Showing posts from 2010

A Recap of 2010

At the last moments of 2010, I am going to offer you hand-picked posts from this blog made throughout the span of this year. These posts are meant as highlights of my journey, and represent dominant themes that I was concerned with. They also represent the evolution of my thought. I hope the readers will find this recap an enjoyable treat. Happy New Year, everyone :) The Art of Mark Fray: The work of an erratic artist makes us wonder 'what is art?' The Imperfect Society: How should one live in an imperfect society? Resignation: Can resignation be bad-faith? To the people who try to "reconvert" me Love: The Potential for Abuse: Love is not beyond morality. Unfair: Life is unfair. Truth: She stood there, offering me the Truth... Morality and Psychopathy I and II : Does psychopathy imply something about morality? Out of Place: Feeling out of place in this society... The Case for Abortion: Why I believe Abortion is justified. A Heart Stifled : A heart without in

Interpreting Poetry

In terms of meaning, I will classify poems into 4 categories: Category I: This is the poem that consists of just pretty words with no underlying deeper meaning; it is intended to convey an aesthetic impression and nothing more. Catergory II: This is the poem which has a determinable meaning, either on plain reading or on analysis, but determinable without recourse to the poet's life. Category III: This is the poem that has multiple meanings, none of which is 'objectively' true, such that the reader can ascribe any meaning to it of his own fancy. Category IV: This is the poem that is intended by the poet to be a metaphorical expression of a particular feeling, experience or life-event. I would call it the 'objective meaning' of the poem. Whenever I read a poem, my first question is: Which category does this poem belong to? How do we even decide which poem belongs to which category? Category II has the determinable meaning, so that is easiest to identify (though i

Confessional Poetry, Private Language and Suicide

Sometimes I come across poetry and literary writings that sound incredibly beautiful, like an abstract painting that has been painted with words, but beyond that strong aesthetic over-whelming feeling, I don't grasp anything, and I am left asking "What does it mean?" And often when I try to ask the fans of that poetry, "Well, it is truly beautiful, but what does it mean?" I just fail to get any satisfying answer. Many of the answers tend to revolve around the theme of "It cannot be explained. It's something you have to feel ." Most of the time I just shut up in humbleness, and accept my inability to feel . At other times, I am just silently pissed. Either the poet is speaking in a language that makes sense but which I cannot understand, or it is all just a string of pretty words with no meaning underneath. How do you even distinguish between the two? Yes, my mind is strongly rational, and it always tries to make 'sense' of things. And I acc


“To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.” A quote by James Joyce, which has been codified (along with the others things) into the genome of the first semi-synthetic self-replicating bacterium, by J Craig Venter's team. Details here .

Nude Art

Even though art critics have left no real distinction between nude art and porn, for me personally , aesthetics divides the two. Nude Art is beautiful, or aims for beauty, or some other abstract quality and meaning. Porn, on the other hand, is simply ugly by virtue of its brute insistence on sexual gratification. The critic, having exiled beauty from art, brings more and more porn under its patronage, while the layman with a limited aesthetic sense, perceives more and more art to be porn.

Dead Stars

The public does not begin to welcome an idea except when intelligent contemporaries begin to abandon it. No light reaches the masses but that of dead stars. Don Colacho ’s Aphorisms #2,452

Moving Towards a Morality of Well Being

I am posting some extracts from an article by Sam Harris , which can be found here . Harris argues for a case that I, at the moment, believe in myself. All morality is about or should be about human well-being and flourishing (or as Harris says, of all conscious beings). All systems of morality that do not lead to human well-being are worth discarding. Anyone who says human well-being shouldn't be our goal is someone who ought to be ignored. Because what is purpose and point of asking "How would we ought to behave?" if the answer is not to maximize human well-being. Of course, there are serious and genuine issues of deciding of what 'well-being' is, and determining how it can be maximized, and whether there is only one way of achieving that or more than one. These are all genuine difficulties and must be addressed, but it also true that facts about what leads to human well-being are not a matter of clueless opinions, and moral systems which do not lead to human we


"Selfishness kills the soul; destroy it. But take care that your altruism does not kill the souls of others." Sri Aurobindo

