One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year

The year was 1999 and I was interning at an auto-workshop as part of requirement for completion of my technical training certification. Although the people around were friendly but the weather was not friendly at all. At mornings, you wouldn't like to touch any metal object as they were brutally cold and it was one of the reasons that everyone were keeping the mostly used spanner (wrench) sizes in their pockets to keep them warm and at times, it was creating small conflicts. To avoid the conflicts over spanners, some had bought their own spanners and had marked them. Aside from cold, the long distances that we were riding our bicycles in the mornings to work and at nights back to home, were really draining our energies. So, on the eve of the New Year, we were hoping to have a day off on the January 1st. We went to the grand master, who was a Christian (Muslims weren't celebrating the new year of the Georgian Calender) and asked for a day off in celebration of new year. He smiled in his puffed-up style and said, "If we shut the workshop on the first day of new year, it would be a bad omen for the rest of the year. Tomorrow, we are going to work longer so we could get more work during the year". That was the most unexpected answer and was more biting than the chilling cold. 

Now, that I see a sudden burst of Happy New Year messages, I wonder if anyone really cares about the first day of New Year? May be some like to spend their first day of new year in writing their resolutions, but I would delay that for days to come and I will try to do 2 things, start working on my new project (So, I have a meaningful and productive year ahead of me) and also think around 1 minute ideas for changing some neglected habits with "big" impacts (To be an agent of change, at least in myself in the new year). Let' see... Before forgetting, let me wish you a Happy New Year (Although nothing changes by beginning of new calender but wishes have placebo effect and that is better than nothing)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Newton's Apple and Mullah's Walnut

So, we just survived an apocalypse that was scheduled by avid people (modern) who have a deterministic view of history. Although, it is fun to read the jokes around such events and then forget them soon afterwards but it is noteworthy that, it is not just Mayan Calender that was used to create global gossip and believe it or not, some philosophers and religions have their own versions of  "deterministic view of history".  As we all know, deterministic views of history are and have been the sources of painful and seemingly unending tragic conflicts. A deterministic view of history envisions global hegemony for an Utopian world at the end of history that we can call "the promised time". I expect that, "all know" religious versions of deterministic history" so I am not going to repeat them and instead  go after the most notable name among philosophers with  a deterministic view of history; George Frederick Hegel's dialectical progression of time and the triumph of reason  by the end of history (The Utopia of rationality, in which rational form of society and state will become victorious at end of history) was the source of inspiration for Marx to envision the hegemony of proletariat (victory of communist utopia) and also the source of inspiration for Francis Fukuyama's article, "The End of History" in 1989 to declare the  collapse of Soviet Union as sign of "victory of rational societies" (This article was enlarged into the book, "The End of History and the Last Man" in 1992). Fukuyama was so quick in declaring victory of "rational societies" that, the 9/11 attack and the chaotic decade following it seems the beginning of a new history  that is strongly trending towards irrational societies (He may now write, "The Beginning of New History; Are humans fed up with rationality?").

My purpose for this introduction was to emphasize that, though it is really tempting to think of an ultimate version of rationality or in case of religions, an ultimate version of belief system that people slowly realize and finally accept and bring perpetual peace but perpetual peace by dominance is both against nature and human nature (Evolution doesn't predict/envision a final product).

Let me make it light by bringing two similar legends, one from 13th century Islamic world (A time when Muslims were dominant power) and one from 17th century Europe (an early period of modern Europe) with different conclusions that each represents two different world of ideas that are condemned to not reach to a consensus (even if the contents of the observations are the same as in the case of the following myths). Although, 13th century and 17th century look distant but the core ideas of those times have come back strongly (of course in new costumes) in our time....

Again, I expect that you all are familiar with the Newton's apple incident but is not going to harm repeating it for sake of comparison; On a hot summer day after lunch, Issac Newton was sitting under an apple tree and reading that apple fell ("and hit his head"). It made him wonder, why the apple didn't go up or sideways and fell towards center of earth. This incident became the start of a contemplation and experiments that lasted for two decades to become Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. In short, the falling of an apple on the head of Newton led him to conclusion (after two decades) that from smallest particle to largest objects in the Universe, all have to follow the forces/laws of Nature without exception.

Now, let compare it with another legend from 13th century legendary Mullah Nasreddin, a sufi and wise character that is popular for highlighting paradoxical traditions by his lighthearted and wise acts;

At noon of a hot day, Mullah stopped by a tall walnut tree to take siesta. While he was laying on his back under the tree, he noticed a big watermelon growing on a thin vine near the ground. Mullah looked up and prayed, "Oh God, I am wondering, how the small walnuts grow on the strong branches of this huge tree and the large watermelon grows on the weak vine that runs on the ground. Logically, it doesn't make sense. Shouldn't big watermelons grow on strong branches of tree and small walnuts grow on the weak vines?" .... At the very moment, a walnut fell from high up on tree and hit the forehead of Mullah.... "Ah, I understood the Nature's logic. If a large watermelon fell from  high up of tree and hit my forehead, I could have died."... Mullah Nusreddin thanked God...

