What desires torment My bruised heart To live and relive To die in your arms To surrender myself To your thousand charms To look in your eyes And be mad and insane To be bound together In that burning chain To hold you close And whisper in your ears 'For you, my love, I surrender my fears...'
Today is the birthday of Sir Karl Popper, the very influential philosopher of science. There is much to learn from him, but for now, here is a glimpse of his spirit of rationalism:
"When I speak of reason or rationalism, all I mean is the conviction that we can learn through criticism of our mistakes and errors, especially through criticism by others, and eventually also through self-criticism. A rationalist is simply someone for whom it is more important to learn than to be proved right; someone who is willing to learn from others — not by simply taking over another's opinions, but by gladly allowing others to criticize his ideas and by gladly criticizing the ideas of others. The emphasis here is on the idea of criticism or, to be more precise, critical discussion. The genuine rationalist does not think that he or anyone else is in possession of the truth; nor does he think that mere criticism as such helps us achieve new ideas. But he does think that, in the sphere of ideas,…
A friend of mine recently shared with me what her mother had said to her when she had told her about her first crush:
"Beta, it is just attraction. It happens in your age, but if you prevent your feelings from getting astray, you'll find a very good person later in life when it would be the proper time for you to do these things."
I have my reservations about this answer, but it is such a cute and sensible piece of motherly advice that i just had to share it on my blog. :)
Question 2: What is Good and what is Evil? Are there any absolute moral standards?
The question of morality is no longer a question of pure philosophy; it is fast becoming an issue of science, and even a little scientific light on the subject seems to remove a lot of confusion. I am inclined to agree with the point of view which states that humans possess a certain ‘sense’ of morality as a result of our evolutionary past. Just like our capacity for language has been built in our brains by evolution and due to which the underlying deep structure of grammar is universal among all human languages, similarly our moral judgments have an underlying, deep moral grammar which is universal. All humans possess this moral sense. Good is what satisfies this moral sense; Evil is what does not satisfy this moral sense. (An analogy could be the sense of taste; food is tasty if it satisfies our sense of taste, it is distasteful if it does not.) The urge to do good is basically innate; we…
Sara: Here’s what I think. I think you are scared and you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t scared in a place like this.
Michael: When I was young, I couldn’t sleep at night because I thought there was a monster in the closet. But my brother told me there wasn’t anything in the closet but fear. And fear wasn’t real. He said it wasn’t made of anything just…air. Not even that. He said you just have to face it. You just have to open that closet and the monster would disappear.
Sara: Brother sounds like a smart man.
Michael: He is. In here though, you face your fear, you open that door and there’s a hundred more doors behind it. And the monsters that are hiding behind them are all real.
I looked into your eyes and it seemed as if all the bewilderment in them were poured into mine... all thoughts abandoned me and i struggled with what to say. And even when your frown transformed into a charming smile, it could not erase the chaos it had unchained in my mind... i can feel my head throbbing like my heart.
"Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness." Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970), Conquest of Happiness
If you are too cautious in a loving relationship, you'll never be able to experience the liberating joy it brings. There is an adventurous aspect of love, because there is a risk involved, there is unpredictability. Those people who fear the society too much find their love being embittered by this fear. Sometimes, you just have to throw caution to the winds.
"I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for the truth; and truth rewarded me." Simone de Beauvoir, All Said and Done
My sentiments exactly! There is a certain joy and satisfaction in living in this harsh world of uncertainty. Like the warriors of previous times who preferred to live in tough, challenging situations of war and conflict rather than the peace of home, i too have become an addict of the wars of philosophy. The comfort zone of certainty makes me restless, and i long for the tumultuous philosophical agitations.
Whenever i find myself in the difficult position of making a crucial decision, i always try to 'sleep over it'. It seems to me that some kind of integration or coordination of data is going on in the neurons of our brain as we sleep. (Some psychologists believe that dreams are a result of this processing of data in our brain.) Whatever the case may be, once i have slept over a problem, the problem is relatively clearer to me when i wake up in the morning, helping me in coming up with a decision.
