Touch Deprivation

The other day I was reading at the Café and was going through the same page of the book probably for the third time. Maybe the language was too difficult or maybe my heart was not at it. I was aware of a mild headache. That was a kind of headache when you feel some weight on your head. I caressed that part of my head with my hands.
On my left a man explaining a business plan to another. Repeating again and again that poor people remain poor because they do not change their ways. I tried to avoid his irritating talk, but he was loud. On the other side of the glass wall that is on the open terrace of the café, I saw this rich looking couple. They were well dressed with undeniably attractive bodies. Their bodies have the presence of the kind Walt Whitman talks about in his poetry.
While the lemon slices were floating in their colorful drinks, the woman was stroking his hair and face like he is her child. I started observing other people around to see how many are touching each other. The touch I thought has whole philosophy to it. Perhaps those around me not touching each other might be touching each other through words or unable to do so. After all, one can be very specific about who they allow to touch and where. Touching could be a way of understanding each other. It is how we transfer healing warmth from the one body to the another.
I was looking at that couple again. I was thinking that these two must be enjoying closeness to each other. How healing it must be for him to feel her breast, her hair and her face so close to him. Edward Munch would not have created his ‘Madonna’ without experiencing such closeness. I reached to a conclusion that my headache might be out of a deprivation, especially the touch deprivation. I liked the precise term I coined for my sickness. I can borrow money to have coffee here but I cannot borrow a touch.                  
This is where my failure lies?
I carried on with my reading.

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On Beauty

<Interesting question asked by friend. I forwarded the same question to my friends and got these responses>

QUESTION:

Vinay Ramki (to me): You seem to be loving beauty. I seem to have an opposite opinion I guess. So would love to know more about your perspective.

Beauty, especially physical beauty is one big unfair thing in the world. We have a particular definition of it (most cases it’s being fair color, appropriate size, etc etc) we see that as beauty/sexy(while typing I’m referring to women). It is just how we define, or more appropriately, accept the definition of beauty as. There is an African tribe I guess where pot bellied women are sexy. There’s an other tribe where disfiguring your face in particular ‘cuts’ is beauty.

There are most people who follow this definition and fantasise that beauty. This is extremely unfair on people who mostly don’t fall in that category. Some might not want to fall in that, but nevertheless… Most want to be seen as beautiful, but alas our definition! They don’t fall in that category. It could be for many reasons beyond their control too.

You on the other hand seem to appreciate in a gentle and poetic way, the same beauty. It is beautiful in poetic sense, but isn’t it the the same unfair concept.

So can you give your perspective on this. Many artists also think like you I guess. So knowing why and what you think would help me understand similar (artistic) people.

ANSWERS:

Indira Krishnamurti Pradhan: In the society we live, our primary scale of value, which is most unfair is in the physical. We are conditioned by factors such as culture, educational background and class and are bombarded daily by the western cultural misogynistic values that emphasize how to remain “young and attractive” for ever. Billions of dollars are generated each year promising the human body a status of “permanent beauty” and also sexuality that are highly valued in western and westernized societies.
Thus our explanation of beauty becomes subjective, when considering beauty and aesthetics. In truth, we all know that the value of an object goes beyond our sensory judgment of what we consider as “beautiful”. It would have to embrace judgment based on emotional and intellectual values of what we are reacting to when we view an object or person by way of beauty.
I would go along with what Aristotle said, which is that it is the experience of the audience that actually determines whether something is art or not. So he does not place importance on the creator’s intention as much as on how the audience reacts to the artwork. It is an absolutely personal decision and conclusion we arrive at when we judge a piece of art.
As far as poetry is concerned, I’d like to quote what Shelley had said: “A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truths.” It is these truths that we are in search of and get sidetracked by externals, which are but a superficial reflection of what lies inside and which we struggle to find. Kant also said: “Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt.”
Even the rich and famous Hollywood folks whose survival depends on the value placed on their “beauty and wealth” go through a feeling of emptiness and depression beyond a certain point. There is no way they can find permanent joy in the kind of beauty they are programmed to worship in themselves and others. Just as we see beauty in nature or in its natural form externally, we are also infused with its presence internally. This ensures that we live our inner lives too. Beauty is not stagnant; we are in a sense nomadic and travel from threshold to threshold where we discover new possibilities and avenues of creativity and beauty.
In a true sense, we are constantly searching for a state of wholeness, which is a place where we feel that everything is integrated. And until we find that wholeness and attempt to integrate ourselves with our spiritual aspects, ‘beauty’ can only remains “skin deep” in our eyes.

