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Thinking in the age of unthought — II

To emancipate ourselves from unlived life, let there be light of thinking enter our minds to create order in the chaos

Thinking in the age of unthought — II

Developing a theoretical framework or vocabulary to explain a complicated process is a daunting task. When Jean-Paul Sartre explicated the term ‘bad faith’, ‘choice’ or ‘nausea’ he was diagnosing a covert malaise plaguing our being in the modern civilisation. Similarly, the terms ‘dialectics’ and ‘dialectical materialism’ of Hegel and Marx respectively conceptualised phenomena covering large historical spectrum and forces influencing history course of societies. No need to highlight the importance of words like “unconscious mind,’ ‘Thanatos (death drive),’ ‘Eros (life drive)’ and ‘Oedipus complex’ of Sigmund Freud. Likewise, we should be thankful to Thomas Kuhn for enriching the word ‘paradigm shift’ with his nuance conceptualisation.

The above discussion helps us in distinguishing between the writer and the thinker. There are non-thinking writers as there are non- writing thinkers. It’s not necessary that every writer must be a thinker. Every thinker can be a writer but not every writer is a thinker. The ultimate apotheosis of the thinker is to become a theorist in his discipline. It helps establishing new benchmarks to reflect on issues in a new way. Something is wrong with our mind that we produce thousands of writers in the shape of adeebs, poets and columnists but few theorists.

One of the reasons for the paucity of thinkers and theorists in our society is our cultural mindset that is replete with romanticism and antipathy to thinking. A common refrain of a layman in Pakistan is ‘bohot parh kar dimagh kharab hota hay (too much reading damages the mind)’. From this it seems that the society is engrossed with bigger cosmic questions of cosmos.

Therefore, it does not have time for petty issues related to thinking and ideas. In reality, our writers are suffused with poetic mindset that makes it easy to make sense of subjectivities. That is the reason we pepper our speeches and presentations even in academic conferences, seminars, forums and discussions with poetry. Its not that poetry is bad per se, but the point is to highlight how our lethargic idiosyncrasy is fed by poetry that is basically escape from thinking to indulge in subjective realm. This way of seeing approaches the mind through the heart. Due to this, we prefer to make sense of mind through heart. In other words, we try to think through poetry.

Another approach is to make sense of the heart via thinking. It helps creating a balanced personality as thinking enables us to understand the nature of feelings and emotions. Feeling through thinking transforms crude sentiments into refined sense and sensibilities. A worthy life is an examined life. Thinking helps us to live an examined life and view the world holistically, not only subjectively.

Read also: Thinking in the age of unthought-I

On the contrary, heart cannot examine itself for it is already in the whirlpool it has produced. When the floodgates of heart open, and the flood of emotions gushes towards the land of thinking, it inundates every single remnant of thinking. The state of unthinking pervades every sphere of life. We can easily see that no vocation, entity, institution and profession in Pakistan are immune from ailments of unthinking life world.

What we are witnessing today in religious sphere is a manifestation of unthinking society. A religion of thinking society would have been different from unthinking zealots who define religion today.

Today, our experience of the outer world is structured in such a way that deprives us of the capacity to ponder for ubiquitous presence of TV channels, adverts, social media, and other voices and images dominate our senses. They fizzle out after providing us immediate sensation but leave no thinking with us.

Because subjectivity is unlived life, it proves to be disastrous. Contrary to the common belief in our society that our drive towards life is thwarted not because of absence of emotions, but because of excess of emotions and lack of thinking. That is why we have an overgrown death drive and a weak life drive. We live an unlived life. Such a situation leads to catastrophes. Eric Fromm thinks that “The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realised, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.”

The unlived life is further enhanced in the age of technological and communication revolution as we have forgotten what to think. Brands and gadgets fill the lacuna of thinking in the age of consumerism. There are more voices from outside vying to enter within us to capture our maximum time and attention. In the age where attention span is just a few blinks of eyes, thinking becomes even more daunting a task. We need to have perseverance and patience of Prometheus.

For a prolonged thinking, the thinker needs to avoid fashion and current affairs to unravel processes that are not necessarily a consequence of trends in vogue. The popular writer and mystical mentor, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh aka Osho is the mind that created fashion thinking by presenting his ideas in the garb of thinking for hippy period of 1970s and 1980s. However, his thoughts have become irrelevant for there was less thinking and more mysticism packaged for the spiritual market of new age movements.

Today, our experience of the outer world is structured in such a way that deprives us of the capacity to ponder for a ubiquitous presence of TV channels, adverts, social media, and other voices and images dominate our senses. They fizzle out after providing us immediate sensation and fleeting satisfaction, but leave no thinking with us. This order of things connects individual via technology with life and other humans.

Thus, it deprives humans from thinking about their experience. As a corollary, nihilism increases its domain over meaning in today’s civilisation underpinned by tele-techno mind and cybernetic connections. Karl Jaspers locates void in our life in the outer connectivity and inner vacuity. He thinks that today, “The community of the masses of human beings has produced an order of life in regulated channels which connects individuals in a technically functioning organisation, but not inwardly from the historicity of their souls.”

At the same time, we are spoiled by so many choices that we lose the capacity to choose. We spread ourselves thinking over an array of things to remain relevant to the vogue of the time. Our situation is like a tree whose branches spread over miles but with roots few feet deep in the soil. Such a tree cannot stand against fast wind let alone facing a tumultuous storm.

Only that tree soars into heights that aspire to catch light by digging roots deeper in the soil. The deeper the roots of our thinking, the higher will be our thoughts. Depth and loftiness in thinking are proportionate. We can see the light of reality and reflect upon our state by freeing ourselves from the chains of unthinking life and entrenching roots in the soil of thinking.

Most of the minds give up at the stage where more thinking is required. The starting point to learn thinking is to engage with an issue or problem that remains intransigent and intelligible. It is where the real thinking starts. Acceptance of received wisdom, commonly clear and obvious postulates are the enemy of thinking.

Engagement connotes giving time for the thought to become ripe. Thinking demands time to conceive and produce the idea.Thinking takes time to furrow in the soil of being to sow seeds to produce thought within us. But we do not have patience and time for thinking to take its root within our being. Seen in this way, thinking seems to be a vow to give our mind to an enduring question with no lasting answers. Providing cue to the learning to think, Martin Heidegger states, “We learn to think by giving our mind to what there is to think about.”

Read also: Thinking in the age of unthought – I

As an unthinking society, we have given the task of thinking for us to the guardians of sacred who have expanded the sphere of unthought over thought, unthinking over thinking and darkness over light. Our society has become a cave where darkness of unthought precludes us to venture out to see the light of knowledge. To emancipate ourselves from unlived life, let there be light of thinking enter into minds to create order in the chaos, form in void, and illumination in the darkness created by unthinking entities full with zeal and supported by zealots.

 

(Concluded)

Aziz Ali Dad

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The writer is a fellow of Asia Leadership Fellow Program, Tokyo, Japan. Email: [email protected]

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