I judge, therefore I am

As I entered our office canteen, I could feel an unusually noisy atmosphere. I joined my usual group and settled down with my lunch box and realized that the unusual commotion was caused by Amir Khan! It was a raging debate about the actor’s controversial remarks on intolerance and leaving the country. Everybody had an opinion. Everybody an accusation to make. So, as I joined the group, I was asked the obvious question: what is your take on Amirkhan? I said: What about him. You mean his latest interview? I haven’ t given any thought yet. Disappointed, he said: Don’t you know he has set the social media on fire and yet you haven’t even thought about it? I said: Well he merely expressed his opinion. I do not wish to have an opinion on his opinion much less a conclusion? My friend persisted: looks like you are supportive of what he said (another conclusion!). I insisted: No, notwithstanding all the noise in the media, I did not find it necessary to make a snap judgment. I joked, tongue in cheek: Perhaps, you need to blame the antibiotics I am taking for my inability to form an opinion on such an important topic.
My friend looked puzzled. He asked what did antibiotic have to do with this. I replied: I’m taking a course of an antibiotics for my throat infection. I googled for its side effects. It mentions confusion and lack of clear thinking among a long list of the drug’s side effects! Perhaps, when the effect of antibiotics wears off, I may come up with an opinion, conclusions and judgment.

We all make judgments everyday in spite of being taught by social scientists and psychologists that this will cause more harm than good to the society. They keep reminding us that making a judgment on a person doesn’t tell what the person is but reveals who you are. This is because often a personal judgment is accompanied by abuse and violence. But I suspect this trait is perhaps built into our DNA. As Oliver Sacks,a well-known neurologist-turned author points out in his famous book – THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT – abstract thought and categorization are essential characteristic of the way our brain works. However, relating the thoughts to one’s self and making judgment are both necessary for the mind to function. Without this attribute, human mind will perish. This is, perhaps, one of the ways, in which the mind develops personal identity.

Therefore, it turns out that the title of this post is not merely a philosophical statement. This is also a fact of evolution of our species.

If making judgment is a necessary part of our existence as humans, the next stage of human evolution could be to develop mechanisms for making judgments without resorting to abuse and violence. The problems created by the mind cannot be solved at the level of the mind. It has to be solved only by raising above the mind. This is the domain of morality, religion and spirituality. As of now, it is work in progress. Perhaps it’ll take another leap in evolution to make it happen.

Published in: on November 28, 2015 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Is physical pain an emotion and a mental construct?

Feeling physical pain is a universal phenomenon. But I have never found anyone classifying it as an emotion. Read this story to know more about it.

This is an interesting story from a scientific journal about a stuntman by name Rogers, who is considered as the strongest in the world. The guy can lift a car engine with one hand and use the fingertips of the other hand to wrench the spark plugs out. In another act of daredevilry, using his bare hands, he was able to keep two US air force fighter planes from blasting away in different directions.

A scientist from the University of Houston speculated that he was able to recruit and utilize abnormally large number of muscle fibres owing to some freak genetic mutation. Interestingly, Rogers said that he does feel pain and in fact scared of dentists like anyone of us. Narrating a funny incident he said that during one of his stunts he bit down too hard and suffered a half-broken tooth. Instead of taking chances with a dentist, he used his fingers as clamps and extracted the tooth himself from its roots!! He explains why he is scared of dentists: ‘When you sit in front of a dentist, you have absolutely no clue or control over the pain inflicted on you. On the other hand, when you execute the job yourself you are in control and know when to expect pain. I know it’s coming and can choose to ignore it. When I have a job to do I don’t care if it hurts’.

Therefore it’s possible that he also experiences pain like all of us but has been successful in disregarding it when he is in command and knows it’s coming.

According to psychologists, very often we are more frightened than hurt and we suffer more from imagination than from reality. For instance, I’m now living alone since my wife is away in the US with our grand children. I’m alone is a fact but to feel lonely is an imagination and an emotion. It’s an illusion and a perception that doesn’t match the physical reality.

The study concludes significantly that pain is an emotion and a mental construct based on the finding that feeling pain is dependent upon mood, attentiveness and circumstances. People can feel pain for the wrong reasons or fail to experience when it would be reasonable to do so.

The conclusions of the study can lead to interesting solutions to pain management.

Published in: on February 14, 2015 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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