Saturday, 26 October 2013

Fear- Awakening call for hidden potentialities

It is the ability of fear to foresee that set the institution of planning in human life.

Have you seen a race of prey and predator? It is interesting to note that most of the times prey win despite their low capability compared to their predator. The reason is the survival mechanism given to them by nature, fear. Fear starts neurobiological chain reaction in the body which releases the chemicals that cause a racing heart, fast breathing, energized muscles and many other things that make them capable to exceed their normal performance. In other words, fear switches the mind of prey from unconscious to conscious state while predator remain in its normal unconscious state of autopilot and could not compete with prey because predator is doing its daily duty. But when predator is really hungry; its survival mechanism is also turned on as a result of potential threat on its own survival.

Fear is not objective reality but perception of one's mind. It is triggered by a possible threat and toggles the mind from autopilot mode to conscious state to take exceptional emergency decisions and act accordingly.

I heard a story about a man who went to learn consciousness from a Sufi saint. The saint had a coconut tree in his garden. He asked the man “if you really want to learn the way of attaining consciousness then climb the tree or leave for your home.” The man thought him mad but had no options. He travelled a lot to find him. As he was a victim of acrophobia, a condition in which a person dreads height, he could not climb but he had one greater fear; fear of calling escaper owing to his large ego which drove him to take a chance.  As soon as the man reached height of 10 feet above the ground, the saint started shouting “Be brave for few more moments and you’ll succeed” because he saw the shadow of acrophobia overpowering him. He closed his eyes and continued to climb until reached the top. After reaching the top, he began to climb down but when he arrived at the height of 10 feet from the ground, the saint again started shouting “Be careful”. He finally approached the ground and with tint of anger on his face hurried towards the bench where the saint was relaxing lying down. He yelled at the saint “you ruthless psycho at the height of 10 feet you had much concerns and when I was on the top you were carelessly lying on the bench.” The saint replied calmly “When I first reminded you the shifting from unconscious to conscious was going on and quitting at that stage would have stopped the process. It was my duty to help you attain consciousness. When I warned second time I saw the shifting of mind again initiated as a result of your overconfidence on initial success. At the top you were already in the conscious state due to survival mechanism of fear gifted by nature to everyone.”

Fear is the secret to consciousness. The first experience of consciousness might have occurred in the moments of fear (who knows?). In fact, all the great things human achieved are driven out of fear. The first greatest discovery was fire to protect from deadly wild animals, so was the weapons made out of stones during Stone Age. Huge risk and massive loss of lives might compel the primitive humans to shift to agriculture instead of hunting for their need of food. The first shelter might have made as a preventive measure from potential dangers and still buildings are made as protective measures. It would not be hyperbolic to say that fear is the cause of human advancement. In fact, fear is the nature’s way of teaching. The word ‘fear’ is actually derived from Proto-Indo-European ‘per-’ which means ‘to attempt, try, research, risk.’

Fear is a state of mind which calls upon the faculty of imagination to impose its long lasting impression. Probably, the faculty of imagination might have used first time during the mind state of fear. In fact, fear is itself a form of imagination which draws the mind on extremes of negative situation exactly in the same manner in terms of exaggeration, variety and vividness of mental images. It is found that centers of fear and imagination lie in the same region of brain called amygdala.

Fear is a source of creativity. The fact is acknowledged by famous filmmaker, Shekhar Kapur, who portrayed the story of the great Queen Elizabeth on cellulite screen. According to him, panic is the great access for creativity. It is the only way of get rid of one’s mind and harness the truth which lies somewhere in the Universe beyond mind. He said “In the state of panic, you’re praying to the Universe, because you’re praying you’re going to access creativity which comes from outside yourself from the Universe.” Here, getting rid of one’s mind means coming out of autopilot mode having prewritten answers which have limited scope in the situation that is not going to lead anywhere in significant way. The only solution is coming up with new answers which need consciousness. Nature set up a system in every being for this kind of situation to switch the mind from unconscious autopilot mode to conscious thinking mode, called fear. The switching takes time. It requires courage and patience to stand for those moments. If one looses, the switching stops and flight response is triggered. On the other side, consciousness is invoked and fight response is activated.

The ideology of Karen Thompson Walker, author of the bestseller “The Age of Miracles,” is also in consistent with the idea of fear as spring of creativity. She sees fear as unintentional story telling which characters are we, ourselves. She states that in similar to storytelling, fear has also beginning, middle and end. It comprises all the elements of story such as imagination, suspense and mental time travelling.

What is fiery about fear? Ironically, the known and the unknown. It is the known experiences whether self or shared as well as the enormous possibilities of unknown which onsets the reactions of fear in an individual. Fear of known experiences is conditioned state of mind.

Mark Barad, a scientist of UCLA, conducted a conditioning experiment on rats in which an electric shock was applied to metal floor of rats’ cage along with a feeble noise. It did not take long for the rats to brace themselves for the shocks as soon as they heard the noise. It is because the noise is associated with electric shock deep in their unconscious mind. In the language of neurologist, it is said that their amygdalas paired the noise with the shock, and the noise created a fear response. Further experiments were done on the same rats. This time, rats were exposed to same feeble noise but without electric shock. Habitual hearing of noise without the shock made the rats fearless once again. Similar experiment was done on a little child, Albert, who had no fear of laboratory's test animals to induce fear of white rats in him by John Watson, an American psychologist. Whether it is psychology or neurology, one thing is certain that fear is a mind state and is prone to conditioning.

Fear is nothing but a state of mind. Like any mind state, it could be changed. Familiarity is the key to lock the hazardous effect of fear. Albert Bandura ranked the fourth most-frequently cited psychologist, behind B. F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud, and Jean Piaget, in a survey conducted in 2002 among the 100 most eminent psychologist of the 20th century. He believes taking small steps of exposure to get familiar with the object of fear would cure one from that particular fear. He kept snake in a room and to take out the fear of snakes from subjects. He asks the subject “there is a beautiful snake inside the room. Let’s walk in to see it.” The subject freaks out but Bandura opens the door slightly and shows the snake to the subject through a mirror and makes him comfortable of the sight. He, then, opens the door widely and inspires the subject to peep inside to have glimpses of snake. He, further, arranges the sight from a distance of five feet and slowly cutting the distances to nearly one foot. Now, he takes out gloves from the drawer beside and wears them along with the subject to touch the snake finally. The very moment the subject touches the snake, the fear vanishes. He called the process of conditioning for fear extinction as guided mastery. The subject not only gets rid of fear of snake but his anxiety also reduces in other aspect of life. He gains a new confidence, gets tougher and become more resilient to failure in his life. Bandura called this confidence, self-efficacy and defines it as one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations. One’s sense of self-efficacy can play a major role in how one approaches goals, tasks and challenges.

