Saturday, August 4, 2007

Theory of Attraction

The Truth About the French Model: The Rest of the World Is Jealous

Jacques Attali, president and CEO of PlanetFinance, was the top aide to President François Mitterrand and the founding president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate for the presidency, was an assistant to Attali at the Elysée Palace.
Paris —During the hotly contested election earlier this year in France, the fate of "the French model" was much discussed.
I am very much aware that France is seen as an odd animal, able to call a gigantic strike at any moment for obscure reasons. I realize that my country is often seen as the last reservoir of bureaucrats in the world, a kind of sleeping Titanic. The huge strikes organized to prevent young employees from being fired with no explanation puzzles a lot of people. Many take the view that the French denial of work flexibility is just a refusal to face reality.
The truth is very different. The fact is, the rest of the world is jealous of France.
If France is attracting more tourists than any country in the world as well as high levels of foreign investment, it is because the quality of life is so high. When I hear the British bashing France's supposed weaknesses, I wonder why so few French people buy houses in the British countryside, while so many Britons are doing so in France. The reason is the same: The quality of life in France is one of the highest in the world, if not the best. No doubt about it. And France is not going to decline: French productivity per hour is also one of the highest in the world. France is number one, two or three in many fields, and will stay so. I wonder how long the caricature of a lazy France can survive.
There are, of course, some good reasons to criticize France. One is the nature of its political elite: old, in place for more than 30 years, fascinated by the past, unaware of world realities. They are as pathetic as young people in France are dynamic. A revolution is inevitable. When? How? Rapidly? Quietly? Profoundly? A new elite will emerge, in phase with the deep dynamism of the French people. In this regard, the election will shed some light.
But lest foreigners get the wrong impression, let me be clear: France, and the French left in particular, is not going to surrender to any model. France will never become a carbon copy of any other country. And the French left will continue in its own way, albeit modernizing all the time with the help of new technologies.
Yes, France is an exception, but no more than any other country is an exception by its history, geography and culture. There is no reason, therefore, why the French left and right would seek to imitate any other doctrine or set of rules coming from outside. The French left is a mirror of French society, pursuing social justice and social mobility.
France has been built around a strong central state, a unified language and grand projects. This has made France what it is today: a strong nation, with a high standard of living, life expectancy increasing by three months each year and excellent transport infrastructure.
If France is an exception, it is happy to be one. It cannot, and should not, destroy its main attributes just to please its competitors. There is no such thing as a universal, ideal model for the left that France and others should imitate. There are only national situations. In policy terms, the future of the left lies not in surrendering to an overwhelming market economy, but inventing new ways of balancing the market with democracy. This balance, and the means of achieving it, are specific to each country.
That is why there is an agreement among all the parties of the center left to keep a balance between the power of the state (crucial for welfare as well as for protection of the language, industrial policy, policing, defense, foreign policy, social security, social integration, energy, health and pensions) and the power of the regions (in charge of culture, innovation, the environment, roads and schools).
The defense of the French language as the cement of the nation is one of the state's key roles for the future at a time when globalization suggests that other nations are failing in that fight. Neither left nor right in France wants the country to become a patchwork of ethnic communities.
France has many problems—high unemployment, lack of mobility, weakness of higher education, affordability of housing, inadequate integration of minorities, public debt and threat of industrial decline, to name a few. But there is no model outside France to solve these problems.
The French left is happy to consider the so-called British model and to admire some dimensions of it, such as its employment policies. But it should be warned against imitating the whole recipe. For instance, it believes passionately in assimilation, and should be wary of imitating the dangerous shift toward atomized lives or separate communities as we see in Britain or Holland. It is also not convinced that a nation can survive without a strong industrial backbone. The United Kingdom, for example, cannot consist solely of the city of London.
France, therefore, will build on its assets: a strong state, an efficient health system and a strong industrial base, and try to reduce its main weaknesses by improving mobility, research and competition.
The next challenge will be to introduce new ideas to the doctrine of the left, in France as elsewhere. Globalization has so far taken place only in the economy. We need a globalization of democracy, too. For that, we need to imagine the use of new technologies in politics, the wider provision of information and a new concept of participatory democracy. We need to consider the acquisition of skills as an activity worthy of a decent salary rather than exploitation. We need to reorganize and revive the institutions of global world governance.
These are some of the things that all social democratic parties of the world should work for, together, instead of trying to export their own very specific recipes to environments that are totally unsuitable for them.

The Coming Water Wars

Denim+Silk+Saree= hmm... let's leave it to the ladies !!

क्योंकि सपना है अभी भी

क्योंकि सपना है अभी भी

- धर्मवीर भारती (Dharamvir Bharti)

...क्योंकि सपना है अभी भी
इसलिए तलवार टूटी अश्व घायल
कोहरे डूबी दिशाएं
कौन दुश्मन, कौन अपने लोग, सब कुछ धुंध धूमिल
किन्तु कायम युद्ध का संकल्प है अपना अभी भी
...क्योंकि सपना है अभी भी!

तोड़ कर अपने चतुर्दिक का छलावा
जब कि घर छोड़ा, गली छोड़ी, नगर छोड़ा
कुछ नहीं था पास बस इसके अलावा
विदा बेला, यही सपना भाल पर तुमने तिलक की तरह आँका था
(एक युग के बाद अब तुमको कहां याद होगा?)
किन्तु मुझको तो इसी के लिए जीना और लड़ना
है धधकती आग में तपना अभी भी
....क्योंकि सपना है अभी भी!

तुम नहीं हो, मैं अकेला हूँ मगर
वह तुम्ही हो जो
टूटती तलवार की झंकार में
या भीड़ की जयकार में
या मौत के सुनसान हाहाकार में
फिर गूंज जाती हो

और मुझको
ढाल छूटे, कवच टूटे हुए मुझको
फिर तड़प कर याद आता है कि
सब कुछ खो गया है - दिशाएं, पहचान, कुंडल,कवच
लेकिन शेष हूँ मैं, युद्धरत् मैं, तुम्हारा मैं
तुम्हारा अपना अभी भी

इसलिए, तलवार टूटी, अश्व घायल
कोहरे डूबी दिशाएं
कौन दुश्मन, कौन अपने लोग, सब कुछ धूंध धुमिल
किन्तु कायम युद्ध का संकल्प है अपना अभी भी
... क्योंकि सपना है अभी भी!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

When Your Printer Stops Working

"The President is Threatening Me"


