Posts

Showing posts from 2011

What Matters

'I am far more concerned about whether someone is pluralistic in their worldview-- if they oppose totalitarianism and believe people of different religious and nonreligious identities should be free to live as they choose and cooperate around shared values-- than I am about whether someone believes in God or not.'

Chris Stedman, The Problem With 'Atheist Activism'
My sentiments exactly.

Merit Award: Diarist Blog

A Myth in Creation won the Merit Award in the Best Diarist category in Pakistan Blog Awards 2011.
My gratitude to all the readers, especially the regulars who have been a source of encouragement over the years, and to all those who voted and commented in my favor.
And like last year, a special note of thanks to Aati, without whom this blog would not be what it is.

The Hermeneutics of Suspicion

3:AM: You use a striking phrase in one of your essays, “the hermeneutics of suspicion”, to discuss three of your intellectual heroes, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. Could you say a little about what you were getting at in that phrase and how it is really relevant for the intellectual left today?
BL: The phrase itself derives from the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, though I take strong issue with how he understands what such a “hermeneutics” - or method of interpretation - involves. But what Ricoeur correctly notices is that Marx, Nietzsche and Freud represent ways of thinking about and analyzing human societies and human behavior that share certain structural similarities. First, they typically suspect that people’s own self-understanding and self-presentation are misleading as to what really explains why they say what they say and do what they do. Second, these thinkers try to show that the real explanation is one that would undermine the credibility of the beliefs and values people a…

TS97-98

#TS97 prompts: an empress, a poem and sand

* the empress banished the poets from her court and forbade all poesy; she knew well there are verses that sting like sand in the eyes #TS97

#TS98 prompts are - frankincense; wandering star, farce

* Even tho death renders everything a farce & time burns past away like incense,the aroma is there to stay in the wandering minds of men #TS98

The Burden

Men take on the burden of patriarchy often when they love a woman and set out to free her... only to realize that patriarchy is more than a system; it is a mindset, and the only one who can free you is yourself.

Monstrosities

‘It is so,’ says religion. ‘It could not be so,’ says humanity. Eventually, religion yields. When it doesn't, it produces monstrosities.

Authenticity

"The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do, and, in addition, he will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and to those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds but in their quiet refusals. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not."
Philip K. Dick, How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

TS86-87

#TS86 prompts: Non sequitur, Surreal, Quantum.

Every quantum of love received planted a cactus in the surreal landscape of his life; he was a strawman struck wd a non-sequitur amour #TS86
#TS87 prompts: Seven sins, housework, a bond
She had 9 lives; 7 of them she spent in sin, 8th in virtue as a housewife, & 9th beyond good & evil, seeking the ethereal bond of love #TS87

From Neurotic Misery to Ordinary Unhappiness

"When I have promised my patients help or improvement by means of cathartic treatment I have often been faced by this objection: 'Why, you tell me yourself that my illness is probably connected with my circumstances and the events of my life. You cannot alter these in any way. How do you propose to help me then?' And I have been able to make this reply: 'No doubt your fate would find it easier than I do to relieve you of your illness. But you will be able to convince yourself that much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into common unhappiness. With a mental life that has been restored to health you will be better armed against the unhappiness."
Sigmund Freud, Studies on Hysteria

Destino

Image
Set to a Mexican ballad, it is the love story of Chronos and a mortal girl, depicting the joy and agitation of an unresolved romance through the vicissitudes of time and the actions of destiny. Two lovers in an ever-changing dreamlike landscape, filled with the rich, intriguing and often incomprehensible surrealistic imagery of Salvador Dali. It has many of his well-familiar symbols, such as the soft melting watches, indicating the fluidity and relativity of time; ants that signifiy death, decay and also sexual desire; crutches that denote the inadequacy of mankind and their constant need for support etc. The meaning of Dali's symbol's springs from his life and his subconscious associations, which makes them difficult to make sense of; nonetheless, even when the symbols are incomprehensible, they do not fail to evoke distinct impressions, forcing the viewers to make sense of it from their own subconscious projections. In the words of the creators: Dali says that “It is a magi…