The picture of fear is likely to turn into reality when the emotion of belief is blended in the brew of negative fantasy. In the words of Napoleon Hill “If it is true that all thought has a tendency to clothe itself in its physical equivalents (and this is true, beyond any reasonable room for doubt), it is equally true that thought impulses of fear and poverty cannot be translated into terms of courage and financial gain.”

Nature has endowed man with absolute control over one thing and that is thought. This fact, coupled with the additional fact that everything which human creates starts in the form of thoughts, lead one very near to the principle by which fear may be mastered. On the other hand, indecision crystallizes fear and there is some kind of action for any form of fear. Determine your cause of fear and associated action. Take action promptly. Be decisive. 

Fear is not an objective reality but a state of mind. A state of mind is something one assumes. Like any mind state, it is subject to control and direction. There are many forms of fear seen by human’s psyche. The prominent one that encountered in the journey of success are fear of poverty, fear of criticism, fear of ill health, fear of loss of love, fear of age, fear of death, fear of lack of ability etc. In fact, these are not fears but lame excuses for inaction. It is an old proverb that when there is a will; there is a way. In case of fear, one needs to be brave for few more minutes and one succeeds. It is said that success begins after overcoming fear.

Let me tell you some stories that happened in real time, surpassed these lame excuses and licked the taste of success. As far as excuses are concerned all great companies whether Microsoft or Apple were started in garages only with great idea. No one in the history was ever praised by cent per cent; Jesus was crucified and Socrates was poisoned. David Copperfield was penned after the tragedy faced by Charles Dickens in his first love. Socrates once told that one should indulge in love; if accepted, one will be on higher planes of consciousness through love and if rejected then also he will be on higher planes but through philosophy. Excuses of young age could be countered by citing examples of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and old ages by Colonel Sanders who founded KFC at the age of 65. No one is ever in the history is blessed with immortality. So, mourn over inevitable is not justifiable by any means. Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison and many others were initially declined for their inability.

Dhirubhai Ambani, when he was only 16, for a livelihood, started his career as a dispatch clerk with the A. Besse & Co. before becoming the distributor for Shell Products. He was later promoted as a manager in an oil filling station at the port of Aden. Dhirubhai felt tempted to speculate but had no money for that and was still raw for trading. To learn the tricks of the trade he offered to work free for a Gujarati trading firm. There he learnt accounting, book keeping, preparing shipping papers and documents, and dealing with banks and insurance companies. skills that would come handy when he launched himself into trading about a decade afterwards in Bombay. "More than anything else I learnt that nothing big can ever be achieved without money, influence and power and I also learnt that money, influence and power alone cannot achieve anything in life, big or small, without a certain soft, delicate, sensitive, understanding human touch in all one's deeds and words." Dhirubhai was now 26 years,

A young boy born in small district of India lost his father at age of one. His family financial position was very tight. He had to cross a river to reach school for study. There were times when he had no penny to pay for boat. He swam lifting his books above the water. He, later, became the second elected Prime Minister of Republic of India. He was Lal Bahadur Shastri. 
John Forbes Nash, Jr., an American mathematician, shared the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with game theorists Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi. He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia in which a person usually talk with hallucinated characters that did not exist in real life. Nearly 10 years of his life was spent in mental asylum where he was administered insulin shock therapy along with antipsychotic medications. His story was captured on silver screen in Hollywood movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind.’

Stephen Hawking, an English theoretical physicist considered the most talent after Einstein. He was not initially successful academically. With time, he began to show considerable aptitude for scientific subjects, and inspired by Tahta, decided to study mathematics at university. His father advised him to study medicine, concerned that there were few jobs for mathematics graduates. As it was not possible to read mathematics there at the time, Hawking decided to study physics and chemistry. Despite his headmaster's advice to wait till the next year, he was awarded a scholarship after taking the examinations in March 1959. He was diagnosed of motor neurone disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at 21 during his first year as a doctoral student. At the time doctors gave him a life expectancy of two years. The problems worsened he had difficulty walking without support, and his speech was almost unintelligible. Now he is almost entirely paralyzed and communicates through a speech generating device but still working with enthusiasm.

I’ve learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away fear.
 ~Rosa Parks

Monday, 30 September 2013

Free Will or Fatalism?

How do we know what we know? To know something, we must first of all establish what we accept as data, and what we consider requires definition and proof, that is, we must determine what we know already, and what we wish to know. And, we know from the very first step towards cognition that a man is struck by two obvious facts: The existence of the world in which he lives and the existence of consciousness in himself. Neither the one nor the other can he prove or disprove, but both of them are facts for him. This is all we have the right to accept as data. All the rest requires proof of its existence and definition on the basis of these two data we already possess. The direct outcome of these two fundamental data; the existence in us of a psychological life, i.e. sensations, representations, concepts, thinking, feeling, desires and so on, and the existence of the world outside us is a division of everything we know into subjective and objective, a division perfectly clear to our ordinary perception. Everything we take to be the properties of the world, we call objective, and everything we take as properties of our inner life, we call subjective. The 'subjective world' we perceive directly; it is within us. The 'objective world' we represent to ourselves as existing outside of us is most clearly denned by the fact that we perceive it as existing in time and in space and cannot perceive it or represent it to ourselves apart from these conditions. Usually, we say that the objective world consists of things and phenomena, i.e. of things and of changes in the state of things. A phenomenon exists for us in time, a thing exists in space. But such a division of the world into subjective and objective does not satisfy us. By means of reasoning we can establish that, actually, we only know our own sensations, representations and concepts, and that we perceive the objective world by projecting outside of ourselves the presumed causes of our sensations. Further, we find that our cognition of both the subjective and the objective world may be true or false, correct or incorrect. The criterion for determining the correctness or incorrectness of our cognition of the subjective world is the form of relationship of one sensation to others, and the force and character of the sensation itself. In other words, the correctness of one sensation is verified by comparing it with another of which we are more sure, or by the intensity and the taste of a given sensation. The criterion for determining the correctness or incorrectness of our cognition of the objective world is exactly the same. It seems to us that we define things and phenomena of the objective world by means of comparing them one with another; and we imagine that we discover the laws of their existence apart from ourselves and our cognition of them. But this is an illusion. We know nothing about things separately from ourselves and we have no means of verifying the correctness or incorrectness of our cognition of the objective world apart from sensations.

