O Discipline, Where Art Thou?

I read Lapierre and Collins’s “Freedom at Midnight” and am incredibly moved, even sobbing many times during the book, and make a promise to myself that I’ll learn more about India, and esp. the Partition. So, I pick up Sucheta Mahajan’s “India and Partition: the Erosion of Colonial Power in India,” and start it with great enthusiasm. At around the 20th page, when going forward with any reasonably degree of continuity requires looking up citations, making notes, and higher levels of concentration, I switch to some pulp fiction.

I love Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” and “Network”, and when I spot his book – “Making Movies,” on the book stand, I pick it up greedily. I kind of fancy myself as a movie maker in the making, and this book is a must-read for all amateurs. I finish a third of it, and when Lumet starts talking about camera positions, lenses, lighting, and subtler aspects of screenplays, I start watching “12 Angry Men” again. I like re-runs.

As is usual with many a new concept, Samba mentions Prisoner’s Dilemma in one of our conversations, and I am into Game Theory from that moment. People are explaining human behaviour using formal theory! This, like many before have come and gone for me, has to be it. The truth must be hidden somewhere in these games. I read up on Nash Equilibrium, Repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma, and other popular Game Theory material online, and buy a standard text book to get deeper into it. After reading the table of contents, preface, acknowledgments, and introduction, I lend the book to a friend.

Hofstadter, “Dancing Wu Li Masters,” “Society of Mind,” “Siddharatha,” Sartre, Probability, “Crime and Punishment,” “Naked Ape,” and among many others, surprisingly, even Lolita has gone through this phase with me. That sentence construction kind of absolves me from any blame; but I know better. I got back and finished Lolita, but the rest of them await. It’s just a matter of ‘when,’ and of course, not a matter of ‘if-ever.’

9 thoughts on “O Discipline, Where Art Thou?

  1. Same thing happens to me. But most often it’s because I never wanted to read the book in the first place. So I presume your case would make you reach for them later on. Me…I will have to just accept the fact that I know not how those books end.

  2. Are you sure its not a matter of “if-ever”? Sometimes we commit too soon to things, realizing soon enough that something else is more worthy of our attention and effort. May be never acknowledging it – just letting the guilt play. I am told its a shade of commitment-phobia. I call it commitment-wariness. May be its just ADD, may be its both (must think about that one). Is discipline connected somewhere to our motivation? Is motivation an act of free-will?

  3. @Tayzwi:
    When I have to drag myself out of bed on a Sunday morning to work on research, I know discipline is certainly not all natural! Discipline is all about mind over body, and mind over mind and mood over mood…perhaps even self over self…

    And when choice of what books to read becomes a choice of selves, the book and the self that endures this test of discipline will I think become the mainstay of our personality. Like reading Lolita, something endures beyond the momentary impulsive selves that want to do it (read it) all…Discipline over a long run defines “us”.

    Is motivation an act of free will?I think motivation is free will in action. Nothing can move (read motivate) me other than my “will”-ingness and when this happens, discipline just toes the line.

  4. Thirst for knowledge is noble. Knowledge is one of the very few things more liquid than hard cash. You will almost always be able to cash in on it, if ever you want to. Too little knowledge about too much? Well, that’s like a balanced investment portfolio. There are customers for it too. Frequent hopping across different domains of knowledge? You are a short term investor. you are good as long as you keep spotting arbitrage opportunities over your short horizon. Else, you’d better hang in there for the long term.

    What about discipline? If you subject pleasure reading to discipline, where did the pleasure go?

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