Friday, July 16, 2010

Hegel on Knowledge

Reading "The Phenomenology of the Spirit" by Hegel. Find it fascinating. While, I have myself often taken an intellectual position of not trusting what I do know, or what I can know. I have been wary of error. Hegel points out beautifully, that this lack of trust itself cannot be trusted. It presupposes quite a bit, among them that Knowledge is distinct from us as well as from what Hegel calls the Absolute - which is true. (In the excerpt below, 'Science' refers to Philosophy and not the scientific method Science.)

Meanwhile, if the fear of falling into error introduces an element of distrust into science, which without any scruples of that sort goes to work and actually does know, it is not easy to understand why, conversely, a distrust should not be placed in this very distrust, and why we should not take care lest the fear of error is not just the initial error. As a matter of fact, this presupposes something, indeed a great deal, as truth, and supports its scruples and consequences on what should itself be examined beforehand to see whether it is truth. It starts with ideas of knowledge as an instrument, and as a medium; and presupposes a distinction of ourselves from this knowledge.

He goes on to say - what I think have been stunning lines for me.

More especially it takes for granted that the Absolute stands on one side, and that knowledge on the other side, by itself and cut off from the Absolute, is still something real; in other words, that knowledge, which, by being outside the Absolute, is certainly also outside truth, is nevertheless true - a position which, while calling itself fear of error, makes itself known rather as fear of the truth.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The 'real' secret

"The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do."

-- Henry Moore

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Landscapes of my mind

The emotional landscape of my life is a different universe than the intellectual landscape.

The rules that apply in one break down in the other.
The principles that define one are meaningless in the other.
What is well-formed in one is warped in the other.

They are different universes - neither opposite, nor the same. They cannot be 'similar' and one cannot be 'better' than the other. They are different.

It is possible for the intellectual landscape of my mind to be rich in choice while the emotional map remains impoverished. Typically this would manifest in me being very intelligent yet reactive, jealous, fickle, holding grudges, resentful etc.

It is possible for the emotional landscape of my mind to be rich in choice while the intellectual map remains impoverished. Typically this would manifest in me having trouble with logic and argument but having an ocean of tolerance, maturity, forgiveness and empathy.

Reality, Nature, Life - is rich in both. When we enrich our choices in both these landscapes, we truly live life. To live in only one landscape at the cost of the other is living only half a life.

I strive to nurture both these landscapes and have richness of choice in both.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Surely we are asking the wrong questions.

Why are we alive?
Why do we exist?
What is the purpose of life?
What's the point?
What is going on?
Why do we die?
What is reality?

I have figured out - the right question to ask is Jonjhua.

Jonjhua we alive?
Jonjhua we exist?
Jonjhua purpose of life?
Jonjhua point?
Jonjhua going on?
Jonjhua die?
Jonjhua reality?

What is Jonjhua?

Patience. :-) Read on...

All our questions are based on trying to figure out reality.

Let's see how well we do on "reality" on a day-to-day basis.

What we normally refer to as our experience of the world is actually a set of events that have already been significantly transformed with respect to the world and bears only a shadowy resemblance to the real world.

What we see is just a narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Photons of wavelength between 400 to 700 nanometers strike receptors in the retina of the eye. All wavelengths below and above this are undetected and unexperienced by us directly. The photons between 400 to 700 nm are detected by our receptors and create an impulse which travels through the optic nerve passing through larger complex structures (eg. distinct nerves, lateral geniculate bodies, hypothalmus etc.) and leading to the occipital lobes. At each of these stages mapping through neurlogical processes changes or adds on to the data stream that serves as the initial input to the receptor.