In case I get picked up and taken away under President Bush's Military Commissions Act of October 2006, I want it on record that I am not a terrorist or an enemy combatant, and that the organization I run in Bellingham is not associated with any terrorist cell.
The Whatcom Peace & Justice Center works non-violently to end the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is committed to envisioning and creating a world for our children where diplomacy and friendship are the measuring stick for our foreign policy. We have never intended, planned or considered violence as a means to peace.
In case my assets, which are few, get seized and my hard drive gets robbed under Bush's new executive order of July 17, 2007, I want you to know my name so that I am not disappeared. I have a 6-year-old son to raise, and, like so many intelligent, passionate peace activists, the world needs me to be a leader in ending my country's imperial addiction to warfare.
The new executive order blocks property of certain people who undermine efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq. Its language leaves the door dangerously open to broad and flagrant interpretation that could label as a terrorist suspect anyone who holds a political viewpoint opposite that of the White House.
There's no doubt that the administration preys on our civil liberties, and that the effects of unjust policies filter down to the local level. In 2003, a Quaker Meeting House in Florida was put under surveillance through the Pentagon's domestic spying program and labeled a threat. But Quakerism is a religion of pacifism; naturally, they would be against war. The Department of Defense spying on a group of draft counselors? Come on.
In 2004, the FBI approached the Whatcom County Library in Deming with a grand jury subpoena demanding librarians turn over the names and contact information of every person who checked out "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America." The library pursued legal action and the FBI eventually withdrew the subpoena. The director of the Whatcom County Library System, Jane Airoldi, received a human rights award for refusing to hand over patrons' private information. "Libraries are a haven where people should be able to seek whatever information they want to pursue without any threat of government intervention," Airoldi said.
When our government no longer equates terrorism with violence, but with the perceived threat of an unsubstantiated rumor of intent to "pose a significant risk of committing an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the government"; or when non-violent pacifism is misconstrued as a tactic that undermines national security, no one is exempt from capture, detention and possible torture.
I perceive Bush's July 17 executive order as a personal threat. When someone makes a threat, their intention is often to scare, isolate and subdue the other person into silence through fear.
I will not be silent.
Like millions of dissenters around the world, I want my name to be included among those who resisted those unjust policies and decrees. The American people must have the courage to resist. Otherwise, our friends and neighbors may begin to disappear, and we may not hear them being carted off in the middle of the night. As a patriotic American who holds steadfast to a belief in justice, I do not accept Bush's threats to my constitutional and human rights passively. If I disappear, I disappear. But I will not go willingly, and I will not go unnamed.
Marie Marchand is executive director of Whatcom Peace & Justice Center in Bellingham.

