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Thanks for joining the Philosophy Quiz for World Philosophy Day 2017.
novaristotle
Please send in your answers ( feel free to take guesses - one per question (or part thereof!) - there's no negative marking) to: novaristotle@ymail.com

Please give your name, e-mail ID, city/country, and your line of work/study ( the last, in 8 words or less!).

There are 72 questions. Please get to the very last one within 45 minutes ( error factor of up to 20 seconds is okay) from your start. This is meant to be a solo event. Please ensure your answers are in the correct serial order ( corresponding to the question no.). Most often, last names/surnames will do when naming people. We won't labor/labour much over spelling but let's not stray too far!

If for any reason, you don't want to mail in but would like to offer some useful remarks (same ID: novaristotle@ymail.com), please feel free to. You can also mail in your answers, and mention if you do not want it on the leaderboard. All such requests are understood and will be entertained. Still, I recommend that you mail in your answers and if among the top scores, let your name appear on the leaderboard :-)

This inaugural edition is in memory of a dear friend - Ajay Singh - who passed away in Reading, U.K., his early 30s at the turn of the century. He discussed philosophy books and ideas with his friends in Hyderabad, India where he had graduated in Electronics Engg.

I hope you enjoy the set, and even get some ideas for further reading! Thanks a ton for your interest.

regards, Bala


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QUESTION SET: WORLD PHILOSOPHY DAY - Philosophy Quiz - 72 questions

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1. The answer to this first question is itself a question!! Both Watson and Crick (DNA structure) have credited this publication of lectures given in Dublin by E.Schrodinger as an inspiration, since it presents an early theoretical description of how genetic information is stored. What is its simple and popular 3-word title, that is followed by The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell?


2. World Philosophy Day was introduced in 2002 to raise public awareness of the importance of philosophy, and to foster philosophical analysis of contemporary issues. By which organisation?


3.What is the basic law of logic commonly called which states that it is not possible for something to be and not be at the same time?


4.Identify this 1955 Pulitzer winner for Poetry. In 1897, he enrolled at Harvard, studied closely with the humanist philosopher George Santayana, and even exchanged sonnets with the latter on skepticism and belief. In "Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird", he wrote,
"I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds."



5."Life can only be understood backwards. But it must be lived forward." is perhaps one of the better-known quotes in philosophy. Name the 19th century Scandinavian thinker who wrote it.


6._____ __ _ ___ is a phrase used to refer to thought experiments in which a supercomputer provides electrical impulses to a brain that is floating separately in a preserving fluid such that the brain would have normal conscious experiences just like reality though it has no access to the real world. Fill in the blanks.


7. When a particular ship with 30 oars that had returned from Crete had undergone repairs over a period of time, and each and every one of its wooden parts had been replaced, one at a time, does it still remain the same ship? This puzzle is known after the name of the original leader of its crew. Who?



8.Antoine L.C. Destutt de Tracy (d.1836) coined the word ideologie to signify the study of how ideas are formed on the basis of sensations and how they are applied in the politics, morals and law. From 1806, he had an exchange of letters with an American thinker who translated Destutt de Tracy's work into English in 1817 as A Treatise on Political Economy. Name this American statesman who's famous for "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."



9. Which philosopher (1909–97), a founder of Wolfson College, Oxford, and a descendant of the founder of Chabad Hasidism, drew a distinction between two basic types of freedom people have, calling them positive freedom - freedom to do something, and negative freedom - freedom from interference?



10. The thinker referred to in the previous question, in a well-known essay, divides writers and thinkers into two categories: ________, (spiny mammals of the subfamily Erinaceinae) who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (e.g. Plato) and _______, (which make a chuckling sound called a gekker and are notorious for killing extra prey and burying it for later) who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea (e.g. Shakespeare). Fill in the blanks.




11.Fleeing from the Emperor Justinian of Constantinople, who, in 529, put a stop to their activity, seven of them (including Simplicius and Priscian) took refuge for 18 months in the king of Persia, Khosroes I's palace at Ctesiphon. Khosroes later negotiated their safe passage back with Justinian. What was the occupation of these seven people?



12. Who was the third co-founder of the journal Les temps modernes along with Sartre and Merleau-Ponty?


13. A novel published on the Continent in 1762 popularised the view that education should encourage the natural tendencies of the child to grow and blossom, and that learning should be from direct experience of people and things rather than second-hand or from tomes. Author and the title?



14. A popular term, it's derived from Sanskrit for "to hold or support". Commonly used to mean any of these:
law, duty, morality, religion, or nature. For Hindus, it's the right way of living. For Buddhists, it means cosmic law or refers to the Buddha's teachings. For Jains, it is doctrine as taught, that can transform humans. For Sikhs, it is proper religious practice. What's the good word?


15.Which American philosopher has written, " What makes most philosophers in the English-speaking world linguistic philosophers is the same thing that makes most philosophers in continental Europe phenomenologists - namely, a sense of despair resulting from the inability of traditional philosophers to make clear what could count as evidence for or against the truth of their views"?



