Kids and Banyan Tree!

In my childhood, on my way to school, there used to be a great banyan tree. It is so huge with a think trunk and thousands of branches, that whenever I have to imagine a big tree, that tree is what comes to my mind. I always used to wonder how difficult it would be to grow a tree like that until I was old and wise (I know one necessarily does not follow the other 😉 enough to understand that all it took is a small seed – the seed that is not even a millionth of the tree size. Behind the enormous complexity is a beautiful simplicity.

So why did I remember that tree again? I was reading multiple posts on rediffiland and the ensuing comments from individuals from various backgrounds, belief systems and languages. It is interesting to say the least and enlightening if I have to stretch. These reminded me of that huge banyan tree. Like all of us standing under that tree as kids, trying to talk of how big and complex the tree is; how wonderful are the colors of its leaves; what a miraculous sight of it hanging roots; to basic questions like who used to water it when it was small; to more erudite kids talking of photosynthesis and the green of chlorophyll. All of us have a strange curiosity to know more about the tree, albeit from different perspectives. It intrigues us, it excites us, provides us a chance to show who is more knowledgeable and also to prove who is more correct.

The very fact that we are all thinking together and sharing our thoughts – courtesy internet and blogs – has a reason, possibly. I used to wonder all the time why asking for a scientific proof to spirituality is a blasphemy. Why are humans made to be so dumb and ignorant that they should only imagine God but never see him? I was frustrated when people mentioned that there is God and then we. Rama is God, Krishna is God, Jesus is God, and here Buddha is also God (“Unhe Iswar mein tha aviswaas, inhone unhee ko bana diya Bhagwan” -In Harivansh Rai Bachan’s satirical ‘Buddha aur Naach Ghar’ poem- one of my all time favorites!)

I totally appreciated Lissome’s post (http://lissome.rediffiland.com) on Rediffiland blog which opined that Ram, Sita and Lakshman were humans. Yes, they were humans, very much exercising their free will and independent thinking all the time. They had emotions, feelings of love and betrayal, to be disappointed by someone who they trust and love. No, I have no qualms in thinking and saying that probably Ram was never God. But honestly and deeply praying to Ram, a lot of common people realized What God Means and I believe that fact though I don’t know how. So did people who prayed to Krishna or Shiva. And when all these people talk or sing, if you listen to it taking out the writer’s bias (as Sarath put it) you realize that they are talking about the same thing with different names. They all saw the same thing and that I am sure! I think they all saw the seed, when we were fighting over the banyan tree.

The common thread that combined a few names of people who I personally think did realize God as a concept and as a ‘real’ source and not as a theoretical possibility (Read this wonderful post for theoretical feasibility from Sarat http://probabilityisgod.rediffiland.com titled Universe 1) is the simplicity of thinking and the thinking which is introspective. The only problem I have with Science, as I wrote earlier, is that we can go on searching and finding a new species every day! But we are not reaching anywhere with that, we are just counting the leaves of that great Banyan Tree. I believe that we as people are to search for similarities, if the search has to be meaningful, be it in people or nature. There might be hundred different emotions displayed, but the basic root sources for all those emotions and words are just a handful of feelings.

So which side I am on? Am I an atheist or a believer? Why should I belong to either of these categories? Why can I not be a God-believer who thinks Faith is nonsense unless proven otherwise? Why should I belong to one class just because I said Ram is not God and who in the first place defined these classes? Read this beautiful post on Kalama Sutta Dhamma, by T nA http://ashitshankersaxena.rediffiland.com/ )

I am for now calling myself an amateur scientific spiritualist; I realize that any search requires the seeker to be disciplined, determined and open to possibilities – I have not even started the journey and the search, I am just gearing myself up for it – physically and mentally.

Finally, I am trying to move away from the banyan tree, so that I can get a holistic view of it, to appreciate it in full and not just its leaves and the branches. I have started to move away from it so that the random words of people shouting underneath it do not influence me. And while I walk away from it, I have a feeling that I am going home, just like in my days at school!

Advertisements

Trip to Thiruvannamalai!

Thank Christ for God Friday (Supposedly the original name for Good Friday!) While most of us don’t know why it is important day for Christians all over the world, people in India look forward to it for it brings in a long weekend combined with Saturday and Sunday.

So, our weekend driving destination for this long weekend was a place we visited earlier but could not stop going back again – Thiruvannamalai. Located 200kms from Bangalore, it’s a good weekend drive into spirituality and religion, if you are feeling like that. It is the place of the sacred Arunachaleswara temple – a temple where Lord Shiva is representative of the ‘Fire’ element. The place is named after the great hill – Arunachala – which is considered Lord Shiva in his physical form. And the temple of Arunachaleswara is among the best architectures that you see in the South Indian temples – probably closer on the lines of Madurai, Sri Kalahasti etc.

