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Can We Ever Stop Reading?

Human all through the process of evolution has tried to find new ways to communicate. The yearning to convey something to someone has been a very fundamental force driving them. There has never been someone who has in some way or the other not tried to communicate and express themselves. E.g. We go to a mountain, get absorbed and dissolved in the beauty of the mountains and then come back to the usual life. We then try to convey the sense of beauty to someone,  it may be in the form of poems, conversation, story, pictures or any other means. So we try to somehow capture the experience of some extraordinary phenomenon into something fixed.

Some people say that we are social animals and to communicate is one of the most fundamental needs of social beings. Even the most primitive living beings with no developed faculty of thinking like human beings find different ways to communicate. Be it some sounds, some uniform, and special gestures, they all try to convey some meaning or desire to the other.

For humans, this desire to communicate coupled with highly developed cognitive schemas led them to develop various means to communicate. Language and its development still perplex the greatest minds as to how a very young child understands the whole semantics and attaches meaning to words. Recent works by a famous linguist Noam Chomsky has attributed an innate faculty to humans which help him to grasp the rules and nuances of language. This says that with evolution we have the very evolved structure of the brain that can help a person to make meanings. This is a highly complex process as it not only conveys the information in its most crude forms but also convey the emotions, feelings, love which appear to be indiscernible to the scientific paradigm.

In this whole pursuit to develop new means to communicate, reading and writing became the most important tools and method. This not only helped to communicate ideas to proximate places and time but could trespass these geographical and chronological constraints. The importance of reading and writing can never be underestimated. This has, in fact, become one of the major parameters for judging the literacy of humans. The linguists put special emphasis on the whole structure, the correct usage. This can be seen in the extra effort of the teachers in trying to teach the child to write properly. While teaching in one of the schools in Delhi, I saw one of the teachers trying to train a girl to participate in the debate. The way it was happening looked as if the thing that must be debated is not important and the manner and style were only needed. The student was just reciting or repeating the whole thing exactly as the teacher was doing. The student was meekly repeating without any intelligent or conscious thinking. She was not only copying the words but also the expressions and the bodily gestures.

In classrooms, this is also evident in the manner in which the answers are expected in the language papers (or even in the more technical subjects). This can be further seen in the higher education institutes where there is a particular and accepted method of writing papers and answers. In such an environment and approach,  the entire effort of the student is put in trying to imitate the style and adapt to the particular way. Little or no consideration is paid to the thing that is been said. However, In order to bring more content and credibility to the piece of writing, what is generally suggested is to read more and more books and literature around it. This is true not only for the technical disciplines where knowledge of a particular person is always limited and needs more grounding in theories and available body of knowledge, but is also true for the disciplines that are highly subjective, e.g. Psychology, sociology, and philosophy. But what happens in the process of this approach is that the person loses the touch with what is, and tries to bring it in the ambit of the available terminology and experience. This experience is past and therefore many times not true. I insist on it being not true in the sense that it loses the presence and actuality and beingness.

For many academicians and educators ( this is not leaving other people,  but stressing more on this community), this(reading and quoting people) is the only means to earn the daily bread and butter. Apart from that reading more characterizes his whole being, professional survival, and intellectual continuity.

However, in this piece, I would like to ask if such an important and revered act be looked from a different perspective. Can we ever be done with reading and stop it? Can there be a point in life where we feel that now we will see the things as they are and not through the lenses provided by someone else? Can we ever make a decision to feel the things as they are and mark a full stop to the act of reading itself?

This may sound very strange and lunatic to some, as to forgo such a beautiful act of reading which exposes us to so many new things and cultures, be altogether left. But this is what I want to ask here. What will actually happen if we stop reading anything?  This may not be done at a particular or specific time but can anyone at their own convenience and point in life say goodbye to this skill. What will the consequences be?  Will this mean an intellectual death? Will this stop the continuity of the stream of thoughts that we so highly prize? Will it make us any less?

So for a moment, let’s look at this possibility. Why do we want to hold on to the things that we believe in? The beliefs are characterized and shaped by the experience, our own conditionings and exposure. II am here referring to the reading or the literature that I connect or associate with. It could be scientific, philosophical, social. It could be the literature of a particular Person, some ideology or some theory. What is the whole stake of losing it? What is the thing that we lose?

