Category Archives: Manifesto parts

Collection of Arjun Jain’s art manifesto’s parts.

Manifesto Part #7
/Self-Analysis

This is the seventh of a number of manifesto parts. I suggest you read the preamble first.

Following the failure in my plan to go through with manifesto part #6, and having developed since then, a rather improved, or in the very least, reaffirmed philosophy of life, coming more or less as a result of thinking as described in the work, Philosophical Confusion (to be written as a continuation of the present work), and primarily from careful re-reading of works by and on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Rabindranath Tagore, Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and John Ruskin, I am convinced, that it is time for a change. Following is a recent excerpt from my diary. What follows it, is derived in almost all aspects of thought and language, from the writings of the above mentioned men; I claim no originality.

Honesty is a necessary part of communication, with others and with the self- I return to this again and again. Chronic dishonesty, is a cause of failure in objectivity. Perhaps in this sense, did Weininger, and Wittgenstein, claim, that ‘Logic and ethics are fundamentally the same, they are no more than duty to oneself.’ A similar expression, by John Ruskin, is that ‘If the criterion of greatness in art is truth, it follows that inferior art is bad because it is false. Good taste, therefore, is a moral quality.’ A sincere need for clarified thought, and weakness, in one’s resolve and actions and in accepting what is clearly the case, cannot exist together. The strongest music as that of Mozart’s and Beethoven’s, as their lives, serves as a ‘slap to the face’- what it reminds us of- what it teaches us, is that a wormlike existence must not go on- and that uncompromising un-wormlike-ness is what must be strived for.

Art, by which I mean here primarily painting, it must be realised, with however much difficulty, is no longer, if it had ever been, an effective medium of communication. Numerous faults suggest themselves, as described by Tolstoy, but under the weakness of will that we have come to develop, no amount of external analysis and correction will serve any purpose towards this end. No longer do we seek education in art- in writing still perhaps, but not in most other forms, not at all in painting. Art can provide support, temporarily, but not change lives. For myself, it is writings of men, more than paintings, that I can say, have influenced me. And moreover, it is clear that in no honest way can one try to make a living out of art. Painting, then, must now be subordinated, or raised up, to the level of being a tool for personal expression and clarification only. The desire, to make it reach a wider audience and to earn money from it, for the artist, should be renounced. As my writing has become, so must my art become, primarily now, for myself, and I must follow this, sincerely, to keep my sanity. Perhaps where my talent lies is in this, in recognising that something is wrong- something is wrong within; and even if a solution does not present itself immediately, in being insistent on one like a madman, uncaring about propriety, often unfortunately to my disadvantage.

Let me no longer be in two minds about it: the kind of work that I do, that I have been doing- the writing, the painting, even my studies in physics- has been, and is, work on only my self. It is obvious that if I attempt to earn a living out of any of these, I am in one way, forcing myself onto the world, which I ought not to do, and in another, confusing my attempt for inner clarity with service towards humanity. These may be said to be linked, but the link is not visible immediately. It is a difficult thought to think, but if I aim to be honest and clear about things, it must indeed be thought out to its conclusion.

Reflecting on my life until now as an adult, by which I mean, breaking off gradually, all dependence on biological relations, what I have been doing, and what has been a constant source of torment for me, is my trying to package my life into a theory, into a whole so pristinely precise and consistent, that there remains nothing  in it able to be misunderstood. Reading everywhere to the contrary, learning, that what I was doing was pathological, given that it was even logically impossible, I had been attempting to say what could only effectively have been shown.

I must accept squarely, that my words are of no real value at the moment, to anyone except me, neither is my painting- in effect all of my philosophical and personal, which are not much different, expression. Such expression is judged carefully, looking at how things are and how things have been,  only after the writer’s/ artist’s death; there is no point for sentimentality here- what is, is the case. Unless a person’s fame, financial position is already established, especially today, where it has become so difficult to sift the good from the bad, given primarily our own corruption of taste, it is only a matter of who does the best business, who, by some form of trickery, is able to force his opinion onto others, who is recognised. I was misguided, fighting a lost battle, in my desire for recognition through means through which I ought not to have desired it. Good art, as Ruskin said already a hundred years ago, is not possible today; what can only be done, is to point out what has gone wrong. But I would go even further. If the pointing out, is insincere in itself, whether by choice or by pressures of an unjust social order, even that is impossible. Art then, remains as a tool only for self-clarification, at least initially. And of course, ‘only’, in so far as the connection between the self and the world outside it continues to be attacked by faulty logic. One way remains, however. If through action, what was tried so desperately to be said, can be shown, salvation may be in view. If through my actions, I can show, what I have been trying to say, perhaps then, my correspondence, my writing, my artwork, my notes to myself, the incredibly complex interaction which I have come to develop with the world, which I have been failing, miserably, to summarise and make presentable, will be of some value. One might say, ‘Shut up, stop crying, look at what you’ve got..’, but that does not solve anything.

An analogy, which may be more instructive, is, in the name of progress, the replacement of one idol with another- namely of religion, with science. To please this new idol, the old is interpreted through what the new prescribes to be the correct method of interpreting it. And in this, all possibility of clarity is lost, an infinity of confusion unleashed. Where a thing could only be shown, adopting the wrong method, the thing is tried to be said, and in every case, it is said unsatisfactorily, incorrectly.

Perhaps, here is where I can be of service; philosophical doubt will remain within me, unless my findings prove to be of use. My objectivity with myself, I can in no way be assured of, as things stand today, but my objectivity with others, I am certain of. My attempts at honesty, I hope, through whatever I have written and painted till date, will be evident, and may not require more embarrassment on my part to prove further.

No outward changes in the presentation of my work may be visible , immediately, but the change, internally, will be significant, and if my work is good enough, visible difference, may not take much time to follow. My goal, as it always been, but now in an even more structured and determined way, is that of a dispelling of philosophical confusion from my mind; and that of leading a non-weak life, of having no other options before myself other than that of truth and death. It is true that unless a person does not know when to die, he does not know how to live. Finding this- a worthy cause to die- may define one’s purpose in life. I am not one to manipulate, to exploit external circumstances; I see clearly before myself what should be done, and if I do not do it even still, it is a defect in my character that will need to be corrected.