The temple is huge, occupies an area of about 25 acres with four large ‘Gopurams‘ on each side. The largest ‘Gopuram‘ is above the eastern entrance which is the main entrance. There are five ‘Prakaram‘ or corridors around the central structure with a high wall running on all four sides at the edge of the outer ‘Prakaram‘. There are numerous shrines for other deities in the temple complex and Goddess Parvathi has a separate shrine on the third ‘Prakaram‘. She is worshipped as ‘Unnamulai Ambal’. The view of the temple from the Arunachala hill is a must-see.

Arunachala Temple

The place was worshipped from a long time by various saints and was written about at length in the form of songs of paeans for the lord. But the place was made popular and known to the western world and so to the westernized (Confused!) Indians like us through the great Indian master Sri Ramana Maharshi. While Ramana Maharshi himself never moved out of Thiruvanmalai throughout his life, the world came searching for him in the form of Paul Brunton – the great English spiritual traveler of his times. In his book “In Search of Secret India”, Paul Brunton wrote in detail about various Yogis he met in India and described Ramana Maharshi and his path of simple self enquiry into ‘Who am I?’ in detail.

So through the lengthy route of Paul Brunton –> Ramana Maharshi –> Thiruvannamalai, we came to know of this place and by chance realized that it is a place pretty close to Bangalore. So do a whole lot of Europeans that you see around in the place. So much so that most of them live here for 6 months + even buying houses and bikes.

Our Trip and Giri Valam

Anyway, Ramana Maharshi used to say that ‘Giri Valam’ or Giri Pradakshina of Arunachala is very powerful form of meditation. To do Giri Pradakshina on a full moon day is supposed to give a whole lot of spiritual and physical benefits. Having read so much about it, to walk the 17+ kms stretch around the Arunachala hill was the objective of our trip this time. Bare-footed and willing to challenge ourselves physically, Paddu, me and Ramesh started driving to Arunachalam on the morning of Good Friday, 21st of March 2008 around 830AM. Driving towards Krishnagiri from Bangalore, we could not stop appreciating the changing face of India as shown on its new highways and the slick Petrol Stations to the side, with all facilities to allow for a great stop-over.

While it was raining in Bangalore, we were not sure what the weather would be like in Arunachalam. If it rains heavily, we cannot do Giri Pradakshina, the chief objective of the trip. By the time we were 10kms away from Arunachalam, thick clouds descended on the town as if to scare us away and it started to pour, pouring water on our hopes and the new found spiritual enthusiasm. We drove straight into Seshadri Swamigal Ashram, an Ashram accommodation right next to Sri Ramana Ashram. Finding a decent place to park our car and a nice place to get ready, we thought of changing the planned time of Giri Pradakshina. Initially we planned to do it in the evening in the full moon but sceptisim about whimsical weather made us start it by 230PM after a light lunch – Thank Paddu for the great Pulihora she packed in the morning.

                rainy-thiruvanmalai.jpg

Believe me when I say that I have never seen so many temples in one single place – in the 17kms stretch there are not less than 40+ temples of various gods and goddesses and even the great Rishis – there were temples dedicated to Agasthya and Durvasa also. Apart from this, are the innumerable ‘penance centers’ or meditation places of great sadhus. The density of spiritual souls per kilometer is extremely high and impossible to miss from the awesome serenity of the place inspite of the crowd. There are no less than 40,000 people walking around the path at any point in time, based on our guesstimates. We started visiting temple after temple, walking through the stretch stopping and appreciating, overawed by the sheer number of those temples – God knows how old each one of them is.

Of course, we in India are now on our way to making everything under the sun, a great market place. So you have mobile shops selling wares like candle stands, lamp holders; foods like Soups, Sugarcane juice, Idli; religious wares like books, cassettes, CDs; and a company-owned Maruti Van selling a Zandu Balm look alike for the paining legs. Everything can be bought making it a walk for shopping than for spirituality 😉

The view of the great Arunachal hill throughout the walk is awesome. You see a mix of people doing the walk and a mix of places. Every view of the hill has given self-realization to someone or the other. Every view of the hill is supposed to be good in its own way. For an unknown reason, just looking at the hill gave me a feeling of mystery and power. The walk and the place broke the barriers of thought and belief as to who gets self-realization. What does a man who has realized the self, look like? I have seen a lot of people on the Giri Valam path, who we usually associate mostly with superstition and weird rituals, who actually sit down to meditate with a deep serene look on their face. It might not be a weird thing but for people like me blinded by stereotyping, it is a revelation. I realized how much we have urbanized the concept of meditation and who should do meditation and how messed up our basics are.