Since the remotest antiquity, the question of our relation to the true causes of our sensations has been the main subject of philosophical research. Men have always felt that they must find some solution of this question, some answer to it. These answers alternated between two poles, between a complete denial of the causes themselves, and the assertion that the causes of sensations lie in ourselves i.e. we have free will and not in anything external and the admission that we know these causes, that they are contained in the phenomena of the external world, that these very phenomena constitute the causes of sensations, and that the cause of observable phenomena themselves lies in some subtle forms of external world i.e. fatalism.

In simple words, free will is the ability to select a course of action as a means of fulfilling some desire which is under control of oneself. David Hume, put it as a power of acting or of not acting, according to the determination of one’s will while fatalism is the doctrine that all events are preordained and predestined in such a way that human beings do not have control over them. Nietzsche described it as an attitude of resignation in the face of some future event or events which are thought to be inevitable. 

A huge debate is going on with lots of argument: both in favor and against. Natalie Barney sees fatalism as the lazy man's way of accepting the inevitable. Bill O'Reilly denied the concept of free will by saying “You don't have free will when you have lung cancer.” Alan Moore’s opinion is “As far as I can see, it's not important that we have free will, just as long as we have the illusion of free will to stop us going mad.” There are many who do not share either of these extreme views and hold a place midway between free will and fatalism. Kant established that our sensations must have causes in the external world, but that we are unable, and shall never be able, to perceive these causes by sensory means, i.e. by the means which serve us to perceive phenomena. Jawaharlal Nehru put it as “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.”  

Life only thinks about itself. Life is only concerned about itself. Life everywhere faces two problems: survival and propagation. Life is being busy to resolve these fundamental issues or else goes extinct. In the words of Charles Darwin, “It is survival to the fittest.” Life in humans has some addition features due to having a larger brain in humans as compared to animals.  The misery in humans hampers the quality and performance in terms of survival and propagation.

Thus, by determining everything we know is about survival and propagation through our senses in terms of space and time which is indeed confirmed by Special Theory of relativity that space and time are not properties of the world, but merely properties of our perception of the world by means of sense organs. In the words of Einstein, “Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live.” Consequently, it is we who invest it with these properties when we sense and perceive it. Quantum Physics, further, acknowledges the role of an observer in the observed physical world. The observed physical world is described rather by a mathematical structure that can best be characterized as representing information and propensities: some information about all the possible choices is simultaneously present in the quantum state, and the possibility that any one of the mutually exclusive alternatives might be pertinent. Whichever choice the experimenter eventually makes, the associated set of predictions is assumed to hold.

According to Kant, everything we find in external world is put into it by ourselves. We do not know what the world is like independently of ourselves. Moreover, our conception of things has nothing in common with the things as they are in themselves, apart from them. And, most important of all, our ignorance of things in them is due not to our insufficient knowledge, but to the fact that we are totally unable to have a correct knowledge of the world by means of sense-perception which is in congruence with the Principle of Uncertainty. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that one cannot simultaneously know the position and momentum of an object with arbitrarily high precision. The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.

Sir Roger Penrose, studying the physical basis of consciousness applying quantum physics and Einstein's general theory of relativity on Plank's scale, figured out that consciousness involves a factor which is neither deterministic nor probabilistic but non-computable. Conscious choices and understanding may be non-computable and life may be seen as a combination of deterministic pre-conscious processes acted on by a non-computable influence.

It could be deduced that one can never know whether free will or fatalism. It is also clear that the main question is not about the free will or fatalism but to avoid the misery or sorrow in life. All schools of philosophy and religions are directed to solve this problem. The theory of free will, fatalism or concoction of both was devised to tackle this problem.  It is now a well establish fact that relaxation in concepts of absolute free will and fatalism appeals most of the people and could better cope with misery in majority. When Yagyavalkya, ancient Upanisada sage of India, was asked about free will or fatalism, he said “The concept of free will and fatalism are like two wheels of a cart; if anyone is missing, the cart only moves in circle- round and round. To ensure proper movement on path, one needs to use both the wheels.”

The same confusion was put before Muhammad and he asked the person to lift one of his legs. The person lifted his left leg. Again, the Prophet asked the person to lift another leg but he is bound and could not lift his leg. Initially, the person was free to lift his leg; in fact, he had options to choose whether he wanted to lift his left leg or right leg. As soon as he chose, he became bound. The concoction of free will and fatalism could also be understood by considering a sailboat analogy. A sailor sets the sail in a certain way; the direction the boat sails is determined by the action of the wind on the sail. One cannot change the direction of the wind but can adjust the sail to be in right direction.

One could think beyond space and time but could only express within the limits of space and time. Conscious choices may be non-computable but expressed algorithmically through deterministic or probabilistic statements. It could better be understood through biology of brain. The newest area of human brain is neocorex. The neocortex is responsible for rational and analytical thought and language. The limbic brain is responsible for all of feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behavior and all decision-making, but it has no capacity for language. The communication takes place directly with the part of the brain that controls decision making, and the language part of the brain allows rationalizing those decisions. The part of the brain that controls the feelings has no capacity for language. It is this disconnection that makes putting feelings into words so hard. Again, the part of the brain that controls decision-making doesn't control language, so we rationalize. Rationally, one knows that one’s explanation isn't the real reason. So, enlightened people could not express the higher level of consciousness in words and keep silence over the subject and when speaks one’s version is found to be different from another enlightened one’s rationally as in the case of Muhammad’s explanation and sailboat analogy.

There are also the cases where absolute free will was experienced; that is why, statements such as “Thou art That” and “I and My Father are One” were stated independently in different cultures and religion.  It is not possible to obtain absolute free will without entering in the realm of occultism and very few would have such psychology-type to combat misery in one’s life.

Basically, human beings can be broadly classified into four types according to their psycho-somatic conditions: the active type, the mystic type, the philosophic type and devotional type. This classification is based on the predominance of one or the other three aspects of the human mind: the will, the intellect and emotions. In the light of latest biological researches, the active type, devotional type, the philosophic type and the mystic type can be attributed to neurological pathway dominated by four major neurotransmitters: testosterone, estrogen, serotonin and dopamine respectively.  

Any single theory or concept could not meet the different requirements of all pyscho-somatic types. So, it is obvious to formulate various theories and concepts to alleviate sorrow and misery  in one's  life keeping in mind the  necessities of different psycho-somatic  types.

