Weekly Reading List

October 24, 2019

Welcome to another edition of   Weekly   Reading   List  !! 

We have three interesting pieces this time.

  1. In the first essay, Zat Rana probes what gives meaning to the modern man. In a majority of countries, especially West  God and morality derived from God is not the binding force for people. The forces of enlightenment have replaced the idea of God with a renewed faith in reason. The question is can reason play the binding role? Are people chasing materialism as the new religion?  Is there a possibility that such population may fall into nihilism with the disappearance of God? When everyone chases the same goods and in competition how society can retain its balance? As Zat Rana concludes, we may always need a grand narrative to appreciate our existence on this planet. “  In a world with no greater vision of either our origins or our future to guide us, the only choice we are left with is materialized meaning. If we don’t consciously dictate the terms of our collective existence on Earth, our unconscious biases will do the job for us. And that leaves us with a simple but difficult task: finding our next great narrative.”  Read on.
  2. Bruce Hood, Professor of Psychology at the University of Bristol takes us to our obsession with possessions. Human beings have an inherent propensity towards possession of things. Even after reaching certain comfortable living standards, we seek more.  People feel that being rich is always better and once rich,  people prefer the costly ones even if a cheaper one with the same  functional utility is available. Here comes the word “conspicuous consumption “  coined by economist Thorstein Veblen in 1899 and we can definitely trace the origins of this behaviour to evolutionary biology.  We like to show off. In the animal kingdom, we come across many apparently wasteful attributes which signal many desirable qualities. Similarly, apart from physical attributes, for men and women, material possessions become symbols which can advertise our desirability. As the author says “  It is a fact that the wealthiest among us are more likely to live longer, sire more offspring and be better prepared to weather the adversities that life can throw at us.” Read and appreciate the fact that “possessions not only signal who we are to others, but remind us who we are to ourselves, and of our need for authenticity.”
  3. Lastly, we have one from Neel Burton, a Psychiatrist and philosopher. Here he deals with a pet theme for all. Laziness and its close relative idleness. Laziness is a much-derided activity. But according to Neel, perhaps we are programmed for laziness. Our nomadic ancestors, who had no hope for a long life had to preserve energy for scarce resources, flee predators and fight enemies. Expending effort on anything other than short-term advantage could jeopardise their very survival. But the situation is different today. Factors such as fear ( of both success and failure ) or hopelessness also can drive us to be lazy. The author also makes a distinction between laziness and creative idleness where we use it “to observe life, gather inspiration, maintain perspective, sidestep nonsense and pettiness, reduce inefficiency and half-living, and conserve health and stamina for truly important tasks and problems.” When we go deep we also find a paradox, though we are pre-disposed to idleness we also tend to do something always and desire to be distracted constantly.  According to the author, strategic idleness is precious and for which we are not trained at all. As Oscar Wilde says ‘to do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual.’ Read and open your mind to a new understanding of idleness and its many uses.


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