Saturday, June 30, 2007

In the next 6 days, i will be busy as a participant in Young Leader's Conference being held in Lahore. First three days in PC, and the next three in Chand Bagh school. So, as a result, i will not be able to write anything on the blog. And since the comments are first moderated, so until i return, your comments will also not be published on the blog. I will approve the comments made during these days when i come back. Thank you.

I am looking forward to an enriching experience. :)
I was thinking today that if i were another person, and i became a close friend to myself, i would wonder, "How can a person be so mentally clumsy and intelligent at the same time?"

Friday, June 29, 2007

Once i encountered a person on internet; some complete stranger. He had been roaming around on net, and had seen my website, got my email address and added me in msn. Usually i am not very enthusiastic about talking with strangers, but i could sense that he was different. And as we started conversing, it became apparent to me that he was deeply and mentally troubled. There was a strong conflict going on in that person's mind; he was in psychological turmoil and wanted to talk about his problem with someone (I being the available to him at that time), and yet, he did not want to reveal the actual problem to me as well. As a result, he talked but talked in a very vague, ambiguous manner. Things like "I'm STUCK! I'm helplessly STUCK!" and "I want to cry!", often interspersing his tale with the statement, "I have no idea why i'm even talking to you!". I listened to him with patience, saw him tentatively trying to trust me, and then immediately shying back, again and again. Despite my desire to help him, i couldn't, because i had no idea what his problem was. So, i just became what he perhaps needed the most at that time... a listener.

I never encountered him again. But sometimes i wonder, would it have been better if he had decided to trust me? Even if he had told me his actual problem, what possibly i could have done except give him some advice... which would have been useless; the last thing such people need is someone giving them advice. Perhaps the knowledge that someone had actually listened to his problem, and understood it, would have given him enough psychological support to survive the rough, 'evil' night that he was having. Maybe, maybe not. Who can tell?
"Marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly."

Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

It takes courage to love... or perhaps, recklessness.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yestereve I saw philosophers in the market-place carrying their heads in baskets, and crying aloud, "Wisdom! Wisdom for sale!"
Poor philosophers! They must needs sell their heads to feed their hearts.

Said a philosopher to a street sweeper, "I pity you. Yours is a hard and dirty task."
And the street sweeper said, "Thank you, sir. But tell me what is your task?"
And the philosopher answered saying, "I study man's mind, his deeds and his desires."
Then the street sweeper went on with his sweeping and said with a smile, "I pity you too."

Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam
Here are ten Visions. I call them Visions, because this how they occured to me. They hover on the border of prose and poetry, and I dare not classify them in either.

1) Trapped

She drew me close
In a wild frantic manner
And whispered
Like a bird in a cage
‘Why is it that, my love
When I stare in your eyes
I feel scared, alone,
Trapped?’

2) Reality

In her embrace
All realities melted away
And when she asked
‘Do you love me?’
He kissed her and said
‘I no longer know what that means.’

3) Judgment Day

‘Next case!’ shouted the angel of justice
Angels brought an old man
Broken. Shattered. Chained.
Sobbing.
‘He loved her enough to kill her’ one explained
The angel paused, then
Thumped a stamp on the paper
With the yell
‘Take him to hell!’

4) Rain

Through the open window
I saw her standing
With arms wide open
In the rain
Her eyes closed
Bliss on her face
‘What are you doing?’ I shouted
‘I don’t know…
I feel as if I were in love.’

5) Broken Glass

It is the soul
And not sole
Which bleeds
When you walk
On the broken glass
Of love.

6) Illusion

The pen said to the paper
‘Look at that fool.
The love poems I write
He thinks he has written them!’

7) Right Number

The phone rang
I picked it
‘Hello.’
Silence
‘Hello?’
A breath
‘Hello!’
‘Wrong number.’ A whisper
Click.

8) Dark Waters

He strolled on the bridge
And analyzed the dark waters beneath
‘Is life worth living?’ he thought
‘I have no one to live for.’
He took a step forward.
Turned back.
Shook his head. Smiled.
‘I have no one to die for either.’