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way and the only way, it doesn't exist.
~Friedrich Nietzche

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Discipline- Essence of success

Steam without chamber and water without dam could not produce electricity, so is man without discipline could not achieve success.

Discipline is collection of scattered components of personality within and channeling them towards success by being a part of the system. Discipline is in fact derived from proto-Indo-European word “dek-” which means “acceptance.” Discipline is the acceptance of the fact that channeling requires confinement; a sense of sacrifice for something better; a sense of hardship to forge a character as steel.

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their book ‘The One Thing’ state “this pervasive idea that the successful person is disciplined person who leads a disciplined life is a lie. The truth is we don’t need any more discipline than we already have. We just need to direct and manage it a little better.” And they are right.

There is a principle in physics which says that under constant volume, increase in pressure is directly proportional to increase in temperature and upon this principle, pressure cooker are made to cook the food fast as compared with traditional cooking. A gas pressure cooker is a device to cook food by raising pressure and subsequently raising temperature inside the cooker placed over the ordinary flame produced by domestic gas. It contains a metal base packed with all sides except top, a lid to cover the top after placing the food inside the cooker, a gasket or sealing ring and a weight. The lid has an opening for escaping the gas and releasing the extra pressure. The working is very simple. Food is placed inside the cooker along with some water and is closed with lid and sealing ring. Weight is put over the opening in the lid. The pressure cooker is now put on flame. Due to the heat of the flame, the temperature starts rising inside the cooker; the increasing temperature makes the water boil and evaporate. Since there is a weight on the opening in the lid, steam could not escape and increase the pressure inside and the increasing pressure raises the temperature. The process continues till the required pressure and temperature obtained. When the pressure exceeds the required limit, it lifts the weight on the lid and let some steam escape to maintain the required pressure and temperature inside. The lifting of weight and escaping of steam produce a whistling sound and it is the number of this whistling sound that determines whether the food is cooked inside or not. The same principle is applied in steam engines to run turbines for producing electricity or moving wagons on rails through railways.

What will happen if lid is not properly closed or there is defective sealing ring? The steam leak and required pressure and temperature will never be achieved. And, what will happen if weight is fixed or opening in the lid is closed? The cooker will burst due to excess pressure builds inside. The case is same with discipline. Lack of discipline incapables us to achieve success and on the other hand, excessive discipline breaks the system. We need optimal amount of discipline in order to succeed and we are already born with that. We must take care that it doesn’t leak through procrastination or other ways. In fact, we always do not need discipline; sometimes we have to relax it as marching over the bridge by the army. When army marches, all the members move their legs together in synchronous manner; all the left legs put together and all the right legs put together and this is dangerous for the bridge because of the pressure applied by the simultaneous feet at a time. 
I think all of us know that it is easy to break a single stick and very hard to break a bundle of sticks. This is also reflected in the potential damage of bridge by collective feet pressure of a battalion at a time and the collective pressure of steam inside the cooker while lifting the weight placed upon the lid. The purpose of unity is to focus on a common point and discipline is involved in it. Discipline is like a magnifying glass which concentrates the beams of sunlight on a point and helps burn a match stick without rubbing on match box. Focusing, channeling, directing or unifying mean stopping the leakage and make them available for our purpose. Discipline involves sacrifice and priority. Discipline helps us in reserving our vital strength and enthusiasm for more useful and productive things. In the words of Brian Tracy, “Discipline is having dinner before dessert.”

Discipline doesn’t mean to work mechanically like a robot with certain sets of programs pre-installed in the body. Discipline doesn’t imply to follow rules like a zombie but assimilation of principle to break the rules when necessary to sustain the principle. Discipline is courage to make a right decision for betterment in long terms rather than enjoying short term gratifications.  Paulo Coelho put it as just a choice between what one wants now and what one wants most.

Monkey-hunters use a box with an opening at the top, big enough for the monkey to slide its hand in. Inside the box are nuts. The monkey grabs the nuts and now its hand becomes a fist. The monkey tries to get its hand out but the opening is big enough for the hand to slide in, but too small for the fist to come out. Now the monkey has a choice, either to let go off the nuts and be free forever or hang on to the nuts and get caught. Guess what it picks every time? It hangs on to the nuts and gets caught. The monkey thinks that it is free and have right to get what it wants and now the thing of desire is in its hand. It seems happy but its happiness dries out as it get caught and put into cage for life long as a showpiece for entertainment of others. Epictetus said “Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired but controlling the desire.” Discipline is needed for not getting trapped in the web of unending lust and remain free. Discipline is yajna in which momentary happiness is sacrificed to get everlasting happiness.

Discipline is sense of love and responsibility. Shiva Khera said “Discipline is loving firmness. Sometimes you have to be unkind to be kind: Not all medicine is sweet, not all surgery is painless, but we have to take it.” Giraffe gives birth to a baby giraffe while standing; the baby hits the hard ground directly out of the comfort of mother's womb, and sits on the ground. The first thing mother does is to get behind the baby and give him a hard kick. The baby gets up, but his legs are weak and wobbly and the baby falls down. Mother goes behind again and gives him one more kick. The baby gets up but sits down again. Mother keeps kicking till the baby gets on its feet and starts moving. It is hard for a mother to do such thing but it is necessary because  she knows that the only chance of survival for the baby in the forest is to get on its feet otherwise it will be eaten up by other wild animals. 

Discipline is hardship too. Butterflies feel very pain and trouble while coming out of cocoons.The pain is unbearable; almost nearly to die but it is necessary for their wings and survival. Without this process, they would die. Similarly, in one's life, there are many situations when one has to take hard decisions because they are necessary to sustain life. Discipline is the ability to willingly make sacrifice in the present to secure the success in the future. In other words, discipline is bringing the future into the present so that something could be done about it in now.

