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Friday, March 25, 2011

Proverbial legend No, 2; “A picture paints a thousand words”

Usually the “picture” is taken as a noun. Though as a noun a good picture may tell a lot but it is in the form of verb that picture paints a thousand words………… There is a legendary story of Democritus……….

Democritus was always laughing as he witnessed the human weaknesses by his long travels to Egypt, Ethiopia, Chaldea and India and learned by his experience that human conditions are mostly the results of chance.

When great king of Persia, Darius was deploring the death of the most beloved among his wives, Democritus appeared at his court to console him………. Democritus promised to bring her to life again, if Darius would find in the whole extent of his kingdom three persons to whom nothing disagreeable had ever happened, so that he might engrave their names on the tomb of the deceased queen.

Throughout Asia, not one individual answering this description could be found. From this, the philosopher took occasion to show Darius that he was much in the wrong to abandon himself in grief, since there was not in the whole world a man wholly exempt from misfortune…………………………

Story is taken from “Live of the ancient Philosophers”

Proverbial Legend No, 1 : "The one who loves you also make you weep"…. Argentine Proverb

Tears are thought to be the ink of poets…. to write the legendary stories of friends and lovers… It is amusing to learn that men of reason also do not escape from shedding tears… however, the contexts may be very different from those of poets……….……….Bias of Priene, a small town of Cori was an acute politician and philosopher who lived during the reign of Halyattes King of Lydia……..

Bias was one day obliged to judge in the case of a friend who was found deserving of capital punishment. Before the sentence was pronounced….. he began to weep before the whole senate…..
“Why do you weep, “ said one to him, “since you alone have the power of condemning or acquitting the criminal?”……..
“I weep,” answered Bias, “because nature obliges me to compassionate the unfortunate, and law commands me not to regard the emotions of nature”……………..
…..Bias used to say that he liked much to be an arbitrary between two of his enemies than between two of his friends, because one never failed to fall out with friend who had been found in the wrong; whereas, in case of enemies, a man might make him in whose favor the decision has been pronounced his firend…………….

Story is taken from "Lives of ancient Philosophers" by Francois desalignac.......

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What is philosophy?

Before defining it, let me share Douglas J. Futuyma’s few remarks (taken from “Evolution, 2nd Edition, Chapter 11, page 282),
………..When Darwin offered a purely natural, materialistic alternative to argument from design, he not only shook the foundation of theology and philosophy, but brought every aspect of study of life into the realm of science………………. the future cannot cause material events in present. Thus the concepts of goals or purposes have no place in biology (or in any natural sciences), except in studies of human behavior………………………………
By keeping in mind that human behavior is an exceptional case in study of natural sciences…. now let move to definition of philosophy by Will Durant (Taken from “The pleasures of philosophy, A Survey of Human Life and Destiny”, page xii),
…………..Philosophy is harmonized knowledge making a harmonious life; it is self discipline which lifts us to serenity and freedom. Knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty…………………….
When people claim that they have shaken the foundation of philosophy… they just embarrass themselves by showing their ignorance…. Philosophy in first place is the “love of wisdom”. Wisdom is primarily study of human nature and behavior…. If a philosopher has interests in other disciplines, his other works can’t be called philosophy….. this is the main mistake that is usually done…. People include, theology,  politics, natural sciences under philosophy………….In fact only those parts of religion, language, culture, politics, economics and natural sciences that is related to human nature and human behavior come under philosophy…………..
Philosophy does not produce culture but it says how a culture affects human behavior? Is it numbing our senses or sharpening them to life. Philosophers do not legislate laws or run for election however they analyze the laws and system of governance…. Philosophers do not run lab experiments or do not collect data at field surveys however they analyze the interpretations  and generalizations based on data and observations from filed and lab experiments…….. Philosophers do not run businesses but they analyze how the businesses are run… so I say, Darwin’s theory didn’t shook the foundation of philosophy but it dusted off philosophy… from irrelevant issues that have been made her less visible………………………………..

