I am, therefore I think versus I think, therefore I am

Many of you would have heard the following philosophical statements which are completely opposed to each other:

1. I am; therefore I think

2. I think; therefore I am.

These two statements reflect completely different ways of looking at life. The reason I picked up these statements for my post is that during the last week, I had interesting interactions with 3 different persons during my travel, whose conversations with me seemed to reveal their outlook to life. The persons involved are two taxi drivers and a retired University professor. I will describe below each interaction:

1st Taxi driver( in Bhopal): During my recent trip to Bhopal, I spent a couple of hours travelling within the city with a driver, Mr Pandey. Mr Pandey is a lively old man who loved to chat. He talked about the city, his sons, their CM and Nawab of Pataudi , whose palace was converted into a 5 star hotel, where I stayed.  He has been driving in Bhopal for the past 50 years and is now close to 70 years in age. He owns an independent house and 2 cars. His sons are well-educated and employed in IT industry outside Bhopal. He is a loner In Bhopal. I asked him why he should he not retire and relax with his sons. He said – “Ghar me bait ke paagal ho jaavoonga. I will keep working till my last breath, since otherwise I will go crazy. Driving is my life”. I kept wondering how is he going to live once he calls it quits and retires. The answer came to me from a retired professor, whom I spoke to last week. He is over 75 years old and is living with his son. He has no company since both his son & daughter-in-law are working. He has nothing to relate with his school going grand children. His wife passed away a few years ago. He told me that he wanted to join an Old Age Home. I asked him why. He said – “As you know I get life only if I talk. I have nobody to talk to”. I encouraged him to go ahead.

These two interactions are examples of the 2nd kind of philosophy – I think, therfore I am. While the driver says: “I drive, therefore I am”, the professor says: “I talk, therfore I am”. Basically both are dependent on experiences of their liking to sustain life.

In contrast to these two experiences, I met another taxi driver in Mumbai (on my way back from Bhopal), who was full of energy and enthusiasm for work as he went on narrating anecdote after anecdote about his funny experiences in the city. He smiled with the same spirit at his good experiences as well as bad experiences. His name is Mr Singh. He narrated an experience where a customer insisted on taking him by a circuitous route even when the driver explained the shorter route in detail. He also narrated another hilarious incident on how a fellow driver started believing in ‘bhooth’ (ghosts) based on the following trivial incident. He and his friend discovered a unique parking spot near Sion from where every night they would get very good clients going to South Bombay. One night, it was pitch dark and a client stopped by, spoke to the other taxi driver  parked in front of Mr Singh’s taxi and opened the back door to get into the car. Instead of getting in, the client immediately banged the door shut and went around from behind the car to fetch some cigarettes from a shop . Not noticing this and believing that the customer got in, the other taxi driver left. At the next signal when he turned back he found none sitting in the back seat. He panicked and concluded that it must have been a ghost that tried to get into the car at the parking spot. He later shared this incident with Mr Singh (my driver)and told him that he strongly believed that the particular spot is haunted. My taxi driver couldn’t control his laughter since he was a witness to the entire drama when it happened! In fact the same client got into Mr Singh’s taxi parked  right behind and kept complaining all the while about the other taxi fellow, who left in a ‘huff’. My taxi driver says with a mischievous smile: I got rid of one competitor that way!

Here is a guy who is thoroughly enjoying life under all situations – at least that is the impression he gave me. I took it as a good example of the philosophical  attitude to life, encapsulated in the 1st statement – I am, therefore I think (or drive as in this case).  This is an attitude emphasizing the significance of existence more than the activities and experiences of life.

While I am not justified in categorizing people based on my limited interactions, I am only using the incidents to illustrate the basic differences in philosophy and outlook. It is easy to see the difference in the 2 extreme philosophies. One believes in the miracle of existence or life and therefore takes all experiences in stride enjoying every minute. The other 2 believe that life is sustained by either talking as in the case of the professor or driving till he drops dead as in the case of the Bhopal driver. See, how a slight shift in one’s attitude can make a huge difference to one’s experience of joy.

Putting it In spiritual terminology, our BEING is at the core of our Existence and from THAT emanates all possibilities that one experiences (BECOMING). This is the most fundamental B to B transaction in the Universe (BEING to BECOMING!).

Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was a bit confused at first because you use “I think, therefore I am” in a completely different way as the famous writer of those words, Descartes. But at the end of the article, I must say that there seems to be something in this distinction of yours…. It reminds me of the different types of being in Aristotle. Being as existence is a necessary one and comes before the others (in your words it would be “I am, therefore I think”). Is existence really something that comes first? Or is existence immantently connected with actions (incl. thinking; in this case you would say “I think, therefore I am”)?
    But then again, this doesn’t really fit with your conclusion about Being and Becoming. Instead, I would say: is our being diffused over all our actions? Or is their a substance of core-being out of which everything springs? Both can be further interpretated as ways of Becoming.
    Anyway, that’s just what popped in my mind while reading your blog… 😉

  2. -the inversion of ‘the cogito’ is at the core of Heidegger’s thinking which is that we are not consciousness facing the world but an involvement in the world that partially faces that w/psychical processes; your post is immensely enjoyable, edifying and I would greatly like to see more like it

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