Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Mothers

Mum just needs to get a whiff of something and she latches onto it like a shark sensing a drop of blood!  But unlike the shark, she only wants her child to be happy and safe.  
Couldn't resist taking a pic of this drawing I found along the walls of the sports hall of a primary school sometime ago.  

The Egyptian persecution and gender persecution

History is strewn with numerous instances of persecution.  And among those groups of people persecuted most, the ones that top the list would be the Jews.  In the book of Exodus we hear Pharoah punishing the Jews in anticipation that they 'might' join the enemy!  Besides forced rigourous labour, he commands all male babies be drowned in the river. 

One can view this as a gender disparity.  Why only males? Why not all babies?  Perhaps Pharoah was not aware that in Jewish tradition, the child receives its heritage from the religion of the mother.  So one born of a Jewish woman, no matter which religion or group the father belonged to, the child would be a Jew.  Going by that lineage, Pharoah killed the wrong gender! 

But perhaps, Pharoah was not after destroying the whole race - something what Hitler tried to do.  He was perhaps only culling numbers - especially of those whom he feared a threat from: male, capable of joining wars and fights.  Females posed no apparent threat to him. 

If only modern generation, which is quick to blame the female gender for most of its faults, picks up at least the last lesson from him - even though sadistic or inhumane it may seem! 

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Vehicles

We're waiting for a new fleet of cars from the hiring company.  Not that the existing ones are old. They are just four years old and in perfect condition.  So perfect that there's hardly any scratch on some of them - they've all been professionally touched up!  But compared to the vehicles we use back in India and the condition they often end up in, these are brand new!

I remember the old sumo of BIRDY house.  Then the one I used - and loved most - while at Ramanthapur.  We would get practically anything and everything in it.  Flour bags for the bakery. Provisions for the kitchen.  Bakery products to the Sunday sale.  Cement bags for the maintenance. Rolls of cloth for the ITI tailoring section.  All of these besides using it as a transport vehicle for confreres and boys!  We could take off the seats, the overhead carriage, the spare wheel (if and when it did have one),... and the tyres, wow, there were so many patches on them that the one patching them up said that the oldest tyre which he used as a stool to sit on in his repair shop, was far better than the ones we had our vehicle running on!  In spite of all these, the vehicle was great!  I loved it more than the new ones we had!

Was reminded of those 'good old vehicles' when I watched this clip from one of the God's must be crazy editions...

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Cut flowers

Sitting for meditation the other day and having noticed the withering flowers at the altar, it occured to me that we bring to the altar only 'cut' versions of ourselves - pieces of time, occasions of the day, some events of the past, few bits and pieces of our inner selves.  Just like the cut flowers.  And just like cut flowers fade and wither away, faster than the ones not cut and left on the plants, so too do all these 'bits and pieces' of ourselves are like a big jigsaw puzzle before the altar, with quite a few pieces missing.

I've always preferred to place living and flowers (and plants) alive in front of the altar. That way, we do both - honour God and honour creation.  Rather than cut flowers and then place them in water on the altar, I prefer the uncut flowers or plants adding beauty with their full life - not life cut short or only when in full blossom. 

Perhaps those cut flowers are an analogy of what we actually do with ourselves too - and are happy with it.  We only bring the 'best' so to say, to God.  Not everything!  

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Impact of John the Baptist

Yesterday reflecting on John the Baptist and his role in the life of Jesus, it occured to me that by way of impact, there was hardly any great 'preparation' that JB did for Jesus.  So when Jesus began his ministry there was still opposition, criticism and ultimately his public trial and death.   If John had done a 'better' work surely Jesus should have had a bit more of support and ease in carrying out his mission.  So in terms of 'preparation' there was not much that John the Baptist did.  In comparison to his work, the apostles did a 'better job'. 

Well, that's an easy presumption.  The fact is that John did what he could to the best of his ability.  Jesus knew exactly what he was upto and how he was to carry out his mission.  The apostles so to say did not have to be 'creative' in their mission.  They just had to replicate what Jesus said and did.  However, in the case of John the Baptist, he did not have a clue of what exactly lay in the future. And he did not have a precedent to follow.  He had to literally and metaphorically 'make the way'. 

Besides this, in comparison to Jesus, no one on earth has ever had a greater impact - at least not so lasting and powerful.  But each one who came before and after him put in their best efforts.  Impact or no impact, they did not wait for it.  They just did what they were convinced was the right and best thing to do.  They were not showmen or artists who were keen to merely gather attention.  They had a message to convey, a task to carry out and that's all they did.  

