Tag Archive: Philosophy


Listen to Aram Saroyan’s Crickets

Aram Saroyan’s poetry may evade any poetry enthusiast reading for a coherent meaning in and between the lines. His one-line poems may seem outlandish and vague to many. When I first came across his oeuvre, I was stuck by the idea of communication through symbol; and they called it poetry.

Poetry, it is.

No matter how much we like to enjoy an art form without delving into its intricacies, It is true, that its impact grows manifold when we relate, understand and “lemon squeeze” it. We are constantly, consciously or unconsciously, on a look out for a meaning.

When I read Aram Saroyan’s poetry, I couldn’t put my mind to rest until I could decode the symbol, people call poetry. If coding decoding is poetry, as someone at wordpress.org would like to call “code is poetry” ( being technically challenged, I would refrain from commenting on the quote within the implications it is used at wp.org, allow me to take it vice versa), then the best way to enjoy it is to deconstruct the Derridian signifier-signified of the symbol. I wouldn’t hesitate to bring critical tenets to poetry, no matter how sacrilegious it may seem. Everything, afterall, is a quest for meaning.

Being an avid pessimist, I yearn for meaning in nullity; nihilism in reason. I guess that’s the reason why Saroyan’s poem (never mind if you think it isn’t one) Crickets drew me to its depths. A one-word poem running repeatedly until the end of the page, it runs beyond an ordinary understanding of a regular poem. If you read the poem, you are likely to shrug and conclude: this is nuisance! It doesn’t make sense.

I agree, it doesn’t. Yet, I insist it does.

The poem holds in itself a moment of epiphany. It occurs as a spark when you suddenly, for a fraction of second, pull down your hand-me-down glasses and see the world with your own vision. The recitation of the poem makes the experience unforgettable.

Crickets are the symbol of hope. They chirp monotonously after the rains, and even amidst the mundane ear itching sound, there is a message of rain. There is a meaning in recurrence, in monotonous chirping, in every chirp which may sound the same but is different. The rendition of Aram Saroyan’s Crickets is a reflection of that meaning. Every next word, even if it is the same, comes to life as an independent entity with its own meaning, as you hear it.

The poem is an art form of Nietzsche’s philosophy of ‘eternal return’- the belief “that this life as we live it at present, and have lived it; we will have to live it again once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in our life must come to us again, and all in same series and sequence, and that “the recurrence will recur ad infinitum.”

It is this recurrence that would occur ad infinitum, that is reflected in the poem. Nietzsche asks “Isn’t such a recurrence where you cannot change anything a burden?” With this poem, Saroyan answers that if at all it is a burden, it can be made bearable by opening ourselves to the possible visions of the world, in and about us.

Copyright, Tina Rathore

This life which you live and have lived, must be lived again by you, and innumerable times more. And there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh— everything unspeakably small and great in your life—must come again to you, and in the same sequence and series – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Eternal Recurrence. The Gay Science (1882), p. 341

A change in something seemingly innocuous, such as a flap of a butterfly’s wings, may have unexpected larger consequences in the future, such as the path a hurricane will travel. If you change even the smallest of life’s details, you completely change its outcome. –The Butterfly Effect. Edward Lorenz.

Violet Indigo Blue Green Yellow Orange Red No
Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Sun
bow bow bow bow bow bow bow No
R A I N B O W

Violet Indigo Blue Green Yellow Orange Red No
Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Sun
bow bow bow bow bow bow bow No
R A I N B O W

Violet Indigo Blue Green Yellow Orange Red No
Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Sun
bow bow bow bow bow bow bow No
R A I N B O W
Violet Indigo Blue Green Yellow Orange Red No
Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Sun
bow bow bow bow bow bow bow No
R A I N B O W

EK TERI CHAAHAT HAI, EK MERI CHAAHAT HAI....

via Mehran Qureshi’s blog  BARQ

God to Man:

O SON OF ADAM

You have your desire and
I have my desire.
My desire shall reign.
But if you surrender yourself to my desire,
I shall bestow upon you your desire.
But if you oppose my desire,
Then I shall tire you of your desire,
And ultimately,
My desire shall reign.

This post by Mehran Qureshi set me thinking. The quotation appears in an Islamic text Hadith e Qudsi , a compilation of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (words of God ‘expressed in Muhammad’s words’*). No literature, I think, expresses the contrast of free will and determinism so well.

When making sense of the world in and around us, we are bound to confront the dilemma of essence and existence, of free will and determinism, of active struggle and passive submission and we are left questioning “In His will is our peace, Is it?”.

“Teach us to sit still / Even among these rocks, / Our peace in His will” Thomas Stearns Eliot resonates the age old wisdom in the poem Ash Wednesday quoting Dante from the Inferno, “In His will is our peace”. The Hamletian ambiguity whether “to be or not to be” seems to reach a resolution here. For Dante it is indeed “nobler in the mind to suffer”. The Hindu scriptures and hymns echo a similar understanding of our day-to-day indecisiveness and reach an unambiguous solution: “jahi vidhi raakhe raam, taahi vidhi rahiye”.