Love Advocates: A Survey

Yesterday, during a discussion with Aati on whether everyone should go for love in life, I realized that something which I felt to be obvious was not quite so obvious at all. So, I decided to do a little survey. I planned that all the participants in the survey should be Pakistani, young adults, and people who prefer or would prefer to be in a love relationship of their choice over an arranged one. This last requirement was important, because the question wouldn't even make much sense for someone who doesn't even believe in love or already prefers arranged marriage. So the purpose of the survey was a specific one: to discover how many of the Pakistani young adults who prefer love themselves would endorse that love ought to be a preference for everyone. As I have very few friends who fulfill the selection requirement of having love as the personal preference (!), I had to ask Dure for help, who very kindly conducted the survey among her friends, and provided the bulk of partici


The road to neurosis is paved with good intentions.

Alleluia & Taractou Baba

Such beautiful music! This is a recording from the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music 2003 performed by Ensemble Organum and Ensemble El Assala, uniting the Christian Mozarabic tradition with the Islamic Samaa marocain. If you want to listen to the whole concert of Ensemble Organum and Ensemble El Assala performing together, you can do so from this link .

It is for such I agitate my heart...

'The first signs of psychic opening are love and joy – a joy that may be extremely intense and powerful, but without any exaltation and without object, as calm and deep as the sea. Psychic joy does not need anything in order to be; it just is ; even in a prison it cannot help being, for it is not a feeling but a state, like a river sparkling wherever it flows, whether over mud or rocks, across plains or mountains. It is a love that is not the opposite of hate, and it needs nothing to sustain itself; it simply is, burning steadily regardless of what it encounters, in all it sees and all it touches, simply because it cannot help loving, for that is its nature. Nothing is low for it, or high, or pure, or impure; neither its flame nor its joy can be tarnished. Other signs may also reveal its presence: It is light, nothing is a burden to it, as if the whole world were its playground; it is invulnerable, nothing can touch it, as if it were forever beyond all tragedies, already saved from


Awais Aftab Our happiness exists only In moments of short-lived delusions And our sanity Has a relapsing-remitting course

The Intuition Behind the Argument

Taken from Maverick Philosopher 's insightful post Evil As it Appears to Atheists and Theists : Thus atheism is bred in the bone before it is born in the brain. The atheist feels it in his bones and guts that the universe is godless and that theistic conceptions are so many fairy tales dreamt up for false consolation. This world is just too horrifying to be a divine creation: meaningless unredeemed suffering; ignorance and delusion; the way nature, its claws dripping with blood, feasts on itself; moral evil and injustice -- all bespeak godlessness. There can't be a God of love behind all this horror! For most atheists, theism is not a Jamesian live option. What point, then, in debating them? This deep intuition of the godlessness of the world is prior to and the force behind arguments from evil. The arguments merely articulate and rationalize the intuition. The counterarguments of theists don't stand a chance in the face of the fundamental, gut-grounded, atheist attitude. N

Einstein's God

"My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God." Einstein's views on God are a subject of much popular confusion. Here is an excellent article which reveals with clarity what Einstein did actually believe and express on the matter.

Slave Mentality

[ We were discussing the women who themselves accept the socio-religious restrictions being imposed on them as justified and for their own good, and I was admitting how such women often annoy me even more than the men who impose these restrictions on them. ] Aati: If you are someone who has spent substantial time arguing for someone's equal rights, every so often that someone steps in to tell you that you are in fact delusional and she has all the rights any 'woman' could ever need and you're the one who needs to be reigned in. And that act of standing up for being crushed down is frustrating and very vexing.

