Dr. Philo & Wordsmith : Empire, Freedom. Utopia and Contemporary “Battle for Bengal”

[Wordsmith was away from Calcutta for almost seven weeks. This is extract of a conversation in Wordsmith Ashram between Dr. Philo and Wordsmith. Dr. Philo’s political stand is that of a statenlos person and Wordsmith is a dedicated imperialist. Though contemporary politics was never discussed but a chance remark by a very accomplished guest in the form of “Battle for Bengal”, i.e. the coming elections triggered a conversation touching philosophy of history and how one should conduct oneself, i.e. Ethics.. Extract ]

Three Historical Landmarks of Bengal || 180 years cycle

Renaissance, Freedom Struggle and Communist Utopia – after three ideological landmarks, spanning 180 years, Bengal has no grand mission now – no Higher Dreams and no Higher Call to Action. Bengal, like France is always great when it aspires for, sometimes hilariously, thoughtlessly – Greatness. The seminal ideas of modernity that emerged from Bengal, in course of time, devoured its greatness. A race or a culture pays for its tremendous fertility within a short period of time. It is like a mother whose womb has produced prodigal sons and daughters in quick successions but she has become weak in this birthing process.

1. Last 10 years was an interregnum  – It was not anything permanent or a finished version. The  “kicking out” of the communists remained a singularly successful event when one removes all bias and prejudices. The achievement was thought highly by the achievers and their opponents. But, being a culture not having a keen sense of history,  both the parties failed to see the broader historical pattern.

2. This interregnum is going to enter its climax in coming years – irrespective of election results, which is important but not significant. Considering the current quality of human stock in Bengal and in absence of a vigorous foreign power (Bengal has always been like a feminine womb – her creative impetus came from the interaction of vigorous and masculine foreign powers throughout the centuries), any change will be for the worse only. Or in other words, in my analysis, things need to be far worse to be better.
As a dedicated imperialist of Bengal, I remain an observer devoid of any emotion – either of optimism or pessimism or identification. I have told about what I mean by “dedicated imperialist” in other places in detail.

Decline of the Indo-European Peoples

I may also add that India is also undergoing, like most of the Indo-European peoples, a cycle of devolution – a decline of civilization. One of the symptoms of such a decline is this : governance is becoming so complex and so technical, so experts and expertise driven that how to count votes is not an operational issue but a technological issue and it has to be because of democracies of such sizes. Greeks – the inventors of polis and democracy were very suspicious of sophists, demagogues and tyrants – both benevolent and malefic.  Hence, people – common people – the voting engines of the democracies look for messiahs, Caesar, a semi-divine man or woman who will relieve them from the pressure of Life and Living in such a time in which they are condemned.

Mahatma Gandhi was such a man once upon a time and fulfilled the psychological needs of the vast majority of Indians while going anti-science, anti-technology, anti-West, anti-future exactly at a time when the Industrial Revolution felt itself in India for the first time. This is at the foundation of the great departure between Gandhi and Tagore, although both having deep personal respect and admiration for each other.

Today, such essential opposites in personalities or world-view of such deep implications are missing. For the current leaders, of all parties and factions,  the psychological appeal of the leadership is to a specific kind of psychology and is to relieve the existential pressure for a  people with primitive mental make-up being thrust into the current situation. Ancient Greeks even predicted a de-evolutionary cycle in politics two thousand years back : Democracy > Tyranny > Oligarchy > Monarchy -> Oligarchy  > Democracy.

Philosophy of History

This primitive mental make up I do not say lightly. I have spent ten years writing an observer’s history of Bengal with a make-belief role of an “imperial envoy” of an imaginary Empire and tried to retain that absurd position very sincerely. Those who argue that such a position is untenable, then I may say that the whole of Art is a controlled process in making, especially film where light, air, sound – everything is controlled and manipulated and yet, they appear to capture Life completely. In this way, the only way to approach the grand questions of Life is through the route of Absurdity.

I have come to realize in my old days that most of the people of the world, in all historical ages and in all geographies,  except in some circles of exception, in their core mental make up are no different than primitive people. This is the reason behind the follies of History repeating itself. This is the only reason behind some kind of repetitions of stupidities in History as otherwise there is no known law that mandates such a cyclic nature. 

My residency in Bengal is to remain a witness just an imperial envoy does. I have no faith in any human groups and crowd of any time but have tremendous faith in individuals. Such a philosophy of history will snuff most of so called optimism about human destiny as a group and crushes all Utopias. As a corollary of this philosophy of Life and History, the ethics (“What to do”) follows naturally – since I cannot govern anything outside, I try to govern myself as best as I can. 
If in some cataclysm – either cosmic or man-made, when such self-governance is also not possible, one should follow the Maxim Maximus : If you cannot live nobly, die nobly.