Discipline is self-mastery which involves determination, hardwork and persistence.  Michaelangelo put it, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem wonderful at all.” Calvin Coolidge said “Nothing will take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is a proverb. Education will not: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Mahatma Gandhi in his autobiography confessed about a time when he felt double shame because of his carnal lust. His father was suffering from fistula and he was one of the principal attendants with the duties of a nurse which mainly consisted dressing the wound, giving the medicines and massaging his leg untill his father fell asleep. This was also the time when his wife was expecting a baby. He mentioned that while every night his hands were busy massaging his father's legs, his mind was hovering about the bedroom and that too at a time when religion, medical science, and commonsense alike forbade sexual intercourse and when relieved from duty, went straight to the bedroom. His father's condition had been deteorating day by day and then the dreadful night came. As usual he was giving the massage, this time his uncle offered to relieve him and he gladly accepted and went straight to the bedroom,  woke his sleeping wife up but within five or six minutes, the news came that his father was no more. He realized that if animal passion had not blinded him, he should have been spared the torture of separation from his father during his last moments. He took it as a blot that he would have never been able to efface or forget. But he overcame that desire and duing his later stages of life he slept naked with naked ladies beside him on a single bed without any thought on the subject in his mind. He wrote “It took me long to get free from the shackles of lust, and I had to pass through many ordeals before I could overcome it..... All these efforts did not seem to bear much fruits, but when I look back upon the past I feel that the final resolution was the cumulative effect of those unsuccessful strivings.”

Do not surrender to initial failures because to give up when get tired is a easy way to live but winners always go on. Winners are committed and put on pressure not for winning but for hardwork and preparation. Steve Jobs said “It is impossible to connect   the dots forward but it is very very clear looking backwards ten years later.” When a wall falls due to hitting hundred times, it is not because of the hundredth hit but it is due to the cumulative effects of all hits. And so is the case with every endeavor as Mahatma Gandhi admitted.

In the movie 'Invictus' Nelson Mandela is shown to get inspiration from a poem which, according to him, helped him to stand when all he wanted to do was to lie down.

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the Pit from pole to pole
l thank whatever Gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
ln the fell clutch of circumstance
l have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of fate
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
lt matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll
l am the master of my fate:
l am the captain of my soul.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Loser despite winning every time.

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to loose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat and go onto win again, you are going to be a champion someday.
-Wilma Rudolph

Winners are not who wins every time but who knows the importance of losing also. Donald Trump said “Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you have to give up the fight and walk away and move on to something that’s more productive.” One cannot work all the time: 24X7. One needs to take rest. One has a limited resource. One must have the faculty to distinguish between important or unimportant, worthy or worthless. It is wisdom to reserve one’s resources for meaningful purpose and surrender against meaningless goals. 

I heard a story about a man who was going with his son to a market to sell a donkey. On the way, they met a person who asked “Why walk when you have a donkey to ride?" The man let his son to sit on the donkey. Soon they met another person who said "How shameful of you! Let your father ride, won't he be tired?" So, the boy got down and the man rode the donkey. Again they marched on. "Poor boy", said the next passerby they met, "why should the lazy father ride while his son is walking?" So, the boy got onto the donkey too. As they went on, they met some travelers who commented "How cruel of them! They are up to kill the poor donkey." Hearing this, the man and the son got down. Now they decided to carry the donkey on their shoulders. As they did so, the travelers broke into laughter. The laughter frightened the donkey. It broke free and galloped away. Don’t try to win every argument or situation. You cannot satisfy everyone’s need. You cannot please everyone.

We think that getting what we want brings us happiness; winning brings happiness. We all know the story of the greedy king named Midas. He had a lot of gold and the more he had the more he wanted. One day he was visited by an angel and asked to make a wish. The king was delighted and said, "I would like everything I touch to turn to gold." The angel said "Starting tomorrow morning with the sun rays you will get the golden touch." The king thought he must be dreaming, this couldn't be true. But the next day when he woke up, he touched the bed, his clothes, and everything turned to gold. He looked out of the window and saw his daughter playing in the garden. He decided to give her a surprise and thought she would be happy. But before he went to the garden he decided to read a book. The moment he touched it, it turned into gold and he couldn't read it. Then he sat to have breakfast and the moment he touched the fruit and the glass of water, they turned to gold. He was getting hungry but he couldn’t eat. Just about that time his daughter came running and he hugged her and she turned into a gold statue. There were no more smiles left. The king bowed his head and started crying. Despite winning his wish, his life became miserable and he had to live a life of a loser.

Winning is an event while winner is a spirit. By merely winning, one cannot become a winner. Winning an event may be chance but having a winner spirit could not be chance; it is something that one earns. Almost we all have heard the story of tortoise and rabbit who once raced and tortoise won and declared winner. The story goes like this. There lived a rabbit who ridiculed a slow-moving tortoise and it was decided to have a race between them. The rabbit soon left the tortoise behind and, confident of winning, took a nap midway through the course. The tortoise got tired but he kept going. When the rabbit awoke, however, he found that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, had arrived before him and won the race. It was a chance victory. Under normal circumstance, a rabbit could never be defeated by a tortoise. Despite the fact, tortoise was a winner. How come so? Tortoise was a winner not because he won the race but because he had winner spirit. This fact is mostly neglected and gives rise to a mind state which is self-defeating. This problem is correctly raised by Joshua Waitzkin in his statement: “Very gifted people, they win and they win and they are told that they win because they are a winner. That seems like positive thing to tell children, but ultimately what that means is when they lose, it must make them a loser.”

Olympics is a lifetime event. It was the year 1988 and the event was Seoul Olympics Finn Class race. Lawrence Lemieux was in second position with a medal almost certain but he stopped racing to help fellow competitors who were in trouble. After rescuing them, he resumed the race and finished in 22nd place out of 32 boats in the race. Even though he did not win the race, he was a winner. He was honored by kings and queens all over the world because he kept the winner spirit alive. He was also awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship. The medal has been given to only 12 athletes till date.

Winners do not play for winning but for self-integrity. Reuben Gonzales was in the final match of the racquetball tournament. This was an important event and he was playing for the world title. In the final game at match point, Gonzales played a super shot to save point. The referee and the linesman both confirmed that the shot was good and he was declared the winner. But Gonzales, after a little pause and hesitation, turned back to shake his opponent's hand and said, "The shot was faulty." As a result, he lost the serve and eventually, lost the match. Everyone was stunned. Who could imagine that a player with everything officially in his favor, with winning in his pocket, would disqualify himself and lose. When asked why he did it, Gonzales replied, "It was the only thing to do in order to maintain my integrity." He lost the match, yet he was a winner.