A New Intellectual Journey

"Of the reality or unreality of the mystic's world I know nothing. I have no wish to deny it, nor even to declare that the insight which reveals it is not a genuine insight. What I do wish to maintain... is that insight, untested and unsupported, is an insufficient guarantee of truth, in spite of the fact that much of the most important truth is first suggested by its means." Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic “Do mystical states establish the truth of those theological affections in which the saintly life has its roots?” William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience In the past few days or so, I have been amazed and fascinated by my exposure to a mystical school of thought, the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and I am undergoing a significant intellectual change of perspective from my previous philosophy. I am extremely curious about these mystic experiences and since it is not my habit to accept blindly, I am definitely eager to explore them on


X: Do u think Jesus has ever reincarnated again in our world? Y: Who knows ... my overall sense is that because the world is so stupid and materialistic that if a great soul decides to take a new birth it will likely just stay mum about it :P Because people will take these kinds of sacred truths and turn them into something so stupid and perverse. They'll deify the instrument, worship them, do everything they can to avoid the hard work of spiritual growth. X: Perhaps there are no more prophets in the world because the prophets of the past have seen what people did to their mystical teachings and now choose not to reveal themselves. Y: Yeah. I definitely get this sense that the Divine- in-manifestation is going through something of a learning curve and dynamically relating to its creation. Whenever a religion was revealed people turned it into a set of dogmas and the descending Truth would immediately withdraw behind the veil again to avoid being perverted into a pompous farce.

The Pizza, The Prophet, and Me

The Pizza, The Prophet, and Me This is such a precious read! Full of such kind simplicity and intimate honesty that it makes you see a relationship with religion that we have all forgotten: one based on personal fondness. [Hat-tip: Aati] ( There was an error in the link before; it is functional now. )


G: Parents kitnay desperate hojatay hain na larkion kay rishton kay liye. Me: Yeah, parents mistakenly believe that they are doing it for our own betterment. That is why we need independence: to save ourselves from their misplaced good intentions.

Perceptual Truth

No belief that tries to justify itself by appeal to "faith", whether religious or of some other philosophical sort, can ever survive intellectual skeptical scrutiny. For skepticism trumps these hollow truths. No such truth can survive the corrosive effect of Skepticism; it will dissolve away at contact. The only truth that could survive is a truth that would transcend skepticism: a perceptual truth. A perceptual truth that you experience for yourself . If a person says to me, some prophet or otherwise, "I am God's chosen one; this is what I have experienced. You must take my word for it and believe what I say," my response would be, to borrow Aati's eloquent words, 'Keep your boogeyman to yourself!' But if someone says to me, "This is what I have experienced; and it is something which is accessible to all, if you are willing. Don't take my word for it. Judge for yourself." Now that would be something I would respect, and that would be


Awais Aftab Her lips are a frozen Banshee wail, A fragile histology of ice. They won't survive a kiss: The thermocoagulation of desire. You would taste the foreshadowing; Something is about to die.


He did it this morning... he gives me that look. What look? To say... your life is trivial. You... are so... trivial. The Hours
She wanted peaches and kisses amidst pistol shots. Maham Javed

Social Mimetic Desire

" We borrow our desires from others. Far from being autonomous, our desire for a certain object is always provoked by the desire of another person — the model — for this same object. This means that the relationship between the subject and the object is not direct: there is always a triangular relationship of subject, model, and object. " [ Mimetic Desire, from wikipedia. ] I'm not sure how much the claim that ' All desire is mimetic desire' can be defended, but mimetic desire definitely seems to be true about a large number of desires that I see people experiencing around me. In particular, there are desires that are socially endorsed; they exist by virtue of their large host population and they try to infect anyone coming into exposure with them. There are so many such desires, imperceptibly and unconsciously acquired through this mimetic mechanism. The Model in this case is the abstract Society. Mobiles, cars, houses, money, jewelery, love, engagements, marri

Sin and Virtue

My lover took away my robe of sin and I let it fall, rejoicing; then he plucked at my robe of virtue, but I was ashamed and alarmed and prevented him. It was not till he wrested it from me by force that I saw how my soul had been hidden from me. Sri Aurobindo

The Something Missing

"The first sign of the new man is probably that he becomes aware of a terrible lack of something, which neither his science nor his churches nor his garnish pleasures can give him. Man cannot be amputated from his secrets with impunity." Satprem