16.Who wrote, "...if I poke my finger into the jar of jam, the sticky coldness of the jam is a revelation to my fingers of its sugary taste. The fluidity, the tepidity, the bluish colour, the undulating restlessness of the water in a pool are given at one stroke, each quality through the others; and it is this total interpenetration which we call the this."?



17. The question has two parts. In this passage from Jack London, "It is the penalty the imaginative man must pay for his friendship with ____ _________ . The penalty paid by the stupid man is simpler, easier. He drinks himself into sottish unconsciousness. He sleeps a drugged sleep, and, if he dream, his dreams are dim and inarticulate. But to the imaginative man, ____ __________ sends the pitiless, spectral syllogisms of the white logic. He looks upon life and all its affairs with the jaundiced eye of a pessimistic German philosopher. He sees through all illusions. He transvalues all values. Good is bad, truth is a cheat, and life is a joke." Fill in the blank ( refers also to an old folk song), and identify the German philosopher referred to.



18. Three conversations that contain meditations on science and technology; the devastation of nature, the world war, and evil; and the possibility of a more authentic relation with being and the world. The first one has a scholar, a scientist and a guide walking together. The second is between a teacher and a tower-warden. The final one is set in a PoW camp in Russia, between a younger and an older man. Give the three word title of the English translation.



19. Schopenhauer vent his spleen in "On University Philosophy", partly because he had an all too brief stint as a lecturer in the University of Berlin. He chose to give his lectures at the same hours as X, and didn't pull any pupils from X's sessions. Ironically, X had been on the selection committee that appointed him. Name X.


20. The six fundamental sciences according to Auguste Comte are mathematics, _________, physics, chemistry, biology, and _________. In this sequence, the first is necessary for constituting the second and supports it, and likewise so on. The second blank is the name he gave to a new science. Fill in with both blanks.



21. A life peer and parliamentarian for 30 years, in 1978, her report brought change by emphasising the teaching of learning-disabled children in mainstream schools, and introduced entitlement to special educational support. She chaired the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology. Her report ( 1984, known after her name) led to an Act on embryology in 1990, but she's known more for The Philosophy of Sartre (1965) and Imagination and Time (1994) and An Intelligent Person's Guide To Ethics. Who?



22. The French daily Liberation described him as "a man of four cultures": Jewish, Russian, German and French. He translated Husserl's "Cartesian Meditations" into French and introduced his ideas into France. He lost kin in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust and was himself in a German PoW labour camp. Pope John Paul II admired and quoted from him. He placed the `ethical I' before the `thinking I'. Identify.



23. Around the year 1130 AD, in which city ( with a large World Heritage area) were Averroes as well as Maimonides born, where around 4 B.C., Seneca the Younger too had been?



24.Name the famous work by Xenophon in which Socrates discusses how to manage the household, leadership, and agriculture. In it, a young woman is trained for running the home by her wealthy spouse Ischomachus.


25.Identify this thinker who died around 950 AD in Damascus and had also worked in Baghdad and Aleppo. He is traditionally called the Second Teacher ( the first being Aristotle) by the Arabs. Avicenna is said to have understood Aristotle (though he read him numerous times) through this man's works, among which is a trilogy - The Attainment of Happiness, The Philosophy of Plato, The Philosophy of Aristotle. Said to hold that the existence of a plurality of true religions at one and the same time is not only possible but likely desirable.



26. What term, used sometimes in a dismissive way, was used to describe ancient travelling professional teachers of whom Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias and Isocrates were the best known?

27. Which versatile writer (b.1694) is celebrated for saying, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." ( This particular rendition of that writer's idea was by Evelyn S.G.Tallentyre in 1906 )


28. To some quite famous words, X replied, "That shall be done; think if there is anything else". Who's X, and whom had he answered?


29. What term is derived from the Latin for "I alone" as in, "Rather than anything existing independently, I believe that I alone exist, everything else depending on me"?


30. After a lunch meeting in May 1896, Swami Vivekananda wrote "... his long and arduous task of exciting interest and creating a respect for the thoughts of the sages of ancient India—the trees, the flowers, the calmness, and the clear sky—all these sent me back in imagination to the glorious days of ancient India. It was neither the philologist nor the scholar that I saw, but a soul that is every day realizing its oneness with the universe." About whom?



31. In the 1980s, when John Searle was refuting the case for Strong Artificial Intelligence, he said a person inside a locked room could answer questions in a language that person had no knowledge of, with the help of a program, and without having a clue as to the actual content of a question or its answer. What language is mentioned in this imagined experiment?



32. The last book that Roland G.Barthes wrote in 1980 was after his mother, who he had lived with for about six decades, died in 1977. The book is about photography as communication. What is its title?


33. Identify the philosopher associated with this thinking.
"Consider a hammer. The hammer’s being is its readiness to hand. Its true weight is its being too light or heavy to use effectively, not a neutral one or two pounds, and its true place is the fact that it is too near or too far away to use well, not a point or number on a geometric grid. Indeed, theoretical observing and measuring occurs only as a narrowing or reducing of practical action."



