Should be reading more and writing less, but well...

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Someone else

I am mostly someone else to the world. I am not what others consider I am. This might be true with most of us, but what surprises/saddens/shocks/intrigues me is that I am mostly someone else to myself.

A simple question settled my doubts on this regard. How many times have I told myself that I was good (bad) at something because of some (lack of) intrinsic ability, while time and experience had shown me otherwise? I have fooled myself many times this way. A game of football, chess, academics, work, physical abilities, and mostly - events of everyday life and my having total control over all of them. Everyday events are strange; they don't mean much in the long run, but they have shown me that my level of control over things are somewhat hazy, mostly absent. I don't have full control, but it doesn't seem to matter very much.

Hold on.

As I am typing this, I am being faced with a very familiar but creepy situation. I know I have some train of thought in my mind about fooling myself, control, pretense, etc. But, what is happening is that this thought is based on half buried axioms, half baked theories, and incomplete experiences. This fuzzy mix of thoughts has happened to me many many times. I have made a fool of myself trying to defend some viewpoint from this mixture in many an argument. I have built more screwed up theories on these fuzzy thoughts. I have gone to the extent of defining some life policies based on these fuzzy thoughts.

What are fuzzy thoughts? Here is an example. Take my love for everything India - Indian politics, dingchak movies, pride about roadside mostly un-hygenic food, vernacular languages, my compassion for anyone who looks Indian, the deeper amount of pain I feel for those who died during the 1947 Partition as compared to the more academic pain I feel for the 1940s Nazi Holocaust victims. This sense of one-ness with India is a classic Fuzzy Thought. I really cannot explain this love for India fully - This is because rationality tells me that location of birth is incidental, and love for one's birth country is unfounded. This is how the classic fuzzy reasoning goes, and goes nowhere after a while......Fuzzy thoughts define important priorities. It seems unfair that so much is decided by them, but well......I don't know whether I can dub that unfair without figuring out what these thoughts are, and what they mean.....

So, as for whether I am someone else? A lot more has to be figured out before I get here....



You never cease to tingle my cerebral tastebuds. I'm afraid I can't offer much insight on the mechanics of thought, half baked or otherwise. But I certainly can make an effort to understand the fuzziness in your (and everyone's) thought process, especially on the kind of examples you quoted.

First why you feel worse about 1947 riot victims than about holocaust victims? Let's look at it this way. If you'd lost your leg either in the 1947 riots or in the holocaust, you'd invariably feel bad about it. Next, if you happened to lose a family member in the holocaust and none in the 1947 riots, I'm sure you'd begin to connect more with the victims of the former. That's the reason why Indians in the US feel more strongly about 9/11 than about Gujarat riots. You are feeling bad about the killing of Indians because Indians are in some way, an extended family to you and German Jews are not. There is a formal, socially stressed common ground (nationality) between you and the victims of 1947 riots.

We humans are fundamentally selfish. But the selfishness frequently transcends ourselves. Our selfishness normally includes the feeling of 'I' and the feeling of 'my people'. The question is - Whom do you consider 'my people'? This is an awfully subjective question. The answer depends entirely on how broad-minded you are from inside and how broad-minded you can afford to be. Rockefeller, no matter how much affordability he had, couldn't connect with the problems of the developing world, while Bill Gates, with less affordability (taking the change money value into account), could. On the other hand, Kuvempu, with all his catholicism and thoughts on the 'Vishvamanava' didn't have the affordability. But affordability apart, if he did believe in what he wrote of the Vishvamanava, I'm pretty sure that he would have felt the same pain about holocaust victims as he did about the 1947 riot victims. So, to some 'my people' means themselves. To some others it means themselves and their immediate family. To somewhat more broad-minded, it is their village/city/locality. To the even-more broad-minded (politicians....sounds like an oxymoron eh!), it is their state/country/caste and religion. To Sri Sri Ravishankar, ostensibly, it is the entire mankind. So, what you feel strongly about depends on where you fit yourself in this hierarchy of broad mind. If you fail to feel ad about the victims of Malnourishment in Sudan, you probably are not broad minded enough. Period. Why fool yourself of being a Vishvamanava who doesn't exist on planet earth? (I'd written a post somewhere sometime ago, which explained the inexistence of the Vishvamanava.)

Another reason behind your fuzziness could be you lack of contact with the whites in general and the German Jews in particular. To respond to the pain and plasure of other humans, being a member of the same species is not enough. It takes physical and intellectual interaction. Think of the scenario in which you lost a chat friend in Iraq. This is where geography ind culture come into picture. Don't you feel a sense of belonging in a group in which all are Metallica fans? Don't you try to talk to your new neighbor (stranger) and make friends with her rather than talk to some stranger in Malleshwaram? When a Metallica song can lead to such bonding, think of what centuries of shared ancestry, customs, languages, food habits and aesthetics can do. Are you happy speaking Kalasipalyam Hindi to a fellow student in IITB? Don't you long to speak Kannada to someone, even a security guard?

My bottomline is, the phenomena that that seem puzzling to you are not as puzzling as they are made out to be. If you start questioning the very quasi-basic axioms like in ways like 'Why should I talk to my neighbors?' these phenomena you are talking about almost begins to sound like Abracadabra.

Guess I've been writing for ages.

Thats samba .. Nicely written dude ..
try reading 'the moral animal' for a darwinian perspective on society, friendship etc.

regarding making decisions based on 'fuzzy thoughts' - have you considered the possibility that you are incapable of comprehending the 'big picture' - in other words there is no big picture. there is no meaning to things around you. should there be?

anyways, no point to this. we are just living out our lives ... just 'digging in the garden'.
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