Source: Seattlepi

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Build-Up of Sex and Love

-excerpt from his book
U G Krishnamurti

We are not honest, decorous and decent enough to admit that all relationships are built on the foundation of, "What do I get out of this relationship?" It is nothing but mutual gratification. If that is absent, no relationship is possible. You keep the relationship going for social reasons, or for reasons of children, property, and security. All this is part and parcel of the relationship business. But when it fails and does not give us what we really want, we superimpose on it what we call "love". So, it is just not possible to have any relationship on any basis except on the level of mutual gratification.
The whole culture has created, for its own reasons, this situation for us through its value system. The value system demands that relationships be based on love. But the most important element is security and then possessiveness. You want to possess the other individual. When your hold on the other becomes weaker for various reasons, your relationship wears out. You cannot maintain this "lovey-dovey" relationship all the time.
The relationship between a man and a woman is based on the images that the two create for themselves of each other. So, the actual relationship between the two individuals is a relationship between the two images. But your image keeps changing, and so does the other person's. To keep the image constant is just not possible. So, when everything else fails, we use this final, last card in the pack, "love", with all the marvelous and romantic ideations around it.
Sex has to be put in its proper place as one of the natural functionings of the body. All these claims of the spiritual teachers that it will move from the muladhara to the sahasrara are rubbish. Don't believe all that nonsense. So, we have to revise all our ideas about this whole business of sex. We give a tremendous importance to sex and so the denial of it becomes such an obsession with people. In India they even moved away from that denial and created what is called Tantric sex. It was the highest pleasure that human beings could have. Sex through Tantra was considered the highest. That was the reason why they created in Brazil, and probably in some other countries too, the coupling of the male and the female organs. We have in India all that nonsense—the temples, and then a temple for the bull, a symbol of virility. All these were admired and worshiped. This is the other extreme [to denial of sex]: indulgence in sex became a spiritual pursuit. They talked of achieving spiritual goals, enlightenment, or what have you, through sex, and called it Tantric sex. Whether it is ordinary sex or Tantric sex, or you go and have sex with a prostitute, it's all the same.
So, until this happened to me, the powerful drive was still there. That didn't bother me because I was determined to figure out and solve this problem [of sex] for myself and by myself. I did not go to a therapist. I never believed in any therapy. So it resolved on its own and by itself. Sex has a place in the organism in that it is a very simple functioning of the body. Its interest is only to create. I discovered these things by myself.
I am not against promiscuity, nor am I against celibacy. But I want to emphasize one basic thing, that is, in the pursuit of your spiritual matters it doesn't really make any difference whether you practice celibacy or indulge in sex and call it Tantric sex. It is comforting to believe that you are having Tantric sex and not sex with a call girl or a prostitute. To say that there is more `feeling' or more closeness when you have sex for spiritual reasons is absolute gibberish.
Call it a fucking club or a Tantric center—it doesn't really matter. You run a brothel because there is a demand for that. There are so many people who are doing this kind of thing in the name of enlightenment. That is detestable to me. They are not honest enough to admit that they are using that [the lure of enlightenment] for fulfilling their lust. That is why they are running these brothels. This kind of gurus are pimps.
What I want to say is that unfortunately, society, culture, or whatever you want to call it, has separated the sex activity and put it on a different level, instead of treating it as a simple functioning of the living organism. It is a basic thing in nature. Survival and reproduction are basic things in the living organisms. You can change the areas, you can change the ideas, you can write books. It really doesn't matter. As far as I am concerned, I don't tell anybody what they should or should not do. My interest is to point out that this is the situation and say, "Take it or leave it."
No, look. Anything we touch we turn into a problem; and sex even more so, because this is the most powerful drive there is. If you translate it [into pleasure] and push it into an area where it does not really belong, namely, the pleasure movement, we will, then, create problems. When once you create a problem, the demand to deal with that problem within that framework is bound to arise. So, that is where you come in [with sex therapy etc.]. I have nothing against sex therapists, but that problem [sex as pleasure] has to be solved by people. Otherwise they become neurotic. They don't know what to do with themselves. Not only that, but everything, God, truth, reality, liberation, moksha, is ultimate pleasure. We are not ready to accept that.
You talk of the sacredness of life and condemn abortion. This is the same old idiotic Christian idea persisting, which turned every woman into a criminal. And then you go and kill hundreds and thousands of people in the name of your flag, in the name of patriotism. That is the way things are. Not that it is in your interest to change it, but change is something which this structure [i.e., thought] is not interested in. It only talks of change. But you know things are changing constantly.
It's really unfortunate that man got away with everything for centuries while society ignored women. Half the population of this planet was neglected, humiliated and treated as doormats. Even the Bible story tells you that the woman is made out of the rib of man. What preposterous nonsense! You see, women's intelligence is lost for this culture. Not only here, it's the same everywhere. You are praising the woman as a darling and she accepts that minor role. The woman is also to be blamed for it. I am not overly enthusiastic about all these feminist movements today. It is a revolt that really has no basis. It's more of a reaction.
Both are responsible for this. I say this very often. One of the leaders of the feminist movement visited me and asked, "What do you have to say of our movement?" I said, "I am on your side, but you have to realize one very fundamental thing. As long as you depend on man for your sexual needs, so long you are not a free person. If you use a vibrator for your sexual satisfaction, that is a different matter." "You are very crude," she said. I am not crude. What I am saying is a fact.
As long as you depend upon something or somebody there is scope for exploitation. I am not against the feminist movement. They ought to have every right. Even today, in the same job a woman is paid less in the United States than a man. Why? There was a time when I believed that if women were to rule this world, it would be a different story. We had a woman prime minister in India and a woman prime minister in Sri Lanka. There was a lady prime minister in England. I don't know whether that will happen in America and whether a woman will be the president of the United States. But I tell you they [women] are as ruthless as any others. In fact, more ruthless. So, it is not a question of a man running the show or a woman running the show, but it is the system that corrupts.
Assuming for a moment that the advantage that we [men] have had for centuries is not a culturally instigated thing, but a hormonal phenomenon, you have to deal with it in a different way and not put that person on the couch, analyze him, and say that his mother or his great-grandmother was responsible for his aggression. That is too absurd and silly. So, we have to find some way. The basic question which we have to ask for ourselves is: what kind of a human being do you want? But unfortunately we have placed before ourselves the model of a perfect being. The perfect being is a god man or a spiritual man or an avatar, or some such being. But forcing everyone to fit into that mold is the cause of our tragedy. It is just not possible for us all to be like that.
Who is normal? The normal person is a statistical concept. But how can this [whatever U.G. is] be a model? This [whatever has happened to U.G.] has no value in the sense that whatever I am cannot be fitted into any value system. It is of no use for the world. It has no value for me and it has no value for the world. You may very well ask me the question, "Why the hell are we talking about all this?" Because you had some questions to throw at me, and what I am doing is to put them in a proper perspective. I only say, "Look at it this way."
I am not interested in winning you over to my point of view, because I have no point of view. And there is no way you can win me over to your point of view. It is not that I am dogmatic or any such thing. It is impossible for you to win me over to your point of view. During a conversation like this, somebody throws at me words at me like, "Oh, you are very this and very that." All right," I say, "This is my point of view. What the hell is yours?" It is also a point of view. So how do you think these two points of view can be reconciled, and for what purpose do you want to reconcile them? You feel good because you have won him to your point of view. You use your logic and your rationality because you are more intelligent than I am. All this is nothing but a power play.
You feel good, like the people who claim to render service to mankind. That is the "do-gooder's" high. You help an old woman across the street and you feel it is good. But it is a self-centered activity. You are interested only in some brownie points, but you shamelessly tell others that you are doing a social turn. I am not cynical. I am just pointing out that it [this feeling] is a do-gooder's high. It is just like any other high. If I admit this, living becomes very simple. If you admit this, then it also shows what a detestable creature you are. You are doing it for yourself, and you tell others and yourself that you are doing it for the benefit of others. I am not cynical. You may say that I am a cynic, but cynicism is realism. The cynic's feet are firmly fixed on the ground.
I tell all those who want to discuss with me the question of how to decondition yourself, how to live with an unconditioned mind, that the very thing that they are doing is conditioning them, conditioning them in a different way. You are just picking up a new lingo instead of using the usual one. You begin to use the new lingo and feel good. That's all. But this is conditioning you in exactly the same way; that's all it can do. The physical body [U.G. is now referring to himself] is conditioned in such a way that it acts as intelligence. Conditioning is intelligence here. There is no need for you to think.
The conditioning of the body is its intelligence. That is the native intelligence of the body. I am not talking about the instinct. The intelligence of the body is necessary for its survival. That intelligence is quite different from the intellect which we have developed. Our intellect is no match for that intelligence. If you don't think, the body can take care of itself in a situation where it finds itself in danger. Whenever the body is faced with danger, it relies upon itself and not your thinking or your intellect. If, on the other hand, you just think, then you are frightened. The fear makes it difficult for you to act. People ask me, "How come you take walks with the cobras?" I have never done it with a tiger or any other wild animal. But I don't think I would be frightened of them either. If there is no fear in you, then you can take walks with them. The fear emits certain odors which the cobra senses. The cobra senses that you are a dangerous thing. Naturally, the cobra has to take the first step. Otherwise, it is one of the most beautiful creatures that nature has created. They are the most lovable creatures. You can take a walk with them and you can talk to them.
Once a friend of mine, a movie star, visited me in an ashram that I was staying in. She asked me whether it was all an exaggeration that cobras visited me and that I took walks with them. I said, "You wait till the evening or night, and you will be surprised." Later, when we went for a walk at dusk, not just one cobra, but its wife, children, and grandchildren—about fifteen of them, appeared out of nowhere. The whole family. My guest ran away. If you try to play with it [with the idea of taking walks with cobras], you are in trouble. It is your fear that is responsible for the situation you find yourself in. It is your fear that creates a problem for the cobra; then it has to take the first step.