Wordsmith

Dr. Philo & Wordsmith : Sandwich to Uber Eats

[Wordsmith was away from Calcutta for almost seven weeks. This is extract of a conversation in Wordsmith Ashram between Dr. Philo and Wordsmith.  They remembered their experiment on living in the Ashram on boiled rice, lemon and salt and banana for 4 days a year back and discussed on Food, History and How to eat like a true elite ]
Dr. Philo, being an incessant traveler and a bachelor, looks at food most of the time like a nutritionist although he is not averse tofine dining or good food. Wordsmith is very serious about food, not only temperamentally but he thinks this is an encrypted signature of a particular age’s many deeper matters which other areas do not illuminate obviously.

For example:
I. Sandwich : This is the gift of a culture that has also told the phrase – time is money. One of the inventions of the Industrial revolution of England. This is a dish that needs only one hand to eat with the other free to work, say flapping the page of a book,  one can eat on the go, one can carry easily and can eat anywhere. This is a food perfectly designed for time-poor people. However, I have observed some pensioners in Salt Lake, Calcutta – Bengali gentlemen, super time-rich gentlemen, thinking that eating sandwiches is a “hip” thing.  I observe many, in the Flurys (est 1921), during my sociological research, who partake sandwiches although they are not time poor. Conclusion : Choice of Food is not a strictly rational choice.

2. Sandwich to factory food : In India, a statement like Time is Money does not ring the same as it did and does in its native language and native geography.  So, when factory food like McDonalds, KFC etc appeared, no one in India thought that these foods were for time-poor people, at least for those who eat these regularly. Something opposite happened. Middle class and upper middle class believed these to be “elite”, “modern”, “upscale” and frequented these eateries. I had checked with some eateries and was surprised to know that many Calcutta citizens (who will file a libel lawsuit if you tell them of  medieval peasantry in mental make-up and their take on food they eat), because of sheer laziness, eat these as dinner ordered by Uber Eats. I say medieval peasantry because in the middle ages, in Europe, most of the peasants ate bread and a piece of meat, that is also when they were in luck.

3. Elite Food Habits (Trends, Analysis and Our actions) : In our young days, in the Lux soap adverts, filmy beauties used to say that “Lux soap is the secret of their beauty” and it was believed with a willing suspension of disbelief. I am sure those beauties did not touch the soap they advertised for their beauty just like today many actors who advertise for Online Learning Courses to get into elite technical institutions of the country were sadak-chap in their youth and their children were never told to enroll and study diligently in these courses. We may also wonder that the most of the MPs of British Parliament and American Senate did lose sons in the great “imperialist” or “war for freedom” – 1914 to 1945, whereas “wars of democracy” and “war for freedom”, MPs and senators losing their own sons in these wars were comparatively much much lower. In food also, the elites advertised something and did something else themselves. So, lectured by Dr. Philo, the scientist, here is what we have done :


1. We have gone backwards, the days of kitchen gardens. We planted vegetables and fruits in our Ashram and our homes, in little areas we have and in pots and tubs and bottles and boxes and will eat garden-fresh. The food may be frugal but it will have zero food-mile. All worked by us.

2. We have learnt cooking – men, women, boys, girls, old, young – no exceptions. To eat well, you must have the knowledge to cook well. Just like you must learn calculus if you need to understand the rate of change better, one must learn the basics of cooking to eat like an elite. Otherwise, if you are rich and earn it by bartering your time, you shall eat factory food by your tongue and with a brainwashed brain thinking that you are moving up, becoming modern. Actually, at a fundamental level, you are considered by very powerful people and institutions to be an automation that needs to stuff its midsection periodically.

3. Our research has revealed that many are practising our credo this and one of them is a Calcutta citizen, Mr. NM who is doing exactly this. A true elite. We always hinged great hope on Calcutta for food (unlike many other desirable areas of Life like civic discipline) and it is nice to see this vindicated gloriously.

End Note

All technological / industrial innovations are created by a small elite with the sole purpose of economies of scale, i.e. how to make the cost of each additional unit approaching zero. Economies of scale are useful but not elevating. So comes the incessant hunger for customization. Customization costs.
The great opportunity of 3 times customization – breakfast, lunch, dinner everyday till you die is the food you eat. I think this is a worthy subject to devote one’s energy in this area : in theory and in practice.

“You are what you eat” and I add – “You are what you think of food and eating.”

Wordsmith

Dr. Philo & Wordsmith : How to be be a philosopher in Calcutta ?

[Wordsmith was away from Calcutta for almost seven weeks. This is extract of a conversation in Wordsmith Ashram between Dr. Philo and Wordsmith. Dr. Philo was born of Tamil and Malayali parents but is a deracinated man because of the trajectory of his Life. Wordsmith’s ethnic and racial identity with regards to Calcutta comes close to Albert Camus, an Algrian but a Parisian, an outsider of the mainland but a Frenchman in all the senses of the world. Wordsmith was born outside the Bengali mainland, had a nomadic Life in youth and late youth but remains a Calcutta man in all its aspects. ]

Philosophers of Calcutta

For three quarters of a century, Calcutta did not produce a single philosopher in the Greek sense of the world as well as in the Ancient Hindu sense of the word. Greeks considered Philosophy a practice of Virtue which meant not to live an unexamined life and Ancient Hindu in their peak of Civilization declared the end result of the practice of philosophy : ব্রহ্মভূত প্রসন্নাত্বা না শোচতি না কাঙ্খতি। The key word( প্রসন্নাত্বা )is a joyful spirit. Echoed by Montaigne too : the unmistakable sign of true wisdom is cheerfulness of spirit. Bacon, in his classification of what study bestows what, notes : Literature :: witty, Philosophy : Joyful and History : wise.