I believe that such an act brings us face to face with the fact that we in ourselves are still empty. Empty in the sense that we are always defined by what we associate with. It could be a community, a particular belief, a situation, an image, a god, a theory or anything that gives us a continuity. And since my whole being requires something or the other to associate itself to, so I constantly need something to maintain this continuity. This continuity is what makes the Me, the I.  So cessation of the activity or the thing that I associate with is not the only cessation of the thing, but of the Me. And in this absence, there is the complete sense of isolation and fact that the idea of me is losing grounds.

Since we have never been in the space where this uncertainty and nothingness is experienced, so this appears like a death. This becomes evident in some of the actions of people( all of us) but especially the ones who want to make the most out of life as they feel that the activities give the life a continuity and therefore a purpose. And therefore I am always active, (activity meaning the escape from what is to what I want it to be). And this brings a tremendous conflict, dissipation of energy and all the misery that we see around us. So we see the social workers, the politician, the educator, and all of the humanity constantly engaged in something and this engagement creates the illusion of the purpose. It could be to create a better world.

So this piece not only concerns with just leaving the act of reading but also the act of letting go. Can we let go with what we have, or is this a wrong question?

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A Thought on Thinking and Beliefs

The goal of many so called progressive education is to create individuals who can think critically. This to me is a reaction to the traditional form of education which relies on conformity. This conformance or obedience  has created so many wars and is still creating. One has to be utterly blind and selfish to ignore it. The Christians, the Hindus, the Muslims, the nationalities, the collective barbarism are all the necessary consequences of this. All the so called religions and ideologies have without exception created conflict, strife , misery and confusion. In this confusion a direct  consequence has been the spurt of so many saviours. They promise us that there is a way out.  But the way and the goal is somewhere in the future and requires a great amount of effort and energy. But the energy they want is not neutral, they want it to be directed to some pre defined goal. This goal appears to be the only plausible solution. These goals themselves are contradictory and hence illusory. 

After a long and arduous path even if the believers realise the futility of it all; they still cling to it because the failure of the system seems to appear to be the failure of our own personal egos. We invest a lot in the system and then it appears that failure of the system may be a result of some error in its implementation. Some even suggest further remedial measures. This situation seems to be omnipresent and appears in every aspect of human life; relationships, politics, economic system, the religions, etc.  

This sometimes produce a totally opposite reaction to it.  That of throwing the whole system rather than mending it and adjusting it. This has happened again and again and in different places. The communist ideology in contrast to the capitalist, atheism as a reaction to theism, democracy in reaction to dictatorship. But what is mostly forgotten is that the reaction to something is still driven by the old system. It is in opposition to it but not different. 

In the recent times, though not recent in terms of years, but recent in terms of the whole process of evolution, science has come to occupy a very prominent role and strength. The discoveries and inventions of times though happened at a more individual level, the widespread cultural shift towards its acceptance was a reaction to the orthodoxy in Christianity and its factions. It became evident that the church has severed any chance of  growth of human intelligence and hence a new system which is in opposition to it came about. This was reliance on the positivist ideology and the pursuit of knowledge which can be testified against some  measurable parameters with no esoteric knowledge. This however has now resulted in a very grave situation. The environmental degradation, the constant and ever increasing psychological disorders, not only in humans but also in other plant and animal kingdoms are strongly evident. 

In the educational  discourse one such idea has been to develop critical thinking abilities. This may have been a spillover of the positivist notions and a reaction to the traditional approaches . This believes in developing a kind of framework for the learner where he/she develops skills to question everything and test it with evidence. This ideology believes in not accepting anything on its face and trying to pursue it objectively. It sounds good so far as it does not rely on the authority and pre defined concepts. 

However a closer analysis or observation rather, would show the actual implementation of it and the kind of orthodoxy it has created. This orthodoxy is a little subtle and does not apparently become visible but exists with all its contradictions and confusion. 

The first problem with such a system is the assumption that exposure to more facts and theories would make a person objective enough to look at something from various perspectives. So it still depends on these external theories and systems to develop the ability. The theories generally derive their strength from the platform they are spoken of or comes from. E.g. When Gandhi says something, it immediately becomes important to be looked at. The same exists with any popular figure, religious, spiritual, political or scientific. The beliefs derive their strength from the following( authority) it has or the amount of controversies it creates. 

Second problem with this, is the belief that the analyser or the learner with all his/ her  idiosyncrasies will act upon them neutrally (whatever the word may mean) and see things objectively. The belief rests upon the idea that the analyser has the capacity already to act upon things. But isn’t the very analyser the problem in it. First the theories are loaded already and then there is this analyser or critical thinker who is the source of all this confusion and conflicts. So do we really think that such a belief can actually take us very far. I don’t know, but what i feel is the need to question it, and very objectively try to see the analyser. 

