Everything is measured with respect to some reference point. This is sometimes called “Context”.

A train appears to move when you refer to a stationary object. If you sit inside the train and there is no reference point (stationary object, jerking, slight movement of your body), you will never know whether the train is moving. The train may move slowly or at a huge speed but so long the reference points are absent, you will never be aware of the movement.

Our lives also have particular reference points. Particular movements compared to stationary objects or “references” and we consider our movement when we compare it with a “stationary object”. Let’s take a few examples.

4 years ago, I did not have a degree. Now I have one. I am certainly better and worth more “valuable” now.

Here the subject is comparing his present with a 4 year past “instance” and the presence of a degree. These reference points tells him that he has grown in “Value”. That is the conclusion he is drawing from the reference points of “Not having a degree” and “Having a degree” and since there is a change in the reference points, he thinks he has “Moved”.

I am a manager and my other school friend is struggling to find a job. I must be more intelligent and successful.

Here the subject is comparing his present situation with that of his friend. Now based on these reference points, he thinks he has a better “speed” or “movement”.

We all have these reference points in our day to day lives. Everything we do is actually a calculative reflection of the reference points we have set in our minds. When we speak something or derive a conclusion, we are actually biasing our views on a reference point that we think is true.

Fundamentals of reference points

Here are some fundamental truths regarding reference points

1. We think that the reference point we are seeing is true and valid. And once that reference point has been established, we begin to move in a direction we think is the right way to go.

Example – Every other friend of mine is starting a business. Everyone is getting a degree. Everyone is building a house. Everyone around me is getting married. I must also do it.

We never question the existence of a reference point. We take it for granted and believe those references to be true.

2. We don’t re-evaluate reference points. We don’t go back to a reference point later and re-evaluate whether the movement was really a “displacement” or whether is was just “distance covered”.

When we go to college and come out of it, we don’t re-evaluate whether the study was worth it. We move on to another reference point and repeat the same cycle. When we quit one job, we don’t re-evaluate why we quit it. We take up another and the cycle continues.

3. We believe our reference points are better than other people’s reference points.

We have set certain standards for our reference points and we live in the illusion that ours is better than someone else’s. If a man is poor and not well dressed, we won’t listen to him.  And just because someone is on stage and giving some lecture, we believe it to be true.

This is happening because you have set a standard for a reference point in your head and your head automatically uses it for standardising different reference points. Your judgement about something is simply a reflection of the reference points that has been recorded in your head. This is called संदर्भ

A Story

There was a man who used to follow the Church bell and adjust his clock. Every morning when the Church bell rang, he used to adjust his clock and go about his business. His work was very time critical so accuracy was mandatory.

Often times, he found that he was late to work and there seems to be some miscalculation in his timings. He went to the Church to ask the question as to why his timings aren’t matching with theirs.

He reached the Church and ask the question to the administrator. The administrator told him that they measure their clock through the nearyby office hooter. Whenever the office hooter was turned on, they adjusted their clock.

The man went to the office but he found that the administrator measured time when the Station master announced their first departure in the morning.

The man realised how screwed up this whole timing system is, he being the station master himself.

So what is happening here? Everyone is using someone else as a reference point and there seems to be no fixed reference point for anything. Result is nothing but chaos, ambiguity and misinterpreted information floating around as “Truth” or “Dictums”.

Another Story

This is a real story.

There used to be an Indian poet, philosopher, lyricist and painter who was not very well recognized for his works in Bengali. India was still under British rule then and affluent people used to go to London for higher education and business (reference points you see).

This poet had written a series of poems and songs but none could attract the attention of readers in his own country. The British looked at his work, translated it, took it to Europe and presented it in front of the Noble Prize committee. This poet became the first Non European and first Indian to win Noble prize for literature. This poet is Rabindranath Tagore.

The moment this reference point was set, people started taking him seriously and the British government offered him a Knighthood (which he returned after the inhuman Jalianwala bagh massacare). Critiques and thinkers then went through all of his work and only after this happened, the world was made aware of what he had to offer.

Just see what happened here? The reference point wasn’t there and hence nobody recognized the poet, let alone understand him. How many such poets have we missed, because of the absense of reference points? We don’t know and we will never know. We consider something as valuable only when someone else certifies it valuable whom we consider superior than our own intellect. But it is very much possible that the other reference point is using some of our reference points which we are failing to recognize. The Church – Office – Station example is synonymous to this situation.

Whenever you derive any conclusion, look closely on the reference point. Whom are you taking as reference points is important and your judgement on that specific reference point could be misleading.

Reference points exist in our day to day lives e.g money, job, business, work, objectives, relationships, security- these are nothing but reference points which you refer to for your happiness, fulfilment, success, contentment and so on. If you are not aware of how these reference points actually come into the equation, you will never know what is happening with your life. You will always be confused and clueless, since these reference points are always moving and changing shapes.

What you see, hear, read or believe is just a reflection of the reference points you have in your head. It helps to question these reference points sometimes and re-evaluate it. This will make you aware of what is real and what is just an illusion.

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