alochana

yes Gods are crazy

prakruti/vikruti?

with 6 comments

I find this post marginally insane. For once I have a problem with every single paragraph of a post. For God’s sake… sorry, its author belongs the the ‘God Delusion‘ school, so why bother! In any case, coming to Postdoc’s post:

The entire article is about mother nature being this chaste virgin and how humans, through their industriousness, have been violating mother nature. I know, it’s not a new theme, but when the dude appears to begin to lose it, it is a thing to be arrested, or at least ticketed. I also know that Postdoc should have the freedom to go on a rant every once in a while, this my corresponding counter-rant.

Nature is beautiful in NatGeo. But when you are out in it, it is– as Murphy puts it– ‘a bitch’. When you are out in the wilderness/nature, it is a battle for survival, much as it is in the concrete jungle. The average man is spared the Freudian guilt because, not only has he (thankfully) no access to Disney/NatGeo but also because, he is enduring the battle for survival every day. Only when you are asked to live up to an ideal do morality & guilt come in, this is one such case. I find the attitude in this post to be in the same league as that of most doomsdayers and moralists, damning the entire mankind by comparing it with a dream, obviously we fall short– what chance has reality got against a dream?

As to the balance in nature: I don’t think there is one, if we are talking of a balance that ensures that any perturbation will bring it back to the initial state. I don’t even see the need for such a balance to exist– if it were not for some of the ‘spoiling of the nature’ level destabilizations, mankind would never have come up.

While it is patently absurd to argue that perturbations to the existing nature happen only due to humans, one might still argue that some of the perturbations are due to humans. I agree, but one should understand that perturbations happen, if not by us, by the nature in our immediate vicinity, or at higher levels (nature, as the dinosaurs found out first, is the entire universe). Here is where I find the biggest contradiction in the post. For some one having (not just ranting) serious problems with religion’s views like creationism, the author takes a condescending on the ‘lowest common denominator’ (‘lcd’ from here on). As far as I understand history, human civilization evolved in the same way that life evolved on our planet, survival of the fittest. If we want the religious people to accept and internalize this knowledge in their world-view, how hypocritical would a denigration like ‘lcd’ be? As to whether ‘lcd’ is bad for us, it has been the way evolution happened, and for some arcane (is it?) reason that has been the way progress in most aspects of our civilization has been. In short, if we want this ‘ugly’ ‘lcd’ to go away, we have to give up the present civilization and be ready to live in the forests and deserts (not oceans, of course). Incidentally, all the so called ‘cruel’ cultures happen to be the cultures living closest to nature, so I am not sure if any of us would want to take that risk. While I feel some pain when I see the deserted concrete houses and stuff like that,  a sensible/fitter way would be to try to find a way to avoid that (alternative to concrete?), rather than blame the ‘lcd’s. I am taking so much offence at the word ‘lcd’ because I am one. And I think that art is as much of a luxury as soap-operas are, that’s some red pill that I wouldn’t mind if taken by Postdoc though I am sure he thinks his pill is redder than mine.

Now to the most politically correct condemnation ever: religious intolerance. My only disagreement here is about the effect of religion. Religion does not divide, in fact it has been the most successful unifying mechanism ever. The only problem seems to be our missing the forest for the trees. With religion, you have <10 broad divisions on matter of faith, without it, the number will be much more. If we can’t find a way around <10 broad divisions, how can we manage to do any better in the absence of religion? As to intolerance, it has always been there. Sistine Chapel was in a region and period where there was no intolerance because the other groups were wiped out. Is the author ok with a state of tolerance and high-art if it is attained through a wave of intolerance? ‘IED’-art? Mirabai was a victim of intolerance, I almost fell through the beauty in that line. That’s another probem with beauty, most of the time it is rhetoric, the same thing that the author accuses religion of.

In short the author sounds like a character out of ‘American Beauty’. I believe this is the age of the market forces, we ‘lcd’s deserve better. On a serious note, I think attitudes like those exhibited in the post of interest are the ones that lead to totalitarian regimes, all the while condemning it in letter.

PS 1: I have serious problems with the abuse of the word ‘beauty’, in a way not much different from Postdoc having problems with the abuse of nature– just as we are a part of nature, part of beauty lies in our gray matter.