If the cobra kills you, you are only one person. Whereas we kill hundreds and thousands of cobras for no reason. If you destroy these cobras, then the field mice will have a field day, and you will find that they destroy the crops. There is a tremendous balance in nature. Our indiscretions are responsible for the imbalance in nature.
If I find a cobra trying to harm a child or somebody, I would tell him (I may not kill the cobra, you see) or tell the cobra to go away. [Laughter] You know, the cobra will go away. But you, on the other hand, have to kill. Why do you have to kill hundreds and thousands for no reason? The fear that they will harm us in the future is what is responsible for such acts. But we are creating an imbalance in nature; and then you will have to kill the field mice also. They leave them uneaten in the fields. It's amazing. I noticed it several times. By associating themselves with us, even cats and rats have become like human beings. You also give identity to the cats and names to the dogs. Human culture has spoiled those animals. Unfortunately, we spoil the animals by making them our pets.
I am only trying to focus or spotlight the whole thing and say, "This is the way you look at these things; but look at them this [other] way. Then you will be able to find out the solutions for yourself without anyone's help." That is all. My interest is to point out to you that you can walk, and please throw away all those crutches. If you are really handicapped, I wouldn't advise you to do any such thing. But you are made to feel by other people that you are handicapped so that they could sell you those crutches. Throw them away and you can walk. That's all that I can say. "If I fall..."—that is your fear. Put the crutches away, and you are not going to fall. When we are made to believe that we are handicapped, you become dependent on the crutches. The modern gurus supply you with mechanized crutches.
You know, joking apart, I am not competent enough to offer any comments on these matters, but one thing I want to assert is that for some reason this body of ours does not want to know anything or learn anything from us. No doubt we have made tremendous advances in the field of medical technology. But are they really helping the body? That is one of the basic questions that we should ask. I think what we are actually doing is trying to treat the symptoms of what we call a disease. But my question is, and I always throw this question at the people who are competent enough—the doctors: What is health? What is disease? Is there any such thing as disease for this body? The body does not know that it is healthy or unhealthy. You know, we translate the `malfunctioning' [of the body] to mean that there is some imbalance in the natural rhythm of the body. Not that we know what actually is the rhythm of the body. But we are so frightened that we run to a doctor or to somebody who we think is in the know of things and can help us.
We do not give a chance for the body to work out the problems created by the situation we find ourselves in. We do not give enough time for the body. But what actually is health? You are a doctor, and my question to you is, what actually is health? Does the body know, or does it have any way of knowing, that it is healthy or unhealthy? To me pain is a healing process. But we do not give enough chance or opportunity to the body to heal itself or help itself, to free itself from what we call pain. We are frightened, you see. We are afraid that something terrible will happen to us. That is what all these commercials are taking advantage of. They are exploiting the gullibility and credulity of people. It is not that I am saying that you should not go to a doctor or take the help of medicine.
I am not one of those who believe that your prayers will help the body to recover from whatever disease it has, or that God is going to be the healer. Nothing like that. Pain is part of the biological functioning of the body, and that is all there is to it. And we have to rely or depend upon the chemistry of this body, and the body always gives us a warning. In the early stages we do not pay any attention, but when it becomes too much for the body to handle, there is panic and fear. Maybe it is necessary for us to go to a person who is in the know of affairs and get a helping hand from him. That's all we can do.
What I want to emphasize is that what we call identity, the `I', the `me', the `you', the `center', the `psyche', is artificially created. It does not exist at all. It has been culturally created. We are doing everything possible to maintain that identity, whether we are asleep, awake, or dreaming. The instrument that we use to maintain this identity strengthens, fortifies, and gives continuity to it.
The constant use of memory is wearing you out. We really do not know what memory is, but we are constantly using it to maintain that non-existent identity of ours. We really don't know, and nobody has come up with any definite and positive answer to the question of what memory is. You may say that it is all neurons, but there is this constant use of memory to maintain identity. It is that that is responsible for turning us all into neurotic individuals. The constant use of that is going to be the tragedy of mankind. Because of this overuse we don't have enough energy to deal with problems of living. It is consuming tremendous amounts of energy. But there are no hard and fast rules, so much so that anybody can offer us ways and means of freeing ourselves from this danger that we are all going to face one of these days.
Because of the constant use of memory, which is thought, to maintain identity, many of these glands which are very essential for the functioning of the living organism have remained dormant, inert, and inactive. Some people who are interested in religious things try to activate them, and feel that they are getting somewhere. But if you try to activate any of those through some techniques that you are importing from countries like India or elsewhere, it might be dangerous. They [those techniques] might shatter the whole nervous system. Instead of helping people, they might give you a `high'. One danger in playing with these glands is that we might create more problems for this body rather than to help it function normally, sanely and intelligently. That danger is there. There is not enough research done on these things, and it may be highly dangerous to rush into doing something with them.....When I use the term `natural state', it is not a synonym for `enlightenment', `freedom', or `God-realization', and so forth. Not at all. When the totality of mankind's knowledge and experience loses its stranglehold on the body—the physical organism—then the body is allowed to function in its own harmonious way. Your natural state is a biological, neurological, and physical state.
I can make no definitive statements about the part genes play in the evolutionary process, but at the moment it appears that Darwin was at least partially wrong in insisting that acquired characteristics could not be genetically transmitted. I think that they are transmitted in some fashion. I am not competent enough to say whether the genes play any part in the transmission.
Anyway, the problem lies in our psyche. We function in a thought-sphere, and not in our biology. The separative thought structure, which is the totality of man's thoughts, feelings, experiences, and so on—what we call psyche or soul or self—is creating the disturbance. That is what is responsible for our misery; that's what continues the battle that is going on there [in the human being] all the time. This interloper, the thought sphere, has created your entire value system.
The body is not in the least interested in values, much less a value system. It is only concerned with intelligent moment-to-moment survival, and nothing else. Spiritual `values' have no meaning to it. When, through some miracle or chance you are freed from the hold of thought and culture, you are left with the body's natural functions, and nothing else. It then functions without the interference of thought. Unfortunately, the servant, which is the thought structure that is there, has taken possession of the house. But he can no longer control and run the household. So he must be dislodged. It is in this sense that I use the term `natural state', without any connotation of spirituality or enlightenment.
Nature does not use models. No two leaves are the same; no two faces are the same; no two human beings are the same. I understand your problem. You are not the first scientist to come here demanding `scientific proof', throwing questions at me like, "Why can't we test these statements you are making." First of all, I am not selling anything. Second, their interest, and yours, is to use this natural state in your misguided efforts to change or `save' mankind. I say that no change is necessary, period. Your corrupt society has put into you this notion of change, that you are this and you must be that.
Anything that insists that you be something other than what you in fact are is the very thing that is falsifying you and the world. I somehow stumbled into this natural state on my own, and I cannot, under any circumstances transmit it to others. It has no social, political, commercial, or transformational value to anyone. I do not sit upon platforms haranguing you, demanding that you change the world. As things are, you and the world—which are not two separate things—cannot be any different. All these attempts on the part of man to change himself go entirely against the way nature is operating. That is why I am not interested. Sorry! Take it or leave it. It's up to you. Whether you praise me or insult me, I am not in the least interested. It is your affair. I don't fit into the picture [of `scientific investigation'] at all. I am only talking about it in response to your questions. You throw the ball, and it bounces back. There is no urge in me to express myself to you or anyone else.
Culture is a way of life and the way of thinking of a people. To me, this is culture: how we entertain ourselves, how we speculate about reality, what kind of things we are interested in, what kind of art we have, and so on. Whether the culture is Oriental or Occidental, it is basically the same. I don't see any difference between the two except one of accent, just as we all speak English with different accents. All human beings are exactly the same, whether they are Russian, American or Indian. What is going on in the head of that man walking in the street is no different from what is going on inside the head of a person walking in a street in New York. Basically it is the same. His goal may be different. But the instrument he is using to achieve his goal is exactly the same, namely, his trying to become something other than what he is.
Things have gone too far. If, just to take one example, the evermore sophisticated genetic engineering techniques are monopolized by the state, we are sunk. What little freedom is still open to mankind will be brought under the control of the state, and the state will be in a position to create designer human beings, any type it wants, with impunity. It is all very respectable. Mankind will be robotized on a scale never dreamt of before. What can be done to stop or prevent that sort of catastrophe? I say, nothing. It is too late. You may call me a skeptic, a cynic, a this or a that, but this is hard realism. It is your privilege to think what you will, but I fail to see any way out, as long as man remains as he is, which is almost a certainty. I don't see how it is possible for us to reverse this trend.
This crisis has not arrived unannounced. It has been building up for a long time, from the day long ago when man felt this self-consciousness in himself, and decided that the world was created for him to hold and rule. On that day he laid the foundation for the total destruction of everything that nature has taken so many millennia to create and build. There is a process—I wouldn't necessarily call it evolution—but when it slows down then a revolution takes place. Nature tries to put together something and start all over again, just for the sake of creating. This is the only true creativity.