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Wipers on headlights

Next generation technology and ideas...
Or creative ideas that will fizzle out as ridiculous?
Came across this car with wipers on its headlights, during my walk on my first day of retreat at Farnborough. 

Friday, 21 June 2019

Kids and philosophy

This video is really funny and insightful at the same time... children speaking of philosophical questions (creation, God, death, meaning of life).  The answers of the children show how they perceive things, how they pick up thoughts from the grown-ups, and how they put it all together.  Lovely, especially their thoughts about creation!
Directed by Karina Garcia Casanova
Illustrations by James Braithwaite
Animation by Darren Pasemko
Produced by John Christou and Karina Garcia Casanova
Year: 2009

Philosophizing as...

The other day while listening to a paper on Schelling, and his efforts at recognizing and addressing the alienation of humankind from nature, it was interesting to hear a particular nuanced approach that lies at the heart of the issue.  Schelling says that in order to restore the lost connection, one has to become a philosopher of nature.  And how does one become one? 

Among the other ways and descriptions of what and who a nature philosopher is, the author was stating that it is not so much about a person doing 'philosophy of nature' rather it is philosophizing as nature.  In the former instance, of doing 'philosophy of nature' or 'philosophizing about nature', the person is still maintaining a separation between nature and oneself.  There is already a disunity, right at the outset of one's effort at rectifying the brokenness.  The latter perspective, of 'philosophizing as nature' is whereby one realizes oneself as part of nature, not separate or disunited from.  Humankind is part of nature.  In so far as this is true, it is nature philosophizing nature!

This perfectly sums up what Taylor is trying to say about language.  We have no vantage point outside of it, so as to speak about it.  If we do so, we are already alienating ourselves from our own reality.  Language is to be understood from the inside, not from the outside - unless one is merely doing philosophy of language. 

Strength in/of weakness

This is getting more and more intriguing.  Another quote this morning from the Scriptures to make the point I've been trying to get my head around this week.  This time from the scripture reading during morning prayer. A quote from 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10. 
I am most happy then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me. I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ's sake. 
And then the bombshell... 
For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
Again the same story: for a Christian this passage, especially the last line wouldn't really be odd or strange.  For one who has spent months, and years listening, reading and meditating on this passage, there is no contradiction there. Rather a very consoling reassurance.  

But for someone reading it as 'just another regular text', without the background of Christian life and living, the logical conclusion would be, it has to be either weakness or strength.  Both of them cannot be said to be true at the same time.  It is either-or. They are not compatible in the same breath (same line/same thought).  

Cultures and traditions which have a rich history of viewing the inter-relatedness of everything stand at a real advantage here when it comes to language and meaning.  When everything is connected to everything else, there is nothing that is explicitly or exclusively true or false.  One is more prone to see the underlying network rather than the contradiction and incompatibilities. For instance, the Buddhist notion of Pratityasamutpada

The midnight moon

Burning the midnight oil... but still managed to notice the midnight moon, two nights ago, right above my head through the sunroof. 


Somehow felt the urge to click a photo... after months am using the phone camera.  But it was too dark. Tried a couple of things to lighten up the scene but then had to ask myself, "Is this what I should be doing with a paper presenting in a couple of hours?" Nonetheless took a few minutes to enjoy the night sky! 

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Poverty or generosity?

Another interesting passage: this time from the letter to the second letter to the Corinthians (8: 1 & 9).
Here, brothers, is the news of the grace of God which was given in the churches of Macedonia; and of how, throughout great trials by suffering, their constant cheerfulness and their intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity.  
Note the seemingly contrasting facts about the same group of people: 'intense poverty' and 'overflowed in a wealth of generosity'.  It could be argued that the first is about material possessions and the second about a virtue.  Yet, how can one be generous with what one does not have.  Well, that brings to question the historical meaning assigned to 'poverty'.  Even if not the dictionary meaning, the one assigned to 'poverty' as is appears here; as inserted by the author; as understood by the reader. 

Another line of argument (the usual interpretation): they were poor, yet generous with the little they had.  So, there is no rivalry, both the phrases are compatible.  Yet, this compatibility is not the initial focus; it is only the intended derived focus!  This 'compatibility' would not have been that hitting and efficient, if not for the purposely contradicted phrases 'intense poverty' and 'wealth of generosity'. 