The artist-philosopher may be considered to be a doctor in one respect, a doctor for himself and a doctor for others, but a doctor who is willing and wanting to see an end to his practice, in the sense of wanting to make absolutely sure that there be no further need for him.

Over the past two-three weeks, having re-read some of my most cherished works of literature, I have delved into myself as deeply as I hadn’t since last August. Let me present my findings-

Why did I abandon science? There is a story about Feynman. He was asked once to review school-level physics textbooks, and as could be expected, did not find any even satisfactory. At last, he found a book which began a study of mechanics by describing and asking simple questions about some common devices, for example a spring. His appreciation did not last long however, because in response to these questions was given the answer ‘because of energy‘ and so on. This is how we are taught science, even at the level of university. The term energy is used without any comprehension of what it is, and naturally, confusion arises and is suppressed with the prospect of assignments and exams. There is really no fundamental need of using the word energy in introductions to the subject, but that is how it is. What is desired is not clarity, but progress, however mindless.

Moreover, even the cleverest students are dull in the sense that they are ‘practically certain to do a good deal of useful but not brilliant work’. Details among details among details is what they seem most capable to deal with, not whole perspectives. In how I use that word, they are fundamentally dishonest, and have an extremely limited capability of accepting changes in how they see things. An illustration about how my mind worked differently: When taught the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalisms, I was less interested in how exactly they were to be applied, in large part because my doubts concerning them were never fully answered, than I was in their existence in the first place. That there could exist seemingly entirely unrelated interpretations of a subject giving exactly the same results, was what I thought about, its implications in how I saw physics and also life. To confirm if I was alone in my surprise, I asked a few classmates, whether now, having studied these new methods, the way in which they looked at mechanical problems had changed- at the time, I maintained a strong picture theory of thought. For myself, although I could imagine fairly well these problems in terms of Newton’s laws, free body diagrams, I could not, however hard I tried, arrive at a working picture with the new methods. The classmates, perhaps to impress me, told me that they could- that they indeed could visualise what was happening with the Lagrangians and the Hamiltonians- it’d become part of their intuition, they said. But that they were lying, was evident, from their expressions of unearned pride; they had no general intuition about any of the involved integrals when asked not in this connection.

And  there are instances of cleverness without goodness. Talent, dexterity needs not much more than time to be developed. It hurts to recognise this- that talent can exist without goodness, and that it is applauded. And that truth, perhaps, is not the only criteria to judge things by, because people can be truthful about their wrongs and still keep doing them, taking a certain pride in them. The fraudulence is evident, and irritating, when it is not. To be good or to be clever, which is preferable, is a problem I have grappled with constantly, ever since I have read Tolstoy. The transition to goodness, is not complete however, because I feel trapped still, by a need of showing off in some way, proving to myself from time to time, that I am as clever as before.

I was also, unsuited, I feel, to a further study of science, because in every class, how I would arrive, was with eyes seeing what was before me as if for the first time. Every problem, I attempted to solve from first principles, never bothering too much to build on what had been taught previously, thinking, correctly, that if did not do so, I would be missing on many important points of philosophy. Of course, I did not suffer in exams, because the mental capabilities were there, and I could learn everything a week before, and forget it a week after, until the desire to do even that, also, gradually disappeared.

I was studying, so to say, by myself, not physics, but the grammar of physics. And that is what I seem to be doing now, in art. I am not as alive, doing art or science by themselves, as they are. When I hoped to pursue mathematics, I boasted to my friends about my understanding of set theory, mathematical logic and its paradoxes. On reading Wittgenstein, realising that it was just another calculus as all others, and not necessarily the foundation of anything, it lost all appeal for me, all relevance. I have largely forgotten it now. This is how I work. I am a person, who was I a teacher of mathematics, and taught logic, and claimed before my students of it being the basis of all mathematics, and in some deluded sense, of everything, if a student, in all sincerity, stood up and said, that according to him, mathematical logic was just another branch of mathematics, I would have accepted my error, stopped the class, perhaps taken a year off to reflect on what I had been teaching so glaringly erroneously. I would in no circumstance, not abandon the course, continue on, forget the student’s assertion; if I was forced to do so, for some reason, perhaps for money, I would occasionally think of suicide, gradually get bored, and start doing something else entirely. The people who do ‘stick it out’, despite realising fundamental mistakes in their thoughts, may earn fame and fortune, may win prizes, may have many friends etc., but in my eyes, they are weak and insincere. Government, university funding, does not indicate anything about the importance of the things being funded- what is to be begged for, is not worth pursuing. What is suggested, instead, is vanity. To many people, including myself very often, ‘real philosophical reflection disturbs them until they put its result (if it had one) to one side and declare it trivial.’ Now, in art too, I do not fit exactly; the problems dealt with are too superficial, the form is looked at, but not the substance, and language is misused to an extent I hadn’t thought was possible. It is a study of passing fancies, it seems. Consider, as another example, ‘money is the root of all evil’: people will stop, for a moment to consider this, make gestures with their heads, and then go on doing the same thing as they were, even still; it is impossible for me to behave like this. Either I must change my life, or I must firmly believe that as an assertion, it is either irrelevant, or non-sensical, or wrong.

There is incredible flexibility in beliefs one can have; confirmation bias is everywhere. When I was blinded by mathematics, the thought of a computer being able to provide proofs seemed to me, wrong, as possibly something that could never happen, at least to the vague degree, in which humans could prove theorems. Whereas now with how I see mathematics, I couldn’t care less, and think, that perhaps it can, and will happen, and nothing will be lost. I refused to leave my mathematician’s paradise earlier, and refused to see anything to the contrary.

‘The work of a philosopher is the gathering of memories for a particular purpose’. That is what I’ve been doing all my life, not studying physics, not art, but myself, and its relation with the world. ‘I cannot live without knowing what I am’.

Of course, there is possibility of great self-deception. A very instructive story by Hebel; this is how I work in my confusion-

A young artisan from Tuttlingen, set out on his travels and came to the great port city of Amsterdam, to see the world and, perhaps, acquire some wisdom. Here is how he did it.