You want to make something of what I am saying, to use it somehow to further your own aims. You may say that it is for humanity's sake, but really you don't give a damn about society at all. What I am saying cannot possibly be of any use to you or your society. It can only put an end to you as you know yourself now. Neither is what I am saying of any use to me, because I cannot set up any holy business and make money. It is just impossible for me. I am not interested in freeing anyone or taking anybody away from anyone else. What they are interested in they can get from their gurus. You can go to the temples and pray there. You certainly get some comfort. You need to be comforted: that is what you want. And they provide you with that. This is the wrong place to come. Go anywhere you want. I have no interest in freeing you at all. I don't even believe in altering you in any way, or saving or reforming society, or doing anything for mankind.
It is the constant demand for permanence which cripples society. Because we all seek permanence inwardly, we demand that those things which we perceive to lie outside ourselves—society, humanity, the nation, and the world—also be permanent. We seek our permanence through them. All forms of permanence, whether personal or collective, are your own creation. They are all an extension of the very same demand for permanence. But nothing is permanent. Our efforts to make things permanent go entirely against the way of nature. Somehow you know that you will not succeed in your demand for permanence. Yet you persist.
Life is something which you cannot capture, contain, and give expression to. Energy is an expression of life. What is death? It is simply a condition of the human body. There is no such thing as death. What you have are ideas about death, ideas which arise when you sense the absence of another person. Your own death, or the death of your near and dear ones, is not something you can experience. What you actually experience is the void created by the disappearance of another individual, and the unsatisfied demand to maintain the continuity of your relationship with that person for a non-existent eternity.
The arena for the continuation of all these `permanent' relationships is the tomorrow—heaven, next life, and so on. These things are the inventions of a mind interested only in its undisturbed, permanent continuity in a `self'-generated, fictitious future. The basic method of maintaining the continuity is the incessant repetition of the question, "How? How? How?" "How am I to live? How can I be happy? How can I be sure I will be happy tomorrow?" This has made life an insoluble dilemma for us. We want to know, and through that knowledge we hope to continue on with our miserable existences forever.
Society cannot be interested in what I am talking about. Society is, after all, two individuals or a thousand of them put together. Because I am a direct threat to you individually—as you know and experience yourself—I am also a threat to society. How can society possibly be interested in this sort of thing? Not a chance. Society is the sum of relationships, and despite what you may find agreeable to believe, all these relationships are sordid and horrible. This is the unsavory fact; take it or leave it. You cannot help but superimpose over these horrible ugly relationships a soothing fictitious veneer of "loving", "compassionate", "brotherly", and "harmonious" or some other fancy relationships.
All this talk of "here and now", much less a "here and now" within which you can solve all your miseries, is, for me, pure bunk. All you know is separateness and duration, space and time, which is the `frame' superimposed by the mind over the flow of life. But anything that happens in space and time is limiting the energy of life. What life is I don't know; nor will I ever. You can say that life is this, that, or the other, and give hundreds of definitions. But the definitions do not capture life. It's like a flowing river. You take a bucketful of water from it, analyze it into its constituent elements, and say that the river is the same [as the bucketful of water]. But the quality of flow is absent in the water in the bucket. So, as the Zen proverb says: "You can never cross the same river twice." It's flowing all the time.
You cannot talk of life or of death because life has no beginning or end, period. You can say that it is because there is life that you are responding to stimuli. But what happens after you are dead? The word `dead' is only a definition—a condition of your body. The body itself, after what is called clinical death, no longer responds to stimuli the way in which we know it to respond now. It is probably still responding in some fashion: the brain waves continue for a long time after clinical death takes place.
Through your death you are giving continuity to life, or whatever you call it. If you bury a dead body, something is happening there. If you burn the body, the ashes are enriching the soil. If you throw it in water, the fish will eat it; if you leave it there in the vulture-pit, the vultures will eat it. You are providing the means for the continuity of life. So, you can't say the body is dead. It is not metaphysics that I am talking about here. It is only your fear of something coming to an end that is the problem. Do you want to be free from that fear? I say, "No." The ending of fear is the ending of you as you know yourself. I am not talking of the psychological, romantic death of "dying to your yesterdays." That body of yours, I assure you, drops dead on the spot the moment the continuity of knowledge is broken.
The scientists discuss formulas endlessly and provide us with some equations. But I am not at all taken in by the "march of progress" and all that rot. The first trip I made to the U.S. in the thirties took more than a full day, and we had to stop everywhere. Later, the same trip took eighteen hours, then twelve hours, and even more recently six hours and three, and so on. And if the supersonic jets are put to commercial use we may be able to make the trip in one-and-a-half hours. All right, that's progress. But the same technology that makes fast international travel possible is making ever more deadly military fighter planes. How many of these planes are we using for faster and more comfortable travel from one point to another? And how many more hundreds of planes are we using to destroy life and property? You call this progress? I don't know. As the comforts increase, we come to depend upon them, and are loath to give up anything we have. Within a particular frame I say it is progress. I am now living in an air-conditioned room. My grandfather used a servant who sat in the hot sun and pulled the punkah, and before that we used a palm leaf hand fan. As we move into more and more comfortable situations we don't want to give up anything.
I may be wrong, but I feel that man's problems, even his psychological problems, can only be solved through the help of your genes. If they can show that the tendency, say, to steal, is genetically determined, where will that leave us? It implies that man has no freedom of action in any area. Even the capacity to learn a language is also genetically determined. The whole thing, every tendency, capacity, and kind of behavior, is controlled by the genes. Man has no freedom of action. His wanting and demanding freedom of action seems to be the cause of his suffering. I am not at all proposing the fatalistic philosophy that people preach in this country. My emphasis is quite different.
I don't think that we deliberately took the wrong path. Something happened long ago to the human race. We are now a menace to the planet. Perhaps it is nature's way to clear away and start afresh in the fastest way. I don't see any scheme in nature, do you? We project our own ideations and mentations onto nature and imagine it to be sweetly ordered. We imagine that there is a scheme or plan, and such a thing as evolution. I don't see any such thing. There may be no evolution except what we see in nature and what we project onto it. By putting things together we surmise that that has evolved from this. Somewhere along the line the process slows down. And when it does, then it takes a leap. This we call a mutation. Is there any relation between the two? Seeking to find a scheme behind it all, we link up these two things and call it evolution. It is the same in physics.
So, what do we do? I don't have the answer. It is not given to me. No one has chosen or elected me to be the savior of mankind. All this talk of a permanent, eternal, perfected mankind has absolutely no meaning to me. I am interested only in the way we are functioning right now. It [the body] is not thinking in terms of a hundred years, or two hundred years, or even tomorrow. No, it is only interested in survival now. If it is confronted with danger, it throws in everything it has, that is, all its resources, to survive in that particular situation. If it survives that moment, then the next moment is there for it. That is its own reward: to go on living for one more moment. This is the way the body is functioning now. Don't bother inventing philosophies of the moment, situational models, and all that. The body functions from moment to moment because the sensory perceptions and responses to the stimuli are also from moment to moment. Each perception or response is independent. What the purpose of the body is, why it is there, where it all may be heading, I really don't know. I have no way of finding out. If you think you know, then good luck to you!
This one species alone is increasing the rate of extinction of all other species beyond what could have been thought possible. The self-consciousness in the human species, the idea that the world was created for man alone, is the real problem. The useless ecologists, they should all be shot on sight! They form groups, attend meetings, collect funds, start foundations, build organizations worth millions with presidents and vice-presidents, and they all make money. It may sound very cynical to you, but the fact of the matter is that they have no real power. The solutions do not lie with them. The problem is out of their hands. Governments have the power to do something, but they are not interested. You may call me a cynic, but the cynic is a realist who has his feet firmly planted in the ground. You don't want to look at the reality of the situation.
I still maintain that it is not love, compassion, humanism, or brotherly sentiments that will save mankind. No, not at all. It is the sheer terror of extinction that can save us, if anything can. Each cell of a living organism cooperates with the cell next to it. It does not need any sentiment or declarations of undying love to do so. Each cell is wise enough to know that if its neighbor goes, it also goes. The cells stick together not out of brotherhood, love, and that kind of thing, but out of the urgent drive to survive now. It is the same with us, but only on a larger scale. Soon we will all come to know one simple thing: if I try to destroy you, I will also be destroyed. We see the superpowers of today signing arms control pacts, rushing to sign no-first-strike accords, and the like. Even the big bully boys, who have among them controlled the world's resources, no longer talk about a winnable nuclear war.
What do we do? Do what you have to, but don't conveniently place it under the rubric of humanitarianism, brotherly love, self-sacrifice, and such other comforting ideas. At the same time I am telling you that the fate of the planet is in the hands of today's scientists, not in the hands of the mystics and holy men, these jokers who come talking of changing the world, of creating a heaven on earth. It is these ideas, full of absolutes and poetic fancy, that have turned this place into a hell. I have entrusted the whole thing to the scientists. So, tell me. What are you going to do?
We need to be saved from the self-appointed saviors of mankind. No, they are the ones who are responsible for the terrible situation we find ourselves in today. We don't realize that it is they who have created this mess for us. They had their day, and have utterly, totally failed. Still they refuse to take a back seat. That's it. We are stuck. You study the history of mankind: monarchies, revolutions, democracies and more revolutions. Everything has failed us. Not one ideology will survive. What's left for us? Democracy, the 'noble experiment', is over. Everything is over. We find ourselves in a situation where these issues will be decided by your boss.
Take the problem of starvation. One side says, "My political system will solve the problem of starvation in this world," and the other side says, "No, mine will," and both of them end up on the battlefield brandishing their atomic weapons. That is the reality of the situation. Everywhere, on every continent, there is confrontation. The basic issue in the world is, of course, economic. Who will control the resources of this world?
Who or what can save you from all this? Not I, you may be sure. I am not a savior of mankind. I don't even want to save you. You can stay in heaven or hell as the case may be. The fact is you already are in hell and seem to enjoy it. Good luck to you!

