Notes on Humility

Humility is one of the many mysteries of Humanity. It is one of those elusive ideas that are difficult to describe yet almost intuitive to understand. Everyone has a basic understanding of it, But when asked what it is, few are able to answer. Recently, I was in that difficult position. I was searching for words, a means to communicate, what exactly it means to be humble. And to tell the truth, I probably wouldn’t understand my own answer if I was the questioner… So, here I try to rectify the issue. This is by no means a definitive guide, just some thoughts gathered from here and there… Some, my own.

The general idea of Humility

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” – C. S. Lewis

As usual, Lewis right on the mark! People have a general misconception that humility is about thinking of yourself as inferior. Maybe inferior to your own self. How can a person be inferior or less that who he actually is? Less than what God made him? Believing such a thing would be not be humility but believing a lie.

The secret of humility is in forgetting the self. It is when you begin to forget yourself you become humble. It is because pride can not operate if you do not think about yourself. Pride craves glorification of your self. Pride compares everything with self. And finally, pride deceives the self. If you look at those sentences, you can easily see that it’s the thoughts regarding your self that are primary means (and the end) of pride. So, to eliminate pride, stop thinking about your self.

Humility in Prayer

“You should be humble when you pray.” That’s something I have heard a lot. I haven’t found any verse in the bible that specifically and clearly instructs this, but I know this to be sound advice. Because anyone can see the obvious problem with, “You should be proud when you pray”. So, instead of arguing upon the validity of the advice, let’s focus on what it means.

I see humility in prayer as this. Forget yourself. And more importantly, forget your own ideas of God. Sometimes, in prayer we paint ourselves as the lowest of all creatures… even as worms. And then, we go on saying how great God is. As if we can ever understand or capture his greatness in words or even abstract ideas. This I see as capturing God in a box. If continued for some time, it can take a form of limiting God. For sometimes we do not allow ourselves to pray to God, instead we pray to our ideas of God. At length, the idea of God becomes an idol.

So, in prayer one must avoid lengthy descriptions of God or your own self. For prayer is a conversation and when you converse with your friend, you do not describe who he is or who you are. You just converse. In the same way, in prayer, converse with God. Come to him as you are, accept him as he comes to you. No moderation is needed.

Humility at Large

“Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.” – G. K. Chesterton

That’s some perspective upon perspective. Chesterton was a master of meta-perspective. But what does the statement really say? Do you consider yourself a mountain of self achievement or are you the child that looks at his elders with admiration and love, all the while dreaming the dream of being like them. If you are former, you will only see small people, almost like insects, going about their work from the window of your top floor office. But if you are the latter, then you will see the wealth of wonders all around you.

It is a quality of humility to look outside. Pride only looks inside. And if you ever want to have friends, if you ever want to help others, you must look outside. Although the idea of “seeing the bigger picture” may be classified in some different category of classifications, one can not do it without humility. A proud man is often blinded by his own flashes of light.

A single thread in a tapestry
Through its color brightly shine
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design

The Pride of Humility

It is the one last thing that jumps into my mind every time I think about pride and humility. A danger lies in the process of “humbling yourself”. Whenever you “humble yourself” you need to check if this exercise of humility is feeding your own ego. Enlarging your pride because you are humble!

“In reality there is perhaps not one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself…For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.” – Benjamin Franklin

Technology! I will (selectively) ignore thee…

Warning: This is a rant. It’s not meant to make sense so if it doesn’t, don’t ask me. Also, it’s possible that you might loose your sanity reading this. If that happens, I take no responsibility.

For quite some time now, I’ve been successfully containing a brain explosion. This post probably is just a way to for my brain to let loose some of the pressure. What’s the pressure is about? Well, it’s technology! This is a very exciting time to live in. There is so much going on in the world of technology that there isn’t enough time to comprehend it. And that’s why my brain is going to explode!

Everyday, I set sail on the high seas of the internets and wander aimlessly following links that demand clicks through text that seems so alluring. There on different shifting sands of text and moving pictures I see electric cars, talking glass and stranger things. Visions beyond my dreams. Sometimes I wonder, am I awake or in a dream, for the world seems clothed with artificial lights. When will the sun dawn? When will the night end?

But then, I know that I’m not dreaming. How? Don’t ask. I’m not dreaming and I’m not mad! But the world doesn’t make sense. Take me to Google and show me how simple it is seek out the secret of a gleaming star. But, how can I know that by which I know? How does Google work? That is the mystery. Held in secrecy. Incomprehensible. Not because it’s too difficult or secret, but because it’s too big! This arcane piece of engineering serves millions daily. Of these millions, I am one. And recently, at Google I/O there was more mana added into that mystic soup that makes Google tick.

That reminded me of this: “Look at you, hacker. A pathetic creature of meat and bone, panting and sweating as you run through my corridors. How can you challenge a perfect, immortal machine?” That’s what comes to mind when I look at Google.

Of course, many people use Google’s services daily and don’t think about it. And that’s alright. Nothing wrong with it. But I can’t do it because that’s my field. I need to know about the happenings of the industry I work. (Although the option remains to grow a long beard, take up lisp programming and become a hermit) The industry is growing way too fast.

There is low level system programming and then there are giant pieces of arcanum like google search. All programmers work somewhere between this spectrum. Nowadays new programmers begin their journey for enlightenment somewhere between these two extremes. Supposing that all the technologies of present can be conceived as a giant pole of which one end is low level system programming and highest being the cutting edge research and things that google does, a programmer’s job is something like rope walking using our hypothetical pole as a balance pole.

