One End, Another Beginning


Have you ever noted that these two words always come together. For a beginning there is an end and with the end starts another new beginning. Because this universe is after all a continuum. I wonder if there are any real ends at all.

It has been quite a while on this journey. It has been pretty exciting, most pleasurable and extremely painful too. I have seen most of the spectrum of emotions in it. I have lost many things, gained much more. I have enjoyed and suffered. I have been extremely active and mindnumbingly dormant. It has been a total sine curve which has completed a period of 2 pi. Now, it is the time to sketch another graph. I have an idea what it should look like. Let’s see what it looks like.

But what I am taking from this endeavour is a wealth. A wealth of wisdom of some sort. A bucketful!! I am glad! If I were to do it all over again, would I take the same path. NO! I would not. I have some regrets but at the end of the day, I am at peace and content. I enjoyed the views while I covered this path. I discovered some really great sceneries. I think that compensates a lot for the speed I lost.

Adios!

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Bitten by the Philosophy bug


There is soooooo much to think about the stuff people have said (by way of philosophy) that I do not even know where to start. But I think I will focus on two main streams (extremely huge in themselves): Western Philosophy and Indian Darshanshastra. Off course there are parallels between the two. And that is what I aim to figure out. The sameness and the differences and then choose for myself my own philosophy out of these assortments and if possible(who am i kidding? it is not!) to propose one or two thoughts of my own. It is going to be exciting!!

So, these are the people/books to read:

Darshanshastra:

  • Nyaya, the school of logic
  • Vaisheshika, the atomist school
  • Samkhya, the enumeration school
  • Yoga, the school of Patanjali (which assumes the metaphysics of Samkhya)
  • Purva Mimamsa (or simply Mimamsa), the tradition of Vedic exegesis, with emphasis on Vedic ritual, and
  • Vedanta (also called Uttara Mimamsa), the Upanishadic tradition, with emphasis on Vedic philosophy.

Western Philosophy:

  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Aristsotle
  • Erasmus/Francis Bacon
  • Rene Descartes
  • Berkeley/Spinoza/Locke/Hobbes/Burke
  • Diderot/Voltaire/Rousseau/Kant/Montesquieu
  • Hume/Adam Smith/Schopenhauer
  • Wittgenstein/Russell/Heidegger/Sartre/Popper
  • Derrida/Foucault/MacIntyr

And guess what? Indian/Hindu philosophy is the oldest in the world. It predates the Greek philosophy(which forms the basis of the Western philosophy) by almost 500 years. It began around 800 BC or at least that was the time it became formal. It is such a proud thing to say and such a shame that there is hardly anything that I can say I know about it, formally. It is a great loss to world that we have not been able to build upon the very strong and solid foundations that had been laid for us. The analytical philosophy which became mainstream in the 18th and 19th century western thought had already been expounded in the Nyaya-Vaisheshika stream of Vedic philosophy. 

Of course, the question of God is very central to the whole field of philosophy and that is why it is so intimately related with religion. What further delights my heart is that Indian philosophy has covered all grounds: From aastika to naastik and within the aastika too there is the monotheistic and polytheistic tradition. One whole branch (carvaka) is dedicated to atheism. Wonderful variety and open mindedness. 

I feel that any study of philosophy in today’s age is incomplete without the study/understanding of cosmology and quantum physics. Afterall, every intrigue begins and end at either the highest level (ie the universe and its origin) or the lowest level ( ie the atomic/subatomic and quantum matter). 

Ah! What a wonder the world is and how lovely for us to be thinking sentient beings who can drink in the delight of trying to find it out. A life of enquiry is the best blessing one could get.

Thinking Atheism


I call myself an atheist. I believe that there is no creator all powerful, mighty, omniscient and omnipresent to look over our actions. I believe in the theory of evolution and all the discredit to the religion that comes with it. However, having said that, I can understand why would an institution like religion would be created: to impart moral values, to bind people in a sense of brotherhood, to make them fear for things that are wrong. Why this was done in the 17th-18th century and earlier is easy to see but not so easy to see that why is it important today when we have so much scientific knowledge at our hand. The defenders of the religion say that the fear of punishment by god (by going to hell in monotheistic religions and reincarnation as a lesser being in hinduism, for example) prevents people from doing wrong things. Is that true? Is moral behaviour tied to a sense of fear and damnation. Can we not be nice to each other if there is not an adverse result for being mean? Does this mean that on a basic level human being is a bad creature rather than good and has to be subverted with the fear of punishment? 

I can also raise the question that : is not this fear of punishment and deep sense of loyalty to some unexplained thing/being/phenomena causing the followers to do unimaginably terrible things? Blowing up people, waging wars, killing thousands and millions in the name of religion, destroying homes and families. I could see that this logic of preventing people from doing wrong has turned on its head in this case. 