But now the problem is who is going to do that. The analyser himself is so conditioned and the root cause of everything, so this is again futile. But wait, isn’t there some light in this realisation or seeing of the fact that there is nobody to analyse. The analyser and the analysed are the same entity or as Krishnamurti puts it, the observer is observed. The very seeing of this fact, not intellectually as a theory or emotionally as a reaction but passionately and sincerely as a fact is the freedom. 

Freedom from not somebody or something because there is nobody to be free from, but just freedom for its own sake. This freedom is not a reaction as there is nobody to react to, but a deep and alive sense of being. Without motive, without any system, without any content.

So is there any critical thinker then,  when all the thinking is of the past and hence old and conditioned. The very realisation that thinking comes from the thinker or the thinker comes from the thinking is the way. This realisation drives the fever away from our actions and there appears no doer. When there is no doer then there is no misery. Because the doer is the source of all this. This also effaces at effort. Because the effort is always from something to something. But if there is no thinker and no goal, then there is no effort. Then whatever that remains is what it is. This is eternal and true.

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Globalization and Education

[nextpage title = “Introduction”]

This piece of writing is not concerned with just the theoretical understanding on globalization as I believe that there have been far more impressive and knowledgeable things already written on that.  But the whole problem with those writings has been that they have still tried to look at the process of globalization from the external systems and institutions. They have mostly sought an explanation of the legal structures, the institutional make up, the ideological conflict and the like. The whole understanding is Marxist in nature as it believes that the systems are too powerful and the individual is incapable or way too small to affect anything.  However what I feel is that such an explanation and understanding actually makes these systems all the more powerful and takes away the responsibility from us who then are meek observers of the processes happening.

Before we get into its connections with the education it would be important to see as to what has been the background of the development of the process of globalization and what this term could imply. Thereafter we will go into its implications for the psychological, social, and economic and often ignored spiritual effects. It is from these dimensions that a connection with the education will be built. We will try to understand the process of education in light of the melting pot and the dissolving of the boundaries which is in economic parlance is called globalization.

Globalization can be said to be a process primarily of the economic integration of the world economies.  But this in practice and understanding is also an integration of the cultures, attitudes, beliefs ethics and moral codes and conduct. The advent of modern communication networks, the transportation and specially the internet has made the world appear smaller. It has become very easy to send or receive messages, travel to countries (not considering the legal aspects of immigration here) , transfer money or in the more economic terms the capital seamlessly to different countries. With the coming of computers and imbedded communication technology an investor can invest in any country sitting in his home and be associated with that country’s economy.

This inter relation has had both benefits in the form of expanded goods, variety and availability of funds, while on the other hand it has made these economies, specially  the emerging markets or the third world countries vulnerable to rapid changes and instability. This is the most common aspect of the effect which is often quoted in both its favor and opposition. Coming now to the other spill overs , are the Americanization of the local cultures, politics and morality, the American way of thinking etc. the American way of thinking is thought to be more materialist which is only concerned with the temporary consumerist attitudes and equates happiness in terms of the extra consumption that capitalism promises. So this can be seen in economist from the Harvard and Princeton rushing to teach the other economies the common denominator of happiness being more consumption and any disapproval on this is thought of treason to the general public. The interrelation of the economies is no doubt inevitable and impractical, but the domination of western economies and their hegemony over these developing economies policies is political and propaganda.

In contrast to this way of life or economic organization more precisely is the socialist or Marxist thought, that believes in a more equitable distribution of resources through central planning mechanisms to ensure justice. And some countries being the fence sitters who are apprehensive or rather confused in this whole muddle of ideologies.

What goes missing in such fragmented doctrines is the realization that the systems are a creation of us humans and any system which creates a fragmented notion of the purpose of human life will be corrupt. It is from here that my paper takes off, that is, how is it that such a notion is very implicitly and meekly accepted as a norm and human mind is so conditioned to conform to any system. Even the other sides of the table who say that they are not conforming to any system are conforming to the other ideologies which are also fragmented and a fragmented understanding cannot bring about any sustained and positive changes.

Another important thing that must be understood is that any ideology howsoever good it is inevitably brings conflict and the conflict dissipates energy and ultimately there are no winners. Why such an understanding is necessary is because to see globalization as it is without any pre conceived notion or bias is important as we are all part of the same world and every action affects all of us and we can’t remain in vacuum and function.