Monday, March 21, 2011

Proverbial myth No, 9: A fool judges people by the presents they give him.....Chinese Proverb

Presents are more cultural and some cultures (especially those who value ostentations as virtue) are intoxicated by gifts and presents especially on special occasions…  I would rather say that a fool judges people by what he hears from others
Personally, I have great respect for Socrates esp for his famous cross questionings. For me he is symbol of wisdom and instead of dissecting this proverb, I would better to share one of his cross questionings and let you contrast,
…………… One day in one of the street of Athens a man approached Socrates and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”
“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test by answering by three simple questions”
Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend,………………………… Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it and ...”
“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not…. OK, now the second question…………………………… Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”
“No, on the contrary…”
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true….. OK, still it might be worthy of sharing if your answer to my third question is positive…………… Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really …”
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

Proverbial myth No, 8: Deep doubts, deep wisdom; small doubts, little wisdom. Chinese Proverb

Doubts are not thesis questions so it can’t be generalized. Doubt in hand of a scholar is the beginning of a systematic and meaningful investigation while doubt in hands of laymen is weaving rumors and distrusts. As we are scholars at few subject areas and laymen at rest so doubts are useful only when treated as subjective and sources of disappointments when generalized…………
You might like this legendary story of hands on use of thinking process (related to intense doubt) by Buddha,
………….Once Buddha was walking from one town to another with a few of his disciples. While they were travelling, they happened to pass a lake. They stopped there and Buddha told one of his disciples, “I am thirsty. Do get me some water from that lake there.”
The disciple walked up to the lake. When he reached it, he noticed that some people were washing clothes in the water and as a result, the water became very muddy, very turbid. The disciple thought, “How can I give this muddy water to Buddha to drink!” So he came back and told Buddha, “The water in there is very muddy. I don’t think it is fit to drink.”
After about half an hour, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back to the lake and get him some water to drink. The disciple obediently went back to the lake. This time he found that the lake had absolutely clear water in it. The mud had settled down and the water above it looked fit to be had. So he collected some water in a pot and brought it to Buddha.
Buddha looked at the water, and then he looked up at the disciple and said, “See what you did to make the water clean. You let it be ... and the mud settled down on its own – and you got clear water... Your mind is also like that. When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time. It will settle down on its own. You don’t have to put in any effort to calm it down. It will happen. It is effortless.”………………………..
When in intense doubt…give it time…. It takes time but you see clearly after your thoughts settled down…. Sometimes, things really don’t make sense immediately….but as time passes you see more clearly what has happened and what is happening……….

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Proverbial myth No. 7: “Be not deceived with the first appearance of things, for show is not substance.

First read this story…..
One afternoon, an old lady, laden with shopping, noticed two small boys on the front step of a house. With their bags and uniforms they were obviously going home after school. They were on tip-toe trying to reach the door-bell with a stick.
"Poor little lads, they can't get in," she thought, "Parents these days just don't seem to care."
So she marched up the path, reached over the boys and gave the bell a long firm push.
The surprised boys turned around and screamed "Quick, run!" and promptly disappeared over the garden wall.

From this story, you might be thinking that this proverb is right… but do not judge before reading another story…….

A little girl was watching her mother prepare a fish for dinner. Her mother cut the head and tail off the fish and then placed it into a baking pan. The little girl asked her mother why she cut the head and tail off the fish. Her mother thought for a while and then said, "I've always done it that way - that's how babicka (Czech for grandma) did it."
Not satisfied with the answer, the little girl went to visit her grandma to find out why she cut the head and tail off the fish before baking it.
Grandma thought for a while and replied, "I don't know. My mother always did it that way."
So the little girl and the grandma went to visit great grandma to find ask if she knew the answer.
Great grandma thought for a while and said, “Because my baking pan was too small to fit in the whole fish”.

If you escape the deceptions at first appearance, you might continue to do what your mother and grandma was doing without knowing why……………

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Proverbial myth 6: “Evil is sooner believed than good.”………

Even when I was a kid and was reading these childish stories…. My thinking was that when people do not want to understand….. They divide things in good and bad…. As  I grew up… I became more convinced that people do not really understand the “good” and “bad”……..  and these two concepts are just general expressions that they have learnt from society…. Don’t believe…. That is your choice but when I hear…..
“How are you?” ….”Good”…  “How are you?”…. “Not bad”…….
“Good” and “not bad” are both same…. Whatever are the feelings and conditions, you will hear these two expressions from all at all time… What does it mean???
So when we are not really clear about good and devil… how to decide that which one we are believing sooner?.........

Following is a story from my childhood textbook… it is a great story that teaches the cost of dividing things in “good” and “bad” by ignoring the nature of things…….

