Feel. Think. Express.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Self and Meaning Creation

I am from India. Even if you can't find it on the map, i am fairly certain you will have a clue as to the importance of ritual in daily life there. It is a society steeped in tradition. There is such a variety in terms of belief and each community has some aspect of tradition governing every major event in life; Birth, Naming the new born, Coming of Age, Marriage, Anniversary and Death; You will find ritual in all these events, often elaborate and mind boggling.

To the logical mind, all this is trivial. Why do you need it? But even in the western (modern) world, you find institutions that actively seek to create rituals. Organizations especially. Awarding 'employee of the month' plaques is a good example. The human mind wants meaning attached to every event. Some value, some significance that makes it not ordinary. We tend to appreciate only things that are somehow far removed from our daily lives. While these rituals give us something to talk about and somehow make us feel we are different from the rest of the world, is this really so? We are all individuals with a sense of self. Why do we need this meaning creation?

Quoting from "The Way of Zen"(Alan W Watts),

"For the conventional "self" or "person" is composed mainly of a history consisting of selected memories and begining from the moment of parturition. According to convention, I am not simply what I am doing now. I am also what I have done, and my conventionally edited version of my past is made to seem almost more the real "me" than what I am at this moment. For what I am seems so fleeting and intangible, but what I was is fixed and final. It is the firm basis for predictions of what I will be in the future, and so it comes about that I am more closely identified with what no longer exists than with what actually is!

If i was to truly abandon all my memories, what would i be? Today would be no different from yesterday; there would be no concept of time. If everything ultimately has no real meaning, should we then abandon everything and live lives that are synthetically devoid of any form of meaning creation? Is it possible and more importantly, is it healthy? How does one avoid the seduction of the extremes; of no meaning and of delusion?

I think the answer lies here.

"The true joy of life is not in
the grand gesture but in the
consecration of the moment."

-Small Graces (Kent Nerburn)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Marc Andreessen's advice for young graduates

Marc Andreessen,who is credited with co-creating the Mosaic browser and Netscape, had this to say to graduates at a lecture,

1. Career Planning - Don't plan. They world is changing too fast for you to prepare. There is no way one can anticipate what is going to happen. Be opportunistic; take advantage of whatever comes your way; be open to experience. Marc Andreessen, now in his early forties programmed only for 3 months after he got out of grad school with a computer science degree.

2. Do not do what you don't like. Do what you like to do. Sounds simple, but very few actually do. As a graduate, you learn to survive on a meagre budget and have a couple of years before you settle down. Committments force you work for a steady income and then you never have a choice until you are 60! This is the time to find out what you really like to do.

3. Never listen to anybody else. The nature of work and kinds of jobs have changed and most of the previous generation doesn't even have a clue as to the new kinds of jobs. For example, until Google came on the scene the job title 'Search Engine Optimizer' never existed.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Assorted quotes for the young man!

"Stop thinking what you say will make a difference in people's lives when you cannot back it up with action. A humble silence would be most appropriate."

"If you begin to think your life has been particularly instructive and somehow everybody missed out, think again."

"If you cannot afford to truly love someone, it is better not to. Not that you cannot take the pain, you probably are going to screw up somebody else's life and everybody doesn't have a brain like a sieve."

"If you wonder how you can be committed to a woman when you are committed to not a single thing - work, ideals or family - you are on the right track!"

"If you are feeling particularly strong, emotionally, it is probably because of somebody else. Don't forget that it is a gift and go around dancing like a peacock with a wig."

"If you are feeling particularly critical of someone remember that person has chosen to expose their most vulnerable portion to you. It is not your place to judge or mask your own darkness by criticizing another. If you cannot take it, get the balls to make a difference or just put up with it!"


The Art House Committee was screening a movie at my college and i hopped along to get a look (have been reading to much of animal crackers of late!). There was an exhibition of WWII photographs of the AFP at a gallery located in the same building. i was early and decided to check it out. There were around fifty photographs covering the entire war, but one was remarkable.