Dr. Philo and Wordsmith got engaged in a discussion and Wordsmith told him his experiment of being a philosopher in Calcutta – of now.

How to be a Philosopher ?

1. Choosing a trade to remain independent in Life and Livelihood : Schopenhauer was quite right when he has said that many professional philosophers are living from philosophy rather than for philosophy. The distinction is too subtle for a common herd of  salaried philosophers to even understand what to say or implement in one’s life. So, most of the professional ones(one glorious example : Hegel), who depend on some entity for salary are disqualified to be a true philosopher.

2. Entrepreneurs, Solo Traders, Business Owners, Freelancers, Authors, Artists : Are all of these people who are independent for their livelihood philosophers ? No. They  qualify at the Gate of Entry but there are 7 gates to pass. Most successful professionals are married to their profession. They are specialists and hence disqualified because true philosophy is cosmic, total – specialism is a barrier. Moreover, most pursue something called “Success” – a construct devised by society and hence they are also not independent mentally. Dismissed.

3. Type of Trade : Baruch Spinoza, one of the greatest philosophers told that a philosopher should learn a craft or trade to earn his living otherwise he will turn into a rascal. Spinoza lived frugally by polishing lenses. I live by polishing words. The trade should be such that it is not time consuming on all aspects – time, health, engagement, risk etc. In Calcutta, the first service one can do to one’s health are as follows : a) avoid commuting b) living in such areas where density of population is thin c) avoiding most of social events because these need (a) and (b) d) Eating moderately and e) avoid the temptation of becoming a revolutionary.


4. Do not try to be a revolutionary : Calcutta has a temperament of being “revolutionary” which translates into more self-harm and nuisance rather than any significant change.  If one studies the history of Bengal without prejudice and core conditioning, one finds that Bengal is like a feminine womb and all revolutions were triggered by foreign ideas and masculine powers of history. The anti-imperialists of Bengal conveniently forget (hence too many revolutionaries, leaders, intellectuals,activists) but not a single true philosopher in a century) that Calcutta would have remained a fishing village hadn’t  “imperialists” built a port by the Hooghly. Let me now introduce to you, my fellow Bengalis a true revolutionary – he used to live in a small town two hundred and fifty years back and never left that town in his own life. He lived like a benign, harmless old man and was very regular, like a clockwork in his daily lives. Very delicate constitution, bachelor and had a very ordinary profession of tutoring. His name is Immanuel Kant – the revolution in thought in his works are still felt. Revolution and pistol-worshipping Bengalis should read his works – the revolutionary of Konnisberg.

5. Do not be conditioned, especially Bengali conditioning : Billions of people earlier and billions hence will live a life which can be termed as “living a conditioned life without being aware” – being conditioned from Life to Death. A philosopher also lives and may be just like all the billions but with a crucial difference : he knows he is conditioned and hence the first step he takes is to be extremely aware of the first conditioning – race, ethnicity, language, culture.

Fanatics, Dogmatists, Radicals of all kinds do not like true philosophers. So, the first blessings philosophy brings is to make you aware and then free – the inestimable gift of Freedom.

End Note
A true philosopher being a  voluntary non-specialist reaffirms that Man is Total. In the age of Fragmentation and Virtuality, a philosopher consciously reiterates the first article of faith : Fragmentation and Virtuality are to be examined. The very Reason needs to be examined.

To live a joyful spirit and create a Critique of Life.

Wordsmith

Wordsmith Weekday : Extra-marital affairs and Soul-mate Search – a mathematical analysis

[ If you want to be removed from the mailing list, please send NI and we shall oblige. Wordsmith has come back to Calcutta after seven weeks of leave of absence. This dialogue is an excerpt from a long conversation between Wordsmith, Dr. Philo and Ms. Paramita in Wordsmith Ashram – a private and privately funded Ashram by Wordsmith Communication in the tea gardens of Silchar]

Extramarital affairs and Network Theory

Dr. Philo has the virtue or vice of an Enlightenment age person of formulating any essential theme of life into a tractable and manageable problem statement. He is a bachelor and thus was teased that he was not very qualified to say anything of personal experience on the subject matter. Brushing this, he continued to argue, one can think of the cause of extra-marital affairs as proactive, reactive, triggered, irrational, unknown and unknowable. Leaving the unknowable one, he explains that proactive means those classes who are actively searching irrespective of their marital experience, reactive are those who are searching after an unpleasant experience, triggered are those who suddenly discover it, irrational is one level higher of triggered where the behaviour cannot be explained within reason and unknown classes have sub-conscious underpinnings and is in the domain of psychoanalysis. However, our bachelor doctor then argues that in all through one’s life, out of 7 billion people on the earth, one’s opportunity to “network” with people remains finite, punctuated by the hard limit of duration of one’s life and the soft limit of actually coming in meaningful contact with people. Network theory’s great insight, the good doctor informs, is the pivotal importance of linchpins or choke-points which appear to control most of the network. A man or woman searching for extra-marital affairs can consider social media, that neighborhood bar or that club such choke-points. Dr. Philo argues that extra-marital affairs of a person is powerfully determined by the closeness or the openness of the network one “moves” in and this explains why film people have marital and extramarital within the community of film people.

