Saturday, June 27, 2009

Kirpalian Kernels

Kirpal Singh - poet, author, futurist and creative thinker extraordinaire - is best known for his work, Thinking Hats & Coloured Turbans where, if my sketchy recall of reviews of the book is right, he proposes a kind of imaginative, cyclical, loopy and even semi-mystical form of thinking.

Singh likes to provoke and the ICOT organisers can surely take pride in his note that he was 'occasionally provoked' during the weeklong conference. Some jottings I took down from his plenary address on Day 4:
  • "Scientific proof is for and of the times...we must nurture our children's confidence in their intuition"

  • "Learning just a little about each other is not enough...e.g. simply studying about Comparative Religion is insufficient, we need to live it" - spoken in the context of a call for deeper inter-cultural understanding and even the insertion of this subject (and that of Relationships/The Other) in to school curricula.

  • "Futurist studies must be taught in schools" - Singh lamented the fact that at present nothing was being taught on how to develop, say, space colonies or deepsea colonies; he related this to the work of Alvin Toffler (author of FutureShock and, most recently, Revolutionary Wealth) and Kevin Warwick's cyborg studies and how the future would bring inconceivable changes (all the more reason, I reckon he would say, to begin conceiving of all we'll have to deal with!)

As a professor of Literature, Singh invests much energy in peering boldly outside his field of expertise. I was moved by his story of how he brought his hosts from Laurentian University to visit a Sikh community which initially invited him for dinner. Apparently, the non-Sikhs and Sikhs, despite living together for about 120 years, have never once visited each other's homes. That a Singaporean had to travel 12,000 miles to arrange a meeting is telling, to say the least.

As with communities of ethnicity, so with communities of learning. I am sure Singh would welcome efforts towards more inter-disciplinary studies (in fact, he coined the term 'HISTERATURE' to denote a juxtaposition of History and Literary studies). Such learning would - not unlike welcoming strangers into one's home - reflect a good foot forward in the journey of reconciliation, something our fundamentalist-stricken world surely craves for - even if it doesn't know it yet.

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