But the problem is, this particular pole is shrinking at one end and rapidly growing at the other. Low level system programming is very slowly being eaten by the hardware beneath it and on the other hand new technologies come about in existence with the violence and swiftness of a wildfire. So, a programmer not only has to walk a tight rope, but he also has to constantly change the place at which he grips the pole to keep it balanced. And not to mention, with the length increase, the weight also increases…

But enough about senseless metaphors that make no sense whatsoever. Bottom line is, way too many things are happening in the world of technology that it’s not feasible to keep track of all of it. And reaching this conclusion is difficult for me because I’m an eat it all kinda guy. I want to know it all.. but it seems that I no longer have time. Not here. Not now. So, I’m going to listen to the old adage “Ignorance is a bliss” and ignore what’s not important and focus on what is.

The Knowledge of Good and Evil – The First Temptation

Since I wrote my last post on the topic of the Fear of the Lord, something’s been bugging me. In that post, there is one topic that I have left untouched and upon that very topic, I have based my reasoning. I have stated that, “You should obey the Lord, when you don’t know what is right and what is wrong.”. This statement assumes at least some knowledge about what is right and what is wrong. Where does this knowledge come from? This, I have not addressed.

How can I know what is good and what is evil? I will address that question later. But for now, let’s go back to genesis and look at that unfortunate event that sent the whole world into disarray. As Eve was walking in that blessed garden of Eden, she unintentionally wandered too close to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It wasn’t a significant event, as I’m sure that she would’ve waked past that tree countless times. But this time, something was different. She heard a serpent calling her. She responded. And the snake had one of the most intriguing proposition. As I read the words of this most preposterous utterance, I’m amazed that how can anyone tell so many lies in such a short sentence and still sound convincing?

But the serpent said to the woman, You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:4-5)

With this simple statement, the devil accomplished two things.

  1. He sow the seeds of the very pride in the heart of humanity that had been the instrument of his own downfall.
  2. He laid the foundation of all the vanities of man that are based on lies.

Let me explain what these two things mean. The devil begins by saying that when God said that you will die, he was telling a lie. Actually, you won’t die. The reason God was telling a lie is because he is afraid. In fact, if you eat the fruit of this tree, you will become like him. He doesn’t want you to be like him. All powerful, all knowing. That’s why he has told you not to eat the fruit of the tree. That’s what the devil says to Eve.

Now if you take that statement and look at it under a microscope, you won’t find a single thread of truth in it. You will not surely die? A plain lie. (Although Eve did not immediately die, in the sense as we normally perceive death, that is a topic for another essay) Your eyes will be opened? Nonsense. My eyes are already open and I can see plenty fine, thank you. I will be like God? I’m already like God. He made me this way. You will know good and evil? I already know what is good. And why in the nine hells would I ever want to know evil?

If that’s so plain to see, then why couldn’t Eve see through the deception? Pride. It blinds you. If you begin to see, it binds you. The devil was playing with her pride as an independent sentient being. Independence and freedom. Two of the many invaluable gifts that her creator had bestowed upon her. And pride is a possible by-product of the mixture of these two. That pride once blinded the archangel Lucifer and led to his downfall into the infernal lake of fire. That same pride also blinded Adam and Eve from seeing the truth, which consequently corrupted a perfect world.

But that wasn’t the only thing that the devil accomplished. Leveraging on the opportunity of having sown the seeds of pride in the heart of humanity, the devil told a lie and made it look like a truth. The devil made the fruit of the tree of good and evil desirable when in fact it was the most useless fruit in the whole garden. The fruit certainly had a purpose as I have pointed out earlier, but it was not advantageous for humans to eat it. We all know that prior to eating that fruit, humans already understood what good and evil was. Even after knowing that they would be doing a bad thing, they did it. And that was the first sin. They did it because they believed a lie to be true. This lie sent them in the wild-goose chase of the knowledge of good and evil that will make them like God (forgetting that they are already like God) instead of only focusing on God. It was the very first instance of man’s pride getting better of him and believing a lie, they sinned rejecting the truth that they already knew.

The same thing continues to happen to this very day. All the lures and attractions of this world are lies. Partial truths made to look like the ultimate truths. Temporary pleasures decorated to look like eternal nirvana. Because the man believes that these things are true, he runs after it. Trying to grab hold of it. And as Solomon says in the book of Ecclesiastes, all these things are futile and like chasing after wind. A lie can never deliver what it promises. But the one who believes a lie, will go chasing after it; because for him, it is the truth. And truth is the only thing worth following. And thus, the man who does evil, only does it because somewhere is his outlook of the world, he has mistaken a lie for a truth. And to this day, these things keeps us in the tangled mess of evil and away from good.

Now that we’ve taken a closer look at what it was that caused us to sin in the first place, only now we can go about its undoing. If we are to avoid sin, if we are to regain the perfect knowledge of good that our race held at its very inception, we must see through that very first temptation. After truly seeing the temptations for what it is, in my opinion, we must focus on undoing the second accomplishment and deal with the first as we encounter it. Because without having the truth by your side, you will not know when pride deceives you.

The way to go about acquiring knowledge about good is to go to God. Because he is the source of every good and perfect thing. When we begin to reach out from the ashes of this fallen world to the eternal God enthroned in heaven, we must study his methods and his ways. To all who seek him, he reveals himself for he is the God who loved us first. I have found a book called the Bible. It contains his words. There is truth in it. It will cleanses the windows of your eyes that have been stained by the dirt of this world. The truth for a truth and a lie for a lie it makes plain to see. But this book has a singular purpose. It is not self contained, rather it points towards a person who claimed to be THE Truth. But, there’s more…

Soon, you will come at the crossroads of the cross. Upon that cross, hangs the lamb of God about whom a voice in the wilderness cries, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”. You may be a thief, a widow, a beggar or just a kid but to him it doesn’t matter who you are or what the world calls you. He loved you, and love is blind. When you encounter the cross for the first time, do not run away. It is not there to condemn you but it is the instrument of your salvation. The very pride that led us to sin in the early parts of genesis, will be laid to ruin by the sight of the cross. For when the devil sought to become the greatest of all, Christ became the lowest of all, the servant of all and he took up the cross on behalf of me and you. And as if it was not enough, he rose from the grave for love’s sake. He became the light of hope in a dark, cruel and unforgiving world. He is the truth. And his cross is the remedy for our pride. He will come to you when you call him. He will tell you what is good, when you ask him.