Well Adjusted

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." Jiddu Krishnamurt

'Achi' Nazar Say

Aati: Ha! My parents are taking me to a well-connected family of our caste so that they can "see" me and help find a rishta. Me: Abhi tumhari umar hee kiya hay :) Aati: Haaye, haaye, tuano nai pata? Kurriyan di shaadi tay intrauterine life vich karan chaiey tay main tay inni vaddi hogai :P Me: Ab tumharay rishtay anay lag jayen gay? Aati: Awww! Sweetie, meray jaisiyoun ke rishtay nahi aatay. Me: Koi rishta bhej ker tu dekhay, banda uthwa doun ga ;) Aati: Aha! Mera rakhwala :D Me: Taangain tor doun ga agar kisi ne 'achi' nazar say dekha tu ;) Aati: Hahaha! Awais 'Don' Aftab :P

"Dil Ghabrana": Physiology and Etymology

R: You know, how in urdu you say, when you feel sick "dil ghabra raha hai"? I never liked that phrase. I could never reconcile the fact that I should say "my heart is scared" when I feel sick. It just never made any sense to me. And now that i feel nauseous so frequently, I had the opportunity to analyse my nausea and I realized that the feeling of nausea is very similar to the feeling of fear from a physiological point of view. It involves the same region of the body, the throat area. And if I hadn't known that I was nauseous I could mistake that feeling for fear! So now i can understand the phrase. Whoever came up with the phrase must have realized that the feeling is similar in nature. Me: That is a pretty interesting observation. Are u aware of William James theory of emotions? The theory holds that emotion is the mind's perception of physiological conditions. The neurological circuit in the brain that is related to emotions, it is kind of circular in


Judging not-mistakes to be mistakes leads to suffering for the wrong reasons. Suffer, but for the right reasons.


Suffering Awais Aftab She desecrates everything I cherish In her all-consuming neurotic pain Burns all her memories And chars mine with their ashes Till they are smouldering remains I pick them up and treasure her still And bear all with a smile Yet she thinks my love false Because she suffers more than me.


This is from the comments on the Rape and Victim-Blaming Mentality post: "Anyone who has been exposed to both sides of debate can see that the issue of hijab is too multifaceted to be swept away by a single generalization, either in its favor or its opposition. We cannot say that veil is all good, because we know that veil is an instrument of oppression of women, and many women are suffering because of that. Nor can we say that veil is all evil, because we know that veil is a conscious and free choice of women in many instances. The problem is not the veil itself. The fundamental problem is, as Butters very rightly pointed out, that men are judging women's 'respectability' in the first place. It is this mentality that I wish to criticize and attack, and which we must all protest against, whether we are religious or secular. A society in which women are not judged by their clothing, in which women are free to wear what they want without a moral tag attached to it, whe

A long-winded discussion

(Aati thought that if I posted this conversation, a lot of people would get offended. I'll take my chances, I guess. I think if people read it carefully, they can see that the intention is not to offend. Comments have been edited for readability. ) Aati: I have noticed a similarity between a lot of girls who grow up in liberal families, then don the hijab. Consider this my offensive and ignorant opinion, but I have noticed a lot of these girls were what you call 'shallow' before they 'got religion'. Matlab, the girls who based the identity and worth on appearances, whether they were taught to or chose to, who were prone to peer pressure and people's perspectives of them contributed a great deal to their self-image. That kind. Every teenager shows such behavior, but for some it rings true to their actual self whereas for others it is associated with adolescence and decreases as they develop a personal identity and a concept of their own worth. A lot of these gi

Rape and Victim-Blaming Mentality

Some days back Dure asked me a question 'What is the difference between the man who rapes an 'indecently clad' woman and the man who doesn't, when both are in a position to do so and get away with it?'. I think that the difference consists of the following components: 1) The degree of lust that the two experience 2) Their capacities for aggression and violence 3) Their capacities for impersonal sex, and the ability or desire to have intercourse irrespective of the partner's emotional willingness. 4) Their sense of morality, and how much their morality can affect their conduct. 5) Do they live in a Rape Culture? A culture in which sexual violence is common and prevalent, especially against women. 6) What perception of women do they have in their mind? Do they consider them as equal to men, deserving equal rights? Do they consider them as sex objects? The question is not about rape in general, but about rape with the specific motivati

A Confession of an Anonymous Lover

X: My love would be considered blasphemous in its full extent, worthy of hellfire if you believe my Islamiat book. Ironically, I have to hide this from him. Remember when I told you falling in love was the greatest religious experience I ever had? I told him something similar back then, and he reprimanded me along the lines of 'what would you know of religious experiences? Don't talk about religion, you don't know anything about it.' So since then, I stopped. It has worked fairly well in keeping a lot of arguments at bay, though it's weird loving someone more than they have allowed you to tell them.

