Commitment. 2 on 1 #3

“By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”
~ Socrates

When my late wife and I decided to get married to each other, her friends and family thought that I was nuts to marry her.  My friends and family on the other hand, thought that she was nuts to marry me. We went ahead nevertheless,  and both of us were quite happy but eventually became philosophers anyway.

That was the single biggest commitment that I ever made in my life.

“The opposite of opportunism in human relations is loyalty; a noble sentiment – but one that needs to be invested in the right places, that is, in human relations and moral commitments.”
~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

The two other commitments that followed much later, to become a vegetarian in 1998 and to become a teetotaller in 1999 were of less significance but commitments nevertheless made to my late mother and to my God Daughter In Love respectively. Both also helped in my passage to becoming a philosopher!

Before some of you ask me, let me clarify. I am not a philosopher in the classic sense but am one in the sense that I am learning to be one.

“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose – and commit myself to – what is best for me.”

~ Paulo Coelho,The Zahir

I flatter myself that I am free.

I picked this week’s topic and so Shackman will choose next week’s. Be sure to check Shackman’s take on this week’s topic.


“I’d like to widen people’s awareness of the tremendous time span lying ahead — for our planet, and for life itself. Most educated people are aware that we’re the outcome of nearly 4 billion years of Darwinian Selection, but many tend to think that humans are somehow the culmination. Our sun, however, is less than halfway through its lifespan. Six billion years from now, it will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise. Any creatures that then exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae.”
~ Martin Rees, cosmologist and astrophysicist

What statements such as this fail to address is something that puzzles me. Surely, the sun is also changing? Six billion years from now, surely, it will not be the same sun that we see today?

I believe, as many others do too, that time is the biggest joke that man has thought of for himself. Let me just give a couple of examples of why it is such a joke.

Take the nearest star that all of us can comfortably see from the earth. The Sun. The sun that we see is 150 million Kms away from us. It takes sunlight a little more than 8 minutes to reach the earth. In other words, in those eight minutes, anything could have happened to the sun and we would be still thinking that the sun is alive.

Similarly, the brightest star in our skies is the “dog star”, Sirius. It’s the primary star in the constellation of the big dog, Canis Major. Sirius is roughly 9 light years away. Think of what you were doing 9 years ago. That’s when the light we see from Sirius tonight first began its journey to us. In other words, Sirius could well be dead when we think that we are still seeing it!

My surgery is scheduled for the end of September. My discomfort makes that seem like an eternity. Days do not seem to run fast enough for my liking.

On the other hand, a visit from an interesting friend, though lasts for a few hours, seems to fly like minutes and I don’t seem satisfied with the briefness of the visit.

All well meaning advisers advise to concentrate on the NOW. That is the only reality of time. Try it. If you can permanently live in the NOW, you would not be reading this post.

This is not a problem that I have started to grapple with recently. The same issue troubled our friend Socrates too in his ‘De anima’. “The Undivided ‘now’ of sensation must rest upon a duration with which it does not altogether coincide, the present moment must conceal, within itself, the passing of another, immeasurable by its own standard.. It is another time; to the degree to which time cannot admit of varieties of itself, it may well be something other than any time at all.”

Having confused myself thoroughly and perhaps my readers, let me now come to the conclusion about why Indians are never on time. For that I take you to another post of mine. I was confused then and continue to be confused now too.

The Test Of Three.

One day the great Greek philosopher Socrates (469 – 399 BC) came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”

“Three?”, exclaimed the student.

“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“Oh no,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”

“No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates interrupted, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you’re not certain it’s true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued. “You may still pass though, because there is a third test – the test of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”

“Well it….no, not really…”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?”

The man was defeated and ashamed. This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It is also rumoured, and I may well fail the three tests, that what the student wanted to tell Socrates was that, his student Plato was having an affair with Socrates’ wife.