Question 1: What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of human existence?
The beginning point is Sartre’s maxim: Human existence precedes essence; one is not born with a predetermined purpose. One finds oneself existing in this brute, meaningless and absurd world without any guidance or without any direction, and then later defines himself. You are thrown in this life without consent, and whether you like it to not, you have to stay here till death dissipates your consciousness and degrades your body. The world is contingent; it just happens to exist without containing within itself any reason of its existence. Even if any reason of life exists which is beyond the comprehending abilities of human, and we can’t prove the case that it is not so, still it remains meaningless for us. If we can’t understand it, its existence is irrelevant. Humans need a purpose of life describable in human terms; and no such purpose exists in this world around us. The world is absurd. Y…
"We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves." Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680)
Language is a culprit here as well. We talk with others as well as ourselves by means of language, and many times the sentences we use to describe ourselves to others are also the sentences that we use to describe ourselves to ourselves. If we reveal a particular description of ourselves repeatedly, ultimately our own mind becomes accustomed to that description, and takes it to be true. And it is not just a case of disguisement. Sometimes, our personalities really do change, adapting ourselves to the description we are using.
O! The passing cloud! Tell me Have you brought my beloved’s love note? Is your dark gloomy colour The colour of her thoughts? These drops you sprinkle on me Are they the tears from her eyes? These circulating birds, you escorts Do they echo the songs she sings for me? The cool hasty wind brushing my face Are they the kisses she has sent for me? Torment me not, O Cloud! I can feel her presence in you The way you touch the strings of my heart Evoking a music, so sweet and sad Has not my lover taught you this? And yet again You remind me of my beloved’s lips Smiling, stunning but silent Speak not, if you so wish But drench me then Drench me in your rain Drench me in my lover’s tears!
2) The Lake of Mind
In the stillness of my memories Your thoughts come Like stones thrown in a pond By children in their innocent games The ripples dance The waves glide The previous stagnant surface Is consumed by movement But soon The motion fades away And the calm is restored.
Here is a list of 10 questions which are of great interest to me, and which occupy a significant part of my thinking. Technical questions of philosophy like whether reality exists apart from our subjective experience, or whether a piece of text has a stable, determinable meaning interest me a lot, but I don't think them of much consequence to my life.
These 10 questions belong to philosophy, psychology, sociology and cognitive science.
1. What is the purpose of life? What is the meaning of human existence?
2. What is good and what is bad? Are there any absolute moral standards?
3. Can science give us certain knowledge about ultimate reality?
4. What is consciousness? How does it emerge?
5. Do we have free will?
6. What is love?
7. Should there be any limits to freedom of expression?
8. Does God exist?
9. How do religions emerge and evolve?
10. How can you lead a happy life?
I have got tentative opinions about all of them, some opinions being held with more conviction than others,…
On second day of YLC we had a session with Bob Urichuck, a Canadian speaker and trainer on motivation, leadership and team skills. He showed us a list of 10 rights which each person has in this world. In order to lead a successful life, one has to become aware of them. These rights are:
1) The right to have dreams, desires and expectations. 2) The right to have what you want. 3) The right to like yourself as you are. 4) The right to change. You can't grow if you can't change. 5) The right to fail. You can't learn if you don't fail. 6) The right to be imperfect. 7) The right to choose. 8) The right to ask. 9) The right to decide how you will use your time and energy. 10) The right to have a lunch when you pay for it.
Think about these rights, and ask yourself, how many of these have you let the society snatch away from you.
The Lal Masjid case in Pakistan is a grim reminder to all of us regarding where humanity is heading at the moment. Religious extremism, war, economic disparity, injustice... people have no idea that how beautiful and happy this world could be, only if we could remove these obstacles.
On this day in 1955, the Russell-Einstein manifesto was issued, and it called for world leaders to seek peaceful resolutions to international conflict. Its words still offer us a hope:
"There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death."