so fateful a decision, so fortuitous a love

Six years ago, sitting in the Dissection Hall, a realization struck me with disquieting intensity: there is not much choice in love. Who you fall in love with, how you fall in love, it's all very circumstantial. It felt, at that time, so arbitrary. It appeared as if the decision to find a partner could either be left to parents (arranged marriage) or to circumstances (love). Suddenly the whole grand idea of loving and marrying by choice seemed to crumble in front of me. Love became contingent.
I must say, these thoughts were, and are, not the final word on the topic. Much more can be said about it. The reason I am bringing them up is that I found those ruminations beautifully echoed by Milan Kundera. It's one of those moments when you read a writer or a philosopher, and discover your own thoughts in them, refined and polished:
"...her words had left Tomas in a strange state of melancholy, and now he realized it was only a matter of chance that Tereza had loved him and no…

Burden

X: You place your happiness in my shaky hands... what kind of a burden is that?

Under The Bed

Image
Source
We are fortunate that even those who believe that everything is permitted in theory are in majority of cases not capable of everything in practice.

Ashura as a Myth

The Day of Ashura is a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn in the Battle of Karbala for the Shia Muslims. A rich tradition of beliefs and rituals surrounds the commemoration of this day: there are intense, poetic recitations, there are beating drums and chants, narrations of the history of the event, public processions, ceremonial chest beatings, ritual flagellations, and even re-enactments of the battle of Karbala. There is a deeper significance to all of this, which I became aware of only after I had read Karen Armstrong's work on mythology.
Armstrong does not limit herself to the narrow definition of a myth as a 'purely fictitious narrative usually involving supernatural persons, actions or events...' something that is mutually exclusive with an actual historical event. Her conception of a myth is deeper and meaningful. A myth, she says "is an event that - in some sense - happened once, but which also happens all the time."
To my mind, it is difficult…

Infant Morality

The research of Kiley Hamlin from the University of British Columbia demonstrates how infants possess almost adult-like moral understanding, developed somewhere between fifth and eighth months of life.
This is yet another bit of evidence in favor of universal moral grammar. (See my previous post: Universal Moral Grammar and Implications)

Taking Names

Midway during a conversation:
Me: So you take names when you orgasm? :) Aati: Usually. It just happens. You make it sound so interrogational waise. 'take names' -- 'name names', like I'd make a bad spy; someone could sex names out of me. :P Me: Hahaha!

Envy

Envy is unsettling because it projects from one's own insecurities and fears. The subject of our envy is merely a canvas on which we paint with our splashed emotions of anger, resentment, inferiority and disgust. This is precisely why envy is so hard to over-come, because what we are trying to over-come are our own demons. It is the Hydra of all inner monsters, no matter how many heads you chop off, many more emerge.
Envy can prove to be one of the strongest chains binding you to your past. It prevents you from moving on, dragging you back again and again to an imaginary arena in which the chanting crowd is constantly cheering to the death-match between you and your opponent, even though in reality, no one is comparing. Even if they are, what matters is whether you are comparing.

Shamed

Society succeeds in shaming you when it succeeds in convincing you that you have been shamed; it depends on an internalization of honor code.

The Journey: A Recap 2005-2011

I have been blogging for about 6 years now. I was barely out of my teenage when I started A Myth in Creation and it has been one of the transformative experiences of my life. The blog does not simply depict my evolution of thought, but it also participated in the growth, allowing a means of expression, giving me the boldness to voice my thoughts, helping me engage in self-dialogue and blessing me with the company of like-minded souls in the blogosphere. It is no over-statement that my life would have been radically different had I not been a blogger.
As the 2nd Pakistan Blog Awards are going on these days and judges will be going through the contesting blogs, I suppose it's a good time to showcase some of the representative work that has been posted on this blog over the years. With this blog boasting over 1200 posts, it is not likely that a new visitor will be able to sift through the archives way back to its beginnings. This selection of posts will help you get a flavor of the …