You see people walking around the hill out of belief, out of hope, out of fun, out of curiosity, out of fear and every other human emotion we experience every day. Laugh you may, when I say that the first thought which came to my mind when I saw those hordes of people is – can I make it faster to Self-Realization than most of these people? And then I laughed at my conditioning of competition. Probably spiritualism is one place where all of us can pass the test together and for a change, there are no grades. All of us as humanity should make it through; otherwise we are all equally a failure.

Anyway as one of the bloggers said, Giri Valam is a journey through life – “It houses the Sanyasa, it houses the escapist, it houses the Grihasta, it houses the dead, it houses the Siddhas, it houses the Gods, it houses the animals. A complete universe pulsating with every breath of yours as you walk down trying to cover a 14 km stretch. It’s indeed a walk through life and beyond… depending on what you want to see….”

Closing on the walk we went into the temple for darshan and came out faster than we expected – by none other than the god’s grace. As towards the end of the 17kms walk, we were dead tired – unable to walk another step and search for a place for dinner. We went into a road side shack, had idlis with sambar for dinner and one chai to push them all through – pulled ourselves to the ashram acco and crashed. But not before serving our tired feet with some hot water and liberal amount of ‘real’ Zandu balm.

Next day morning, we decided to dedicate the day to knowing more about the saints of Arunachalam. So we visited Seshadri Swamigal temple, Sri Ramana Ashram. After breakfast in yet another road side shack, with tasty pongal and awesome vada, we started our trek up the Arunachala hill – the sacred hill around which we did pradakshina the day before. Our destinations – Skandashramam and Virupaksha cave, two caves where sri Ramana maharshi spent most of his life before coming down the hill into the place, which is the ashram today. A long trek up the hill and meeting curious set of piligrims, our trek was very eventful. We saw a lot of roaming sadhus and serene swamis. One of them was kind enough to engage us in a conversation – a Tax consultant in his previous life before he left all, he gave us great information on Ramana Maharshi and how to search for realization. Unfortunately we could not talk to him for long, but it was a really pleasant meeting.

Then we walked up to the two caves, meditated for a few minutes in each of those caves and came down the hill – yearning for a next time, when we can spend more time in those caves. Before we left the place, we were checking out a few books on Ramana Maharshi in the Ashram bookstore, when I was pleasantly suprised to meet a childhood friend of mine, after a long time – Devan Rajasekhar. Ramesh and he are meeting after 10+ years even though I met him couple of times after +2. So we sat and chatted for sometime about things, old and new. After that, lunch and drive back were normal as they seem, but it was with a feeling of contentment at challenging ourselves and somehow making it. A feeling of seeing a mysterious place from up-close but still not really knowing it. An emotion of pain, joy, contentment and a quest for more – it was a weekend of mixed feeling and our paining feet vouch for it 😉

However, unlike previous long weekends on Good Friday, we did what is supposed to be done on a Good Friday – Penance. It is widely believed in the Catholic Christianity that mourning for Christ’s crucifixion and feeling his pain are two principles things to be done on this day. We never realized that we will do atleast one of them, without knowing it 😉 Mourn we probably did not, but pain we really felt 😉 Thanks to Arunachala and Christ for the opportunity.

More pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/phanimitra/Arunachala2

Email responses to Obama’s Race Speech!

I sent out Obama’s speech to my friends and I had some interesting reactions. I am putting them up here and my take on this.

One friend says – “People can give speeches or talk anything, but bottom line is what they do in real life….He gave a good speach, but for 20years he went to this pastor or priest who gave those speeches that all lead the controversy…Do you guys really think, that Obama did not know the pastors intention after associating with him for 20years?? and after all this happened he came out and gave a good speech??? Obama is good guy, but he is no different than any politician, who take situations to their advantage, or create situations to their advantage”

Another friend replied “I want to believe in the honesty and integrity of Obama. I don’t know if I ought to. But I want to”

“My View on Why Obama is better”

The first thing I liked about the speech was that Obama never disowned Rev. Wright, bravely and it might seem like a political blunder when he said “Rev. Wright is a part of me” or when he referred to Rev. Wright as an old uncle. People expected him to dump Rev. Wright and move to the other extreme by disassociating himself with Rev. Wright. But what Obama delivered was an awesome blow to the waiting vultures, ready to analyze the words and show his leniency to one side or the other. Anyway, let us move away from the speech itself and move to my take on him as a candidate.

Our assumptions:

1. All politicians are evil.

2. If they are not power will corrupt them.

They are absolutely true and that is the reason I mentioned that I am not sure if he is the best guy to be the president but atleast he is better to listen to. For a change, he gives hope – he atleast looks to be different and is courageous enough to take a path or give a speech which might backfire. The other two are even incapable of that – they are the same old stuff – typical white house veterans. Let him use every opportunity to his advantage – let him be a cunning wicked politician, atleast a different one at that. Because America needs CHANGE desperately – and does not have time to evaluate if the change is good or bad. Any change is good because the status quo does not look right and anyone who is remotely similar to status quo is not welcome.

