To Be or Not To Be
A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!
~A Wise Man Said~
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
~When in Lancaster~
Life as PhD Student
Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
OK. I am in the mood for an argument. Actually, I am always in the mood for arguments and since not many like to engage in the sport with me, I argue with myself. I happened to be a bit under the weather one of these days—as the great Wodehouse would say, if not actually disgruntled, far from being gruntled. It may seem like an odd kind of thing to do during these times—sort of like drinking cold water when you’re suffering from a cough—but I like to read up some good old philosophical ‘stuff’ when I am not exactly feeling jolly. It cures whatever little jolliness is left in me but when you know you’re in great company, you don’t mind so much.
Well, so this time I thought I’ll chew on a bit of existentialism—‘existence precedes essence’ being a central tenet. In short, your life has the meaning that you choose to give it. You are the architect of your life. You have complete freedom to act but you are completely responsible for the consequences of your actions. This freedom can be exhilarating but also frightening, for example, when you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, you fear falling off, but you know that nothing and no one stops you from jumping off. Which creates anxiety because of the realisation that ‘you are on your own’ and you are free to make choices concerning ‘you’—choices whose ultimate responsibility no one else can shoulder but you.
This brings me to my argument. I cannot say I relate with existential philosophy. Not because I am uncomfortable about the fact that I might throw myself off a cliff in an unguarded moment and there will be no God to save me (though that’s there). But because, when one says you’re completely free to choose, are you? When one says I can define my own life with my actions, can I? and when one says I undertake a certain action with the knowledge of the responsibility it entails, do I always (I may not have full knowledge)? Yes, I am free to “act” one way or the other but am I “freely choosing” those actions—is my life a series of actions and consequences of those actions, or is it a series of actions and reactions and actions that are further modified by the nature of those reactions and how those continuous actions and reactions define my ability to respond to situations or the manner in which I respond to situations. For example, a woman whose marriage is arranged for her, how free is her choice given that she did not “choose to be born in that traditional society”? What about the context in which I am placed—my actions are not independent of context surely? If I was born in a palace with a golden spoon in my mouth or born in a poor man’s house, wouldn’t my “essence” in some way be predetermined even before I was born or “existed”? And wouldn’t it have not some but a lot of weight on how my “essence” is shaped finally? That is about birth but what about “what happens to you along the way”. What if you, say, lose a parent early in life—you cannot have “chosen” to lose the parent and yet this loss may have a bearing on most of the seemingly “free decisions” you will be making through life. Can you be said to be “responsible” for those decisions that were in some way “predetermined” by the event that happened in your life—and not by yourself.
You know where I am going with this. But, no, I am not discounting freedom and responsibility; in fact, I think one must be extremely conscious of both otherwise you run the risk of bobbing around the ocean of life unmindful of where it takes you and maybe drag other people along the way in an irresponsible manner, because, hey!, someone up there is taking us wherever he chooses to. I very much believe in acting consciously and responsibly. What I am saying is that no matter how conscious I am or responsible I am, I cannot necessarily take my life to the destination I want to take it to or shape its “essence”. I can steer it as best I can through bad weather and veer it along with whatever knowledge I have, but, my best efforts and decisions may not be equal to what gets thrown my way. There is something in nature that has to allow me to navigate my course… and if it doesn’t, I won’t.
Monday, November 03, 2014
Do you ever go through pangs of self-doubt? Feel like you are not good enough? Like whatever little you have achieved you do not deserve? As if you will be found out very soon—people will realise how incapable you are and call you an impostor, a deceiver, and laugh in your face. Like you need to hide every moment because if people see you, there will be more chances of being found out. As if you are hiding some secret that mustn’t come out and when you surprise yourself asking what secret, you don’t really know.
I know I must be sounding like an idiot already trying to make too much of probably nothing—but the truth is, I have millions of moments of self-doubt when I wish somebody would just shake me and tell me I am okay. I may not be an Einstein but I am not a fool either. Okay, I know I am not a fool and nobody needs to tell me that—but what shall I say? The world has created so many medals for everything and the opportunity to win those medals is not given to everyone. Getting those medals brings you more opportunity for medals and more of those tangible titles that make you a desired commodity in the eyes of the world. Those who do not have those medals or those things that those medals bring, no matter what else they came into the world with, don’t find themselves standing as tall. It’s like one of those cycles where if you start with something you can keep multiplying it, and the more you start with, the more it multiplies, but if you have nothing to start with, you remain at ground zero. Vicious circle is the word that goes I guess.
Well, not to be too brooding or negative, there are lots of people in the world who fought against the zero and made something out of nothing. Which is why we admire and look up to them. Where they got the confidence from is what I wonder. They responded to the call of their own hearts and earned medals in the final round—even without passing all those fancy levels.