The Fear of the Lord

Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (ESV)

Interesting. Isn’t it? Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. It is one of those verses of the bible that is quoted so many times that we don’t even think about what it means. When I was in school and exams came, pastors and believers reminded me of this verse. Meaning, if you fear the Lord, you will pass your exams with good marks. I wonder if Solomon was thinking of our 21st century exams when he wrote that…

Is academical exams really the right context to this verse? Well, I’m really not gonna answer that… Figure it out for yourself! Although, I think you’ll know the answer by the end of this essay. But first, we’ll have to understand what the verse says. As you can see, only the first part of the verse is cryptic and the latter part is just descriptive. So, I’m going to focus on the first part only.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”

Let’s break it down. There are two different components in the sentence. First is, “Fear of the Lord” and second is “Beginning of knowledge”. I’d also like you to note that some translations say, “beginning of knowledge” and some translations say, “beginning of wisdom”.

You may ask, what’s so interesting about these two components? Well, I don’t know about you but they are plenty interesting to me. The reason is, when I was younger (and still), I wanted to become very wise. But, the verse made no sense whatsoever to me. Why? Because it makes no sense. How can the fear of the Lord be the beginning of wisdom? And, what exactly is this fear of the Lord? Am I to tremble in his presence?

Certainly, that can not be. Because somewhere else the bible tells about how this God loved me so much that he sent his only begotten son to take up the cross that was mine to bear. This son, Jesus, beyond the miracles he did and the dead he raised, brought hope into a hopeless world. Then, when time came, he carried the cross of my shame upon his shoulders and died for my sin. Are you telling me that this is the God that I should fear? How can I fear him who loves me so much?

This was the reasoning of my childhood that made the verse so cryptic. If I can not fear God then I wouldn’t be wise. If I do fear God, it wouldn’t be fair. Since, would God, after going through all of that want me to be afraid of him? If not, what does the verse mean?

Well, the key to this puzzle of fear and love lies in the second part of the verse. ESV translation says, “Beginning of knowledge”. NET translation is a little more elaborate and says, “Beginning of moral knowledge”. And then there are some other translations that uses the word “wisdom”. So, I think some definitions are in order.

I don’t know if there are any official definitions of knowledge and wisdom, but I think the general idea is knowledge is the things that you know and wisdom is the application of that knowledge in the right way. In the verse “beginning of knowledge” is too general. Plus, taken literally it can’t be true because from the day you are born you start gaining knowledge. Doesn’t matter if you fear the Lord or not. So, it must mean something more specific than general knowledge. And we do have a contender. It is “wisdom”. So, why does some translations say “wisdom” and others say “knowledge”? And even more importantly, why can’t the translators just agree upon one and stop making bible more cryptic than it already is? 😉

Well, I can see their difficulty and I’m also having a difficult time describing the difficulty. I’ll try my best to explain. First, think of wisdom. Application of knowledge in the right way. Now, I’m (almost) certain that everybody applies their knowledge in some way or the other. However, only the people who use their knowledge in the right way are considered wise. Others are called fools. OK. So far so good. Now, if you notice, in the verse it is not talking about just plain old wisdom. It’s talking about the beginning of wisdom. So, if we are just beginning to be wise, then we aren’t exactly sure which one is right and which one is wrong. And if we are not sure which way is right and which way is wrong then how will we apply our knowledge in the right way? Thus, becoming wise? How will we become wise?

That last question is the theme of the whole book of proverbs. Wise sayings from the wisest man that ever lived. And in the very beginning of this book he says, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of moral knowledge” (NET). Great translation! It is not too general like knowledge and doesn’t self destruct like wisdom!

Now, if we look at the situations in our lives, in regards of knowing the right thing we will understand that in some areas of our life we know exactly what is the right thing to do and in other areas we aren’t sure. So, if we are sure what is the right thing to do then, we should just do it. (There may be times when we think that something is right but is not… but that’s another matter and I’m not going to discuss it here). We would be wise to do it, and doing that thing wouldn’t be called beginning of wisdom but it will be just an exercise of our already present wisdom. Although failing to exercise wisdom will be foolishness of epic proportions! But let’s get back to the topic at hand. The verse seems to suggest that when we are not sure, we should fear the Lord.

So, the problem that I faced in my childhood is solved. I used to ask, would it be fair to be afraid of him who loves me so much? I know the answer. No, it wouldn’t be fair to fear him. It would be foolish to do so considering the knowledge of the love of God. So, you shouldn’t fear God as a mouse fears a cat. To summarize, “one should fear the Lord when he is not sure which is good and which is bad”. If you know which is good and which is bad, then there is no point in sitting on the intersection thinking what I should do. It’d be waste of time. Just as bad as doing the bad thing.

But we still don’t understand exactly what it means. We eliminated one possibility of the meaning of “the fear of the Lord”, but we do not know it’s exact meaning. Does the “Fear of the Lord” has a bit more subtle meaning? Let us examine another place in the bible where similar advice is given. It is in psalms. Most probably, also written by Solomon.

