Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Memory and Thinking

There is a difference between memory and thinking which is often overlooked; this oversight is aptly demonstrated by the difference between what we know and what we think, two activities often mistaken to be the same. While one is static and data based, the other is a flowing process. However, it would be necessary to prove this difference, and to do that it would be necessary to isolate one from the other in a given situation.

I have to pick my mom from the railway station everyday at 6:15 pm. I was leaving my house at 5:55 pm, and informed my grand-mom about it. She exclaimed, "It's six 'o clock." She was referring to the wall-clock, which had been set early by five minutes. I said, "No, it's five fifty-five. The clock is ahead by five minutes." Granny showed no signs of any familiarity with this state of the clock. This was in spite of her living with us for thirty years! (The clock, though, is fifteen years old, and has been so set since it came to our house/This in no way adds to the favor of granny, who should have known the primeval condition of the clock. I may also add that even before the advent of the clock, it has been a family habit to keep the clocks and watches five minutes ahead of standard time).

The fact that the clock is five minutes faster is a fact of memory. Though, being a senile lady who suffers from memory loss, this escapes my grand-mom. But, loss of memory doesn't entail loss of mental activity, for she can look at the clock and judge that it is six 'o clock. That is active thinking. Looking at me, it would seem that thinking and memory are the same, for I state what I recall. But, it may be noticed, I recall it as a negation of the claim that it is six 'o clock, and this was not a part of my memory, and was spontaneous in its birth. This proves that though they may be merged at will and by ability, thinking and memory are two distinct aspects of the mind, the former an activity and the latter a state.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some reflections on education....

It seems a sham how 'education' is 'imparted', if we look at the processes at work. The child is given a concept of incompleteness and ignorance - that which he is - while shown what it is to be complete and intelligent - the parent, teacher, any professional, etc. Between ignorance and knowledge, meaning between him and his elders lie years of rigour and hard-work in acquiring knowledge, which rests, trophy-like, at a high pedestal of marks and ranks. If we look at what the act of thinking means, we would be shocked at the peril this previous idea of knowledge puts a kid in- thinking implies being aware of what most urgently concerns someone here and now, things of which one can be certain, rather than in some fanciful world sketched out in books by 'able educators'. Basically, the child learns how to impersonate, but not how to think by himself.

Though to satisfy an optimistic impulse, let me put forth an example - after years of undergoing above mentioned pedagogy, eighth standard kid Numan once asked me, "If I want to ask if the place belongs to it, should I not put an apostrophe between it and s? " I was stunned, but now I realize the significance of that question. We had pondered over sentences, finally Wren and Martin clarifying that, as convention, the apostrophe mark is not used in this case (which, of course, seems a dumb exception, now converted to a rule by itself). Nonetheless, mental activity in Numan's brain pleased me. Probably we need not be programmed like computers by the things we sense or 'know' daily, and probably our mental capacities are not like youth, which keeps diminishing every second we think about it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Raindrops like gun pellets

Probably it's a drift from me towards the crass, momentary and sensational, but I find it necessary, with a flair and flow, to note down a fascinating experience. I don't know what makes me start in such high-pedantism, probably my interests in calm and unadventurous, academic problems; but it seems that all that doesn't stop me from appreciating, nay, celebrating today's ride in the rain.

In my childhood, I used to play with what we called an air-gun, which shot yellow pellets the size of cherry seeds with a great amount of force. When they struck someone, one could, if carefully precise, say that they stung oneself.