When he arrived in this great and rich commercial city with its splendid houses, swaying ships and busy people, his eye was at once caught by a large and handsome house, of a magnificence for which nothing in all his wanderings from Tuttlingen to Amsterdam could possibly have prepared him. For a good long time he gazed at this luxurious building in astonishment, its six chimneys, its beautiful cornices and its tall windows, any one of them larger than the door of his father’s house at home. Finally he could contain his curiosity no longer. ‘My good friend,’ he said to a passer-by, ‘Could you please tell me the name of the gentleman who owns this wonderfully beautiful house with its windows full of tulips, daisies and stocks?’ But the man, who had more pressing matters to attend to, and who sadly understood no more German than his questioner understood Dutch, which is to say none at all, merely said brusquely, ‘Kannitverstan’ and vanished. ‘He must have been an awfully rich man, this Herr Kannitverstan….’ mused our hero, and went on his way.

His wanderings eventually took him to the bay they call there Het Ey, where there were more ships all together in one place and at one time than he had ever seen anywhere anytime in all his life so far. At first he didn’t know how he could take in all these marvels with his two eyes alone, but finally his attention was caught by a large ship which had recently arrived from the East Indies and was just then being unloaded. Whole rows of boxes and bales were already standing on and beside one another on land, and there were more being rolled out all the time, and barrels full of sugar, of coffee, of rice and pepper (and mouse droppings too). And when he had gazed on all this for a good long time, he asked a man who was carrying one of the chests on his shoulder for the name of the lucky man for whom the sea was bringing all these goods to shore. ‘Kannitverstan’ was the reply. At this he thought, ‘Aha, so that’s it, is it! Of course, that’s how he can afford such a wonderful and amazing house.’

Unfortunately this discovery prompted him to a very sad train of thought: what a poor man he was among so many rich people in the world, and so on. But  just as he was thinking, ‘if only I had it as good as this Herr Kannitverstan, I …’, he turned a corner and saw a long funeral procession. Four horses, draped in black, were drawing a hearse, draped likewise in black, slowly and mournfully, almost as if they knew that they were taking a dead man to his rest. A long train of friends and acquaintances of the deceased followed silently, in pairs, swathed in black coats. In the distance a lonely bell was tolling. Naturally our hero was very struck by this sobering spectacle and he stood there devoutly with his hat in his hands until they had all passed by. Then he went up to the last man in the procession (who was at that point calculating silently how much he would profit from his cotton if it went up ten guldens a hundredweight) gently took hold of his cloak and innocently begged his pardon. ‘That must have been a good friend of yours,’ he said, ‘for whom the bell is tolling, that you should follow the procession so sadly and pensively. Can you tell me who it was?’ ‘Kannitverstan!?’ came the reply. At this news two big tears fell from the eyes of our man from Tuttlingen. ‘Poor Kannitverstan,’ he exclaimed to himself, ‘what profit do you get from all your wealth now? Precisely what I will one day get from my poverty: a shroud and a sheet! And from all your beautiful flowers? Perhaps a sprig of rosemary on your cold chest….?’ With these thoughts in mind he accompanied the corpse to the graveside as if he were one of the party, saw the supposed Herr Kannitverstan lowered to his rest and listened – much moved – to the Dutch funeral oration (of which he understood not a word) with much closer attention than he had ever paid to a sermon before.

Finally his spirits lifted and he went away with a light heart, found an inn where fortunately they understood German, got his appetite back and ate a nice piece of Limburger cheese. And ever thereafter, whenever he was again threatened by the sad reflection that so many people in the world were so rich when he was so poor, he merely had to think of Herr Kannitverstan in Amsterdam, of his great house, his rich ships and of his narrow grave.

I must directly, without deviation, accept this as my vocation- to sift the sensical from the non-sensical. Nothing external changes in attaining a new perspective of course, but in a sense, everything changes. And if, even in my dreams, I am struggling with logical problems, and explaining to people where they have made mistakes and so on, the philosophical attitude, over which I have no control, I must take as an indication. It may be considered also as an illness, like a tumour I must come to terms with, fortunately or unfortunately I do not know yet-  because, it is useless in the average sense of the word, and because it hints at the less than, not more than, ordinary clarity of mind, that a person inflicted with it must seek to put right. I must accept also, conclusively, that I am really indifferent to solutions of scientific problems- they grip me no longer.

I consider a theory of colour invented by blind men, a theory of relativity invented by fishes, not as inconsequential musings, but seriously consider these to as far as I can without becoming lazy in my analysis, and see what can be learnt from these, conceptually. Such questions cannot be discussed fruitfully, with people who subconsciously are defending their training and fighting for the continuation of their professions. For many questions then, it is perhaps wiser never to seek an expert. I have wondered often, how many people would continue doing what they are, if they are told, that they have absolutely, absolutely no future prospects as go earning a living with it. The people who still do continue, perhaps they, will be adequate as discussion partners. If today, I decide to found a school of science based on for example, Goethe’s principles, I will be surprised to find even one willing student in this age of ‘science worship’. In actuality, they are not studying science, rather they are studying money-making with whatever lack of skill in other areas they have.

I do not know quantum mechanics, and I have a masters in physics. If someone asked me to explain Heisenberg’s principle or what a nucleus was, I would be hard pressed to answer. Such has happened often, and often, such has led to severe embarrassment. I would have to say ‘I don’t know’, because that, only, would be the truth. I did not, during the whole of my study in physics, own a quantum mechanics textbook, and the subject itself, I studied, for no more than about a month in five years. I did not also know how many states there were in India, I recently discovered, beyond the 26 that I was taught in school- I did not care to find out, neither have I any interest in knowing about the populations of countries or the world, nor in memorising the decimal places of pi; I have no need for them. Previously, I would’ve been apologetic about my not knowing all this; no more.