For I believe that more than the recession and the sub-prime woes, US is bogged down by a sense of pessimism and lack of self-belief in itself as a nation, probably for the first time after the Great Depression. Or unlike during 1940-50, when one part of the country was rebelling against another. For the first time the entire America is jittery as a whole – in one way or the other, whether they admit it or not. It is not because they cannot bounce back, because the world cannot afford US to go down but still. But still it is an eerie feeling, somewhere deep down, that the happy days have come to an end. Somewhere deep down there is a slight fear that the mistakes committed on the world have come back to haunt them. A typical US citizen, sweet in his own way, innocently parochial in believing that the world starts in NY and end in LA – there is a greater realization of the poverty and endless suffering outside that small world – a greater realization what role their successive governments have played in doing this to the world. First time in a long time, the common American has started know the world beyond Pacific and Atlantic – for destiny has forced him to know where Iraq is, where Bangalore is and where Shanghai is.

For these privileged citizens, whom the rest of world craves to serve – there is for the first time a sense of fear that the entire world is conspiring to overthrow them and make them paupers. All for no real mistake of theirs. They did not even know for a long time that for all the expensive toys that they buy for their kids, there are kids in China and elsewhere giving up their childhood of dreams and fun. They never knew before that for all the gas they consumed driving one-person-per-car or 600CC bikes for fun, there is blood being spilt elsewhere. They never realized that medical insurance system which is supposed to make their lives easier will actually make them strangers in their own country and will one day make them fear giving out a few drops of blood for a DNA sampling. For the first time, they have started to realize they were somehow baited and trapped and they have no one to blame or atleast they do not know.

Nothing has changed, not yet – there is no real problem, not yet. The sub-primes are only 2% of total mortgages and the world still does not have a safer place to put its money in than the US nor do the companies around have a better place to sell than the US. Physically nothing changed, but the mindset did. What made them richer is making them feel unsafe – in simple words – “To sell anything that sells”

Fear sells (Ask Bush!), Tears sell (Ask CNN!), Fun sells (Ask Disney!), Crazy fun sells, Hope sells, Despair sells too, God sells (Ask those God-men on GOD TV!) and Satan sells better (Ask any rock band). So much is sold everywhere for such a long time that it is believed that everything SHOULD be bought and everything CAN be bought. And it is not just buying but buying more! I guess US has been on the one extreme of the spectrum of materialism with probably Tibet on the other extreme of spirituality. This string of reason and answering should be left for a different post.

Now US needs a man at the helm who represents the complexity of their problems and the complexity of the world. US desperately needs someone who has the seen the country from a different perspective. They need someone who knows what the pastors in the black churches talk about. Who knows how and why most of the black kids still become criminals. They need someone who just does not act tough on them but can empathize and veer them away. Also, US desperately needs someone at the top who has seen the world outside not as a travelling diplomat but as a common citizen. If not for the betterment of the US, but atleast for bettering the world view of the great nation built on the foundations of hope, hard work and will to win. Even if it does not correct the mistakes committed, it is a golden chance for the US, to be forgiven by the rest of the world for some of its atrocities. It is not probably reaching where the country should but atleast the first step in the right direction. Obama is an opportunity to listen to and be with someone who atleast out-rightly talks of the complex realities of the great country rather than pushing them under the blanket. It is for backing someone who thinks of talking to the enemies, before starting to bomb them. US and the rest of the world desperately need to communicate rather than assume things about each other. There is no other candidate better suitable to walk up to the table on behalf of the US. He is America’s and their civilization’s last chance to survive. For this if he needs guile, if he needs to contrive, so be it. As Rakesh said – “I am not sure if I ought to believe that guy, but I want to”

I cannot vote in the US, but as a guy who follows the world because I love it with all the complexity and strife, the good and the bad, I think he is the best chance for a change. Whether he does really change the order or not – is not just the destiny of the US citizens but of the world. And like everyone, I wait for God and Time to answer the question as to where is the mankind headed! As Obama said to the citizens of US, probably – “It is WE, we have been always waiting for!”

 

 

Obama’s speech on race!