Psalms 111:10: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! (ESV)

And, NET translation:

Psalms 111:10: To obey the LORD is the fundamental principle for wise living; all who carry out his precepts acquire good moral insight. He will receive praise forever. (NET)

Compare the two. It is basically the same advice but a bit more elaborate. Interesting. One translation says, “The fear of the Lord” another says “To obey the Lord”. I think we just hit the jackpot! The so called “fear” is nothing but obedience. How so simple! So, if we replace this newfound insight in our original summary statement, it becomes “One should obey the Lord when he is not sure which is good and which is bad” And that, indeed will be the beginning of wisdom. Since it is him, who defines good and bad. If you are not sure, ask him who defined the two!

That’s my reasoning of the matter. However unorthodox, it does lead to the truth that is contained in it. However, I think I must also address one other view that is prominent among Christians. It says, the “fear” is not literal fear rather a kind of reverence and awe. And I do agree with it to some degree… but not in this context. I find it insufficient.

The reason is, people who ask the question “What does this verse mean?” are mostly new believers or youngsters. People who don’t have much knowledge and experience with the mysterious ways of God. And to them it seems as if you just bent the meaning of scriptures. You just gave your own interpretation which doesn’t really connect to what is written. If that was really the meaning, why isn’t it translated like that? Why doesn’t it say, “The reverence of the Lord is beginning of knowledge”?

The view that it should be interpreted as reverence and awe doesn’t really make sense to everyone. It could be said that it is a correct answer to a wrong person. If the questioner is just a skeptic, would it make sense? To him it would seem like you are reading your own meaning into the scripture. If the questioner is a new believer, would the answer help him when he has yet to learn to revere God? Is it so easy to revere him when you are living in a fallen world?

Let me try to answer it. Why is the word fear used if it meant reverence or awe? Maybe because it didn’t mean that. Especially in regards to new believers. To answer this question, we must examine the nature of fear and the nature of reverence and awe.

The origin of fear lies in the lack of knowledge whereas the origin of reverence lies in knowledge. You can not revere someone without knowing them. But you can certainly fear someone without knowing them. Awe, I think, is a higher form of reverence. It is fueled with knowledge acquired through dramatic bursts of revelation! So, only when you know God intimately, you can revere or be awestruck by him. Whereas you can very easily fear things that you don’t know or only partially know about.

In our lives we incrementally gain knowledge about God. When we learn about God for the first time, we do not know about him much. We know just enough to take the very first steps of faith. God is still largely distant to us and his ways are still a mystery. However, we know the world and it’s ways all too well. And in this state of infancy, the word of God speaks the eternal truth. “Fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom.”

Reverence and awe inspires worship but fear inspires restraint. And at this time of infancy, this restraint is useful. It keeps us away from the dangers of the world. This might be a time which we do not like nor understand, it is a time where God holds us in his hands and molds us. He uses fear to restraint us so that we do not stray too far away from him. He is a loving father who doesn’t want his young child harmed. Every time, you choose to fear God, in other words, you choose to obey God, even though his ways seem foolish and boring, after some time, you’ll begin to understand why it must be so. It is so because there is a very good reason behind all his laws. This reason is not plain to see, but it becomes clear when you practice his law.

As the verse says, “all who carry out his precepts acquire good moral insight”. This moral insight can’t be learned in a lecture hall. It must be gained by living according to the law of God. Once gained, this insight, this truth will fill you with awe for your creator. Slowly, you will begin to worship him day and night. What first was fear and uncertainty, will begin to turn into a force of certainty. For now you understand just a little bit more of how awesome this God is. A little bit here and a little bit there. You will begin to be wise. You will begin to understand the mind and heart of God.

In the beginning, you might be afraid of this great and mighty God. Afraid of his power. Distant from him because you do not understand him. But, this very fear he will use to bring you closer. And one day, you will fear him no longer. Because his perfect love will cast out all your fears.

God vs. Responsibilities

Last Friday, there was an ICPF retreat here in Ahmedabad themed “What makes God smile?”. It was good. Better than expected (Or should I say as expected, since God is the master of doing the unexpected!). During the retreat there was some time allotted for a question and answer session. I love those sessions. I love them because I love questions. Questions are those peculiar creatures that go Pop! in people’s heads at random times and then do Kaboom! to some false assumptions or give birth to some Eureka! moments.

So, I was listening intently to the questions and there were a few that caught my fancy. However, if I try to answer all of them in one go, this post will become a huge pile of jumbled radioactive mess that will make your brains melt at the rate of 12 grams per second! So, taking in consideration the mental heath of my readers I’m going to answer one question at a time.

So, the first question goes like this: In our daily lives we have different responsibilities. Responsibilities to our families, to our friends, to our studies, to our work and in some cases, to dogs and cats(umm… I mean, pets). Situation is just like the spelling of the word : RESPONSIBILITIES. Complicated, big and with lots of I’s into it (‘I’ have to do this.. ‘I’ have to do that..). So, in fulfilling all these different responsibilities, sometimes, we don’t have time for God. But if we drop our responsibilities, that’s no good either. So, how should one balance the two?

Look at the title of this post and say, “The title is wrong”. Do it. “The title is wrong”. It should be, God and Responsibilities. Now why do I say that? First of all, that’s how God works. All of us who are Christians believe that God has a definite purpose for our life. If he has a definite purpose and plan for our life, he will at times tell us what we need to do. And then to do those things will be our responsibility. He will never force us but only lead us. It’s our responsibility to follow.

But, is it possible that he tells us what to do only at certain times and at other times we should do as we please because God hasn’t told us anything specific to do? No. God’s plans are way too intricate to be left up to chance. And he never leaves them to chance. He is constantly watching from the shadows and shaping us as we are going about our daily duties. And for him to shape us as we are going about our daily duties, he must use the things that we do daily.

A thing about our nature is, an action, an activity or an event will not have a significant impact on our lives unless it happens daily. To be healthy, one must exercise everyday, not once in a year. Now, there are exceptions to this rule but these exceptions most of the times are disruptive and abnormal. I mean, if someone close to us dies, it will have a significant impact on our lives bit it’s not everyday that this happens. It’s outside of the domain of what we call normal.

