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Showing posts from February, 2009

Pehli si Muhabat

"... and that's why they leave, isn't it? Because they have to see themselves in the context of something larger than just the two of them. It's like that Faiz poem, you know, mujh say pehli si muhabat, when you've seen the sorrows of the rest of the world you can't go on pretending none of it matters, you can't pretend two people can really live in isolation telling themselves their love is all that matters in the world. And that two of them, when they come back to the city, that's when they find out that their love was imperfect because it couldn't bear the knowledge of everything that lies outside..."

Kamila Shamsie, Kartography

Tragedy

Me: ... both psychologically atypical. This could have been a common ground. The unseen, hidden force of attraction. Aati: Disasters waiting to happen. Now that's destiny! Me: The recipe of a beautiful-tragic love story :) Aati: Yeah. Sounds better than it feels though :) Me: It's the tragedy of every tragedy!

Stereotypes

In a group of individuals (a 'population') in which particular gender stereotypes prevail, even those individuals who don't believe in those stereotypes would find themselves acting in accordance with them. The reason: Stereotypes may be wrong, but they are a very efficient way of social dealing.
Consider a crude example. A college in which there is gender segregation to the extent that it doesn't abolish all interaction, but the slightest deviation from academic discourse is met with the suspicions of flirtation. We have a boy X and a girl Y. Since the stereotype is so prevalent, it is natural for X to assume that Y is a typical, conservative girl, and it is natural for Y to assume that X is a typical boy with no other intention than to make a pass at her, when in reality (in this case), both X and Y don't believe in these stereotypes and behave in very different ways when they meet with members of other populations where this stereotype is not present. For X, if h…

Doubt

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Set amidst the background of a Catholic Church and its attached school, the movie deals with the conflict of Certainty and Doubt. The psychology of the characters is beautifully depicted, no doubt accomplished by the brilliant acting of Meryl Streep. And it has the perfect, apt ending a movie about doubt can have; it will leave you thinking "What actually happened?" even till the next day. The most thought-provoking movie i have seen recently. Highly recommended.

Before Sunrise

Daydream, delusion, limousine, eyelash
Oh baby with your pretty face
Drop a tear in my wineglass
Look at those big eyes
See what you mean to me
Sweet-cakes and milkshakes
I'm a delusion angel
I'm a fantasy parade
I want you to know what I think
Don't want you to guess anymore
You have no idea where I came from
We have no idea where we're going
Lodged in life
Like branches in a river
Flowing downstream
Caught in the current
I'll carry you
You'll carry me
That's how it could be
Don't you know me?
Don't you know me by now?

From the movie 'Before Sunrise'

Congenital Social Defects

"Congenital Social Defects". The expression popped up in my mind during a discussion with Aati, and to my surprise, it appears that the term has not been used before. Aati urged me to float it on the blogosphere believing that the term has potential for wide-spread use. It is meant to denote a certain attitude people have towards members of the socially marginalized groups. The meaning would become apparent from the context in which it was used.
Aati: Life isn't easy. It's especially difficult if you're born 'wrong'. Me: Born wrong? You mean born in the wrong place, wrong time? Aati: No. Born 'wrong'. Born 'wrong' in any way. Born female, born poor, born deformed, born disabled, born into a different religion, born into a disliked race. And then there are 'instrinsic faults' that appear later -- born rebellious, for example. Me: Oh, right. Congenital social defects. Aati: Haha! Now that should go down in a dictionary.

Closer

* Larry: [on a photography exhibit] What do you think?
Alice: It's a lie. It's a bunch of sad strangers photographed beautifully, and... all the glittering assholes who appreciate art say it's beautiful 'cause that's what they wanna see. But the people in the photos are sad, and alone... But the pictures make the world seem beautiful, so... the exhibition is reassuring which makes it a lie, and everyone loves a big fat lie.
* Alice: Where is this love? I can't see it, I can't touch it. I can't feel it. I can hear it. I can hear some words, but I can't do anything with your easy words.
Closer

Judge

X: I gave up the one i loved and spent a life-time of compromise, all for my family, and the strength it took to do that, you cannot even begin to imagine, so don't you dare judge me as a coward; don't you dare judge me at all.

Foo Fighters - Times Like These

If a song can give you strength and hope, then this is one such song.

Authoritarian

Aati: Most people in this country jump from extended teenage to old age when the first baby arrives. I wonder why. Me: Before that they are under their parents' control and after that they become parents themselves.
Aati: You're either controlled or you control someone else; our culture is very authoritarian.

Adultery

Me: [quoting Somerset Maugham] "You know, of course, that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct." Aati: But i'm sure they all died very much in love with each other. I'd certainly like to think that.