Soul Mate

Ms. Paramita, a married woman with children, a PhD in molecular biology and interested in Eastern Mysticism, especially Tantra of Bengal. She astonished us by stating that the unconscious drive for extra-marital affairs comes from the search for a soul-mate or what the Tantra calls “the inner man / the inner woman”.  Thus, she says that as technological pace accelerates, it will be creating more and more immoral society in the traditional sense but will be emphasizing the search for soul-mate. According to her, the marital system is a construct by society and has no strict biological imperative. Addressing Dr. Philo and to emphasize  her point she argued that just like Fundamental Constants in the Equations of physics has no imperative. There is no known law of Physics that mandates that Laws of Nature should have constant entities like c(velocity of light), G(Gravitational Constant), h(Planck’s constant).


Search for a Soul Mate – the mathematical analysis
I listened to the arguments of both of them, very fascinated and then thought that considering Ms. Paramita’s premise that extra-marital affair is an effect of the search of soul-mate and Dr. Philo’s insight of network theory, let us calculate the probability / time for a person today to test his compatibility with someone else, i.e. soul-mate and to complete the search & lock operation. I designed a rough algorithm using permutation and combination and tweaking parameters to make this little anthropomorphic (time for a man to interact, court a woman and vice versa), to my surprise, the time needed to complete this comes to its lesser bounded limit as to the close to the age of the Universe ! However, one can still argue, when one completes, in theory this search and lock that the soul-mate is still not found. Thus, using the beautiful system of negative and positive time axis, one can extend this forward and backward. Immediately, Dr. Philo interjected, this takes a premise of infinitely oscillating universes. Ms. Paramita laughed and said – “So what, search for the soul mate continues from one life from another life because it is your being, your very core.” Dr. Philo interjected again : this is also an untested and unverified premise.

End Note

My algorithmic analysis points to the fact that search for a soul-mate through an algorithmic process, i.e. computationally is intractable. The computational process forces us to assume untested and unverified premises (past lives, oscillating universes) to even give the process a totality.

On the other hand, to have even a single instance of soul-mate being found (whatever it is) must have happened against an astronomically high chance of not being so. Ms. Paramita says this is because search for soul-mate is through consciousness and not through algorithms. The probability is as close to the mathematical probability of Life emerging by chance in our Universe, i.e. 1 with 72 zeros behind which for all practical purposes means : zero.

Dr. Philo was unconvinced. Ms. Paramita was silent.

I chanted : Do all charms fly at the touch of cold philosophy ? The charm being the charm of extra-marital affairs and the philosophy being Principia Mathematica Natural Philosophia.

Wordsmith

Wordsmith Weekday : Lance Armstrong & Rajat Gupta – Observations of a freelance “philosopher”

[ If you want to be removed from the mailing list, please send NI and we shall oblige. Wordsmith has come back to Calcutta after seven weeks of leave of absence. This dialogue is an excerpt from a long conversation between Wordsmith, Dr. Philo and Ms. Paramita in Wordsmith Ashram – a private and privately funded Ashram by Wordsmith Communication in the tea gardens of Silchar]

Lance Armstrong and Rajat Gupta
When I became a freelancer from a corporate employee, I found myself awarded with time richness, i.e. waiting for work. This led to more of disinterested reading and by the time, the self-made freelance-ship was more or less stabilized, three things happened : Credit Crisis (2008), Fall of Cycling’s greatest hero : Lance Armstrong – an all American hero (2012) and conviction of Rajat Gupta (2012) – ex-McKinsey CEO, ex-Board Member of Goldman Sachs, IIT-ian, Calcutta born (Bengali from his father’s side and Punjabi from his mother’s side) – an all Indian-American hero. Time-richness, disinterested reading  and  natural indolence provided me the first taste of being a “philosopher”. I was also grateful to the nature of things where one does not need any training to become a politician, philosopher, holy man/woman. Anyone who thinks otherwise and lives in a democratic polity, say like India may consult the candidate list of all the parties in any election season.

Inability to say “Baas ! “
Though coming as if from the opposite end of the world, there are some great synchronicity of Fate – both were icons in their field. Both had circumstances that could have crushed ordinary mortals, Lance was diagnosed with cancer when he was 21 with little hope to survive and Gupta was an orphan when he was around 18 years. By the time both were of “retirement age” in their field, they were icons and inspired millions. Lance, an American from Texas, dominated Tour de France for seven years as a winner. Gupta, an Indian became the first CEO of one of the most respected American companies- McKinsey, during the age when it was respected more. Both were obsessed philanthropists – Lance Armstrong founded Livestrong Foundation for cancer victims and Gupta was pivotal behind various philanthropic organizations.