34. What is this doctrine from Leibniz called which holds that the coincidence between mental and material events is due to both substances being created to act in concert even though there is no post-creation interaction between the two? It features in this famous quote from Nietzsche - 'There is no ------------------- ------- between the furtherance of truth and the well-being of mankind.'



35.Two Sanskrit words from it made a huge impression on Mahatma Gandhi - aparigraha ("non-possession") and samabhava ("equability") who called it his "spiritual dictionary". Comprising about 700 verses, it is part of a larger work (which you don't have to name) and among the three sources ( Prasthanatrayi) or the three canonical texts of Hindu philosophy. The other two are the Upanishads and the Brahmasutras. Name the third.



36. Which influential and active figure said these:
“If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans, and in my heart he put other and different desires. It is not necessary for eagles to be crows.”

“For us, warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who can not provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity."?



37. From whose memoir: "For the sake of clarity I would put it this way. Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October Revolution would still have taken place - on the condition that Lenin was present and in command. If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petersburg, there would have been no October Revolution:"




38. In Greece, the term referred to knowledge that is obtained from the effect, and not from the cause. Its current usage refers to the knowledge obtained from experience, i.e. its truth has to be verified by experience and it is not a universal or necessarily true. Identify this two-word term.


39. Identify - son of a mathematician, this American thinker who died in 1914, wrote only articles and no book, and had a doctrine of Categories: Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness. His maxim was, "Our idea of anything is our idea of its sensible effects".


40. Outside the western hemisphere, in which country did the author of the essays, "Conjectures and Refutations"- Sir Karl Popper - teach (1937-45), and write “The Open Society and its Enemies” during the time?



41. Derived from Greek and originally used for the art of discussion or conversation, this word came to represent a philosophical method, then some logicians used it to refer to formal logic, and eventually, it came to mean a necessary movement from contraries towards their synthesis. What's the good word?


42. All phenomena can be explained by one unifying principle, or as manifestations of a single substance. What word coined by German philosopher Christian Wolff in 1728 is applied, among others, to theories from Thales, Heraclitus, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Engels and to Advaita philosophy?



43.Where would you come across these names in this particular order - Moses, Homer, Aristotle, Archimedes, Caesar (Julius), Saint Paul, Charlemagne, Dante, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Descartes, Frederick ( the Second of Prussia), Bichat (Marie Francois)?



44.In 1668, his friend and fellow radical Adriaan Koerbagh was convicted of blasphemy and subversion, and died in his cell the next year. In response, he published his famous and controversial work a couple of years later. Who?



45. In the 18th century, Anthony W. Amo was a respected philosopher and teacher who taught at German universities, in Halle and Jena where he had studied. Which West African country did he hail from, which later was the first sub-Saharan nation to break free from colonial rule in 1957?


46. Associated with thinkers like A.J.Ayer among many others, what is the principle called that states that the meaning of a proposition is just the set of observations or experiences which would determine its truth? (a 13-letter term)


47. By the mid-19th century, this city at the confluence of two major rivers was more than a center for German immigrants and an economic center. A Philosophical Society was founded in 1866. Its first president went on to became lieutenant governor of the State. Visitors like Ralph W Emerson were amazed at its contact with German philosophy from the Continent. Name the city.


48. Son of a lawyer from Allahabad, India, and professor at Oxford and King's College, London, which philosopher, recognized for his work on Aristotle and on Gandhi received a knighthood for services to Philosophical Scholarship in 2014?


49. A philosopher who has been referred elsewhere in this set stated that "The author of _________ was Scott" is a conjunction of the three statements "At least one person wrote __________" ; "At most one person wrote _________"; and "It is not the case that anyone both wrote _________ and was not identical with Scott". Fill in the blank.



50. From Saul Bellow's novel,"Ravelstein"(publ. 2000): "Abe had excellent friends in Paris. He was well received by the ecoles and instituts where he lectured on French subjects in his own sort of French. He himself had studied in Paris years ago under the famous Hegelian and high official _________ ______, who had educated a whole generation of influential thinkers and writers. Among these Abe had quite a few buddies, admirers, readers." Fill in the blank.



51. Two famous minds, d'Alembert and X had a fallout because the latter couldn't stomach d'Alembert's reference, in a 1757 article, about the city where X had been born that it lacked a theatre. Identify X and the city in question.


52. In his best-known work of 1949, Gilbert Ryle said we tend to be misled and think of the mind as an extra object situated in the body and controlling it by a set of invisible actions. He used the phrase _____ __ ___ _______ to refer to it. It's also the title of a 1981 rock album from the UK which was described by Rolling Stone magazine as being about: overload, media explosion, the global village, the behavioral sink. Fill in the blank.



53. What famous work emerged out of a nine-month overseas visit undertaken by the author with Gustave de Beaumont in 1831-32, and was published in two volumes, the first in 1835 followed by the other in 1840? The work holds insights about that country's laws and its political, intellectual, religious, and social life. Just name the work.


54. In 1947 and 1948, Charles Habib Malik of Lebanon became President of the Economic and Social Council at the U.N. The same year, what important document did he help to draft along with Mrs.Eleanor Roosevelt who he succeeded as Chair of a particular Commission? C.H.Malik had a great number of honorary doctorates to his credit.