What occurs within me when asked a question such as ‘Oh, you’ve studied physics, could you explain to me what a nucleus really is please?’, is immense doubt, about what exactly my answer could be, that could satisfy the other person. In scientific circles, such a question would never be asked, it is forgotten among those who study such things. What I ought to say to the layman, was that in physics, I studied not the nucleus as he understood it, but was playing a game which had something, which was not clear to me, to do with nuclei. That what we were dealing with, were models only, was clear to me; never once could I confuse myself of the distinction, which predictably, may have led to my loss of interest- its appeal, lost, with the destruction of childhood innocence.  That math, which never fails to astonish the ill-informed, was invention and not discovery, also, at the end, at a crucial time, became evident. I hold deep reservations against being humorous, witty, or poetic in these circumstances, and am unwilling, absolutely, to present something which would not be what I really thought. Ordinarily, with my hesitant replies, if the layman was cleverer than usual, he would be bored, if he was less so, he would be awed with incomprehension. What I ought to say is that even though I had studied all that, and was perhaps somewhat good at it, I found something fundamentally troubling about it, and did not want to mislead the enquirer with what I may say. A good answer, would be not saying, but showing, how and in what ways, what I meant by the term, and what the enquirer meant by it, were different in some respects, and similar in others; a brief sentence about what the term meant would not be acceptable, by either him, or even more, by me; if he desired to,  but which would be fruitless, he could look up a definition. In conversation revolving around religious topics, if it was to be logically sincere, the primary phrase would possibly have to be: ‘I don’t understand’. What upsets me, hopelessly, is that hesitancy in expression is taken to be an expression of hesitancy, and perhaps of incompetency.

Once, when I was enthusiastic about theoretical physics and the like, I said to a friend, that it could not be done, that physics could not, by a genuine physicist, be used to earn a living. The outcome, I said, would not be as good as it could, otherwise. This is even more true for artistic, musical, philosophical pursuits. These can never be taken seriously as long as one is reading for a degree in them. There exist books and prefaces to books which could not have been written by men who, when they wrote them or throughout their lives, would have called themselves writers; such books only, primarily, if I reflect on my reading, have been influential on me.

It is remarkable how easy dishonesty is. A religious man, will, on will, bend his principles in day-to-day life to achieve certain ends; he can wriggle out of any situation, using words, interpreting anything in whatever way suits his purpose.

If one thinks he has found a solution to a philosophical problem, and to confirm it, sends it to philosophers, what will ordinarily happen, is that he will be humiliated and his lack of sophistication and attention to detail pointed out. I cannot imagine a philosopher ever taking such a query as seriously as to make him revise his entire conception of the field. Of course, not all are to blame, as it is simple also, for the proud amateur to deceive himself, and to be blind to the many problems he has overlooked. Not being taken seriously, in any case, is perhaps, a major source of anxiety. Numerous philosophical points, I have considered over the years, and tried to discuss, but all in vain. Invariably, these are dismissed without second thoughts. ‘Oh, you think you have solved a problem, you are still a child, …go read this and this and this and come back then…’. In mathematics too, I dare say, I had many of the same thoughts, in an unpolished form as Wittgenstein, but hesitated to disclose them, knowing, correctly, that they would be dismissed quite easily by stale mathematicians and I would be told instead, to focus on something else. No great works of philosophy need to be read, to want to clear things up. I have never been interested in particular theories, as much as the methods used, and ways in which outlying matters are suppressed, confused. It has long been the same with me: I discover something on my own, and given how things are, am highly doubtful about it. My doubts are relieved only if a person of high authority has said the same or a similar thing, as was the case, for example, with sayable and unsayable things, the unsayable things being part of the framework in which sayable things can be said, the wrongness of Descartes, the un-fundamentalness of set theory and so on…  I cannot claim to have made any in-depth study of any of these, however, because, as it were, they were ‘killed in the crib. When no confirmation is to be seen, and the people who such matters are discussed with, ignore them and think them as useless waste of time, is anxiety and significant self-doubt not to be expected? Not being taken seriously enough, it cannot be doubted, can lead one into very deep depression. Discovery can, very easily be made to seem as delusion; and vice-verse. It is not surprising to me that Boltzmann committed suicide for the same reason, and Van Gogh. But that is not a mistake I would like to have to repeat. I do not want my life to be an endless attempt at avoiding me being misunderstood, or seeking always to be at all understood. I am, in my morality, at this stage, exactly like Levin in Anna Karenina. ‘But Levin did not hang himself, or shoot himself, but lived, and struggled on.’ I am frightened, of how confusing things are and how temporary, impermanent things are. My writing, most often, is characterised in spirit by the following sentiment: ’I am nervous when writing and all my thoughts are short of breath. And I feel constantly that I cannot completely justify the expression. That it tastes bad.’  ‘But when it’s (thinking clearly) most important it’s just disagreeable, that is when it threatens to rob one of one’s pet notions and to leave one all bewildered and with a feeling of worthlessness. In these cases, I and others shrink from thinking or can only get ourselves to think after a long sort of struggle.’ ‘The way to solve the problem you see in life, is to live in a way that will make what is problematic disappear’.

Some Recent thoughts-

  • Descartes, when he proclaimed, ‘I think, therefore I am’, was confused himself, and then confused everyone else, I believe. That ultimate doubt is not possible, has forever been clear to me. Perhaps, what he really meant to say was ‘I think I am, therefore I am’. If the first part is extended, as Wittgenstein says, moreover, to ‘I think it is raining, therefore I am’, the proclamation almost become a joke.
  • If a man, by some train of thought, education, comes to a conclusion that engaging in sex is not wrong. And also, by another perhaps, that what needs to be hidden, what is shameful if discovered, is wrong, he might conclude that the act of having sex must not be hidden. If he acts on this conclusion in all honesty, he might be taken to be a psychopath and restricted to a mental asylum. If he was sincere in believing that having sex in public was not wrong, he would suffer with courage and allow himself to be punished; if not, he would complain and know that something was amiss, either his sincerity or his logic earlier.
  • ‘Does the moon exist when I am not looking at it?’ There is confusion, in the way the word ‘looking’ is used. The phrase ‘looking at it’, if replaced by ‘knowing that it exists’, makes things much clearer and truer to what is actually wanting to be said. If seen from a phenomenological point of view, if I did not know that it exists, it does not in fact exist; even realistically, if the ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’, the phenomenological viewpoint will still be valid. More correct than saying it does not exist, would be to say that it might or might not exist.

