The knowledge of our own finitude

Geographical systems seem so terrifying in their consequence, so relentless in their march, so impervious to human presence. It is little surprise that geography, or even nature, rarely preoccupies the modern mind except when disaster arrives home in the form of fire or a tsunami.

Chronicle of a Revolution Foretold

Currently we are, as the hedge fund manager Michael Novogratz argues, in the “story telling phase” of cryptocurrencies — wherein the average person is slowly coming to terms with the radical possibilities contained in the blockchain and bitcoin.  This is no different than learning of transatlantic steamers in 1850s or even the internet in 1990s.  We are only beginning to learn the consequences of decentralized consensus making via technology.  

The Stories We Tell Of Ourselves

However, unlike origin stories in the past when multiple origin stories coexisted, the modern origin stories that flourish within the nation-state make extraordinary efforts to claim uniqueness. They assert with an unyielding assuredness that the present is an inevitable consequence of their specific retelling of the past.

The loyalty test for literature

We often mistake these demands of fealty for their show of strength, but in reality, these loyalty tests only speak to the fragility of ideas — ideas that work in practice only if they have, like some telephone calling plan, prepaid admirers.

Between home and the world

In fact, there is a whiff of treason when declaring that one’s loyalty to home as a place, as a geography circumscribed by the present, has now changed to something more ephemeral and yet just as vivid: a loyalty to the idea of home.

The Shape of a (Mushroom) Cloud

This tendency to be loose with words and looser with their meaning is not solely a forte of distant political or military rulers. It permeates across society, including our education system, media discourse, and self-descriptions where technical and commercial vocabulary substitute for moral conscientiousness.

This Ever New Self

For most Americans, however, by now, Thoreau is a distant, curious, and even idiosyncratic figure: a long unseen house-cat who every so often prowls back into the attic of American mind to mew and to taunt them. 

Consensus Without Trust

Implicit in this elementary schemata of generating public knowledge is the assumption that individuals in the network trust each other. What happens if there is no trust?  Can families lacking trust arrive at a consensus?  

A History of Histories

At its heart, this is a methodological approach where the small and fleeting lives of men become the mode to comprehend the capaciousness of humanity, rather than the opposite where the characteristics of impersonal descriptors — class, gender, race — circumscribes the life-works of a man. 

Another Frame, Another India

It is only in seeing these images that one understands the radicalism of Gandhi’s faith that held his fellow Indians, amidst those environs of decline and despair, to a moral standard that still remains the high-watermark of political ambitions. 

Cleansing India

If Gandhi’s life has any lesson, it is that symbolism can only be transformative if it is sustained, if people believe that symbolic action, away from the glare of the camera, means something in-of-itself.  

A History Of The Present

This openness of critical thinking that accepts the influences of others conversely also gives us the freedom to claim influences of Indic thought elsewhere. To remember this axiomatic double-entry bookkeeping of culture — the giving and the receiving — is perhaps the challenge of our all too shrill times.

The Rites of Action

Their locus of evaluation is not the individual in a society but a maintenance of social infrastructure within which individuals can thrive.   This is an analytical framework that exalts ‘action’ and produces a mentality that seeks protectors of that infrastructure. 

An Equal and Opposite Reaction

The conservative seeks to preserve the past while anxiously examining signs of change that may upend the present, the reactionary meanwhile seeks to destroy the present so that he may rebuild the future in the shadow of an imagined past.