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
“A More Perfect Union”
Constitution Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs – to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Some Crazy Innovative Ideas

I always assert this belief that I hold – that beyond what we see everyday – there is a new world being created every moment. We read them passively and rarely participate in this thought work. We think stock markets are somehow more relevant to us as news than to know of some cutting edge ‘mad’ scientist working his ass off to invent he believes is going to change the way the world works. The success rates are abysmally low but we rarely hear about the failures – we only hear a Facebook or Google. I am here listing out a few crazy ideas which are probably next-generation in their thinking and I really mean it when they say next generation because even approaching 30, I feel I am a dinosaur when I read these 😉

1. Living in the Virtual World – If someone tells me that people would pay to live in a virtual world, I would have laughed at them. If they said that people buy virtual gifts for real money, I would have straight away thrown him out of my home.

a. But there is a www.secondlife.com where you can ‘live’ virtually – buy a house, rent a space, open a coffee shop, buy coffee and a magazine and flirt with a girl. And it is a rearing success with close to 250 thousand + users, oops, Residents.

b. And then there is another Habbo Hotels – www.habbo.com , a place to virtually meet and make friends – the next step of Orkut or a facebook. This is modeled like a hotel, where you can rent a room, buy furni (Habbo Furniture) and even pets and pet accessories, operating in close to 16 countries with a revenue of close to $80 Million!

c. There might be more like this but this is one phenomenon worth observing

2. Too lazy to move that mouse, let your mind do it for you! Crazy, is it not –but this is the next big crazy thing on the circuit. Human Machine Interaction with emotion tracking!

a. I was zapped when I read of Emotiv (www.emotiv.com) as I always thought this is stuff for james bond movies or some science fiction movies (which are my current favorite, btw!) – Read about it here http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=4603 or visit their website. But in one line, it allows a computer game to change the difficulty level, scenes of the game and a lot more by knowing what you are thinking and feeling – Automated and shipping for just $299 this Christmas, Reserve One! 😉

3. Startups in Bio-mimicry: A hot new field where a lot of companies would try to mimic a certain creature or phenomenon of nature to improve the efficiency and performance. As CNN article says, they are asking questions like: do lotus leaves repel water and stay so clean? How can the ventilation systems in termite mounds be used to cool city buildings? Could the glue that mussels use to adhere to rocky surfaces be adapted to heal broken bones? There are some promising companies here too

a. Like PaxScientific (www.paxscientific.com) , designing industrial equipment based on natural fluid motion and theories related to that

b. A company called Novomer (http://www.novomer.com/) is transforming carbon dioxide into a kind of biodegradable plastic using tricks it learned from the way plants turn CO2 into sugar and starch.

c. More companies tracking grasshopper flying patterns to auto pilot recon flights in the borders and war regions.

I am sure there are thousands more and it fills me with awe – fills me with a feeling that there is always a divide among the people of this world – some are more advanced and are stretching the limits of what human brain can conceive of – challenging what is accepted as ‘regular’ by thinking out of the box.

And on a more spiritual note, I think all of us should for atleast 5-10 minutes in a day think of what we would really love to see happening in this world – something TOTALLY not related to us in any form – preferably. And I am sure it would materialize in some corner of this world as an idea in freaky laboratory.

How I wish, someone finds a way to replace petrol with something that still allows me to fly and drive but does not screw up the environ in any way – No, no bio-fuels please 😉 Hydrogen, may be!

Allies in wonderland!

“Nawaz Sharif, Zardari to meet on government formation in Pakistan”

The political history of Pakistan as a country is briefly divided into  Independence, First Military Era (1958-1971), Second Democratic Era (1971-77), Second Military Era (1977-1988), Third Democratic Era (1988-99) and Third Military Era (1999-07) – A total of more than 30+ years of direct and indirect military rule and brief stints of farcical democracy. I smiled when it is mentioned that there are going to be elections in Pakistan – oh yet again! I am surprised at the similarities and glaring differences between India and Pakistan every time I look at each of these nations. Considered the same country till 50 years ago, suddenly India and Pakistan are worlds apart – just in 50 years.

There are striking similarities between the two countries though, of political dynasty worships (Bhuttos and Gandhis!) to the shameless, if I may say so, political coalitions – of parties with opposing ideologies coming together to share ‘power’. Nawaz Sharif and PPP have agreed to work together – Bhutto and Sharif who fought with each other and levied allegations from corruptions to cowardice, now are together – why? Because they have a common enemy in Musharraf. Just like Congress and Communists have a common enemy in BJP. Enemies and terms of power are first discussed and then the intellectuals in both sides are left to work out what could be shown as common minimum program. An oxymoron right from the word go – they agree that what they have in common is in minimum – but their maximum desire to keep an opponent brought them together. Can we really expect anything concrete to happen in these political climates?


