Ayn Rand & Me

We first met when my friend handed me the iconic book ‘The Fountainhead’. I wasn’t a literature person then; this friend was my only medium to peep into what I now call ‘Anatomy of thoughts’. Friends are people through whom you get a glimpse of the abandoned aspects of life. They introduce you to the world of a ‘Strick No No’. So, whether I talk about watching the late night semi pornographic videos on YouTube, humming ‘Sutta Song’ or reading the classic ‘Fountain Head’, I owe it all to her.

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She completed all the 753 pages in 2 days in the pretext of reading textbooks and when she started drooling over the personality of Howard Roark (the protagonist), I knew, I had to read it in all possibilities. And yes, her drooling was infectious. I was bitten by the snake of individuality. I met the inner thoughts of Ayn Rand in my teen ages and it affected my way of thinking profoundly. I was immediately enamored by her writing.

Imagine a kid who is trying to find her right place in the world – whether she should be friendlier and laugh at jokes she doesn’t find funny or should hang out with cool people and be more fashion conscious. Maybe trying to understand why are people rude, weird, awesome, deceitful- and how to cope up with them.

And then, Bam! Rand comes in and tells you to show a finger to anyone who doesn’t like you the way you are. And why is this? Because, you are an individual and have the right to live in this world the way it makes you happy, without any expectations from others. There is no point hating and wasting energy on things outside of our control.

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She described the nuances of architecture and I deciphered her lines confining areas as rules liberating life. I started valuing freedom of expression at the cost of being ostracized from society. I thought it was okay to disregard the materialistic world and following the simple rule of doing good work without expecting anything in return. The introvert in me received an extra backbone to lean on. I didn’t only shake hands with Rand’s philosophy; I let it enter my veins too.

Although with time & tide, my views of me kept changing – a subtle part of me still believes that it is not okay to be pretentious. But the rest is quite chaotic in mind – now, I seek acknowledgement, I indulge in worldly pleasures and most importantly, unlike Dominique (the female protagonist) I don’t want to keep something away from the world just because I think that the world would not understand the worth. And her philosophy related to smoking that makes it royal and elite has never excited me to handle fire with passion.

There are many different interpretations of her work. Her attitude about ‘Being Right’ rather than convincing is often a questionable take, examples like destroying an entire building because you don’t are not satisfied with the output, or the infamous sex (rape?) scene of The Fountainhead – Rand has her fair share of opponents.

Here is a need to understand that her stories are in extremes, each character representing a totalitarian view of an ideology. The characters are not supposed to be realistic – they are simplified and their personality traits are exaggerated. Her novels are not meant to be a series of events, but a mindful journey committed to the philosophy of life. Roark (or Galt) is her ideal man upholding the values of individualism while Keating is the anti-hero who has no sense of what he stands for as an individual, he is only concerned with what others think of him.We need to decide an ideology in our lives and try to live up to it.

Her ideas always created tremors in my mind, however realistic or not- one cannot estimate the degree of accuracy, but it is worth thinking over. People have opted for architecture and have decided to marry another Ayn Rand lover; just because they were influenced by her philosophy. In any case, Rand’s work provides for interesting discussion material and you can discover a lot about a person based on her philosophical views.

And same favorite books make for long lasting love!

Rationality of being Agnostic

In the words of Marx,

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of the soulless condition. It is the opium of the people.”

If religion is a system of dogma for the benefits of a particular sect than analysis has no value but if religion is a construct of moral codes, maintaining decency in society than beliefs and benefits can be kept on the two sides of the balance.

“A view that tries to please both sides of the debate and, like most compromises,
ends up pleasing neither. It stands, it seems, for lack of belief or commitment,
for indecision, for non-engagement.”
-Robin Le Poidevin

The delusional religious beliefs denounce the core of logical questioning, maintaining that curiosity is demeaning and non- believing is blasphemous. Religion and Antagonism beliefs are only parallel in the vicinity and they might intersect in an imaginary world. The foremost argument that vividly distinguishes the two is ‘reproducibility’. Logical and scientific methods are reproducible under pre-defined circumstances, but unquantifiable beliefs cannot reproduce, they have no solutions for a previously worked out problem.

But ‘Faith’ is the master of all trades, we create delusional Gods for our conveniences, a very prominent example can be observed in ‘life of A Pie’ that explains why people who have choices between believing and non-believing go for the former one. It is a perfect agnostic take on voting for the one that is more interesting and accommodating at a given time. At the same time just because one wants to believe in a version that contains fantasy, does not make it the true version.

“If you stumble about believability, what are you living for?
Love is hard to believe, ask any lover.
Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer.
What is your problem with hard to believe?”
– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

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About agnosticism as the belief system, Martel has to say the following:

“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”
– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

A novel of the Second World War “My Name is Five” by Heinz Kohler is another example of how one becomes a believer and a non-believer under different circumstances. Spitfire guns kill the protagonist’s best friend dieter while standing right next to him on a bridge, which makes him curse the existence and belief that someone called God helps people. And at one incident his grandmother died and he keeps on believing that it is because he took out the mark of a 14th person present in a celebration, as in Germany it was believed that 13 people present in a party can be a cause of death for any of the members. And then the ironical statement that “We Germans Fear God and Nothing Else” is shouted by the nationalists throughout the book.