PS 2: In my opinion ‘art’ is a corrupted spelling for a word that should be pronounced with f-silent. We all know what they say about opinions, we can leave it at that

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Written by kowsik

August 3, 2008 at 09:13

6 Responses

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  1. To start with, I have no problems with the ”abuse of nature”. I understand, as you know, that it is the cost that we pay for survival. Maybe I am reading too much into Wilde’s comment but I can’t help but agree with the underlying idea. The comment is not about nature, it isn’t even about humanity’s such shortcomings as there might be. It’s about diversions that prevent one from turning violent. It’s about things which pacify and satisfy. Surely beauty is subjective and susceptible to much abuse but I hope you would agree that it’s appreciation is orthogonal to violent behavior. People kill in the name of religion not necessarily because they have any direct relation with the cause but mostly because they do not have anything better to do. And by anything better, I mean, in some sense, an appreciation for the finer things in life. You and I do not go around with murder on our minds because we know that there are better things to live for than petty and superficial divides.

    Yes, I am condescending towards ‘lcd’ but I understand it’s inevitability. I am as condescending towards it as you are because, as hard as you might try, you are not one. Our real appreciation for Bob Dylan vis-a-vis Britney Spears is not so much in the final product as in the honesty of effort and the passion of creation, an aspect most people miss. Obviously we have the privilege of individual opinions. What we do not have the privilege of is forcing our whims and fancies. It should be abhorred in the sternest of terms. Just as an aside, if you are advocating equal rights for the ‘lcd’ (as I do), you are, in some way, advocating complete freedom of religious criticism without fear, isn’t it?

    As far as your, “PS 2” is concerned, I think it’s complete bollocks really. Mainly because I do not think you believe it to be true. I can understand if you despise the elitism that art can engender in some but you surely cannot deny it’s essence. Just because I cannot understand the nuances of Jackson Pollock doesn’t mean he was worthless. Far from it. Hell, I cannot even appreciate Van Gogh or Monet satisfactorily. Doesn’t mean Impressionism was a farce. But then I understand it’s an individual opinion so I will shut up.

    Ankit

    August 3, 2008 at 15:39

  2. Kow,
    I love the way he blogged – note the usage of the phrases:
    it does have immense meaning in the Wildesque concept of rationality
    Too bad that was followed by a ‘And obviously, no religion, and few humans have come even close to matching the incisive perfection of that intellect that rested on those shoulders…’. This is where I stopped reading (of course, I frequent your blog, Ankit, if you were wondering). You see, I expected the famous Shakespearean quote to follow. The reason being, I cannot subscribe to the school of thought that ‘tells’ who was the finest intellect and why no religion or other human even finished second especially to stuff that is subjective. I mean, for that level of crap, I can turn to madame Roy.

    But then given your blog, Kow, I read through the whole blog. So heres my critique of Ankits blog on your blog-de-response. Hope neither of you mind.
    For me, life -call it nature- sucks. And that may partly be because I havent ever gotten admitted to Oxford school of Art or the local mental hospital. But lets say we all have different opinion and gulp down this bit of information. My problem is his rant on humans- these lines in particular: “Except of course in places where it has come across humans. Humans have done exceedingly well in despoiling this beauty not by being trespassive but by being unimaginative.“. Reason: 1. Imagination is a completely subjective thing. You call it Art, I call it joblessness.

    Has it ever come across to you that Religion may not be all (or even anything) about art? Or that God need not necessarily be a character in the plot called religion? Or that the religious fanatics IED are definitely more imaginative than any of the people who you have mentioned in your post – It does take a lot of imagination to believe in what they do! To think of all the beauty that lays ahead of them when they die a martyr, that is. By your argument, isnt imagination also a bad thing then?

    You have claimed that religion teaches divisiveness- may I ask where you have defined religion? Or is it completely unimaginative to ask a science scholar to define something? It is true that intolerance is highly despicable but how tolerant is your belief that blindly says religion is bereft of quality? And surprisingly then your post talks of religious intolerance! Full marks for drawing a circle, that.

    When Wilde made the comment he did, he did not imagine the progress the industrial revolution would bring to mankind. That tells me that he was a total unimaginative person! Why is it hard, in spite of an example, for us to believe that this intolerance is something that we will overcome in religion? Why is science/art good and religion bad?

