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 :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursdays never end

“If we wish to know about a man, we ask 'what is his story--his real, inmost story?'--for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us--through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives--we are each of us unique.” ― Oliver Sacks

Oliver is right. Biologically and physiologically, we are not different from others, but our narrative is different from people, who live in the "Arc of instability". We want peace and respect for all, in a part of world that people take pride for killings and look at them as a source of honor (and have distorted religion to fit their narratives). That is a mistake that we have refused to learn and hence our Thursdays never end. 

Today is Thursday again. Again? Yes, it is Thursday again and it reminded of Thursdays that I had long forgotten. Every Thursdays were hellish for me as we had to revise our weekdays lessons (Thursday was last day of the week and Friday was weekend holiday) and each mistakes had to be corrected by sticks of the Mullah.  I was weak in learning and each Thursday, I had tears in my eyes and fears in my mind. I hated Thursdays. Today's twin suicide bombings on Alamdar road (the main residential area of Hazaras in Quetta) reportedly killed more than 85 and wounded more than 170 people and it brought me back, my memories of those Thursdays that I had to face a heartless and angry Mullah, who had zero tolerance for weak learners. For last 12 years, Hazaras are regularly targeted on the basis of their ethnicity and religion in Quetta, Pakistan but may be Hazaras are weak at learning and repeat a common mistake (different narrative at wrong place) that Al-Mullahs have zero tolerance for that. 

One of the victims of today's bombing was a young peace activist, Irfan Ali Khudi  who had a different narrative in a wrong place. He founded Human Rights Commission for Social Justice and Peace in 2000 and strongly believed that, "No nation and society can progress without the awareness and values based on Human Rights and Social Justice" and was actively voicing for his different narrative. It was definitely a mistake and this Thursday, Al-Mullahs ... :(

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

God Knows...

Nawal El Saadawi, in an interview (The Age of Reason) with BBC describes her grandmother's argument (who was an illiterate, peasant woman) with mayor of her village on subject of God and claims to be her first lesson in Philosophy and Religion, 

Mayor, "You don't know God. You didn't read the Quran"

Grandma, "I know God better than you because, God is not a book, God is not a Quran, God is justice and we know Him by our mind."

I may not agree with all of the Saadawi's ideas but I liked her grandma's story as the concept of God is inseparable from concept of "Justice" and that is why, believing in the "Judgment Day" is  the core concept of religions and easy to grasp for all individuals irrespective of their literacy levels. The problem arises when some people start emphasizing the need for certification in understanding and believing in God. Surely, then God becomes an unreachable concept that needs mediation of "specialists in God", a commodity that not everyone can afford.

If we turn to specialists (Philosophers) , we will hear an argument as following,

There can be two scenarios when we look at "what is right" in respect with the concept of God;

 A; "Something is right because God says, it is right"

This concept is against concept of justice as it is based on the concept of "Might is Right" and this concept has been used to justify all sorts of crimes from Genocides, discrimination and suppression of minorities, women, children and authoritarian rules.

 B; "God says, something is right because it is right"

This concept is based on the concept of Justice and we don't need all the times, the specialists to tell us what is right as our reasoning and conscience can guide us to what is right. Reason is the best mediator between the Creator and the subjects. 

Personally, I believe that, there are billions of people who believe in God (and it makes it an important subject  particularly that, it is exploited for political reasons and denials can't do any good) according to their capacities and it is natural that their concepts do not match with each other. Humans err and that is why they need the concept of God to take refuge and if humans had flawless brains, they either  wouldn't need this concept at all or all were perfect faithfuls. Modern societies have solved this problem by giving the people "the rights to be wrong as long as it is not harming others" and that is closer to justice than forcing people to follow particular set of concepts, that a lot of people find them conflicting with their reasoning or conscience. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What are in the mirror?

If painting is playing with colors then photography is playing with lights. A photographer paints or better to say writes with lights. A photograph has three main aspects, the subjects of photographs, the technical capability of camera and intentional part that is the interest, skills and world view of the photographer. Although, I am not a professional photographer but I like to shoot things around me, sometimes just point to shoot things as they are and sometimes compose them to shoot for two main reasons; (a) It makes me realize that a single fact can be pictured and presented in many ways and (b) I look at photography as an aided-introspection and expression of freewill.