To Be or Not To Be a Butterfly

Do in Rome what the Romans do

Time May Not Exist

Not to mention the question of which way it goes...

by Tim Folger

No one keeps track of time better than Ferenc Krausz. In his lab at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, he has clocked the shortest time intervals ever observed. Krausz uses ultraviolet laser pulses to track the absurdly brief quantum leaps of electrons within atoms. The events he probes last for about 100 attoseconds, or 100 quintillionths of a second. For a little perspective, 100 attoseconds is to one second as a second is to 300 million years.
But even Krausz works far from the frontier of time. There is a temporal realm called the Planck scale, where even attoseconds drag by like eons. It marks the edge of known physics, a region where distances and intervals are so short that the very concepts of time and space start to break down. Planck time—the smallest unit of time that has any physical meaning—is 10-43 second, less than a trillionth of a trillionth of an attosecond. Beyond that? Tempus incognito. At least for now.
Efforts to understand time below the Planck scale have led to an exceedingly strange juncture in physics. The problem, in brief, is that time may not exist at the most fundamental level of physical reality. If so, then what is time? And why is it so obviously and tyrannically omnipresent in our own experience? “The meaning of time has become terribly problematic in contemporary physics,” says Simon Saunders, a philosopher of physics at the University of Oxford. “The situation is so uncomfortable that by far the best thing to do is declare oneself an agnostic.”
The trouble with time started a century ago, when Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity demolished the idea of time as a universal constant. One consequence is that the past, present, and future are not absolutes. Einstein’s theories also opened a rift in physics because the rules of general relativity (which describe gravity and the large-scale structure of the cosmos) seem incompatible with those of quantum physics (which govern the realm of the tiny). Some four decades ago, the renowned physicist John Wheeler, then at Princeton, and the late Bryce DeWitt, then at the University of North Carolina, developed an extraordinary equation that provides a possible framework for unifying relativity and quantum mechanics. But the Wheeler-­DeWitt equation has always been controversial, in part because it adds yet another, even more baffling twist to our understanding of time.
“One finds that time just disappears from the Wheeler-DeWitt equation,” says Carlo Rovelli, a physicist at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseille, France. “It is an issue that many theorists have puzzled about. It may be that the best way to think about quantum reality is to give up the notion of time—that the fundamental description of the universe must be timeless.”
No one has yet succeeded in using the Wheeler-DeWitt equation to integrate quantum theory with general relativity. Nevertheless, a sizable minority of physicists, Rovelli included, believe that any successful merger of the two great masterpieces of 20th-century physics will inevitably describe a universe in which, ultimately, there is no time.
The possibility that time may not exist is known among physicists as the “problem of time.” It may be the biggest, but it is far from the only temporal conundrum. Vying for second place is this strange fact: The laws of physics don’t explain why time always points to the future. All the laws—whether Newton’s, Einstein’s, or the quirky quantum rules—would work equally well if time ran backward. As far as we can tell, though, time is a one-way process; it never reverses, even though no laws restrict it.
“It’s quite mysterious why we have such an obvious arrow of time,” says Seth Lloyd, a quantum mechanical engineer at MIT. (When I ask him what time it is, he answers, “Beats me. Are we done?”) “The usual explanation of this is that in order to specify what happens to a system, you not only have to specify the physical laws, but you have to specify some initial or final condition.”
The mother of all initial conditions, Lloyd says, was the Big Bang. Physicists believe that the universe started as a very simple, extremely compact ball of energy. Although the laws of physics themselves don’t provide for an arrow of time, the ongoing expansion of the universe does. As the universe expands, it becomes ever more complex and disorderly. The growing disorder—physicists call it an increase in entropy—is driven by the expansion of the universe, which may be the origin of what we think of as the ceaseless forward march of time.

Time, in this view, is not something that exists apart from the universe. There is no clock ticking outside the cosmos. Most of us tend to think of time the way Newton did: “Absolute, true and mathematical time, of itself, and from its own nature, flows equably, without regard to anything external.” But as Einstein proved, time is part of the fabric of the universe. Contrary to what Newton believed, our ordinary clocks don’t measure something that’s independent of the universe. In fact, says Lloyd, clocks don’t really measure time at all.
“I recently went to the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder,” says Lloyd. (NIST is the government lab that houses the atomic clock that standardizes time for the nation.) “I said something like, ‘Your clocks measure time very accurately.’ They told me, ‘Our clocks do not measure time.’ I thought, Wow, that’s very humble of these guys. But they said, ‘No, time is defined to be what our clocks measure.’ Which is true. They define the time standards for the globe: Time is defined by the number of clicks of their clocks.”
Rovelli, the advocate of a timeless universe, says the NIST timekeepers have it right. Moreover, their point of view is consistent with the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. “We never really see time,” he says. “We see only clocks. If you say this object moves, what you really mean is that this object is here when the hand of your clock is here, and so on. We say we measure time with clocks, but we see only the hands of the clocks, not time itself. And the hands of a clock are a physical variable like any other. So in a sense we cheat because what we really observe are physical variables as a function of other physical variables, but we represent that as if everything is evolving in time.
“What happens with the Wheeler-DeWitt equation is that we have to stop playing this game. Instead of introducing this fictitious variable—time, which itself is not observable—we should just describe how the variables are related to one another. The question is, Is time a fundamental property of reality or just the macroscopic appearance of things? I would say it’s only a macroscopic effect. It’s something that emerges only for big things.”
By “big things,” Rovelli means anything that exists much above the mysterious Planck scale. As of now there is no physical theory that completely describes what the universe is like below the Planck scale. One possibility is that if physicists ever manage to unify quantum theory and general relativity, space and time will be described by some modified version of quantum mechanics. In such a theory, space and time would no longer be smooth and continuous. Rather, they would consist of discrete fragments—quanta, in the argot of physics—just as light is composed of individual bundles of energy called photons. These would be the building blocks of space and time. It’s not easy to imagine space and time being made of something else. Where would the components of space and time exist, if not in space and time?
As Rovelli explains it, in quantum mechanics all particles of matter and energy can also be described as waves. And waves have an unusual property: An infinite number of them can exist in the same location. If time and space are one day shown to consist of quanta, the quanta could all exist piled together in a single dimensionless point. “Space and time in some sense melt in this picture,” says Rovelli. “There is no space anymore. There are just quanta kind of living on top of one another without being immersed in a space.”
Rovelli has been working with one of the world’s leading mathematicians, Alain Connes of the College of France in Paris, on this notion. Together they have developed a framework to show how the thing we experience as time might emerge from a more fundamental, timeless reality. As Rovelli describes it, “Time may be an approximate concept that emerges at large scales—a bit like the concept of ‘surface of the water,’ which makes sense macroscopically but which loses a precise sense at the level of the atoms.”
Realizing that his explanation may only be deepening the mystery of time, Rovelli says that much of the knowledge that we now take for granted was once considered equally perplexing. “I realize that the picture is not intuitive. But this is what fundamental physics is about: finding new ways of thinking about the world and proposing them and seeing if they work. I think that when Galileo said that the Earth was spinning crazily around, it was utterly incomprehensible in the same manner. Space for Copernicus was not the same as space for Newton, and space for Newton was not the same as space for Einstein. We always learn a little bit more.”
Einstein, for one, found solace in his revolutionary sense of time. In March 1955, when his lifelong friend Michele Besso died, he wrote a letter consoling Besso’s family: “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Rovelli senses another temporal breakthrough just around the corner. “Einstein’s 1905 paper came out and suddenly changed people’s thinking about space-time. We’re again in the middle of something like that,” he says. When the dust settles, time—whatever it may be—could turn out to be even stranger and more illusory than even Einstein could imagine.
Source: Discover