So, only the things that we do daily has significant impact on our lives. And God uses this simple principle to shape our character. He is constantly at work on us and he is constantly testing us if we are ready for the next phase of our development. We might or might not plan our days, but God certainly does. And his way of planning our day is assigning us responsibilities. He constantly watches us how we handle these and by using these responsibilities he slowly shapes our character.

So, that’s how I understand the relationship between God and our responsibilities. But, there is another aspect to this topic that must be addressed. And, because this aspect exists, the title isn’t totally wrong. Think. What would make a person to ask such a question? For the questioner, there are so many responsibilities that he/she doesn’t have time for God. The person truly feels that he/she should spend more time with God and is feeling guilty about it. But if the responsibilities are also assigned by God, then it would be like going into the temple of God when he has clearly told us to do something else. It would be disobedience. It would be hypocrisy.

There we have a dilemma. If one does follow through all the responsibilities, the responsibilities eat up all the time that one has and there is no time left for God. But if one cuts on the responsibilities, he/she is indirectly disobeying God. However difficult the problem looks on the surface, it is not as difficult as it looks. It can be addressed with one simple but profound truth.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (ESV) – 1 Corinthians 10:31

This particular verse has been like an eye opener for me. For in it lies the definition of worship. Most people think of worship as what we do in church. Singing songs. But bible talks about worship in spirit and truth. Not in songs and tunes. And, the last part of this verse says, “Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” So, the definition of worship becomes, “Worship is anything that we do for the glory of God.” Now, it may look on the surface that this definition is inclusive of every action but it is not so. One can certainly give his parents a glass of water for the glory of God but one can not lie to his brother for the glory of God. So, one must examine what he/she does before doing it.

So, how does this new perspective about worship help us in our current dilemma? Well, it helps us because it makes possible for us to be constantly in touch with God. There is simply no reason that you can’t go about attending to your responsibilities and worship God both at the same time. Certainly, some time does need to be kept aside for studying of his word and prayer. But this time will be like the topping of a cake. Because at that time, you will not come to God asking for his presence, you will be in his presence throughout the day worshiping him through the things that you do throughout the day. Now, instead of little or no time for God, one would have the whole day with God.

There are also a few more things that I would like to say but this post is long enough as it is. So, I’d explore this idea of worship and staying with God throughout the day in some other post. I have also put forth the same idea of worship in an earlier post A life of Worhsip in much more detail. I’d also recommend reading this excellent book for pointers on how one can be with God throughout the day: Practice of Presence of God – The Best Rule of Holy Life.

Dual booting Windows 7 and Archlinux on Lenovo Ideapad U410

Last week I got a new laptop. Lenovo U410. It’s a nice ultrabook. However, the chief topic of this post is not to review it, however to set up Archlinux on it without loosing any of the features that are, what should I call them… um, factory inbuilt. I’m talking about a raid0 array and a one-key rescue system that came preconfigured with the system. I searched much on the internet to find a safe way to install linux on this system however all of them did something that I didn’t want to do…

The usual method went something like this: backup everything, turn off raid, turn off UEFI and enable legacy boot in the bios, and then install whatever you like. I thought if they have given such nice features then why not use them? There must be a way of installing linux in this system without nuking it first. So, I went on and found the way… I will just write down the steps here for future reference.

Goal

The system that I wanted to create was something like this: 80GB for windows, about 40GB for Archlinux (20GB root and 20GB home plus about 200MB for boot) and the remaining space for a big data partition that can be shared between windows and linux.

Partitioning

First of all, there were two drives in the system. One big 500GB hard drive and another 24GB SSD. For our purposes, we don’t need to touch the SSD. Our dealing will be solely with the big one. The system comes with 4 primary partitions preconfigured. What it means is, we can’t make any new partitions without deleting at least one partition. Now, the partitions that one can see were only two. A partition in which windows was installed and another one labeled “Lenovo” which contained drivers and other softwares that came with the system.

To reach our goal, I needed to make some adjustments to these partitions. First of all, backup all the data in the partition labeled as “Lenovo”. Around 5GB of drivers and softwares. Once that’s done, fire up a partition manager. I used the combination of Gparted and Easeus partition manager to accomplish the following tasks… however, all of it can also be done with gparted.

I used a Ubuntu live disk for gparted. Then I did the following things:

  1. Deleted the partition labeled as “Lenovo”
  2. Resized the partition that contained Windows 7 from about 420GB to 80GB
  3. Created an extended partition in the unallocated space after the windows 7 partition
  4. Created an NTFS partition for storing the data. About 325GB.
  5. Created an FAT32 partition for /boot for the linux system. About 20GB.
  6. Created an EXT4 partition for / (root) of the linux system. About 20GB.
  7. Created an EXT4 partition for /home of the linux system. Used all the remaining space… about 21GB.

You might notice that I have created a FAT32 file system for the boot partiton. Why? Well, we need it. We will not replace the windows bootloader in the MBR, rather, we’ll point the windows bootloader towards grub of our newly installed system. That grub, will be installed in a partition(specifically, the boot partition) and not the mbr. However, windows can’t see ext4 partitions… we’ll need something that the windows bootloader can see. It will probably see NTFS but it will certainly see FAT32. That’s why I went with FAT32. And, it paid off…

Installing Archlinux.

