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BY THE WAY
January 2, 2015 Sriram Sivaraman
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Most of our elaborate sets of exercises and sub-conscious rituals are termed sane or become socially acceptable only when it helps the majority cling on to its ideas or promises a future that seems to be under control.

The Hindu

Why do we feel most comfortable at home? It has things straightened out in perfect order, sizes, colour and gives us an immense sense of security. We all have our homes - a set of abstractions/institutions that promise a safe and secure environment. It dictates what we see, hear, taste, the choices we make, the words we use and the ideologies that we choose to cling on to. Seldom do we step out for it is impossible to feel at home outside of it. So we find other people with similar looking homes. We make friends and share our homes. The bigger the home, the more secure it gets and as a result, we go to great lengths to protect our common home. It seems to help us in ironing out the perceived imperfections on a seemingly rocky and arbitrary world or system involving multifold variables. Institutions help in ordering our social intercourse in a manner that provides the least amount of inconvenience to the majority. Concepts like boundaries, maps, concept of time, clocks, money, wealth, and religion help in standardising experiences and serve as templates to straighten out things that seem out of control. We all have our set of institutions. A set of abstractions. Our home.

Knowledge of what reality is embedded in the institutional fabric of society, and every individual is therefore, bound to have his/her own home. Knowledge – involving concepts like perception, communication, and reasoning – is person-specific and impressionistic as well.

Abstractions like culture, ideology, ethics and morality and most of our elaborate sets of exercises and sub-conscious rituals are termed sane or become socially acceptable only when it helps the majority cling on to its ideas and comforts to provide a future that seems to be under control. A common home. It is also the reason why the idea of true democracy is endearing but remains an elaborate charade. The knowledge or information thus gained helps one feel secured, gives a sense of power over the environment or satisfies the need to control as many variables as possible. Can we ever consume information without distorting it with our ideas or notions and perceive it as it is without any biases? If we cannot, aren’t we all sowing seeds of violence and intolerance every day without realising it?

Institutions also help in classifying and labeling every possibly conceived thought or object in manner that most of us can understand or relate to. While it has proved useful to us in many ways, one cannot help but ponder over the ever widening gap that it has created in terms of us relating to the physical world. Every conscious activity has, therefore, become a means to strengthen or reinforce our ideas, our home in the pretext of something else. There are no miles or kilometres in the physical world. The Sun happens to rise at a time we call 6 a.m. There are no events. Rupee, dollar and other currencies are printed papers - units of measurement that we all agree on. It has no bearing on the physical world. Concepts/ideas/theories stay, they persevere, they help us connect the dots better, and they give us hope, a sense of comfort and an illusion of security against a seemingly unpredictable future.

The idea of being in the present and aware of our confirmation biases represents the most difficult task as it involves the idea of having to overlook all these institutions without being conscious of it. Path-breaking ideas or inventions are often attributed to two things: necessity and accident. While the former involves the need to consciously narrow the field of consciousness, the latter is often attributed to intuition – a faculty of our brain that peeks out very rarely to remind us of what can be achieved if we are ready to perceive things as they are or come out of our home. It is also one of the reasons why scientists/researchers are often asked to keep their ‘minds open’ while experimenting and not to engage with any pre-conceived notions or theories. New social institutions are built on the basis of old ones, often failing to see need to consider its validity in the present context or the idea of them being merely abstractions which, with every step blurs the boundary between our subjective reality and the rhythms of the physical natural world.

It does seem like most of the apparent problems stem from one reason - the need to preserve our home. So, we force others to change their home or,...force them to our home!

Throw away holiness and wisdom,

and people will be a hundred times happier.

Throw away morality and justice,

and people will do the right thing.

Throw away industry and profit,

and there won't be any thieves.

- Tao Te Ching (19)

sriram.s@thehindu.co.in

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A movie that gives the phrase 'bird's eye view' another refreshing dimension -- here the bird is ruminating on an end to human life on earth »
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Keywords: LingaaRajinikanth

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