55. The word "Sutra" means `sewing together' - which is the similar term from Sanskrit which is as well-known and derived from `loom or weave' and used to mean a doctrine or technique. It's often referred in speaking of art or iconography, and is associated much with Vajrayana Buddhism especially?


56. Godson of John Stuart Mill, he was brought up by his paternal grandmother. He received appreciation from women though he lost in Wimbledon in 1907. Name him.



57. From the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy: in Chinese philosophy, _______ means something like “act naturally,” “effortless action,” or “non-willful action.” The point is that there is no need for human tampering with the flow of reality. _______ should be our way of life, because the dao always benefits, it does not harm. Fill in the blank.



58. This question has two parts. In 1928, this town got a new library building that was funded by a National Committee of the U.S. to restore its ancient university. In 1914 (petrol fires) as well as 1940 (shelling), the library lost a huge number of volumes during war. Still, its Higher Institute of Philosophy is famous worldwide for hosting the archives of a thinker (d.1938). A Ph.D student had saved his writings and smuggled them here through diplomatic channels. Appropriately, a statue of a reading student near the town center is called the "fountain of wisdom". Which town, whose archives?



59. A two-word phrase used by Derrida and Zizek which draws upon an anecdote in Freud about a man who had to return an object he had borrowed from his neighbor: It is a way of combining arguments, offering them together, despite their being contradictory to each other. ______ _____.


60. Identify. Killed in a battle in his native country in 1895, this poet and orator had taught literature and philosophy in Guatemala in 1877-78. One of his poems:
I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.


61. In the title of his 1942 work, Albert Camus referred to a mythical figure who is condemned to roll a rock up a hill for eternity, while it just rolls downhill each time. Name the character.


62. Which German philosopher and psychologist(1838–1917) authored `On the Several Senses of Being in Aristotle’ (publ.1862), which Heidegger read in 1907, inspiring his interest in philosophy?


63. He declined the opportunity to leave Germany for Switzerland in 1942, as the Nazis wished to detain his wife as a condition. A fortnight before his eventual deportation date, Heidelberg fell to the Americans. However, he took Swiss citizenship a quarter of a century later, when his book had been received unfavourably in political circles in West Germany. Who?


64. Name Plato's nephew, a member of the Academy in Athens, and who succeeded him for eight years as its Head until his death in 339 B.C.


65. In Zen, the experience of kenshō refers to "seeing into one's true nature", but another word in Japanese meaning "awakening or understanding" ( and thereby a new world outlook) is used more often and is better known internationally. Which term?


66. In 1964, novelist John Fowles published a collection of hundreds of philosophical aphorisms, modelled on Heraclitus's style - the first edition had the subtitle "A Self-Portrait in Ideas". What was its title, which includes a word derived from another Greek word, used for excellence of any kind?


67. Rather than advise a study of geometry or some such, whose school premises had an inscription which said, “Stranger, here you will do well to tarry. Here our highest good is pleasure.”?


68. "A Dual Autobiography" was a publication in 1977 from Simon & Schuster, who had benefited greatly from the sales of many, many volumes authored by these two Pulitzer-awarded writers. Name them.


69. He advocated an approach to teaching that includes gathering a list of words used in the daily lives of the community, so it could lead to discussion in the classes. In 1962, 300 farmworkers thus learnt to read and write in just 45 days. A military coup threw him in jail for a couple of months and then into 15 years of exile. He won several international prizes in the field of Education. Name him.


70. He demonstrated how any system which addresses some aspect of human need eventually acquires its own internal logic and, if not resisted, begins to work against human interests. He discussed this trend in medicine (Medical Nemesis), transportation (Energy and Equity), and in the 1970s also wrote The Right to Useful Unemployment (And its Professional Enemies). Name him.


71. Name the German-Canadian Indologist who wrote dozens of leading books on Yoga, and "In Search of the Cradle of Civilisation", co-authored with David Frawley .


72. In "The Razor's Edge" by Somerset Maugham, there is a saint Sri Ganesha, contact with whom proves enlightening for the protagonist, Larry Darrell. Sri Ganesha is based on an actual meeting in 1938 that Somerset Maugham had with which famous spiritual figure in southern India?

World Philosophy Day 2017 - solo quiz online < 45 mins
novaristotle
Philosophy holds many questions. Some of them get reframed, refreshed and recast. A few are packed away as having been answered.

Quizzing is also about questions - but there's the comfort of knowing there are ready answers!

My set of questions ( 1000 hours GMT on Sunday the 19th Nov.) in the inaugural year of this Philosophy Quiz is a tribute to a late friend Ajay Singh. We were friends in Hyderabad, the city we grew up in and attended University. A software engineer with an Electronics degree, he was a diligent reader and enthusiast about ideas mainly from Existentialism and Critical Theory. So the choice of questions for this edition is also part of the tribute.