Well, I didn’t do anything special while installing Archlinux. Just follow the beginner’s guide and do the normal set up. Don’t worry about UEFI and stuff. Follow along until you come to the part where you need to install grub. There we need to take a detour. But first, we need grub installed (not in the MBR or partition but in our system. Using pacman):

pacman -S grub-bios

Once grub is available in our system, we need to install it in the boot partition. How? Like this. But for future reference, in case that if the page is edited for some reason, I’ll also post the commands here.:

modprobe dm-mod
grub-install –target=i386-pc –recheck –debug –force /dev/sdaX
chattr -i /boot/grub/i386-pc/core.img
mkdir -p /boot/grub/locale
cp /usr/share/locale/en@quot/LC_MESSAGES/grub.mo /boot/grub/locale/en.mo
chattr +i /boot/grub/i386-pc/core.img

Note: When I issued the chattr command, it game some strange error… I looked it up but didn’t understood much. So, I decided to ignore it… seems that my computer also did the same as it works flawlessly right now. So, it doesn’t matter.

Alos, create a grub.cfg while you are at it:

grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

So, once grub is installed in our boot partition, we need to make a copy of it’s boot info by doing the following: (Again, taken from the awesome archwiki)

my_windows_part=/dev/sdx#
my_boot_part=/dev/sdx#
mkdir /media/win
mount $my_windows_part /media/win
dd if=$my_boot_part of=/media/win/linux.bin bs=512 count=1

Adjust that to your setup and execute it. You might need to install ntfs-3g to write to the windows partition. If so, do so.

Configuring windows bootloader

Once grub has been installed, our work on the linux end has finished. Now, all we need to do is point the windows bootloader to our newly created boot partition with the info contained in the linux.bin file that we just created. To do that, I’m gonna directly quote archwiki page that I referenced earlier.


Boot to windows and open up and you should be able to see the FAT32 partition. Copy the linux.bin file to C:\. Now run cmd with administrator privileges (navigate to Start->All Programs->Accessories, Right-click on Command Prompt and select “Run as administrator.”)

bcdedit /create /d “Linux” /application BOOTSECTOR

BCDEdit will return an alphanumeric identifier for this entry that I will refer to as {ID} in the remaining steps. You’ll need to replace {ID} by the actual returned identifier. An example of {ID} is {d7294d4e-9837-11de-99ac-f3f3a79e3e93}

bcdedit /set {ID} device partition=c:
bcdedit /set {ID} path \linux.bin
bcdedit /displayorder {ID} /addlast
bcdedit /timeout 30


And that’s it. You’re good to go. Now, you can boot up both windows and linux and you haven’t sacrificed any of the nice things that came with the system. One-key rescue still works and so does the raid0 array. All in all, an ideal solution.

The Fallacy of Social Evolution

First of all, let me define my terms. What do I mean by social evolution? Well, it’s a close companion to the theory of evolution. It basically states that all of our social behaviors have evolved for millions of years and are still evolving. You should note that this evolution has no direction. It doesn’t understand if it’s going up or down or left or right or if it’s going round and round. It is basically a balloon full of hot air which goes wherever the wind blows.

But, according to this particular theory, a few thousand years ago, someone tied a rope to that balloon. Then someone tied another and another and then they kept tying ropes for a few thousand years. Now, the balloon couldn’t go wherever it wanted to. Rather, it is controlled by the people that tie and cut the ropes. Generally, the system that handles tying and cutting the ropes is known as the government.

Now, the government in the 21st century is largely influenced by the people that are governed. If the people don’t like the government, they stage a coup d’etat and overthrow whoever is governing. Egypt is a recent example. And then, the people have the power to bind and loosen the ropes that lets the balloon float.

That is a quite convenient arrangement. What it means is, now we have the power to shape tomorrow’s world. Now, there is a social organism which controls it’s own social evolution. That is quite interesting. It is also quite intoxicating. It feels good to be in power.

Now let me get to the point. The world I see around me fits the last description. Humans do have the power to shape tomorrow. But what I don’t agree with is the beginning. The Darwinian theory of evolution. Because the Darwinian theory of evolution and social evolution are quite contradictory. I don’t mean to say that a thing such as a contradiction exists in the world of Darwinian evolution, however, it does exist in the world where I live.

Where is this contradiction? I’ll tell you. We all know that humans have an inherent desire to do good. Even the bad things that people do must have some element of goodness in it. So, when we try to shape the tomorrow by forming laws, we desire to make the world better. Not worse. But good and bad don’t exist in the naturalistic world. So then, what the heck is Joe doing forming laws?

But since I am feeling generous today, let’s grant a morality to naturalistic philosophy. Suppose that good and bad is the product of evolution. So, we have a set of standards defined by a blind process of which one we don’t like and one we strive for. Alright. But if that’s the case then we are actually being controlled by the process of evolution and we aren’t actually shaping the world of tomorrow. We are just playing out a script that has been written by a blind process which in all probability does not exist. We are the puppets and the universe is pulling the strings. You know, there is a word for it. Fatalism. Where Dr. Fate decides everything and you don’t have the freedom to choose anything.

So, any way you look at it, in a naturalistic framework, it is self defeating through and through. BUT, (and it’s a big but) it seems that it is true. We just need to look at our history to know that mankind has actually shaped the world we see around us today. So, maybe it is true. If you have read so far, you must be wondering what does it mean? Why is it important?

It is important because we are shaping the world of tomorrow. With each action, we are changing the world. However, it is more important today that it was before because of the prevalence of the scientific methodology in the modern thought. I don’t mean to say that the scientific methodology is wrong. It is perfect. But I’m not sure if that is the right methodology to apply in the regards of social or cultural reform.

The reason is, science helps you determine a certain category of truth. Namely about the physical world. However, there are certain things that science can not tell you. It can’t tell you the meaning of love (or meaning of anything for that matter). It can only help you gather information. Nothing else. The scientific methodology consists of trial and error. In layman’s terms, it is about gathering data from experiments and then refining those experiments to reach the truth.

