Monday, March 31, 2008

'Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.'
Josh Billings

Friday, March 28, 2008

My Absurd Years
By M. Awais Aftab

"I don't know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know the meaning… What can a meaning outside my condition mean to me? I can understand only in human terms."
-- Albert Camus

It all began in early adolescence when I, a boy of mediocre abilities, found my imagination being sparked by the lives of great geniuses of history - the scientists and philosophers who had left indelible marks on human thought by their spectacular ideas and discoveries. Reading about their lives left such a strong impression on me that I longed to be like them; the life and routine of an average person repelled and horrified me, because it seemed to lack the nobility of the pursuit of truth and the sense of being a part of human history which I so craved for. What I felt then was sheer ambition: great dreams driving me forward and providing coherence to my life. They gave me a meaning, a purpose, a hope … something which I felt distinguished my life from the life-cycle of a fungus or a plant, which too is born, which eats, reproduces and then dies. But the hollowness of the ideals of truth and glory was soon to dawn on me. My disillusionment with the notion of truth, both religious and scientific, was a complicated process, and the result of a long period of philosophical study and deliberation. From Hume's skepticism and Kant's thinking to Popper's critique of science convinced me that the ultimate truth is beyond human reach. The only truth in our grasp is the superficial truth, the knowledge of the phenomena, and the fundamental reality, the noumena, is hidden and unreachable, even for science. The study of philosophical skepticism had already alienated me from religion, so I realized with bitterness that the pursuit of the truth was fruitless: I would never find the Truth. And as for the desire for achievement and glory, it was a myth which gave a fatal blow to these ambitions: the myth of Troy, the story of Achilles and his yearning for glory and the desire to be remembered for thousands of years. The tale made me realize the fundamental futility of seeking prominence and recognition. What would your fame matter to you when you have become but the dust in your grave. And the fact is that in our postmodern world, fame has been reduced to fifteen minutes, and once those fifteen minutes are over, you long for more; you become addicted to it, and an addiction can be anything but meaningful.

So, when the two great purposes of my life were snatched away from me, I found myself staring into the very eyes of absurdity. What is the meaning of my life? What is my purpose? Why am I here? I was lost and disoriented. Once you have become conscious of the absurd, you are forever bound to it. However, with time I realized that absurdity exists primarily at the logical plane; it is reason and logic which always ask 'why' and finding no answer, declare life to be absurd. But what about the role which emotions play in making a life meaningful, a life worth living? Maybe logic was never meant to give you meaning; maybe it was the task of emotions. Emotions don't speak in terms of the objective reality, of 'true' and 'false'. Perhaps the very act of feeling certain emotions is an end in itself, something to which the question 'why' doesn't apply, and something which is, hence, meaningful. And the emotion which fits this criterion most perfectly for me is love; not the ludic, flirtatious, Don Juan-istic variety of love, which is a form of Absurdism itself and only serves to enhance its awareness. I am talking of the love which holds the promise of eternity in every breath, which makes you cherish every instant, and when you look into a pair of eyes, makes you know that the meaning of your life is standing right in front of you, and that though impossible as it may seem, you can at last hold infinity in the palm of your hand…

[Published in Us Magazine today. See it online here.]
Empty
By M. Awais Aftab

I felt empty today
Like a vacuum-bubble was inside me
A black hole of thoughts
Sucking all emotions and colours
But then I saw
That it wasn't a hollow void
But a super-compression
Of my fears and doubts
Of unsaid guilt and unuttered longings
Pressured and condensed
Into a concrete, heavy emptiness…

[Published in Poet's Corner, in today's Us Magazine]

