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lundi 28 novembre 2011

Experimental Philosophy of Everyday Life

Experimental Philosophy of Everyday Life
Following closely the real life adventures in Thought Experiments of my dear friend MC-a mixture of self-realization, applied psychology and Philosophy-I wanted to delve more into the realm of Philosophy in everyday life.
Two prominent findings stood out:
1.           Most of the personal conflicts are self-made or man-made and the person confirms it by their self-made or imagined justifications.
2.           Most people do not wish to do anything about it, find reasons not do so or follow charlatan advice that reinforces their reluctance, at times adding an exotic note.
The story of a man who was walking with a stone in his shoes all his life, as explained by the Philosopher Counsellor Dr Lou Merinoff is a good illustration of the latter finding and the former finding is contrary to many of the Mental Health professional’s idea of why personal conflicts rise.
A good woman friend of mine, who lives in Teheran, Iran, sent me a link to an Iranian website where educated men posed nude in their blogs, as a protest in a country where women are subjected to extreme violence regarding the exhibition of their bodies, also to demonstrate that the beauty of something being exhibited is not in the object itself but in your thoughts, how you interpret it.
Without context, things have no meaning, I thought to myself. Having lived in countries known for its freedom: Australia, Sweden, UK and USA with forays into the closed political systems of Cuba and Burma, the photographs did not appear to be beautiful to me, appeared somewhat rude. Whereas photos of young women being hoarded into police vans by stern looking head to toe covered policewomen appeared very violent.
This is where the Experimental Philosophy or its use as a counselling tool comes in handy.
The photos themselves are not inherently bad, but my interpretation attaches values to them. Sounds very yogic as well, this western idea of experimental philosophy.
So what we call our “core values” can be seen to be influenced by context: time, distance, lack of awareness, ignorance among others.

Something to think about on this Sunday morning under grey skies in Paris but not an unpleasant day expected.
Regarding the man who has a stone in his shoes, IF he requests your help, if he is ready to accept your help, you should ask him to take the stone out of his shoes!
Those who are interested in reading about Knobe effect, please refer to  ScientificAmerican/nov2011/knobe

vendredi 25 novembre 2011


I have been visiting USA on a regular basis, continuing my long standing association with the Native Indian populations. I try not to spend any of their public holidays there since it interferes badly with travel plans within that country.
One holiday the americans seem to hold in great respect and love is the Thanksgiving Holiday. I have had the chance of being there only once, when I arrived in Miami from London without realizing it was Thanksgiving only to face near famine with all the restaurants closed and the people extremely happy in their family reunions and consumption of turkeys..
Also I knew that many of the traditional Indians were not in the habit of celebrating this particular holiday even though as they become assimilated Turkeys are entering their lives too...Until Quiet recently Colombus Day was nationally celebrated and the American Indians for the right reasons have refused to celebrate that day and tribal offices are not closed on that day while the USA govt offices are usually closed on that day.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving day in America. I am in Paris and of course there is no discourse of the turkey here. I called my Kickapoo sister at the Mexico/Texas Border to see how things are. 
Are you celebrating today?, I asked.
No turkey for me on this Invasion Day, she laughed. I had never heard Thanksgiving Day mentioned as Invasion Day and here you are, another view of the world.

