Source-Wall Magazine-Sri Aurobindo Ashram-Delhi-April 2014
It is He in the sun who is ageless and deathless
And into the midnight His shadow is thrown
When darkness was blind and engulfs within darkness
He was seated within it immense and alone
The Indian independence day-August 15 , is also the birthday of one of India’s great modern saints-Sri Aurobindo.
The Philosophical review-Arya-was first published on this day , a hundred years ago.
On this unique anniversary- I see some notes of my “Reading Journal”.
As our reading group has dwindled into a “reading journal” with many choosing to flee the conflict in Tripoli and those remaining not in much a mood to discuss the niceties of Indian literature, I remember the many discussions we had last year-2013-in the framework of Indian literature. In Five sessions we had discussed some nuances.
One session started with Edward Said’s “Orientalism” in which the concept of the West speaking for the silenced subalterns of the Orient is exposed. The summer of 1947 was unlike any other in Indian history, seeing the migration of around 15 million people and murdering of around 1 million. Nehru’s “Tryst with Destiny” speech does not address these aspects which were dealt with by writers such as Khushwant Singh in “Train to Pakistan”, Bapsi Sidhwa in “Ice-Candy Man” or Salman Rushdie -”Midnight’s children” in different ways.
DIASPORA AND ASSIMILITATION-A TRIPOLI READING JOURNAL
As we read with uncanny realism works which predict the “Metastases” of the Islamic State, I can hear the shelling from a distance.
Last week, the area of Gutshaal, which was supposed to be largely loyal to the Zintanis was very badly shelled by forces loyal to Misrata. It is said that Zintanis are largely secular and support Gen Hifter’s Operation Dignity, while Misratis are Islamists.
Remembered Virginia Woolf’s line- “He could only marry a particular shade of Christian,” or the works of James Joyce- “Portrait of an Artist as a young man” in which different shades of a faith are spelt out. Communities divided along the lines of faith can have long standing feuds even in the WEIRD countries like Great Britain. Things do not sound very good in a country which has undergone repression by a brutal dictatorship for over four decades.
People are suspicious of each other and do not take things at face value.
WEIRD standing for Western-Educated-Industrialized-Rich-Democratic-countries .
These WEIRD countries got together to make a coalition to spread democracy to Libya in 2011. The metastases in different forms does not make for very nice hearing-both literally- and actually- going by the number of explosions one hears at a distance.
What shade of a Muslim are you? This question probably will make them think a bit before paralyzing the normal life of millions.
A SPLIT PEOPLE
“I have been corrupted by England, I see that now-my children, my wife, they too have been corrupted,” Samad-the character in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth is a textural representative of immigrants of various ethnicities, worries about the loss of his ethnic identity and culture through assimilation. The narrator says, “it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the national, scared of infection, penetration, when this is small fry, peanuts , compared to what the immigrant fears-dissolution, disappearance.”
Last fortnight one veteran left by road to Djerba, and then evacuated to Agra. In our many walks and talks together-from Suaani’s Indian camps to walks in Abositta Ferasiya, he had told of how the community will take three years to re-start. That was in October 2011.
“In the first year the workers will return, in the second year the families, in the third year the school will start and rekindle the community.”
I still remember the last celebration we had with a choir from the Indian school singing patriotic songs and the National Anthem. That was January 2014. Now there are evacuations again. Talking to an engineer in health care who has been involved in many projects- now in India- the feel one gets is that his children are not going to be part of the Indian Community school -ICS-Tripoli, for some time now.
So one returns to the “Reading Journal” -the basis of the “Reading Group,” and goes through the textural representative characters
While re-reading Zadie Smith’s I recall a conversation with a Pakistani veteran, who has worked in the police and IT industries, and seen first hand many Arab countries.
“It was the brain and money of the US and Saudis which drove many unemployed poor youth to search for ‘Janat’ while fighting against the Soviets in the 1980s. The Soviet army withdrew, but there is no ‘Janat’ and these former revolutionaries have found themselves in extremist networks which has disturbed the harmony of our country,”
For those unfamiliar with Frantz Fanon- he is author of “The Wretched of the Earth” a classic which Stuart Hall calls “The Bible of Decolonisation”. Fanon’s best hopes for the Algerian revolution were taken hostage and summarily executed, first by a bureaucratized military rule that violated his belief “that an army is never a school for civics, but a school for war. . . ,” and then by the rise of fundamentalist groups like the Islamic Salvation Front.
It would be useful to re-do some definitions to understand and try to reframe Fanon in the present context. Each party seems to be very clear that they are in the right and ready to kill for this. This has been witnessed by many helpless civilians caught in the conflict, who now wonder where is NATO which was supposed to have a mandate to protect civilians.
Episteme– “A world committed to the ideal of episteme is a world of clear and fixed truth, absolute certainty, and stable knowledge.