However, the protagonist moves from being agnostic to atheist after he witnesses the cruelty done in the name of God and Religion during World War II.

In ‘The God Delusion’, author Richard Dawkins questions the agnostic beliefs and insists that we look at the available evidence closely and decide on the probability of existence of God. One of the major errors the agnostics make is to confuse God for nature, spirituality and morality. In current scenario, there is a need to understand that God as a phenomena is irrecoverably linked with religion and there is an urgent need to accept or reject this version of God and religion.

“One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.”
– Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Dawkins also contends that most agnostics are actually atheists being nice to the believers and it is time for them to come out of the closet.Also, the question he asks is- do we need evidence for non-existence of a phenomena. If we have so far found no scientific evidence of existence, can we not rule in the favour of non-existence!

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Sagan, a self-proclaimed agnostic, however, could not find enough evidence for non-existence of God and hence chose to reserve judgement.

“My view is that if there is no evidence for it, then forget about it. An agnostic is somebody who doesn’t believe in something until there is evidence for it, so I’m agnostic.”
– Carl Sagan

You cannot deny that there is something called coincidence and the probability of coincidence is 1 minus the number of events with no coincidence. Here, one can find God in the condition called ‘minus one’ to become a believer, or believe in the pure statistical concept of probability to become a non – believer, or become an agnostic by trusting the instincts of randomness.

Image Credit: jagran.com

Women & Art

Women wear an artful camouflage – the signature curves, the smooth pastel strokes of luster on the skin and the coquetry behavior make them the muse for many. What goes unnoticed is the spiritual and intellectual inclination that has subdued itself over centuries of dictatorial patriarchy.The world famous artistic paintings have used women bodies as a consumer of passion & love, as a possession of the lover, as a portrayal of chained emotion. Hardly, if ever, we come across such work where men are depicted submissive!

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One of the most expensive paintings in the world – Nude, Green, Leaves & Bust by Picasso, the painter’s mistress and muse Marie Therese can be observed in full obedience to Picasso, whereas he is guarding and enveloping his love, also branding her with his own initials PP for Pablo Picasso, a way to make her tied up to him in all forms. The artist always believed, ‘there are only two types of women- goddesses and doormats’, so he depicted Therese as a fertility goddess and positioned her in a submissive way to portray her as a doormat too.

Alternatively, there are artists who have questioned this submissive behavior by women through their work – If we keenly observe the work of Indian artists then many have questioned the taboo surrounding women’s body – Amrita Shergill’s each painting depicted a unique reincarnation for women. Gogi Sarojpal emphasized on the animal instincts of a woman. She perceived woman as KaamDhenu. It was important in the medieval period that women showed animal instincts in her behavioral pattern.

Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ analyses the many layers of prohibition because of which we didn’t have great women in art & literature in the Shakespearean era. She imagined a scenario where Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith.

She goes on to describe –

“She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother’s perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers.”

With the given facts of that time, she came up with the most probable outcome –

“She died young—alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh”

In Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical book ‘Persepolis’, she explains the effect religious restrictions have on women’s intellect and identity:

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“The regime had understood that one person leaving her house while asking herself:

Are my trousers long enough? Is my veil in place? Can my make-up be seen? Are they going to whip me?

 No longer asks herself:

Where is my freedom of thought? Where is my freedom of speech? My life, is it livable? What’s going on in the political prisons?”

The constant war against women’s intellect had severely damaged the thought process, where the nerves of emancipation have become numb. Even if societies have become so called liberal, these issues have not become archaic but are contemporary in ever form.

On the other hand there is literature like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and ‘Twilight’ which is not supposed to be taken as serious reading but still goes on to form the culturaltone of the society. These works ultimately state that women have a chance at a happy marriage and fulfilling life only if they choose to forgo their identity or have no identity of their own to begin with!

As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie points out in her essay and a TED talk by the same name, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’:

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”

 As varied the descriptions of women in the arena of art and culture might be, whether it is holding a mirror to society or dreaming a big dream of an equal world, we definitely have a long way to make our women free in their wilderness.

Featured Image Courtesy : The Atlantic

Poets of Passion – Rumi & Tagore

 

The vagabond soul continues its travel until it reaches the pinnacle of its spiritual gratification. During the journey, it comes across myriad obstacles – the dilemma to face or to escape, to liberate oneself from the shackles of hedonism or to stick around the lingering materialistic aura. Thinkers and poets like Rumi and Tagore, although born in different era had similar thoughts about solving these inner conflicts – both of them had an uncanny resemblance of thoughts about spiritualism, mysticism and romanticism, and were soulfully nomadic, who believed in noble love. Continue reading

If you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it!

 

Review of Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx

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Set in a landscape where rambling about emotions and feelings comes secondary to barely surviving, these stories are oblivious to philosophical angst, emotional wreckage and what not. The main purpose of life here is to go on, from one day to another. The writing language is as dry as the landscape, where the characters don’t whisper, mutter, gasp and do the other literary stuff and the reader can almost feel the brutal landscape through the writing. Continue reading