    Sorry if either of you find stuff not up to the high standards of grammar and intelligence that you maintain on your blogs; Kuntry is what Kuntry is. All I wanted to convey was, when you say “he was the Albert Einstein of the art world” why do you forget that God does play dice!

    Onechance

    August 3, 2008 at 20:53

  3. @ Ankit
    I agree, more than half of my post is on the lighter vein. The serious part constitutes my complaint about correlations being passed-off as causations, and against the attempt make a religion out of art. Most advanced societies have less visible violence and lots of art, but the former is not due to the latter. Pursuit of happiness/art (and the beauty in it) requires a stable society that is usually not possible without some violence. What exists between beauty and aversion to violence is a high degree of correlation, not causation. Those killing in the name of religion are doing so for political reasons, religion is their way of securing their allies. For all you know, they might be writing poetry about the Afghan/Iraqi landscape while on road. I think you have a far higher opinion of humanity than I do, we do not kill because we are condition to be scared of the consequences, not because of some rational reasons.

    I do believe that everyone should be free to question religion. But I also believe that one should be able to prove any accusation on religion that they are leveling on it. As K says, the problem of intolerance comes, not from religion, but from the same imagination of ours that also gives us art. If you just use the two words together often people start associating them together without questioning. I have problems with such Goebbelian propaganda. As to the orthogonality between appreciation of art and violence, I don’t agree with this. I can always quote Hitler to support my stand, but that would bring in the Godwin’s law (which I already did a line earlier), and this thread would cease to make any sense. I think we will have to agree to disagree on these two points.

    Of course my PS2 is lame, I can’t listen to MS every morning and believe art to be nonsense. But I don’t consider it to be a source of world-peace.

    @ K

    Macchi, he writes well, way better than most of us. But I don’t think he belongs to Roy’s school, Guha would be a more appropriate comparison. My right-wing contempt for form over function seems to start-off some heated arguments with his quest for elegance. Guess we can’t avoid that.

    kowsik

    August 3, 2008 at 22:09

  4. This is all so very interesting :). We all might just come off better than we were !

    @ K (as Kowsik calls you):

    Religion obviously isn’t about art. It is not required for it to dabble in such muddy waters but it’s a willing canvas upon which beautiful creations might be painted and indeed have been painted through the ages. And this fact doesn’t subtract anything from it’s allure, does it ? It’s only a joy to listen to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali singing a Ram Bhajan in that deep sonorous voice of his. I’m afraid, if by saying Religion isn’t about art you meant to advocate, in some way, art’s complete uselessness in her domain, I would have to disagree. I find it synonymous to saying that since we can survive in caves, why bother with development at all.

    I also agree that Religion, at it’s most fundamental level, isn’t about a God but I would categorically have to disagree with you on what you say next. We will have to draw the line of reasonableness somewhere. I would agree to the extent that the people who blow themselves up might indeed be quite imaginative. But their imagination is borrowed and deluded and completely condemnable, just like Leopold and Loeb’s interpretation of Nietzsche’s Übermensch was. I hope, as reasonable human beings, we can make a distinction between the imagination that results in a Blue Danube and that which results in a blown up embassy and several hundred dead bodies. Everything is subjective in the end. At some point we have to rely on our intelligence to make the distinction and I, for one, choose to condemn 9/11 as much as I choose to condemn Gujarat. Anyways, as in everything else, you have the privilege of opinion.

    I never said religion is bereft of quality. In fact it is wrong to think it has anything to do with quality at all. Quality is what the proponents of a system bring to it by their intelligence and creativity. But try as hard as I might, I do not see anything constructive or elegant (highly subject words I know) coming out of it’s proponents now. I might be wrong. I might even be prejudiced and I would be indebted if you could direct me towards contemporary examples of such sort.

    Finally, my beliefs are hugely and humongously tolerant because I do not go about pushing them down the throats of one and all. I do not think people are bad or stupid because they do not think how I think. In fact I think that Gunti, all his ideological differences notwithstanding, is one of the most rational and intelligent persons I have met. When religion teaches to value a fellow human being who happens to have a different set of beliefs for what he is really worth and not for his ‘religious identifier’, I would concede that it’s no longer divisive. Till then, let me have my reservations.