This is a philosophy quiz - so we hope you are yourSelf a search engine always linking to new ideas and information - the standard quizzing dictum of `desist from look-ups during the event' will apply! And try not to exceed the 45-min duration by more than a minute ( likely you'll need ten minutes less actually). It's not a hyper-competitive thing - not this Edition at least- but send in your answers to: novaristotle@ymail.com and we can see which questions proved to be easy and which were the toughest. Perhaps even a Leaderboard so you know what the top scores were like.

Thank you for your interest - happy quizzing and even happier philosophizing!!

Balakrishnan Satyam, Mumbai.


A love for words and for written language will keep us reading and writing, if for no other reason. I can confidently declare that those who haven't yet read poets like e e cummings, Emily Dickinson, or Wallace Stevens are seriously missing out.

It's okay to feel lingoistic!
novaristotle
I am certain that if we look up all the common words pertaining to writing, and how they came about, there's a lot we'd learn thereby. I wondered about `paragraph' – it means to write beside. There was a sign/stroke by the margin that the Greeks used to indicate that a new or the next idea was being conveyed.

Greek is also the language which gave us the word `colon' for the punctuation mark : and it literally means a part/limb of a poem. I believe that an interest in etymology, and an interest in the history of words are useful for a writer. For one, it sensitizes us to the nuances of meaning. It teaches us how words come into being and how they change meaning over time, or become less used because of other words coming into vogue.

Etymology tells us something about how dynamic the use of language is, how much it changes over the centuries, and about the mutation that takes place in spelling and usage.

With the advent of the worldwide web, and the explosion of social media, it's not just leading columnists and authors who have an audience. Your paragraphs are being read across the world if you answered a question on Quora, wrote a comment on Facebook or in a discussion forum somewhere, or if you published an article on LinkedIn Pulse. This means that people who read in English are getting to read a variety of writing styles in that language from across the world. In turn, their own will get more internationalized, as different from the current choices in MS Word for UK English, US English etc.

It's quite likely that a love for words and for written language will keep us reading and writing, if for no other reason. I can confidently declare that those who haven't yet read poets like e e cummings, Emily Dickinson, or Wallace Stevens are seriously missing out. There are poets who show us new realms of meaning that hadn't been thought of by anyone before. They are able to do with language which very few can, and each does so in unique ways.

As a matter of fact, just as a strong color sense and passion for colors is how some people take up painting, similarly those who develop a feel for words as children and like the rhythms of language in poetry or prose are likelier to take to writing. They may also have an affinity for music, at least for hearing it, as that utilizes the same faculty.

Just as all of the world's musical instruments can strike a very large variety of sounds and notes, writers can strike a comparable array of emotional chords and describe inner sensations. Text is a dimension like color or sound that helps us to record an emotion.

Acknowledging the way in which the arts enrich our lives and motivate us, corporate offices are doing up their office in a customised arty way to portray their brand values and personality. From the drab uniformity of the late 20th century, they have moved on to a conscious portrayal of the relationships they seek with their customers and with their employees. They are also investing in more and friendlier communication with all stakeholders. From the days of information sharing ( rendered redundant by the internet), they have moved on to values sharing and cause-sharing.

There have been some recent decades when the humanities and arts were sidelined and the engineers were toasted the most. But the present decade has shown a counter-trend with a lot more interest in design and in innovation.

This revives the interest in the arts, back up to nearly the levels of public interest in paintings, when the Impressionists were churning out their vivid canvases. It's really up to the artists in a society to engage their audience in remarkable new ways and that applies to its writers too.

Let's call it the inKremental method!
novaristotle
Some of us, who are avid readers, have realized that when we take small doable steps, we move forward a lot more than we have only been thinking or reading about something.

And that's where #my500words is a simple yet wonderful concept. It doesn't take much time in a day, there are no other stipulations, just that it be done daily and that it be not less than 500 words. Recently, I read a highly informative and insightful article in the New Yorker magazine from the best-selling Dr.Atul Gawande, on the value of incremental care.

The article itself has many important things to share, but one quite generalized takeout is the idea of incremental – small things done correctly each day make a big difference. So what this means for writers who've just got started or who think they are going to start soon, is that there's more progress made by simply writing each day for a while, no matter how riveting or plain the prose is, than waiting for something to happen.

Sure, there's value in reading all the terrific tips from editors and established writers. And some quite good books on writing interestingly, on developing the plot, on writing short paragraphs, using the active voice, avoiding adverbs, and so on. This works for us because though we've read many, many pages of beautiful writing that exemplify it all, we may not have particularly noticed or noted many excellent details. And it's the details that make a significant difference to the quality of writing.

This is the reason we benefit when we read books on the craft of writing where people who have analyzed the details in the paragraphs of accomplished writers share their findings with us. The truth however is that our own march begins when our fingers are poised over the keyboard or we have a pen hovering over a page.

The people who took up the #my500words challenge and stayed with it over 31 days would have all done anything between eighteen and fifty thousand words during the time. I believe I might have done twenty thousand or so. But it's been a training in regularity and in uninterrupted writing more than anything else, and practical proof that this is how, day by day, even a 150,000 word book gets written.

