Thursday, September 1, 2016

Jottings : Slice of life - 40

Jottings : Slice of life  - 40

Sitting in a plane, business class, with thunderstorms rumbling outside, and thin razor sharp lashes of rain striking the windows with ferocity, visibility almost nil, and the calm voice of pilots deceptively announcing that we may have to remain on taxiway for "few more minutes" - you know you are going to be stationery for quite a while. At least, as a seasoned flyer one should know that. This is the probably the best time to catch up with reading or writing. There is nothing much else one can do. I pulled out my rather thick volume of "basic writings in existentialism" edited and introduced by Gordon Marino, and flipped to the section on Nietzsche and began reading "On the genealogy of Morals" , an essential tract in the Nietzsche pantheon. There was a middle aged lady seated beside me. Blonde, dark penetrating blue eyes and a smiling face. After the announcement from the flight deck, she turned and said "It seems we will be here for a while. Might as well, catch up with my emails...". "Yaps, thats a great idea" I replied and continued reading. After few minutes , she pulled our her ear plugs, and spoke again " I couldn't help noticing you are reading quite a thick piece of writing. I did my major in Philosophy in college, and the one guy I couldn't really figure out was Nietzsche. Not only was he dense, I felt he was not even intelligible. In fact to be honest with you, I thought most of the so called philosophers I read as part of my course were dry, and I couldn't really relate what they were saying to anything in real life. It seemed their writings are so abstract and wordy. I dropped the course within three months.. Are you a student?, or, are you reading this out of interest?.."
“Well, this is certainly out of interest? “ I laughed and replied.. “But you are right, and i completely what you are saying. This is the problem with Western philosophy since the middle ages. It has become verbose, epistemological and completely divorced from life and its real problems. Ever since Aristotle posited the importance of Logic and thought (he meant it in a different context though), all subsequent philosophers have tried to arrive at some kind of living truth though verbose definitions and word play. Socrates, considered the father of western thought was simple. he said “Know thyself”. But from there till the 21st century, the parade of thinkers have turned away from subjective examination and started elaborating on the importance of the Word and its meaning without any relationship to living problems and its answers. Who can ever read Hegel without tearing out one’s hair, or for that matter schopenhauer, or Kant or the medieval commentators on the Holy texts. The essence of what they wished to say is lost in an elaborate attempt to verbally justify their findings. And this is where, eastern Philosophy, can act as a palliative to western thought. The directness, the simplicity and and intimate relationship to day to day human issues which a Bhagavad Gita, or the upanishads or our epics bring in is refreshing. When I read Nietzsche, I am looking for that essential element in his writings, that gets lost in the plethora of words. He did discover something very important and alive in himself, but the point is, in the period he lived, he needed to elaborate his discovery only through logical dialectic and extensive verbal proofs. When he said “god is dead”, He meant something so very deep and true, which can only be felt, experienced and not explained. But for more than a century Western philosophers have been arguing about what he could have meant by it. An Eastern mystic would have instantly acknowledged his statement and kept quiet…”
She heard with rapt attention what i had to say, and then raise her eyebrows a little. “You seem to have gone rather deep into this thing…” “No Maam, scratching the surface. But at least I know for sure that I am only scratching and not deluded by flowery verbal explanations I find in Modern western philosophy..” I smiled , and she did too.
God bless..
Bala

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