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 :)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Conversations With An Afghan Teacher; Part 9

He was right. On Thursday evenings, trucks brought home some of the miners who spent the whole week working in the coal-mines. The men unloaded their coal sacs from trucks (as part of their pay) and sometimes sold some of them. When the area linked to natural gas supply lines, the trucks, the coal-miners and the coal sacs became very rare, if at all. Once a river (Proto-indus River) flowed and drained into an ocean (Neo-Tethys Ocean) in this region. Plate Tectonics closed the ocean and changed the course of the river. Now, instead of the ocean, there is Katawaz Basin and instead of river, there is Sulaiman Mountain Chain. Indus river irrigates an estimated 45 million acres and supports an estimated population of 300 million people along its course. Textile and sugar industries of the area are dependent on the harvests of the lands irrigated by Indus river. While Sulaiman mountains are memorial headstones of the late Neo-Tethys Ocean, her sisters, Mediterranean Sea, Caspian Sea, Aral Sea and Black Sea are still breathing life. Other the coal-mines and natural gas, there is very limited agricultural activities, no industry and very sparse population (very limited business). And that’s not all the story. What the active microplates of the region have for the people of the area? We can only guess. In 1935, the Quetta city was destroyed in an earthquake and from time to time, the plates remind people of their existence. For now, Katawaz and Helmand Basins’ chief productions are terrorism and opium, but there is hope that sometime in near future, the potential oil and gas reserves of those basins reward the people with peace and prosperity (or possibly with further wars for those resources). 

“Whenever, I think about rationality, I immediately think of 2600 years long history of Buddhist teaching, 2400 years of familiarity with Greek rationale minds (Philosophers), 2000 years of Christian , 1400 years of Islamic schoolings and about five centuries since Renaissance, and still there are no agreements on very basic things associated with humans. On contrary, we do all agree on mainstream scientific findings. And I ask myself, why is so?” the teacher fixed his glasses. “I mentioned all those names just to remind you that humans weren’t short of well-structured-thinking-tools and those tools were available for at least two millennia….”

“Sorry to interrupt, I want to ask a question before I forget?” I interrupted.

“Lotfan (Please)” the teacher paused, extended his right arm with opened palm and face up. 

“When you mentioned the two millennia long availability of structured-thinking-tools…”

“Balay” the teacher nodded.

“ struck me that the philosophies and sciences or what you call structured-thinking-tools improve by contributions of each generation, while each person has to learn them from start as no one inherits those tools by birth. And that means each coming generation has to spent more of their times to learn and specialize those improved tools….”

“I wanted to walk you there through familiar paths.” the teacher smiled. 

“You know, I have learnt the hard way that people do perform best in the areas they are more familiar with and if you change the circumstances, it significantly impact their performances. My aim, here is not to teach you something but answer your question of why I preach that it is time to rethink our culture and why I think the culture should focus on making people feel better about themselves…”

“Balay Ustad.” I nodded.

“As you pointed out early,” he laughed, “people in each coming generation has to spend more time in learning. And as more better thinking-tools become available by each passing generation, I wanted to point out two things; one, When one learns something new, one is susceptible in making a lot of mistakes and two, the more sophisticated something is, the brain looks for more excuses to not learn it. And as you can figure out yourself, the learner is under triple pressures, to deal with embarrassments of mistakes, to constantly fight off the brains new excuses to stay on the track, and to be patient for longer time to get better off at things. The culture, we are currently practicing developed in times, when the lives were simple and the people had not to face these problems. Your generation is spending more time than ours and I expect the next generation will be under even more pressure…”

“You are right.” I couldn’t resist, not to jump in. “I constantly face the questions like,’ When I am going to finish my schooling and get started with real life from elders and I have difficulty explaining them why I am working and studying, and how studying is part of my work?”

“And those people think, if you aren’t making money full-time, you are missing something in your calculations, right?” he grinned. 

“Something like that.” I laughed.

“See, you have a perspective about continued work and study and there are some who disagree with you.It’s not just that the elders have difficulty agreeing with your perspective. They are just worried about you and want to be help you at the best of their knowledge. You can find plenty of people of your generation who have different life perspectives..”

“Balay Ustad.”

“That’s just an example of how humans don’t agree with each other. You are under pressure for something that the you parent’s generation had not to worry about.”

“By elders, I didn’t mean my parents, as neither of them asked me at any time to not pursue my dreams. Nonetheless, none of my parents went to school.” I explained.

“As your parents didn’t go to school, I guess, you had no home schooling?”


“You children, like mine, might start learning at home even before their schooling age and you might teach them things that aren’t offered at school.”

“I think so.”

“You see, how the pressures and expectations sharply increase from one to another?”

“Balay Ustad.”

“Unlike facts, mistakes are considered stupid things. By the way, have you heard that once a former US President named Reagan's famous misquote John Adam.”

“No.” I answered.

“‘Facts are stupid things.’ he said, instead of ‘Facts are stubborn things.’?” 

“That happens.” I smiled.

“The fact is, mistakes are considered stupid and in our culture, it is encouraged to keep score-boards of mistakes. To avoid mistakes, our brains prefer to walk on simple structured, designed or well-paved paths and that’s why cultures encourages conformity and we as consumers seek validation and whenever the circumstances change, we get scared and undergo intense pressure...” The teacher explained. 

“I got you.” I interrupted him, “In order to encourage learning new things and trying new things, you want the culture should go soft on conformity and mistakes, so the new generation do not feel over-pressured?”

A boy jumped out of a store converted to a carpet-weaving workplace, and ran down barefoot on the road. He held a carpet-weaver-latch. Two boys followed him. The smaller boys came out and stood next to the store to watch the race, and laughed. The two boys caught the escapee, put him on the ground. One of the boys side-headlocked the escapee and dragged him back towards the store, while the second boy kept kicking him in the butt. Passersby laughed.

“That was just a small demonstration of non-compliance.” the teacher shook his head. “That’s partially what I wanted to say.” He resumed the conversation. “In addition to that, I want to point two more things. At times, when people follow a particular trend, things are clearer and the pressures of mistakes are fewer but when people are confused, the pressures are doubled and an encouraging environment greatly reduces the concerns. Even more important than that is, that we live in a time, when creativity is gaining more importance, and creativity thrive in an environment where error and trial and nonconformity are considered normal things. I want to remind you again that our culture like most of cultures around world is evolved to favor classism. The existence of class is reality but there should be people to check it regularly so they don’t deface the people. If you remember, I asked you the first time, we met, if Eids make you feel better?”

“Balay Ustad.”

“Unfortunately, our culture encourages us to keep a score-boards and race for higher scores that add to nothing. For example, if a young couple is marrying, both parties check other people’s scoreboards of spending, number of events and the exotic traditions and things they introduced and try their best to beat them, irrespective how much additional pressures those things might add to the new couple. The same thing is true about funerals, Eids, Ramadan, Muharram and other cultural things. That’s why, I call all those cultural activities as traditional-marketing-of-ego, not real culture….”

“Why culture is your prime focus instead of education system?” I thought that was a smart question to ask.

“I have come to conclusion that, very simple thing, such as, being open to positive criticism and to new possibilities play much larger role in making people more rational than just arranging classes of logic. There are vast variations in abilities of people to reason, still open-mindedness make people more inclined to go easy, when things they like conflict with reason. Again, let me repeat, people will not become open-minded just by preaching open-mindedness. People like to walk on familiar paths and as cultures provide a well-structured, very familiar paths or if you like very natural way that do not burden people with hard and dry thinking, the more open a culture becomes, the more people become open-minded...”

“Aren’t we already open-minded?” I interrupted again. 


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