Now, I come to the more fundamental similarity as only Fate could have designed if anything called Fate exists. Both found themselves challenged to say “No, Baas, khel khatam.”  Lance Armstrong retired, now in hindsight, we know by cheating in 2005 with seven Tour de France wins – a single win makes a man icon for life and it was seven. Rajat Gupta retired as McKinsey CEO – in perspective, he was a corporate czar who had done 10 ashwaneda yagnawhile bench-marked for India. Lance could have easily retired, his fame secured in history and so was for Gupta.

But no, in 2009, Lance came out of retirement and re-joined Tour de France. It was a fatal mistake. What were some faint cries of some isolated critics became more sonorous and in 2010, when his protege Floyd Landis, who won Tour de France and was stripped of the honour for doping  had told to the world that Lance did doping and more damaging, it was Lance who had masterminded the Doping Program. The chela became the star and the most credible witness against the guru. In case of Mr. Gupta, after retirement, he started mixing with rich and shady characters in the shark infected waters of hedge funds and his chela Anil Kumar became government’s star and most credible witness in the case of Insider Trading that found Mr. Gupta convicted.

WHY ?
In all these drama, there is an Irishman, David Walsh, Chief Sports Editor of Sunday Times, London who was a lone voice that was critical about Lance Armstrong and asked very relevant questions and refused to believe in “miracles” and “ubermensch worship”. David pursued the case since 1999 (Lance’s first win of Tour de France) and was vindicated in 2012 when Lance confessed in prime time TV that he took banned drugs in all his 7 Tour de France wins. David said that it was his re-entry in 2009 that was his undoing. He could not resist the temptation of one last project, one last attempt, one last push before  saying Baas – Khel Khatam.


Mr. Gupta, after his retirement from the post of McKinsey CEO, as my research indicates was “kind of lost”. He wanted to be back in the game again, this time as a Director of Goldman Sachs and in that volatile period, fatal errors in judgement. With the advantage of hindsight Mr. Gupta also observes in his memoir, published after he came out of prison after serving his two year sentence, that this re-entry was not a wise choice.

Literature and films are replete with this theme where the last temptation, that lures many to their doom : the last territory to conquer and many are conquered by Fate at the end when the curtain drops.

Wordsmith

Dr. Philo & Wordsmith : Travels in Kota, Rajasthan, India with Schopenhauer

Inbox

[ Dr. Philo and Wordsmith visited Kota, Rajasthan two years back. For those who do not know, Kota is a small town in Rajasthan and is home to a unique industry – tutoring young Indians – 16-20 years, in competitive exams for professional courses in engineering, medical in premier Indian institutes. Dr. Philo first did not believe that such a town can actually exist and then Wordsmith suggested the age honoured scientific method – direct observation. The project was undertaken and two “philosophers” stayed there for a week. A Report. ]


The Experiment


Dr. Philo and Wordsmith braved the heat of the desert and tried to interact with as many young men and women who came from all over India. Some stayed in hostels, some stayed in apartments and some were accompanied by one of their parents. The goal : to crack some of the toughest entrance tests devised by Man. In a sense these young men and women were janissaries  of the Ottoman Empire, who were taken away from an early age and tutored to be the bulwark of the Empire. Wordsmith argued that these young people are tutored mostly on “physics (P), chemistry(C), mathematics(M), biology(B)” and some motivational lectures. The PCMB here should not be considered to be appreciating the beauty of Calculus or the grand summary of Maxwell’s electromagnetic equations or the great awe at Mendelev’s periodic table but how to crack (that is the lingo) the Entrance Test. The greatest of utilitarian philosophers would be amazed to find such narrow utilitarianism in compressing the last two thousand years of humanity’s intellectual achievements.   The Will to XXX (put a premier Indian Institution) has willed and we wanted to see how the greatest proponent of Will – Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy is received by these young but focused individuals.

The Methodology

The institutes, naturally did not allow us to interact with their students and they considered the whole experiment to be counter-productive to the “mission” of the students there. So we have to catch our subjects in public spaces. We talked with them while we ate breakfast. lunch and dinner together. Notes were taken. The core question was : “What motivated them to make such sacrifices of leaving family and living in this otherwise uninteresting town ?”

The Results


In general, Schopanhuer’s fundamental take on Will as a blind and irrational force is vindicated. The whole fruits of Enlightenment values were put at the service of Will, through rationality and intelligence ( the tests were designed to understand one’s grasp of these subjects under tremendous time pressure because out of 120 people who take these tests, 1 gets selected). Thus   one observes, with awe and wonder, how thousands of young men and women are trying to master the skills to “crack” the test, not for any intellectual pursuit but the Will to be in a better station in Life. The tutors are teaching not subjects but “techniques”, to be more precise : techniques as how to remain top the designers of these tests.