Winner does not work for credit but for the work done. Colonel Edward M. House wielded an enormous influence in national and international affairs while Woodrow Wilson occupied the White House. Wilson leaned upon Colonel House for secret counsel and advice more than he did upon even members of his own cabinet. What method did the Colonel use in influencing the President? Fortunately, we know, for House himself revealed it to Arthur D. Howden Smith, and Smith quoted House in an article in The Saturday Evening Post. " 'After I got to know the President,' House said, 'I learned the best way to convert him to an idea was to plant it in his mind casually, but so as to interest him in it - so as to get him thinking about it on his own account. The first time this worked it was an accident. I had been visiting him at the White House and urged a policy on him which he appeared to disapprove. But several days later, at the dinner table, I was amazed to hear him trot out my suggestion as his own.' "Did House interrupt him and say, "That's not your idea. That's mine?” Oh, no. Not House. He was too adroit for that. He didn't care about credit. He wanted results. So he let Wilson continue to feel that the idea was his. House did even more than that. He gave Wilson public credit for these ideas.

Endeavor only for winning is attachment, freedom lies in sacrifice of transitory winning over deterministic winning.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Love: The Biggest Death

Love and Death, move through the world, like closest friends indeed, never far separate, and together dominating it in a kind of triumphant superiority; and yet like bitterest enemies, dogging each other's footsteps, undoing each other's work, fighting for the bodies and souls of mankind.
- Edward Carpenter

Is pain always painful? I heard a story about a tree who loved a boy very much. Boy used to come and play in the shades of tree, climb up, swing from the branches and eat its fruits. The tree was happy. Time went by. The child became adolescent and found happiness in other things and abandoned playing around the tree. The tree was left alone to live. One day, the adolescent boy was passing beside the tree with a sad face. The tree felt the sadness inside the boy and shouted “Come Boy, climb up my trunk, swing from my branches, eat my fruits and play in my shade and be happy.” “I am too big to climb and play. Don’t mess. I’m in trouble” said the adolescent boy. The tree asked “What happened? What is the cost of your happiness?” The adolescent boy replied “I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money.” The tree said “Don’t worry my boy. Take my fruits, sell them in the market, earn money, have fun and be happy.” The adolescent boy climbed up the tree, plucked fruits and left the tree alone again. But the tree was happy for the boy. After a long time tree again saw the boy, felt alive with joy and shouted “Come Boy, climb up my trunk, swing from my branches and be happy.” The boy replied in hard voice “I am too busy to climb trees. I need to expand my business far off the sea. I need a boat. I don’t know what to do?” The tree said “Calm down Boy. Cut off my branches, build a boat and be happy.” The boy, now a young man, did the same and again left the tree alone. But the tree was happy for the boy. After travelling and wandering place to place. The man returned with his wife and son and wanted to settle down. The man introduced his son to the tree and shared the stories how he used to play around the tree and how tree helped him time to time. Now tree is itself old and hardly speak but whispered “You look sad what’s the matter.” The man replied “Now I’m a married man having wife and kid. I want to settle down. I need a house.” The tree replied “Cut down my trunk, make a house and be happy.” The man and his son together cut down the trunk and made a house for themselves. The tree was once again left alone. But the tree was happy for the boy. Many years passed. This time the man was also alone. The man’s child became young and became busy in his carrier opportunities. In meanwhile, the man’s wife also died. He was sad. Now, he realized that the tree was his real lover. He went to the tree. The tree greeted him properly and said “I am sorry Boy; I have nothing left to give you. My apples are gone. My branches are gone. My trunk is gone. I wish that I could give you something but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump.” "I don't need very much now," said the boy, "just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired." "Well," said the tree, straightening as much as it could, "an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest." And the man did. The tree was happy for the boy. The emotions of the tree could be expressed better in the words of Mother Teresa who said “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

I heard once a lover knocked on the door of his beloved. A sound heard from inside "who are you?" Lover replied "It's me." Another sound heard from inside "go back there is no room for I in love." Lover wandered and wandered for the meaning of love. After a long time he again knocked the same door. Again same voice "who are you?" Lover replied "It's you" Beloved said "go back when there is you there is I" Lover realized his mistake and again knocked the door and again the question "who are you?" This time lover replied "It's love" and the door opened.

Love breaks the wall of "I." Love could not be confined within any wall. Love is infinite sky. If one see the sky from a window and think what is visible is sky then it would be a wrong assessment. Love is not only that reflects through the window of relationship but is the whole sky. The energy of love passes into instincts, into the power of ideas, into creative force on different planes of life, into images of art, into songs, sounds, music, poetry. And we can easily imagine the same energy passing into intuition of a higher order, into higher consciousness which will open up for us a mysterious and miraculous world. Rumi said "This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet."

It is the fear of demolition of the wall of ego inside individual, the abolishment of "I-ness," death of individuality that causes pain in love. The death of ego is the biggest death and source of happiness. It is the feeling of I-ness that is the cause of misery in human life. Barbara de Angelis said “Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible - it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.”

A candle burns to give light. Burning is the necessary condition for obtaining light from a candle. Burning and light are two faces of same phenomenon. The same is true with light of love and burning of ego and, that is why; Sufism believes in love as "divine and a way of salvation", Buddhism's  "Karuna" is egolessness, Benedict XVI wrote his first encyclical on "God is love." One can start his journey from either side. In fact, in Hindu mythology love and death are the two faces of one deity. Shiva, the god of the reproductive force in nature, is at the same time the god of violent death, murder and destruction. His wife Parvati is the goddess of beauty, love and happiness, and she is also Kali or Durga - the goddess of evil, misfortune, sickness and death. And Shiva and Kali together are gods of wisdom.

Socrates once said “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll transcend through love; if you get a bad one, you'll transcend through suffering.” It is a well-known psychological fact that at moments of very intense experience, great joy or great suffering, everything happening around seems to a man unreal, a dream. This is the beginning of the awakening of the soul. When a man begins to be aware, in a dream, that he is asleep and that what he sees is a dream, he awakes. In the same way a soul, when it begins to realize that all visible life is but a dream, approaches awakening.

Whoever is capable of seeing beyond 'facts' begins to see many new things precisely in love and through love.

-P.D. Ouspensky

Monday, 29 July 2013

Love: Coupling of pleasure and pain

Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.
–Paulo Cohelo

What is love? Commoners say “love is coitus.” Scientists say “love is neurological condition.” Psychologists say “love has many guises: friendship, family, couples, humanity, narcissism etc.” Philosophers say “love is a passionate commitment.” Novelists say “love is the driver for all the great stories.” Religions say “love is free yet binds us.” Now, a question arises, are they talking of the same thing?

