Monday, 28 November 2016

Thinking Kashmir?


Clues from Heidegger’s What is Called Thinking?
“The most thought-provoking thing about our thought-provoking age is that we are still not thinking,”______Martin

“The wasteland grows and woe to him who hides the wasteland within.” ______Friedrich Nietzsche
While both Nietzsche and Heidegger said the words quoted in the beginning in somewhat different though not quite unrelated context, one recalls them readily when trying to “think” Kashmir in the context of proliferating debate on Kashmir (I don’t presume to apply Heidegger on thinking to Kashmir – this I leave to Heidegger scholars and thinkers – but only to underscore the difficulty of the task of engaging with Kashmir in the manner talk shows, conferences, political parties, gossip parties seek to do). Heidegger’s problem or objective is not to provide a map for resolving political issues but to help us attend to the deeper issues that underlie political issues. The tragedy is that one is only asked to give opinion or better strategy to handle Kashmir – and not think – and its crises that escalate anytime reminding everyone that a deadly cancer is in the body politic that can consume those who pride on calling it integral part as this is malignant. Therapies given haven’t eradicated the virus. Habba Khatoon’s individual tragedy expressed in “Waerwen seeth wari ches no/Charih kertou ma’leuno ho” (I am not well with husband’s home/ Resolve my problem O my maternal home) is our collective tragedy, not only of our women but all Kashmiris. However our tragedy is more acute as there doesn’t seem to be a ma’leun or maternal home to whom to turn to. So the question of turning to God or what Heidegger would call Being isn’t irrelevant. However these are “destitute times” for Kashmiris and many other similarly afflicted people across the world when the Being seems to have withdrawn or hidden and doesn’t seem to heed the call of beings thrown into hell. But the question that we have to ask is: If Being calls us are we ready to listen or how do we decode the meaning of its withdrawl? Is it a state of contraction (qabz) of which Sufis talk about in which travellers on the path are visited by gloom and darkness and there is no illumination or expansion of heart despite one’s attempt to pray, fast and maintain night vigils? To learn listening also calls for thinking. Now a few words about this thinking that is not done in conferences or talk shows or newspapers columns including this one. One can here only invite for thinking and recall that even Heidegger had no claim that he thinks as thinking is a calling so few can indeed take in these God-abandoned times. But this is needed if we want to first understand the situation before we could try to change it or redeem it.
      What is it that Heidegger does call thinking? We need to first note what he does not call thinking. It is not having an opinion or a notion or an idea about something or state of affairs. It is not representing it either. Then what is it for Heidegger? As Glenn Gray paraphrases Heidegger in his introduction to What is Called Thinking?, "thinking is a response on our part to a call which issues from the nature of things, from Being itself. To be able to think does not wholly depend on our will and wish, though much does depend on whether prepare ourselves to hear that call to think it comes and respond to it in the appropriate manner. Thinking is determined by that which is to be thought as well as by him who thinks. It involves not only man’s receptivity to Being but also Being’s receptivity to man. The history and situation of man in a given age often covers up the nature of reality and renders it impossible to receive the message of Being. Only the thinking that is truly involved, patient, and disciplined by long practice can come to know either the hidden or disclosed character of truth. Thinking is questioning and putting ourselves in question as much as the cherished opinions and inherited doctrines have long taken for granted.”
      Almost all of us now see how the received discourses on Kashmir somehow fail to capture the essence and “There is always a struggle to advance a new way of seeing things because customary ways and preconceptions about it stand in the way” how do we move forward in such a quest. In fact the situation “is similar to learning a foreign language : forgetting our mother tongue is the chief difficulty.”
      We can’t outsource thinking to experts, panellists on talk shows or package it into posters and pamphlets and sermons. “We come to know what thinking means when we ourselves try to think.”
      Heidegger calls Socrates the purest thinker of the West. What we all need to learn from Socrates is how to listen to the other, how to talk to each other before we expect to talk to the “other.” It is not to regurgitate someone’s agenda or opinions and package them for mass consumption. I have in vain sought two persons talking the way Socrates and his great admirer Kierkegaard would teach us. We need to learn the art of conversation. Dialogue in the sense demanded comes later.