There are also stories of people leaving – the weak hearted who could not endure the process. Many felt guilty of spending time in sports or socializing as many started as early as 12 years or 14 years. 

Many had told that they lacked social skills and were under a deep anxiety of missing that “little edge” – again and when we had asked how they would feel when they would achieve their goal, they were not very clear. Again, Schopenhauer’s observation on the twin pillars of Anxiety (“Will I be able to crack ?)  and Boredom (Cracked… now what ?) stand vindicated.

With little time for Art and Philosophy and a misplaced austerity, there is no way Will can be sublimated. One must also keep in mind that these men and women have reached puberty and this opens a fascinating question. Will to crack tests and Will to sexual urges. How are they related ?


Future Research
1.A research on the sexual aspects of the young men and women of Kota will give a direct, broad and large sample evidence as to how sexual urges are channeled in such a Will driven closed environment.

2. In a populous country like India, top test-preparers also conduct filter tests and many do very very well in the final tests.  Presuming that a top talent cream of India passes through these filters into our premier institutions like IIT, AIIMS etc, it stands to reason to take more intellectual interest in the city to know what drives these people.

3. Although Dr. Philo and I, both were critical of the “teaching of science” in these institutions and of the methodology and were unanimous that such a system will not produce  scientists in the true sense, however naturally talented a young man or woman may be. Leaving that sad thought aside, it was great to meet and interact with so many young Indian men and women in that town.

Wordsmith

Dr. Philo & Wordsmith : Ms. Fortune and Lady Philosophy

[ Dr. Philo and Wordsmith, while enjoying their retreat in Wordsmith Ashram, Silchar  had a joint reading of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. A summary of the discussion ]

Ms. Fortune & Lady Philosophy
I was talking to a 16 year old young man – Calcutta, 2021 and asked him what he thought of Philosophy. His response was vague, academic and he sprinkled words like wisdom, view of life etc. It is a typical response and the answer will be the same if someone asks  a contemporary educated Indian about Upanishads or Vedanta. Even if someone checks faculties or tenured professors of modern universities of both the East and the West, the view on Philosophy will be the same. However, ancient thinkers, some of the most influential ones, thought of Philosophy in a more embodied form. A recurrent theme was  a clear distinction between the capriciousness of Ms. Fortune and the calm steadiness of Lady Philosophy.

Ms. Fortune
Boethius, who experienced the wiles and capriciousness of Fortune, visualized Fortune as an alluring, young, nubile female sitting by a wheel and she turns this as per her fancy and someone sits at the top of the wheel, complacent and arrogant and the next turn he falls down, may be from a Consul to someone who receives a tribune who calmly says : “Caesar wishes you to die.” 


This capriciousness of Fate was felt by all thinking men and women of all times. Many philosophers of antiquity were not academicians with salaries but men of great action and having experience in military and civil administration, dealing everyday with men and affairs of varied types, threatened by disease, war, death, imprisonment, bankruptcy, arrest, banishment. Fate turned not at the ballot boxes or in social media as happens in our democratic and relatively equal society, but at the whims of powerful men and women. Some of the greatest minds observed this process and some called it Karmic Wheel, Wheel of Fortune, Will, Maya and so on. It was so much so that Man was forced to search for ORDER in the chaos, Chaos to KOSMOS. Without this faith, science is impossible. But even if someone discovers Universal Order in the material universe, one is still faced with the capriciousness of Ms. Fortune in the affairs of Men or affairs that move men.

Lady Philosophy of the Stoics and the 16 year old Calcutta young man

Lady Philosophy is an anti-thesis of Ms. Fortune. She tells us not to be carried away by the wiles and guiles of Ms. Fortune. She has been telling of the aspirations for which one should actually strive for : wisdom, truth, freedom. The boy was told that when works of such men were read after 1500 years, the world-view was changed.

Today we are living in an age where the trappings of Ms. Fortune are subtler and more immediate. We forget our inner self when someone gets more likes or during appraisal season, for reasons no one knows for sure, a colleague gets a better salary band ( B to A or C to B). There are so many training sessions but no training as to how to govern oneself in appraisal season or to avoid the urge to break the neck of one’s boss.

No one can penetrate the true nature and workings of Ms. Fortune without the counsel of Lady Philosophy. She counsels and consoles only the qualified and those who are ready.

Ms. Fortune has no such criterion or distinctions and thus she presides over Fate and many men, especially men who know less, less of her true nature seeks her favour alone. However, they learn at the very end that the favour came with a bargain – to hear a cruel laughter when she carelessly and sometimes, as if maliciously turns the wheel.

Science and Lady Philosophy

Modern science was born – in utero in the womb of Lady Philosophy that said : there must be an order in the outer universe and the inner moral universe. What Ionian philosophers talked of KOSMOS and its Order, the Greek of Konisberg echoed : there is an ORDER in the heavens and in the moral universe of man.

And in the East, there was also a realization that reflections on Mortality is the first step of appreciating  Moral Laws.