During a panel discussion on the topic "Talent as a function of affluence" in YLC, Zaheer A Kidvai, the CEO of b.i.t.s advised us all to "Run away from home mentally!" He himself had run away from home in his youth, and had later sailed around the world in 25 days, and set up 3 companies! He didn't recommend us running away from home physically, but he said that we must realize that we are independent personalities, and that we are not to passively accept the lifestyle our parents intend to pass on to us. I really liked this advice of his.
On the same panel, we also had Amir Adnan, the famous fashion designer. He said that Talent is the ability to convert dreams into reality, and Affluence is the ability to do what you want to do.
There also a psychiatrist Dr. Ubaldo Leli, and he said that he considered himself successful, not because he was financially well-off, which according to him he wasn't, but because when he goes to sleep at night, he has distinct fee…
During the YLC they showed us a video clip of Bono's speech to 2006 National Prayer Breakfast. It was very inspiring and moving, the words reaching down to your heart. In order to share that magic, here is an extract from that speech:
'Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives. Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone. I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of was…
The Enlightened-Moderate Religion is clothed in cliches and platitudes; it turns out to be hollow on analysis.
During YLC, i had the opportunity to meet many intelligent people, all advocating an enlightened-moderate religion with passion and zeal. Their talk and words were full of flowery expressions, which, i felt, were mere fig-leaves for the inherent inconsistency and ignorance. A calculated ignorance, i should say... because they had knowledge about religion, but only of those aspects which suited them.
"When Mathieu had pledged himself to Marcelle, he had forever renounced all thoughts of solitude, those cool thoughts, a little shadowy and timorous, that used to dart into his mind with the furtive vivacity of fish. He could not love Marcelle save in complete frankness: she was his frankness embodied, his comrade, his witness, his counsellor, and his critic."
An interesting incident happened on the 2nd night of YLC stay in PC. I came back to my room at 2:30 am. I inserted my electronic card key in the door, the door opened but it was locked from inside by the chain key. I could hear the tv, and the lights were also on so it meant that my room mate was inside. I gave the door bell, and shouted out as well ... but no one opened the door... I kept ringing and shouting for 10 minutes, but no result. So i went to the room of one of my team mates, and told him abt the situation. He came and he also rang and shouted, and tried to open the chain by inserting his hand, but to no avail. So we decided to tell the YLC management. As i went down the lift, i saw Changezi, one of the facilitators, coming to go up. I told him abt the situation. He was also coming to look for my room mate ... he had been calling him on mobile for 2 hours, but he wasn't responding. So we both went back to the room. Changezi also tried ringing and shouting for sometime, b…
I had the pleasure of meeting some famous persons during the YLC. We had an interactive session with Ali Salim, aka Begum Nawazish Ali, on "The Art of Innovation". It was a very interesting and highly enjoyable session. I also got to meet Amin Gulgee, the famous painter and sculpturor, and he gave me an autograph. Mohsin Sayeed, the columnist in Dawn, famous for his sarcasm and humour, had a session with us on "Freedom of Thought". I had a little talk with him, and he was a very lovely person. He advised me to enjoy life and to avoid becoming too serious. I told him that i often feel that i am living in an absurd society and he said that our society is absurd because it is too socially conscious. This is what he gave me as autograph:
"Dear Awais, Well, lose your virginity, sanity, anything. The moment you lose your sense of humour, you lose everything.
It feels so relaxing to be back home after 6 hectic days of Young Leaders Conference. So tiring was our routine, especially in the first 3 days, that we'd go to sleep at 2:30 am and wake up at 7:30 am for breakfast at 8. But it was certainly worth it. I won't exaggerate by saying that it has brought any radical change in me; my life would go on probably in more or less the same manner. But the conference did have a positive influence, and i became distinctly aware of many things about myself and the world around me. And apart from this learning, the experience itself was a hell lot of a fun and excitement. The energy, the electrifying atmosphere, young people brimming with passion, working in teams and facing challenges... the conference remains in most ways a very memorable experience.
The only negative component of the experience was that i didn't have any close friends, unlike many other people who had joined the conference along with their friends. I met many new people…