However, this particular method itself is problem for social evolution. Because it means experimenting with society. With people. Testing on human subjects without their informed consent is considered a crime. Still it’s ok to do so under the label of social evolution. In social matters, it is better to find the right way without experimenting. Otherwise, humanity will incur a great loss.

Supposing that any civilization tries to go by the literal meaning of social evolution and tries to find the ideal government or society. If a society goes in the search of utopia, who guarantees that it will ever get there? Who’s to say that they will not fall into the thousand pitfalls of all the modern and ancient philosophies and become just another casualty? Just a tragic tale telling others to not go by a certain route? Just another case study at a community college?

Who can by certainty say that such a system even exists? And who is to say that with our finite knowledge and understanding we will ever find it if it exists? Who is to say that we will not keep trying the wrong way until every single one of us ceases to exist? Modern thinkers say, “Our morality is constantly evolving. What is good today might not be good tomorrow!” All I can say to them is, “Nonsense! You were a good thinker yesterday but today you are not!”

This is the problem with our generation. We don’t know the truth and we don’t know what is truth. I wrote a story to illustrate what I have said in this post. There can be a thousand wrong ways in which humans may try to evolve the society into. However, there can be only one right way. There are many angles at which one can fall but only one angle at which one can stand.

This is one basic property of truth. Truth is exclusive and it eliminate all falsehood. Once you know the truth, you can tell what is false. A single truth can eliminate a thousand lies however a thousand lies can not point towards a single truth. The scientific method is not a reasonable method for social reform. For it assumes nothingness in the beginning, it will lead to nothingness in the end.

What then, can be the solution? Should we just settle for things just as they are? By no means. I said, in a naturalistic framework, it is self defeating. Not in the theistic framework. In theistic framework, social reform is possible. However, it is not evolution. For one, unlike evolution, it has definite goal. It is reformation rather than evolution. I told you that I wrote a story. Go read that if you haven’t.

Read it? No? Go read that. I’ll wait.

Waiting…

At this time, we do not need to figure out the thousands of ways in which the civilization can fall. We need one way where it can stand. Since the theories like the one that I have just discussed makes it crystal clear that we do not know which way we should be going, it’s obvious that we should take advice from someone who does know.

Did you notice the description of the stranger in that story? A stranger that fell from the sky an instant before! Someone who knew the way and was willing enough to help him. Someone who cared enough to come down to earth to help him.

Well that story never ever took place, however something similar took place in our world. Check your history books. About 2000 years ago, you will find a figure in history that has changed the whole world. His legacy is unparalleled. In 3 and a half years of public ministry, he turned all the philosophies of the world upside down. He showed us a model to live by. Philosophers searched for truth. He claimed to be the truth. The atheistic thinkers of the 21st century talk about a world constantly changing, evolving in God knows what! But for past 2000 years, his figure, his message and his impact has stayed constant.

Only in what he says, I see hope for our world. Only in him I see the remedy for our society. Only in his teachings I see a way to change our corrupt nation. Let the darkness be pierced by the shining light of his glory. Let the nation be conquered by his love. Let his body prepare for the coming battle. Let the church arise!

The Safest Route

He was still in his office when he heard the news. A riot had broken out in the city. Office was closing up and everyone was going to their homes. And so was our hero. He had called his home and everyone was safe, however he was still worried about them. As he was leaving his office, he was wondering which way he should take.

He was gifted with an analytic mind by birth and he loved to solve puzzles. Also, he was of that particular type of dreamers who saw adventures everywhere. To him, life was never dull but a bit much too exciting. To add to that, he was liberally exposed to video games in his childhood where he had saved the universe countless times. So, to him, this seemed like another adventure of which he was a hero.

Who knows? One day, maybe he will really save the whole universe. But for today, he wasn’t fighting to save the universe, he was just trying to get to his family. But to him, it was all the same. His family was his universe. So, as he was leaving his office, the child inside of him had already envisioned the whole adventure. His goal was set and now the work had been given to his analytic mind.

He told himself, there are six possible ways I can reach home. Since the goal is to simply reach home, it would be best to avoid any conflict. Which route would be the safest? Considering such incidents in the past, the neighborhoods around the city and the news he had heard so far, he determined a particular route that should be safe.

He kickstarted his bike and started his journey towards his home. Just a couple of blocks later, he saw some people coming in the opposite direction. Judging by their faces, they looked confused and a bit afraid. He concluded that they are probably in the same situation as he. He asked them, “Is it safe this way?” pointing towards the direction in which he was going. “No.” said a stranger. He hit the brakes and asked, “Do you know which way would be safe?” The stranger inquired, “Where do you want to go?” “The mad gorillas park.” “That way… I don’t know… but don’t go this way. It isn’t safe.”

Considering this new bit of information, he turned around and headed towards his second option. Just a few blocks later, again, a similar episode followed. So, in his quest for reaching his home near the mad gorillas park, he turned towards his third option. Again, a similar episode followed. However, this time it had twist.

The stranger seemed to know a safe way to reach the mad gorillas park. However, the problem was, the way he was describing wasn’t in any of his options. He was describing a completely different way. Our hero didn’t even knew if this way really existed. The other startling thing about this stranger was, it seemed that the stranger wasn’t normal and acted like he had just fell out of the sky an instant before.

The more startling thing was the intensity with which the stranger showed the way to our hero and stood there as if demanding to our hero to take that route. As he looked at the stranger, it seemed as if the stranger was getting larger and larger by every second. The stranger just stood there, but he stood there with a force of a mountain.

Our hero had never felt anything like it before. In his heightened state of mind, he did something he would have never done. He took a route that he didn’t know to reach a place he did know through a city that was trying to devour him all because he met the strangest stranger he ever met.

Not surprisingly, the stranger was right. Our hero reached his home safe and sound and lived happily ever after.