“Once upon a time a scorpion wanted to cross a brook. On the bank he saw a frog and asked if the frog would give him a ride to the other side.
"Oh no," says the frog, "If I carry you on my back you will sting me."
"But why would I sting you when we would both surely perish," replied the scorpion.
The frog eventually conceded that the scorpion had a point, and agreed to the request.
Half way across, the scorpion stang the frog, and they both began to drown.
"But why did you break your word and sting me, knowing it would be certain death for us both?" cried the frog.
"Because it is in my nature." said the scorpion.”

If you have still appetite for more story that read the following one…..

“A missionary came upon a hungry lion in the middle of the African plain.
The missionary knelt and prayed, "God, please give this lion a Christian soul!"
The lion stopped, knelt, and prayed also: "Lord above, may this meal be blessed.."

Of course, Lord is one, kind and just but He has created grasses, herbivores, carnivores and omnivores… and there is no “good” and “bad” in them…. Every creature follows its nature………..
We believe sooner in “good” and “devil” than in nature of things………..

Proverbial myth 5: ” Moderation is the key”……

I am not good at math so naturally you can’t trust me when I call this proverb as a myth…. However, before making your mind let me share some childish stories about average, less and more….
First trusting people who are expert in math and have faith in average…………….
“Three statisticians went hunting in the woods. Before long, one of them pointed to a plump pigeon in a tree, and the three of them stopped and took aim. The first fired, missing the bird by a couple of inches to the left. Immediately afterwards the second fired, but also missed, a couple of inches to the right. The third put down his gun exclaiming, "Great shooting lads, on average I reckon we got it..."  

Now that you know miracle of average let’s read… the pitiful “less” that few are content to,………..

“A small boy was walking along a beach at low tide, where countless thousands of small sea creatures, having been washed up, were stranded and doomed to perish. A man watched as the boy picked up individual creatures and took them back into the water.
"I can see you're being very kind," said the watching man, "But there must be a million of them; it can't possibly make any difference."
Returning from the water's edge, the boy said, "It will for that one."

Of course, when we do something for others… small is very big to be proud of… but when it comes, doing something for ourselves then it is never enough what we have…….

“A dog held a juicy bone in his jaws as he crossed a bridge over a brook. When he looked down into the water he saw another dog below with what appeared to be a bigger juicier bone. He jumped into the brook to snatch the bigger bone, letting go his own bone, He quickly learned of course that the bigger bone was just a reflection, and so he ended up with nothing.”
After reading all these… what is moderation? Is it some sort of formula, model, ethics (content) or decisions by conditions…. A sportsman’s diet is not a healthy diet for an obsess person…

Friday, March 11, 2011

Proverbial Myth 4: “Soul mates are matches, made in heaven”…

This proverb is believed during engagements and questioned during separations and divorces. Despite of periodic believing and disbelieving almost all make a resolve at the end on it. The main weakness of this concept is that, heavens makes matches but seldom perfect matches. Even if you know one for long time and you think that you know a lot but still you can’t know enough to save yourself of not getting disappointed.

The divorce rates change greatly from one country to another and similarly from a culture and another. It also varies from rural to urban areas. Even it varies based on economical trends… So, these variations are enough to conclude that it is the culture, attitudes and conditions that affect the matches………
(You can have a look on 2010 census of marriages and divorce rate from 1980 to 2008 at following link,
Based on my observations, I think there are some common points that influence relationships (Of course, there are just in the context of personalities…)

a.       Everybody is unique in his/her personality so it is not logical to expect that likes and dislikes match altogether….

b.      We can’t know enough to save ourselves from disappointments so a safe way is keep a large room for disappointments…

c.       Everywhere there are some people who have pockets full of mocking and harmful jokes based on our (supposedly) weaknesses…. They usually become very curious and active at the beginning of relationships and influence the judgments….

d.      Pouring out all your feelings (the most famous phrase… I love you..) Will raise expectations (hence psychological pressures) and also are quick in leading to disappointments… so giving time to know each other well enough that you could recognize and digest differences in a pleasant way make it safe to pour out the feelings….

I should admit that I am not expert on this issue (my purpose is to highlight the myth of the proverb and that is it!!!) so you might disagree or might suggest more in depth suggestions… I welcome any…

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Proverbial myth 3: Great minds think alike

Before saying anything, let read this  conversation between two great minds of golden time.... This conversation is taken from "Lives of the Ancient Philosophers"..........