A story pops in my mind about an elephant and the six blind men. Once, a mahout came with his elephant in a village to show some stunts of elephant as a part of his livelihood. News spread in the village. There lived a family of six blind men who also heard the news. They knew nothing about elephant. They were excited about the show but soon realized that they were not able to watch the show. They decided it didn’t matter, at least, they could request the mahout to let them feel the elephant by touching it after the show. They approached and touched the elephant. One of them touched the elephant’s leg and shouted "elephant is like a pillar." Second touched tail and shouted "no, elephant is like a rope." Third one touched trunk and said "you both are wrong; elephant is like a branch of tree." Fourth shouted "don't fool yourselves; elephant is like a hand fan." He touched its ear. The fifth man felt it like a wall by touching its belly and the sixth person touched the tusk of the elephant and thought it as a solid pipe.

The problem is same with commoner, scientist, psychologist, philosopher, novelist and religion as with the six blind men who felt the different parts of the elephant and concluded the elephant to be that specific part. Commoner, scientist, psychologist, philosopher, novelist and religion talk about the same thing but with different perspective and stick to their versions.

Love is physical but not only physical. In fact, the language of love is touch. Suppose, someone is crying and someone other told her to stop crying, what would happen? Would she stop crying? Well, may be or may not be. It is also likely possible that her crying would become more loud, more intense. On the other hand, if one wipes her tears with his hand, it is more probable that she would stop crying.  If a child is devoid of all its attention, cuddling, hugging and touch but fed properly and timely, it would die soon because the child would not receive a special kind of nourishment called love.

The language of love i.e. touch, is not only valid among humans but also understood by the animals and is a useful tool while communicating with animals. One day Ralph Waldo Emerson and his son tried to get a calf into the barn. Emerson pushed and his son pulled. But the calf stiffened his legs and stubbornly refused to leave the pasture. The housemaid saw their predicament. She put her maternal finger in the calf's mouth and let the calf suck her finger as she gently led him into the barn. Those who are fond of pets could better understand what fondling and patting means.

Evolution reveals love as a survival tool as compared to hunger. Plato also described love as need or urge, almost impossible to stamp out; he said “the God of Love lives in a state of need.” Evolutionary psychology emphasizes that humans are dependent on parental help for a large portion of their lifespan comparative to other mammals and therefore love has been seen as a mechanism to promote parental support of children for this extended time period.

On the other hand, evolutionary biology, explains love as a survival tool purely on biological basis. Protozoa, the primitive cells, the progenitors of the whole animal and vegetable kingdom grow by feeding on the minute particles which they find in the fluid surrounding them. The growth continues, till ultimately, reaching the limit of convenient size, a cell divides into two or more portions; and so reproduces itself. This is called asexual reproduction. Their life is simple: hunger, growth and propagation. This continues for many generations without change until a time comes when the growth-power and energy decays and the vitality diminishes.  But then a variation occurs. Two cells unite, exchange fluids, and parted again. It is a new form of nourishment; a primitive form of love. It is a very intimate form of nourishment; for it appears that in general the nuclei themselves of the two cells are shared and in part exchanged. And the vitality so obtained gives the cells a new lease of life. They are in fact regenerated. And each partner grows again actively and reproduces itself by asexual mode of reproduction such as binary fission, budding etc. And so far there is no distinction of sex, in the sense of male and female. It is a union between similar; and it leads to growth and reproduction. Later, at a certain stage in general, when “animals” have already been formed by the conjunction of many protozoic cells in co-operative colonies differentiation sets in, and some individuals specialize towards activity and the chase, while others (of the same species) specialize towards repose and assimilation. The two sets of qualities are clearly only useful in combination with each other; and therefore it is quite natural that the two corresponding groups of individuals should form two great branches in each race, diverse yet united. These two branches are the male and female.   It is in the Metazoa generally, and those forms of life which consist of co-operative colonies of cells, that sex-differentiation into male and female begins to decisively assert itself. It is well developed and distinguished in complex forms of life such as mammal. The concept of sharing of nucleic material between the two distinguished individuals is still of primitive type and simple but its execution has become complex. The progeny still receives its nucleic material from both parents in the ratio of 50:50. Rolph said “the process of conjugation is only a special form of nutrition, which occurs on a reduction of the nutritive income, or an increase of the nutritive needs”

Sometimes love is considered only as medium of propagation. Indeed, love is mode of propagation but not through progenies only. Love is also a form of propagation of oneself over others.  Aristotle said “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” In my childhood, I heard many stories of magicians who secretly kept their lives in some birds so that they would not be killed directly. I see love is that magic which transfers one’s life element into others which Rumi said beautifully as:

You try to be faithful
And sometimes you're cruel.
You are mine. Then, you leave.
Without you, I can't cope.

And when you take the lead,
I become your footstep.
Your absence leaves a void.
Without you, I can't cope.

You have disturbed my sleep,
You have wrecked my image.
You have set me apart.
Without you, I can't cope.

Psychological analysis indentified three basic attributes of love as craving for emotional union, obsessive thinking and involuntary will. Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and leading expert in the topic of love, divides the experience of love into three partly overlapping stages: lust, attraction, and attachment. Lust is the feeling of sexual desire; romantic attraction determines what partners mates find attractive and pursue, conserving time and energy by choosing; and attachment involves sharing a home, parental duties, mutual defense, and in humans involves feelings of safety and security. The three circuitry systems, associated with lust, romance and attachment are testosterone guided circuitry system, dopamine guided circuitry system and oxytocin guided circuitry system respectively. The three worked together as well as independently. It is due to their independency; we have attachments with few, involved in romance with others and at the same time could sleep with some others.

The knowledge of how things work and the knowledge of mechanism involved is not sufficient to start something unless one knows why it works. I heard a story about a boy who heard Dr. Helen’s lecture on romantic love and knew about the involvement of dopamine in it. And he knew that the moments of fear and excitement also elevates dopamine level in brain. He loved a girl madly but she is not in love with him. He decided to put science to work and devised a plan to make her love him. He invited the girl for a ride with him. He bribed the driver for rash and adventurous driving. Everything went according to the plan. She was squealing and squeezing him and laughing and having wonderful time. An hour later they got down off the cab and she threw her hands up and said “Wasn’t that wonderful? Wasn’t that cab driver handsome!” Loretta Young said “Love isn't something you find. Love is something that finds you.”

Love is not always a golden crown but sometimes a crown of thrones. Love is always compared to fire. It is said that love is a fire pond and one needs to cross by diving.  

