequence of logically consistent steps, one could work out astounding conclusions about the nature of the universe. Mathematics, the language of science, was to me the key towards understanding the universe. If was as if God spoke in mathematics.

Yes, deep down inside, my desire to learn mathematics and science was driven by an existential need: the need to know who we are, where we are going and what is the meaning of our existence. In other words, it was a religious quest.

What others had sought through religion, I responded through a love for mathematics and science. Through these subjects, I endeavoured to catch a glimpse of the beauty that was in God's mind.

Nature never looked the same again after I had the opportunity to penetrate its inner workings through science. The entire universe, to me, was pulsating with with atoms, molecules, light and energy--all dancing in accordance with physical laws that could be beautifully described by mathematics. The knowledge of it gave me such great power and insight--it had the life-shattering fervour of a religious conversion.

 That was the start of my journey, which had continued until this day. My pursuit of scientific understanding led me--through a variety of popular science and New Agey books--to eastern religions and western philosophy. The Tao of Physics, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and A History of Western Philosophy were the pivotal texts that hastened me on my path.

Over the years, I've tried to expound some of the personal beliefs and philosophy that I've gleaned from my spiritual quest on this blog.  The journey is still an on-going one, and it shall be so until the day I cease to exist on this earth.