Damsel in Distress

She was a typical damsel in distress; as if someone had picked her out of the pages of a romance and placed her in a world in which there were no knights-errant, for a strange affliction had gripped the land and every man was on his own. The fire-breathing monsters of antiquity and the single-window towers had become invisible, had become social, hiding amongst men, hiding within men. Swords, shields, armour were useless; knights were as vulnerable as maidens, both trapped in towers of their own. But she could not understand herself without a saviour. She shouted and cried, and looked at everyone with doleful eyes. "Why doesn't anyone save me?" The knights heard her cries with guilt, for they too were helpless. She had always learned to obey, be it the ugly witch who trapped her or the gallant knight who would save her. She had no will of her own. She believed in her weakness. Whatever happened to her, she accepted it as her fate. She could not save herself, for she didn…

Qualities of the Future Wife

Studying for the BSc English exam (Punjab University) has been an amusing experience in itself. Compared with the O and A levels English exams, BSc English exam is highly ludicurous, both in its contents and its approach to the subject. However, in this post i want to share an outline of an essay given in the book "BSc English Simple - Grammar and Composition" by Prof. Zia-ur-Rehman Khan. It is a matter of tragedy that Pakistani students are expected to write essays of such inferior quality, both in language and thought. The title is "Qualities of the Future Wife", and reflects the androcentrism that people like Freethinker and Alderson Warm-Fork have been blogging about. It presents a woman as an object to be acquired, like an animal to bought for one's farm. No essay by the title of "Qualities of a Future Husband" is given in the book (and even if it were given, it would only have reflected the male-female, husband-wife stereotypes present in the so…

Believers and Scriptures

Bertrand Russell writes in An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish:
"In practice, people choose the book considered sacred by the community in which they are born, and out of that book they choose the parts they like, ignoring the others. At one time, the most influential text in the Bible was: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Now-a-days, people pass over this text, in silence if possible; if not, with an apology. And so, even when we have a sacred book, we still choose as truth whatever suits our own prejudices. No Catholic, for instance, takes seriously the text which says that a bishop should be the husband of one wife."
But it just makes you wonder, if a religion can neither be judged by the actions of its believers nor by the scripture, then what should it be judged by?

The Lamp

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Night's Sorrow by =abuseofreason on deviantART
The Lamp by Sara Teasdale
If I can bear your love like a lamp before me, When I go down the long steep Road of Darkness, I shall not fear the everlasting shadows, Nor cry in terror.
If I can find out God, then I shall find Him, If none can find Him, then I shall sleep soundly, Knowing how well on earth your love sufficed me, A lamp in darkness.

Vitriolage

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Vitriolage
M. Awais Aftab

No Shiv Sena threatens me
Nor do Talibans bind my hands
Yet in the miasmatic world
In which i breathe
There is no Valentine's Day
For you, for me
It is but a fiction in magazines
And some songs on the radio
For love is a secret to be kept
To be rumoured and hushed
Its beauty to be burnt
Vitriolized by moralic acid
There is no Valentine's Day
For you, for me
Why do we even pretend it exists?
For despite hearts full of love
The day will be spent in silence
Weaving a lie
Which we ourselves
Don't believe anymore
There is no Valentine's Day
For you, for me

X=?

X=?
M. Awais Aftab

How convenient it would be
To love by default
An unknown, undecided entity X
X=?
To be inserted someday
Into the equation
By your parents
How convenient it would be
For us to love
With such mathematical certainty
But mine heart is too rebellious
For such facility
And yours too, i believe
For we would not survive this venture
Without being suffocated into zombies

Darwin and Evolution

Today is Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, and the world celebrates the genius of the man who brought a paradigm-shift in whole of biology with his insights, and had a lasting impact on philosophy, sociology and many other arenas. Few scientific theories have generated the controversy that evolution stimulated; few ideas have been so passionately debated and even fewer have survived 150 years of constant skepticism. Alfred Wallace developed the theory of evolution independently of Darwin, but he didn't have the courage to face the implications of his own theory, and later turned to spiritualism. Darwin was more intellectually tough and stuck to his ideas. And that is why the world celebrates Darwin today, and few even mention Wallace. Darwin had no access to the information of individual and population genetics or DNA and the exact mechanism of inheritence, and yet despite this lack of knowledge, Darwin was brilliant and insightful enough to come up with the theory of natural s…

One Faltering Step

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L'echelle by =xavierrey © on deviantART
One Faltering Step
It would be untoward
To plan a whole life ahead
To place every stony tread In treacherous waters With love, with care, with dreams
To wager your happiness On a single path
And to lose it all
By one faltering step

M. Awais Aftab

Spirits and Spheres

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Dancing Spirits by CreativeNiCo © on deviantART