(Simple translation: What we see is not what is really out there, but a version of it corrupted by our own receiving antennae)

John Grinder in 'Whispering in the wind' says -

The image we see of what we take to be in front of us is actually behind us on our occipital lobes. We "know" that that occipital lobe image corresponds to some event in front of us through learning and especially the multiple descriptions of the our experiencie of the world that we create through a comparioson of the products of the neurological transforms that define the individual sensory modalities - in particular touch and audition. The sound we hear emanating from behind us is an event that is actually occurring on our temporal lobe - but we have learned as in the case of vision through coordination with the other modalities and in particular by arrival time differentials as refined as 1/250,000 of a second between the two ears where in the space around us the source of the sound is located. Again similar descriptions are available for the other sensory channels.

Case in point - Stainless Steel. Stainless Steel is made 'stainless' by a thin film created when chromium, oxygen (from air and water) react with iron, chromium, manganese, silicon, carbon etc. This thin film is invisible and prevents additional corrosion by acting as a barrier that limits the access of oxygen and water to the underlaying metal surface.

What this means is - that stainless steel does not corrode - because it is already corroded. Since, we can't see the new film - it looks "stainless" to us.

Similar sequences of corruption of each sensory channel can be described. What we hear is within a limited bandwidth. What we feel is too. What we smell is again inhibited. And so is what we can taste.

We can't hear dog whistles.
We see stars which are probably long dead.
A dog can smell what we can't.

What we experience is not reality. What we experience is a shadow of reality - mutilated, corrupted, modified, added on,

changed beyond recognition by our own neurological receptors.

In his book, Grinder gives a beautiful description of this distinction -

You are likely sitting in a comfortable chair holding this book in your hands as you read these words. You are sensing a vast number of things; most of them occur without your being aware of them; some force their way into your consciousness. We invite you to back out of your present perceptual position for a moment and look at this reader seated comfortably in a chair, holding a book. What is the larger context in which you observe him or her holding the book?

This reader whom you are observing is awash in a sea of electromagnetic energy - the entire electromagnetic spectrum is in active play in, around and through her, her chair and her book. The reader has very limited access to this vast spectrum of events. Her eyes are capable of detecting wavelengths between 400 nanometers and 700 nanometers. Her ears register the arrival the sound waves, alternating compressions and attenuation of sound waves generated between 20 cycles per second and 20,000 cps. The tactile sensitivity of her skin responds to differences in position, temperature, moisture... within extremely limited ranges. The rest of what is happening — indeed, the vast majority of those events that occur in the electromagnetic spectrum that defines the actual world — occur without any awareness, in fact, without the possibility of unaided awareness (that is, without instrumentation) by her. In the time that it took her to read the last paragraph, a large number of sub atomic particles have literally passed through her body.

The channels of access - her sensory apparatus - to this booming buzzing riot of movement, energy and flux are as small knotholes in a fence through which she attempts to peer as if to catch a fleeting glimpse of the great game being played out there.

Having already demolished the reality of the real world - let us now zoom in to what seems to be going on inside our mind.

Decision Making.

These are the tools or appratus available to us through which we are trying to figure out the 'meaning' of reality.

What makes us believe that these tools are enough? How do we know that there are not other tools that exist and are available - just not to us?

We are not equipped to "see" the real world.
We are not equipped to "hear" the real world.
We are not equipeed to "feel", "smell" or "taste" the real world.

What makes us believe we are equipped to "think" about the real world usefully and come to 'real' answers?

And isn't the construct of an 'Answer' merely that - a construct?

What if our intellect operates within a limited range and once one goes beyond this range (which is of course, not possible) - the whole construct or idea of things having an answer or solution dissolves and something unknown takes its place?

What then?

And then - comes the problem of 'framing' the question. Our experience of the world - is not real. It is merely First Access. It's messy. It's corrupted. It's downright inaccurate.

But at least its a representation ( a re-presentation, we present the world again to ourselves ) through the apparatus available.

To this cocktail of confusion - we now add Language. It is like doing tequila shots when you are already pissed drunk so that you can get a grip on reality.

Language is not even a re-presentation. It is a re-presentation of a re-presentation.

Remember First Access? Language deletes, distorts and generalizes from the First Access and tries to make sense of the world.

This means - language undergoes two levels of corruption (the more appropriate word is "transormation").

