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Archive for the ‘essays’ Category

Samuel Foote(1720-1777) wit
Dear Son,
I am in prison for debt; come and assist your loving mother.-E. Foote

Dear Mother,
So am I; which prevents his loving duty being paid to his loving mother.-Your affectionate son.
Samuel Foote
P.S_ I have sent my attorney to assist you; in the mean time let us hope for better days.

Living too well on oysters wine and roses is as bad as having to gnaw at the bones since dog of my Lord Hi-n-Mighty has got marrow.

But at what cost is to bay at the moon of one percenters while worms are frisky and waiting to be had, and the apple is within reach?
ii
John Ruskin (1819-1900)

John Ruskin once received a request for donation to pay off the mortgage of the Duke Street Chapel and I have given here below an excerpt of his reply. It would seem he was addressing our present world; and for those who want buy now and pay later it may even be an eye opener!
Brentwood, 19 May,1886,
Sir,
I am scornfully amused at your appeal to me, of all people in the world the precisely least like to give you a farthing! My first word to all men and boys to hear me is”Don’t get into debt. Starve and go to heaven-but don’t borrow. Try first begging_ I don’t mind if it’s really needful_stealing!. But don’t buy things you can’t pay for!”….
Isn’t it surprising how what we hold up as a virtue and a proof of a solid character is chipped away so slowly that none notices the enervation of personal values? In his essay ‘Unto This Last’ Ruskin wrote ‘There is no wealth but life.’
Dulled senses of a person who has chased a mirage at the cost of his or her personal values,-character, take the place as a slave driver. No pity or no worthwhile example but the constant goading the person to acquire branded items that he or she doesn’t really need. The victim scarcely notices what is branded right through the flesh to the spirit.

Moral: Virtues of one Age are the vices of another. Capitalism invented mass consumerism and made the bible for the lost and the damned. One only needs to see the mess we are all in.

benny

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Words are bricks to construct a sentence and yet passages giving shape to ideas are built upon treacherous foundations. Some of the words are likely to go out of fashion and change their cultural significance; some are thought in a particular language but has no equivalent word in another. How one thinks in the east can easily be misunderstood by one in the west. Take a word like Wabi-sabi is a Japanese term that describes our appreciation of transient and imperfect beauty – such as the fleeting splendour of cherry blossom. What a millennial in Bronx would make of it unless given a thorough grounding in the mystery of language? In whichever language the mystery remains as in a Gothic tale the building reeks of doom and foreboding. Words erect sometimes barriers for great many to breach unless they are tuned to their nuances in any language.

When we read a novel we are not reading words for themselves but in context of other words. We create literary spaces. From great writers for example Balzac the words are so laid out the decrepit Boarding house has a literal space: so pervasively decay fills it. When we see Père Goriot through the medium of descriptive passages you can be sure it is merely a subjective feeling and fools you to think in a manner than the character really is. So literally taking the manner a sentence is constructed to be true is error. It is compounded by cultural sensitivity of the reader who is primed to take it in a certain manner.

We see the egregious folly of some theologians impose strictures how to interpret the prophet. What are their credentials? What makes them think they can speak for the prophet since he is not there to defend himself? Literal interpretation is a veritable minefield.  When laymen are ready to raise battle cry over a word or idea it is a give away of mischief. When mother feeds a child with milk it is solely knowing there is no allergic reaction to it. The bottom line of Peace is peace and not  imposing it by force. Look at Islam as some have interpreted it to mean imposing religion at the point of sword. Given so many centuries what do we see? Peace or conflict? When a religion which is of peace and tolerance by any reading, becomes synonymous with religion of hate we need ask who is the villain?

benny

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According to Merriam-Webster dictionary a miracle is defined as an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.

On closer examination many events touted as miracle can be interpreted as natural causes. In ancient Greece a bleeding Juniper tree caused great sensation and was venerated by people as a miracle.

‘The phenomenon of bleeding’ tree – in which a mysterious red liquid pours from chopped-down trunks – is one which has left scientists shocked and tree surgeons baffled,’…BBC Two’s documentary series Nature’s Weirdest Events suggest it may happen more often than you think.