Put all contentions from an atheistic viewpoint aside. Let me for a moment pretend to accept religion as it is today. When did it start?? Where does it come from?? Who started it and why? If God is the all powerful and he created everything, why did he create a being who could recognize him and praise him and be his servant at the very end? What about animals? Are they religious too? What about the different faiths and gods? How do we make a compatibility between the observed scientific phenomena and this concept of being created by a god? I mean there are so many questions that confound me and the answer that I get for them is : take a leap of faith. Well, I suppose I am not a good high jumper. My faith does not go there. So, I choose to be an atheist.

This is of course a topic which is being very hotly debated these days. More so, after the recent acts of terrorism in the name of religion. I have been pretty interested in it for quite a while now and although my knowledge about theology etc is not very great, I understand what the basis is. And starting from the first principles itself, it makes me very doubtful . As for the question of morality goes, I think that it is innate in a human being. Some people are wicked and they will be so, religion or no religion. I take for example myself. In many examples demonstarting very clearly, I have found myself more moral than people who are deeply or normally religious. 

* I wanted to write a really coherent and organized post about this but then there is not much time with me so this is a quick draft which I hope to improve further.

**Have been watching a lot of Dawkins’ material and also the BBC Atheism Tapes. Have also been thinking about this for a long long time. Planning to do a post on Hinduism as a religion because what I really believe is that more than being a religion, Hinduism is a way of life and a philosophy of thinking and is ultra rich. To do that post, I think I will have to wait for at least 5 more years. One very interesting thing which Prof. Weinberg said about Hinduism is that there is no theory here with which he could engage in a debate. He says that creation is not a major focus, way of living is. And, I agree. But it is also concerned a lot about afterlife and reincarnation. How does that fit in? These are some quetsions which hound me and I am sure have been studied thoroughly but I have not come across any such material yet. As I said, I think that in 5 years, I will have covered a lot more ground in this respect. 

Yes Minister!


What a marvellous creation. Stupendous satire. High quality entertainment and most superior wit. Perhaps one of the best television programmes ever made. What makes it more praiseworthy is the topic which this series has chosen to deal with – government and the bureaucracy.

Having seen some of that bureaucratic mumbo jumbo from close quarters, I can appreciate the humour tremendously. As it has been reported, even Margaret Thatcher saw it and found it highly amusing.

As witty as the writing is, equally superior is the acting. Paul Eddington as Jim Hacker portrays the minister who is confused and essentially led by the civil servants in an  immaculate manner. Nigel Hawthorne as the machiavellian bureaucrat, Sir Humphrey Appleby, and the true incharge of the government business, is terrific. Nothing to say of his long winding, ever confusing, never clear terribly long speeches given to the clueless minister. Then, there is Bernard Wolley played by Derek Fowlds as the smiling middle man,  generally quiet , who jokes at the most imopportune moments and quibbles about things like actual physical impossibility of a said act, does his part with perfection.

This series has been a pure joy to watch. It is high quality entertainment. It is the genius satire, sarcasm and wit which is often attributed to the British. It is a must watch!!

Squash – ed


Since, I can’t play tennis these days, I have started the next best thing-Squash. There are two main reasons for that :

1. It is like Tennis ( ie hitting a ball with a racquet). I try to ignore the fact that the feeling is not quite as the lawn tennis.

2. It is a great exercise and calorie burner. Of course, since I mostly practice alone, I am not playing full throttle most of the time and therefore do not burn as many calories as I should.

But still, since the time I have started( which will be two weeks now), I dedicate about one hour daily to this sport and I have to say that I am loving it. It is refreshing.Clears the head and tones the body.

When I started, I expected the ball to bounce like just the tennis ones. You can understand why I never was able to take even one shot in the first few minutes. After I adjusted to the bounce, there was this question of running around the court. Now, I am inherently, genetically, bodily, mentally, any-ly, a lazy bum. So moving around in any sport is a problem for me but this time I challenged myself to take low shots, far away shots and run basically. After two weeks, today, I found that I am improving in the movement department. I am finding my feet under myself. I presume that in about a week or so, I will be able to play a match for half an hour. As of now, I have done horrible in matches, losing one by 9-0, 9-3.

Sometimes, people, who are visiting the court come and see me hit the ball. It is embarassing to say the least. Just as soon as I realize someone is watching, I am unable to hit it well. Spectator nervousness. Although that was before. Now, I am as shameless as one could be. So, I play bad. So what?

Anyway, I did not know much about squash . I mean I had never heard about any of its players or tournaments. So, I searched on the internet and you tube. Found out that Jonathan Power is a great squash player. Joshna Chinappa from India does very well and British Open ( or something like it) is a very coveted tournament.

Squash is not exactly a spectator sport. I mean, the viewers only get to see the player’s behinds and the ball is so small too and the game is played so fast also. I mean, the enthusiasts obviously enjoy it, but for general public, it is a little difficult game to follow. I have heard that Pakistan produces some great squash players. The culture for squash is very good there. For the most part, it is a club game since the courts are to be found in clubs only as it cannot be played in an open field.

I am loving it. Every evening I look forward to hitting the ball and sweating out the worries and the weariness and the boredom.