Now imagine - you are trying to figure out the meaning of reality (or life) by using tools of language - which are a representation of a representation of reality - when the first representation itself is assuredly inaccurate.

Good luck with that!!

Hence, Jonjhua.

Jonjhua is the word I have invented to describe a language construct - which uses a range of mental faculties not available to us so as to get rid of all the limitations posed above. If we use Jonjhua - we are not dealing with the challenges of corruption in language. We are not even dealing with the challenges of corruption from First Access.

When you use Jonjhua in language - it directly (and what must seem like magic) connects one to "reality".

And using Jonjhua helps you access the unknown "stuff" that helps 'real' reality makes sense.

Jonjhua we alive?
Jonjhua we exist?
Jonjhua purpose of life?
Jonjhua point?
Jonjhua going on?
Jonjhua die?
Jonjhua reality?

If only, it were possible.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Going down the rabbit hole

I earlier wrote a post about how the two balancing forces in my life are Ambition and Meaning. I have created in a very short duration what was merely a dream for me a few years ago. It is immensely satisfying. When I wake up every morning - I wake up to a reality where I have freedom, independence and the physical and intellectual space to do whatever I want. I can take the most exciting and inspiring thoughts in my head and turn them into projects and be occupied with them for the time to come.

So, what?

What's the point? In absolute terms, you can't really "make a difference". Why bother?

This post is an attempt to think that through.

Also, I thought long and hard before posting this. This post is not what I talk or teach or write about. I talk and write about making good and lasting changes in life and finding ways to be positive and have fun. Should I really post about God, Religion and Meaning. Then I remembered the words of Goethe and decided - this is where I am in my current development of thought. No reason not to express myself authentically - so here, it is - A journey down the rabbit hole of meaning...


Am I an atheist?

I sure as hell don't believe in god.

In fact, I sure as hell don't believe in either god or hell.

I don't believe in the pseudo, arrogant, angry, calculative, punishing, jealous, psychopathic god that religion would have me believe in.

In my head, figuring out that religion was nonsense was the starting point of intellectual inquiry.

Does that make me an atheist ?


But I am not quite sure.

It is easy to not believe in something. Belief requires a mental shortcut. It requires that we fore-go the process of reasoning and rationality to assume something to be true about a situation. And we proceed with that generalization.

So, the question is not what I don't believe in. UFOs, Ghosts, God, Religion, Paris Hilton's IQ.

The questions is - what do I believe in?

That is where I differ wildly from other atheists I know.

This is what I have thought about in the past few months - I do not believe in anything. I do not believe the world has any meaning. That all that is happening is happenstance. That reality is a dance playing itself out and we just happen to be here - no rhyme or rhythm - no meaning,no reason.

First - I still agree with that. There is no other way to look at it. Reality is an illusion. It is just playing itself out.Reality is empty of meaning. Human beings are meaning-makers and all of reality that we experience merely exists in our mind. Nothing means anything. Good, bad, evil, liberty, democracy, rights, society, justice, collective, humanity, law, love, life, marriage, government, business, economics - just our feeble attempts to attach meaning to our experience. All these meanings are transitory and can be replaced by another meaning in a different context. In NLP, its called Reframing. Nothing is absolute.

This is meaninglessness.

And this can be quite depressing for some people. When they think that life is essentially meaningless and empty - they get depressed. They feel that life "ought" to have a meaning - and it is somehow sad that it doesn't. As though, it's cosmic customer service that has failed to meet their expectation.

Yet, by their own rationale - this hunger for meaning, for coherence and the obvious lack of it in reality - is also meaningless.

The reaction to meaninglessness is also meaningless and therefore its a circular loop.

It might be argued that there is an "innate" or "inherent" thirst or curiosity which is responsible for this existential depression.

I could concede that. However, even if this "innate" and "inherent" curiosity and thirst existed in human beings - the consequence of the realization that the world is meaningless leading to a 'sad' response is still an interpretation and therefore false.

