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Showing posts from July, 2011

The Doer of Good

Aati: May this poem haunt you.

The Doer of Good by Oscar Wilde

It was night-time and He was alone.
And He saw afar-off the walls of a round city and went towards the city.
And when He came near He heard within the city the tread of the feet of joy, and the laughter of the mouth of gladness and the loud noise of many lutes. And He knocked at the gate and certain of the gate-keepers opened to Him.
And He beheld a house that was of marble and had fair pillars of marble before it. The pillars were hung with garlands, and within and without there were torches of cedar. And He entered the house.
And when He had passed through the hall of chalcedony and the hall of jasper, and reached the long hall of feasting, He saw lying on a couch of sea-purple one whose hair was crowned with red roses and whose lips were red with wine.
And He went before him and touched him on the shoulder and said to him, ‘Why do you live like this?’
And the young man turned round and recognised Him, and made answer and said, …

Love and Abuse

Image
My article in Us magazine.

"Disaster happens when people adopt sexual liberation without imbibing the feminist egalitarian mindset to go with it." This was a key line in the article which I had added later after initial submission, but was apparently forgotten during editorial processing.

Life With You

There is a life I want to spend with you
Without which I am incomplete
But it's not the only life I want
And love is not the only goddess I worship

The Islamic Sexologist

Read the article at Salon: Sex and the married Muslim
Meet Dr. Heba Kotb, the first certified sexologist and host of a sexual advice show in Egypt. The good things about her are that she promotes a positive view of sex, encourages a healthy sex life, and insists that female sexual pleasure is important. Plus she says all that with a backing of Islam.
However, despite all this, she is hardly a liberal. Her merit is that she talks about sex openly, but the catch is that she inherits most of the conservative attitudes towards sex that exist in Islam.
She calls for women to explore their sexuality, but forbids female masturbation, in essence saying that the way for women to explore their sexuality is by letting their husband do it:
"You have encouraged women to explore their bodies -- does that include masturbation?
The woman, by means of instinct, does not need masturbation. She's not like the man whatsoever. It's not a call of nature for her. So that's why I'm not very s…

What is Liberal Islam?

My article for The Friday Times Blog "What is Liberal Islam?"
It's an introductory article, I would love to answer questions if there is any confusion, clarify concepts, expand, and depending on the responses, perhaps even follow it up with another article.

Fideist Atheist

How would a fideist theist, who believes in the superiority of blind faith over reason for arriving at religious truths, respond to a hypothetical 'fideist atheist' who says "I have faith that there is no God!"?

Ordinary

Speculative play
G: What do you think you were in your past life? Me: I suspect I was someone very ordinary with ordinary ambitions, who wanted to do things the socially acceptable way.

Bechaaray Aadmi

Aati: The girls wanted to go to Jammin Java. Papa started from 'wahaan daters aatay hain? Allah karay un sab ko goli maar di jaaye.' Narrated stories of girls who got themselves raped and murdered and therefore destroyed their fathers' lives and shamed them. And 'main nahi chahta khaandaan main aik aur love marriage ki zillat iss ghar pe paray. Mujhe raaton ko neend nahi aati yeh soch ke. Iss se pehle ya main marr jaaon ya yeh.' Haha. 'kantpatiyon pe goliyan maar doun agar inn main se kisi ne love marriage ki koshish ki.' 'maine jab unki beti ko kehti suna k maine issi aadmi se shaadi karni hai, pehle main bolnay laga phir darr laga ke mujhe bhi kal ko yeh din dekhna paray. Aadmi hee suffer karne walay hotay hain.' Haaye Allah Awais! Bechaaray aadmi!

Toleration of the Intolerant

Should the tolerant tolerate the intolerant?
John Rawls answers in A Theory of Justice:
"Several questions should be distinguished. First, there is the question whether an intolerant sect has any title to complain if it is not tolerated; second, under what conditions tolerant sects have a right not to tolerate those which are intolerant; and last, when they have the right not to tolerate them, for what ends it should be exercised."
"Beginning with the first question, it seems that an intolerant sect has no title to complain when it is denied an equal liberty. At least this follows if it is assumed that one has no title to object to the conduct of others that is in accordance with principles one would use in similar circumstances to justify one's actions toward them. A person's right to complain is limited to violations of principles he acknowledges himself."
"Let us suppose, then, that an intolerant sect has no title to complain of intolerance. We still ca…

the domain where things break

"If you love someone and are separated from that person, you suffer — this is one of the most common of sufferings, it is the ties which are broken — well, in a certain state of consciousness the real link between two beings cannot be broken, for it does not belong to the domain where things break. Therefore one is above what may happen."
Collected Works of the Mother, Question and Answers, Vol 4