jeudi 24 novembre 2011

Advance Australia Fair.. not for the Pommies it looks like

Increasing number of British Migrants are leaving Australia to go HOME! Something like this would have been unheard of when we were growing up..What has happened? Has Oz gone sour? No, Not at all.. A huge number of Brits left Australia last year, 9000 in all, and it has been increasing by the year...
Family and Friends are the main reasons given.. 
Modern Jet Age travel has brought Oz closer to Europe. A three week journey on P and O ships in the 1960s has been reduced to 30 hours on Qantas, BA and the Gulf Airlines with a stop in DXB or AbuDhabi etc...
Still it is a long way and more importantly is the feeling that you are on the other side of the world.
I once thought of living in Honolulu so that I can work both in Australia and USA but it did not turn out to be practical. There was someone I knew who lived in Melbourne and commuted to his work in San Francisco on a regular basis. Five times a year to Oz was the best I could manage from Europe or YanquiLand..
Australia is a modern country with all that is First World, with an European culture to boot. 
As a young man living in Australia, I asked myself the question, why is that all the literati or intellectuals and artists from Australia live overseas? A phenomenon I was later to encounter in the West Indies as well...The small number of people concentrated in just five cities does not allow for greater intellectual exchange and we have inherited a staid system of seniority from whom else but the Pommies! (I clearly remember being told that as a Junior Doctor I was not allowed to participate in the Journal Club of the Hospital, whereas as a visiting student at Miami Medical School, I often was invited to present papers at their Journal Club!)
Family and Friends are indeed a great draw. If the Brits feel strongly what about the hundreds and thousands of Malaysians, Singaporeans, Filipinos and Indians feel in Australia. In a recent article on a Business Journal, a dutch consultant had written that Asians while fitting in superficially find it hard to work well within the Culture of their recipient countries with European Culture. Add to that fact, money conscious Asians may find Australia one of the costliest place to live, since Sydney and Melbourne always top the list of expensive places to live in the world, even though they are also included in the most comfortable places to live in this world..
I feel sad for Cubans, who are strongly attached to their families who have to migrate for economic reasons to Germany for example. No wonder Cuban emigrants regularly return home, some every six months or so from Europe, because only in Cuba can one have that fundamentally Cuban life: affection, warmth, music and dance.. who cares about the food as long as we share what we have!
I always like to listen to the announcements made by flight attendants as the plane is about to land: those who live here, welcome HOME and for visitors, welcome and enjoy your time here.....
So it is, with Australia..

mardi 22 novembre 2011


Fieldwork in Immersion Philosophical Counselling

The reality of Cuba is to be experienced and understood and not enjoyed only from the comforts of a hotel or a beach resort, the kind you could have in RD or Jamaica. In the experienced reality, the rich fibre of this country and also the qualities of the every day people shine forth.
In the first 36 hours of being here, I did not move from the house, we began chatting and each day they extended to 12 hours or more of talking.
Chicken Fish Yellow Rice Soft Drinks Fruit Juice the Cuban version of croissant, which tastes very similar to the Miami one, these are what physically sustained us.
Thus one enters the reality of the world of Ideas that exist in Cuba at a higher level that one can experience in Miami or most of the cities in Latin America, with the exception of Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo or Mexico City.
What is the role of Philosophy here? Especially when the politics is dogmatic and the government is not flexible enough to meet the demands of the people?
The emotional conflicts that one goes through as in any other country, has to be resolved here in a different manner. Psychology and Psychiatry has its place and in its appropriate place they help the people by the thousands, by counselling and also by medications. The fact that Cubans are very prone to taking medications is a psychological fact, of living under an ideology with which they may have conflicts of flexibility.
In a highly educated population such as the Cubans in the island (highest level of postgraduate education in the Americas), opening the minds about the possibilities of thoughts outside the prescribed one and also the experienced one, can liberate oneself.
This is where the fundamentals of Philosophy, taken from the Western Philosophers, American Indian philosophy, the Raja Yoga and Yoga sutras of Patanjali and Dalai Lama and the Burmese observances of Buddhism, comes in very useful. I am normally opposed to mixing cultural phenomenon, a bit of this and  a bit of that , especially among the New Age Practitioners who play indian tabla, do Tai Chi, African herbal medicine and put in a bit of Crystal gazing .  These are processes without deep meanings and without the understanding of the deep meaning ( Clifford Geertz about Bali) and context (Maurice Merleau-Ponty), ideas or things have very little meaning and thus very little influences on your well being. The best and most famous example is the misuse of the world YOGA for the multitudes of practices especially in the West and now entering China of all places.
What did we talk about? In these effortless conversations for hours?
To make people feel comfortable in the space that they feel they are in now, especially those who are looking for a change so that they can feel relieved of the stresses of their conflicts.
When looking through the Philosophical lens, the hardships of every day life in Cuba appears in a different light, in fact, all thinking Cubans (there are many of that kind here in La Habana) agree that it is that very same hardships and understanding them that has given them some of the best humanistic characteristics. Visitors who leave the island without understanding Solidarity among the Cuban population, miss out on an opportunity to understand one of the most important human behavioural factors of the latter half of the 20th century.
So my  stay has begun well. And laid the foundation for the conversations to come, with colleagues in the fields of Psychology and also those who seek advice about adjusting well to the emerging Cuba, and about Love and other Demons (pardon me, Gabo)..

The Delights of Being in CUBA...