Spirits and Spheres

Spirits and Spheres
Revolving in perpetual kinetics
In pairs and orbits
Their cogs interlocked
Like enmeshed gears in motion
And you never know
Who moves whom

M. Awais Aftab

The Extended Mind

Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin?
The Extended Mind or the Extended Mind Thesis (EMT) is one of the emerging concepts in philosophy of mind and has successfully challenged the traditional view of the demarcation point between the mind and the environment i.e. it was traditionally believed that the functioning of mind is restricted to the boundries of the skull. But this concept says that it is not necessarily so, and that in many instances the world doesn't just serve as a tool, but rather becomes a part of the mind itself by becoming a part of a cognitive loop that extends out from the cognitive machinery of the brain. The objects are used by the mind in such a way that they can be seen as a functional part of the mind itself.
The paper 'The Extended Mind' presented by Andy Clark and David Chalmers is of the central importance in the development of this concept, and i will present some extracts from their paper, containing two thought-experiments wh…

Lost in Limbo

Some extracts from the article 'Lost in limbo' by Amna Mumtaz that appeared in Dawn Images today.
'Some people can be very neatly characterised. They are either “career oriented” or “home bodies”, “courageous” or “cowardly”, “happy” or “depressed”. What if you are all of the above? What if all your life you wanted to take a side and stick with it, but just couldn’t manage?
What if you were pulled and pushed in so many directions by the dichotomy of your temperament that your entire life seems to be slipping away in a state akin to purgatory? Now that’s a word/concept that has always fascinated me. I have often wondered if it is the same as being in a state of limbo. Was it a punishment after death for refusing to take sides while alive? ... Do you have any idea how terrible it is to be a woman who doesn’t merely want to be someone’s wife or mother yet lacks the discipline or the perseverance or even the conviction to stand alone and carve out a niche for herself without being …

The Trash Bin: Barriers to Progressive Change

My post on The Trash Bin blog. Some of things in the post, i have discussed on this blog before. Others, i have not. The title of the post was tailored by the blog editor to suit the general theme of the blog, though i personally would not limit it to Muslim countries alone, since i think it applies to third world countries in general.
Barriers to progressive change in Muslim countries

By Awais Aftab

Economic conditions of Muslim countries like Pakistan limit progressive change. For example, despite possessing a lot of modern, liberal and radical ideas, most young people of Pakistani society, and of other developing societies, are unable to bring a significant change in their own lives. This is because societies exert their control over the youth through various means; psychological and economic are two of the most conspicuous that come to my mind.

Considering the psychological part, I like to see it as a psychological debt that accumulates during the person’s upbringing. The society in w…

Walking Away

Walking Away by M. Awais Aftab
There is no place like home to heal your wounds. And that is where Adam Edwards headed when he felt his soul being eroded by the big city life; like a turtle seeking refuge from the sea by burrowing a shelter in the sands of the shore. Perhaps at some level it reminded him of the warm comfort of a mother's lap. Or, perhaps he felt as if he could once again find himself revisiting the places where he had grown up. Living in New York had been suffocating; there in that small town, he could breathe. Given his experience as an artist, he easily got the job for which he had applied at the local art academy, the same establishment where he and his brother had once been students. The memories felt distant, ancient, archeological... Guiding the young artists, polishing their talent, he experienced a freedom and an inner peace that he had desperately lacked in New York, where his life had been turbulent, subject to continuous frustration. But he was putting too…

One Big Problem with Time Travel

There is one aspect of time travel that nobody considers, whether in science or science-fiction (at least, i am not aware of it), something that has the potential of rendering time travel, even if it is possible, totally futile. So, what is it? In time-travel, we are only moving through time, and not through space. So, if we are at a given set of co-ordinates X, Y, Z at the present time A, and we go back in the past to some moment B, we would still, essentially, be at the same co-ordinates XYZ. Now, here's the point. Earth is moving through space; moving with velocities we might not even have a clear idea of. For definite, we know the earth is moving around the sun, the sun is moving around the centre of the galaxy, and the galaxy itself is moving. That makes up a lot of motion. So that at any given two instants earth would be at two different places. So, if i travel in time, whether in past or future, while retaining my location in space, i would end up in empty space, cause eart…

My First Telescope Moment

Despite being an astronomy enthusiast since many years, i got to see through a telescope for the first time in my life only yesterday evening (1st February). It was an event arranged by Khwarzimic Science Society in Punjab University, and hence i owe them my gratitude for allowing me, and many other people, this relatively rare opportunity. The things they showed the gathering through their telescopes were craters of the moon (Ibn Rushd crater in particular, named after the Muslim philosopher), the Apollo landing site, Venus (which shows phases like the moon) and the Orion nebulla. It was certainly a memorable experience.