The Sick Rose

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.


William Blake

This poem is a part of William Blake’s Songs of Experience published in 1794. The above image is the hand illustration of the poem as it appeared in the 1794 edition. Though a little one, this poem like Blake’s other works this poem is loaded with meaning. Just give them as the key words and you will find a lot of entries explaining the meaning of the poem. Wikipedia article also gives multiple meanings to the metaphors used in the poem. Some other commentaries are here and here. As is with other things people see things in their own perspective, with the Experience that they have. No wonder that Blake put this poem of his in the Songs of Experience.

[I first read about Blake in the Rama Series by Arthur C Clarke. Blake’s Tyger is recited there, after seeing the vastness of the alien space ship which is named Rama.]

We as humans try to understand the things that we see and experience as a part of the mental structures that already exist in our minds. Cognitively this is the only way in which can survive in this world. Try to imagine a world in which no new things that you see or experience are not a part of what you have in your mind.

With the comments from others apart, Blake produces two strong metaphorical views about the poem in me. These two views share lines of thoughts and they don’t share some. The interpretation that we can do of these lines depends on the view of the world that we have. Everyone tries to look with the experience that they have at back of their mind. No wonder many people don’t agree to what they perceive in literature.

So what are the interpretations that one can make from these lines?
[One thing is for sure, now it does not matter what Blake had in mind when he wrote this poem. The readers now can make their own interpretations, about what Blake had to say, whether he meant the same thing or not is an entirely different matter.]

O Rose, thou art sick!

In this line the word Rose is a metaphor for woman. If we take a closer look at the Rose in the illustration by Blake, we see a feminine figure metamorphosing from the Rose. So the rest of the line would imply that the woman is sick. But what kind of sickness is this?

The invisible worm That flies in the night,
In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy: And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy.

What can be an invisible worm? The invisible worm is the cause of the sickness of the rose. The description that Blake adds is that it flies in the night. One of the interpretations is that the worm is an metaphor for the phallus and the sickness of the Rose that is being referred to is a STD. Another of the interpretation is that the it is the act of losing of the virginity and becoming impregnated. The worm seen in this sense is the phallus. As this happens in the night the worm is seen to be flying in the night. One more interpretation for the invisible worm would be the semen, which “flies” in the night.

The howling storm in the night can very well represent the screams of pleasure or pain. In which the woman is ruined [the life destroyed], as she is now impregnated.

The word crimson is also used metaphorically. It can represent both love and blood. For the color of love is red, and that too a dark one. So is the color of blood. The bed of crimson joy can mean the actual bed where the blood of the virgin has been spilled. The other is the red womb of the woman, which has been impregnated [found] by the invisible worm [sperm].

Another interpretation is that the rose symbolizes love, and the worm but a troubled soul. The worm flying around in the night is a lover long lost but never out of one’s mind. The lines

And his dark secret love,
Does thy life destroy.

May represent lovers who may not have been of actually been together, but a unified by a secret bond. These lines can also be taken to represent a secret lover who has married another. But the love still persists and is taking its toll on the woman, who is now in confusion [howling storm], as the secret lover has now [found] a place deep in her heart [the crimson bed]. Hence the life of the woman due to it [secret lover ] stands to ruin.

These are some of the few interpretations of Blake’s Sick Rose, whether you agree or not it depends on you. Many of the interpretations may seem far fetched, but then Blake is such an author that you need to stretch mentally a bit in order to grasp the depth of his thoughts.

Whatever the interpretations, this is one of the most imagination provoking and concise writing I have come across. Blake makes your imagination run wild and the various scenarios unfold which makes these 8 lines come to life.

I’m not there

I’m not there…
or

I am everywhere?

Recently Samir had strongly recommended me to watch a movie called “I am Not There” and I did not get much time to watch it during the last month [He is so influenced that since he saw the movie, his away status message is “I’m Not There!”]. So finally I saw the movie. Well I did not know anything about the movie what it was about, or rather who it was about. The movie begins with short, seemingly totally disconnected shots, involving different actors and characters in different time scales and settings. This style is continued throughout the entire film. Seemingly the things are unrelated, and you get a feeling that you would probably get if you are watching six different TV channels one after the other. There seems to be no coherence, nothing which links these different stories, as not only the time frames but also the character are different. If this was made in bollywood, I guess all the roles would be played by Kamal Hassan, who has a fetish towards playing many roles in a single film. This I think saves him from trouble of showing his talents in different films as different characters, as he can show them off in just one production.