I am most happy when I see, have seen something. I have spent whole days basking in my findings, feeling no need for sleep or food or company. Analogies- analogies in ordinary life- is what I work best with. The tendency to ignore and neglect, for example texts, findings that may prove to be detrimental to me- economics, philosophy, medicine, I do not suffer from, although I will never, of course, seek such a thing for its own sake. The effect when a person reads something or listens to something, and within a short amount of time, finds an instance of it, because he was attentive towards it and among great noise, could pick up on it- this effect, runs in the extreme in me-the state of not being able to get over a fact. This means that I am able to solve problems, many problems, because in this way, they remain always fresh in my mind- so many times have I solved problems from many years ago- but what accompanies this, is also a chronic sensitivity, an often debilitating sensitivity. I may be said, to have a very ‘thin’ skin. Every judgement is a judgement on myself. I could be said to be solipsistic in this way, although it has recently been clarified to me, how idealism leads to realism. Still, there is a constant existential point of view. When immersed, doing what I can, God’s will in a way, there exists no time- no clear demarcation of days; days feel like years in the amount of understanding achieved. I am appreciated often in person, and after some time has been devoted to the understanding of my work, but the admiration, again seems to me to be unfounded and hollow; and I must add, I would do the same- show the same hollow admiration-  if another person such as me presented himself before me. The frequent feeling, that I am operating in an entirely internal world, is a source of incredible frustration. It is as if I am speaking only in my head; no words actually come out, but in confusion, I believe that they do. So I expect others to have heard, but find that not to be the case. In hopeless disorientation, I run around in panic.

But again, I must not spiral back in to where I am trying to escape from. Nearly, all my work is private conversation with myself. It is a mistake to make it seem as anything more or less. I had been trying to say, desperately, what could only be shown. I was taking pride in what I should never have. If I asked myself, who I was doing all what I was doing for, the answer would have to be myself, and I was expecting to make a living out of it, and to be praised for it. I am not so dull, as to not see what this means, and not so diplomatic as to say this only cavalierly and not follow through all its implications even though I see them- I cannot do it, my conscience does not allow it. My work is just observations, and its worth, may be judged appropriately, later, according to what I am able to achieve, in all respects. I agree wholeheartedly with Wittgenstein’s ‘What is the use of studying philosophy if all that it does for you is to enable you to talk with some plausibility about some abstruse questions of logic, etc., & if it does not improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life, if it does not make you more conscientious than any…journalist in the use of DANGEROUS phrases such people use for their own ends.’ I am not one to advertise: I find it disgusting, neither do I think my advertisement would, or should, be taken seriously, until the worth of what I advertise be found in practical life. In my thinking of the past two years, I had been making the childish mistake, again and again, of thinking that if a work was good, it would attract attention to itself by itself. It does, perhaps in a deeper sense, but certainly not in the naive sense in which I was taking it to be. If the work is bad, I would prefer it to be forgotten. If it is good, it is immaterial when or how it is known. If having read such a work as Tolstoy’s What Then Must We Do, I am inclined, not to change my life entirely, but to write another book, another poem, paint another picture, leaving actual acting on what I learnt, to later, wanting, like a glutton, to instead, stamp my own name on it and present it anew, it is cause for extreme concern. ‘What gets in the way of genuine understanding is often not one’s lack of intelligence, but the presence of one’s pride. : “The edifice of your pride has to be dismantled. And that is terribly hard work.” The self-scrutiny demanded by such a dismantling of one’s pride is necessary, not only to be a decent person, but also to write decent philosophy. “If anyone is unwilling to descend into himself, because this is too painful, he will remain superficial in his writing” If you are unwilling to know what you are, your writing is a form of deceit.’ Considering that my only major other written work is a memoir from my journey to Russia last December, which came about as a genuine requirement at the time, I can take comfort in the fact that I am at least trying, as hard as it is, to not, let it be a deceit, and to not let feelings of aloneness overwhelm me. In my most private moments, indications of which are littered throughout the memoir, ‘I thought: I have to live with people to whom I cannot make myself understood- That is a thought that I actually do have often. At the same time with the feeling that it is my own fault.’

It is clarity that I seek, not as a means to another end, but as an end in itself. If the importance of this is not understood, and it is highly unlikely that it is, so be it. The ideal that all my idols point to, is visible to me. ‘I want my philosophy to be business-like, to get something done, to get something settled.’ ‘When we see somebody tidying up a room, we do not usually hear them keeping up a commentary all the while explaining what they are doing and why they are doing it- they simply get on with the job’.

‘I don’t think a truly devout person will ever say that God* was responsible for what he was; he would assume responsibility for himself.’

My song has put off her adornments.
She has no pride of dress and decoration.
Ornaments would mar our union;
they would come between thee and me;
their jingling would drown thy whispers.
My poet’s vanity dies in shame before thy sight.
O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet.
Only let me make my life simple and straight,
like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music.
– Tagore, VII, Gitanjali

Featured video: Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Op. 1 by Ludwig Van Beethoven, performed by the ATOS trio. (This piece, I would prefer to be heard in its entirety)

Quotations are from numerous places, most notably from works on Wittgenstein by himself, and also by his biographer, Ray Monk. I feel unashamed in quoting so extensively from him, recognising the debt I have towards certain people, but whom I have accepted as my own.

*In the sense that I have of the word, which unfortunately, I cannot and so, will not explain. What I mean by this, and what the reader means, may be vastly different.

Manifesto Part #6

This is the sixth of a number of manifesto parts. I suggest you read the preamble first.

I have thought of a plan.

I have moved to London for a course in the arts. With the amount of money that I’ve been able to arrange, I can only stay for a year however. Still, if what I’ve thought, all works out, I may be able to extend whatever I have for another year, and maybe even earn a bit. Ordinarily, what I would have had to do was to rent a room in a shared flat away from the centre, and tutor in physics and maths considering my background, or take up some kind of temporary administrative or sales jobs within the university to support myself.

Instead, I will be like the Paul Erdős of art- become an itinerant artist, at least for the next two years. I will stay with different people, mostly students I imagine- preferably artists, each week, for the whole of the duration of my stay in London. These people, I’ll find through personal connections (one recommending the next), friends, and the internet.

In exchange for board and lodging, I will offer to assist them in whatever they do for a living, and at the end of each week, I will draw a portrait of them- hopefully improving my figure drawing in the process- and maybe write an essay on them. If they’re artists, it’ll all be even more excellent: we can work on the same subjects together, maybe draw each other’s portraits, and in general, collaborate, and refresh each other. These drawings and writings, I hope to show regularly through public exhibitions during my stay, and online via a seperate blog. And meanwhile, to take care of other expenses (food mainly), I will hopefully have got a book out by then, on which I am working on finishing these days, and will look for part-time tutoring work etc..