Australian Chris Wharton was among those who revealed their shock at seeing a tree apparently pouring blood after he had cut it down, admitting he had ‘the shock of his life’.

‘I do not understand why this tree has apparently blood pumping out of it,’ he said, ‘It was the strangest thing.’

And presenter Chris Packham added that it was by no means an isolated incident, with reports of ‘bleeding trees’ occurring across the world and everything from disease to ‘the supernatural’ being blamed.

The good news is that there does seem to be an explanation for the weird goings-on – with rising sap in the springtime apparently responsible.

‘The sap is at high pressure until the leaves open and begin to evaporate the water, any injury releases this pressure,’ Packham explained.

‘This apparent ‘bleeding’ can look distressing, but it may be the tree’s way of trying to heal.’

(ack: caroline westbrook/Metro News of June 19,2014)

In ancient Greece man had no understanding of the forces of nature that assailed his everyday life. He did not have a conception of a single universe and his own reality was ‘ a confused republic full of warring forces.’ According to Fustel d Coulanges he prayed to them and worshiped them;he made them his gods.’  Since man acquired a scientific temper much of his world around him also became orderly. Think of it as Orpheus with his music quietening the wild beasts. He could play music notes arranged to create harmony. He merely settled their untamed nature in harmony with his own art. Science is like Orpheus. A scientist of the Medieval period could not have dreamt up Spooky Science or quantum computing. Suppose an Alien could show man in the Middle Ages the working of quantum world would he not have considered it a miracle? Miracle in a way is a crossover of two different states of being where power of say Alien (in terms of Technology, mastery over multi-dimensional existence) is no match for man whose mastery is merely three dimentional in a 2D universe. (To be continued)

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Best part of an evening for me is that there is a bed to sleep on at the end.

I know my will power is such that I need not command each night: Let there be sleep!’ Getting between the sheets is enough. I keep as with all creatures under the Nature’s sway its rule; I cannot escape bio-rhythm that makes mere routine of bedtime. Be that as it may,the routine has made claim or my will has a preference holds no meaning.
What I know is that there are some events happening below threshold level which is at cellular level, for my rational mind to grasp fully. But its efficiency I must admit at any rate allows me to focus on matters that my corporal body can adequately handle. I do have an office space. Is it a hole in the wall of universe or a negative space as the hole of a doughnut I cannot say. Unknown to me throughout the night my central archive systems are busy rearranging and fixing, labelling, retrieving lost files. This is where my memory is fixed. All roads lead to Rome. So do all the cables, filaments, streams of consciousness hanging from the beams and touch the floorboards that is on Time-Space coordinates. No wonder I know there is always something remarkable about my memory. It carries the distilled flavors of Time and Space and I can for the lack of adequate vocabulary merely label it as Consciousness.
More experience I have acquired I am more than convinced that memory is made up of discrete packets of information held in the hollows of Consciousness as honey in a comb.
Memory thus brings faith of my fathers and cultural milieu of lives lived in the past potent forces to work with. Thus when I who was born and brought up in India most of my life spend quarter of a century in a work that is hatched elsewhere I know why. My attitudes and my faith in my own memory makes me appreciate Omar Khayyam better. Such Consciousness that works on my memory may present many options and my preferences map course of my future that is all.
Sleep signifies an unconscious state in contrast with the wakeful state. Night is often used by poets as metaphor for death. Sleep is a realm where for a Christian is more than nature’s cure for human existence but a sign of hope. It is resurrective power that raised Jesus from death signifying hope, nothing less. What shall we make of insomnia then? I presume value of it as natural as skepticism that can rack a good Christian at times.
benny

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Copying Nature as da Vinci did was to watch birds fly. It inspired him to sketch out a flying machine. It was beautiful as far a drawing is judged, but impossible to get it up in the air. Biomimetics or imitating nature often ends up as impractical.