“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

–          Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

But as destiny has it, these allies and coalitions are here to say – this is the new political reality – the force of Aquarian age pushing people to work in groups – groups of people who don’t probably like each other or have immense egos and inner motives to fight with each other. But they cannot escape, they are forced to work together, because slow it may be but that is the ONLY way to move forward. Bleak it might seem but this is the only way toward Light. In the current age, there is no hope for an individual party or individual to change the fate of these two nations and their people – linked by more than history and culture, by blood. Curse, we may each other, but our destinies are tied together. Fight we may till blood is spilt on both sides by numerous sons of this soil –it is only a myth that India can continue to prosper and its people live happily while Pakistan goes to the dogs – politically and economically. As Sri Aurobindo used to call it, this country is Mother India. It is not a vast piece of land with its rivers, mountains, fields and forests but a living throbbing creative individual in all her spiritual glory – the world’s fountainhead of spirituality. And Pakistan now is a wound to the Mother India, because Mother India, always had Pakistan in anatomy. 

I don’t know how it would come about or when, but we are destined to work together for a common cause – India and Pakistan. I don’t know how and when but the culmination of thinking – the best of both sides – of Sufi Ascetism and Vedic science come together to show to the world – its new and higher purpose.

Welcome to the wonderlands – called India and Pakistan!

A Morning with James Champy

Listening to a guru is always invigorating, I think it’s the passion of their thinking that is infectious. More than the concepts they put forth – it is the conviction they themselves have in what they are talking that makes gurus different from the listeners. It can be a religious guru or a management guru. So, I had this opportunity to listen to Mr. James Champy (Of the Reengineering the corporation’ : Michael Hammer and James Champy fame). Currently the chairman of Perot Systems and previously with CSC Index consulting, Jim Champy needs very little introduction to the business graduates and practicing managers world-wide. As Prof Sadagopan of International Institute of Information Technology (III-T) Bangalore put it, there are a lot of people who cursed Mr Champy for allowing organizations to fire employees in the name of re-engineering or praised him for making their organizations more efficient.

It was a great talk to be in and he talked about the research that went in behind his new book – OUTSMART. His research set was a set of 1000 companies that were growing at double-digits and then which are challenging the existing beliefs and business models in some form. What I liked was he quickly mentioning that these companies that were chosen can grow to become bigger or just vanish out of the scene within some years but what struck him is the way they spotted opportunities.  I think this was intelligent thing to do remembering the other great book written more than 20 years ago– In search of excellence” – mentioned quite a few star companies, many of which are on the business scene now. But that is how the market behaves, it challenges every business model with passing time.

Anyway, here is the list of few traits he mentions for outsmarting companies along with the few companies he mentioned –  (Click on the links for more info at the company websites)

1.     SonicBidsSee What Others Don’t Saw a $13B unorganized market of entertainers at weddings

2.     Minute Clinic  Simplifying complexity –  Healthcare business in the US is a complex process of doctors, hospitals and insurers. Small health issues become a pain. Started Healthcare retailing – small clinics as a part of grocery stores – now bought by CVS pharmacy

3.     Smith & WessonTapping success of others    Manufactured only pistols but realized that people associate them with entire ammunition business and diversified well

4.     ShutterflyChange Frame of Reference From photo finishing business to Social Expressions business

5.     S.A. Robotics Do everything Yourself Integrated the entire robot manufacturing design to deliver, has 0% Attrition and best business

6.     Jib-bitzOutside the bubbleCreated a market out of selling charms for crocs (Crocs are slippers of a variety)

7.     PartSearch TechnologiesCreate Order out of ChaosSimplified the electronics spare parts searching and ordering process

8.     SmartPak Equine – Use all you knowMarkets leading name brand supplements custom-packed for the horses in a patented unit dose package. Realized a gap by utilizing their own experience with feeding horses on the barns.

Also there were more discussions on execution, change management, people, culture and a lot of desperate CP (class participation) from folks  in the room but in the end, an enlightening session with the Guru.

Intuition!

It was the usual drive that day – well not really, as I was driving back home at around 1130 PM. Working late and into night I was tired and raring to go back home. Driving on one of the relatively less crowded roads, I let my mind wander onto the nice tracks playing on the car stereo and let my hands and legs handle the dumb driving part. Was not even looking at the road properly because there usually are no people on the street at this hour in the night. All of a sudden, I am ‘nudged’ to look at the road more carefully and I saw a tractor coming right in front my eyes, driving in the opposite direction, with no head lights and seemingly for no reason. I have NO IDEA how I veered away driving at more than 100KMPH and safely on to the road all in less than 3-5 seconds maximum.

That incident kinda left me shattered. Not that I did not have those experiences before, who would not on Indian roads. But for the first time I realized that I should not attribute it to God, somewhere in the heaven. It is very physical – the phenomenon. Someone told me to look away from my CD Player and at the road. Someone nudged me to do that. And I realized that it was my ‘intuition’ – just something that I heard very clearly, very closely to be coming from too far from my body. So it must be someone/thing inside me. Then I did something I have not done earlier.