The Real Threat to Americans

"We will get the fuck out of Iraq"

Britain will take troops out of Iraq regardless of US, says PM

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gordon Brown has paved the way for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq by telling George Bush he would not delay their exit in order to show unity with the United States.

And this is quite interesting:

Bush on Brown

"I would describe Gordon Brown as a principled man who really wants to get something done."

"Not a dour Scot ...not an awkward Scot...a humorous Scot."

"He's got a strong commitment to helping people realize the blessing of education. I thank you very much for that vision."

"He's a glass half full man."

[Referring to the death of Brown's 10 day old baby in 2002]

"He's a man who's suffered unspeakable tragedy - it's strengthened his soul.

I was impressed."

Brown on Bush

"We have had full and frank discussions. We have had the capacity and ability to meet yesterday for two hours to discuss person-to-person some of the great issues of our time."

So What Now Bitches?

He got off the treadmill and followed his lone star

Most societies, and I include India in this list, demand something different from their geniuses, be they mathematicians, artists or musicians.

Shoba Narayan

Who is Grigori “Grisha” Perelman? He is a man I would give my eye teeth to meet, that’s who. The problem is that meeting Perelman is nearly impossible. The Russian mathematician is famously reclusive; doesn’t check email or answer letters. He lives in St Petersburg, Russia, with his mother. He also happens to be the only mathematician ever to refuse the Fields Medal (often referred to as the Math Nobel Prize). King Juan Carlos of Spain presented the medal at a gala ceremony last year. Perelman not only didn’t show up for the event, but also turned down the prize, which was awarded to him for solving the Poincare’s Conjecture, a riddle that had perplexed mathematicians for more than a century.

Most societies, and I include India in this list, demand something different from their geniuses, be they mathematicians, artists or musicians. We expect these gifted creatures to live by a different set of rules from us mere mortals. We expect them to be intellectually honest and, more important, emotionally pure. There is nothing more sad than an artist who sells his soul for money. Happens in Bollywood every day, I know, but then Bollywood is hardly the moral high ground, or for that matter, the temple of high art. Recently, I read in the paper that Aamir Khan’s first directorial venture, Taaren Zameen Pe, was originally to be directed by scriptwriter Amol Gupte. It was Gupte’s story, his creation. Halfway through the project, Aamir threatened to quit because of “creative differences”. Gupte, instead, asked Aamir to take over and direct the project. Did Gupte sell his creative soul to keep his project alive? Probably. Did he do it because his star, or should I say villain, demanded it? Probably.

We live in a commercial world. Markets rule, as economists keep reminding us. True, but not all the time. Every now and then, there are people who refuse to play by the market rules. They refuse to engage; often they simply walk away. Grigori Perelman did. After getting his Math training in Princeton and New York University, one morning he simply packed his bags and moved back to Russia. He worked better in his homeland, he said. He didn’t have a job. He simply moved back into his childhood home and decided to solve the Poincare Conjecture in solitude; away from the commercial forces that would influence and shape a lesser mathematician. The treadmill of life demands certain things from everyone. Artists, even good ones, have to produce; musicians, even the best of them, have to pander to an audience; scientists, even the geniuses, have to write papers and apply for grants. This is the world we live in. It takes courage to do what Perelman did—to get off the treadmill and follow a lone star.

Now, I am hardly a mathematician. Unlike my husband, who thinks in graphs, columns and numbers, I think in words and visual images. But of all the sciences, I “get” mathematics, probably because, unlike applied sciences such as chemistry or biology, mathematics isn’t open to interpretation or revision in the face of new evidence. It is a pure science, closer to music than biology. Like painting or sculpture, mathematics follows an absolute, not relative, approach. Once a mathematical axiom or theorem is proved and peer reviewed, it becomes a truth. Similarly, once a painting is done, it becomes the artist’s “truth”. You can hate it, you can question its worth, you can call it trash but the one thing you cannot say is that it is “wrong”. Maths and music, or for that matter maths and art, share this fundamental world view. Which is why it is easy to call Grigori Perelman a mathematician with an artist’s soul. It is no surprise that Perelman’s only interest besides maths is opera.

Perelman solved the Poincare Conjecture by the way. He didn’t hold a press conference to announce that he had done it. He simply posted it on the Internet in, a site used by mathematicians to submit prepublication papers. Perelman asked his peers to review his solution of Poincare’s Conjecture. He didn’t worry about being wrong and, therefore, publicly humiliated; he didn’t worry about someone stealing his solution and claiming it was their own; he didn’t think about what he would get out of this epoch-making solution. He cared only for the maths and its solution. That is what I call purity.

Artistic purity (or in this case, scientific purity) is a double-edged sword. For better or worse, creative purity often means poverty. We, in India, have a history of poverty- stricken poets who were patronized by kings (the moneybags). Similarly, Srinivasa Ramanujam was living in poverty in Tamil Nadu when he “knew infinity”. It took a Hardy to coax number theory out of him as explained in Robert Kanigel’s excellent book.

What is your average Indian crorepati to do? Walk away from everything you’ve worked for? I think so. I am no self-help guru. But if you are lucky enough to have a calling in a field unrelated to your job, you would be doing yourself a favour by heeding it. Make your money and give it all away like Bill Gates is doing. Or, like Grigori Perelman, simply walk away. Retreating to the forest is, after all, a great Indian tradition. We have a word for it: vanaprastha. Just look at Grisha Perelman.

Source: Live Mint

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WTF of the Week !!!

Forgive them father, for they do not know what they have done.

PANCHTHAR, July 31 - The Maoist cadres have been repeatedly threatening to kill the Local Development Officer (LDO) of Panchthar district, Bhakti Prasad Uprety.
LDO Uprety has said that he has received a fresh death threat from the Maoists on Tuesday after the publishing of news reports about a Maoist attack on his residence Sunday night.

And as if that was not enough, here is more to it:

The district units of Maoists of Kavre and Sindhupalchowk have warned to impose indefinite strike in the two districts demanding immediate end to what they call as 'administrative repression in Dolakha' against their comrades.
While rest of the political parties have condemned the Maoists for physically assaulting the Chief District Officer Uddhav Bahadur Thapa of Dolakha district on Sunday, the Maoists have defended their action wholly.
Interestingly, there is YCL in US too. Figure out the difference between YCL Nepal and YCL USA
Oops, theres one more. Link is here. Welcome to S. Africa.

Hats Off to Mahabir dai !!!