Terry Dalfrano: Beauty counts not for what it is, but for what it suggests: a dream of perfection. A beautiful woman, picture, poem, song are a sort of utopia of a better world. Formal perfection is the negation of the real world. It might sound unjust for the ugly women and bad poets. But it is precisely because we do not like the real world that we like beautiful things. And when we really come to know the object of our admiration, with all its imperfection, we are disillusioned. This is why love cannot be eternal: the real people, and their artistic products, are not eternal, are not perfect.

Please note: Everyone is invited to express their opinion  on the question asked by my friend.

Urdu poets on mystery, wonder and beauty of woman’s hair

Neend us ki hai, dimaag us ka hai, raatein us ki hain
ye zulfein jiski baazuon par pareshan ho gayin.

 

Sleep is his, pride/head is his, the nights are his
on whose shoulder your curls became scattered/tangled
– Ghalib

 

Javaab naama siyaahi ka apni hai vo zulf
kisuu ne hashr ko ham se jo sawaal kiya

 

The answer for the ink (of our deeds) would be those tresses
if anybody will ask us the question on the day of judgement
– Mir Taqi Mir

 

Idhar aao tumhari zulf ham aarasta kar dein
jo gesu ham sanwaareinge kabhi barham nahi honge

 

Come here; let me straighten your troubling hair locks
when I set them right your tresses shall never ever be entangled again
-Kaleem Ajiz

 

Kya ho gaya hai gesuu-e khamdaar ko tere
aazad kar rahein hain giraftaar ko tere
Ab tu muddaton se hai shab-o-roz ruu-ba-ru
kitne hi din guzar gaye didaar ko tere

 

What has happen to your curly hair
they are releasing your captive now
It’s been long since we’ve come face to face night and day
many days have passed without any sight of you
– Jaun Elia

Painting by John William Godward

John-William-Godward-Hair-.jpg

A Dream

They were wandering, holding each other’s hand on the University campus.

 

They went to the parking to find a personal space, and like any young couple they were enjoying snuggling and cuddling.

 

He remembered he was gazing at her lips while she was telling him that she likes reading poetry, and is working on a Samuel Huntington’s poem (yes the man from clash of civilization), so he went to Chawri Bazaar to get some books for her. There he saw his father- a teacher who taught him about South Asia- and his dead uncle, talking to each other. Surprisingly they didn’t notice him.

 

Again they are together, wandering on that road that leads to the boy’s hostel from the University’s Post office. Many gossips echoed from somewhere in his mind about her multiple affairs and past lovers. He only remembers there were multiple voices and he didn’t pay much heed to them.

 

Suddenly, a contingent of soldiers appeared marching on the same road. One of the soldiers shot them with his gun. The bullets hit them but there were no wounds, or feeling of death. Instead of blood there was a profusion of perfume from their bodies and a mystical fragrance all around.

 

A woman with too much makeup appeared from behind that soldier’s contingent. She offered them dinner in exchange for the trouble they had been through. She said “it’s a Valentine’s Day party” and they must come. They realized their bodies still had the smell of the fragrance that had emanated from the hit of bullets.

 

She asked the woman, “What cake is going to be served at the party?”

 

The woman asked her if she had a suggestion, and she offered a most beautiful name- but suddenly the boy woke from his dream and that name drifted beyond the reach of his memory….

(Photo credit: Stella De Genova)12662553_962802470471530_225040070066017816_n

Prayer

I am here again after a long time
My instinct brought me to you.
Give me a sign, when these demons will turn into angels?
I feel too tired and old now.
I wish for a day without pain:
When I will wake up with enthusiasm
and sleep satisfied.
I don’t want to be afraid of people’s questions,
their critical analysis on what is I am doing to my life.
I want to praise beautiful things
and be honest in whatever I write.
I want to be a courageous lover,
who loves passionately the woman he likes.
There are so many things I wish to do,
but I am stuck in this darkness
and unable to get out of it.
Why don’t you take care of me God?
Am I not your favorite child?

– 10th Sept 2015

Note- Lately, while going back home, the sound of Azaan moved me and I found myself inside the mosque reading namaaz. This is an edited version of dua part.

Incomplete reflection on the Kuhn’s Structure of the scientific revolution

I was thinking what should I do after reading a book, when I have no one discuss it? So, I thought of writing about it.

In this note I will try to convey what I have learned or experienced after reading the essay, “the structure of scientific revolution” by Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn wrote it in 1962 after he began teaching sciences to non-science students. The book lays out a schematic theory for the evolution of science in general and scientific specialties. It draws upon several famous historical examples, mostly from physics and astronomy, but perhaps more to illustrate Kuhn’s system than to substantiate it. The book divided in various chapters with a post-script added by Kuhn seven years later. (That I am yet to read in order to improvised on this note)

During the early twentieth century, a group of logical positivists, (for example Bertrand Russell and  Ludwig Wittgenstein), rejected all metaphysical doctrines and held that true knowledge comes from human experience alone (correct me if I am wrong!), particularly via its most rigorously controlled form, the scientific method: the accumulation of data under controlled conditions, construction of theories on the basis of the data, and verification of theories by experimentation and observation according to objective standards of logic.  Although subsequent adherents to this school often call themselves as logical empiricist’ and they insisted that theories cannot be really verified, only falsified, the underlying assumption  of them was that the history of science has been the unbroken accumulation of knowledge in an orderly, unified sequence. (I will soon add citation to this)

 

In the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn disagrees with the logical positivists almost completely. Although he also believed that scientists aim for an increasingly accurate understanding of nature, he found that community of scientists, such as physicists or biologists, often goes through period of divisive disagreement of theory and the nature of data. The final triumph of one faction of a scientific field over another involves the interactions of people. or in other words most scientists spend their entire careers posing and solving problems in accordance with an establish paradigm, assuming that they have fundamental grasp of how nature behaves. (Each group uses its own paradigm to argue in that paradigm’s defense. for example, Priestley and Lavosier both saw oxygen, but they interpreted their observations differently).

For Kuhn, Science is a social process as well as a knowledge-gathering enterprise. He has given various examples to strengthen his arguments. I am not sharing them to keep the note short.

The key features of his arguments are

  • The idea that sciences relies on paradigms, a term that Kuhn borrowed from linguistics
  • Second was Kuhn’s distinction between normal science and scientific revolutions.
  • Third, Kuhn’s system presents a scientific revolution as phenomena among a community of workers; therefore, it is social.

So, don’t feel bad if you were never good in sciences or in solving those mind-wrecking problems. They are and they were just paradigms. And this also shows us how our education system has been ruined by focusing more on problem solving (May the problem that does not exist at all) rather than critical thinking or questioning.

A science student has no touch with philosophy or social sciences and social science student has no curiosity for sciences. Everything is job oriented. Or better to say, corporate oriented.  Although, the questions that are still with me are about the link between science and technology. How even after rejecting and struggling with many paradigms has not stopped us advancing technologically? There is definitely a link between science and technology.

Kuhn concerns himself with only the pure science, and he specifically addresses the cognitive (or epistemic) function of science. He does not explore science’s ultimate value of truth of its place in human culture. And please note that Kuhn is not underestimating sciences but he is only questioning it.

 

Being-in-the-World with Anxieties

I just finished reading about ISIL’s atrocities in Iraq and I cannot get over the photo of a crying girl displaced due to this conflict; that has made me unutterably melancholic. I am thinking about my grief and that little girl’s grief. But somehow I am only able to write about MY anxiety.

This month of June with its hot, humid weather and other mundane difficulties of joblessness- and reading all day- has contributed to a kind of unrest in my body. Mostly I waste time by pondering about being in the world, all of its pain and pleasures and how it has always been complex and complicated, and will always remain like this.

The frequency of the questions about my career interest and advice from concerned friends has increased. My interest in philosophical and poetic forms of expression has definitely made friends close to me to have an opinion about my inclination. Although, I believe that it could be just a phase. And not only about me; I have felt this about many people- that there is always something in their inner self that wants to rise to some expression.

It is still remains unresolved for me as to, what is the better way of expression? And how can one write without self-doubt or fear of being judged; and why should I even ‘shamelessly’ express my experiences, my dreams or my concerns? Things are never easy to understand as one would like to believe, as there is always something that is out of reach of everyone’s awareness, about themselves, about others, and the world around them.

Most of the time out of my laziness and ignorance, I helplessly engage myself with the surface of things rather than allowing my mind to go into a deeper level. Like a breeze constantly blowing the ripples in the pool of water and preventing me from seeing the clear reflection of myself. I do not know if it is possible to watch our thoughts or control them. Neither do I believe in judging them like a criminal. But I do believe in power of vigilance because when we really go deeper into our thoughts the deepest concerns of our life emerge. It is like trying to extract the most possible truth out of everything or contemplating the infiniteness of the sky rather than engaging self only with the beauty of clouds.

Being-in-the-world: If I investigate the question ‘who am I?’ I might not have immediately a philosophical answer to this question. On surface that might simply put down to the fact that I am a complicated person, or psychologically unstable, or unsure of what career I would like to follow. But is not the nature of “being” much more mysterious than this? An individual who is born and dies within the confinement of a palace cannot behold its tomb. I do not know the reality of my being before the birth and after the death. The existentialist writings I have read so far encourages me to be brave and live life with freedom and fullness. At the same time my heart finds comfort in idea of a selfless Sufi.

The chronic persistent uneasiness points out the possibility that most things happening inside us are beyond expression. I call them inexplicable anxieties. The relationship between one human being and another has been hampered by the unshared or unperceived anxieties. The difficulty of love and empathy arise as our awareness about ‘human condition’ has been shaped by absurd materialism, self-interest and dogmatic religious, cultural beliefs. Art has become for art sake especially when artists become synonymous with a luxurious life. As Rilke once said, “nobody likes to explore the limitless possibilities of river but comfort himself at the fallow stretch of the shore where nothing happens.”

Being-with-the-others: These days I am just adapting myself to live with the questions and share them with other beautiful and brave souls. They are brave because possibly having their own inexplicable anxieties they still manage to be calm, composed and concerned about others. They are beautiful because they have managed to do something about others in their own way. My experiences with the others in their multiplicity make no ‘similar’ replies to my opinion how should I live with the others. That means these matters of self and others could not be settled once and for all, like our perceptions about our relationship with God. I ought to take responsibility of the self and live in this potentially unrealized state, rather than taking readymade ideas as it is. So these failures and uneasiness may continue at surface but this anxiety might not be my real anxiety- It must not be-

My real anxiety should be my lack of understanding of others pain and their condition.

Perhaps, some of these anxieties are not meant to be expressed but to acknowledge and make our relationship better with the self and the others. Sometimes we have nothing to say or my mind goes blank and I find that rather than converse with human being, it is better to talk to a piece of paper.

Nonetheless, most of our anxieties demand constant vigilance and action (as great philosophers suggested). Right now I might not be able to do anything for a victim in Iraq, a rape victim in India or Pakistan, or jobless and homeless people anywhere. But my anxieties challenge me to create meaning out of my strange existence. And do something about my knowledge of the self in order to understand and improve my relationship with the others. I might like to engage myself with the resistance for justice and equality like a Sufi or any ancient or post-modernist thinker would suggest. But I must create a meaning out of nothingness. I must discover/create myself in order to make myself something useful for humanity. And I consider this moment a beginning.