This plan, I am treating as an experiment- as a first experiment within a wider theory of science I’ll be working on. The aims, of course, apart from securing pecuniary assistance, are significant self-development, motivated by Erich Fromm’s insistence on a deliberate effort being necessary towards the mastering of the art of love; the desire to, at least once, lead the ideal life of a wandering, serving artist as one imagines through Gandhi’s and Tolstoy’s writings; and the need, by surviving on human kindness and without much financial involvement on my own for two years in and around London, to prove to myself, conclusively, that on the whole, in balance, the world is a good place, and that I need not remain any longer in that delusion that the world is inherently wicked.

Also, I hope one now onwards, looks for in my works not a unity of style, but a unity of purpose, and meaning. For a stagnation of style,  I believe only plagues the hand of the person who has in him the fever of speaking out unnecessarily, and who has stopped studying and stopped listening.


Featured Image: Painter on His Way to Work by Vincent Van Gogh

Manifesto Part #5

This is the fifth of a number of manifesto parts. I suggest you read the preamble first.

After four whole years, I think I’ve finally found in words why, even after having once proclaimed to myself that I needed nothing else than to be able to study physics and mathematics all the time, I was increasingly starting to hate science, and with as much as force as I initially loved it.

The science of a time and society aims to introduce into human consciousness the knowledge which is regarded as most important by the people living in that time and society. And art, rightly, looks to it to for the truths it must transfer from the realm of knowledge to the realm of feelings. No wonder most of the art of today is so drab and senseless.

This is the main conclusion that I’ve come to: ‘It is impossible to consider the root without also considering the fruit. In dividing objects of study into mutually exclusive departments, often, the over-arching truth is missed.’ I thought I was studying a great thing, science; I thought that by studying how atoms operated, how things moved, how gravity worked, I was studying myself. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was tricking myself and in spite of frequent doubts about whether whatever I was doing made any sense at all, I continued on, till it became unbearable, and I just had to leave it all immediately. I wasn’t learning to understand myself, or others around me, or nature most importantly, as I thought I was, but instead, in the name of all that, I was learning to strip all emotion from even the most sacred of subjects, and dissect information with a view to manically manipulate it, and rather than aim to co-exist with nature, exhaust it into submission. In disguise, I was being taught to ab-use rather than use.  It is a grave mistake to think that by dividing and subdividing and further sub-subdividing, we are understanding anything very significant. Whether scientists themselves admit it or not, by the many personal interactions that I’ve had with them, what they want to be and what is indeed subconsciously still motivating them, is the big picture- the whole, and not the minute fragments which they delight in being able to handle with extreme rationality and precision.

I was in the mountains yesterday, and the place being too remote for general tourists to visit, I was alone. I’d read an essay by John Ruskin the previous day, on iron.-

‘Nobler, and more useful- for, indeed, as I shall be able to show you presently- the main service of this metal (iron), and of all other metals, to us, is not in making knives, and scissors, and pokers, and pans, but in making the ground we feed from, and nearly all the substances first needful to our existence. For these are all nothing but metals and oxygen- metals with breath put into them. Sand, lime, clay, and the rest of the earths- potash and soda, and the rest of the alkalies- are all of them metals which have undergone this, so to speak, vital change, and have been rendered fit for the service of man by permanent unity with the purest air which he himself breathes. There is only one metal (gold) which does not rust readily; and that in its influence on Man hitherto, has caused Death rather than Life; it will not be put to its right use till it is made a pavement of, and so trodden under foot.

Is there not something striking in this fact, considered largely as one of the types, or lessons, furnished by the inanimate creation? Here you have your hard, bright, cold, lifeless metal- good enough for swords and scissors- but not for food. You think, perhaps, that your iron is wonderfully useful in a pure form, but how would you like the world, if all your meadows, instead of grass, grew nothing but iron wire- if all your arable ground, instead of being made of sand and clay, were suddenly turned into flat surfaces of steel- if the whole earth, instead of its green and glowing sphere, rich with forest and flower, showed nothing but the image of the vast furnace of a ghastly engine- a globe of black, lifeless, excoriated metal? It would be that, – probably it was once that; but assuredly it would be, were it not that all the substance of which it is made sucks and breathes the brilliancy of the atmosphere; and, as it breathes, softening from its merciless hardness, it falls into fruitful and beneficent dust; gathering itself again into the earths from which we feed, and the stones with which we build;- into the rocks that frame the mountains, and the sands that bind the sea.

Hence, it is impossible for you to take up the most insignificant pebble at your feet, without being able to read, if you like, this curious lesson in it. You look upon it at first as if it were earth only. Nay, it answers, “I am not earth- I am earth and air in one; part of that blue heaven which you love, and long for, is already in me; it is all my life- without it I should be nothing, and able for nothing; I could not minister to you, nor nourish you- I should be a cruel and helpless thing; but, because there is, according my need and place in creation, a kind of soul in me, I have become capable of good, and helpful in the circles of vitality.”

But this is not all, nor the best part of the work of iron. Its service in producing these beautiful stones is only rendered to rich people, who can afford to quarry and polish them. But Nature paints for all the world, poor and rich together; and while, therefore, she thus adorns the innermost rocks of her hills, to tempt your investigations, or indulge your luxury, – she paints, far more carefully, the outsides of the hills, which are for the eyes of the shepherd and the ploughman.’

I’d already had a great insight into what I was missing but what I needed to do to complete the transition, to really solidify the effect, was to lie down on the forest floor on the trail uphill and imagine myself merge into the surrounding. I had found it. I was part of it, not its master. The only sounds that I could hear were those of the insects and birds, and the only sights were those of trees and grass and plants of many types; the few man-made objects, which would normally disrupt the whole scene, had also been reclaimed by rust. I need to see the soul in things to be interested in them, and in me. There needs to be a moral quality in them for me to be able to live.

I’d fallen and hurt myself getting down from a moving bus some weeks ago, and realized then, when none of the passersby came to help, that not the slightest of the physics about motion that I thought I was an expert in had filtered into my intuition. Really, I hadn’t achieved anything, except the suffering needed to be able to think what I’m thinking right now. I’ll have to begin afresh, and engage now, again, in the kind of science that does not seem incompatible with real life. I once considered Isaac Newton my personal hero; nevermore.