9) Lost

When I woke
I was walking
In a maze of streets
I stopped a passer-by
‘Which place is this?’
He glared
‘No one knows!’ he muttered
And continued walking

10) Hiding

I was curled up
In the dark corner
Of the dark room
Shivering due to cold
And trying to hide
From myself

These were written in March 2006. I still believe that these 10 visions are among the best things that i have ever written.
"It is always easier to believe than to deny. Our minds are naturally affirmative."

John Burroughs (1837 - 1921)

True, indeed. And that is why it takes greater intellect and courage to be a skeptic, to question things, rather than passively believe.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It was in 1837 that I was appointed as a doctor and naturalist on the ship The Marine Maiden, which was bound on a journey along the Western shore of Africa. I was more interested in the biological diversity I would get to witness during this journey than in the living aboard a ship. However, since it was a necessary component of my job, I had to endure it. Most of the sailors and the crew struck me as superstitious, vulgar, and to the say the best about them, plain and ordinary. Not the sort of people in whose company I would find pleasure. Their knowledge extended only to some tales from the Bible and to the preposterous yarns they were so fond of telling. Nevertheless, they were a hardworking lot and that is what mattered to the Captain. The Captain was a relatively cultured man, and though he wasn’t very social, I found him a dedicated and affectionate person, who conveniently became strict and stern when the conditions demanded it, and such conditions were not so uncommon in a life spent aboard a vessel in the sea.

Unfortunately, the Captain was shot in one of the encounters with the pirates on an island. We managed to escape with no damage to the ship, but the Captain was severely wounded. I took out the bullet in an operation I performed to the best of my abilities, and hoped that the body would heal… but the injury was too extensive, and the condition only worsened with time. I was helpless; I could do nothing but watch.

One night as I was making an entry in my journal about an odd specimen of an insect I had discovered which could well be a candidate for a new totally species, when the cabin boy came running and told me that Captain’s condition was terrible and he was calling out for me. I immediately got up and went to see the Captain.

When I approached his bed, I could clearly see that he was in physical pain, but what was even more obvious was his mental distress. I could see the agony in his eyes and facial expressions. As I came near, he clenched my hand and pleaded, “Doctor! Please save me from dying! I don’t want to die!” The psychological agony in his voice was unmistakable. I was surprised to hear these words, because I had the impression of Captain as a man of great courage.

“But why are you so afraid of death?” I asked as I sat on a chair beside his bed, my hand still in his clutches.

“I am not afraid of death, doctor, I am only afraid of what would follow after it,” he said miserably. I nodded my head sympathetically to indicate that he should continue.

“I have been a very bad man, doctor. I have sinned greatly in my life. I have never cared for God. I have always cared for my own pleasure. I have told lies and I have killed men. I have drunk and I have fornicated all my life. I shouldn’t have, but I was weak. But the time for redemption is now past. If I die, God would surely throw me in hell. And I would burn in it for an eternity; I’ll smolder and cry, and shriek and choke forever… such is my fate.”

“But think of all the good that you have done in life. You have done your duty to your ship, to your men, to your country. You have served them well. And you have always behaved with them justly and fairly.” I tried to console him.

“You don’t know, doctor, my sins far outweigh my meager virtues. God knows it, God surely knows it, and he would punish me for them,” he was almost reduced to tears. His physical pain was nothing in comparison to the turmoil of his mind. It was shocking to see what religion could do to men; how it could inculcate a sense of sin in them so strong that it could destroy any pleasure to be gained from this life.

I patted his hand and said softly, “Captain, let us fantasize, let us dream… imagine a world without heaven or hell, imagine a world without sin, image a God to whom it doesn’t matter what you do in your private affairs, in how many women’s company you have been, and how many church prayers you have missed. Imagine a world in which death is the end of life, in which when you die, you pass into nothingness, an eternity of rest and oblivion. Just imagine.”

