A Little Twist Betwixt

Ye, of little faith…

Understanding is Dangerous

A fabulous piece of writing. And thought.

Khawaja asks that we pause over this editor’s phrasing—a phrasing so familiar it might pass us by. She asks us to think about what it can mean not to intend offense. Using the writings of a Kierkegaard, Khawaja demonstrates that the editor is showing a failure of understanding in this moment. As Khawaja says, cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad cannot be absolved of creating the possibility of offending. They offend precepts central to Islam. Certain practices of apparently secular freedom or reason are, by the very definition of their secularity, offensive. Kierkegaard asks us to understand offense not as a sign that something wrong has happened, but as an indication the truth is beginning to be identified. In our effort to avoid the hurt that offense produces, we may also avoid the foundational claims exposed in its production. “The point is simple but astonishing,” Khawja writes. “Being a Christian means not to reject the world but to employ the world—indeed, actually to need the world—as that toward which one’s conduct may be understood as offensive.” Kierkegaard says that being Christian is itself a posture of offense toward the world. Although the word “Christian” is especially important to Kierkegaard in that sentence, Khawaja’s demonstrates the extent to which secularism represents another idiom of the same form.

Map Porn


I love what Ed Fairburn does with maps.

The Anti-Library


That’s what is left of it. Gave away about three quarters of what I had accumulated over twenty some years. What would I do with what I have read and internalised? I rarely ever go back…

Apparently, Umberto Eco had this thing … on unread books:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

From here.


Viral Fever

Fake News is an Old Problem

I find this extremely reassuring. And, somehow, not surprising at all.

Used to tell myself that this is how we learn in any case, at least things of such nature – ‘Only when you fall for it will you learn what not to fall for’. So, this latest iteration of the technological revolution will spawn this for some time, till we suffer as a consequence of what we choose and do better. The invention of the Gutenberg Press was followed by some of the worst religious wars all across Europe. And then came the Enlightenment.

There’s an interesting perspective here…

The Gutenberg Parenthesis: Thomas Pettitt on parallels between the pre-print era and our own Internet age

What’s happening now is there’s a breakdown in the categories. Yes. Informal messaging is starting to look like books. And books are being made more and more quickly. Some books seem to be like they are like bound photocopies. You can make a book — you can do desktop publishing. We can no longer assume that what’s in — we’re not distinguishing so much: ‘if it’s in a book, it’s right,’ ‘if it’s in writing, it’s less right,’ and ‘if it’s in speech, it’s less reliable.’ We don’t know where we are.

A curious point came up the other week. Was talking to someone about education and I said, as I hold, that the primary function of education is to develop the ability to discriminate. The person asked if I meant ‘discern’. I knew why I was choosing to use the word I did – it speaks more positively, more forcefully and implies an action of some sort, but could not really justify it.

So, this is what Google offers up:



Another source indicates the first is related to picking something up with the senses. It does not convey the flavor of ‘recognize a distinction; differentiate’.

Ultimately (Yeah! I know), I guess it would be being able to tell the good apart from the bad. (Okay. I don’t want to get into arguments about what is good and what is bad here. Let’s leave it at school level and what we, generally, expect from them).


The Art of Seduction

No. I don’t want to talk about seduction. Or sex.

Words. And WTF we say.

She is supposedly struggling for the mot juste and then does this:

According to Tantra, according to ‘high’ philosophy, sexual energy the ‘highest’ form of energy in the world…to harness it is to generate the ‘ultimate’ form of ‘power’

WTF does it even mean?

What is ‘low’ philosophy? As a physicist, I’m kind of used to thinking in terms of ‘more’ or ‘less’ energy. What is ‘highest’ form of energy? Why would you even classify the energy you feel (which is what I assume she is referring to) in relation to another as higher or lower?

And – this word really bugs me – WTF is ‘ultimate’ form of power?

The mind boggles. Boggles. Yes.


I never seriously thought about why I am so sensitive to my environment – to what I am doing, what, how and why. Till now. I kind of get it now.

Sync-fail jars me. Totally. Royally screws me over.

Cannot rest. Cannot breathe till I get it back. Fortunately, I find something or the other to pay attention to – which kind of restores sync.

What would I do if the failure persisted? No matter what I did or tried?

Hmm…I guess, I would turn to this poser from Camus:

“There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide

Look what I found!

So this digression on ‘Flow’ yesterday, had me searching a bit for stories of those, like me, who routinely enter this state. It’s the default state of being, in a manner of speaking.

Apparently, they have a name for this kind of personality.


Who woulda thunk?

From here:

With enough psychic energy free to observe and analyze their surroundings objectively, they have a better chance of discovering in them new opportunities for action. If we were to consider one trait a key element of the autotelic personality, this might be it. Narcissistic individuals, who are mainly concerned with protecting their self, fall apart when the external conditions turn threatening. The ensuing panic prevents them from doing what they must do; their attention turns inward in an effort to restore order in consciousness, and not enough remains to negotiate outside reality.

What do you know?

I don’t get belief. I really don’t.

I cannot fathom why you would want to believe something about which you can definitively know – one way or the other. Or at least find out that you cannot ever know. In which case, you let it escape from your universe. To never return.

Talking to the epistemologically challenged – such as those that choose to ‘believe’, I get my kicks out of giving them a little dose of dissonance. It is such a pleasure to see them double down on their beliefs. I love to see their eyes when this happens. Squirming under sudden cognitive load.

The worst are those that bind their ‘identities’ with what they believe in.



From childhood’s hour I have not been 
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—
~ Edgar Allan Poe

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