I sat down and listed out of curiosity, thinking hard into my past, all those or most of those times when I came close to being harmed in some form or the other and missed very narrowly. Surprisingly there were a lot of those on the list. How silly, I never thought I was lucky on so many instances. I always remembered how I narrowly missed all those great job offers, admissions, ranks in the class – but never remembered these many ‘fortunate’ narrow misses. That apart I also realized that we can ‘hear’ things that would help us become better people – lot of people have told me earlier but this is the first time I ‘realized’ it. As they say, I just became aware of it. And also how dumb are we as humans if we cannot listen to that ultimate guy inside us who is just too good – that he can tell you things that you can do to save yourself in 5 seconds. How better would we be if that guy talks to us all the time, telling us what to do next. 

Then came my next question, why don’t I hear him all the time? What is stopping me from listening or feeling that nudge I felt the other night or so many of those other occasions? If he speaks, why did I not listen and just do it – like I put the brakes or moved the steering on that occasion. This enquiry led me to another hypothesis. That we as people are actually not just one guy but two in one – the Person A1-  who was driving the car, listening to the stereo and Person A2 – the other guy who was watching. A2 must have been talking to A1 all the while but A1 is just not interested. Listening to Metallica was better for A1. Then suddenly A2 shouted – “A1! You are going to die, you fool!” and A1 listened because that was something that threatened his existence.

I went back to that list that I created and saw that most of the occasions when I heard something from inside was when there was some sort of physical harm to me as a human being. I realized this is nothing different from the intuition dogs, cats and all those other creatures have before an earthquake or a disaster. Small creatures have a greater chance of getting wiped out with any small change in the conditions around – so their A1s can listen to the A2s well before those things occur. But human A1s are not really bothered most of the time because we consider ourselves invincible. We do not consider ourselves a part of this nature around us. We think that nothing can happen to us. So it needs a SHOUT and SHAKE UP from our A2s for our A1s to listen.

So, just this one string of thought made me realize a whole bunch of new things. Not that I have not read such stuff earlier but you appreciate things when you find them out for  yourself. I am in that process. I had a lot of questions just out of that one incident, that are left unanswered. Like for instance, I was looking at my car stereo for some CDs when I ‘for no reason’ looked at the road. How does A2 see if the eyes which belong to A1 are looking elsewhere? How did that guy know of the tractor when I was not even seeing the road? Also questions on people saying I followed my heart – do we listen to it really all the time or do we just say it when our brains figure out what to do?  How do I distinguish who is speaking –A2 or the brain of my A1?

I don’t know the answers of a whole lot of these things but may be I would figure out some day.

Time, The Ultimate Warrior

“There is nothing more powerful in this world than an idea whose time has come” – I was always amazed how Victor Hugo expressed such a powerful truth in such simple language. Growing up, I always looked at the world around with fascination  and I always believed that history is continuously being written in front our eyes. People either read history or predict the future and say ‘It was a golden era in ….’ Or ‘It is going to change the way we look at …’  but as we are speaking these history is being rewritten. New ideas continuously pour into this vast universe day in and day out – all these slaughtered by the best warrior in this world guarding the future – TIME. Because only when TIME moves away do we step into the future. So only a few ideas survive the onslaught and go on to get etched in the memories, only a few go on to change the way future generations perceive the world around or even better, just accept it as THE TRUTH that existed forever.

When I first heard the story of Galileo presenting the concept of earth being round and revolving around the sun to the community he lived in (Not to the world, if you can appreciate it!) – he was scoffed at and was charged of blasphemy. If you tell a kid today that once upon a time people used to think that earth is flat or that they thought that sun revolves around earth – he would consider the folks of the past so foolish. But a small idea that happened in a ‘present tense’ at some point in time has reached the corners of the world, places which Galileo would not have known that existed. Such is the power of an idea whose time has come.

Perceiving the power of ideas that gush out from every stream of knowledge and thinking every day fills me up with a sense of wonder and amazement. Also sometimes makes me believe that THIS IS THE WAY IT IS INTENDED TO BE – I don’t know by whom – for now I would call it the TIME. It let some guys (ideas!) pass through the door, because they are either ‘VALID’ guys to get to the future or they are simply too strong for it. How does it determine what are VALID ideas that should survive – is there a reference book or plan against which it checks? Is there a guiding principle that is used for this validation, is what I started thinking next. May be yes – how does ‘Making this universe better!’ sound as a guiding principle? It sure sounds like those corporate VISION statements!!

