Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A Divided Self

I was walking from university’s library to prayer hall for Asr prayer when something came across my mind. What if, we can model a development structure for an individual based on a country or a state? What I really mean by this is that, we can take a macro view of the whole world, model it and try shrinking the model to fit our needs.

Individual can be viewed as a unity of divided individuals. Perhaps, we are actually a split of personalities with vastly different motives and aims (Thomas Schelling 1968). These objectives are always in conflict with each other. We can see it, from another point of view, as if they are members of a parliament. Every time there is a crucial decision that is going to be made, motions are tabled and debated. The members of the parliament can be divided into two groups; rational and irrational. The rational camp focus more on the long term consequences of every action and it tends to be more of the positive sides. Whereas, the irrational mob devote their energy into persuading the “king" to accept its “fantastically fun” but short term proposals. We can categorize this one as the negative part of our soul.

However, the number of rational and irrational individuals in ourselves can vary from time to time depending on mood, intake of drug or alcohol, cigarette etc, age, education, experience and so on.

Let us take another look at Plato’s analogy of the ship in Book VI of Plato’s Republic. According to the analogy, the mass of the people was the uneducated bunch. In other way, individuals might perhaps were right or wrong but as a whole they were always wrong. Even the captain of the ship was not the best navigator for the ship. According to Plato, the best leader should be the philosopher, for he was the one who was able to influence the masses who were basically mere ignorant fools. There was a group of sailors which had immense influence on the captain to do things according to their wills. In this analogy, Plato said that the powerful faction did actually realize that there were other sailors who were more capable than the captain in taking helm of the ship, but they just refused to acknowledge the fact because their huge power was at stake. Plato further said that, the philosopher had a very important job to do, that was to educate the masses. Because only through widespread education of the whole lot, democracy of the ship can actually lead to something good.

Therefore, we can see ourselves as the ship, and our mind as the captain of the ship. The philosopher is our brain, and the powerful group is the set of desires which characterize ourselves. Our mind is prone to the voluminous desires that are very powerful indeed. That is just how we are naturally made. We have desires to eat, drink etc but where should we draw the line? Where indeed the border should be set? There is nobody to dictate our actions because God gave us “free will" so that we can actually think for ourselves. Atheist or Theist? Shall we all not think? What say you, huh?

Human is composed of physical and mental parts. The mental part is consisted of numerous individuals, each and everyone of them trying to dominate and control the “king”( read: mind). So according to Plato, the best thing that we can do to improve things, is to educate the masses, which necessarily means to educate our inner senses and desires. All desires are in dire need of education, at least until we are able to endure temperance and moderation in all of our modes of consumption. We should be learning more and more as we grow older and wiser, not otherwise. As George Santayana famously said:

When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual.
Indeed human is unique, for God have made us so special in every single realization of His creation. For God have made us to think, and gave us the “free will” not to disobey Him, but to differentiate between the “whites" and the "blacks" and to think deeply more and more about the "greys”. May this will somehow, someday mean something for someone who is willing to see, beyond what is there to be seen. Amen.

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