      Heidegger greatly admired Lao Tzu. His masterpiece Tao Te Ching should be read by everyone, especially those who think they have been charged to lead or speak or think for others. It can be easily downloaded and one can finish reading it in two hours only (but don’t forget that it will take a lifetime to assimilate). Admitting the problem, admitting that our leaders, our sacrifices, our prayers all haven’t yet been accepted we need to pray to be granted something of that holy confusion of which Lao Tzu speaks. We need this because we are too sure about our proposals and absurdity or ideological complicity of others. We don’t appreciate why and how of the obscurity in the other, worship ourselves and our opinions and dread doubt or cross examination and mostly keep indulging in regurgitating accusations of betrayals against our forefathers and all leaders from Shaykh Saheb to Geelani Saheb other living and dead leaders and forget that we can find some moral or intellectual or political failing retrospectively in even the greatest leaders of history.
      For Heidegger it is from the poets that we can learn in our quest for thinking. He identified Tao with poetic thinking. Here in Kashmir we also have poets who can be of help in such an enterprise. Do our leaders read them or heed them or just label them and demand bland political statements from them? I conclude by quoting from Lao Tzu:
  • “How wide and without end is the range of questions asking to be discussed.”
  • “My mind is that of a stupid man and I am in a state of chaos
    Ordinary men look bright and intelligent
    While I alone look benighted
    They look full of discrimination
    While I alone am dull and confused
    Multitude of men have enough and to spare
    I alone seem to have lost everything
    I alone am different from other men
    But I value the nursing mother, the Tao.”
      Kashmir is also passing through nihilism and K issue along with violent reactions can be read as consequences of our nihilistic times.It calls for thinking to overcome it. Focus on community spaces and other marginalized cultural practices would make us better receptive to the call of the Being and this could help in overcoming the political framing of our destiny without letting go of the political space that itself is a site of revelation of Being and needs clearing by overcoming attempts to represent it, manage it, package it, use it, sell it, fight it. Kashmir calls for home, for dwelling poetically in the Heaven it is. If Kashmir is not to be an object, a news, a tool, a career but a matter of thought and brought back to unconcealment out of oblivion due to bad metaphysics called politics around it, we need to underscore the necessity of thinking Kashmir. Who is ready to think Kashmir? “The greatest adversary of thinking is reason,” said Heidegger and we see plenty of reason coming into play that focuses on “mob” control, managing alienation, winning hearts and minds, dividing, confounding, seducing people accused of inauthentic – “dictated” – choices. Reason is also deployed to projects sects, manufacture new narratives, glorify means good or bad for supposedly noble ends, manufacture ghosts of abstractions and teach lessons in event management. We see wasteland growing and while we can hope for April showers as the God that can indeed save us doesn’t wait too long even though He seems to have withdrawn because we aren’t ready for the thunder and lightning that accompanies authentic appropriation, the question for all of us – Indians, Pakistanis, Kashmiris – is when will we begin to take note of our human prerogative to think and abandon “politics” – a politics that no thinker worthy of note knows as it has long been that we have seen God being abandoned for power, happiness for pleasure, virtue for moralism, heart for mind, intellect for reason, Kashmiris for imagined Kashmir in the map of “our“ world’s nation states. To think Kashmir requires understanding what is thinking and that requires giving at least some consideration to thinkers like Heidegger and What is Called Thinking? And we should not forget that even Heidegger can commit great blunders when it comes to taking concrete political decision. (He did when he joined Nazis). Kashmir calls for attention by thinkers not politicians ( to be distinguished from statesmen who can indeed think) - a meditative, poetic thinking that can be done only by no hired think tanks.
 Post Script:
If we have to see what is not called thinking, watch most of the anchors and their guest “thinkers” shouting, reacting instead of listening, name calling , point scoring, threatening and sloganeering on Indian talk shows.
http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/story/224701.html 



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