Featured Image: Newton by William Blake

Manifesto Part #4

This is the fourth of a number of manifesto parts. I suggest you read the preamble first.

Up till now, I’ve been making, on average, one painting per month. Having considered the fast pace that the online world demands, for my second series I tried increasing this rate initially, but in the beginning itself, I thank my luck, I’ve realized that my temperament is not suited for quick and coarse work. I need to work patiently, much more patiently than most can believe, to be able to produce a work which I admire myself. True artistic infection, I believe, is achieved only when and in so far as the artist finds those infinitely small moments of which the work of art is composed.

So, at the risk of being forgotten amidst the hammering of other content day in and day out, I will be slowing down. Because, that is, I’ve come to understand, what we’re all after really, at least I am for sure. It’s only that it’s pitiful when almost everyone I ask complains about being overstimulated, addicted, by the onslaught of audio-visual media but still in his own turn, does the same to others. I take multiple reminders to be insults, and it seems that we’ve all gotten accustomed to pay attention only when insulted constantly.


Featured Image: The Dryad’s Crown by John Ruskin

Manifesto Part #3

This is the third of a number of manifesto parts. I suggest you read the preamble first.

Now that the first part of my work is over,  I feel the need to get to work again, and this time, harder than before. Over the course of completing the last series and haven taken a break from my earlier scientific studies, I have collected some key points that I wish to incorporate in my future work. These, I feel, will serve as adequate guidelines whenever I find myself in doubt regarding art.

First of all, I hope to be able to wholeheartedly devote myself to the proper studies of science and art. ‘Proper’ is, here, in the sense that Tolstoy has described in his ‘What is Art?’, which I consider to be the best work on these subjects up to the present time.

Next, regarding the question of economics; as I am not, at the moment, interested to part ways with my original works, alternatives like selling prints and working on commissions seem like good ideas. More importantly however, I will strive to make my life simpler, and progress towards self-sufficiency and financial independence. Also, I plan to take regular risks in experimenting with new methods of production and distribution.

My future works in art will likely be more emotionally infectious than cerebral, and will involve newer topics and much stronger experience-based subjects. I do not see my work being hung as interior decoration, but viewed and referred to, perhaps, as a useful book. My recent travels have exposed me to some groundbreaking pieces of art, mostly of the Peredvizniki group of artists, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt, who I wish to be able to emulate. The focus, as I see, will be on social realism, and inspired by the writings of Tolstoy and Gandhi.

The work will hopefully be of such a quality that has the ability to move some people. Ideally, as for works I myself admire, the paintings will either serve as things one can look at when one has lost all hope, and through them be able to gather up enough courage to get up and work, or as powerful reminders of important things that one ought to always keep in one’s mind.


Featured Image: The Red Vineyards near Arles by Vincent Van Gogh

Manifesto Part #2

This is the second of a number of manifesto parts. I suggest you read the preamble first.

Tolstoy’s later works have been significantly influential towards my  recent shift in perspective. Lately, after having decided to give a short break to my physics studies, I have wanted to lay down what I thought about science. My views are undoubtedly much impacted by Tolstoy and Wittgenstein but I feel glad that it so. I will be introducing many of my newly formed ideas here, elaborating on them later.

Many times I have felt, and sometimes still feel or am made to feel that life has no meaning.  These moments are terrible, insofar as they produce nothing of practical worth and make me want to hide under the duvet and not come out for days. I must have a meaning to survive; because really, how can one live knowing that nothing will come of it. I had first seriously thought about this in Class XI and then in the last two years of college, and have decided not to give up on the search this time. Through recent readings, I have come down to two main points which could be very beneficial.

The first is that different applications might require different interpretations to avoid confusion. Wittgenstein talks about this, and it is perhaps the essence of the Anekantvada principle of Jain philosophy. It is as easy to refute religious consciousness as worthless, as it is to keep on participating in rituals ignoring contrary evidence. In all cases, it is  a good idea to see what the  action is being done for -its application and significance, and then criticize the interpretations being used. Now that I’ve spent almost a year doing art, I realize that it is easier said than done. If I imagine myself in Paul Dirac’s position, it makes perfect sense to avoid dabbling in poetry if you’re a physicist. On the other hand, if I read Monet refuses the Operation by Lisel Mueller, I cannot help getting affected. Both are contradictory ways of looking at the world, and either none or both are right. This mindset is awfully difficult to develop given the strong impulse to jumble meanings, especially for people who have specialised early . The act of giving free reign to this urge can sometimes produce novel works of thought, but most often leads us astray. I hope to clarify this notion and tackle the many issues associated with it; and think of ways of bringing it into practice. The job of an artist is to portray that which might be incomprehensible and inaccessible in the form of reasoning. What this constitutes is not absolutely clear to me yet, but I am learning everyday- perhaps the question might itself not be soluble by reason.

Second, more importantly,  is the role of science in my life. As Tolstoy points out, although art for art’s sake is attacked by many, science for science’s sake is much in fashion. My grandfather often asked me for what I was studying science and it would always be a weak answer along the lines of “… because I like it”.

For most scientists, what they choose to study is that which is most pleasing and which satisfies their idle curiosity, and which may have practical applications. To justify this choice of subjects, the theory of science for science’s sake seems to have been invented. The degree of importance afforded to feelings conveyed by art and knowledge conveyed by science are determined by what people regard as their purpose of life at any given time- it being wealth and status today.

Real science should aim to introduce into human conciousness the knowledge which is regarded as most important by the people of a certain period and society. Art transfers these truths from the realm of knowledge to the realm of feeling. However hard contemporary artists try to depict recent scientific advancements, the content is so far removed from everyday life, that no genuine feelings can be aroused. The most one can produce this way is a visually pleasing new design which does not correspond to the scientific principle at all.

Science, including the social sciences, today seems to be focussing on two issues mainly- demonstrating and justifying the existing order of life and technical improvements. Only those people who have devoted their lives to these studies think that all these are very important and useful. People in other professions don’t really care. An example is scientific and economic arguments given for adopting vegetarianism. No matter how strong these arguments, I do not expect anyone to be affected by them and give up meat as a result. This can most efficiently be done only by emotional arguments, by taking them to a slaughter house for example. Unless they can feel empathy for the animals and think of them just as themselves, nothing profound will happen.

