Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lessons unlearned

Watching “Surviving Mumbai” on Discovery channel  was a moving experience tonight . Expressions of survivors  and their shaking voices describing  horrific moments kept me transfixed  with  realization that how gruesome it is for  people who are face to face with death . Precise observations and honest admissions of these real people , narrating  the times  when they had lost all hope to live, makes one aware of importance of journey called  life . It was soothing to see how people become united and friendly at the time of crisis.

172 died in this inhuman act of cowardice and  for thousands, life will never be same again . Many will have to live through this nightmare with scars of bullets that luckily missed their body but  pierced their  soul.

This attack has taught us many lessons , but sadly we  have  not learnt much. A person in position of  power in this country  still feels outraged and offended when stopped for security check and an average Indian is  still unaware that his security is not the only concern  his chosen home minister has.

It has still not dawned on us that democracy is a collective effort where the authority for smooth functioning of government can be transferred to few parliamentarians  but that does not free the citizen from any responsibility . It is so sad that as a nation we are not united against terror attacks and security is yet to become our concern .I am surprised and anguished,  as to why we do not make abundant use of technology in our day to day life for prevention and detection ? Why our internal security , our traffic system and our vigil mechanism is resting on  few inapt and stooping shoulders ?Why our leaders who claim to be making our nation a better place,don't  try to make it a  safer place?

On this tragic day amidst the candle marches and forwarded messages, let us  remember words of Ernest Gaines , who wrote “Words mean nothing. Action is the only thing. Doing. That's the only thing.” Let us be vigilant ,expressing  ,questioning and acting .   Let our deeds  show our political masters that we love our country and it is high time that they must as well start doing that……

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fallacies of intellectual extremism

 Introduction: In this post I have tried to analyze the difference between, A truth and THE truth .The point I am trying to make is why intellectual arrogance is equally threatening and disturbing as ignorance.

Freedom is natural state for mankind. A human is born free and shall die free. Mind, thought, and the rationality that we are bestowed with, separates us from trained animals. Social birth of a person takes place when one starts communicating with people. Perhaps, embarking first step of school begins this pragmatic quest for truth.
Two excellent and elaborated articles on connotation of this word ‘TRUTH” can be found in Wikipedia and meaning of truth by William James. The aspect that I intend to discuss, is relativity versus absoluteness and the need for objective angle to truth from epistemological view point. The basic question that Epistemology attempts to deal with , relates to the nature and scope of knowledge and prospect of use of such knowledge by mapping associations between belief, logic, justification, rationality and constructive skepticism.
The nucleus of any conversation is the idea which needs to be supported by a presenter with logic and ethics. Pursuit to truth cannot be meaningful when the mind is already prejudiced and biased with answers. Most of the times a truth seeker fails to understand that journey to absolute shall continue as long as there is life. Linda Ellinor was so right when she wrote “What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.”
Discussions should always be aimed at raising questions to explore different postulates by recognizing contradictions and the righteous aim of a healthy dialogue should always be to explore another point of view based on logic and reason .It should never be forgotten that the fellow member we confront is a partner in search for the truth and not an adversary or an enemy who is wrong and whose very existence constitutes a threat to world. Only a polemicist relies on a legitimacy that his adversary is by definition denied. The pursuit of truth for a seeker is painful and such a venture must not be taken up for cause of triumph.
In experiments of science we can reproduce results with accuracy which are free from spatial and language boundaries that often form tenets of rigidity. The beauty of science lies in its dynamism. To exemplify, let me share with you the theories that were given to understand nature of light.
Newton thought light to be particle having mass, Almost during same period  Huygens suggested that Light  was a mechanical wave , no one believed Huygens for almost two hundred years because of the influence Newton had in scientific community. However, when speed of light was measured in medium, it became evident that Newton was miserably wrong. Years later   Maxwell suggested the light to is electromagnetic wave thus removing the need for hypothetical medium called “Luminous Ether” as suggested by Huygens.  Hertz while working on electromagnetic theory observed the photo electric effect, the experiment of Hertz established electromagnetic wave theory but wave theory failed to explain photo electric effect .Thus, the experiment that established electromagnetic wave theory proved to be suicidal for it . Einstein suggested light to be made of bundles of energy called photons. The cycle was thus complete but the magnificence of science lay in recognizing that certain observations can be explained by wave nature and some by particle nature thus light has dual nature.
In contrast to the above narration, the discussions on philosophies mostly lead to conflict because everyone thinks his version is the absolute truth which makes this world go round. It is interesting to note that the word philosophy is derived from a Greek word which translates as “Love for knowledge and wisdom”. Why do we fail to understand that the Truth of knowledge is not in words but within the meaning these words carry. People read books, ideologies, and opinions but become so obsessed with words forgetting that what they are projecting is just another view point.
To be specific let me give you one example. I like Ayn Rand’s writings and think her theory of objectivism justifies and promotes individuality but at the same time I think her drive for “laissez-faire” and total decontrol lacks practicality. The question that bothers me is ,do we have that kind of society where people will willingly pay taxes and be empathic and sympathetic towards lesser privileged? I think selfishness is virtue provided the individual has a high moral value and self esteem but do not know how we propose to segregate between selfishness of well spirited entrepreneur from selfishness of a robber. One question that I want these so obsessed Rand followers to answer me is “Suppose a person loves his dog more than any of his possessions but then one day in driveway to the house he is forced to a situation that he has to choose between his lovely dog and a strange kid. Who you think he will run down? No one answers me .I optimistically hope  that  they realize that we the humans are not robots programmed to act. Besides mind , most of us also have a heart filled with compassion that has  a bearing on our decision making.
So next time you get into an argument, understand that everyone has to experience and realize their share of truth. Truth can be realized but cannot be shackled in the chains of words. Language has a binding and provides very limited scope for expression .Tell me a way how can I make a person understand the difference between sweetness of sugar and sweetness of an apple? All I can say is apple is sweet but the truth of that sweetness has to be realized by reader.
To sum up, I quote from Swami Vivekananda’s  Rajayoga “Man wants truth, wants to experience truth for himself; when he has grasped it, realized it, felt it within his heart of hearts, then alone, declare the Vedas, would all doubts vanish, all darkness be scattered, and all crookedness be made straight" .
I have pledged never to get too opinionated by an opinion, you decide for yourself, because all truths are learnt at cost of inevitable pain caused by breaking of the shell that encloses our understanding.Lastly,  I quote Gibran
Say not  , "I have found path to the soul"
Say rather "I have met a soul  walking upon my path"
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line
Neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself ,like a lotus of countless petals........


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