Although, Newton's Apple and Nasreddin's Walnut is not comparable but still, the purpose of this comparison was to highlight that observing Nature doesn't mean reaching the same conclusions. The religious scholars observe the Nature and see the Evidence of God in them and the secular scholars observe the Nature and see no evidence for God and I don't think, this division of perspectives will be resolved at any time in coming future. But why is this important? This is important because both secular and religious scholars draw the laws from Nature, with secular emphasizing the role of humans in making of laws and religious scholars emphasize on the holy scriptures in making of laws. As the divide of secular and religious thoughts are not going to reach a census in any coming time that we could call the end of history hence, the only way out is the Humans Rights that protect all humans and allow everyone to have the freedom of their beliefs and thoughts. If only religious people and secular people, instead of emphasizing on dominating the world and falsifying each other, start emphasizing on Human Rights, the world would become much better place and would restore the trust of people in religious and secular principles. I know, it is too dreamy to even think of compromise between these two worlds but still there are a lot of people that value human lives and dignity above everything else and this knol is dedicated to them... Cheers :)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The 5th Dimension

Although our senses are familiar with 4 dimensions, 3-D space and Time as fourth dimension, there is one more dimension (metaphorically) that we sense but have not become efficient to communicate well, as we do in case of the Space-Time and that is; the distance between humans. While other 4 dimensions need  an outward looking approach to make a good sense, the 5th dimension requires an inward looking approach to make a good sense of it. In Sufi world, it was evolved into a well developed body of knowledge but unfortunately, this tradition is dying fast. In our time, people take great pride for their ability in critical thinking and analyzing past or possible future outcomes by hypothesizing/creating All Possible Scenarios based on observable data but it takes me with great surprise that, for the last few years that I have read tens of books and articles on the so called psychological findings, they have proved to me, too wee in their practicality and ability to guide in how to become more efficient in sensing the 5th dimension. When I compare them with manuals of Sufis that are usually only few sentences on different aspects of how to self-control and treat others, the distinctions  become more evident and it tells me that just understanding, how humans have evolved and how their brains works do not make a body of knowledge useful unless, it gets engineered into some sort of practical manuals. Take the Sufi manual of speech for example, that is commonly known as four gates of speech;

"Before you speak, make sure your words pass through these four gates;

1. Are these words true? if it passes this criteria then ask, 

2. Are they necessary? if it passes this gate then ask, 

3. Are they beneficial? if it passes through this one also then ask,

4. Are they kind?

If a speech passes all these four gates then definitely, those words will make people around more open-minded in accepting others as him/her and see through curtains that humans have constructed over ages to think of themselves above the average. The 5th dimensional is a blurred area mainly because of strong susceptibility of humans to "above average effect" or Illusory Superiority that get even worst across human groups. Here is another practical manual, that have turned studies in how to do things;

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Involuntary Meditation

What really interests me is that, "the metabolic activity of the brain is remarkably constant over time (In case of sleep deprivation or electrical stimulants, it definitely changes), and despite its relatively small (in the average adult human, the brain represents about 2% of the body weight), the brain consume about 20% of the oxygen and, hence, calories consumed by the body"1. The heavy investment of energy in the brain is just an illustration of what "we already know", the survival value of brain and for sure, there are several defensive mechanisms for its protections. If the skull is the physical defense of brain, there must be some behavioral defenses for the functions of brain. One of the behavioral defenses of brain is sleeping, that has mainly a energy restorative function; " Compared with wakefulness, sleep reduces brain glucose demands to 44% and oxygen demands to 25%. Although, ATP (cellular energy currency) levels are maintained at a steady state levels during spontaneous waking but the levels exhibit a surge in the initial hours of sleep in brain regions with predominantly wake-active neuronal activity."2 

OK, it is understood that, sleeping has an energy restorative function, but what about dreams? What is their function? Beck defines it, "dream is a visual phenomenon occurring during sleep. Its content is relatively uninfluenced by the immediate external environment." and immediately clarifies the vague nature of its reporting by subjects, "The interpretation of dreams, unlike certain other phenomena, is so dependent on the introspective report of the subject that there is no inter rater reliability regarding the phenomenon of the dream itself. In other words, it is a “private”—as opposed to a “public”—experience". 3 Despite of the limitation in dream interpretations, Beck thinks that, there are correlations between the contents of waking fantasies (waking ideation),  contents of dreams during sleeping and personality and hypothesizes that, it is a continuum process of spontaneous thoughts from verbal to visual.

From this introduction, two points becomes somewhat obvious; (a) high  energy consumption of brain and sleeping as a energy restorative behavior, (b) there appears to be a correlation between spontaneous thoughts from verbal (memory pop ups), to verbal-visual thoughts (daydreaming) to visual (dreams during sleep) with personality. If personality is a cohesive force among a range of spontaneous thoughts, then there  is the likelihood of  continuity from involuntary thoughts to voluntary thoughts as is suggested by Freudian structural division of personality between id, ego and superego; While id is involuntary instinctual needs, the ego is voluntary part, making them communicable and agreeable to external world's demands and superego refines them most agreeing to conscience. Coming back to our topic, if dreaming during sleep and wake ideations during wake-sleep are spontaneous thoughts to restore energy then, are voluntary behaviors, consciously acting for energy restoration? Prayer and active meditation come as two universal behaviors (irrespective of diversity in practices and underlying philosophies or the questions on their rationales  but, they differ from involuntary thoughts in consumption of energy. Still, the results or the consequences of these involuntary and voluntary behaviors are the same; "significant effect" on blood circulation and metabolism of nervous system. 4 Having said all these, it is noteworthy that, most of the hypotheses about mind and associated processes are speculative and mind-body/brain problem is still not resolved. It was just an effort to make a sense of common experiences. Although, structural divisions of mind and linking spontaneous and non-spontaneous meditations to them is mostly speculative but they are at least explaining vaguely understood phenomena for time being. Any sort of rational commentary or clarifications are most welcomed.

Speculative diagram of "structural inter-relationship of energy restorative behaviors"; KD