It took years to discover why da Vinci failed. From mimicking birds flying he did not get the function of wings. The bird’s wing performs two separate tasks, both of which are essential. By its shape, it provides lift when air passes over it. And by its movements it provides power. The pedal power as da Vinci seemed to suggest was impossible. The crucial step to making aircraft was to separate two functions, leaving the wing to do the lifting but transferring the power function to an engine and propeller, something no bird ever possessed. So the lesson is clear: You begin by imitating nature, as in the case of birds but get beyond the seemingly simple use of wings. In the latter case the principle is integrated in terms of engine and propeller.

What does being civilized means? Is it not man leave off being natural and learn to conduct himself in such a manner he is agreeable to others in public?

ii

The work of the German engineering Claus Mattheck Design in Nature: Learning from Trees is a classic on biomimetics. Mattheck’s lifelong love affair with trees has led to many important innovations in engineering design.

One of these considers the junction where the branch of a tree meets the trunk. Mattheck said the curvature around this junction was very cleverly designed to minimize the concentration of stress that occurs when engineers try to design the same shape. He developed a computer program to simulate tree growth, and the result was a fantastic reduction in stress concentration, allowing for more slender components. One may not be able to assume if trees had this in mind but it works in nature. Whereas when we need to minimize stress for example in the design of a car we need to think not like a tree but in terms of economy and practicality in human terms which are altogether different. We need to consider fuel efficiency, material cost,less CO2 emissions calculated obsolescence and so on. A tree is natural and can last for hundred years or so but if a car can run on for 100 years one may be sure consumer market would soon be dead and gone.

(ack: (The Conversation-‘Simply Copying Nature…/David Taylor of 10 June, 2014)

benny

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Progress as a result of human endeavour is in direct context of nature. Man versus nature. Man controlling and shaping his environment to his manifold conveniences consequently creates many chains of events that require other species sharing the same environment to respond adequately. Natural selection warrants these to adapt for the changing environment or go bust. Has not man also created a similar situation for his species? Such risks many of which are caused by humans. Bio-terrosim for instance. From pandemics to Nuclear wars, human civilization thus had to face many challenges which are existential risks, that are less understood than the most obvious advantages we have derived from the march of progress.

There are some worrying features in human intelligence that may fuel the risks of his very existence. From anthropological findings it would seem humans embarked on the march of progress too early. His branching off from his ape cousins was an event and it would indicate it was undertaken before his brain was full developed. Its consequence can easily be set down from analogy of human child. Our ape ancestor was like modern human, as a baby, with its brain developing all the while till it reaches some 20 years. (A pliable head of the baby facilitates its exit at birth from womb which is biologically safe for the mother.) This necessitates from the child all the support system without let up counted in days, years and decades till the end of his adolescence. He needs rearing from his parents in order to achieve emotional intelligence he needs. Only difference was that our ape ancestor had no such back up from his peers. His brain was in the process of developing but without nurture of some role model*.
Biologists speak of ‘norms of reaction,’ which are patterned responses to environmental circumstances. For example, some male insects are more likely to guard their mates when there are fewer females in the population, hence fewer other mating opportunities. Natural selection didn’t just shape a fixed behavior, it shaped the norm of reaction — the nature of the response,”
In humans a bad idea when he can think rationally on it brings many advantages. Increasing his supply of food at the cost of one who is weaker is one way of doing it. Annexing a territory from a weak tyrant is worth the while of a chieftain if he has a superior force. He reckons that his success would silence others and make his position more secure. It must have come handy when others would take the same path to aggrandize themselves. It is a norm of reaction that suited well for the bandit kings of yore.
When circumstances could be shaped to justify it war must have seemed a fitness-enhancing behavior. Warring parties included all those who agreed with the idea and circumstances. Like success it sets off many others.
‘Just as compassion for your offspring increases your genes’ chance of survival, violent tendencies may have been similarly useful for some species’ observed biologist David Carrier, also of the University of Utah,” Humans certainly rank among the most violent of species.” In true nature-nurture fashion, though some kind of genetic preprogramming for violence, may exist in humans as a result of our evolution. Norms of behaviour as a result evolved in that along period of trial and error method.
 