The emphasis on merging one’s will to the higher entity, to succumb to one’s circumstances rather than rage against them seems a coward thought at first. What comes of it might not be happiness, sure, but neither can it be called peace. Are happiness and peace, then, only the product of battles fought against destiny and won over or they are the results of a life that is left unquestioned? Whatever answers we get to our own questions, the question remains.

When I first read (15 years back) a popular Tao saying**, appeared in a daily editorial- “Those who flow as life flows, need no other force, they feel no wear, they feel no tear, They need no mending, no repair”- I assumed it mocked passive submission to one’s fate or what else is life without struggle, I thought.  Life was yet to be. For with time, I realized passive submission was much more difficult an act than practicing free will, I learned that “to do nothing is not a passive state. It is the highest activity of which soul is capable, the deliberate and sustained effort of the soul to suffer, in the sense of allow, all that God may will to effect upon it.” (Thomas Stearns Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral)

* According to as-Sayyid ash-Sharif al-Jurjani, the Hadith Qudsi differ from the Qur’an in that the former were revealed in a dream or through revelation and are “expressed in Muhammad’s words”, whereas the latter are the “direct words of God”.

**Though the quotation in reference to Taoist philosophy has an entirely different context and interpretation.

Feminists are often misunderstood as viragoes asserting equality with men. That’s exactly how, at least, men have come to understand the term. If you ca,ll yourself a feminist you will not make a good marriage partner, that they believe for sure.

When I first laid my hands on De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, some five years back, I shared my thoughts with a friend who was then newly married. She was not interested or did not want to be. She was afraid of letting her feminine anger lose its reins, and replied “Yes! we have been subjected to but to have happy married life we better not remind ourselves of that”. She was right. De Beauvoir was too strong a voice to resist. I could see my latent frustration take a form. It was not personal but communal anger against men in general. I came to discover the silent oppression women have faced and continue to face at the hands of their men folk. I was startled at the discovery.

My feminist reading, fortunately, did not end there. It was the beginning. Before embarking on the journey of feminist literature I had warned myself: “If I am to read fifty books of the De Beauvoir like voices will it not end up making me a men hating woman with homosexual tendencies or a virago obsessed with gender disparities?”

I was wrong. In fact, the deeper I went into the mire, the cleaner i came out. The later feminist writings no more remain a theory asserting itself. It is more of a discourse which in time fractured, divided and strengthened. It became a discussion of multiple ideas leading to the addition of ‘s’ to the word feminism. it was now Feminisms, a recognition of the multiplicity of the ideas.

We need to understand Feminisms in toto before succumbing to the term. In India we are still living in De Beauvoir’s/ anti essentialist wave of Feminisms. We are still trapped in the assertive “equality feminism”.

De Beauvoir talks of marginalization of women in the male-centered society where women are the “other”, the “second” sex, next to men. By evaluating causes that have led to the relegation of women to the inferior position,, Beauvoir talks of female passive and biological roles, which have confined her to domesticity. She stands against depiction of women in stereotypical roles going as far as calling marriage as an oppressive and exploitative economic arrangement which reinforces sexual inequality and binds women to homes. For Beauvoir the key to female emancipation lay in woman’s release from marriage and bodily functions. To her, a modern woman is one who would be equal to man, who thinks and works like a man, who frees herself from domesticity and her bodily responsibilities and who instead of bemoaning her inferiority to men declares herself equal.

In India the feminist wave is pocketted to selected regions. The rest have to come to understand it as menace striking their women folk disturbing the Indian social set up. Women are continuously trying to assert their superiority to men. They have newly discovered their marginal status and have acquired the skill of overcoming subjection. They are competing against their male counterparts by challenging to do ‘things that men do’. Some even like to call themselves ‘mardani’, male like when it comes to doing things they think women cannot do. They have gone as far as asking for freedom, liberty and self-identity little understanding things they ask freedom from. By asking for freedom are they asking for freedom from familial and social responsibilities, from womanhood, from their own selves? Do they understand the consequences of such demands? women today have become an iconoclast of their own traditions, an anti heroine of their own family drama.

Granted. Let’s not allow others to subject us to a point where our space is encroached but beyond that let us also understand its implications beyond the gender debate, let us understand that subjectivity in Indian culture is also a part of love and responsibilities we have towards our loved ones.

We do not know how smooth our transition from the first to the second wave of feminist eras in India would be. or will it ever be? and in which direction? we are still struggling to comes to terms with it.
The second wave should be a move from “Equality Feminisms” to ” Difference Feminisms”. It should be a move from anti-essentialist to essentialist Feminisms.

Why aim for masculinity? Is femininity an unnecessary or negative state? we must understand that women are not unequal, they are simply different and this difference is not something to overcome as though it were shameful not to be a man, it is something to celebrate. woman should be proud to be woman. This is the tenet by which “Difference Feminisms” live by. By asking for equality are we not asking for assimilation into the male dominated society? why assimilation?why not creation of ones own Identity? why ask for masculinity? why not a celebration of womanhood and sisterhood?

