Thursday, May 24, 2012

Nature is inventive, contingent, and historical

General Editor May 24, 2012 9:38 AM Jadunandan Samal: … COMMENT:
Such is the case of Peter Heehs similarly who after staying 40 years in Archives and as Ashramites, he has disgraced the name of Sri Aurobindo as well as The Mother drastically in public by publishing the book "The Lives of Sri Aurobindo" and pained innumerable people worldwide. Then why the Managing Trustee is not taking same action against Peter Heehs (rather protecting him) as proposed to take in the case of Dr. Das, the teacher? It brings about abundant doubt in such duplicate actions of the Managing Trustee as well as the Trust Board of the Ashram. It is partial, unfair and vindictive. J.N. SAMAL Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

The 6th anniversary of Sri Aurobindo University (SAU) will be held at Sri Aurobindo Shreekshetra, Dalijoda, District-Cuttack on 4th April, 2012 (Wednesday) at 10.45 AM. The members of the executive body, all learners and counselors  of SAU , the Principals and Teachers of Sri Aurobindo Integral Education Centres and all others concern with the activities of SAU are requested to attain the function.. The details of the programme will be announced later. Prasad Tripathy

Nirupama Rao: You've the power to influence history - Rediff ... 'The algorithms you will use to unlock the mysteries of the universe are going to be very different from the ones my generation sought to master,' Nirupama Rao, India's Ambassador to the United States of America, tells students at Pondicherry University, May 19.
It is indeed a great honour to have been requested to address the Pondicherry University on the occasion of their twenty second convocation…Many years ago, the wise and learned Sri Aurobindo, speaking on the soil of Pondicherry, referred to national education as 'something more profound, great and searching education proper to an Indian soul and need and temperament and culture that we are in quest of... something faithful (not) merely to the past, but to the developing soul of India, to her future need, to the greatness of her coming self-creation, to her eternal spirit.'
The question, as Sri Aurobindo framed it, is not between modernism and antiquity, but between the present and the future, not a return to the glories of the fifth century but 'an initiation of centuries to come' that is demanded 'by the soul, by the Shakti of India.' And this is where we see the expounding of a universalist vision: That education must help the student to enter into that perfect relationship with the mind and soul of the larger humanity of which we are a part, of which our nation, our India, is 'a separate yet inseparable member.'
Aurobindo's words, penned almost a century ago have a profound relevance even today and I have therefore drawn reference to them. His eloquence was unmatched when he issued a call for education to usher in 'the alchemy of infinity into the finite life', as is reflected in our tradition through the examples of the brave and forthright like Nachiketa, Markandeya, Savitri and Arjuna…
As less and less attention or importance is given to humanities is there a long term cost to democracy? A good humanities education inculcates critical thinking in the student, it provides knowledge of world history and religions and helps us to be less obtuse about other cultures and other people. Literature, for instance, trains, as it is said, 'the muscles of the mind.'

To answer such generic questions would require quoting Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine one snippet after another, and even that won’t resolve anything because their practical interpretation is subjective and imperfect. Life is analogous to a complicated system of differential equations. The general solution can be determined philosophically but when we try to practically determine the particular solution at a given space-time, we only obtain are unsatisfactory approximations.

As Latour has so compellingly argued, we like to divide culture and nature and treat the natural world as the domain of essence and causality, while we treat the cultural world as the domain of freedom, history, and contingency.  Birds, we say, are “predetermined” to build nests, humans invent ways of building buildings.  Birds have no history.  Humans, because they invent, have history. But Darwin blew this entire thesis out of the water.  What Darwin demonstrated is that species are historical and contingent, that they could have been otherwise under other conditions.  After Darwin we just can’t sort the world in this way anymore. What we need to see, I think, is that nature is a lot more like culture than we thought (it is inventive, contingent, and historical), and that culture is a lot more natural than we thought (it requires all sorts of material connections and is a physical, material thing).

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