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 :)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Conversations With An Afghan Teacher; Part 8

One of the ‘side-effects’ of talking to an older, more level-headed person is the loss of part of your enthusiasm. When the teacher reminded me that there was a super-creature called ‘reality’ who ruled ruthlessly over the world of actions, suddenly, like a ‘terrified cave-man’, I felt the presence of the invisible ‘super-creature’ everywhere. The super-creature tolerated thinking, imagining and believing whatever I wanted in the safety of my head but the moment, I expressed or put them into action, He took actions against the impractical ones. 

The teacher paused and narrowed his eyes.The wrinkles on the corners of his almond eyes and nose became more visible. Either he remembered something or struggled with some deep thoughts. I wanted to allow him some moments and looked around. Three teen boys sat on the front-step of the workshop adjacent to the flour store, whispered and giggled. It wasn’t appropriate to stand on the corner of street and talk like teen boys. But I didn’t want to invite him home, as I knew he would decline the offer and that would end our that day’s conversation. 

“What are you thinking about, Ustad?”

“Nothing important.” he fixed his glasses over his nose, something he did when he wanted to concentrate. “As you are a curious young man, I thought to share some of my observations…”

“Balay Ustad.”

“I don’t know if you have noticed an illusions that have become popular among our people….” I got alerted. I wanted to know, if I shared that illusion “...I met a number of people who recently adopted the surnames, like Changizi, Mongol, Ilkhani, Chughtai and like that. Choosing a name is a personal choice and I have no rights to object on that. What I want to point out is the mindset behind those names. They have developed this illusion that, unless a people don’t have a great history, they can’t become great people, or more precisely, unless, you don’t have a proud history, you can’t have a bright future. My problem with this mindset is that, it encourages to look at history the way we like it to be, instead it really was. You can’t force your liking on reality, instead, learn to like the reality. Titles, slogans, badges, etc only confuse our youths, nothing more. ”

“Balay Ustad.” I said in low voice. Actually, influenced by the trend, once I thought to adopt the surname Changizi but then after long conversations with my grand uncle, I abandoned the idea. My grand uncle had the similar views, that if you you weren’t cool with your situation and instead of earning pride, you wanted to borrow it, you were under strong influence of a delusion. 

“And I met people who believed unless, you get rid of your past and become from hair to toe, in and out, identical to a western person, you couldn’t be an enlightened person.They have this illusion that everything have already been worked out , and if we just follow the West, all our problems will be solved. Period. That’s exactly like the mindset of Salafists who believe, if Muslims implement the Islamic laws as they were practiced during Prophet and His caliphs, all their problems will be solved by themselves.The reality is that Science and Technology are common and work everywhere the same but when it comes to the human societies, each society has its own personality and has to go through its own developmental stages.If I expect all my students perform the same at my class because they get the same instructions, in the same environment, I will get disappointed by the results….”

In those days, I was an ultra-idealist person. I started thinking of a “possible” future utopian world that I called “elysium”. I thought, Science will continue to increase our understanding and technological advances will help us solve all the problems. There will no illness, no shortage of food, no psychological, social and economical problem and so on. Everyday I read news about new breakthroughs which solved this and that problem and they were all pointing to the possibility of the elysium. Besides, the pursuit of the Master degree gave me a sense of mastery of the world affairs and I had no doubt that my “prediction” will come true. Certainly, I will not be there to see the elysium but I could enjoy imagining it. Then, this teacher that I didn’t know anything about his educational background tore down my “elysium” by pointing the human element that was missing in my prediction. When the teacher said, each society has its own personality, I couldn’t help myself but to interrupt him, 

“Don’t you think, if people become increasingly rational, over time, they will come to similar conclusions and ultimately, they will become identical?” 

“What’s your field of study?” asked the teacher.

“Geology.” I replied.

“Good.” his face radiated with a warm smile “So you know the forces that drive the continental plates are the same all over the world, right?”

“Balay Ustad.” I nodded.

“But the history of Sulaiman mountain chains are different than the history of Ural mountains, right?”

“Balay Ustad.”

“Okay, Genetic inheritance works the same all over the world, half of the chromosomes are inherited from mother and other half from father, right?”

“Balay Ustad.”

“Then, why are we different from Indonesians, for example?”

“Our genes and Indonesians genes had different mutation histories.” Based on his previous arguments, I guessed the kind of answer he wanted to hear.

“Good.” he smiled and fixed his glasses again. “As genes carry information about our physical make-ups and determine the physical appearances and the diseases of next generations to a large extent, likewise, the cultures carry information about our ethics, values, fears, worldviews and things like that and they determine to a large extent the worldviews of the next generations. As different mutation histories result in different genetic makeups, similarly, different cultural mutations histories result in different cultural makeups….”

“But humans are rational animals and they can fix cultural practices that are stupid.” I interrupted.

“Of course, humans can change, and we both are exchanging views to recognize some of our stupidities.” he looked at his wrist watch.

“You must have some work or have to take your lunch or something?” he inquired.

“No, no, Ustad, I’m free afternoons.”

“OK, I very like to talk something about the relation of rationality to stupidity…”


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