There are many of us who write during the day – we write marketing content, lesson content, Powerpoint presentations, our diaries, book reviews, comments on social posts, various e-mails to colleagues and clients, however other than all of those, to committedly write every day like this is an instructive experience in itself.

There's a powerful psychological difference because much of the other content ( apart from the diary, the comment maybe the book review) is triggered externally whereas what we do here is purely voluntary and is part of an inward journey. We are getting in better touch with ourselves. Whatever else in terms of recognition or material reward may or may not happen, but this tremendous intrinsic value is reaped from such an undertaking.

Just half a kilo of prose, please.
novaristotle
For a while, during a busy spell in their lives, people will decide about a book based on its volume. If it is about 85,000 words, they will pick it up more readily because that's a chunk of time they are surer about. And then, there will be a category of `vacation books' where they will willingly lug along bulkier books.

We must acknowledge this is more practical than leaving a book partially read or even unread. Far better that a book that is picked up gets read from cover to cover, than the reader feel that this wasn't quite the month to read it.

This also implies that writers have a choice if they are indeed giving a thought to this aspect. They can decide whether at that stage in their writing careers they ought to produce a shorter book or two, or do a big tome.

For instance, I would not pick up a very big book by someone I hadn't read before, or hadn't heard a huge amount of praise for. It's a big investment of time, effort and perhaps money too, so I get cautious.

I have a feeling that people remember more from a smaller book than from the reams of prose from a larger one, but that could be just me. But I must say this afternoon, I strode out with more confidence out of the library with slimmer volumes because in recent weeks, I have not been able to read all of the books I borrow.

I also discover that when I glance through the pages of a book I bought last month because it looked so promising, on a second look, it doesn't appear as appealing! But there must be something about it that had me in the first place, so I do mean to get around to reading them all sometime during the year.

There's another thing – if you have a slow and long train journey, you can expect to read a good bit. However, on recent trips, I've enjoyed a few good thrillers and haven't gotten around to the serious reading I had promised to myself that I would do, in the quiet of the train. I find that I need at least twenty minutes to decide the books (usually three, even if I will actually end up reading just one) that I will take with me.

I rarely read books on a flight – the newspaper crossword and the shopping items inside the in-flight magazine suffice for me usually. When you think about it, every kind of book is a friend, they are your company in different kinds of places, that's all.

So there are the books that hold a casual conversation and talk of things sundry. There are those which are serious in intent and tone, even persuasive. And each of them has a role in our lives as they are a window to the diversity of thinking on our planet.

And now as I have to leave for the railway station to catch a train, I must hurry up.

This really big moment is yours!
novaristotle
The sheer enormity of the present moment!

Here you are, hopefully seated comfortably, and reading lines of text on a screen. As you scan the sentences, you try to fathom if the writer has anything particularly interesting to say.

You, who have read much and have had many experiences. You, who find time to read a bit or even a lot each week, despite the time needed for household errands, the work pressures, the notifications from Facebook, the office parties....

You, who read online for a while nearly each day even with the demands for attention from family members, other relationships, colleagues who want your help, and the fine print in bills that have been presented to you for payment.

You, who know a great deal about history, the world, a few things about your own family's last four generations, and even something about God from all that you've heard from your parents, your teachers, your classmates, your neighbors and your friends.

You who know a good bit of the story so far. You, with a past behind you and a future ahead of you. You, who know how to drive a car and perhaps even a motorcycle. You, who have craved for a sleeker computer, a smarter phone, a shinier gadget, a new improved something else which you felt certain would transform your life.

And while they did, for a short while or longer, it took perhaps just a few years or at best a decade to realize that it's not all about having. It's really more about doing and being.

So you went bungee jumping and vertical scaling, and posted those snaps on your Instagram account. But it wasn't so much the admiration, which so quickly diverted itself to some freak video from a game sanctuary, that was your reward. The thought and feeling running inside you while you were out there in a state of suspension, teetering more on the side of uncertainty, those shudders were valuable.

In both everyday situations as well as challenging ones, we rely on our manual skills. Our ability to maneuver and manipulate stands us in good stead with physical objects. These terms, along with manufacture and so on, come from the root word `manu-' which means `hand'. Yet there are areas in our life, where we deploy such skills out of habit, but to little avail or with poor result.

These are matters where we ought not to try to buy our place, or to assert our strength. We have to reach out not with an outward limb but from within us.

So what then of your heart, how does it tend to feel? Generous, open, freeflowing, trustful, amiable? Or suspicious, injured, wrathful, unhopeful, burdened? Do you now feel capable of choosing what to feel, the emotions you want to experience more of?

Isn't it an enormous moment truly – so much happening all round us, such a vast universe, a history that seems very very long to us who have lifespans of hardly a century, and where it does seem like we could enlarge our hearts and have feelings of galactic proportions?

But what we don't have too much of is time, we have to feel everything that much more keenly right now.

Our sentences are pipelines that circulate energy
novaristotle
There are various kinds of energies within us. And some of them, you want to store in some way and tap it when you need.

There are inspirational moments that we want to revisit. That's why writing.

