Whiskey, Music and Non-Linear Thinking


Now that i have got your attention and gotten rid of the most difficult in the title (as Sir Humphrey has to explain to the Rt. Hon. James Hacker), i can actually write about something humdrum. But the mix that i am telling about cannot be humdrum. Theres good whiskey (i am not really brand conscious, i basically drink to get drunk, so the brand doesnt really matter, except that it gets me high and it tastes good too), theres soul-stirring music (of course when the music comes from Pakeezah, a movie which i think is a masterpiece, worthy of much more recognition that it did get) and the songs come one after the other … Inhi logo ne le linha dupatta mera, chalte chalte yunhi koi mil gaya tha, mausam hai ashiqana … the context that i am thinking from (remember, three drinks …) becomes quite clear to you. After all, theres the whiskey, and then theres the intoxication of some of the most wonderful music the Hindi movie industry has come up with. Though of course by now i am listening to … mein zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har fiqr ko dhuein mein udaataa gayaa …

Add to this an interesting presentation by Devdutt Patnaik about how beliefs define the way we do business. Or rather, how our beliefs define how we interact with the world. Now thats something which is obvious so you may wonder what i am talking about. I would recommend going through this presentation (and thanks to my friend Amit Vaish) which i think is quite wonderful and describes the differences in world-views of people and how these differences also impact the way we do business. Thats to be expected because business is a part of the world and so world-view would include business-view.

The interesting thing is the topic … East vs West. A few years back i may have agreed with this but today at least looking at the world of knowledge and business from the perspective of a KM practioner i dont think this difference is as prominent as maybe a decade ago, but even so, this is a topic which is worth exploring. Something we all need to understand. What is interesting is the differences in the way people from different cultural backgrounds look at the world around them. And this is something i have seen in travels through Asia. I have found a basic difference in the way people in South Asia, Indo-China, and the Far-East look at things in a way which is basically different from that of Australians. And i am listening to … hum bekhudi mein tumko pukaare chale gaye! This, though, thanks to Dad.

But i am not writing about the differences but rather looking at the “Oriental” way of looking at things. Or rather the Indian way of looking at things. I suppose and think, from my travels in the region, that the two are quite similar, but not being an expert, maybe i would rather leave that discussion to someone qualified for that. One basic difference is that the Indian world-view doesnt look at the world in a binary glass. Unlike the western world-view where everything is either 0 or 1 (as ex-President Bush famouslt said), the Indian world-view is about contunuum. In this world-view the truth could be at any point on a continuum between two values. Take this one step further and there is probably no single definition of the truth. The definition is probably dependant on your opinion on the subject and this in turn is shaped by your world-view. A particular fact or statement could in fact be interpreted in a number of ways, and each of these ways is actually correct though not one of them actually presents thefact in its entirety. Truth, in this interpretation, is far beyond the ordinary human comprehension (and this actually comes from India’s spiritual heritage, but i am talking about this rather philosophically, or if you may, as an observer). Or, in other words, human comprehension is capable of understanding only an aspect of the truth. This in turn means that the opinions of different people play a very important role in constructing a picture of the truth which may be applied to the working scenario which one may be looking at.

In addition to this, its quite important to understand that in the Indian viewpoint, things dont flow in a linear way. There arent to be found linear cause-effect relationships. At the simplest one may find a number of causes leading to a number of effects so its difficult to identify relationships between a specific effect and its cause. On a more complex level though its like a series of eddies where not just does the cyclical nature of the eddy make it difficult to define whats thecase and what effect, but also its even more difficult to define the relationship between eddy and another. What this means is that whenever one finds a particular state for a system, there are probably so many way by which the system may have reached that state that it may be close to impossible to determine which is of those ways the system may have taken.

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