Psychiatrist's Dilemma to Social Limitations

People who are aware of their right to have a choice but are denied so by the society in which they live, such people often end up being depressed (or having some other form of mental illness). This presents a tough challange for the psychiatrist, because the social etiology is clear-cut in most of such cases. The patient in question is actually a normal person in a messed up society. The mistake in this case would be to ascribe the psychological problem as being patient's inability to cope with the problem. To adopt that view would be an indirect justification of the messed up society. It would be like saying "There is nothing wrong with the society. The problem is with you. You couldn't cope." This puts the psychiatrist in a dilemma. He cannot change the social structure in which the patient lives, and treating with drugs would bring some limited symptomatic relief but it wouldn't be a cure, and in psychotherapy, he can't really tell the patient to cope with

Social Limits to Personal Freedom

Existentialists like to believe in the absolute personal freedom, that we have a choice in everything we do in life, and that even when we are forced to do something, we are choosing to be forced. I have written about it many times before, for example here and here . Philosophically, yes, it seems that we do always have a choice. But there are social limits to this personal freedom, and these occurs in two ways: 1) The consciousness of personal freedom requires a certain social structure that would permit its development. More precisely, the awareness that one has a choice and that one has a right to a choice develops only after one is exposed to this philosophy. An illiterate girl born in a strictly conservative family where gender segregation is strictly enforced and where it is accepted by all that girls ought to be married off without asking for their approval, she probably wouldn't even realize that she has a choice and would accept that this is the way things are... unless s

Now is the Time...

“Now is the time for simplicity. Now is the time for – dare I say it – kindness.” Wit Intellect fails to offer comfort when death, and perhaps life too, are no longer abstractions and something that we are experiencing and going through. Something that we are suffering. Metaphysical puzzles that had intrigued us before suddenly open up to be absurd, complex but meaningless. That is when you need love and compassion... simplicity and kindness... and a gentle awareness that God has not abandoned you. A brilliant movie. Highly recommended for all souls.


Me: I was thinking on what you said about fundamentalism the other day. Can it be said that fundamentalism is not exclusive to the-religion-that-must-not-be-named but that it is part of the problem? Aati: No, I don't think it specifically is part of the problem of the fundamentalism. You and I, and Hirsi , all have a common limitation: when we think about religious fundamentalism, we tend to think about the religion we were most intimately exposed to. There is no instrinsic difference in 'quality' or nature between a Christian fundamentalist, Jewish fundamentalist, Hindu fundamentalist or Muslim fundamentalist. They all consider themselves soldiers of their respective gods. Religion or any belief system that is rigid and refuses to be tempered or accomodate differences, is part of the problem and no attempts at solution can be made without addressing it. Historically where certain governments made atheism part of their national policy and needed to establish power and loy


Q. What do you think about the blasphemy law. Faiza Hameed : Uncertain and ambivalent :( I respect the Prophet (PBUH). My faith won't be complete without it. But should I expect other people (their religion not withstanding) to feel the same association? You can't force people to love or respect anybody. Especially, if you say along with it: you must think this way or off with your head. This isn't respect ... this is a threat. And in matters of love and faith, threat tends to have a short life span. I personally think all religious figures should be respected. If somebody (who doesn't necessarily have to be an anti-state element ... genuine misgivings relating to religion can and do arise) with a difference of opinion comes forward, the clashing view points should be debated upon. I like to consolidate my religious beliefs and see them as a united whole, not pick isolated doctrines out of context. But like so many other things, this has proven to be quite a quandary.

