Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fahrenheit Four Five…One

[The library of Nalanda burned for months.]

I once stood and watched the rough copies of my love poem/letter burn when I was very naïve. It only burned for a minute or two but I sensed knots in my stomach seeing the ferocity with which it burned.

[Battle of Avarayr occurred AD 451. The date it is etched, 26th, and month, May, is a holyday for Armenians – a celebration of religious freedom.]

Years later, when not very but still naïve, I was in a situation I had the notion to burn my personal love effects. I collected them all to a rather inviting dustbin. It sure would have burned someplace else or turned to pulp. I just couldn’t care less.

[A year in the near later, I told to a once friend I burned my holy book. I, in fact, had lied in my frenzy to set adrift a flame of disgust.]

There are people who are hell-bent on setting universality as a goal to be achieved. They burn the holy scriptures of others, not theirs—out in the open and to the satellite, to express their sentimentality. They may be good people personally, that is if you socially know them. They may be living in a first world or a third world, belong to this ethnicity or that ethnicity, this religiosity or that religiosity, like it doesn’t matter. What they don’t, or couldn’t, acknowledge is we live in a world of multiplicities and this world of multiplicities has a greater beauty that far surpasses the lesser beauty of singularity they envision their tribal god desires. And you needn’t necessarily be told to know a tribal god is drunk on greed. They want to burn the holy book of the other never mind for what absurd reason. And they mock the idiocy of other’s book which theirs has in plenty.

[Toni Morrison edited Burn This Book, a book of essays by the likes of Pico Iyer and Orhan Pamuk.]

If you ought to do it you should, but burn your holy book in a secure corner of your domicile and rest assured I am with you in my secure corner to burn mine. And mine, if you didn’t know, is a five-page personal scripture. Just let us not burn the other’s, neither in public nor in private.

[SOAD, a.k.a. System of a Down, have a record called Steal This Album! which resembles a burnable CD.]

Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which a book burns and is also the name of a Ray Bradbury book.

If you are perspicacious you would know that setting fire to monkeys’ tails will in turn set your residence on fire. They don’t run back and into the forest. Not anymore.

[For giving, not taking, was Nalanda built.]


  1. Interesting writing style. Normally, I find attempts to artifically provoke excitement by moving timelines/contexts back and forth rather gimmicky and putting-off but I liked this post.

    I only partially agree with you about universality being a dangerous thing to seek. I'll argue that backwards: Multiplicity is not always a good thing. For example, there are people who I like to call 'doubt farmers'. They don't weigh opinions by merit; they don't look at how well they're argued out or what's the reasoning behind holding such opinions. You hold an opinion, I hold one (no matter how ill-informed, narrow minded or parochial) and since both are just 'opinions' let's just agree to disagree. People who're calling global warming a hoax don't aim to disprove it, for example; they merely try to obfuscate scientific consensus by making it appear that their opinions are just as valid as a legion of scientists'.

    When it comes to science, universality is a noble (and beautiful) goal. Everything we've seen so far suggests that the Universe is not governed by a multiplicity of rulesets or randomly changing 'worldrules', or science wouldn't have advanced at all.

    The reason I said 'partially agree' about the dangers of universality is earlier because I think there are many more multiplicities in the world than there are 'universals', a fact which if we fail to appreciate produces intolerance. Even things which are 'universally' true may be approached in multiple ways. To summarize, universality is good if it is brought on by and fosters debate, and it is terrible if it is brought on by and/or fosters dogma.

    Funnily enough, there are *lots* of things that are universally good about religion, but blind belief in the 'one path to God' obscures any such things and all you have left is intolerance.

    It is a very vexing question though: take for instance, the issue of multiplicity in ethics. Do you merely accept that there exist people with 'serial killer' mindsets, or do you proactively attempt to impose 'universal' ideas about good behaviour into such people?

    (OK, many more things to say, but I realize now that I should have sorted out my thoughts first. If I add anything more to this, it'll become even more garbled than it is now. :))

  2. Firstly, Abhinav, thanks for visiting and appreciating.

    The context the post sets itself to be read in is religious freedom vs. intolerance. But it's just okay for the mind, and fingers, to go where the mind blows.

    Universality is evident concerning laws of nature (i.e., physics) and it is true what you say about scientific advancement. However, it is not so when it comes down to the use of science. The duty falls to ethics to discern and propose, say, we mustn't use arms to subjugate a region rich in natural resources or that we mustn't subjugate at all. And these laws of ethics do change, to use a pun, left to right, and they have changed, for some and many if not concerning every moral issue, from time ancient. Take the ones concerning abortion and premarital intercourse, for instance. We should note that not everyone of us is pro this or pro that no matter what the majority opts for. There we see multiplicity at display. Cosmopolitanism is good insofar as we speak ONE language to express our world-views and agree to disagree.

    In serial killers, there are those who want to be caught and those who do not want to be (and never are), those who are remorseful and those who are not. We exercise our power to judge them and then there are the pro-life activists. How about soldiers trained to serial kill? I mean those who carry out humanitarian intervention/collateral damage (they wouldn't like us to scream genocide!). The manner in which we judge such actions depends on whether we are left or right. Oh! there are the cardinal directions, above and below, center, and center-less void too.

    Would it be safe to say: There are multiple universalities and universal multiplicities?


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