Lady Philosophy counsels and consoles us in Life and Death, because Death is also an act of Life.

Wordsmith

Dr. Philo & Wordsmith : Cubicle and You

[ Dr. Philo and Wordsmith, while enjoying their retreat in Wordsmith Ashram, Silchar  had  discussed on a very trivial matter – the site / table / workspace and shares notes]


Cubicle Cubicles, for most of the employees, are not functional space alone but a “space” designed by the employer’s designer who is guided by sets of principles and guidelines that have least concern for the individual who is going to work there. Cubicle designers are designers of Routine as in schools and colleges and are designed to suit everybody but suits nobody perfectly. Even in the system of “Work from Home”, cubicles remain, only now the cost if paid by the employee and not by the employer. A witty Calcutta man has observed the situation with regards to IT sector employees – “There is a possibility that no longer the fellow will wear full pants during work.”


My Tryst with Cubicle1995 / Bangalore : I visited Satyam (now defunct) and Infosys office (some college seniors worked there) in Bangalore and when I saw the bee-hive like cubicles, my heart sank. A hermetically sealed room, no sunlight, air is controlled, a low buzz and everything looks the same, except the photographs of families in each cubicle. I decided not to work as a Digital Clerk, then and there.

1996/ Bombay : I visited my employer’s office and the same situation, except for the fact that there were massive gateway switches and no bee-hive but controlled air and no sunlight. Cubicle environment in a sense is a film set which looms so large on a person’s life but is 100 per cent controlled. Cubicles are absurd and perhaps because of this, the absurdity of cubicles capture our imagination so much that people spend a life-time.

1997/Cochin : I volunteered for distasteful errand works (there I met my friends, venture fund angel, no return loan giver) to escape the cubicle and then joined a team that laid optical fibres across seven seas and escaped all forms of cubicles for five years.

1998 / Tokyo : I was trained in an NEC office and I could see how with the greatest Japanese skill in space management, discipline and calm environment still could not uplift my spirit. I felt that I would die if I was asked to work in such cubicles.

2001/London and New York : I met classmates who worked in the banking sectors in both the financial hubs. As IT men, they were “helps” and they worked in – again hermetically sealed environment and I concluded – these cubicles have a theology of their own otherwise one cannot completely de-link one’s action and its effects. It was in these offices that made me understand why a decent man can trigger something like the Credit Crisis of 2008 where all responsibility was granular.  I also sympathized why many bankers take drugs not as a recreation but as a necessity. (Wolves of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese observes the characters with great detachment and confirms the necessity part)  


2002/Calcutta: Cubicle again. Two years. One great blessing was the spaciousness and one of the reasons was “less business” in the region. Every bad has some good. It was in this cubicle, I started thinking how to escape it forever. I mean, to become a freelancer.

2006 / Wordsmith Adda Zone, Calcutta East : There was a betel-nut palm tree, young and its foliage used to touch my window grille by the desk. I was sure there was some connection with this tree. I used to work and look at the tree just like one looks at a colleague over the cubicle.

2008/Wordsmith Ashram, Silchar : A jack-fruit tree – very close to the ramshackle desk in the Ashram.

2021 / Wordsmith Villa / Calcutta East : There is a মাধবীলতা tree just by the window and I observe her in all seasons. I looked at her while I was writing this.

CONCLUSION

Tell me the cubicle you prefer and I shall tell you who you are and your destiny.

Wordsmith

Dr. Philo & Wordsmith : Either / Or || Understand / Backwards, Live / Forward

[ Dr. Philo earns his living from multiple and complicated sources of pension and royalties and Wordsmith earns his living from a similar complex network of rent,  investments, business income and royalties. They both fall into the so-called Leisure Class. Many honourable ancient and modern philosophers believed that philosophy is reserved for the leisured class and many believed the complete opposite. Here, these two gentlemen discuss the works of a Danish Philosopher – Soren Kierkegaard, who was born in the high Christian aristocracy of Copenhagen but wrote, not to create philosophical systems, but to breathe and live.]


“EITHER / OR” This is the title of one of the books written by Soren Kierkegaard, originally in Danish and no one knew about it. In his lifetime, no one knew of his works except in a close circle of Copenhagen but within the next hundred years, his works started to influence every major philosopher. In this book, a very pithy comment appeared and remains a cornerstone of his philosophy : Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards and closely followed by  Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced. These two sentences are the “either / or ” conjuncts and Man is always on the razor’s edge because without God and any absolute authority, freedom is nothing but anxiety. This was told in terms of a whole group of individuals meshed in a system called democracy. Hence both the elected and those who elect share, if not anything else, one one : anxiety.  He invented angst – the mental signature of modern Man. Since Life can only be lived forward, what is the significance of studying history ? If philosophy has something to do with questioning beliefs, this is it – a daring challenge to all “knowledge” of the past and its accumulation. 