When Nietzsche Wept: Eternal Recurrence

"Imagine this thought experiment! What if some demon were to say to you that this life -- as you now live it and have lived it in the past -- you will have to live once more, and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and everything unutterably small or great in your life will return to you, all in the same succession and sequence... Imagine the central hourglass of existence turned upside down again and again and again. And each time, also turned upside down are you and I, mere specks that we are.... let this thought take possession of you, and I promise you it will change your forever! .... I urge you, then, to consider the implications of eternal recurrence for your life -- not abstractly, but now, today , in the most concrete sense!" [Nietzsche] "You suggest," said Breuer, "that every action I make, every pain I experience, will be experienced through all infinity?" "Yes, eternal recurrence means

Social Morality and Goal

Dure: The book [ Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam ] convinced me that physical intimacy is beautiful. Me: It's a beautiful discovery. Dure: Why are we always taught that it's shameful and lame? Me: It's the morality we live in and are exposed to: sex is beastly and immoral. A shameful act to be kept hidden and not talked about. It's stupid and outrageous considering how much harm it does. Dure: Why is it that the Western way of doing things always turns out better? Do you think there is a truth to the 'success of Western propaganda in Pakistani youth' theory, or are their systems and ideas really better in every regard? Me: I think they are better. At least more humane. But everything comes with a price. Sexual liberation has its own problems. Suppressing sexuality is an effective but very cruel method of preventing that. Unfortunately, that's the approach our society took. Dure: Individuality, then, is the solution, not structures. Right? Me: If

When Nietzsche Wept: Excerpts 3

* "... there is a gulf -- a huge gulf -- between knowing something intellectually and knowing it emotionally.... This is where philosophy falls short. Teaching philosophy and using it in life are very different undertakings." [Breuer] * "... we are more in love with desire than with the desired." [Nietzsche] * "... life is a spark between two identical voids, the darkness before birth and the one after death." [Breuer] "Life -- a spark between two voids. A nice image, Josef. And isn't it strange how we are so preoccupied with the second void and never think upon the first?" [Nietzsche] * "I mean that one can't love a woman without blinding oneself to the ugliness beneath the fair skin: blood, veins, fat, mucus, feces -- the physiological horrors. The lover must put out his own eyes, must forsake truth." [Nietzsche] * "And a woman? What about her meaning, her freedom? ... I can't choose freedom when my choice enslaves o

When Nietzsche Wept: Excerpts 2

* "Though I care for my wife and my children, I don't love them! In fact, I resent being imprisoned by them. I lack courage: the courage to either change my life or to continue living it. I have lost sight of why I live -- the point of it all." [Breuer] * "I can't cure despair, Doctor Breuer. I study it. Despair is the price one pays for self-awareness. Look deeply into life, and you will always find despair." [Nietzsche] * Freud looked at Breuer in astonishment... "Despair? Why, Josef, you're atop the very crest of life!"... Breuer winced. How could he admit to having wagered his whole life only to find that the final prize was, after all, not to his liking? No, these things he must keep to himself. These are things you don't tell the young ones. * "Maybe," Breuer replied, "there doesn't have to be a next step? Perhaps simply revealing himself would constitute such a major achievement, such a change in his way of life,


Me [to Aati]: You know what I hate about envy? How it makes me want things I don't even really want!

When Nietzsche Wept: Excerpts 1

Back-cover description: In nineteenth-century Vienna, a drama of love, fate, and will is played out amid the intellectual ferment that defined the era. Josef Breuer, one of the founding fathers of psychoanalysis, is at the height of his career. Friedrich Nietzsche, Europe's greatest philosopher, is on the brink of suicidal despair, unable to find a cure for the headaches and other ailments that plague him. When he agrees to treat Nietzsche with his experimental "talking cure," Breuer never expects that he too will find solace in their sessions. Only through facing his own inner demons can the gifted healer begin to help his patient. In When Nietzsche Wept, Irvin Yalom blends fact and fiction, atmosphere and suspense, to unfold an unforgettable story about the redemptive power of friendship. I am reading this intriguing thought-stimulating novel these days by Irvin Yalom about the fictional encounter between two of the greatest minds of human history -- Breuer and Nietzsc