Opening a mountain of a book by Amartya Sen in the morning and to read some ten lines of any of his work, makes for an excellent exercise for my intellect in the mornings! At once I would be humbled by his intellectual might. This humility would help me all through the day. Once I see how small I really am, I tend to be silent and receptive.
As a bonus, an immensely satisfying one, this exercise today led me to something called ‘The Little Magazine’ (http://www.littlemag.com/). Am amazed at the intellectual quality of this magazine. Guess it has started around a decade ago and there has been only a handful of issues posted on the website – and articles from these issues have been given access selectively online. Very very tempting. The quality of the authors is formidable. Am happy that something like this exists. I hope it survives these tough times and lives forever. The first thing that struck me from this magazine today morning is this poem by Jerry Pinto:
Lord of the linear narrative,
Show me the point at which I should begin.
Stop me when I have said as much as I should.
Regulate my voice, I boom too much
and my whispers are shrill.
Feed me words on those long, slow afternoons.
Allow me the grace of serendipity —
To find lost continents on my tongue.
Give me the gift of silence,
and then set me adrift.
The last two lines moved me. How nicely is the thirst of any creative artist for silent wanderings captured!
If not for anything else, The Little Magazine would have my patronage because Amartya Sen regulars there.
Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian enhanced my knowledge about India and Hinduism. Am deeply indebted to this work of his to have made these views of mine much more broader and deeper and to have enabled me to appreciate the wealth of intellect present in India. To take a small example: learning about Javali in Ramayana who features as an atheist and who calls Rama ‘foolish, especially for an intelligent and wise man’, made me realize that Hinduism has these strains and all of these various lines are in the fold of Hinduism. This small knowledge which has told me that arguments are the essense of our culture, and which advised me to keep my eyes and mind open, led me to the treasure trove of the Upanishads which exemplify this tradition. It was also very heartening and satisfying to note that there is a massive body of works in Vedantic Hinduism which glorify this argumentative tradition by following it very rigorously and to realize that argumentation has been the principal tool in propounding ideas. Till then I was not aware of any parallel for argumentation in India as by Socrates and Plato.
The Argumentative Indian also made me aware of the ‘Arthashastra’ by Kautilya. I was always wondering if there is a parallel in India to ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu. Arthashastra seems to be a fitting answer. To quote Boesche:
“Is there any other book that talks so openly about when using violence is justified? When assassinating an enemy is useful? When killing domestic opponents is wise? How one uses secret agents? When one needs to sacrifice one’s own secret agent? How the king can use women and children as spies and even assassins? When a nation should violate a treaty and invade its neighbor? Kautilya — and to my knowledge only Kautilya — addresses all those questions. In what cases must a king spy on his own people? How should a king test his ministers, even his own family members, to see if they are worthy of trust? When must a king kill a prince, his own son, who is heir to the throne? How does one protect a king from poison? What precautions must a king take against assassination by one’s own wife? When is it appropriate to arrest a troublemaker on suspicion alone? When is torture justified? At some point, every reader wonders: Is there not one question that Kautilya found immoral, too terrible to ask in a book? No, not one. And this is what brings a frightful chill. But this is also why Kautilya was the first great, unrelenting political realist.”
What a little magazine!
Do drop by at: http://www.littlemag.com/about/about.html
1. The Argumentative Indian – Amartya Sen
2. The Little Magazine (http://www.littlemag.com/)