This evening, I realized that my jacket had given up the ghost of its protective past, and cheated me instead of the rain, for just as I rolled out of the parking lot, I could feel my skin complain about wet clothes. Slowly, I realized it wasn't a complain, but an outcry at a potentially interesting time to come. This roughly accompanied my giving up thoughts about being cheated by the jacket-vendor. As I sped through constant water-hangings, I realized two things- my spectacles had to be removed for the rest of my ride, and my speed had to be carefully moderated, at least till I knew more about riding in the rain. As I gave up my specs, I realized that my eyes were bared to heavenly drops, heavenly here not connoting their blessed divinity, but simply their velocity at having fallen from so high, if not their encountering me, in my own high velocity. My intervals for blinking quickened, an immediate adaptation to things, and at one time I even had to use my left hand to shield my eyes from above, which I now recall, resembled shop rooves, or caps with a jutting shade, as if the pattern came naturally to me. Still, I could not help blink constantly, so that it felt as if my ride were not being completely watched by me, but by the heavens that sent those drops. At no point, though, did I ever feel like complaining about the general scheme of things, if I may say so....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A fall from a train

It was a day like any other; though the date was different than that of any other day, though the people I encountered seemed as alien as others would be any other day, though I had a ticket, unlike my usual ticket-less "up and down", I would still fool you into believing that the day was like any other day, weaning you away from the thousands of idiosyncrasies that feebly pass beneath our prospective, juggernaut-ical self, softly wailing to be heard. Still, something about us would want us to believe that it is a state of normalcy, a state, seen in the light of all that was narrated till now, seems as hypothetical as only it can be, for if we were to abstract one normal bowl, or one normal fisherman, or one normal date, wouldn't it seem a midget in comparison with the sum total of all hypotheses, of an all pervading normalcy? Still, missing this reality, I have the valour to entreat you to a glimpse of it, cutting myself short, keeping to tradition, and calling the affairs of that day absolutely normal till then. And that tradition is not without its reason: it expresses our tendency to find continuity in things, though making us immune to the varieties; those continuities must be our own, for outside us is a new world everyday (almost new), having different permutations and even combinations of people, objects, thoughts presented to us without; within, we find the idea that all is normal.

Having thus established what I mean by 'normal' (along with establishing why this concept is dubious), I now move on to examine that which is 'abnormal'. I shall start with an incident, and hopefully, and un-prophetically, end there too. On a normal day, sitting in a train at five 'o clock, supposed to depart at five-four, I am settling down inside the normalcy, looking at my fellow commuters, perhaps with a sense of triumph at having jumped in like a hunter and occupied the best seat with the most amount of breeze to it. That was a diktat of competition: if you want to stay strong, if you need to get the best, you must be ahead of everyone. All this in the last four lines would mean I must board a not yet stationary train which has just entered the platform. However innate this competitive streak might seem, it isn't without its soothsayers; you might come across it anywhere, rather, almost everywhere given today's standards. Our day begins with it - scuttling for toilets, agreeing with it in a newspaper and so on - and even ends with it - making it in time so that television privileges may be exploited to the fullest, etc. During daytime, one finds a platform raised completely for such competition, and which allows for nothing else on it, having at the same time magnetic properties of repulsion and attraction: we call this employment. But as much as the soothsayers of competition may tell you, they fail to tell you that there surely are limits to this principle. If you look at things the way I am looking, from a normal train window at five-four, you could probably cross-examine those soothsayers more easily. Because at thirty seconds past five-four, the train has already started moving, and from the station entrance a few paces behind, five competitors start running towards the door in front of me, giving me a clear account of their game/life. With every second, the train is accumulating speed, and every competitor takes one and a half second (circa) to get in. Till the chance of the fifth competitor, the train seems faster than an average human, yet #5 thinks: "If only I could catch this one.." or "Aai guh, can't miss this one..." or "I think I can make it...". Mostly something like this, for his hand doesn't let go of the train-handles. His feet, though, are less competent, and he is pulled away by the train at one point, the next human instant of which he lets go/is made to let go, horizontal, and sliding forward, finally falling off the brink of the platform making the noise of a potato sack. It is to be noted that he couldn't have heard or thought anything else at that moment, for I, having seen the fate of such an obsession, had, as duty to myself, shouted out loudly: "chhod" ("leave"). That was the limit the soothsayers didn't specify.

This event made this day rather abnormal.

FUN FACT: the word 'competition' is formed using latin roots 'com' (together) and 'pletere' (to seek). Though analytically broken down as 'seeking together', this word is used and practiced in a vehemently opposite sense.