The philosopher is guilty of making meaning out of meaninglessness.

Then, where are we?

We realize the world is meaningless. But we just witness it. Merely observe it. And make no judgment about that.

Because all of our bad judgments about the world are as false as our good judgment.

Pessimism is as much of an illusion as Optimism.

Sadness is as false as Happiness.

And this is where I stand intellectually.

Frozen. Witnessing the meaninglessness of life.

But still, the challenge of living life remains to be tackled. And that requires meaning-making.

So, I choose optimism knowing it is false, yet also knowing that the alternative is equally false.
I choose optimism because I want to.

I choose inspiration, knowing that it is false, yet knowing that the alternative is equally false.
I choose inspiration because I like it.

I choose a positive spin on stuff, knowing that its bullshit, yet knowing that a negative spin on stuff in equally bullshit.
I choose a positive spin, because it feels good.

If I were to attempt an adventure in meaning-making, I would say: Maybe the meaninglessness of life is not a lacuna to be mourned, but an opportunity to be celebrated. Maybe, the meaninglessness is an invitation to paint. Maybe, the meaninglessness is the silence which music can be created and played.

So what do I believe in?

I believe in what makes me feel good, because I know that everything that makes me feel bad is as false as everything that makes me feel good.

But I prefer feeling good.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I am not inspiring

I have been often told that I am "inspiring". As a communicator, leader, coach - I am able to paint pictures and tell stories with an infectious passion which leaves people "spellbound - sometimes with goosebumps" (quotes from a participant in a workshop).

However, the truth is - I am not inspiring.

I am inspired.

Being inspired is my favorite emotional state. The whirlpool of positive emotions I feel inside me when I follow a chain of positive thoughts is heady and powerful for me too. When I meet others and talk to them - I am not inspiring them - just myself. And they naturally seem to bathe in the experience of my emotions.

When I look at facts, situations and people - I do not look at "what is" but what is possible - what can be. When I meet people - I do not see the limitations they place on themselves. I see them for who they can be. And I share it with the passion that I feel within me. I inspire people because they inspire me.

A scary thought is - the same would be true for toxic emotions too, isn't it? If one has a whirlpool of pessimism spinning wildly inside - what impact would it have on those around us?

Isn't communication merely transference of emotions?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

धन्यवाद् प्रेमचंद ! :-)

मुंशी प्रेमचंद से मेरा साक्षात्कार बचपन में ही हुआ था। शायद, 'हीरा-मोती' की कहानी से। तब से, प्रेमचंद मेरे प्रिय बन गए। उनकी अनेकों कहानिया, उपन्यास मैंने पढ़ डाले। उनके लिखने में कोई ऐसा जादू था, जितना पढता, उतना ही ह्रदय बाग बाग हो जाता। उनकी जीविका भी पढ़ी। कैसे एक साहित्य के मार्गदर्शक, एक महान लेखक का जीवन दुःख एवं आभाव से भरा पड़ा था। कहते हैं, मसीहा को अपने देश में कभी नही पूजा जाता। प्रेमचंद आज विश्व-प्रसिद्ध हैं। उनकी कहानियो एवं उपन्यासों का अनुवाद अनेको भाषाओँ में हो चुका है। उन्हें हिन्दी साहित्य का एक अविलम्ब चिह्न माना जाता है। परन्तु अपने जीवान काल में, तो उन्हें प्रसिद्धि मिली, ना ही सम्रिध्य। अपनी सरस्वती प्रेस को चालू रखने में ही उनका जीवन गुज़र गया।

प्रेमचंद शब्दों में निपुण थे। अपनी भाषा, अपने लिखने के तरीके से, वो ऐसा समां बांधते, कि लगता उनकी कहानियो के पात्र कागज़ से निकल कर आपके सामने खड़े हों, आपसे बातें कर रहे हों। उनके सभी पात्र असली थे, कोई भी बनावटी था। उनकी कहानियो ने मुझ पर एक गहरी छाप छोड़ी। आज भी, उनकी पुस्तकें मेरे पास हैं।

मैं प्रेमचंद का आभारी हूँ, उन्होंने मेरे जीवन के कुछ क्षण बहुत ही यादगार बनाये।


Monday, May 03, 2010


How easily our lives get swept away by the fake world of borders and stock markets, advertisements and sports, being good-looking and looking good, the evening news and the morning newspaper, the talk shows and the reality tv, the national elections and the international ones, the wars and the freedom struggles.

