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Archive for the ‘essays’ Category

No man is an island said the poet. He is surrounded by ocean of human experience and what it brings for Robinson Crusoe may be no better than a man Friday. But it shall do well to make things easier around. It is just as well. My strength is to think but unless another holds forth his working hands all my thoughts would only remain in my head. So any superior mind would need common sense of working hands.
Control of fire taught groups of our ape—ancestors to come together where social meals as time went on became more than merely eating. The story telling skills of our ancestors exercised man’s wonder and imagination. If the earliest sounds of their own voice and everyday sounds of their world primed them for embellishing their stories we need not wonder such stories acquired some vibrancy almost amounting to a sacred chant. Poetry and incantation all would be impulses in the way man appealed to others recreating their everyday world. Myths would emerge from such social gatherings. Art would cast spell and in the cave paintings animals are painted as though man imagined their spirits would deliver their daily meat. In short art, poetry of man, embroidered man’s place in the scheme of things. Progress has knocked man from the pride of place. Debunking of natural man squarely rooted to the every day world was bound to happen. In the early times legends of Hercules or Jason in search of the Golden Fleece made the man with common sense as not worth the straw. Now we have superheroes that conquer Alien worlds by their extra-ordinary powers. The age of man with Uncommon Sense evolved just as man learned to live by the sweat of his brow.

Not all man have a gift of the gab or for improvisation. Story tellers of old who sang or played reed pipe or pipe made of bones became more accepted as a cut above those who would rather hear and be entertained. If such stories became about gods or come attached with some lessons in prudence and virtue it meant the storyteller had acquired unfair advantage over others by this skill alone. These bards of old had uncommon sense to the common sense of hunter-gatherer. Their hour of exercising their hold was limited to particular hours around the campfire. Man with common sense had to be away up with the dawn for their daily chores. But nightly the coziness of their gatherings took away the harshness of their existence. By stealth the man with uncommon sense was becoming a very important factor in keeping the group together. It required man with common sense to supply the other from not having to work as they.

Aristophanes’ satire on Socratic method drives the plot of the Clouds (423 BC). Plato appears to have considered the play a contributing factor in Socrates’ trial and execution in 399 BCE. There is some grain of truth in the allegation. He had the motive to lampoon Socrates. The Clouds can best be understood in relation to Plato’s works, as evidence of an historic rivalry between poetic and philosophical modes of thought. Aristophanes resented that philosophic school usurped the status the poets enjoyed earlier. It was the issue of Old versus New, or battle of the ideas. The scientific speculations of Ionian thinkers such as Thales in the sixth century were becoming commonplace knowledge in Aristophanes’ time and this had led, for instance, to a growing belief that civilized society was not a gift from the gods but rather had developed gradually from primitive man’s animal-like existence. It also knocked out his role as a poet since the new schools of philosophers were freeing their contemporaries not to take anything for granted. If this were to be followed logically his very status, poetic gift of god, was on shaky grounds. The play heaped all scorn on Socrates, with his plebian background and ugly face to boot, and it was a below-the- belt body blow. Aristophanes is a classic example of man with uncommon sense. Uncommon sense fights the impossible with all means at his disposal. He may use raillery or other tricks in order to make man with common sense believe he was right.

Old versus New is an idea that appeals to our rational mind. Every generation can identify with the problem. Aristophanes the comic playwright of ancient used his genius to put the new ways of presenting the ways of the world as ridiculous. Instead of joining the majority his battle was to fight with rib-tickling drollery the truth change was coming.
How crucial is an idea? Suppose you are in coma and have no clue what makes you are and not another, your bodily functions shall go on despite the knowledge and feel hunger and fall asleep as every other man. Ability to form ideas is by courtesy of your brain whereas life stands aloof from such abstractions. Man with common sense who must make a living or take his life to some place since he is responsible for him and his family. He may leave in search of work since the basic idea of living has taught him where he is stuck holds no prospects. Man with common sense has learned to hitch a wagon to a horse and not a hobbyhorse.
Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) like Aristophanes had an uncommon sense. His concept of going back to nature was an idea that many found as relevant.
Voltaire and Rousseau saw the society from two altogether standpoints. What made them oppose was on the basis of the opposing ideas. Voltaire the skeptic did not think the march of progress was reversible where the romantic notion of Rousseau was going to the basics.
Rousseau in his own life did differently: he had lived with Therese le Vasseur with whom he had five children. . He put each child to adoption that he tried to justify in his Confessions (1764 – 1778) thus:’ I thought I was behaving like a citizen … and have often blessed Heaven for having preserved them from their father’s lot.’ He considered the State would be able to educate his children and make a better job of it.
Rousseau had an uncommon sense to come up with an excuse for his strange conduct. Only that no man with common sense could have thought up.