A Relationship in Tweets

Image

Moral Knowledge and Psychopathy

A few days back during a conversion with my friend Qasim we started discussing Plato's philosophy of virtue, and Qasim expressed how sometimes he felt strongly drawn by the notion that all wrongdoing springs from ignorance, and if one really knew something was wrong, he would not do it. I must admit, the idea is not without appeal to me as well. It's a question I've often asked myself as well; if I wholeheartedly believe an act to be wrong, if I know that one ought not act in such and such manner, can I then knowingly act in such and such manner?
Plato says all sin is caused by ignorance of the good. If you had known better, you would have done differently. As a immediate objection, I brought up the case of a psychopath. Apparently, I thought, a psychopath can knowingly do something wrong. Qasim was quick to point out, however, that it is only apparently so. It is not at all obvious whether a psychopath actually knows that one ought not act so and so.
Imagine a psychopath…

Emotive Theology

Image
Emotive Theology... I love this phrase! It may very well be an alternative title for this blog :) I will keep it in mind for any such potential future use.

Re: Power Play

My saheli at her delightful blog Zunn has penned her beautiful inspired ruminations in response to my post Power Play. Her tumblr awaits your sojourn.

Power Play

"We can never establish with certainty what part of our relations with others is the result of our emotions -- love, antipathy, charity or malice -- and what part is predetermined by the constant power play among individuals."
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
And precisely because we cannot establish that with any certainty, it gives us a cause for both suspicion and hope. We can suspect a relationship to be fuelled by dynamics of personal and social power disequilibrium, and we can find hope, given the uncertainty, that a relationship is based on more than that.

Shades of Grey

Raza Habib Raja's latest post on Pak Tea House (Political Realities and Shades of Grey) was apparently inspired by a blog post of mine! I am glad to have been the muse.

Discards

"I know as a writer how valuable a tool is the wastebasket. Perhaps God throws away many experiments before He finds the right expression. Perhaps we are the discards — or we could be the part He keeps."
Isaac Bashevis Singer

Road to Hell

"The road to Hell isn't paved at all. Where do you guys get this stuff?"
@TinyJesus on twitter

Settlement and Philosophical Growth

Philosophical questions are almost never settled. The debate keeps on evolving. More refined arguments and counter-arguments come up.
However, unlike the problems themselves which evolve on, an individual studying a problem ultimately adopts one particular answer to it, which satisfies him, and moves on from the debate considering it settled. He may then continue to engage in the debate, but it will be as a person who is advancing a philosophical position and trying to refuting its opponent position. The debate will proceed to become external from internal. The few cases in which the internal debate continues on is when we begin to live with the philosophical questions that haunt and intrigue us.
For instance, an eager philosopher in his early youth explores the theistic-atheistic debate in philosophy, and soon he'll come to adopt one of the answers: he will feel that the debate is settled for him, and he'll move on, and once he has, he is not likely to revisit the issue, eve…

Call it the world

Something shifted, something so immense you could call it the world. Call it the world.
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, opening lines

An Artist's Letter to his Beloved

My fair lady,
I know, being the woman you are, you envy all that I desire apart from you. And you suspect, being the man I am, I covet these women in my paintings. It is a peculiar poetic madness, the desire to be the only desiree of the one you desire. I cannot blame you, light of my eyes, for wishing to secure all of my affections. It is flattering. Possessiveness of this universal extent, however, is doomed for disappointment. For not even the jealous God could rid men's hearts of their idols, and had to resort to the cheap tactics of heaven and hell. You may be a mortal my love, but you have in your possession the means to my happiness and suffering.
I am tempted to defend myself on the grounds that these unchaste depictions are mere artistic endeavours, noble works of art devoid of anything base, but I know better as an artist. The boundaries of aesthetic appreciation and desire are always blurred. It tastes crude in my mouth to pronounce like a biologist that the sense of b…