“Yes… yes,” he said weakly, with a strange shine in his eyes, which were staring into the air, “how beautiful, how peaceful…”

And these were his last words as his soul left his body, and my hand became free from the grip of his limp fingers. I took a sigh and closed his eyes. I do not know whether he is burning in hell at the moment, or what God decided to do with him, but I feel happy in knowing that I gave him a moment of peace before he died.

Muhammad Awais Aftab
27 June 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls."

George Carlin

Monday, June 25, 2007

This post is in response to a comment made by one of the readers:

'...you Do give the impression that you're sadness can overcome the facade of your humour. And you Do, of course, feel unfortunate to have lost your love...'

When i look back at what happened, there is a sense of nostalgia, a little bit of sadness, but simultaneously i am distinctly glad that the relationship came to an end, because we were not the right match. And also, i do not regret what happened. To the contrary, i feel a sense of delight and gratitude that nature allowed me to experience such beautiful moments, finite though they were in their duration. If there is any sense of being unfortunate, it is only a feeling of wonder whether i'll ever experience such a thing again in my life.
"Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."

Nathaniel Hawthorne

[Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any symbolic interpretation of this quote made by any of my readers. :)]
Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.
A. A. Milne

And social outcasts and eccentrics are persons too, once you get to know them. :)
I believe that the best way for people who hold unconventional doctrines and eccentric beliefs to develop social interaction is they should not reveal their untraditional thoughts right in the beginning of a relationship. They should allow the other individual to first judge them on the basis of what they are as a person. If the other individual grows fond of their persona, then it is safe for them to reveal their unconventional beliefs, because then there is a high chance that the relationship would continue on the momentum of the previously gained fondness. Such people, i believe, have earned the right to be eccentric.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

It is not the genius alone who suffers. His true friends suffer with him.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

Robert McCloskey, State Department spokesman (attributed)
'I am no longer alone, Monsieur. And I shall never be alone again.'
'Ah, so you know a lot of people?' I say.
He smiles and I promptly realize my mistake.
'I mean that I no longer feel alone...'

Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Loneliness is primarily a subjective feeling, no doubt being triggered by objective elements. But the threshold value differs from person to person. There are people who feel lonely even in the company of many friends, while there are people who don't feel lonely even they are alone. Of course, the opposite also exists: there are people who feel lonely when they are alone, and there are people who don't feel lonely when in the company of many friends.

In every person there is a 'social impulse', which differs not only in its intensity but also in quality. The people who have a very low intensity of social impulse feel more comfortable when they are alone, or with a few individuals. People with a high intensity of social impulse feel more comfortable in a crowd of friends. The difference in quality is that some people feel the need of having a close companion with whom they can share secrets and to whom they can reveal their thoughts which they usually do not express; such people are likely to have a few very close friends, while having a superficial cordial relationship with other friends. Let's call such people as best-friend type. In contrast, there are people who do need feel the need of sharing secrets exclusively with a specific person. Such persons tend to have a group of friends, with almost a uniform degree of closeness with all of them. Let's call such people as non-best-friend type.

The best-friend type are much more prone to loneliness, because in the absence of their close companion(s), they would feel alone. The non-best-friend type are relatively resistant to loneliness, because they can having a party time with any friend who is available.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Nietzsche said to his sister, during an illness which brought him near to death:

"Promise me that when I die only my friends shall stand about my coffin, and no inquisitive crowd. See that no priest or anyone else utter falsehoods at my graveside, when I can no longer protect myself; and let me descend into my tomb as an honest pagan."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

When you go
Would you have the guts to say
"I don't love you
Like I loved you
Yesterday"?

My Chemical Romance, I Don't Love You
Sometimes i feel that break-ups are nature's way of telling us that two persons just aren't made for each other.

[Disclaimer: Applicable only within a certain limit.]
"Bertrand Russell was asked what he would say if he died and found himself confronted by God, demanding to know why Russell had not believed in him. 'Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence,' was Russell's (I almost said immortal) reply. Mightn't God respect Russell for his courageous scepticism... far more than he would respect Pascal for his cowardly bet-hedging?"