Anyway let me continue with I’m Not There. But then slowly a pattern emerges, even more subtly. What we are seeing here is just one person, who has different “phases” in life. All of us do, don’t we? We are never the same person, that we were yesterday, our experience does change us. This is the meaning of being a human according to me, if you are unable to change with experience then, what is the use of your cognitive apparatus, whether innate or otherwise? Just acting wise, I loved the kid played by Marcus Carl Franklin as “Woody Guthrie”, a version of the young Dylan. And Cate Blanchett was amazing, if fact I did not recognise her, till the titles came ;). She won the Golden Globe Award for her performance, in addition to several critics awards and was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Academy Award. Photography was good and the music, music is the soul of the movie as it was of Bob Dylan’s life…

But the movie meant more to me than that…


Yes we do have phases in our life, at a certain age we would be very strongly influenced by some philosophy or persona, but this most of the times does not last forever. How many people now say “Michael Jackson is the King of Pop!” In our childhood we have heroes and fantasy characters which we have a liking for, but they fade away with our childhood and its memories. How many things from your childhood you can remember, which you consider now as stupid? This I think applies to the our so called adult phase also, in fact I think we are all just grown up children, don’t we grow up from children? We have different fads in our life and these fads represent our different phases of life. So this movie is really a longitudinal cross section of Bob Dylan’s life, as seen in different perspectives. One person can have different lives, as disconnected as shown in here. This is a longitudinal view of life, in which we can demarcate the different phases, as we can see them.


But I have another question to raise here. The question is similar to the poster above. In fact this poster iconifies the question. How many different lives you can live at the same moment? Don’t get it? I will put it in another way. How many different phases you are currently living in? I am not talking about the past phases or the future phases, but the current phases. The movies shows the phase changes over one’s life time, but what kind of phase chagnes we do in a matter of a week or day or hours? Another important distinction that I want to add is that the phases shown in the movies were linear, by which I mean you cannot go back to earlier phase from a later one. But in our own life we do, do that.

Let me explain, what I mean here. The question is what are you, now? I can distinctly identify many different “me’s” in a days work. I can be a physicist, an astronomer, a biker, a photographer, a naturalist, a cook, an artist, a designer, a bibliophile, an educationist, a teacher, a film critic, a shopper, a philosopher, an idiot, an art critic and fan, a gardener, a mathematician, a lover, a historian, a collector [of various sorts], a writer, a foodie, a rationalist….

ये जो वल्ड है ना वल्ड, ईसमें दो टाईप के लोग होते है. एक जो सारे जिंदगी एकही काम करते है, अौर दुसरे जो एक ही जिंदगी में सारे काम करते है.
ACP दशरथ सिंह, बंटी अौर बबली

All of these are part of my persona, when I look at them from without, I see them as different as they can be, they are many times totally disconnected, yet they form me, they are the part of my own persona. All these different personalities are somehow integrated to form the whole of me. Though each one of them is most of the times distinct, yet the are related. The relation is through me. Many times I feel as if all these different people are living their lives through me, I am only the medium, and have no life of my own. Or is it that I have multiple lives, and living all of them at the same time? How come these different persona’s came to my life? Why I have only these not others? Does this happen with everybody?

How does one interpret all this, in the larger context of life?

Now that I have raised these questions let me tell you my answer to this. You will interpret all of this differently than I have, and I don’t expect you to agree with my PoV here. I guess the next step is to integrate all of these, and have a broader picture of life. That is what you see as a physicist should be intelligible to the other you, who is not a physicist. This is one way of looking at it, but why should we mix them. It is not at all necessary to mix things, people can and do have disconnected lives, don’t they? What commonality do two people working in entirely different conditions have? Is it imperative that they get each others world views?

What do you say?

How many different “you” you can identify in yourself?

What is education?

What do we mean by education?