^ That never happened. I made it up. Why? Well, I wanted to tell something and I needed an illustration. You can read all about it.

Managing Information

I’m studying and working. Plus, working in a field that is changing everyday. Everyday something becomes obsolete and without learning something new, one’s skillsets can become obsolete very fast. And then, I like to do a lot of reading outside of my field. What this means is, I have to be on top of a lot of information. I have to keep track of it. I have to revise it periodically.

So, because of this requirement, over the years, I have developed several techniques and I thought, I’d share it. The first step is to classify or categorize this information.

However information is not like carrots and potatoes. You can’t separate one from other so easily. Sometimes you can but not so often. It flows from one category to another like our conversations flow. We start discussing cars and end up debating religion. You can’t say where one ended and second began. That is because conversations are basically an exchange of information. Of ideas.

This makes it pretty difficult to create a system that can handle all kinds of information. One of the reasons why pen and paper are so successful is because they are very flexible. However most of software aren’t. Most software work on definite structure and this structure restricts it from being used for certain kinds of information.

But, let’s get back on track. As I said, first task is to classify. I’d basically like to classify the information in three sections. One, small tasks. Two, big tasks. Three, detailed studies.

  1. Small tasks: Small tasks are things that you can do in a small amount of time. In this section, I basically define tasks that can be completed under 4 hours of time. However, about 80% of these tasks take less than 1 hour. Also, sometimes I take big 4 hour tasks and divide them in subtasks of smaller amount of time.
  2. Big tasks: Big tasks are things like a project. Reading a book. Detailed study of a particular subject. Things that can’t be finished in one sitting. I normally work on 1 or 2 big tasks at a time. These big tasks get divided in smaller tasks and then I schedule these smaller tasks.
  3. Detailed studies: In this section, I put all my studies and reading. All the things I read go into this section. I’ll talk about this later.

Managing tasks

Small ones

Did I ever tell you that I use Emacs? Well, I do. I use it a lot. And I use it for task management also. In fact, there is so much written about it for task management that I’m not going to go into it. I’ll just tell you to go here.

Big ones

Well, here be the beasts and dinosaurs. In here you’ll see things like “Read: The art of computer programming (all finished volumes) by Donald Knuth” However, finishing this task will take hundreds of hours. All the projects and ideas go into this section as well. And then one by one, each one get divided into smaller tasks when I get around to actually do these things.

Detailed studies

This is basically things like reading essays, books or documentations to learn and understand new things. The irony of this activity is, without doing this, you can’t do anything else. Yet, nobody will tell you to do this. They will only tell you to do other things…

The way I do it is in the following order: Read, revise, reference. First I’ll tell what I do in each of these things and then, I’ll talk about the tools that I use.

  1. Read: Does the thing that you are doing right now need an explanation of how? If so, then the end of the world is upon us! But, I do one little thing that you might not be doing. I highlight the main points and phrases. I highlight key information points. Why?
  2. Revise: Because it helps me to revise. If it took me an hour to read a particular article, and I have highlighted it, it will take me only 10 minutes to revise it. However, for this to happen, the highlighting should be accurate. If you are too liberal with the highlights it will do you no good…
  3. References: By God’s grace, I have very good memory. Once I read and understand something, I can recall the concept anytime. But what I can’t recall is the exact phrases used in describing it. I might forget the terms. That’s why when doing something else, I might recall a particular concept but can’t recall how exactly to phrase it. So, I go back to that original article/book whatever it was and search for it.

So, those are the three activities I find myself doing frequently. Now, first and second activity can be done on printed media quite well. However, I don’t know if the third can be done. And even if it can be done, it won’t be as efficient as in electronic media. I’m talking about web pages and ebooks. If you want to search for some word or phrase in a document you just need to give it a command. That’s why I choose ebooks over printed books.

The tools I use are the following:

  1. Emacs: You might be wondering what the heck is this emacs thing… well, it’s a thermonuclear word processor. It’s on the verge of achieving sentience! It’s a wild beast. But once you tame it, it becomes your greatest ally.
    • Org mode: Org mode can be called as the crown jewel of emacs. It can do so many things that I’m not sure that there is a complete list anywhere. I use it to write notes, capture notes and tasks(org-capture), write blogs (org2blog), do study assignments (export to pdf), manage and schedule tasks, track habits and so much more.
    • Deft: This little extension of emacs can be used to do access your notes very quickly. Basically you just start typing and it will search for that particular word in all your notes contained in different files. It basically does a full text search.
  2. Evernote: This piece of software is absolutely awesome. It is basically designed to be a note taking program. But it does much more than that. It syncs those notes across different platforms. If you haven’t tried it, you really should.
    • Evernote clearly: Evernote clearly is an extension for chrome and firefox web browsers. It does few things which are very useful. One, it makes the web pages easy to read by removing all the other useless things and advertisements from the page. You can also annotate things on the web page using clearly. Once you are done reading/annotating you can save that web page to your evernote notebook. Available to you any time you like. Even if the original web page moves or gets deleted, you’ll still have a copy of that web page. It’s just great tool.
  3. Xournal: I use this program to annotate pdf files. In other words, ebooks. So it is easy for me to review/revise what I have just studied.

With the help of these tools, I can easily do things that I need to do with information. Read, revise and reference. And I can also manage the information regarding my time with the same tools. Which is a bonus.

A compilation of Essays (2012)

A few days ago, I had an idea. Guess what? Ideas have consequences. Sometimes in blog posts. This is one such post. The idea was that I should compile a list of all the essays I have written in the year 2012 and create an ebook so it can be read offline. I have done just that. You can download the ebooks right here:

PDF: 2012
epub:2012.epub (It’s a zip because wordpress wouldn’t allow epub directly for security reasons…)