It was the domination of masculine culture that led to the to the suppression of feminine culture.The only way women can achieve liberation of any value would be to reclaim their female heritage.

What use is women empowerment, or for that matter any sort of empowerment, if it leads to disruption of the long venerated social set up? If it does nothing for mankind? If it is misunderstood and practiced? I do not say Women Empowerment is no more needed. It is important but not to liberate women from womanhood or her responsibilities and make them vie their male counterparts but to help them discover their unique female identity, by making them feel proud of things that women do.

Let every person call him/herself a feminist if he/she is proud of doing ‘things females do’. We all have androgynous qualities in us. Let what we become be our choice.

Copyright, Tina Rathore

Feminists are often misunderstood as viragoes asserting equality with men. That’s exactly how, at least, men have come to understand the term. If you call yourself a feminist you will not make a good marriage partner, that they believe for sure.

When i first laid my hands on De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, some five years back, I shared my thoughts with a friend who was then newly married. She was not interested or did not want to be. She was afraid of letting her feminine anger lose its reins, “yes! we have been subjected to but to have happy married life we better not remind ourselves of that”

She was right. De Beauvoir was too strong a voice to resist. I could see my latent frustration take a form. It was not personal but communal anger against men in general. I came to discover the silent oppression women have faced and continue to face at the hands of their men folk. I was startled at the discovery.

My feminist reading, fortunately, did not end there. It was a beginning. Before embarking on the journey of feminist literature i had warned myself ” If i am to read fifty books of the De Beauvoir like voices will it not end up making me a men hating woman with homosexual tendencies or a virago obsessed with gender disparities?”

i was wrong. in fact the deeper i went into the mire the cleaner i came out. The later feminist writings no more remain a theory asserting itself. It is more of a discourse which in time fractured, divided and strengthened. It became a discussion of multiple ideas leading to the addition of s to the word feminism. it was now feminisms, a recognition of the multiplicity of the ideas.

We need to understand Feminisms in Toto before succumbing to the term. In India we are still living in De Beauvoir’s/ anti essentialist wave of feminisms. We are still trapped in the assertive “equality feminism”.
De Beauvoir talks of marginalization of women in the male centred society where women are the “other” the “second” sex, next to men. By evaluating causes that have led to the relegation of women to the inferior position Beauvoir talks of female passive and biological roles which have confined her to domesticity. She stands against depiction of women in stereotypical roles going as far as calling marriage as an oppressive and exploitative economic arrangement which reinforces sexual inequality and binds women to homes. For Beauvoir the key to female emancipation lay in woman’s release from marriage and bodily functions. To her a modern woman is one who would be equal to man, who thinks and works like a man, who frees herself from domesticity and her bodily responsibilities and who instead of bemoaning her inferiority to men declares herself equal.

In India the feminist wave is pocketted to selected regions. The rest have to come to understand it as menace striking their women folk disturbing the Indian social set up. Women are continuously trying to assert their superiority to men. They have newly discovered their marginal status and have acquired the skill of overcoming subjection. They are competing against their male counterparts by challenging to do ‘things that men do’. Some even like to call themselves ‘mardani’, male like when it comes to doing things they think women cannot do. They have gone as far as asking for freedom, liberty and self-identity little understanding things they ask freedom from. By asking for freedom are they asking for freedom from familial and social responsibilities, from womanhood, from their own selves? Do they understand the consequences of such demands? women today have become an iconoclast of their own traditions, an anti heroine of their own family drama.

Granted. let’s not allow others to subject us to a point where our space is encroached but beyond that let us also understand its implications beyond the gender debate, let us understand that subjectivity in Indian culture is also a part of love and responsibilities we have towards our loved ones.

We do not know how smooth our transition from the first to the second wave of feminist eras in India would be. or will it ever be? and in which direction? we are still struggling to comes to terms with it.
The second wave should be a move from “equality feminisms” to ” difference feminisms”. It should be a move from anti-essentialist to essentialist feminisms.

Why aim for masculinity? Is femininity an unnecessary or negative state? we must understand that women are not unequal, they are simply different and this difference is not something to overcome as though it were shameful not to be a man, it is something to celebrate. woman should be proud to be woman. This is the tenet by which “difference feminisms” live by. By asking for equality are we not asking for assimilation into the male dominated society? why assimilation? why not creation of ones own Identity? why ask for masculinity? why not a celebration of womanhood and sisterhood?
It was the domination of masculine culture that led to the to the suppression of feminine culture.The only way women can achieve liberation of any value would be to reclaim their female heritage.

What use is women empowerment, or for that matter any sort of empowerment, if it leads to disruption of the long venerated social set up? If it does nothing for mankind? If it is misunderstood and practiced? I do not say Women Empowerment is no more needed. It is important but not to liberate women from womanhood or her responsibilities and make them vie their male counterparts but to help them discover their unique female identity, by making them feel proud of things that women do.

Let every person call him/herself a feminist if he/she is proud of doing ‘things females do’. We all have androgynous qualities in us. Let what we become be our choice.

 

Copyright 2008, Tina Rathore

 

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