The word ‘education’ can be derived from one of two latin words or from both. These words are educere, which means ‘to lead out’ or ‘to train’ and educare which means to ‘to train’ or ‘to nourish’. But this etymology does not give us a understanding behind the term itself.
Colloquially it can mean the sort of training that goes in schools, colleges and universities.
We see some meanings by different people who were related to education and philosophy of it.
Mahatma Gandhi
Education is “an all round drawing out of the best in child and man – body, mind, and spirit.”
John Dewey
Education is regarded as the development of “all those capacities in the individual, which will enable him to control his environment and fullfill his possibilities.”
We see that the term education refers to two things: they point to education as the process of development of the individual form infancy to maturity a lifelong process.
J. S. Mill explains it thus:
“Not only does it include whatever we do for ourselves, and whatever is done for us by others for the express purpose of bringing us somewhat nearer to the perfection of our nature; it does more; in its last connotation it comprehends even the indirect effects of things of which the direct purposes are quite different, by laws, by forms of government, by the industrial arts, by modes of social life; nay, even by physical fact, not dependent on human will, by climate, soil and local position. Whatever helps to shape human being, to make the individual what he is, or hinder him form what he is not… is a part of his education.”
This is the wider meaning of the term ‘education’, for the narrower meaning Mill says
“the culture which each generation purposely gives to those who are to be its successors, in order to qualify them for at least keeping up, and if possible for raising the level of improvement which has been attained.”
Now we look at what are the Indian views on education. The Rig Veda [ऋग वेद] regards education as a force which makes the individual self-reliant as well as selfless. The Upanishads [ऊपनिषद] regard the result of education as being more important than its nature, the end-product of education is salvation [निर्वाण].
Panini [पाणिनी] identified as the training one obtains from nature.
Kanada [कानद] considers to be a mean of self-contentment.
Yajanvalaka [याजनवालक] regarded education as a means to the development of character and usefulness in the individual.
While Vivekanand perceived education as the manifestation of divine perfection already existing in man.

“Education should aim at man-making”

By man making it is meant formation of character, increase in power of mind, and expansion of the intellectual capacities.

While Tagore says that education should help the individual child realize in and through education, the essential unit of man and his relationship with the universe – an education for fullness.
The Indian Education Commission of 1966 says:

“Education, according to Indian tradition is not merely a means to earn a living; nor is it only a nursery of thought or a school for citizenship. It is initiation into the life of spirit, a training of human souls in pursuit of truth and practice of virtue. It is a second birth द्वियाम ज्ञानम – education for liberation.”

Past this we now have a look at some Western views on the same.

Plato thought that education should enable one to attain the highest good or God, through pursuit of inherent spiritual values of truth, beauty and goodness.
Aristotle held that education exists exclusively to develop man’s intellect in a world of reality which men can know and understand.
St. Thomas Aquinas considered education to be process of discerning the truth about things as they really are, and to extend and integrate such truth as it is known.
More recently behaviorists consider education as a process of conditioning, of providing stimuli, repetition, rewards and reinforcements. ‘
The social scientists define education as the transmission of cultural heritage – which consists of learned behavior, and includes tangible objects such as tools, clothing, etc. as well as intangible objects such as language, beliefs etc.

“Education is the transmission of knowledge, value and skills of a culture.”