Man Is A Funny Animal

Man is a funny animal. Common sense tells him to mind his step. But his uncommon sense tells him to listen to his inner voice instead.
2.
Common sense tells him to keep his secrets close to the chest but he blabbers it all to some shrink who happens more often than not, a total stranger. He calls it uncommon sense.
3.
Sure his common sense is so common that cannot keep to the beaten tracks well tested. The old adage ‘a bird in hand is worth two in the bush’ will not do for him. He plays at stocks what he cannot afford hoping there is a greater fool out there to save his goose from cooking. He calls that his uncommon sense.
4.
Science gives man How and religion tells Why his universe works in a manner of speaking but his common sense cannot get the point.
What does his uncommon sense say? Perhaps both may work in my case, according to my special needs.
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Uncommon sense without some plain common sense makes a fool; I remember a cleric in Saudi Arabia dunning woman drivers as impossible since the women,- he had it from his prophet I suppose, had only quarter brains. It is how man has tried to maintain his primacy which is as unwarranted as it is unfounded. Without crediting man and woman equal roles and their strengths and weaknesses similarly weighed as equal by their union, what do you think the world shall come to? If the child would want to spend his life away gaming or finding the holy grail like gene editing to create a superman, it owes to quite something else. Each is awash with seas of trends, fads and truths of his existence. How anyone shall make use of it is impossible to tell.
Benny

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“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The vision of the Founding Fathers must have come like a breath of fresh air on the nascent nation. It has stirred all those who read in their flush of youth. Youth is unbaked dough and in the heat of experience,- direct from life, he shall realize these no longer resonate well either in the light of his own subjective realm of experience or from what he has seen in the world about him. (I use man in an inclusive sense.) There has been so many conspiracy theories lately and now it would seem the more improbable it is, appeals all the more to people. It is sheer waste of time to impute such vile gossip on those who served the nation creditably and lived in glare of fame and public service. It degrades their service as well as trivialize their fellow citizens who elected them in free and fair electoral process. Two tribes in terms of pursuit of pleasure seems cut and dried. What keeps irreconcilable is ironically enough is trivial. Creating memes and using social media to create info wars speak volumes as to the damage this divide causes. Such despicable fake news involving fellow citizens on account of their color or race and without producing a shred of evidence cannot be the fruit of education.
Why speak of America we have had instances of dissemination of fake news in Tamil Nadu resulting in spate of lynching. In my childhood it was every saffron clad itinerant sadhu a potential child snatcher and we were warned to keep clear off their offer of sweets and company. Now the social media has not made the consumer wiser. There is fake news and unfortunately it is crowding out real news from cyberspace. If this is progress all I can seek is the life of Robinson Crusoe as an alternative. Divine rights of kings was a conspiracy played on poor oafs by the elite. Then we have had Enlightenment which broke up the stranglehold of Rome. It did not clean up the Church; we have instead news about priests using their position of trust to molest children, continuing as nothing ever mattered. What Enlightenment are we talking about if a cloud of conspiracy theories is let out one after the other as though from Satan’s Hall of Pandemonium? Liberty, Life and the Pursuit of Happiness are three foundlings transported from Europe to America. If liberty is to cleave the air with fake news and conspiracy theories of what worth is free speech or the First Amendment? Happiness is more in the pleasure each citizen pursues and as a result their combined actions degrade happiness of clean air, environment and of fulfilled life from national life. If such happiness leave a planet degraded for our children is my pleasure to be equated with irresponsibility for my fatherland? So there must an equation be established and it can only be achieved by placing a moral imperative between the world without and world within.

Let us look at love we have for our happiness with love for our nation. Patriotism is not merely saying what others profess but do not when the nation needs them. It is to suffer the inconveniences any war entails but also ensuring that if my life would ensure safety for my offspring as well as satisfy my moral imperative doing the right thing is reward enough. A Purple Heart is for the wounded but I need not fight for it instead go into the thick of action to protect the flank of my brother at arms so he and I can come home safe from the war. War is unpredictable for soldiers as living is for civilians because you go out and you shall never know if a hit and run case will knock you down or not. So keep living and doing the right is what a man with moral sense would do. It can only be achieved by example shown to us at tender age. Such exchange between cultures, social classes and between parents and offsprings build up generations after generations. Instead we have the pursuit of wealth resorting o excuses for failure. Quality time of the 80s was a conspiracy that some fools touted to create wealth.
The only conspiracy, it has been going on for centuries, and has brought down nations simply because no one wants answer. Now for the question: is my world view colored by my ignorance or is it affecting my ability to think clearly? If the latter is the truth should not I do something about it?
This conspiracy between world without and the world within makes value of things and persons a lie. ‘When I want wealth nothing should stand in my way’. If this is what motivates you, well, you have a problem getting values of both right. Things are things but the value you give it can skew your judgment. So fools speak of pursuit of pleasure. Conspiracy of lie is in your value and pursuit.
Recently was a news about Manafort’s lavish style. Value of an ostrich is in the coat of Manafort. He would move heaven and earth to get what no one else has, an ostrich coat. He thought he would be the man on the go. Shucks, he is instead is in a cell. Conspiracy of his value and pursuit of it got him into the present predicament. Who is to blame?
An ostrich is not a thing but a coat made of ostrich is. So it is the price of a coat+ life of an animal. Worldview of a fool wants an ostrich killed for his value of playing a man of power. It is how we have endangered species and shrinking of Amazon Basin, weird climate and planet plastic. It is all in an equation of Supply and Demand. Fool of a supplier shall always be found to cater demand of another fool. Pursuit of pleasure is a snake pit and wealth is at the bottom.
Who but a fool thinks his own worth depends on the Value placed by the world outside? Patriotism is a value touted by everyone but when President Trump tweeted six days ago ‘collusion is no crime’ one can see where bone spur comes in the equation.
Benny

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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?
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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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