One of the ideas was GLOBALISATION. It sneaked in, may be by bribing TIME, and it has created what most socialists would shout their guts out with – RICH POOR DIVIDE. Lot of our people look back and say with nostalgia “How beautiful were the days when we had the small little village when everyone knew everyone else’s name! The pond in the center of the village and temple and the trees?” If TIME knew that globalization would mess up the whole system of Poverty and Prosperity, mess up a few societies to create a few ultra-rich societies, why did he let that one PASS? Why did TIME allow us to create multi-storied apartment complexes where millions of people live in a few square kilometers of land?

 Either this is the way to live that is best for humans in the future, to be together in a smaller area – live, think, work together with extreme dependence on one another that when an asteroid or a gamma ray explosion hits a barren land in the country/continent, there are very few people who die and people would have already learnt how to produce enough food on a smaller piece of land to even survive that catastrophe. Or on the other hand, it is easier to bring all those people who want to be away from NATURE and don’t care for it, ALL TOGETHER in a limited geographical area, for TIME to just wipe out as many people as possible at one simple go. To offload the burden off this earth with minimum destruction so that the remaining guys who are closer to nature will live with as much land as they want and the way they want to.  Interesting possibilities, eh?

Either way, I  just don’t know – I think TIME knows more than I and you do – may be in the long run, the positive outweigh the negatives – so I modified that guiding principle “Making the Universe Better in the Long Run” . In all this discussion of possibilities, I am ruling out human intelligence and their ‘individual’ power to mess with the nature out of this discussion – very consciously – because any thought is an Idea and as per my hypothesis, every idea should pass through the warrior of TIME. So there is nothing like we consciously are messing with nature or we consciously are messing with other people. TIME let my idea to ruin other people’s life PASS the door, so I got in.

Why I am writing all this? It is because I think the time to float this idea has come – That we are all moving in a ertain direction as per the ‘guiding principle’ that only Mr. TIME knows. We are not moving randomly, we are not inventing server farms and internet clouds randomly. It is not random that Google is becoming big or US markets crashed. It is not random that a bunch of terrorists flew a couple of planes into the world trade center. Their IDEA too passed the threshold at which TIME was standing. It let their IDEA pass – all for a reason. I urge everyone reading this post to just stop for a while and look around – What do you see changing prominently around you in terms of thoughts? What have you started hearing more often – Going Green?, Religious Teaching everywhere?, Growth in Temple/ Church Revenues?, Extremism (From both sides!)?, Farmers talking of Macro-economics? Anything!


Once you start looking at the ideas that are sweeping the world around YOU – Not the world in general because for one it is too big for you and me to perceive and make any meaningful conclusion and secondly, as humans it is easier to understand and appreciate when we are at the center of action. “Oh, I never thought I would not be able to live without a cell phone, I cannot remember what I was doing when I did not have internet, I don’t know where I would have invested my money if not for the stock market!” People lived for centuries and millennia without these, remember? What has US cutting 0.75% interest rate got to do with me? Every individual event is a junction, from which the paths of future would emerge. What happens at that point pushes us collectively onto a different route. Remember, what had Japan losing WW-II to do with a village in South America? Everything from end of colonialism to onslaught of tribal extremism and so on..! When you stop a while to look around and appreciate the power of ideas sweeping us every day and importance of every simple, seemingly unconnected, individual event on our collective future, you too would feel what I feel when I started to write this.  

Can you read the vision statement again – ““Making the Universe Better in the Long Run”  See the word  Universe, we as humans and earth as a planet is just a part of the whole universe. To give you an idea, FOR 160  MILLION YEARS, dinosaurs remained the unchallenged species trampling over what comes in their way. Appearing in 3500 different varieties they never would have imagined that they will all become extinct at one go. But for TIME to wipe out such a huge population of such a seemingly invincible species, was not a big deal – it did not seem to care for the extinction was really really RAPID. The IDEA was they were not fit to survive what was to come. Some species that started off from the dinosaur family survived, they have changed so much today that you would not believe they came from the same ancestors. The same powerful IDEA of one-shot extinction left them untouched, even gave them a chance to rediscover themselves. Because even though they started off ogether, these creatures changed in tune with what nature is asking of them.

Understand the vulnerability of us as human beings and work with IDEAS that please TIME. We stand no chance gainst TIME. The only way to survive is to be on its side. Which means, Think And Act for IDEAS that help the niverse get better in the long run – which is the only guiding principle TIME respects.

Realize that what I and You do today can possibly change the future, not just ours but of the entire world. Ok, maybe I am stretching it, as I got into the preachy mode towards the end! 😉

What a Joke!

This is an image that welcomed me when I logged into Citibank website today – Which reads ‘Use Credit Responsibly’ – a campaign, apparently, to educate people on how to use credit. With all the sub-prime crisis Citi is facing in the US and a the billion dollars written off – Should that not have read  ‘Lend Credit Responsibly’ 😉

Use Credit