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship."
Oscar Wilde

I think it depends a lot on social context. Friendship between men and women is possible, but only in certain social scenarios, which are liberal enough to conceive of such a thing... in many others, it is quite inconceivable. Our social interaction depends a lot on 'symbols' and 'signs'. Actions have a symbolic value... which is different in different contexts. That is to say, it is the social context which imparts a particular interpretation to a particular act. An action which might be considered as 'flirting' in a semi-traditional society might well be considered a 'friendly gesture' in a more liberal one. When everyone interprets a particular symbol in a particular way, then it becomes somewhat meaningless what the original intentions are. And perhaps the person who is doing that action himself becomes confused about his intentions, because if he is intelligent enough, he will be aware that the action he is commiting has a dual meaning.

The point being that in a semi-traditional society, even a friendly beginning ultimately winds up being a romantic affair (exceptions are always there).

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments, of those most distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue, are complete sceptics in religion."

John Stuart Mill
[Quoted in The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Page 4]

Nothing to say of the Western scholars, where, of course, atheism and agnosticisim reigns supreme, but people are little aware of the great scholars of Islam itself. Oft mentioned names like Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Omar Khayyam, Ibn Khuldoon were all religious heretics, and were seen with scorn by the general public... but it is these very names which have survived the vicissitudes of history.

Russell writes about the Islamic free thinkers:
"They were looked upon with suspicion by the populace, which was fanatical and bigoted; they owed their safety (when they were safe) to the protection of comparatively free-thinking princes." [History of Western Philosophy, Page 417]

But even this safety was meagre... these people often faced persecution and their books on religion were destroyed and burnt.

Ibn Sina (Avicenna), one of the most prominent scholars of Muslim world, was 'unquestionably, gloriously heretical' “Even during his lifetime Avicenna was suspected of infidelity to Islam; after his death accusations of heresy, free thought and atheism were repeatedly leveled against him.” [from “Avicenna on Theology” by Arthur J Arberry]

Ar Razi's works on religion were destroyed and his views earned him public condemnation for blasphemy.

Jabir Ibn Haiyan was not a very religious person and his views on religion were subject to criticism.

Al-Ma'arri, the Syrian poet, referred to religion as "noxious weeds" and called it a "fable invented by the ancients”.

Al-Biruni had "agnostic tendencies." [Encyclopedia Britannica 2000]

Omar Khayyam was flagrantly agnostic and hedonistic in his writings.

Ibn Rushd (Averroes) believed that religion contained philosophical truth in allegorical forms, so he was condemned for heresy and his writings were banned and burnt.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Recent research in congnitive sciences indicates that our free will might be an illusion after all, that our actions are being determined by physiological laws, like all other animals, as if we are a complex biological machine. Since, as i have written in a previous post, it is a problem itself to define free will, so perhaps i am not being accurate when i say that we are not free... we might be called 'free' in a Spinozoistic sense. Nevertheless, the simple fact is that the working of our mind is completely based upon scientific and physiological laws, and there is no supernatural phenomenon, like soul, in work which might be above the scientific laws.

However, the interesting thing, which i wish to point out, is that even if we are not free, free will is such a strong and powerful illusion that we cannot escape from it. Even if a scientist knows that he is not free, he will nevertheless continue to feel as if he is free, and responsible for his own actions. And well, in a sense, he is still responsible for his actions, because after all, it is his brain that is making these decisions, although, perhaps in a way in which a machine might make these decisions. So, the point is, even if we are not free, we would still have to live our lives as if we are free.

Here, i am reminded of the 'effective theory of free will' by Stephen Hawkings, which i have explained in one of my previous posts, and according to which human societies adopt the effective theory of free will because it works in practice, even though it might not be true... just like physics employs an effective theory like fluid dynamics even though the basic assumptions of fluid dynamics are not true.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Women often believe they are in love when in reality they are not. The business of an intrigue, the emotions inspired by gallantry, the natural inclination for the pleasure of being loved, and the difficulty of refusal -- all these persuade women that they feel real passion, when in fact it is nothing but coquetry."