Why these two reasons are important to me? They are important to me because of the diverse answers that we get from diverse sources on broad questions and it helps me to reassert the fact that, no one has a final answer, no matter, how hard one pushes for it. Let me explain; 

A physicist like Michio Kaku looks to mirror and says, “It is not me. It looks like me but it is not me. It is not me now. It is me a billionth of a second ago because it takes light, a billionth of second to go from me to mirror and come back to me”…

Neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet looks to mirror, winks  and says, "I didn't wink as an exercise of  free will.  The decision was already generated in my brain and I became aware of that just 0.5 second later. I could veto when I became aware and that is my "free will" if you like to call it so."....  

Physicist Daniel Whiteson  looks to mirror and says, "You only know about 5% of the matter in Universe. Out of other 95% , the 20% is dark matter and we have no idea about the remaining 75% ...."

A socio-biologist like Edward O. Wilson looks to mirror and says, “What I see is a person with a star war civilization, stone age emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.”…..

An evolutionary biologist like Richard Dawkins looks to mirror and says, “He is a mortal vehicle to propagate immortal selfish genes” …. 

The author of Meme Machine Susan Blackmore looks to mirror and says, “Look to the big head (expensive organ to run and deadly organ to give birth to) she got. That is because she is a meme machine and as her brain wasn’t sufficient to store and propagate memes, she went into symbiotic relationship with computers to propagate teme and if computers get self-replicating capabilities, they will no more need humans as meme machines”…

A religious person looks to mirror and says, “He is the image of God Or He is the God’s Caliph on earth”…

Socialist Philosopher Slavoj Zizek looks to mirror and says, " What I see is real and I see that he is fully alienated from Nature but he doesn't admit...."

Science fiction writer Issac Asimov looks to mirror and says, "This guy doesn't get excited by hearing eureka  after a scientific discovery but by hearing 'that is funny'".....

So, the bottom line is that, whether one is physicist, neurologist, biologist, psychologist, philosopher or a religious person, he/she spends a lot of energy in reflective introspection (aided and unaided) to make sense of a coherent self and a coherent environment that provide stimulation for it. Here, I used mirror metaphor because mirror has been used as  primary indicator of self-recognition or self-awareness. Only few other animals like great apes, dolphins, orcas and elephants can recognize themselves in mirror. I began this knol with photography because compared to "a billionth of a second time interval between the subject and its mirror image", photographs represent larger time intervals. And interests of men in photography and even further drawing out of  memory are the by-products of costly big brains that they have gotten. The story of self awareness doesn't stop with mirror and other form of images. It extends to broader reflective connections with Nature and Universe in the form of the narrative of common origin.  Since prehistoric times, humans have asked questions like, "Where do we come from?", "What are we?" and "Where are we going?" and all these questions are associated with self awareness and group identity. The ancient ruins from Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Latin America, North Africa have preserved the answer to these questions in the form of creation myths and we know that each civilization had their own creation myths. Sky was working as a giant mirror, where each group of people was looking for their recognition. And I take no surprise that in the "space age", the sky is still working as a giant mirror, except that the horizon has become larger and now people are speculating for aliens, other intelligent life forms that might or might not look like humans and might help or destroy humans.

The problem is that unlike other organisms that have not invested in costly big brains and depend mostly on cost effective reflexive actions for their survivals, humans are condemned to invest large energies in costly reflective actions for survival. As reflections are very costly, majority of humans tend either to outsource the reflective thinking to others (just believe in the explanations that re-enforce group identity) or tend to avoid questioning what is already there and it is why we see cultures as living fossils (they have changed very little) and the medieval institutions still persist in most societies, despite of creating conflicts and problems. 

The evolutionary biologists tell us that self recognition and group recognition (through culture and religions) have survival values and had evolved over millions of years. It was basically designed for survival and reproduction (Meme Machine) not for introspection or finding the truth or unravel the reality of Universe and that is why, the philosophers have failed to answer these questions as in words of E O. Wilson, "unaided rational inquiry has no way to conceive its own process" so they suggests that, evolutionary biology has the answer to questions, where we came from, what we are and where we are going.

Still, the problem is that, when humans observe nature or observe broadly the Universe, they tend to make everything compatible to their senses and to their rationality, what some like to call Anthropic Principle. Could it be there are realities or facts that are not compatible with our senses and rationality and we are missing them? Well, that is a possibility but we have no way to confirm or reject them.

So, coming back to photography, despite of my ordinary cameras and my ordinary skills in taking pictures, I still like to shoot things around me and myself as it reminds me that, we have brains that cherish self-awareness but there is no Universal mirror that everyone sees himself/herself the same. Every picture, even  every self portrait is different. We are diverse and our conscious are diverse and  claims for final answer is delusional (it happened before and proved to be partially true and humanity is still discovering and learning) and  the push for Universal identity is nothing more than a desire for dominance.