When we read words that carry a passion and convey a fervent message, it affects us profoundly. At a time, if we happen to be feeling dull or tired, and we read a high-voltage passage, it propels us into an active mode. Writing ensures our brighter and stronger ideas are not forgotten by us.

While some of this will sound very obvious, I find it useful to say here that like physical objects hold energy, written words carry energy too. All the motivational writers and bloggers who we read are infusing energy and commitment into us.

At some hours during the week, flashes of understanding occur to us. They are fleeting. But if you jot them down, develop gradually upon them, they play a part in shaping your life and its quality.

Of course, writing does need energy at the time of creating it too. It's likely that alongside roads, drainage, protected water supply and hygienic practices, it's writing that has contributed greatly to the evolution of civilizations. Laws were framed and written down. Descriptions of places were written down. Professionals from architecture, medicine, theology, government and business wrote their knowledge into tomes.

People who accumulated knowledge everyday from their occupations wrote to share their knowledge, and to set down standards. Writing arose as a solution to meet the ever-growing information needs in a society.


Then writers worked on plays and songs and took on an entertaining role. Diversionary writers wrote farces, whodunits and more. Writers also wrote to help people understand their times, their communities and themselves better.

Some writers overtly allied themselves with new ideas that challenged the status quo and were thus politically active, and some like Thomas Paine and Harriet B. Stowe impacted the way society (especially American) viewed the conccept of equality.

Something to be noticed here, most of these people had a ready capability or a gift and an external event precipitated it. If they weren't particular gifted with expression, the fact they wrote things important to their age and reached out to a large number of people earned them a reputation.

Highly cerebral people with a lot of knowledge could make good writers if they write in a way that appeals to and informs a large number of non-specialist readers. People who have a knack for entertaining become popular. Writers of materials that are economically or politically useful and that pertain to current challenges in a society too rise in stature.

A few writers who contribute a fresh variant of technique and are experimentalists offer ideas to other writers, and thus become well-known among writers at least. The most important reason to write is that it is an assertion of liberty. You go to an office of any kind and the amount of time you will get to say something, the amount of attention you will get – these are miniscule unless you are a millionaire.

But if you have a theory, a belief, a prayer, a solution, a slogan, a story, an explanation or a wonderful word-picture of someplace or something incredibly beautiful, and if you might or might not get an audience to properly share it, you can write it. A certain number will see it and share it. It could get a wider circulation too, if its content is particularly relevant to present-day concerns, and you know you can wield as much or more influence than people in power or with great pelf.

So let's write on for better, or for words!

Keep a watch and hear the tick.
novaristotle
I close my eyes for a few seconds. I hear the ticking of the clock. And I think this would be a good meditation, simply listening to the ticks. Call it `being in the moment' if you like. But while simply listening, there need be no verbal descriptions or labeling.

One thing I notice soon enough is that just as there is a ticking outside that I can hear, there is a pulse I can feel – as a throb near the temple and as a gentle pounding in the chest. The internal and external oscillation seem to be getting in sync.

On reading the previous paragraph, I am reminded of the closing lines of `The Great Gatsby' - "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." I think it came to mind because of the idea of an unceasing beat. We step off into a vacant zone to refresh ourselves, to press the pause button, and we then return to whatever it is had us occupied before, which is like being borne back into the past.

As for what `against the current' means in this context, the very attempt to let go of our pressing concerns or strong feelings or usual thinking patterns for a while, and to just listen to the quiet monotony of a clock ticking is an interruption of our mind's momentum, and so against the current.

If actors didn't remove their makeup and costume between shoot sessions or stage performances, it would seem odd. Many of the roles we play in life are akin to this, and we should be able to set aside familiar routines of anxiety, solution-finding etc. and look at the larger scheme of which we are a small part, with far less in our own control. We have to learn to be adaptable, to understand situations in which we are to appear, execute actions at the right speed, interact well with others, and try to fathom the Director's intention.

To me, wisdom seems to lie in realizing that we do receive many answers but we must recognize when we have received an answer. Our search results turn up when we are not looking or expecting them, and not when we mentally press our `Enter' key. And sometimes after we have clicked on a link of interest to us, it takes far longer to load than we usually think. This could be because our seeking has to get connected through a maze of thought networks on the planet, get processed and fetch us information related to the objects of our quest.

It's far easier to find an absorbing action film to lose ourselves in, than to practise sitting without attending to the stuff that's been doing the rounds of our brain circuits in recent days. Firstly, it requires us to realize the value in cultivating such an ability and some idea of its benefits. Then when we actually do commence some practice, we've got to again forget that we are sitting there to cultivate the ability of sitting there without attending to our usual preoccupations and just sit there.

This will do a lot to quell our typical inner agitation, and settle us down to a deeper, more stable state. Become less prone to importing chaos from our environment. Perhaps gain the strength to bring our surroundings into better order. I need to become comfortable with my writing and to continue doing so. At the same time, I don't need to impose expectations on it or have it prove some point. If my writing helps me in my search for harmony, and a greater harmony helps my writing, I really needn't hope for more.

Clocks have been used in societies in the last few centuries to organize external events, but it is when we are mindful of the elapsed time in our lives, and of the hours available in our day that we begin to use a clock like a compass to navigate with a simpler route and keep off the shallows.