La Rochefoucauld, Maxim 277

I wonder how much of it is really so. I think one of the factors which we must consider in this regard that women don't usually initiate courtship (at least, in the society in which i live.) Mostly it is the boy who makes the first move; the girl has the option of either accepting it or rejecting it. How much validity can there be in a love which is initiated by the opposite side? I don't deny the existence of sincere emotions in such scenario, but in how many cases would it be sincere?
"A king isn't born, Alexander, he is made. By steel and by suffering. A king must know how to hurt those he loves. It's lonely. Ask anyone. Ask Heracles. Ask any of them. Fate is cruel. No man or woman can be too powerful or too beautiful without disaster befalling. They laugh when you rise too high. And they crush everything you've built with a whim. What glory they give in the end, they take away. They... They make of us slaves."

King Philip, in the movie Alexander
Once upon a time...

Me: "What would we talk about, jab dunya main saree batein khatam ho jaen gee?"

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I had previously been writing on my blog on TIG. If you are interested, you can access the previous posts through this link:

http://awais.tigblog.org/

I have transferred some of the posts which i thought to be important from that blog to this one, which you can see below.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A person's confidence is often more convincing than the rationale of his arguments.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sometimes, before you can embark on the path of friendship, you have to stroll through the garden of romance.

Monday, June 11, 2007

There are some people who by virtue of their superb psychological sense can judge what a person expects/wants to hear, and they say exactly that. And by doing so, they manage to earn the trust of that person. The ability to say right things at the right time is a huge advantage. And these people make the best liars, because their lies conform to your psychology and unless you possess a psychological insight equal to theirs, it becomes very difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood. People are so frail against such people, it's unimaginable... their ability to exploit the human tendency of trust is horrifying... the very idea of encountering such people terrifies me!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Free will is essentially an oxymoron — we would not consider it 'will' if it were completely random and we would not consider it 'free' if it were entirely determined," Brembs said. In other words, nobody would ascribe responsibility to one's actions if they were entirely the result of random coincidence. On the other hand, if one's actions were completely determined by outside factors such that no alternative existed, no one would hold that person responsible for them."

[From the article 'Study hints that fruit flies have free will' by Charles Q. Choi]

So what is free will? Can an action be partially determined?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

It's the day of Judgement... the court of God... He sits on his throne, people arrive one by one, and their fates are being decided... should he be sent to an eternal blazing fire in which he will roast forever for the finite amount of sins he has committed in the finite existence of a finite world... or should he be sent to an oasis of medieval pleasure, in which he can spend his life in the boredom of utter eternity?

And Lo! The Philosopher is brought forth before Him by the angels. This is a complicated case... the decision is difficult... the scales of balance fluctuate between his virtues and heresies. He deliberates and finally decides, "Take him to paradise!" The angels move but he stays at his spot... firm, confident... he looks up and says, "I don't want your paradise. If you want to reward me, give me annihilation. Bless me nothingness. Purge me of this existence. I only desire Death."

I don't know what happens after this.

Friday, June 8, 2007

It has been my experience that most people when asked this question, "Are you happy?" tend to answer it in positive... and the huge prevalence of 'happiness' tends to make me quite skeptical of its validity. :)

Personally, i have classified the happy attitude into two types:

Negative Happiness: This consists of a relative psychological indifference to the problems of your life, such that they cease to bother you. You fail in an exam... you just shrug your shoulders and say, "So what? Its not the end of the world." This is negative happiness.

Positive Happiness: This consists of the feeling of pleasure derived from a variety of actions; success, romance, physical pleasures such as having a good tasty meal, aesthetic pleasures such as listening to music or appreciating art, having some sort of an adventure or a thrilling moment.

Of course, in real life, these two types exist in conjunction, though the percentage of their contribution is different in lives of different people.

I would define happy life as one in which happiness dominates over sadness [no life is absolutely happy, ever]. However, i believe, that to lead such a life, the attitude of negative happiness is of greater importance... although it doesn't increase your pleasure, it acts to decrease your feelings of grief, and hence, contribute to an over-all positive balance of happiness over sadness.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Crucify a madman and you risk turning his insanity into a crusade.
 

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