Prophets of Yore

169. Christ came into the world to purify, not to fulfil. He himself foreknew the failure of his mission and the necessity of his return with the sword of God into a world that had rejected him.
170. Mahomed’s mission was necessary, else we might have ended by thinking, in the exaggeration of our efforts at self-purification, that earth was meant only for the monk and the city created as a vestibule for the desert.
171. When all is said, Love & Force together can save the world eventually, but not Love only or Force only. Therefore Christ had to look forward to a second advent and Mahomed’s religion, where it is not stagnant, looks forward through the Imams to a Mahdi.
172. Law cannot save the world, therefore Moses’ ordinances are dead for humanity & the Shastra of the Brahmins is corrupt & dying. Law released into Freedom is the liberator. Not the Pundit, but the Yogin; not monasticism, but the inner renunciation of desire and ignorance & egoism.
Sri Aurobindo, Aphorisms

Neuro-Ethics

A very good review of Patricia Churchland's Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality.

Same Piece

X: Perhaps the reason we do not fit is because we are the same piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

Two Thought Experiments on Depression

The efficacy of antidepressants vs placebo seems to be quite a tricky issue, especially with all the media hype surrounding it. (Here is a very harsh attack, a somewhat neutral review, and a defence of antidepressants. I lean towards the defence for now.)
There are two studies I wish could be done, but which will remain confined to my speculations for obvious ethical violations:
1) A controlled study of patients of depression (spanning the whole range from mild to severe) who are being administered antidepressants without their knowledge. Would antidepressants treat depression when a patient doesn't even know he is taking the drug?
2) A controlled study of patients of depression who are prescribed antidepressants but are informed by doctors that the effect of the drug may not be any different from that of a placebo. Would antidepressants treat depression when a patient doesn't trust the drug?

The Search for Al-Mu'tasim

'The plot itself is this: A man (the unbelieving, feeling law student we have met) falls among people of the lowest, vilest sort and accommodates himself to them, in a kind of contest of iniquity. Suddenly -- with the miraculous shock of Crusoe when he sees that human footprint in the sand -- the law student perceives some mitigation of the evil: a moment of tenderness, of exaltation, of silence, in one of the abominable men. "It was as though a more complex interlocutor had spoken." He knows that the wretch with whom he is conversing is incapable of that momentary decency, thus the law student hypothesizes that the vile man before him has reflected a friend, or the friend of a friend. Rethinking the problem, he comes to a mysterious conclusion: Somewhere in the world there is a man from whom this clarity, this brightness, emanates; somewhere in the world there is a man who is equal to this brightness. The law student resolves to devote his life to searching out that man…

Monstrous

X: Sex is really another language to me, I suppose -- another way of hugging, saying I love you, asking how your day was, telling you not to worry, and so on and on. But... it's a language I can speak in to anyone I love? Even if I don't love them with that sort of passion? So much like women who don't love at all, in anyway, yet have sex for someone else's sake? Who and how many could I have sex with? How meaningful is sex with my lover? It makes me feel monstrous.
Me: I think that sex for you is free from the psychological restraints that others have. I don't think that makes you monstrous or evil. I think it may even put you at an advantage. It is not the capacity for sex that is monstrous, but what you choose to do with it.

On The Other Side of the Wall: The Human Search for Meaning and Purpose

Robert C Solomon wrote "the meaning of life is to be found in the context of our lives -- the sense they make and the sense we give to them -- rather than in reference to anything outside of life... Indeed, it is more of a metaphor that is required, an image, a vision of life in which you see yourself as having a definite role, a set of reasonable expectations". [See my previous post: The Meaning of Meaning] While I believe that this is essentially correct, and that the meaning of life of an individual's life is primarily determined from within the context of his life, yet the issue is not entirely indifferent to and separate from what does exist outside of life; the questions of "Why are we here?" and "What is life all about?", and more importantly our answers to them, do play a significant role in determining the context of our lives, and hence its meaning. If we come to know that human life on earth is the result of a biological experiment on a pla…