Thursday, March 27, 2008

There are two sides to fame, subjective and objective. The subjective fame is the feeling of being famous, the idea that you are famous, well-known, talked-about etc, which may or may not be true. It is entirely possible that a person may not be very famous but he is deluded with the belief that he is. The second is the objective side... the degree to which people really do talk about you, which you may or may not be aware of. One could be like Ludwig Wittgenstein, who returned to Cambridge after about a decade in 1929, and he was greeted at the railway station by a crowd of England's greatest intellectuals and thinkers, and Wittgenstein realized to his horror that he had become one of the world's most famous philosophers during the time of his absence. Well, in the normal course of events, the subjective aspect is derived from the objective one, and for a public celebrity, it is not that difficult to determine the extent to which he is famous: you can check the news that appear in newspapers, number of articles done on him, the frequency with which is quoted or referred to etc. Such parameters can be developed at the larger scale, but talking on a smaller scale, say a university or a college... what parameters can you develop to judge how famous a particular person is? Usually it is thought to be determined by the extent to which the person becomes the subject of a discussion. But there are problems here: a person is usually only exposed to his circle of friends, which of course doesn't represent the whole student body. A person maybe talked about a lot in that particular circle, while being markedly ignored in others. Is it really possible to form an accurate perception of how much a person is really being talked about on the whole? And secondly, the line between notoriety and fame tends to be blurred... a person maybe very talked about, but how many of the people are talking against him and how many in his favour? Due to these reasons, i believe there is a high chance that at a moderately small level like a college or university (not so small that everyone knows everyone intimately), there is a fair chance of a mismatch between the subjective and objective sides of being famous.

Monday, March 24, 2008

since feeling is first
by e. e. cummings

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for eachother: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Meredith: OK, here it is. Your choice, it's simple, her or me. And I'm sure she's really great. But Derek, I love you. In a really, really big pretend to like your taste in music, let you eat the last piece of cheesecake, hold a radio over my head outside your window, unfortunate way that makes me hate you, love you. So pick me. Choose me. Love me.

Grey's Anatomy, Episode # 205

Friday, March 21, 2008

Even those people who commit suicide do not count death as a small matter, and they are startled and resist when death comes to them in another manner than the one they have chosen.

La Rochefoucald
The two lovers
There they were
On two opposite poles
Of the chaotic, neurotic crowd
And for a brief moment
They saw one another
And sought one another
Struggling to break free from
The interlocked chains of limbs
But getting lost and disoriented
By the pushes and pulls
And there he was
The Moses of love
Watching this with a subtle smile
And he swung his rod
And tapped it on the ground
Lo! Behold!
There was parting of the crowd
And in the centre, they stood
Facing each other…

M. Awais Aftab

Monday, March 17, 2008

'The sea complains upon a thousand shores.'
Alexander Smith

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Postmodernists believe that a piece of text lacks a single, stable meaning, and that multiple interpretations are possible, none of which is the 'true' or 'central' one, and that a deconstructed text lacks this 'centre' of meaning and instead shows a free play of meaning, with meaning fluctuating between a number of interpretations. Postmodernists go one step further ahead and say that if language is fragmented, then human mind, which thinks in terms of language, must also be fragmented. But i wonder, is this implication correct? It is possible that a sentence per se has multiple meanings, but when you are thinking of that sentence, your mind is aware of only one meaning, the meaning that you intend to convey. As long as a sentence is out there as a 'text', as a subject of deconstructive analysis, it lacks a stable meaning, but when it is a 'thought' in your mind, there is a definite, stable meaning... that's what i think.
Ezra, as he explained to me the influence of statistics on his thinking: "A null hypothesis is a hypothesis which we assume to be true until statistical evidence proves it to be wrong, and which is rejected usually if the researcher becomes 95% or more confident that the data indicates otherwise. And my null hypothesis about women is that they are mean, cruel, evil, nasty and self-centered, and which i assume every woman to be unless evidence indicates to the contrary!"

Saturday, March 15, 2008


'I stood upon the silent hill
And stared into the sky until
My eyes were blind with stars and still
I started into the sky'

Ralph Hodgson

The painting is 'Starry Night Over the Rhone' by Vincent Van Gogh

Friday, March 14, 2008

Iqra Asad wrote a two part cover-story in Us Magazine 'Tea with Us', which is basically an interview of the prominent writers of the magazine, which also includes me. Here is the portion relevant to me:

His collaboration with Saad on 'Distrust Us' propelled him to stardom, but unfortunately (or fortunately?) he fell short of heart throb status. Undaunted by his failure to secure female fandom, he proceeded to churn out pieces on art and literature. Winning hearts isn't everything, after all.

