Sunday, March 23, 2008

Think differently

Law and logic seem to be inextricably inter-twined that a serious practitioner of law is tempted to believe that a structured reasoning alone could deliver results. In actuality, a certain kink in a smooth terrain brings unbelievably superb results. This applies to what makes poetry; what explains great economic theories; what makes a comic situation; what secures enduring results in a negotiated settlement and what gets at truth in cross examination of witnesses. Each of these statements would admit of facile examples.

Modern poetry makes no virtue of meter and rhythm. The content has to be fresh, though. It should fill you with wonderment by the time the central idea to the poetry sinks. Haiku adopts one such technique. A Japanese innovation that once was, is universal in its practice. Even Rabindra Nath Tagore wrote Haiku poems in Bengali. The beauty of this form is its brevity and a stunningly surprise element in the last line. The first two lines go along a trajectory and the third one lets you see the whole subject in a new context; in a new direction and in an unexpected dimension that thrills your soul.
Gracefully slither

He sneaks to the net untouched
With one swing he scores.
The game that had taken India to the pinnacles of glory has slipped away from us. Look at how a poet puts the imagery of the game through a successful player. His is a dribbling type. He does not sprint. He does not run fast. He slithers. No one notices him going up to the goal post. He literally sneaks to the net. Everything about his movement seems to be to deceive. See what he achieves. He swings, he scores, and there is attention from every quarter. There is a roar. There is victory. From an unnoticeable action to a resounding thud at the deck!

Freakonomics was an expression coined by Steven D.Levitt and Stephen J.Dubner to explain the method of exploring the hidden side of everything. Why does not capital punishment deter criminals is one of the questions asked. Given the rarity with which executions are carried out in the country and the long delays in doing so, no reasonable criminal should be deterred by the threat of execution, they would answer. Does increasing the number of police reduce crime? If your answer is yes, the authors would remind you that when the crime is rising, people clamour for protection, and invariably more resource allocation is found for cops. So if you look at raw correlations between police and crime, you will find that when there are more police, there tends to be more crime. That does not mean of course, that the police are responsible for more crimes!

A good joke is a narration of an incident that goes along an even keel. Allow the inference of fact or an inner meaning to a given incident as constituting the next dimension. On a triptych, often not on the same wave of logic but a third dimension which is possible to extrapolate from the factual matrix constitutes the comic situation. You may apply this test to any joke from the vulgar and profane to the subtle and esoteric. For instance, in a typical court room setting, the lawyer asks the doctor, “ Did you perform the post mortem on the dead body?”. The doctor replied, “ I always perform postmortem only on dead bodies!” The first query seeks to elicit a simple response. If the answer had been yes or no, it would be most logical. The comic situation, is how the doctor perceives the question to reply in a different context, applying a different logic

De Bono invented two famous theories, ‘lateral thinking’ and ‘parallel thinking’. With the traditional argument or adversarial thinking each side takes a different position and then seeks to attack the other side. Each side seeks to prove that the other side is wrong. This is the type of thinking established by the Greek Gang of Three (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) two thousand four hundred years ago. Adversarial thinking completely lacks a constructive, creative or design element. It was intended only to discover the 'truth' not to build anything. With 'parallel thinking' both sides (or all parties0 are thinking in parallel in the same direction. There is co-operative and co-ordinated thinking. The direction itself can be changed in order to give a full scan of the situation. But at every moment each thinker is thinking in parallel with all the other thinkers. There does not have to be agreement. Statements or thoughts which are indeed contradictory are not argued out but laid down in parallel. In the final stage the way forward is 'designed' from the parallel thought that has been laid out. Ask any of your friends trained in mediation. He will vouch for the success of this method of resolving disputes which aims at enduring settlements by identifying the underlying interests of the contesting parties that may not always appear on surface by the posturing that the litigants adopt, but given an insight into parallel thinking, you will arrive at the desired result.

Are you a trial lawyer? In criminal and civil practice, so long as your questioning seeks to elicit a fact along a chain of logical events, the answers will be predictable. A resolute no or yes that you get from the witness gets you nowhere near the truth. Take a round about turn and ask him about an event which only the deponent knows but which he wants to assiduously conceal. Presto, in an unguarded moment, he will splutter the truth. That is why cross examination is an art, while chief examination is a procedure.

The central theme to this piece is, there is no logic for every happening. Seemingly unconnected things have a rare design. The beauty of the spectacle resides in the beholder whose ability is to marvel at this design which is divine. You cannot be what you are not destined to be. You cannot do what is not assigned for you. Now read the first sentence again. Get reaffirmed in the faith, there could be law that is not subsumed in logic. Higher laws could transcend logic!

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