A friend of mine, Rob, is with his Nepal Wireless team. We heard a lot of different stories about the project from Rob. The stories were always inspiring to us.
May Mahabir dai be an inspiration to all the youths of Nepal and the world. Nepal is also very much thankful to people like Robin, whose devotion to community work is neverending and, who make challanging projects as such, a success story.
Related links: Nepal Wireless

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Questioning Authority

David Livingstone Smith is a liar. And he explains why you are too.

By Vadim Liberman

Dishonesty is pervasive. And that's often a good thing, because the world would collapse under the weight of too much honesty, says David Livingstone Smith, co-founder and director of the University of New England's Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology. "As a species, we are so well practiced in the art of deception that it comes to us almost as naturally and effortlessly as breathing," he writes. In fact, the best liars usually don't know they're lying, Smith points out.

Smith decided to seek the truth in Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind (St. Martin's). Yet despite his investigation into deceit, Smith still considers himself a bad liar. "I really dislike lying intentionally," he admits. "It makes me feel bad." Nonetheless, he confesses to lying in this interview.

Smith, 50, spoke from his Scarborough, Maine, home with Across the Board assistant editor Vadim Liberman about our tendency to deceive-and why Smith felt he had to lie.

You say that the forces of evolution have molded us into natural-born liars. Are people who are better liars more evolved than those who are more honest?

No, because when we speak of evolution, we are talking about a whole species, not individuals. But if we rephrase the question to ask, "Is it advantageous to be a good liar?" I'd say without a doubt, yes. People who deceive effectively get ahead in life. If I can cheat you to my advantage without you catching on, I've gotten ahead. Conscious lying is a very special talent, an aptitude. And most of us are very bad at it. Most people are also very bad at noticing lies. Only perhaps one in a thousand is extraordinarily skillful at detecting lies. In one study, for example, psychologists asked experienced law-enforcement officers, rookie cops, and college students to determine whether various individuals were lying or telling the truth. Not only were there no significant differences in the accuracy of the judgments of the three groups-all three guessed right at a frequency only minimally better than chance. They might as well have just flipped a coin.

Do you need to be a good liar to spot a good liar?

Not necessarily, but I would guess that good liars would have superior lie-detecting abilities. In fact, the next stage of evolution is the ability to detect lies. To do so, it's very important to observe someone's nonverbal action and not to be misled by his words, because words are cheap. What one should look at are changes in voice, little involuntary movements of hand and feet, or transitory facial expressions that are not congruent with the stated affect. For instance, when we're angry, we involuntarily tighten our lips, so a person who is ostensibly and overtly friendly, but whose lips are tightening, might be deceiving you. Or: In a genuine smile the eyes participate, whereas they don't in that phony have-a-nice-day smile.

How often does the average person lie?

First, it's important to point out that lying is normal, and more often spontaneous and unconscious than cynical and coldly analytical. Our minds and bodies secrete deceit. That said, Robert Feldman, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, suggests that there are three lies for every ten minutes of conversation. I think that's plausible. And bear in mind that his research measured only the frequency of narrow, explicit, verbal lying. The real rate of deception, which includes our movements and expressions, must be considerably higher.

In that case, what have you lied to me about so far?

Right now I'm trying to sound as knowledgeable and impressive as I possibly can. I sort of convinced myself that I'm this great authority on lying. But really, I'm lying, in the sense that when we're interacting with others, we're always performing. So for this interview, I've been playing the role of an expert trying to impress you. There's deception involved. I, however, am aware of this effort. But plenty of people are not aware of their self-deception; they are narcissistic and have convinced themselves that they're the greatest thing since sliced bread. In fact, most people tend to believe their own lies.

You say that self-deceived people are often mentally healthier than those who are honest with themselves.

Yes, lying to oneself promotes psychological well-being. Research shows that depressed people deceive themselves less than those who are mentally healthy. Frankly, if we did not deceive ourselves, I think we would go mad from distress. For example, the simple fact that we're all going to die, that there are various people in the world out to get us, that a good deal of the world lives in unrelenting misery and hunger-it's all enough to drive everyone bonkers. Unless we are capable of shielding ourselves from that, we would be constantly disturbed. It's why we worry more about missing our favorite TV show than about a dirty bomb going off in a terrorist attack.

Also, self-deception relieves us from a sense that we're constantly living in contradiction. We each have a set of values that we constantly violate. When you're aware of transgressing one of those values that you hold dear, you tend to feel bad about yourself. In deceiving ourselves, we relieve ourselves of that burden, making life a lot easier and lot more pleasant for ourselves. It's quite wonderful.

Finally, if we convince ourselves we're not really lying, we can lie far more effectively than might otherwise be the case. All of our social lies, like the fake smile, involve the manipulation of how others see us. Our lives are saturated with pretense and dishonesty. Although we claim to value truth above all else, we are also at least dimly aware that there is something antisocial about too much honesty.

So should we value lying more than telling the truth, especially since you said that good liars have an advantage in life?

When I'm talking about advantage, I'm talking about what gives an individual organism success. But all sorts of things can give individual success. Killing one's rivals is an example, but just because it gives you an advantage doesn't morally justify it. Put it this way: If one thinks that individual advantage is the ultimate value in life, it would follow that one should work at becoming a very good, calculating liar. But encouraging lying to one's individual advantage will always receive social disapproval, because if you are taught to lie better, that's against everyone's interest. Just as it might be advantageous for each of us to lie, it's disadvantageous for each of us to be lied to. For lying to be advantageous, society has to place an emphasis on honesty. Unless we have a sense that there's truthfulness enough of the time, lying ceases to function. That's illustrated in the old story about the boy who cried wolf. If we get a situation where we're all cold-bloodedly out to lie to each other, we will lose trust in each other, lying will stop working, and the world would collapse under the weight of too much lying.

The world is certainly collapsing these days around some high-profile people who've been caught lying. Do certain professions attract people who are better at lying?

There are certain professions that traffic in illusions. Deception would appear to be the norm rather than the exception in business. It is so commonplace on Madison Avenue that an advertising industry without it is hard to imagine. Anyone attempting to overcome sales resistance has got to be a good manipulator-that is, a good liar. For instance, successful politicians are better at lying than others. People say they want an honest politician, but I'm not convinced how genuine that is. What they really mean is that they don't want to be taken advantage of. But if a politician's dishonesty is to people's benefit, they tend not to consider it dishonesty. Of course, no politician would say he's good at lying. None of us would say that. To advertise one's own dishonesty is social suicide. Yet if you ask people if they think that lying is pervasive, most would say yes. But it will never be their own dishonesty. It will always be someone else's.

Do people lie more today than in the past?

I don't think so. All the evidence suggests that the tendency to deceive is deeply rooted in the human animal. Lying is not a particularly contemporary phenomenon. However, the structure of our society in our developed world may make it easier to lie. The anonymity of today's mass society, which is relatively new, is important. We spent most of our time as a species living in small communities where the system of personal relationships in small communities really was a powerful constraint on lying. If you were caught lying, your reputation was shot or you were banished from the community. It's easier to avoid that sort of consequence in the mass, anonymous society we have today. Of course, there are still major penalties today for the bigger, intentional lies.

Do you find it dangerous that it's becoming easier to lie?

Yes, because there's so much at stake. We're no longer running around in bands of thirty with stone tools. We have the fate of the world in our hands. I'm afraid that the way that evolution has shaped us hasn't made us really well-equipped for handling that degree of responsibility.

Source: Conf Board Review
Img: flickr