M. AWAIS AFTAB

Occupation: Dissecting human bodies and human souls; a medical student.
Age: 20
Date of Birth: 8th August 1987
Educational Institution: King Edward Medical University
City: Lahore
First article: My first poem 'The Rain Within' came in 2004. First article was a part of a cover story on Tuitions.
The best thing about writing: The ability to influence people, and touch their hearts and minds.
What I do in my spare time: Read books, chat with my friends, write on my blog, or listen to music.
Highlight of life: Getting a position in FSc and highest marks in medical college entry test.
Low point in life: My first heart-break!
My defining characteristic: An inordinate passion for philosophy.
Best part of my day: Afternoons
My favourite writer: Bertrand Russell. Few writers have influenced me more than him. His views on religion, politics, logic, and ethics have provided a foundation to my own thoughts. The influence can be safely summed up by his quote: "The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

X: Have you ever had that feeling... that your desire to save the one thing you value the most in life may eventually lead you to lose it forever?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"

Dead Poets Society

Sunday, March 9, 2008

It is a general impression that a person who has a habit of quoting other people tends to lack original thoughts of his own. While this may be true in many instances, there are cases of exception. Someone may quote another scholar or a writer rather than using his own words not because the same thought didn't occur to him but because he feels that that particular quote provides a more elegant expression to his own thoughts. If a writer has already expressed an idea in very fine words, should a person still attempt to say it in his own words just for the sake of appearing original, given that the intention is merely to convey a particular thought to the people?
Recently i watched the movie 'V for Vendetta', and i really enjoyed watching... the story, the socio-political issues it raises, the characters, it was all very interesting. And then i discovered a spoof trailer of this movie at YouTube, titled 'C for Cookie', and it was so hilarious, that i had to share it on the blog. You'll enjoy it more if you have seen the movie:

Summer: God, he loves you. He got in a fight and burnt a house down over you. That's hot. What more do you need?
Marissa: How about talking to me?

O.C., Episode # 103

Friday, March 7, 2008

"Our African friends are more permissive in this respect. In the Zulu tradition, every man must compose a poem before his death. Probably without that he would not be allowed to enter the paradise of his tribe. Ought not all gods make this condition incumbent on their respective bondsmen. Perhaps, but heaven must have its peace too."
Mushir Anwar, Why should poetry have no purpose
[in Dawn newspaper, 6 March 08]

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life."
Jean Giraudoux

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"All history becomes subjective; in other words, there is properly no history; only biography."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was going through some of my autobiographical writings, and i wondered that there were events that would appear to be very different if narrated by a person involved in it other than me. And simultaneously i realized that those differing versions would not be the 'wrong' ones, even if they contradict the versions i narrate, because they would have been told based on the limitations of experience of that person, just as my versions would have been told based on my limitations. And in such circumstances, the idea of distinction between a right version and a wrong version seems to break-down: all we are left with are a number of different accounts of the same occurance, none of which is 'wrong' in the usual sense of the word. That is to say, i realized that i cannot even objectively describe an account of my own life, because the people involved in it would have their own versions to tell! And if it is that much difficult to write what 'really' happened concerning an event of recent past of one's own life, regarding which most of the facts are available and the people involved are alive, just imagine how difficult it would be to discover the 'true' history of an event that happened centuries ago, and regarding which you only have a very limited number of sources available. For me, it only means that we can never achieve a 100% objective view of any event in history... whatever we think really happened in that event appears to be so from our frame of reference; change that, and the version which appears to be the most accurate may also change. And of course, one can never say which frame of reference is 100% true; probably there is none.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Dure: "I don't know, sometimes I feel you make a conscious effort to be or maybe portray yourself as opposing anything which is even slightly conventional or conservative... even if that is the only 'fault' in that thing."
"Maybe sometimes we don't do the right thing because the wrong thing looks more dangerous, and we don't want to look scared, so we go and do the wrong thing just because it's dangerous. We're more concerned with not looking scared than with judging right. It's very hard."
Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass [Part 3 of His Dark Materials Trilogy]
 

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