 
As a result how he created a society in terms of families, clans, tribes were all flawed. It became in most cases patriarchal leaving women in the background. Creating wars as a manly sport, would leave women incapable what with her long period of gestation and nursing. Eventually it would stamp the role of women as secondary. This we witness even this day where some societies can kill women simply for ‘honour.’ Lack of sufficient role model man simply created a swath of experience in which his brain simply was inadequate to anticipate long range consequences.
(*There is no accurate picture what made our human ancestor diverge from other apes other than fossil evidences that our human ancestors could walk as well as climb trees. The oldest evidence for walking on two legs comes from one of the earliest humans known, Sahelanthropus 6 million years ago. By 4 million years ago early human species lived mostly near open areas and dense woods. Their bodies had become adapted to walk upright most of the time, but still climb trees.

“Apparently, there were multiple ways early human species had of moving around.” observed human origins expert Richard Potts of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, about a mystery species discovered in Ethiopia’s Afar region in 2009, the fossil forefoot bones, eight in all, from same era and same region of Africa as the famous ‘Lucy’ (1974).

Walking was a human characteristic before the development of oversized brains. The newly discovered foot-fossil gives us a clue why early human species might have moved around. By learning to walk upright they conceded forests hitherto their home to cousins better adapted for living in trees.)

If his brain was inadequate what could have been the overwhelming reason for him to strike out on his own? His tool making skills gave us stone age, iron age, bronze age and so on. His curiosity and cleverness of hand would develop into science and technology. His foresight in overcoming an inconvenience was not matched by foreseeing the consequences of his innovations. No more apt example we need seek than reasons for ushering in the Nuclear Age. America could stop the WWII speedily. The Allies however did not anticipate proliferation of the nuclear arsenal but soon they were in for a rude shock. Now in some sixty years we have come at a stage the nuclear secrets can be peddled at the click of a mouse. It is what AQ Khan achieved with the backing of his government.

Optimism of man is in terms of abstract than concrete. His abstract thinking has created the world as idea but in terms of its realization no two persons shall view an idea exactly as one and as a result these can only end in conflict. Workers’ paradise as envisaged by Lenin in the view of Stalin was transformed into Cult of Personality!
Bad experience of the past is such that technology and its progress can only be sustained by the systems an idea created along the line. The Crusades in the middle Ages were fought under the call of a Pope. Pope Urban II in 1095 invoked the Christian army of Europe to reclaim lands lost to Muslim invaders previously. It was on the matter of Ideology of clashing belief-systems of the West and East he could invoke them to fight under the sign of cross. Ideas keep evolving while experience remains in the bloodstream of the species. The war to end all wars as President Wilson qualified the WWI did exactly the opposite. If idea of war had achieved its goal the first war that primordial man waged would have been sufficient.Instead collateral consequences of war, misery,loss of prestige,material advantages are all such in collective experience that necessitates conflict ad infintum. Idea of war, belief-systems can only be settled with experience of humans proving its justness for all. It is inherent in the idea and man’s inability to see any other way than as idea. There are millions of ants to every man and by sheer numbers insects outnumber human population. Despite of being one among so many species we see the world in terms of ideas than for what really it is.

Over the past century we have discovered or created new existential risks: supervolcanoes were discovered in the early 1970s, and we should expect others to appear just as a nuclear holocaust is possible. The average mammalian species survives for about a million years. Hence, the background natural extinction rate is roughly one in a million per year. This is much lower than the nuclear-war risk, which after 70 years is still the biggest threat to our continued existence. (ack:the five biggest threats to Human existence/the Conversation-Anders Sandberg,29 May, 2014)

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Physicists still have no proof that dark matter exists at all, but the evidence for it is substantial. The movements of stars and galaxies can apparently be explained only if there is much more gravitating matter in the universe than the visible stuff of atoms and molecules. Attempts to correct the discrepancy by rewriting the rules of gravity in Einstein’s general theory of relativity have repeatedly failed.

WMIPs (weakly interacting massive particles) and Theoretical particles called axions are other oft-mentioned candidates. Dark Matter must be the hand that rocks the cradle of Cosmos, the verb in the sentence I AM THAT I AM.

This reminds me of the lines:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy..’ (Hamlet Act I. Sc.v)

Shall we insert Science in place of the last word?

 

 benny

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