Not Found?! — Quotidian — 404

(Transcript of video originally posted on 6 Jul 2022)

This is one of the greatest, most popular computer games EVER. Mario… Or Super Mario… Am sure you’ve heard the name. An interesting thing happens in the Super Mario Game, as you finish each level. A set of levels… called a World. After a lot of effort, after much sweat and toil, you will finally meet a big boss… and you will have to fight that big boss… and after that fight, see what happens! ……. You have to save the princess… You are here to save the princess! But, there is a toad waiting for you, that tells you this.. “But our princess is in another castle!” Sorry! Not Found!!

Namasthe! It is the 404th episode today.

I asked my friends, a question like this. “The upcoming Quotidian video on 6th July… I am planning to record it, upload it, and then, immediately delete the YouTube video link. Guess why?” There weren’t many responses, for a while. But then, one guy, one smart guy, came up with the right answer.

“Ahaa! I’ve got it! 404! Video not found!” Yes, I was trying to crack a joke on this “File missing. Page not found. Resource not found”. For, it is a famous HTTP error… On the internet, while you are browsing, you request for a random page, and if that page is no longer available, that’s what happens, that’s what comes on screen.

This is the famous Netflix website.. where they have cracked a joke — a movie titled “Lost in Space” — they have used a scene from that movie in the background, and they are asking us “Lost your way?”

This is the Marvel Comics website. Directly from the Marvel Cinematic Universe… “Hey… Hydra has stolen this page from the S.H.I.E.L.D database!” A little joke again!

Here is another. This is the Amazon 404 page. Guess what they have done? They have demonstrated that Amazon is not all robots, there are real humans there, real humans who have pets, and their pet-photographs, the cats, the dogs, along with their pet names, … In addition to just saying Sorry, they are also giving a personal human touch to the 404 page.

Here is another example — some company, “Emailcenter” — they ask us “Who do you want us to fire? You tell us yourself!” A developer, a designer, a marketer… almost playfully lined up like for a shooting squad.

You can actually pick one of them. The other three will gloat and boast. All these playful things apart, is there a certain philosophy..? Should we look deeper into this concept of a 404 error? We go looking for something. We have reached our original destination now. What we searched for is nowhere to be found. Remember? We saw this in Super Mario. The Princess is not here. She is in another castle. Is there a deeper layer to this? That’s what we are going to see now.

It started in CERN. The European Research Agency where the concept of the Internet was morphing into the much more popular World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners Lee, he was laying the foundations of the Web. This is the corridor. Along the left edge of that corridor, a plaque stands in memory of those times. “Where the WEB was born”! There is a room in this corridor. The fourth room in the fourth floor of this building. That is where they had the central database — which file is where — and it seems, the people working in that server room, when a resource was requested, and that file was not available in that database, they used to stick a paper poster in front of that room, saying “404! (That room number!) File Not Found!”

At least, that is how the story goes! But, it has been pooh-poohed as an urban myth. Many scientists, one of them, very famous, Robert Caillou, a person who worked closely with Sir Tim Berners Lee himself, he has gone on record and said, “There is no 404 room in the 4th floor. What are you talking about?!” But… do you see a joke right there? Hidden in plain sight? 404 cannot be found! Do you get it?! Of course it won’t be there! Do you get it?!

We have talked about this in earlier episodes too. In Quotidian 043, we talked about people going in search of something and then realising that it is the journey that is important and not the destination. We heard about a book called The Alchemist. And then, Ulysses, after the Trojan War, after the big win there, is returning to his hometown victorious. Ithaka. A poem about his attempt to return home. A beautiful poem written by Constantine Cavafy. That poem — titled Ithaka — picturises very beautifully that your journey is more important than that little goal. Ithaka will always be there. We are going to see a few snapshots from that poem, now.

It starts with this scene. Ulyssess is setting course for Ithaka..

And immediately the poet warns him “As you set out for Ithaka…”

“Hope the voyage is a long one…! Full of adventure, full of discovery..! Pray that you get interesting experiences along the way!” That is the blessing he gives Ulysses! He travels for twenty years! Very short distance from Troy to Ithaka. But, he travels for twenty years. He is buffeted here and there. But, each is a learning experience.

“Keep Ithaka always in mind. You needn’t forget that. You shouldn’t forget that. That is where your wife and son are waiting. Arriving there is what you are destined for. That is your destiny. That is what you have started out to achieve, so happily and eagerly. No problem. But… Do not hurry the journey at all!”

“Take your time, meet people, collect experiences, learn stuff, so that, you are old by the time you reach the island. Rich with experiences… Having met so many people, having learned so many things…”

“Finally, Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.. If you are ever going to wonder what Ithaka really helped you with, it gave you that journey.. Without her, you may not have set out on that journey! So, even before you reached Ithaka, she has given what she intended to give you! She has nothing left to give you now!” Thus, beautifully, ends that poem.

I have been on this trip. The Sabarimala Pilgrimage. A 46-kilometre trek. With an “Irumudi” package balanced on your head. With the unending chant of “Swamiye Charanam” on your lips, through terrain like this… through a jungle really. Through a jungle on a hill. On a series of hills. Seven hills. You pass through Sarangutthi, Kallidumkundru, the Pamba river, the Azhudha river, Kaalakatti, Neelimala, Karimala…. In fact, there is a particular place, a two-kilometre stretch — I have been there thrice — you will actually realise why the place is called Azhudha! Because… by the time you finish that trek, you would be crying! So hard is that barefoot journey.

At the end of a pious penance.. a 45-day abstinence… A special journey. At the end of it, past all the commotion and milling crowds, this is where you reach, this is the Sannidhaanam.. Just after this crowd, are those Eighteen Steps, where they will pull you up, and next in front of you will be Saastha, Dharmasaastha, Aiyappan. But, after all these hardships, after all these trials and tribulations, when you reach that top point, you know what greets you? You know what is waiting there for you? This is the message!

Tat Tvam Asi. In Sanskrit, it means, “Thou Art That”. “That is You”. In the Hindu Scriptures, there are Four Mahavakyas.. Four sentences of great essence. Of those four, this is one. This is the first, in fact. Tat Tvam Asi. That thing you have been searching for all along? You have been that! It is you! What you needed to discover, what you needed to find out about, was you! That is the beautiful message there. So, yes, you go in search of something, and you don’t find it, … being heartbroken about it defeats the whole purpose. You are missing the whole lesson there. The lesson is the experiences you have along the way, the people you meet, the lessons you learn.

I have just one closing thought here, by Benjamin Mays. A man from the previous century. A man who sowed the very seeds for the American Civil Rights movement. He had a beautiful quote. It seems he said, “The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal.” Where does it lie then? “The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach!” So, don’t mope in a corner crying that you received a 404 error! Think “What was the journey I had to reach that 404 goal? Was THAT worth it? And, what’s my next goal?” Thank you! We shall meet next week!



​Welcome to Quotidians — a humble attempt to bring a smile to your face… as I connect the commonplace everyday nuggets into meaningfully connected insights.

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Rajendran Dandapani

Rajendran Dandapani

Business Solutions Evangelist at Zoho Corp. President at The Zoho Schools Of Learning.