ROMANCE AND MARRIAGE
He broke off his marriage after a long courtship with Regina and why, the dilemma of “Either / Or” – “to be or not to be” – a Danish Hamlet in a sense. Though he broke off the marriage, he treated her with all propriety because his Either / Or was not of common philistines and womanizers – Either Regina / Or Czarina but Romance / Matrimony. Many men and women, since antiquity, have felt the import of this but few have discussed this so personally. Soren, while dying at just 42, his money almost running out, but triumphant and happy, bequeathed his remaining estate to Regina as if she was his married wife.  A philosopher who questioned everything, lived on a razor’s edge, remained true to the tradition of medieval chivalry with all sincerity.


EITHER / OR || AMIT (অমিত) / LABANYA (লাবণ্য)
For a Bengali reader, Soren’s philosophical outlook is alien and may even seem “lifeless”. Thus, I shall ask my readers to consider the dialogue between two famous characters of a Tagore lyrical poem – শেষের কবিতা where this tension is lyrically pregnant but linear and flat. All great artists struggle with themselves through phantoms called characters. If Life itself is a phantom or worse, an absurd phantom, what about characters ? Here the either / or of romance / matrimony is taken to a non-linear level and then approaches the Singularity of the object that is worthy of our highest asset – love and Soren comes to an explosive stand : God. How ? Here he takes a Leap of Faith – a tunneling effect where the band-gap of Either / Or is breached – non-linearly.

DANISH HAMLET
At the end of his life,he was becoming silent. He seldom spoke after his last book was self-published and his money almost ran out.Some say he died a Christian, some say not. Whatever it is, he lived an authentic life and like the sad, unfortunate yet immortal prince of Denmark, Soren embodied the dying words of that prince of literature – The rest is silence.

He died in 1855. He lies everywhere in Modern Philosophy.

Wordsmith

Dr. Philo & Wordsmith : Anxiety in the Instagram Age

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[ Dr. Philo earns his living from multiple and complicated sources of pension and royalties and Wordsmith earns his living from a similar complex network of rent,  investments, business income and royalties. Dr. Philo’s formal career started with mathematics and then veered into multiple domains as he refused to be a specialist.]

Acknowledgement : This post is a collaborative work between the thoughts of Marcus Auerlius, St, Augustine, Seneca and Chankya, Ms. Nayanika (10th class student), Mr. Priyam (10th class student), Mr. Cari Minati ( Roasting expert Youtuber) and Ms. Tayor Francis (Instagram Queen) 

Anxiety

The causes of human anxiety can be traced back to two fundamental and immutable factors  – a) we are inside a body that aches, ages, smells and dies and b) in between, we have no control on many things which we would have liked to control, say, the number of Instagram followers or likes in a post. In any democractic system whether for vote or for likes or for any favour – there will be always “hustling” hence – from the richest in likes to the poorest in likes, no one stops saying the prayer – “please click on the bell icon.” Democracy will always breed anxiety because we are dependent on our fellow men (not God, demi-gods, Supreme God like Authority) to achieve our dreams and aspirations and men and their opinions are such incorrigible and fluctuating things. So, there are two kinds of anxieties – philosophical and democratic-default. 99,99% of humanity of all ages, thankfully do not suffer the philosophical form of anxiety in a conscious way. In totalitarian, authoritarian and theocratic systems, men have other sufferings but they do not have democratic anxiety because in such societies, certain dreams and aspirations are considered to be of the realm of Gods.

Democratic-Default Anxiety – Instagram Age


Human Favour : I and Dr. Philo calculated that Alexander the Great, during the peak of his conquest, was known  by name, while estimated liberally to some 10 million people. Today, a Youtuber or Instagram Queen’s name / work is known to millions and millions of people. It needed Alexander to travel from Greece to Pakistan, fighting hundreds of battles and huge danger to one’s life and that of his fellow soldiers. Today, while looking from the angle of sheer numbers, Alexander would not have considered himself great at all, he would have requested a fellow you-tuber to share his video of how he burnt down Persepolis. Alexander the Great sought the favour of Greek gods, not men. Today, the most powerful men essentially hustle, at least to reach the position.

The Theory of Marginal Envy : The fuel of democratic and free society is envy – in subtle and gross form.  In a totalitarian or aristocratic society, the gulf  between 0.001% and the rest are so vast and mind-boggling that there cannot be any question of envy. No one envies Lord Krishna for having 16,000 wives and more girlfriends but two youtubers or two Instagram queens will seriously ponder to put a contract to “whack” the other because of some hundred thousand differences in views / subscribers / likes. Thus, all democratic, secular, open and free society will pay the price of all desirable with the currency of anxiety – daughter of marginal envy.

EndNote

The Aristocratic Age produces Philosophers, Democratic Age produces Psycho Analysts. Philosophers, many noble ones consider suicide as a solution, Therapists consider better Therapies as a solution.

In all civil societies, there is an age limit for selling alcohol, nicotine and many such intoxicants and are heavily regulated – legally and morally. There is no regulation or age limit in regulating the anxiety inducing intoxicants and stimulants like YouTuber, Instagram king/queen, Reality TV / performance artist etc. This will have implications.

Wordsmith