It is 1 AM in the morning and we have just finished our conversations, covering a myriad of subjects and the entire world. We had begun around 10 am this morning, though lunch and dinner with occasional silence, we have carried through our conversations.
The superficial reality is easy to understand but hard to live by, but even harder is the other reality, in which your mind and your soul and your spirit, at times hoping to survive in the earlier reality.
Young women unable to be independent, becoming co dependent on men who are mature enough to handle that responsibility,
11 AM
I had barely woken up, when the telephone rang. In Cuba, the telephone is an important instrument and in my opinion, slightly overused. But I cannot imagine being here unable to contact friends near and far within Cuba, as other forms of communication or transport is not readily accessible. I am truly enjoying this vacation from Internet and thus taking care of the anxiety of wanting to check your email as well as surfing the net for latest news and other not so necessary information.
Good Morning, said the voice, I am in between two meetings, and I will drop by your house in ten minutes. I had to get ready quickly and be ready to welcome Mr C. A erstwhile Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia.
This is the beauty of Cuba and the value Cubans place on friendships. During the months of November and December, it is a very busy time at the Foreign Ministry and days are full of planning and meetings. The fact that he slipped off to come and see a friend whom he has met in KL, shows the integrity of Cubans. I cannot think of anywhere else in the world, where an Ambassador would take time off in between two meetings, get into the car and drive a few minutes and come and visit a friend.
Nice chat and recollections of our time together in KL and also about our mutual friend MC who is now in the process of becoming a Philosophical Counsellor. We talked about various embassies and people we know in common, from HoChiMinh City to Tarawa. I was interested to hear that Cuba had a project in New Zealand to educate Maoris using the system successful in Cuba and Latin America of Alphabetization. Imagine! A small poor country in the Caribbean helping a rich country on the other side of the earth.
Here lies the essence of the humanitarian aid that Cuba gives to others. What political benefit is to educate the Maoris to read and write ? and all these are not publicized to gain notoriety for the regime. Why is that a Cuban ambassador is one of the three ambassadors resident in Tarawa, Kiribati, coordinating the efforts of Cuban doctors and the local island students studying Medicine in Cuba?
This aspect of humanitarian aid, not something with a string attached, is one of the myriads of Cuban life that  I am very proud of….
I look forward to a dinner with the ambassador and his family on my next visit to La Habana and present myself to the Embassy in KL with my friend MC to meet the new ambassador to Malaysia..

lundi 21 novembre 2011


How does a society affect the character of individuals in that society, such that he or she excels in human characteristics and not exhibit qualities of competition, greed or envy?
Come to Cuba, live with the Cubans for a little while and you would understand. The Journalists who visit this country only talk about the privations (mainly material ones) but the human aspects of Cuba are not newsworthy.
These very same souls would listen intensively to HH Dalai Lama who would say: External Things will not bring you Internal Happiness.
In the past two days, there has been an ambience in the house full of visitors, mainly friends from previous shared times of joy, knowledge and laughter.
Sharing is something Cubans do so well. Since there is a dearth of material goods to share, what is an abundance, the emotions and affections are shared freely. And at the same time the welfare of the group is well attended in ways that is appropriate and congruous.
Three visitors from the Psychology Department of the institute of Endocrinology came to visit: a treasury of knowledge and affections and a genuine feeling of friendship. Hours passed in conversations and continued over a pleasant lunch at La Roca, a restaurant in Vedado.
Many telephone calls to Baracoa, where a whole heap of affections awaited. Was good to be able to talk to them, as communications with Baracoa is not the best, depending upon the weather. A fourth year medical student, wanted a scarf like mine, but I couldn't part with the one I was wearing, a memento of a visit to a Cambodian NGO in Phnom Penh. So I decided to go and look through the various bags and was glad to find a “bufanda” fit enough to send to Baracoa.
A visitor from Baracoa had come here, constant counselling and talking and participating in the every day life of this household, with great generosity of the owner, a retired professor, began to show improvements in her mind and the body. I loaded up various bags of goodies to go to Baracoa to be shared among my many friends.
When it came time for her to leave for Baracoa, today at noon, it was tears all around, and we had lunch in relative silence. Soon a fourth year Philosophy student who is doing a thesis related to medical anthropology arrived with his professor, a colleague of mine of many years. We talked for the next two hours clarifying about culture and disease. Intense though the conversation was, it was sheer pleasure, to give to Cuba a fraction of what it has given me.
Cuba has allowed me to be myself, and enhanced that which I cherish in myself.

