Issac Newton was born in 1642, the same year Galileo died, and has been recognized as the greatest and most influential scientist ever lived.
Newton co-invented differential and integral calculus, explained how white light could be diffracted into rainbow, designed the first reflecting telescope (which is still being used today including the Hubble Space Telescope), postulated universal gravitational pull which governs planetary motion and intercontinental missile projectile and most famously, formulated the laws of motion which most high school graduates have at least heard of.
In a way, the three Newton's laws can be combined into one ...
F = d/dt (mv)
which basically says that the time rate of change of momentum experienced by a particle is in accordance with the net sum of the external applied forces.
In other words, a particle will remain in equilibrium, i.e., no change in momentum (either stationary or moving in constant velocity), if there is no discrepancy in applied force.
Believe it or not, this is the key to understanding of human behavior and how sh*t happens around us, as concurred by Buddha and Mao Zedong.
Buddha was born a royal prince and in his twenties, embarked on a journey to self-discover the truth to happiness. He came from a life of affluence but spend the next few decades pursuing the extreme opposite which was the life of total self-deprivation. Like Issac, his awareness came when meditating under a tree. Buddha discovered the "middle way" which is basically Newton's equilibrium.
Buddha identified the source of human suffering which he pictorially depicted by three familiar animals in the center of his Circle of Life: a swine, a cock and a snake.
Buddha believed suffering comes from the three poisons: ignorance (swine), desire (cock) and hatred (snake).
Ignorance is not just the lack of knowledge but the lack of understanding of how we relate to others. Desire is not just greed but how we deal with reality, not distorted by our attachment to our emotional preference. Finally, hatred is not just how we mistreat others but how we lack compassion for even our own limitation.
Buddha never said that the key to happiness is emptiness (devoid of all emotions and material needs) although being static is clearly an effective way to achieve equilibrium.
Buddhism is not passivism.
Buddhism is about balance. And surprisingly, Buddhism is not even in conflict with free market capitalism (i.e., making money). Buddhism is about finding one's own center, an equilibrium, a balance of forces, both internal and external.
Buddhism is sustainable farming of the mind.
Mao, on the other hand, is no Buddhist.
Like Buddha, Mao was born of a family of means. He was not a pleasant, although he desperately tried to walk like one. Mao studies Dialectical Materialism which is a fancy way of saying "Sh*t happens and happens for a reason".
In his now famous essay, On Contradiction, Mao described organizational behavior in terms of imbalance of forces. In other words, he believed human history, especially Chinese history, was a result of imbalance of social forces.
But Mao cleverly made the distinction between internal contradiction and external contradiction.
Newton lived long enough to extend his equations of motion for a single particle to a family of particles but he didn't live long enough to explain behavior of continuum (a collection of particles inter-connected by constitutive relations.)
Euler, together with his family friend Bernoulli, were the first to extend Newton's work beyond discrete particles. Their understanding, as it turned out, was instrumental in designing the Eiffel Tower and the Ferris wheel in the late 19th century.
Basically their idea was that if the balance of momentum applies to a single particle, then it must apply to two particles adjacent to each other that makes up a continuum, such as a steel beam or a suspension cable.
And to explain the interrelating behavior, they introduced additional equations. First, there was the Hook's law ...
which says that the internal force between two elemental masses (i.e., particles) within a continuum (e.g,, a structural beam) must be proportional to the deformation (deviation from the norm) of the distance between them.
This is important and for those of us who are students of the art, we call this the Constitutive Relation. The above is in fact the simplest form and the material that exhibits this behavior is termed Linear Elastic.
But as you can imagine, the complexity could go well beyond that to include non-linear elastic material (where behavior could depend on how long the material has been under stress or how much stress is being imposed) and non-elastic (either visco-elastic which depends on velocity of deformation or plastic which has a history).
Finally we need to define deformation. Is it just two particles moving relative to each other in a straight line or moving along a curve? Again, for those of us who cares, we call this Kinematic Relation which has to do with geometry.
In summary, to completely study the behavior of any complex deformable mechanical structure, we need the following ...
- Equation of Motion (Newton's Law of Momentum)
- Constitutive Relation (Hook's Law)
- Kinematic Relation
And on top of that, we must add Boundary Conditions. The behavior of a beam is different whether it is part of a bridge (clamp-clamp) or a standalone cantilever as in a diving board (clamp-free).
That in a nutshell is what Mao meant by external contradiction. In his world, people's behavior can be explained by internal conflicts (i.e., What do they want in life?)
Furthermore, the reality of what they can actually achieve is limited by internal factors. For example, how were they raised as a child would explain their resilience or elasticity (i.e., Constitutive Relation)? And what about how they were born (Kinematic Relation)? Tall people is known to behave differently from short people. Also, first born behave differently from last born, etc.
But most importantly, people behave differently due to their environment (Boundary Conditions) which explains why people like to bitch outside of company meetings but cramp up immediately when there is a real opportunity to speak out.
I have spend the last fifteen to twenty years starting and running companies and I have had lots of opportunities attempting to predict and eventually dealing with people's behavior. My conclusion is that people are unpredictable and sh*t does happen.
Every once a while, sh*t even happens for a reason.
But I always ask myself a simple question, what do they want? Because I already know what I want and that's never in question.
People want different things in different times in their lives. The only time when there is a complete and permanent equilibrium between what they want and they could achieve is when they are dead (static). The rest of the time they are still in motion.
The secret-to-success is to try my best in figuring out what people want and what drives them (Internal Conflict), and what their internal limitations are (Constitutive and Kinematic). Then and only then would I try to predict their behavior by paying attention to their surroundings (External Conflict).
Otherwise, sh*t just happens.
Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone.