Sunday, August 5, 2012

The struggle of the educated minds - A certified life

More than a year after I introduced the struggle of the educated minds, things have hardly changed. (To understand what follows, you need to read that first). And what I said then holds true, personally, even more so than I had imagined while penning them, and the following, down.

We are lucky vertebrates. And some of us do have the proverbial spine to stand for and against things and dreams in life. And to such an 'upright' man, education is the backbone. Or so we are told. But truth be told, education has not been in a condition as worse as it is in now. I'm a direct descendent of that wretched system, most of the policy makers and rulers of which do not have that spine to do what is right. I'll stop commenting on it politically here, for it will spoil the intent of the post, which is the personal experiences of having been in the system that guarantees success (what is that?) only based on certificates.

What is 'right knowledge' and how much of it is essential (The Zeroth Flaw) has never been more important than it is now, considering that the world is in deep chaos, economies depressed everywhere, people left jobless because the policy makers do not know where, and how, to create jobs where they are needed, etc. This point of view, largely generalized, yet true, is just a pointer to the mess we are in. But to make the less fortunate (read 'the less educated' as the literates like to identify others) understand, or believe, that they are in for good in the future, the rulers of the system create an easy step; that of creating certificates for the less fortunate to make them learn and understand how deep a mess we are in, and how they can help if they are certified to be on par with the rulers. What better way than to make them feel that they are more educated if they are certified!

That the primary purpose of a certificate/certification is one of only affiliation is hardly realized these days. Certifications have come to define the very admission into an apparently erudite circle, making the pursuit of it a necessary condition for work than a means of  value addition. And when peer pressure is next only to the fear of death when it comes to defining survival and success in my generation, it is not difficult to see why everyone wants to be certified. And so the tables turn on our less fortunate to distinguish themselves, apparently, by means of getting certified from some institution or association which was the birth of a stupid lot of insecure, terrified educationalists who rightly realized that they would be overthrown if they did not show authority through an institution or association. How successful have they been!

The conflict of certification with The Zeroth Flaw arises exactly here. What is right knowledge and how much of it is essential? How do the 'erudite' and authorities of the institutions and associations decide what has to be known in a specific field of study to ascertain competence and authority? Is knowledge not, to some extent, intuitive? Why do we develop certain 'areas of interest' right from an early age? Has it not got something to do with the way the brains are designed and wired? If let to develop on those lines, will we not achieve competence, unadulterated? Will knowledge, then, not mature into wisdom? After all, knowledge is what we believe is right; and wisdom is what we realize is true! And eventually, what is of more importance, a belief or a realization?! The questions keep coming!

Unfortunately, we are all too narrowed and mechanized to pose these questions, for the answers to these do not come about unless the established paths are challenged. Instead what we seek are easier, commonly followed, short-sighted goals. That of gaining entry into an already established lot, seeking recognition for work which is un-original, etc.

I cannot hep quoting Sir Russell here: "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible"

More to come on the struggles.

Rajaji

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On the vain love for superlatives and leaders

I probably belong to the generation where there has been, and is likely to be, the maximum number of the greatest/largest/biggest and many more superlative phenomena. It could also be the generation which is seeing most of these superlative phenomena bite the dust, anything ranging from the greatest innovation, idea, product, movement etc.. In most cases, the starting point for any of these phenomena to become the greatest/biggest/largest is what I'd call the 'superlative attribution' to an individual or a small group running the show from ground up. And that's where I see the irony. No individual starts a revolution or an invention wanting to be the greatest/largest/biggest contributor of any means to the society. The revolution or invention is most likely to have started as a sign of a need, a passion or a rebellion. As a matter of objective disposition and thought, a superlative attribution is, in reality, a nightmare to such an individual.

I think an individual with a dream or a vision to contribute something of value to mankind is never bothered about what qualities people attribute to him/her. His/her wish, focus and vision is only the work. Despite this simple wish of the individual to be focused on the work alone, the society just cannot keep itself from pouring out all the adulation and reverence for the superlative qualities he/she apparently possesses. And this generally tends to dampen the individual's focus and sometimes he/she may, in fact, fail too. And my generation is awash with examples of this kind.

I think it should take utmost courage and conviction for an individual to be indifferent to, and uninfluenced in any way, by such nightmarish consequences of superlative attribution. The society quickly develops whims and fancies for such an individual. It is basically a follower society, i.e a society with eager followers always looking for a leader to show them the means of life in grand ways. In other words, a follower society is a society whose spirits of individual thoughts and initiatives are dampened, and looks outward for a spirited leader, who just did not happen to let his own spirit dampen! In most cases, the leader himself/herself would have been no more than an ordinary person who just held on a little longer than the rest of the crowd. Or worse, who was just inadvertently helped by the dampened crowd to hold on after the crowd had let itself down.

In a huge clout of such undeserving followers, and sometimes, eventually, unfit leaders, it again takes the utmost courage and conviction for the individual to be dispassionate and indifferent to that wretched society. This brings to me a revelation that it is most worthwhile to be part of a brotherhood of equal and just individuals, than to be a part of revering followers and spirited leaders. For, in being a follower, an individual loses his/her own concept of life and vision of things; and in being a leader, an individual thrusts his/her concept of life and vision of things, deliberately or inadvertently. At some point, there is bound to be dissent, dissatisfaction or fatigue among both the groups.

The major conflict between the superlative individuals and the simple individuals lies in the fact that the mere presence/attribution of superlatives indicates a copy/duplicate of the individual is just somewhere on the same line, thereby only indicating the deluge of the undeserving and the unfit. And there awaits a catastrophe for the individual and liberal spirit!

To all the vain superlatives... Give up your vanity! Go, get a life. And live it in your own terms! Or, at best, with your brotherhood.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On the two faces

I wish to address this double play of two faces I most often experience personally or in the society around me. All of us express ourselves differently and uniquely to our fellow men to convey something; maybe to create a good impression, show a sign of thoughtfulness, acceptance, good or bad mood, but most of us do not realize that they all are short-lived, the expressions and the signs.We also do not realize that the other party couldn't care less about us once the moments have passed. (unless, of course, one has a gripping face with a soul-stirring expression). They are like the brief poses for a photograph; every one of us look good in our photographs. And it is surprising to see how one could judge someone from their facial expressions that last no longer than two to three seconds. I do not believe in first impressions! And the importance we place on it and our continual efforts for improving the looks to create a good first impression could not be explained in a better way than taking a look at the tremendously successful cosmetic products industry.

In reality, we all have two faces; the outer one which is visibly static, and the inner one which is actually dynamic.

The outer static is intermittent as in expressing a smile or a frown at any one we come across for a moment or two. (Well, in some cases it happens to be minutes, hours and even days, that's a different case.) The outer static, I think, is a result of two things: One, a combination of basic human instinct and social conditioning: basic instinct to gain acceptance in the larger tribe or society through favorable expressions, emotions and behavior, and the conditioning by civilization and society to always look good  to others, to show that someone is in good mood and spirits. It is merely being presentable to others, to show to others that someone is approachable at that moment for whatever reasons, a conversation, a favor, a company etc.; a brief sign of apparent good look for entry into his/her circle. Basically, it's a sign of social development that a human being should look good to his fellow men so that the others will be so too for whatever that may follow the initial signs of acceptance and entry. I do not intend to talk more about this part, for things like the 'studies of the effects of human civilization and social development in the need for personal physical beauty and presentability' are way over my head!

Two, and this is a dangerous thing, a worthless feeling that we feel good when we look good. In reality, we should be feeling good when we actually feel good inside, or at the most, look good in our own eyes, not when we look good to others! I know this defies the basic law of physical attraction, but there is a reality hidden in it. I find it difficult to understand what makes people believe they feel good when they look good to others,of course, apart from the momentary recognition/acceptance of the presence of a fellow being, as said earlier. To my understanding, the only ones who should be feeling so are the people in the cosmetic products industry because they need to make their customers look good! Everything here, again, is a simple sign of wanting to be accepted by others. Nothing to be said here beyond this.

What I really like to think about, and talk about, is the inner dynamic face. This should really be the face that should matter most to an individual. It shows one's state of being to oneself, not the state of looking to oneself or others. It is dynamic because it is made of the thoughts that flow from one's mind, thoughts that are either connected or distinct, continuous or discrete, structured or random. It is dynamic because it always looks to correct itself based on its experience with other forces inward and outward. To me, the dominance of the state of inner dynamic over the outer static is in a way an indicator of feeling of self-worth and self-esteem. One should realize how one feels when he/she feels good at (for) himself/herself and when (if) he/she thinks he/she looks good to others. If and when there is quite a leak in the former, it doesn't matter what others pour unto him/her because of his/her looks, because what he/she tries to fill then is a leaking cup of self-worth with the contents of others' opinions.

There is a clear danger of the increasing importance placed nowadays on the outer static than on the inner dynamic (now more than ever, because of the explosion of social networks) by people who anxiously spend most of their waking day to know what others think of him/her, to know who likes them (actually 'their photographs') etc.. How the worthless importance of the outer static slowly creeps on the inner dynamic is quite stupefying if one takes time to realize the same. I have done so, and still do, and everyday brings an understanding of the pure waste of time on the same and the need to avoid it. The consequence of this would be overlooked if one does not realize how much of the time and effort that could be spent on introspection aimed at self development is driven away into unproductive knowledge of one's time-killing activities to be liked by others! (Guilty as charged, I feel stupid for the time I have wasted on it so far. This could be read as a confession of the same, and an indication of Exodus from it!)

What is increasingly happening is the dislodging of the once-undisputed belief that one's worth was from what was within that person and not from without (i.e outside of him/her), the kind of belief that earlier civilizations had on the days of their influential philosophers, thinkers, writers or anyone on those lines; The likes of Socrates, Pluto or anybody from those ages to our present era. From what we know/see from eras of art, portrays, busts, and what not, is that Socrates, probably, was not handsome, but he could not have cared less , nor could his followers have. What seemed to matter, then, to himself and his fellow men was the overflowing wisdom from within their minds, hearts and souls, and what their followers revered them for.

What we have in our generation is a silly belief that "Face is the index of the mind", yet completely misreading it. Sometimes, we also read it as "Face is the index of others' minds"! We all want to look good, to be thought beautiful and handsome, to be praised by others, to be spoken of by others. And the lengths we go to to present ourselves as acceptable by others is stupefying. If face really was the index of one's mind, what do we need the cosmetics for? Or, if face really was the index of others' mind, then where is our own view of ourselves? Would we not rather we spent our worthwhile time and effort on building inner beauty (read 'self-worth'), on accumulating knowledge, on making the inner dynamic more beautiful?

What we think others see in us, inside or outside, is the very same thing as what others think we see in them. And almost always, both are wrong, and both have wasted precious time and effort in that false-belief! What we see of ourselves on our own minds is infinitely more important than what we see, or think we see, on others'! Think about it.

Rajaji.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

On being straightforward

Happy New Year to everyone. Hope the year has started off on a good note. May all your dreams come true.

When I was penning down the 2011 wrap-up post and was running up things-to-do for this year, I saw that I had spent significantly less time on things I had wanted to write about, most of them being still in the draft stages. Sometimes I felt I'm going overboard for myself or at other times I lost some of those thoughts on the way. Some of the posts make me wonder where I picked up those crazy thoughts from, and make me consider the prospect of writing less number of posts on confusing and fleeting ideas, lest I should drive away the few merciful souls who take the time to read all that I write and comment religiously. But ironically, you're all the people who are there to bear the craziness I bring forth in all my thoughts! In that way, you're all my inspirations! Thus I welcome you to this year with the first thought-post!

I'm no fan of adages, and I find myself in no need or abundance to quote anything to others on how to live life, how to learn lessons etc. Anything I experience I'm sensible enough to keep it to myself. That applies to judging people in life too, and learning from them. That said, I do have opinions of people and their character, generally, but no one in particular. One such case of opinion is on being straightforward. I do not have any personal experience or lesson for me in life from being simply straightforward. But I think, the quality of straightforwardness is not being given its due recognition; as that of the base for two other qualities, namely integrity, which is a virtue, and honesty, which apparently is a virtue. (but who decides what is a virtue and what is not?). Though both are used interchangeably, I still hold my opinion that there is a world of difference between honesty and integrity. Here again is a conflict on two different and widely held opinions; one, that honesty is the best policy (Anon), and the other, that One should never be too honest, straight trees are always cut first (Chanakya). So, I leave it to the discretion of the reader to choose what suits him/her best. I only intend to opine on straightforwardness, which according to me is neither a virtue nor a vice, but simply a characteristic, unique and distinct in degree, in each individual.

By and large, there does not seem to be a majority for straightforwardness being perceived as a virtue or as a vice. The case for straightforwardness is one of 'brought up' from childhood, and may be of 'human instinct' too. The former I can talk a little about, but not the latter, since that requires a psychologist's opinion. I personally think there is quite a lot of social conditioning and conditioning through education on a child's mind about being straightforward. But beyond education, society conditions a child in numerous other ways also, which put together are weighed against education. Ultimately, what the child believes in and eventually wants to be, depends on which of the two has the most influence on him/her. I, for one, was influenced by the society, and still continue to be done so. And I wasn't spared of the troubles of the mind and the heart in choosing one way over the other. The question is not on the universal agreement that it is primarily a matter of perception, but it is one of 'perception in whose eyes'? It is essentially asking oneself 'Am I characteristically, and by nature, straightforward in my own eyes, or am I wanting to be perceived by others as straightforward or not?' And consequentially, 'Am I holding my integrity, or am I just wanting to be honest?'. This is the typical situation most siblings find themselves in, when it comes to protecting their little one from their parents for some misdeed or the other, and the situation extends itself into friendship during the growing years of adolescence and eventually in all relationships into adulthood. While protecting them or not is a matter of self-righteousness (Why should I feel bad for saving/not saving him/her this way?!), the trigger for that is the effect of moral education and social conditioning on the upbringing of that child.

From another prominent angle, I think most often straightforwardness is perceived as rudeness. I'm not sure whether being straightforward is characteristic of the heart or the mind, but it is generally not considered a good thing to speak openly what one feels/thinks. Some flavoring is always desired irrespective of the audience.This again is driven from the early years of conditioning in the name of social manners. This takes the most common form of gossiping or backbiting about someone to someone else, but pretending to be good to him/her in person. Thus, from the point of view of society, there is no definite answer to 'what does being straightforward lead one to?'. It's largely a matter of individual preference towards a society of either active, spirited, like-minded people, or a society of dead-men-walking.

Secondly, on a smaller scope: beyond a point in life, once the trust radius of people is definitively set, it doesn't really change things in any way by being blunt and straightforward to both the trust radius and the outsiders, i.e. those outside of the trust radius. In such an environment, being straightforward does maintain the vitality of the individual in terms of active agreement/disagreement with the insiders and outsiders alike, and thus toward a spirited defiance of one's freedom of choice. Simply put, as some say, "Be yourself. For those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind".

Having considered the society at large, and then the smaller trust radius, it is apt to talk about the individual and the ego. We are all egoists. We are all selfish. We are all simply human, after all! Uniqueness, being the universally unique character of each person, grants everyone unique and distinct ways of protecting the ego! One such is being straightforward, where the individual is 'as-is' and shuns any degree of relatedness and connectivity with others' thoughts, feelings and actions. In that way, I believe it is rightly helpful to be straightforward, for in straightforwardness there is a degree of opacity for an ego to protect itself, rather than being a mirror to others' thoughts, feelings and actions, by aping and imitating others, particularly their ways of social behavior. But does being a mirror help in any way to maintaining the independence and freedom of one's own conscience?

I agree this is sounding more like a principle of individualism. But, whatever be the case, being straightforward does boost the self-esteem in one's own eyes. If one cannot be straightforward within, one can never be straightforward without! And if that isn't the virtue of integrity, what is?