Fire runs through my body with the pain of loving you
Pain runs through my body with the fires of my love for you
Pain like a boil about to burst with my love for you
Consumed by fire with my love for you

I remember what you said to me
I am thinking of your love for me
I am torn by your love for me
Pain and more pain

Where are you going my love
I am told you will go from here
I am told you will leave me here
My body is numb with grief
Remember what I said my love
Goodbye, my love, goodbye
- Anonymous

 To be continued………………

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Doubt and Faith: Sides of a coin

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.       
-Khalil Gibran 

A fever or pain is itself not a disease but an immune response in a form of an indication that a struggle is started within the body; something went wrong whether an outsider intrusion or internal imbalance which needs immediate attention and some remedial action. The same is true with the feeling of doubt. Doubt is an indication of somewhat disturbed belief system which needs immediate attention and some remedial action. In the words of William Shakespeare, “Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.”  

I heard a story about Gautam Buddha who once was taking rest outside a village. A passerby recognized him and greeted. He, despite being theist, asked Buddha “Do God exist?” Buddha replied “No.” He passed with a state of despair on his face. Another passerby asked the same question to Buddha but he was an atheist; the reply came “Yes.” He also walked with desperate face. Third one came and said “It doesn’t matter for me whether God exists or not, but, since I met you it is not unwise to ask you so I am asking do god exist?” Buddha said “May be may not be.” Buddha’s disciple sat beside him and was listening all questions and answers and finally asked “All of them asked the same question but you replied differently I don’t understand why? Which one is correct?” Buddha replied sheepishly “All of them were correct for those whom given and none of them for you. The thirst of truth could not be quenched by firm belief in prejudice but through curiosity i.e. asking smart questions and meeting their answers. I was just breaking prejudices of the first two and the third one was already in that state.”

It is not that we don’t know answers but we don’t know how to ask questions. The moments of doubt could be used to learn asking question. Most people thought being a part of question as failure and want to be a part of solution. It is okay but when the same principle is applied to doubts then the opposite happens. Doubt doesn’t teach answers but questions. It is the question that meets answer. Dennis Palumbo, a former Hollywood screenwriter and now a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, said “The plain fact is, the more willing you are to mine the landscape of your own doubts, the truer and more recognizably human your characters will be.”

Quantum physics reveals nature as a realm of knowledge. The physical theory has become converted from a theory about `physically reality', as it had formerly been understood, into a theory about human knowledge. Freedom is granted to each experimenter to choose freely which experiment he will perform, i.e., which aspect of nature he will probe; which question he will put to nature. Then nature is allowed to pick an outcome of the experiment, i.e., to answer to the question. These elements of `freedom of choice', on the part of both the human participant and nature herself, lead to a picture of a reality that gradually unfolds in response to choices that are not necessarily fixed by the prior physical part of reality alone. The basic building blocks of the new conception of nature are not objective tiny bits of matter, but choices of questions and answers.

Doubt is like a situation where one stands at an intersection of roads and does not know which one is correct for his destiny; which one to choose. Doubt is a state of mind in which one is struggling between opposite propositions and unable to stick either of them. Doubt is not the situation of multiple choice options but doubt against each option in terms of its validity whether it is true or not. On the basis of logic, doubt could be understood in two ways: one in which logic could be applied equally by both side, i.e. for the proposition or against the proposition and second in which logic could not be applied by any side due to lack of evidence. In either case logic could not be of much help but faith. Logic needs axioms to spin arguments. Mark Twain said “when in doubt tell the truth.” Truth could not be an interpretation of brainstorming but a direct message. Truth is something that sprouts from within and requires faith to act upon it. William James said “faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible.”

A child was born in the year 570 and raised from the milk of nomad, vicarious mothers in the desert of Arabia. He tended sheep and soon hired out to a rich widow as leader of her caravans. In 595, the widow aged 40 and was 15 years older than he, looked upon him with favor and married him. He continued his living as a rich and respected trader. Each year during Ramdan, the ninth month of lunar calendar, he wandered in mountains surrounding Mecca to refresh himself with solitude and prayer. In the year 610, at the age of 40, the humble trader took himself on one of these retreats in the cave of Mount Hira and suddenly found someone calling him to proclaim. He terrified and ran out of the cave. At first, he thought, it had to have been a hallucination; a trick of the eye or of the year or his own mind working against him. He even thought worst about being possessed by an evil spirit to deceive him and to crush life out of him. He was deeply distressed and resolved to commit suicide. The man who fled down the mountain that night was in a state of stark, primordial fear and overwhelmed not with conviction but by doubt. Slowly and gradually he learned to have faith along with confusion and struggling. He continued his prayer and fast. After three years, once again, he heard from the same source “By morning brightness and by the stillness of the night, Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor has He become displeased, and surely what comes after is better for you than that which has gone before.  And soon will your Lord give you so that you shall be well pleased.” He was Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam and this was the beginning of holy Quran and faith in one “Allah” which started with a terrifying doubt. Lesley Hazleton, author of ‘The First Muslim’ said “It was precisely Muhammad’s doubt that brought him alive for me, that allowed me to begin to see him in full, to accord him the integrity of reality. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense that he doubted, because doubt is essential to faith.” In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Faith keeps many doubts in her pay. If I could not doubt, I should not believe.”  

As it is said that excess of anything is bad, so is with doubt. Excess of doubt creates fear which ultimately leads to frustration and misery. One should make a stand and act accordingly with faith. On the other extreme, if all doubts are abolished, then what remains is not faith but absolute heartless conviction which leads to self-righteous arrogance.

All innovations whether scientific or spiritual are results of doubt: doubt over existing system. They are the answers put forward by nature as a result of the questions raised in doubts and nurtured by faith. All religious system did not origin at the same time but gradually doubting over the previous system as Buddhism from Hinduism and Islam and Christianity from Judaism. But the followers stop asking questions and show their blind faith which resulted in decline of religions because the questions have changed and they are still giving the same old answers. If they do not assimilate current questions then they are preparing grounds for new religions. The existence of many religions is the outcome of fundamentalist thinking prevailing in the religion which is not ready to accommodate new questions.

Faith has no easy answers. It involves an ongoing struggle, a continual questioning of what we think we know a wrestling with issues and ideas. It goes hand in hand with doubt in a never ending conversation with it and sometimes in conscious defiance of it. What drives us is that, despite our doubts and even because of our doubts, we reject the nihilism of despair and insist on faith. Consider the ambivalence as put by Frederick Buechner, “If you don’t have any doubts you’re either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”

Faith and doubt both are needed not as antagonists, but working side by side to take us around the unknown curve.

-Lillian Smith