How easily we make that business deal over there, matter to us so much that we develop ulcers over it. How effortlessly we get swept away in the world of distractions that surrounds us – till we forget to be with ourselves. Then – we are alone and we want the TV on, or that magazine to read. The distraction from life has now become life – while life looks on – hapless as an accident victim, the only witness to it too busy to take note and rescue it.

Almost nothing that touches us in real life is real. Almost nothing.

Money is fake. Countries are fake. Passport and Visas are fake. Stock Markets are fake. Deodorant and Perfumes are fake. Clothes are fake. Cars are fake. Sports are fake. Movies are fake. Advertisements are fake. Religion is fake. Godmen are fake. Promotions are fake. Laws are fake. Currency notes are fake. Banks are fake. Police and military are fake. Schools are fake. Colleges are fake. Degrees are fake and Ph.Ds are fake. Organizations and corporations are fake. Houses are fake. Rules are fake. All traffic signs are fake. Marriage is fake. Divorces are fake.

Almost everything that touches us in real life is fake. The things we care about, get high blood pressure over, cry, scream and wail over – are fake.

Money, passports, visas, bank-statements, insurance claims, bills – pieces of paper which we have agreed to mean something. Fake.

Promotions and Corporations – invisible designations in artificial constructions called organizations make us feel good or bad. Fake.

Degrees and Education – Spend so many years visiting the same buildings with the same people, sitting in the same rooms, pretending to study the same thing, answering the same questions, getting different marks and you have graduated. Learning – is optional. Fake.

God and Religion – A megalomaniac of a God, waiting to hurl punishments and the everlasting fires of damnation upon you if you dare to break his rituals, forget to remember him or worse still – pray to another god. A needy clingy monster egoist god who would not smile and bless you till you kneel in submission at him, for the rest of your life. By the way, he loves you. And he’s always a He. Fake.

Marriage – a fire, a ceremony, a party, a court-paper, a judge, two witnesses is what you need for marriage. Not understanding and compassion and growth and expansion and creativity and sensuality and love and laughter. A paper, with four signatures and a seal. Fake.

Divorce – a court proceeding, hurled accusations or amicable separations – must be legal. A couple married long ago – bored, stiff, unfulfilled, no conversations or love or laughter or sensuality, a limp resignation and cynicism about each other, hoping like hell to be somewhere else every minute they spend together – are still married, unless the paper says so. Fake.

Houses and Cars and other Toys – who you are is everything around you except you. Who you are is the house you live in, the car you drive, the mobile phone you use, the gadgets you own – You don’t exist, you have no inherent value – the Toys make the man. Fake.

Rules and Laws and Codes - Everything that is held sacred now, was up for sale once. Everything that was held sacred once, is up for sale now. Societies keep choosing the way they wish to live. And keep changing their choices. It gives workability, transient – in the moment – workability. Fake.

Countries – lines drawn on sand, grass, desert and across seas by an invisible hand-mind-gun invoke passion, fury, hatred, love, pride and breeds violence. Fake.

Then, what is real?

What is intransient and exists.

Music is not fake. Music is real.

Learning is not fake. Learning is real.

Love is not fake. Love is real.

Fear is not fake. Fear is real.

Courage is not fake. Courage is real.

Love, Fear, Courage, Learning, Music – is real. Is Life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

On Writing

The greatest respect an author can have for his public is never to produce what is expected but what he himself considers right and useful for whatever stage of intellectual development has been reached by himself and others.

Von Goethe