TS56-62

#TS56 prompts: An expecting mother, A giant float, Apocalypse
As Yahweh's slain body floated on primal waters, Samael announced to all "You bow to me now" & then to Lilith "Hun, let's make a baby"
#TS57 prompts: Serendipity. A Viral Phenomenon. A Stage
* Serendipity is when u find love in the Dengue ward— feverish & puking bt still so beautiful— & a year later u are on the wedding stage
#TS58 prompts: Nostalgia, Labyrinth, Purgatory
* She threw him in the labyrinth of her loveless rejection, hoping nostalgia wd purge him of his infidelity; he never found his way out
#TS59 prompts: A cruise ship, a malign intent, an analysand
* he boarded the ship to murder his adulterous wife trysting with his therapist: the unexpected threesome proved far more therapeutic
#TS60 prompts: apocrypha, metaphrastic, kat
* By divine humor all original apocrypha were lost and only a metaphrastic translation done in jest by a kat-addicted scholar survived
#TS61 prompt…

The Beginning of Infinity

"The thought to which Deutsch’s conversation most often returns is that the European Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, or something like it, may turn out to have been the pivotal event not merely of the history of the West, or of human beings, or of the earth, but (literally, physically) of the universe as a whole.
Here’s the sort of thing he has in mind: The topographical shape and the material constitution of the upper surface of the island of Manhattan, as it exists today, is much less a matter of geology than it is of economics and politics and human psychology. The effects of geological forces were trumped (you might say) by other forces — forces that proved themselves, in the fullness of time, physically stronger. Deutsch thinks the same thing must in the long run be true of the universe as a whole. Stuff like gravitation and dark energy are the sorts of things that determine the shape of the cosmos only in its earliest, and most parochial, and least interestin…

Celebrating World Philosophy Day

Image
"The practice of philosophy is a process benefitting the whole of society. It helps to build bridges between peoples and cultures and heightens demand for quality education for all. Philosophy encourages respect for cultural diversity, exchanging opinions and sharing the benefits of science, which are the conditions for genuine debate. This 17 November, let us rally together to harness the incredibly transformative potential of philosophy." Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO Message on World Philosophy Day

So it is World Philosophy Day today; my greetings to all philosophical souls, and not-so-philosophical ones as well. After all, it's not every day that we get to celebrate this amazing subject...


Even though it is time to party, being philosophers and all that, it's difficult not to be, well, philosophical about it.
Philosophers are intriguing creatures. Even though the emergence of the philosophical animal was a step ahead in evolution, other animals may won…

Years

"Although he cannot admit it even to himself,
these are the years whose possibility he has always dreaded."

Maurice Kilwein Guevara

A man in love with a woman from a different era

Image
Midnight in Paris

Taste

The saint is not tempted, because her soul remembers the taste of sin from a life afar...

How to be Alone

Image
We may be social creatures but we are not without a need for solitude; it comes easy to some, but for others it has to be learned; we are so much surrounded by people all the time that we have forgotten how to be alone. This is especially so in the internet age: even when you are alone, you are in the constant company of others, on twitter, on facebook...
There is something precious about solitude; to involute and turn your gaze inwards permits a certain growth of the soul that is perhaps not possible in any other way.
If you have never learnt to appreciate it, or have forgotten, here is something beautiful to remind you of it...

Mehtab Ali: Women In the Mirror

Image
Mehtab Ali is a talented professional artist from Pakistan, and has held many solo and group exhibitions in this country and abroad. Some of his amazing work can be viewed on his publicly accessible Facebook gallery. He also has an upcoming exhibition at Citi Art Gallery in Karachi.
I'll be featuring some of his paintings in this post which revolve around the conjunction of a beautiful woman and a mirror:







All images are the creative property of Mr Mehtab Ali

The Power of Ad hominem

* 'When we readers perceive in ourselves as well as in Nietzsche the poison of resentment we realize how much ideas can be affected by personal feelings. Thus the importance of one of Nietzsche's most valuable tools, the ad hominem argument. Ad hominem arguments are usually considered fallacies in mainstream philosophy, but Nietzsche uses them well. He attacks people, not just ideas. And in shaming them many of the great figures of philosophy he effectively embarrasses us as well.'
* 'Nietzsche wondered what made people "tick", and he rightly suspected that what they thought and said about themselves and their ideals was almost always misleading, mistaken, or just plain fraudulent. But nowhere is self-deception and hypocrisy more rife than in those aspects of life in which ordinary people as well as philosophers and theologians tend to make grand pronouncements about such lofty subjects as God, human freedom, and morality. Nietzsche's ad hominem argument…