There are following themes around which my paper will focus

  1. Globalization and self
  2. Globalization and local policies
  3. Education and econometric analysis
  4. Consumer culture, materialism and education
  5. Education and environment

[nextpage title = “Globalization and self”]

Any understanding of education will remain incomplete without its implications or aims regarding the individual. An education must be judged under any regime by the effect it creates in the general psyche of the person and the kind of attitude it develops. In the more profound sense of the word, the individual is derived from the word, indivisible. That implies non fragmented and whole. So according to the deeper meaning of the word, an individual is that being which does not have conflict within himself, his mind and body and the not so tangible the soul and does not view himself as fragmented. This may imply seeing himself very different in different situations. His whole action and activity is holistic in the sense that his professional life, the family life, the relations and all other related things are not in conflict with each other.

But now what we are seeing is that there is huge disconnect between man’s actions everywhere. He is at times a social worker where his interests are so called to serve the people, and at other times he is a professional where he has to act indifferent and take decisions. In the business the ethics are that you have to make as much profit as you can, and at the end not worry about the consequences.

[nextpage title = “Globalization and local policies “]

Coming Soon!

 

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Do we educate to be free?

This question does not lose significance ever. This has been asked over and over again and there have been many answers that have given and are still been given. Before we try even  tentatively to answer this, lets try and first be very clear as to why are we even asking this question. Another thing that becomes important is to see, wether the question has rightly been understood. I believe that the two things are not very different. In fact we cannot draw a line which shows that this is relatively more important or that is more important. Our reason for knowing the answer or the seriousness of seeing the question.

The very idea of importance shows a division. The division of what we want and what exists but we don’t want. So lets not create this division and straightaway look at the question itself without denying relevance and attention to the other related things. 

Why do we educate?

And what do we in the first place mean by education. I will not try and point out what has already been said in terms of the instrumental aims and the more spiritual or holistic aims of healthy mind and body and for some healthy soul. 

What I want to point is the way this above answer or enquiry in the first place has created a division. The division between the mind, the body, the soul. Have we really gone into the question deep enough? Do we see that there is actually a division or we have been told innumerable times so our mind has got accustomed to it. So accustomed that now the moment we say something it tries to interpret and create labels to hide the fact that we don’t know. Or conceal and cloud the very perception of what is. Is there actually a division? 

Krishnamurti has tried to answer this in many of his talks or rather discussions. He contends that the division is not real and the thought which operates always from past tries to possess the reality and that which is. So what is it? 

Has our education ever tried to answer this. There have been philosophies, the existentialist, the naturalist, the Platonism,etc. But have we seen this rightly and alertly. All the answers given in this moment will be conditioned. So can we sincerely look at it. Not as professionals, not as academician, the expert, or a reformer, but as an enquirer. As an innocence which is not ignorant. 

Whatever answer we can conceive right now 

will still be within the ambit of thought and the thought is never fresh or authentic. So if we see this, and see it totally, absolutely, then we for the first time see that which is. It cant be expressed or put into words. The words limit the very perception an make and ideology or concept out of it. These concepts though give us some temporary security are not real. So the security also is imagined and hence false. 

We see this in all our relations, with the mother, the brother, the wife, the lover, and at a more glorified stage the world. The very security that we seek is not there and then it disturbs us all the more. The thought is so powerful or apparantly so powerful that it again creates some utopia and gives a false illusion of security. Wether it be the god, the new lover, the new relation, some different place, a new job, a new engagement. But do we who is still the same, the same timid and insecure being see that the basis of the security is always false. Be it external in the form of new relations, people, or be it in the internal convictions and beliefs. 

So how can we be free of it? And is the freedom from this absolute? Can it be absolute? 

Should education which is not only restricted to the spaces like school or college, try and engage one with this. Is this not what we always looking. The eternal and more profound security. The security which does not deny the reality but rather sees it. Sees it totall. In the totality is acceptance which is not imagined or imposed. It comes so naturally that it does leave any footprint. We cant say that i accept. It is just the acceptance. Nobody to accept but just the quality. Is this the true place to start with. 

Can education make us free? 

Not the freedom of movement which is important though, but the freedom from the me. My idiosyncrasies, my idea, my world, my ambitions, my wife. Can we be free of it.

There is no answer as there is no one to answer but just the enquirer, which is also not true. So is it just the enquiry with no content and no subject. 

Is this the true freedom. Lets find out.