According to Tolstoy, the proper activity of science is not the study of something we have accidentally become interested in, but of how human life should be arranged- the questions of religion, morality, social life, without resolving which all our knowledge of nature is harmful and worthless. As most people will testify, explaining simple things like the occurrence of seasons is much more difficult than talking about the spectral analysis of galaxies. But as it happens, our curriculum is so arranged that one must keep on learning about more and more complex things and forget about building strong foundations. Instead of spending time on objects of mere curiosity and practical application, if it were spent on arranging the lives of people, then the majority of those who are now ill would not have those illnesses and there would be no need of medicinal research.

Genuine Science should aim to discover what ought or ought not to be believed, and investigate methods of leading our lives properly- how to arrange sexual relations, how to bring up children, how to use land, how to relate to foreigners, how to treat animals, and how to fight terrorism for example. Above all, it should aim to unite humanity together- search for a collective certainty and universal agreement beyond reason- a sentiment also expressed in the poems of Rabindranath Tagore.


Featured Image: (on left) Wittgenstein sketch by Arjun Jain, (on right) Leo Tolstoy by Leonid Pasternak

Manifesto Part #1

This is the first of a number of manifesto parts. I suggest that you read the preamble first.

I’ve been visiting many art shows and other similar events over the past couple of weeks, while also reading some art books, the most important one being Tolstoy’s What is Art? and Ruskin’s The Elements of Drawing and have been convinced that our attitude towards the arts must be changed. Here I present my initial intentions as an artist. I mostly paraphrase from Tolstoy, as he presents very  clearly what I would like to say.

Man has a unique capacity for understanding thoughts expressed in words which enables him to properly convey these  and his own thoughts to others. Similarly, due to his much more unique capacity for being infected by other people’s feelings through art, he has access to all that mankind has experienced before him in the realm of feelings- to feelings experienced by his contemporaries and to feelings of men thousands of years ago, and it is again possible for him to communicate these feelings.

If people were incapable of understanding the thoughts conveyed in words by people living before them, or of conveying their own thoughts to others, they would be like beasts.  And if men did not possess the capacity of being infected by art, they would perhaps be even more savage and above all more divided and hostile. In fact, I think that it is due to an excessively growing influence of scientific thought and a neglect of the importance of real art that has made people less sympathetic towards each other, while also not being able to reason properly- incorporating only the superficial method of scientific study (speaking in terms of facts etc.), while losing it’s essence in the process.

Therefore art is a very important activity, maybe even as important as the activity of speech.

I’d like to clarify something first- our whole lives are filled with works of art of various kinds- songs, movies, comedies, interior decoration, clothing etc..This is art in a narrow sense of the word- most of it is not at all infectious of feelings, a basic criterion of separating art from non-art.

These days (probably in the past too), often when people speak of their art, they are convinced that it is not only true art but also the best and the only art. Only a few benefit from this art, with the rest living and dying, without ever experiencing it. And if truth be told, this art is of such a kind that even if they could avail themselves of it, they would not understand anything. And this is when it is generally understood that all people have equal rights, if not to material, at least to spiritual.

If a theory justifies the false position which a certain part of society is in, then even if it makes no sense and is obviously false, it gets adopted and becomes a belief of that part of society. This theory necessarily suits its taste and is readily adopted without any criticism. Despite its complete arbitrariness, it is repeated both by the learned and the unlearned as something self evident.  Such theories don’t provide any definite meaning to existing art, and are needed only to justify the false significance we ascribe to art that conveys all sorts of insignificant feelings, so long as these feelings are pleasurable.

An important observation is that most art these days is completely incomprehensible. The implicit reply to this is that only the underdeveloped do not understand this art. In truth, people can always easily be made accustomed to absolutely any art, by perverting their taste- by forcefully thrusting upon them in places where they have access to art. For the majority, this art is alien to them in its very content, conveying the feelings of people far removed from the conditions of the kind of life led by the greater part of mankind. It might be argued that almost everyone has simply forgotten what good art is about.

If the majority are not prepared enough to understand, they must be given an explanation, but it seems to me that this knowledge does not exist. So to say that the majority do not understand good works of art and in order to understand one must read, look at, or listen to the same work over and over again is not to explain but to make accustomed. If a work of art does not move us, one must not say that the cause is the spectator’s or listener’s incomprehension, but must conclude that it is either bad art or not art at all.

The difference between art and mental activity, which requires preparation and a certain sequence of learning, is precisely that art affects people independently of their degree of development and education. The charm of a picture, of sounds, of images infects any man, on whatever level of development he may stand. The fundamental aim of art is to make understandable and accessible that which might be incomprehensible and inaccessible in the form of reasoning.

The main consequence of the current state of art is the loss of good content. It has become fanciful and unclear, and more importantly, it has ceased to be sincere and has become artificial and cerebral. True works of art only need to convey feelings not experienced before. This is why children and adolescents experience works of art so strongly.

The appreciation of the merits of art- of the feelings it conveys- depends heavily on people’s understanding of the meaning of life, on what they see as good and evil in life. This has kept changing throughout history and varies across the world. Remove enough cultural context from anything and it appears meaningless. On the other hand, considered in the right context, anything can become good art. In present times, these differences in cultures are decreasing and good works of art can be appreciated by anyone, anywhere in the world.

The good is the eternal highest aim of our life. No matter how we understand the good, our life is nothing else than a striving towards the good- for some people, this is God. The beautiful, in contrast, if we speak of only what we understand, is nothing other than what is pleasing to us, in a sensory sense.

As most people might have felt, there seems to be a  limit set on man’s pleasure by nature- any new amusement becomes boring with repetition. On the contrary, each step that mankind takes is made through an ever increasing clarification with people experiencing more and more new feelings- mankind’s movement forward has no limits.

Of course, if I have the right to judge the current state of art, then the people who do not understand what I regard as good art, have the same right to say that what I regard as good art is bad art and there is nothing in it to understand. This is a problem I do not claim to be able to solve. I can only admit what I truly believe in and what I think many others believe in too. In such situations, it is probably wise to Live and Let Live, and hope that at least some people are able  to gain encouragement from your viewpoint and are inspired to live in a better way.


Featured Image: (on left) Tolstoy; (on right) Wheatfield with Reaper at sunset by Vincent Van Gogh