Why write? (and other musings)

George Mallory is famously supposed to have responded “Because it is there” when asked “Why climb Everest?”. More recently some have criticized this as the essential colonial impulse to conquer and tame anything that appears enigmatic, challenging or out of reach. The question is at least as intriguing as the answer. Recently, I ask myself the question “Why write?”. This question belongs among a generic class of questions such as “Why run?”, “Why learn a new dance?”, “Why learn to ski?”, “Why live?” or “Why do anything at all?”. This classification reminds me of the concept of NP-completeness in complexity theory.

I attempt an allegorical answer. Suppose you have blue litmus, and a solution. You can either let the litmus stay blue, or you can attempt to learn something about the solution, i.e. its possible acidity. But not both. You already know that the litmus is blue, but when you risk the changing of its colour, that is when you learn something about the nature of something. Of course, you’ll astutely observe that this raises the question “Why learn something about something?”, and we are back in the realm of our above basket of questions.

Pegging as an impediment to learning.

Pegging, the way I use it here, is the active endeavour of the mind to hold on to old patterns and experiences while attempting to learn something new, be it an activity such as skiing, or a language such as Spanish. It is the neurotic drive to relate what we learn to something we already know – this manifests in “trying not to go down too fast” while attempting skiing (“too fast” is relative to our earlier experiences of walking/running etc.), and trying to discover parallels and similarities with English usages while attempting to pick up a new Spanish construct. This inner neurotic struggle continues as we try to further peg what we have already learnt in a field, and resist learning anything that violates a pre-established “rule” which represents our current state of knowledge. Thus, we are doomed to progress in a ladder-rung like climbing manner, where every bout of learning must be neurotically resisted, and then followed by pegging to establish patterns that can oppose further learning. The other option of choosing ungroundedness may offer opportunities for uncontrolled learning, but one runs the risk of skiing off the precipice of sanity.

Contrarianism during discussions.

Contrarianism is the proclivity to oppose a mainstream or prevalent idea. To swim against the current. For some, this comes naturally, or habitually. Habitual contrarians love argumentation, and hence like to take a position of maximum contrariness in a debate, are anti-establishment (rebellious), like the under-dog over the top-dog and so on. They attack stereotypes, and preferentially oppose qualitative assertions. Regarding the former, – almost anything nontrivial that is ever said to convey meaning is a generalization i.e. a stereotype. In fact, considering every stereotype evil is itself a generalization performed by such a contrarian. (This is a bit more meaningful and less self-serving than the speciously clever ‘The statement “Every rule has an exception” being a rule, must have an exception as well’.)

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23 comments
  1. pseudopseudointellectual said:

    Another beautiful post. I am in awe of your writing. It inspires me to aspire to write as well! Thats why write ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Unawoken said:

    pseudopseudointellectual, you are too generous :), but thank you, and I am glad you like my writing. And I will be following your writing ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Anonymous said:

    U started writing again ha ..cool
    ANyways .. will check for ur new blogs frequently ..keep writing.
    –>Jyo

  4. gn said:

    very nice! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Justuju said:

    The answer to the question ‘why write?’ (I’m guessing you’re talking here about writing for public consumption,) could be that one is a bad writer. Also, it could because no one wants to read it. I know, it’s a pessimistic answer, perhaps the right answer is if writing gives one some satisfaction, then they should just do it without regard for the feedback or go take a proper writing lesson.

    I like the musing about pegging. It’s a good one keep in mind for learning anything new.

    • unawoken said:

      “it could because no one wants to read it.”

      — I don’t quite follow. you are saying, Why write? write because no one wants to read it !? Explain pls.

      • Justuju said:

        Sorry, should’ve written ‘why not write’.

  6. gn said:

    @ justuju
    if writing gives one some satisfaction, then they should just do it without regard for the feedback –

    yes writing can be satisfying in its own sense. here you can compare it to a singer who sings alone and derives joy out of it.
    I think writing is a satisfaction not just for the ‘act’ of writing but also for the ideas/concepts the writer conveys. Any new idea/concept develops, grows and spreads better if it is fertilized with feedbacks (appreciation, criticism and suggestions).
    another allegorical example A diamond is always a diamond but gets its briliance when it is cut sharply. That is the the true nature of the diamond- brilliance!

    • Justuju said:

      GN,
      Agree completely.

    • Justuju said:

      GN,
      But one thing, I agree that the writer gets better through feedback. However, it’s not like everyone is born with the quality to write well that it just needs to be coaxed out of them. I don’t believe that everyone has that quality. Also, about the diamond, for me, diamond is just a rock, it doesn’t have any such thing as true nature. ‘We’ cut it up and attribute qualities to it and value it.

      • unawoken said:

        Nice comment Justuju

  7. gn said:

    @ Justuju

    Yes ‘we’ attribute qualities to that rock (diamond), but would we get the same result if we cut any other rock? & certainly the qualities we attribute are not false. are they?
    This agrees with your statement – ‘I don’t believe that everyone has that quality’
    I disagree with ‘it doesnโ€™t have any such thing as true nature’
    It’s ability to shine when cut –
    is this not diamond’s unique nature as opposed to another rock that is incapable of it?

    • justuju said:

      ๐Ÿ™‚ I was thinking of deleting my comments on the ‘void’ post. May be I’ll leave them now.

      • I was not sure how to reply to it. I guess I will respond.

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