Friday, August 22, 2008

Lessons on happiness

According to an essay I read a happy life comes from two things: tranquility and excitement. In a happy person the two have to be balanced. If for example you have spent time in repose at the end of it you would like to do something exciting. At the same time somebody who is excited all the time would be suffering from what the essay said is the ‘excitement disease’ such that the tranquility that would follow the excitement and as enjoyable as the excitement would be avoided by that person.

Now having addressed the feeling of happiness or the mode of it, the question is ‘what’ brings happiness? And the answer is that pleasure brings happiness.

I would like to elaborate a little on pleasure.

When there are two experiences both of which bring pleasure, how do we judge which of the two is qualitatively better than the other? Answer: If everybody who has experienced both pleasures chooses always the first over the other then the first is better than the other.

And herein is the mighty idea that I would like to share: a higher mental faculty is more pleasurable then a bodily one or even from a lower mental faculty. As a simple demonstration of this is the fact that no human would like to be an animal, no one would rather have the pleasure that an animal would have than the pleasure one has owing to being human. Also a person who has wisdom, such as Socrates would not like to be a fool. So while the fool might be indifferent the man with a higher faculty would not simply because he is aware of both the options.

Having shown that a higher mental faculty is more pleasurable why doesn’t everybody indulge in it? There are two reasons to this. One is: the person may have not reached and thus has not realized this higher faculty. Two: circumstance does not permit him and it is thus not in his ability to enjoy it anymore.

How does one reach the higher mental faculty though? The answer lies here: a person who has gone through a good education and has absorbed from it as a sponge absorbs water, not only the knowledge but also an awareness of the kind of knowledge one can learn, will always want to learn more.

The conclusion: To be happy one should attempt to unlock a higher mental faculty and that state once reached is most pleasurable.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What of our murderers?

“In Cold Blood” is a 1966 book by American author Truman Capote. A movie was made on it in Hollywood called ‘Capote’. (What I write of this is based on what I have seen from the movie)

Truman Capote became the most famous author in America when he wrote this book. While he had completed many works before this novel, this was his last work. This book took a massive toll on Capote who died later because of alcoholism. He wrote an epigraph in his last uncompleted work: “More tears are shed on answered prayers then on unanswered ones”. (He said this, about his experience writing “In cold blood”)

“In cold blood” was about two people who had murdered a family in Kansas.

When Capote went to Kansas after the news to write an article about it he was taken in by one of the murderers: Perry Smith, and so he decided to write a book on the event. He says in the movie: “when I think how good this book is going to be I can hardly breathe”.

He said: “There are two elements in society, the conservative and the criminals that are the underbelly, the evil men. On that night those two converged”.

Capote could deeply relate to Perry who also had a very tough childhood, was poor, and had gone to that house that night not to murder but to steal money. He said of Perry: “Its like we were both born in the same house, I went out the front door and he went out the back door”.

What I realized after I saw this, what made the whole of America focus on this book and honor the author for it, was that the author had managed to show to the people that there was a story behind Perry. He related that story and the pain and grief that it eventually caused to society.

I say: What of our people? What of our society? What of the people in Pakistan? Crimes have gone up and for a number of complicating factors our people live in a lot of stress, some live in hell. The kind of lives many live here, the level of poverty is the misfortune of thousands of people.

There is a story behind each crime that takes place in Karachi, many are not insane. What is it? Who is writing it?

How can we fall in love and not end up like Dracula

I have written a post about Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Read it here. The point I mentioned there was that while lust is always destructive, love is also capable of being destructive. In fact Dracula was a victim of this destruction when he lost his beloved. He damned himself and hurt countless other people because he was not capable of handling his loss.

While this is fiction, a parallel of this can be found in the real world as well. People who grieve after their loss or are compelled to do bad because of the one’s they love while the one's they love are still alive.

So the question then is: “Isn’t love possible in its purest form, in a form in which it is not capable of being destructive?”

And the answer to that question is that such a love is possible. Sufis call it (in urdu) “Ishq e Haqiqi” which I think translates into “real love”.

Now as an example when a mother loves her child, she loves him because it is “her” child. In a certain sense she may be called selfish in this.

On the other hand God loves people and among men Gandhi loved his people. Gandhi out of his love for the people gave immense sacrifices for them. While he was a lawyer by profession he chose to fight for the people of India giving up his worldly comforts. As one example he chose to wear only the simplest clothes that he stitched himself. He often went on a hunger strike for a number of days to symbollicaly convey to the people who loved him how serious he was about his protest. Gandhi is known today for his method of 'peaceful protest' and his highly respected in India and the world over. He chose to live simply, like the (poor) people, and spent a life time fighting for them.

Such a love is also possible.

Now the difference between a mother who may only love her child and Gandhi is I think “enlightenment” or what in urdu is “Shaoor”.

So the more you make sense of the world and adopt values that enable you to understand good and be good the more you evolve and the more you understand what the Sufis call “Ishq e Haqiqi”.

If a mother is able to do that then the love she has for her child is going to be part of the “Ishq e Haqiqi” that she has and she will love others too with the due that they have.

So if a person learns this and then falls into a romantic relationship with a woman he will love her passionately and not be consumed by it.