Becoming quietly aware about how our life or day is going is actually like applying the principles of marine watch-keeping to it.
http://www.marineinsight.com/guidelines/12-ways-to-master-the-engine-room-watch-keeping-procedure/

Just don't lose the plod, okay?
novaristotle
Today I met a cinematographer who graduated in the subject many years ago from a leading Institute. It was the first time we were holding a conversation, but pretty soon, he mentioned GG Marquez, then that Mike Newell had directed a 2007 film "Love In The Time Of Cholera".

A few hours later, we bumped into each other again, it being a holiday and this time he mentioned Luis Bunuel, then Jean-Claude Carriere who wrote a French version of the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata, which Peter Brooks directed, and we spoke of other directors too.

I remember many conversations like this in my 20s – I had several friends who enjoyed conversing on books, ideas, films, art and so on. Hasn't happened so much for me in recent years but I'm sure there are still many people who make time for these interactions. There's a lot of information and culture that spreads through these conversations, and knowledge too, sometimes much more than can be imparted in a classroom setting.

That's the terrific thing about a public holiday, and these get-togethers on such occasions that get people from different walks of life to connect with each other. If you happen to be someone who's entertaining an artistic kind of aspiration but are in another occupation currently, these chats can help you a great deal. Managing to hold your own in such a conversation can build your confidence, makes you feel that you know a thing or two after all, and that you can and should work to produce your play or ballet or album or whatever it is you are dreaming of.

Here I'm imagining that you've been lucky enough to meet a very amiable, balanced and easygoing person who you are able to chat with. If you meet someone too volatile, aggrieved and a recluse, you wouldn't have a chat in the first place.

But if you did – one of two things could happen. The first is that you have an abrupt and rude encounter, but as a result of which you throw yourself into painting, poetry or playing the piccolo – so that's just fine. The other is that you see how dissimilar you are and conclude that you aren't nutty enough to be an artist, and you never really give it a try.

So much depends on the temperament of the talented person you strike an acquaintance with. But it helps a lot to meet people who understand things like books, symphonies or serious films. A freeranging conversation is a stimulating experience. And when we feel understood, our views recognized, we start to feel that the product of our talent and effort too might have a chance of earning some appreciation.

The caveat about these interactions is always that they shouldn't become an end in themselves, as they can get very satisfying. It's all very good to be a member of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez fan club, or to be another connoisseur among true jazz-lovers. Art appreciation itself is an ennobling thing and can be recommended heartily. But if we are to produce, and not just develop a discerning taste in art, then our own projects should be priority and we must plod on.

Admiring the punctuation in a suspense thriller :-)
novaristotle
When we start to keep an eye on how our writing is turning out, we read in a certain way.

Firstly, we read some writers for how they write, and not so much for what they are writing about. Then, we look at how they are crafting their sentences, their choice of words, and the metaphors they create in the course of their writing.

We begin to notice things we never paid any attention to earlier. Imagine looking at punctuation choices during a suspenseful chapter in a novel. No exaggeration, I've noticed lately that I'm taking all this in.

If a writer has made a big reputation, I read him (or her) to try and discover why such is the case. I picked up an Elmore Leonard last month and read it over three days. I hadn't heard of him 15-20 years ago when I was reading the bulk of the fiction I've read. Only in the last couple of years, and on account of his by now famous writing tips, I've been seeing his name.

He kept his characters on the move, all the time planning or plotting their next action. He pitted the heroes against the villains pretty much continuously, and detailed out the main characters' jobs, their daily routines, and their interaction with their parents. The roads and topography of the areas where the action is set is described with a strong knowledge.

While there's always some impending violence throughout, the reader's all the time understanding some or the other character better with the progress of the story. Violent or insane characters and crime organizers simplify the novelist's job because the number of odd possibilities goes up.

The pace of the story and the constant movement between locations a few hundred kilometres apart kept me turning the pages, though after two-thirds of the book, I did feel Mr. E. Leonard had stretched it a bit. But I did notice a few things – the ingredients he'd chosen, the character details he was filling in, a hard-boiled flavour that was sustained, and the clarity of his descriptions.

At the same time, what shows you a writer's class is that across genres - sci-fi, historical, crime thriller or comedy – we can spot those indicators like a wry wit, or the observation of minor details in a scene.

I mention all this because honestly I wasn't so much set on finding another crime writer or novel to read, but seeing Elmore Leonard's name on the books made me buy a couple. I read one almost immediately because my interest was in his talent for prose. I read it more for instruction and not for diversion!

I have come to believe that this is a useful reason to re-read some well-known books. We remember most of how it all turns out, and so we can now read each page, looking at how the scene is brought about, what the writer undertakes to describe in detail, and take a closer look at the prose per se. We begin to see how the writer is playing to his or her own strengths and also how they hope to retain and further the reader's interest in the story.

This is not only not difficult, it's fun, and builds our confidence and makes us more perceptive, about writing and while writing too. By the way, the E.L novel I read was titled, "Killshot".