For a normal reader, the first point would be, which of these two is true? Both can't be, at the same time!  But for a Christian, I wonder how many ever thought of the two as incompatible?  Compare the meaning accorded to the words 'poor' and 'generosity' here with the intended meaning in the instance of the poor widow's contribution. Is one right in according the latter narration or the present text in discussion a 'great Christian writing'? Or is one right about saying that these are examples of illogical thinking and confused ideas? If criteria for judging are different then one ought to be ready to grant two different verdicts - even contradictory ones.  Then there is no common ground for further discussion.  If on the other hand, we seek for common ground, one might ask, then what's Christian about this? 

And with v. 9:
... he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty! 
note the words rich used twice, don't mean the same, even though occurring in the same sentence.  And what if they did??  The same with 'poor' and 'poverty'.  

She put in two pence

In the gospel there is the instance where the poor old widow puts in two pence and Jesus cites her as the one who gave the most.

It now strikes me that there is a very strange affinity with what I'm researching: human meanings (those felt by us) and life meanings (those labelled).  In the instance of the old widow, she put in the least, in comparison with the others.  But she was most generous, again in comparison to others.  Or it could also be said that she contributed the most, again in simple logical mathematical ratio comparison.  Two different standards: in comparison to others and in comparison to mathematical ratio. Two contradictory results.

If speaking in terms of quantity and quality, then quantity wise she contributed practically nothing.  But qualitatively she contributed everything.  But again, quantity is in terms of cash; quality is in terms of generosity.

Two different standards of measurement and the resulting two conclusions can either be treated as contradictory or complementary.  Viewed from either side, the result of the other perspective is contradictory (even if we don't call it 'false'). But if viewed holistically. both the views are valid and compatible with one another - none truer than the other.

Only when we introduce criteria external to the woman and her action, be it either Jesus or the rich men and their subsequent critique of her and her action, do comparative words like 'little', 'much'... and all the other vocabulary flow in.  She put in two pence! 

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Little things...

It is said that during the lifetime of St Francis de Sales, there was this particular young seminarian who came to meet him and speak about his desire to serve the poor and change the world and go to great lengths to preach the Gospels.  St Francis listened to him attentively and when asked for his advice as to how to go about doing all of that grand stuff, he replied, "When you leave shut the door silently." 

Sanctity in little things.  Ordinary things in an extraordinary manner! 

Hit and miss - or not?

Today was a very new experience.  Not really new but different.  As part of the work-in-progress sharing that we had I presented what I thought was the method of seeking and applying verification criteria for language and meaning, especially that of Taylor.  For this I used the notion of  'semantic holism' as conceived by Willard Quine. 

I was quite happy with what I had come up with. For this presentation, unlike my previous presentations, I had the whole text typed out verbatim.  And it turned out that I was the only one among the four of us presenting and sharing, who had the whole text typed and 'ready'. Anyway, what bowled me out completely was the first and only question my supervisor asked: So, what are the criteria for 'human meanings'?  I just didn't know!  And all along I thought I had hit jackpot by way of knowing the answer!!

However, after a few minutes (during the break!) it struck me that what I had actually and accidently stumbled upon was not the criteria for verification, but the certainty that an epistemological verification is possible and also a method to carry it out.  I still did not have any defined criteria, but I now knew for sure and could prove that criteria could be provided or sought! 

Talk about throwing a stone at a particularly enticing mango, picking one up from the ground, only to look up and see that the one you aimed for and actually wanted is still up there, but thrilled that you now have one in hand and walking back home with the confidence that I can throw stones and aim for mangoes!  That's quite a feeling - after long! 

Friday, 14 June 2019

Scattered bits

Can certainly understand and vibe with Wittgenstein as he wrote these words in the preface of his Philosophical Investigations:
After several unsuccessful attempts to weld my results together into such a whole, I realized that I should never succeed.  The best that I could write would never be more than philosophical remarks; my thoughts soon grew feeble if I tried to force them along a single track against their natural inclination.  - And this was, of course, connected with the very nature of the investigation.  For it compels us to travel criss-cross in every direction over a wide field of thought.  
What to do when what you want to say is best said in scattered bits rather than a lengthy harmonious logical single thought?  Wittgenstein is widely read now, but was thrashed then... and even if he were to present his thought(s) in the scattered manner he wrote PI, he would not have got anywhere close to the book it today actually is!  
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