TS49-55

Continuing on with the twitter micro-fiction adventures...
#TS49 prompts: cat, ass, trophy
* Kat may have dated him for trophy sex, but anecdotes of her ass became an instant hit in parties as he turned her into his Trophy Ex
#TS50 prompts: jasmine, cottontail, verbosity
* the bunny tattoo on her breast was a cry of Jasmine's inner voice of innocence trapped in the solipsist echochamber of her sinful ways
#TS51 prompts: ghazal, rocket science, hangover
* haunted by her ghazal-eyes, he submitted his astrophysics paper in a hangover; she was a sadist in bed but gentle with his grading: A+
#TS52 prompts: flame, forest, anklets
* Your anklets lap up a fiery dance; your feet demand a forest to burn. Alas, I have but the smouldering remains of a weary heart
* Nothing shall adorn me tonight but the anklets of your love; let their clinking ignite wildfires to the moistness of my undress
#TS53 prompts: Obsessive compulsive, wardrobe malfunction, stoned.
* Her publicist insisted she wear a…

Long Answer

"Does God exist? The short answer is no. The long answer is noooooooooooooo,"
Jonathan Rosenberg, Mysterious Ways
I must say, that was funny!

Imran Khan and Shades of Grey Reality

"Well, when mainstream parties misgovern, the people will make a shift to reactionary but financially credible politicians (Individuals). No matter what spin I try to give, the fact is that mainstream parties, namely PPP and PML-N have misgoverned. When crisis of governance becomes very acute, the ideological orientation does not hold the same sway....

When all of this is happening then who can blame those who are liberals to start looking towards Imran Khan? For most of them, their political support for Imran is the extension of their respect for his services to Pakistan. While I severely disagree with Imran on political grounds, I would be dishonest if I deny that he has rendered outstanding services to Pakistan.

During the floods, it was reactionary Imran who was trying to collect money (And he was successful also). Yes, he is a reactionary but people don’t care about these definitions in desperate times.

Yes, you will be correct to argue that ideologically there is a differe…

2nd Blog Awards Pakistan

Image
This blog has entered the competition for Best Diarist in 2nd Blog Awards Pakistan. If you follow this blog and you think it should win, please vote and comment for me to show your support:

Thank you :)

Damage

"But I didn't understand then. That I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair."

Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun

The Inconsistent Triad

In this post Julia Galef explains how people are (un)surprisingly capable of believing contradictory things and not being aware of the contradiction. She then suggests that "the Penrose triangle is an apt visual metaphor for what contradictory beliefs must look like in our heads." 
One of the examples she uses of a contradictory set of beliefs is:
1. “The reason it’s not okay to have sex with animals is because they can’t consent to it.” 2. “Animals can’t consent to being killed and eaten.” 3. “It’s fine to kill and eat animals.”
I leave my readers to reflect on this inconsistent triad as they munch on their Eid-ul-Azha lunch. 
Happy Eid everyone!

Disillusionment

There is only one step between utopia and dystopia, and that is disillusionment.

TS36-48

#TS36 prompts: a storm, a jazz band, and fake hair.
* She was a wig-fetishist caught in a storm; he was the bald one with a car. Call it kismet, call it love, call it all that jazz
#TS37 prompts: a palimpsest, witch-hunt, and hysteria
* the madressa student washed out his sketches of horny witch-hunts from the slate & set out to copy the verses with hysterical devotion [co-authored with Aati]
* Witchhunters found her skin tattooed wd layers of hysterically overwritten verses; she ws deemed not a witch, but was burned for heresy
#TS39 prompts: opera buffa, Alps, lozenge
* Alps trip gave her a bad cough; she took a lozenge & choked. She cud hv lived to tell that story wd a laugh, but life's no opera buffa
#TS40 prompts: Manga, footsteps, Scheherazade
* Emperor Shehrenzō the Killer marched in & eyed Shahrzād 'Let me tell you a story' she said. 'Can you draw manga?' 'No.' 'EXECUTIONER!"
* After 1001 nights, he broke up wd her "I hv my own…