Alexander, passing through Corinth, had a curiosity to see Diogenes, who happened to be there at the time: he found him basking in the sun in the grove of Craneum, where he was mending his tub. 

"I am," said he to him, "the great king Alexander." 

"And I," replied the philosopher, "am the dog Diogenes."

"Are you not afraid of me?" continued Alexander. 

"Are you good or bad?" asked Diogenes.

"Good," rejoined Alexander. 

"And who need be afraid of one that is good?" answered Diogenes.

Alexander admired the penetration and freedom of Diogenes; and after some conversation, he said to him, "I see, Diogenes, that you are in want of many things, and I shall be happy to serve you; ask of me what you will." 

"Retire, then, a little to one side," replied Diogenes, "you are depriving me of the sun."

It is no wonder that Alexander stood astonished at seeing a man so completely above every human concern. 

"Which of the two is richest," continued Diogenes: "he who is content with his cloak and his bag, or he for whom a whole kingdom does not suffice, and who is daily exposing himself to a thousand dangers in order to extend it?"

The courtiers of the king were indignant that so great a monarch should thus honor such a dog as Diogenes, who did not even rise from his place. Alexander perceived it, and, turning about to them, said, "Were I not Alexander, I should wish to be Diogenes."
This legendary conversation is between two great minds looking for different goals.... so you might be thinking that if both were following same goals with similar means they would definitely thinking similar....

Well,  this is unlikely... In previous century two great minds of Physics, Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg disagreed over principle of uncertainty and Einstein spent from 1927 on till his death struggling to refute the theory but failed.... Though these two great minds were using similar means and looking for similar goal but they weren't thinking alike......


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Proverbial myth 2: “A good beginning makes a good ending”…..

What is missing in this proverb is the definition of “good”. One doesn’t need to have a philosophical head for cracking the differences in “good”. Let me start with a few very commonly known famous events to illustrate. Taliban started for a good cause to end the lawlessness (a “good” beginning ) but the “laws” that were the source of their “good” were the worst ever known in human history so it led to series of tragedies…….. that is still continues….
Lenin begin with a good beginning to liberate the people from tsar’s feudal system but it turned out that the “good” was another prison… so this good beginning had a tragic ending by a lot of tragic left over…….. We can extend this line of thinking to a lot of other political and religious movements…..
But the question is……. is “good” beginning has tragic endings only in social and ideological systems with wrong sources of “good” or is it also true in our personal lives? Of course many tragedies happen to good people. The reason is in blindly believing that good things happen to good people. Of course good things happen to good people, if the good is really good. If a good is not understood well it would be miscarried and that is where good doesn’t come to good people. Saving a snake is good but it is not the guarantee that snake will not bite because it was saved.
Coming to proverb, a good start, of course helps a lot… but if the good beginning is miscarried, one may lose all good that have earned at the beginning and may end not in the way it began. If you look around… you may find some disappointed people with very good and promising beginning and disappointed endings………..
The good part is, “there is no end unless one decides to……..

Proverbial Myth 1......

Proverbial myth 1:”Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”….. Chinese Proverb….
This Chinese proverb is really famous among educationists. Despite of usefulness it is not telling the whole story and sticking to it sometimes creates a mass that look for food even after learning how to fish. The reason is their fishing techniques have become common and overfishing left less fishes to feed all. What is needed to be added is … updating the fishing techniques or looking for new ways to fish…. Of course, you can’t fish a shark with worm bait… you were using to fish… small fishes during learning…how to fish….
Let me give some examples. In generation before us, there were great demand for typists and some of students spending a lot of time learning them. As we got out of college, the computers had replaced the typing machines and there were few clerical jobs for typists. Instead there were great demands for computer operators and a lot of students spending time to learn how to operate computers. As we got out of university, this skill was so common that there were few jobs available for computer operators. Still web publishing and designing were in great demand but this was also didn’t last long as social medias become so common and user friendly that now a school kid can have several sorts of websites that a professional company can have…….
The same is true about sciences. We put a lot of focus in learning techniques and literature that we never have learnt that …… the most important thing is finding questions. Creative questions are key in finding creative answers; otherwise you will turn your black hair into gray by increasing thickness of piles of papers while adding nothing…