mardi 8 novembre 2011

Together to Control Diabetes TEAM UP of the HOCANK Tribe

with visiting Lecturer, Darryl Tonemah, who talked about Psychological aspects of chronic Disease like Diabetes. seen also in the picture are HoCanks, Fred Harden and Chris Grezlik. This two day event where 25 Indian patients are invited to attend and under  a relaxing atmosphere at a hotel in the nearby town, education of various sorts are carried out. This year it was decided to talk about Spirituality and Psychology rather than the usual Physiology and Pharmacology of Diabetes. My own conference would be on Learn from our Ancestors, in which I plan to bring together the Native American Wisdom, Jewish Philosophy(my ancestors) and the Yogic Philosophy of Patanjali and other well known philosophers among them HH The Dalai Lama of Tibet.

dimanche 6 novembre 2011


shows two scientific studies published in two leading medical journals in the USA! But let me explain...
When I became interested in the Yoga Philosophy of Ancient India, I also became aware of the "New Age" Yoga of the west, people who call themselves full time or part time Yoginis, who set up shop to prey upon people who are gullible enough to believe that Yoga is superior to a wholesome lifestyle change.
Look at this headline from Canada..

Ganja Yoga classes open in Toronto

If you google  Kayak and Yoga, you would see so many outfits offering Kayaking as well as Yoga, snow yoga, hot yoga, dog yoga... a combination of many forms, combining ancient rituals from various cultures such as Shamanic Yoga..
I also watched with interest the documentary Enlighten Up, showing the quest of many foreigners: usually white women with middle class to upper middle class backgrounds and income who "practise" Yoga and also become teachers at any one of the thousands of Yoga Institutes now spreading all over the world, including China.. Indian Yuppies have not followed this path since Yoga is not practised much by Indians, the birth place of Yoga and mecca for lost souls and those seeking Nirvana from the west!
ah well..
this skepticism led me to read about Yoga as practiced in the west and also the philosophy that is written down in treatises like Yoga Sutra by Patanjali. In general, Raja Yoga is good for you but that is Yoga with Mindfulness..
Those of you wanting to know about the philosophy of Yoga, please purchase a copy of Yoga Sutra by Patanjali or listen to video lectures about Raja Yoga on YouTube or get yourself a knowledgeable person who can explain what Raja Yoga entails.
As Dr Yogendra of the Yoga Institute has said: If the mind is confused, no amount of Asanas and Meditation is going to help you.. and it is estimated that only one or two out of the 100 foreigners who study Yoga in India would eventually understand and practice Yoga as it should be.. 
As a Practicing Physician, I know that Yoga Philosophy is a wholistic and ancient mother of philsophies for personal development and prevention of the diseases. It is useful in many of the common chronic conditions, such as Ischaemic Heart Disease, Diabetes, Hypertension and Low back pain, but the Yoga that is beneficial should include an understanding of its philosophy. In Yoga Sutra, there are nearly 200 verses of advice and only two deal with Asanas or postures..
The way Yoga is being pracitsed in the west, even small towns such as Sioux City Iowa or Bellingham Washington have multiple "Yoga Studios".. but they are akin to Gyms but catering to the acceptable fancies of a certain sector of the population: Female, White and with an income more than 40.000 usd. This form of Yoga is not without benefits. Both scientific studies published in the span of two weeks show that Yoga as good as Stretching exercises and more beneficial than just self care or ordinary care.
So before you sign up and pay up front for that 20 one hour sessions of Yoga whether in Surabaya or Seattle, remember, you get what you pay for...You would be taught an exotic form of stretching!!  By the way Naked Yoga is popular among MEN whereas as Hatha Yoga and Hot Yoga are more popular among women in the west... ah well..

I recommend:
sold at

I like to read (and re read) Yoga Sutra by Patanjali with annotated notes by Dr Yogendra of Yoga Institute of Santa Cruz, Bombay in India.
University of York in UK
Study not supported by any drug company.

The above study was done in Seattle.

The study above demonstrated that at 6,12,26 weeks Yoga was no better than conventional stretching to relief back pain or decrease the consciousness of the pain.
The earlier study mentioned did make note of the fact that Mindfulness did add to the relief when it is added to Yoga Practice.
The same was confirmed by the study at York University.