The only possibility for rhetoric in such a world would be to ‘make truth effective’. . .. A radical gulf is presumed to exist between discovering truth (the province of philosophy or science) and the lesser task of disseminating it (the province of rhetoric).”
(James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Sage, 2001)
When faced with such clear and fixed truths, members of the scientific communities, for example doctors who want to keep on serving the population in these dire circumstances come to know how such an orientation is not for seeking Truths but only to try and impose one’s views on others, by force.
There are many who tell that this is the first time this is happening in history. The “Newness of change” has been referred to by writers like Homi Bhabha and Antonio Gramsci
Bhabha further reveals the connections between perceived “New” as is often said in these regions.
“New” national, international, or global emergences create an unsettling sense of transition, as if history is at a turning point; and it is in such incubational moments— Antonio Gramsci’s word for the perceived “newness” of change— that we experience the palimpsestical imprints of past, present, and future in peculiarly contemporary figures of time and meaning.
Are the events happening in our region new? Or is there a link.
SHADES OF IGNORANCE
Source-Wall Magazine-Sri Aurobindo Ashram-Delhi-April 2014
As one listens to the explosions at a distance, one can leave the discussion for experts. For us common people, there are some literary works (mentioned above), some definitions like Episteme and Newness and the voices which we hear on the ground.
On going back to the reading journal, on this Independence day-with no school choir of the community school to lift the spirits- I recall a talk at Sri Aurobindo Ashram Delhi-given in April 2014. While one may not agree with all that the speaker says, the talks do give a useful framework to see things.
Whenever I am in Delhi, I try to attend the 10 am Sunday Morning talk in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and try to make notes. These have over the years served me well.
Summarizing Chapter 19 from Life Divine the speaker said
“ Since we move from ignorance to awareness, it is important to know the nature of ignorance”
The main theses of his presentation was that the Absolute made use of its powers to create Vidya and Avidya- so that out of Avidya ignorance can re-emerge into consciousness.
The main ignorance are
1.Ignorance of Absolute
2.Ignorance of Spaceless-Timeless-Space
4.Ignorance of becoming in time-Temporal ignorance
(from a talk in Sri Aurobindo Ashram-Delhi-April 2014.)
VIGNETTES FROM INDIAN SPIRITUAL TRADITION
The many natures of ignorance can form a useful reference point. Hope some friends who believe in bombing their way to democracy will note these. There are also interesting notes on nature of meditation. One which I found particularly useful was the concept of Self-Dynamizing Meditation.
In a question-answer session-The Mother-elaborated about the transforming power of self-dynamizing meditation. She tells that this is a meditation which makes you progress, as opposed to static meditation which is immobile and relatively inert, and which changes nothing in your consciousness or in our way of being. A dynamic meditation is a meditation of transformation.
Generally people do not practice dynamic meditation. When they enter into meditation (or at least what they call ‘meditation’) they enter into a kind of immobility where nothing stirs, and they come out of it exactly as they went in, without any change either in their being or in their consciousness. And the more motionless it is, the happier they are. They could meditate in this way for eternities., it would never change anything in their universe or in themselves.
On being pressed on how it is done, the Mother told that it is the aspiration that should be different, the attitude has to be different. The inner attitude is important. This is the quality which makes it different. One may mediate to reject the ordinary consciousness, or may meditate to enter the inner depths of your being, you may meditate to enter peace, calm and silence (that is what people generally do, but without much success ). But you may also meditate to receive the force of Transformation, to discover the points to be transformed , to trace out the line of progress. And then, you may also meditate for very practical reasons: when you have a difficulty to clear up, a solution to find, when you want help in some action or other. If one wants the meditation to be dynamic, one must have an aspiration for progress and the meditation must be done to help and fulfill the aspiration of progress. Then it becomes dynamic.
The Arya, a monthly review of Pure philosophy was published for the first time on August 15, 1914. The object of this monthly review was stated as two fold
1- A systematic study of the highest problems of existence
2- The formation of a vast synthesis of knowledge harmonizing the divers religious traditions of humanity occidental as well as oriental. It’s method will be that of a realism, at once rational and transcendental. A realism consisting in the unification of intellectual and scientific disciplines with those of intuitive experience.
Having a framework of going into definitions like Episteme, Newness, Orientalism, Ignorance helps us find ways and tools in which we do not let others speak for us the silenced subalterns. Returning to such a “reading journal” can be a useful exercise in self-reflection.
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING
On our Independence Day-2013
WHY READ FANON
Reflections on our Republic day
Exploring Public Domains From Kabir to Safir
Part of efforts of Everyday history and Reading group amongst professional and diaspora in Tripoli region of Libya.
FATHER’S DAY WALK
For a flavour of Indian Diaspora in Malta