Saturday, March 27, 2021

My First Brush with Philosophy: A Tribute to Sir Nafees Siddiqui of ICB/IMS

I remember Sir Nafees Siddiqui who used to teach English at ICB/IMSB, G6/3,Islamabad. He didn't teach our class but we had the opportunity to be taught for a couple of class sessions when he came in to fill in for the absence of our regular teacher. Sir Nafees Siddiqui gave us our first introduction to philosophy and its terminology. He drew a vertical line at the center of blackboard to divide it into two columns. On left side he wrote physical, temporal, mundane, real, objective ... and on right words like metaphysical, transcendent, spiritual, abstract, subjective ,.. And then explained the terms and their difference which were instrumental in raising my awareness.

He then went on to relate a thought experiment that is still stuck in my mind now around 43-44 years later. He said that what we see is through only the visible light. But first a little background:

The colors and light that we can see is a tiny band of the complete frequency spectrum, which starts from invisible radio waves, long waves, short waves, and infrared/heat waves and passes through the  tiny visible light VIBGYOR waves band, and then goes to invisible ultraviolet waves, xrays, gamma rays.

The objects that we see are only visible to us because the light falling on them is reflected and comes into our eyes which can only perceive the VIBGYOR waves or rainbow colors spectrum from Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, to Red. We can't see the spectrum below VIBGYOR or above it.

Now came the thought experiment. He said suppose our eyes could only sense the xrays, then we will not see the humans or each other, but only their skeletons as seen in xray sheets! Suppose our eyes could only sense gamma rays, then we will not be able to see even each other skeletons because gamma rays will pass through the bones. Most of the world will be invisible to us! So, what is real and objective is moot and to a great extent dependent on the limitations of our senses and measuring devices.. 

Azhar Rauf is a friend of mine who I met at UT Austin was from ICB.  He took Sir Nafees Siddiqui classes and wrote that they used to have picnics with Sir Nafees Siddiqui in Argentina Park (opposite poly clinic), and described the experience as "great grooming and character building!" Sir Nafees Siddiqui died in later part of 2000s. May اللــهﷻ have mercy on him and grant him highest level in Paradise.

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