    @Gunti: I’m tired :), but here is a small retort. There is no such thing as causation, is there ? There are just correlations that haven’t gone wrong yet which go by the name ‘Theories’. I might be wrong in saying that non-violence results from an appreciation of beauty but then you are wrong in saying that it doesn’t. I at least have correlation to boast of :). You are right in saying that everyone should be free to question religion but how does one go about proving his accusations in such a subjective matter? The only recourse is the slippery surface of logic and that is all what everyone does. To whose satisfaction should you prove? No, I feel that criticism should be free and wide and liberated. If it is illogical or stupid, it would fall in favor. Buddhism did not start because Hinduism was ‘proved’ to be wrong. It started because it seemed more rational to some. Anyways, I agree with most of the rest.

    Ankit

    August 4, 2008 at 04:45

  5. I think it’s time we put an end to the consequences of a bad joke.

    @Ankit/K
    For each other’s info, both of you dabble with the Dawkins’s school. The Selfish Gene book that I’ve been circulating around is actually K’s.
    Anyway, K’s point is that it is best if religion interferes in art as little as possible. While religion gives ample subjects for art to experiment on, religion better be passive in this interaction. Ankit’s point is about the lack of spiritual leaders who can revitalize their respective religions. I doubt if either of you has any problems with the other’s stand. If there is no great work of art, in spite of religious institutions all over the world being richer than ever, it just shows that there is a dearth of great artists. If the only proponents of religion are those who count the faults of other religions, there is a dearth of leaders who can revitalize the religions themselves. Clearly we are not the generation of Sankara/Michelangelo. I believe that it is not the fault of religion/art.

    @Ankit
    We, as usual, have to disagree.

    kowsik

    August 4, 2008 at 06:22

  6. I’m afraid, if by saying Religion isn’t about art you meant to advocate, in some way, art’s complete uselessness in her domain, I would have to disagree.
    Uselessness isnt an artful way of putting it. More precise would be unnecessary. That, religion has inspired some fine signers, is a point I will take but what is the purpose of religion? For me, religion is an expression of our collectivism. Art, if anything, is a by-product.

    I find it synonymous to saying that since we can survive in caves, why bother with development at all.
    Isnt that the point Wilde was making? I thought you endorsed it!

    We will have to draw the line of reasonableness somewhere.
    Well said. But before that, should we nto decide who gets to decide? I mean freedom of expression notwithstanding, what if someone else’s line is in conflict with mine? Then what?
    On second thoughts, how can we blame religion for that?

    I hope, as reasonable human beings, we can make a distinction between the imagination that results in a Blue Danube and that which results in a blown up embassy and several hundred dead bodies. Everything is subjective in the end. At some point we have to rely on our intelligence to make the distinction
    And as the same reasonable human beings, would it be any harder for us to agree that the world isnt an ideal place- that Van der Waals forces still exist? You and Kow can make the distinctions alright -and I agree to that. But not the people who have been brainwashed. And, good morning, you cant stop them. Any person who you choose to cofront on this subject will quote this: “And what is good, Phædrus, And what is not good…Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

    and I, for one, choose to condemn 9/11 as much as I choose to condemn Gujarat. Anyways, as in everything else, you have the privilege of opinion.
    Having said all the above, let me just say, that observations have to be based on facts and not propaganda. Would it be super-inapt of me to pick on this “Gujrat” you chose to be on the same platitude of dismay and condmenation as 9/11? Opinion is quite contrary to reality, in many cases.

    ….I would be indebted if you could direct me towards contemporary examples of such sort.
    We havent deined religion. And quality – i have my definition, being an ardent fanatic Pirsig fan. May I tkae the privilege of answering you through a blog that I have been working on for sometime now?

    I do not think people are bad or stupid because they do not think how I think.
    And what about those who blow themselves up and try to kill people who think somewhat like you do? Do you extend your tolerance to them as well? If you do, what about views of people (like me) who dont? Are you tolerant towards that too?
    If you dont, and you blame it on religion, and that getting rid of it will take hatred out of us, believe you me: imaginative, that people are- they will find ways to hate you.

    When religion teaches to value a fellow human being who happens to have a different set of beliefs for what he is really worth and not for his ‘religious identifier’, I would concede that it’s no longer divisive.
    1. And does it not?
    2. Whats your take on some other set of belief that stifles your own? Freedom of expression, by definition, is mutually exclusive -isnt it? (borrowed from Srikumar).

    onechance (K-boy)

    August 4, 2008 at 10:35


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