The meaning of the term ‘education’ can be summarily expressed as:
  • A set of techniques for imparting knowledge, skills and attitudes.
  • A set of theories which purport to explain or justify the use of these techniques.
  • A set of values or ideals embodied and expressed in the purposes for which knowledge, skills and attitudes are imparted and so directing the amounts and types of training that is given.
The educational system of any society is a more or less elaborate social mechanism designed to bring about in the persons submitted to it certain skills and attitudes that are judged to be useful and desirable in the society. The gist of all the educational system can be reduced in two questions:
  1. What is held valuable as an end?
  2. What means will effectively realize these ends?
For ordinary day to day working of the society itself makes it necessary for its members to have certain minimum skills and attitudes in common, and imparting these skills is one of the ends of education. This minimum will be different for different societies.
So we see that in the meaning of what education is, is determined by what are the aims of education. Every educational system must have an aim, for having an aim will provide it with a direction, and make the process more meaningful. One of the objectives of education from what we have seen in the definitions above has a connection to the meaning of life, which in turn is connected to philosophy of the person at that time. Thus the aims of education are dependent on the philosophy which is prevalent in society at that time. The aims of any educational system tell us what it is for. The aims determine the entire character of the educational process: curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Just because the aims are not explicitly stated it does not mean that they are absent. They can be both implicit and explicit, and can be embodied in the everyday practices of teachers and students, as well as in the government documents. The printing of aims of education in a document is neither necessary nor sufficient for education to have aims, since documents can be ignored.
Education can have more than one aim, so long as the aims are not mutually incompatible. It is not possible for example to aim to produce citizens who will obey the state unquestioningly and at the same time produce people who will question any proposal that they encounter. Many aims are broadly compatible but there exists certain tension. Partly, it is because some aims can be fully achieved at the expense of others. A society has to agree on the priority of the aims, which it wants its future citizens to have.
A listing of general educational aims is as follows:
  1. To provide people with a minimum of the skills necessary for them [a] to take their place in the society and [b] to seek further knowledge.
  2. To provide them with a vocational training that will enable them to be self-supporting.
  3. To awaken an interest in and a taste for knowledge.
  4. To make them critical.
  5. To put them in touch with and train them to appreciate cultural and moral achievements of mankind.
But are these the normative aims of education or the descriptive ones?
Following Peters [Ethics and Education 1966], the differences between education and other human pursuits are given in three different criterion.
  1. ‘Education’ in its fullest sense, has necessary implication that something valuable or worthwhile is going on. Education is not valuable as a means to a valuable end such as a good job, but rather because it involves those being educated being initiated into activities which are worthwhile themselves, that is, are intrinsically valuable. This is contrasted with training, which carries with it the ideas of limited application and an external goal, that is, one is trained for something for some external purpose, with ‘education’ which implies neither of these things
  2. ‘Education’ involves the acquisition of a body of knowledge and understanding which surpasses mere skill, know-how or the collection of information. Such knowledge and understanding must involve the principles which underlie skills, procedural knowledge and information, and must transform life of the person being educated both in terms of the general outlook and in becoming committed to the standards inherent in the areas of education. To this body of knowledge and understanding must be added ‘cognitive perspective’ whereby the development of any specialism, for example in science, is seen in the context of the place of this specialism in a coherent life pattern.
  3. The process of education must involve at least some understanding of what is being learnt and what is required in learning, so we could not be ‘brain washed’ or ‘conditioned’ in to education.
Well this is really an incoherent attempt to list out things that I have read about education? So far all the philosophers that I have read appear to give a normative meaning of education i.e. to say they tell us “What education ought to be…” Thus they give us what according to their philosophical outlook is the ‘normal’ version of education. But what I am interested in is the descriptive version; “How actually things are…” The more I look and think about the current educational system the more I think it has deviated from the aims of these great thinkers. Thus the descriptive version will tell us how much this deviation is, and also whether it is for good?

Truth about life…

What is the reality in life? You don’t know, I wonder who does. But the fact remains that nobody dies virgin, everyone gets fucked up in their lives. Be it a saint or a sinner everyone is fucked up. But most of the people who are content with their lives do not even realize this, they think they are above this rule, in reality they are ones who are the most screwed.

So be it, what I find problematic and recently I have found the sort of perfect word for this is pseudogiri, people are living a pseudo life, they are sticking to ideals which are in no way real or have anything close to reality. When we want to discuss things about a particular practice the fundamentals are never questioned, they remain the untouchables. They cannot be thought of questioned about, they cannot be argued against. They are there, so they are and yo have to live with them…

Bonding with Things?

What do mean when somebody says they don’t understand? Everybody understands. What people fail to understand is the `other’. By the `other’ I mean thinking about thinking i.e. meta thinking. We fail to understand what the other people are trying to tell from `their’ perspective. Whatever we see or hear the perspective is always ours. This is a sort of filter that is very difficult to let go. Most of us don’t even realize this, because we are not able to think beyond this, without this. For most of us there is no other way in which we can know about things, think about people and objects…

Many people are not happy with me being bonded to the tools of technology. They ask how can you have feelings for a dead and inanimate object like your bike or computer or books? Instead of loving living things how can you love things which cannot return your feelings or appreciation?

But my experience has been different, maybe this is my bias for things which I like. But then everybody of us has some or the other bias, only difference is mine is not what the majority has…

I am like that…

I cannot do without loving things which I use, unlike people who just `use’ them but don’t `love’ them. Maybe these people do this for humans also they just `use’ them but not `love’ them….

And it is these people who call me techo-freak…

What I think is these people are inherently incapable of loving anybody let alone anything…

So when they see me caring about `inanimate’ things they become uncomfortable at this thought or loving things of caring about them because it is totally alien to them, to their thought process… And this is what they even don’t realize, they are judging their inability to care or love about people with my bonding with things…