Like all the other photos, this one was black and white too. It was big; as big as a 25" TV screen. It showed three german prisoner's of war. They were surrounded by allied troops who were standing around them in a large circle. The allied soldiers gave the three enough room, not hounding them. All the soldiers looked like normal men; no expressions of heroism, anger, pain or sadness;looked like people in a town fair. I wouldn't say the expression was uncalled for, for the three prisoners were boys. Fourteen years old. Dressed in proper German gear and in a coat this seemed rather large for them. They didn't seem distraught. Far from it. The fellow to the extreme left had one hand in his pocket and with the other was holding an apple from which he had already taken a bite. He had a cocky expression; seemed like any other smart aleck fourteen year old; not a tinge of arrogance or defeat; you would think this was part of a play from high school. The other two seemed equally nonchalant. Each one was eating something else. They were enjoying whatever they had and seemed to genuinely happy to pose for the pictures.

If you place all this context of the war, wouldn't you agree with me in saying those three were indeed remarkable? They were proper soldiers and maybe they did kill. Maybe they were all starved or put to death later. They may all be old men by now. This uncertainity of the future bridged time and space; looking at the photograph, neither they nor i knew what was to happen next.

With so much talk going around with the globalized economy causing change and uncertainity; change that throws open lives; lives that seem so far from the that of any previous generation; i think one must remember that change has always been a part life. Oftentimes violent, stripping a man of his dignity; dehumanizing; even at times such as these, you have hope. You have people who choose not let circumstances defeat them. Not in expectation of some later reward but because of who they were.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Movie review: Jarhead

Vikram's polite remark on the amount of movies I watch has prompted me to start publishing short reviews on movies I think are worth going to.

Let' start off with 'Jarhead' a.k.a. military slang for a US Marine, derived from the shape of the hat the Marines once wore (courtesy dictionary.com).

First off, this isn't your typical war movie with gory depictions of people being torn to shreds. Nor does it have heroic acts of courage. Rather it's a portrayal of one man's emotions as he goes through military training and then through the rigors of war. As with any war themed flick, this has more than its fair share of expletives. So if you can't handle an f*** in every sentence, this one isn't for you. The movie reminded me of another military picture, 'Full Metal Jacket' directed by Stanley Kubrick in the late 80's.

Set in the First Gulf War, the movie goes back and forth between reality and the lead actor's emotions (although sometimes you cannot help but feel sympathetic towards him, there are other times when you think he's nuts!).

After you watch the movie, you realize that there is nothing about politics mentioned. Might this be because the director Sam Mendes is an Englishman and couldn't care less about political affiliations and trying to spread worthless propoganda through the big screen? After all, don't most of us go to see a movie to get away from reality, especially from politicians, I know I do.

All in all, this one's definitely Oscar worthy and is one of the few good movies to come out this year.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Farce of Corporate Responsibility

There is a major drive to contribute towards breast cancer, if you have noticed, lately.

I picked up a carton of yoplait's (fruit yoghurt) recently. Each cup now comes with a pink lid. For every lid you mail back to the company, it will donate 'y' cents per lid to some foundation for breast cancer research. They also add that they will donate a minimum amount ( some 'x' million) even if they don't receive any lids by mail.

why don't they just go ahead and donate the money? what is the big idea of sending yoghurt coated lids by mail? Does it make the average individual feel good that he has donated a couple of dollars towards a worthy cause? It almost seems like a plot with the USPS (United States Postal Service). All this mailing might boost USPS's revenue; and for its part the USPS might share a percentage with yoplait.

Are we there yet

Padmasambhava is said to have described the stages of the mystic path of enlightenment in the following way (ask yourself the question in the movie title 'Are We There Yet')

1. To read a large number of books on various religions and philosophies. To listen to many learned doctors professing different doctrines. To experiment oneself with a number of methods.

2. To choose a doctrine among the many one has studied and discard the other ones, as the eagle carries off only one sheep from the flock.

3. To remain in a lowly condition, humble in one's demeanor, not seeking to be conspicuous or important in the eyes of the world, but behind apparent significance, to let one's mind soar high above all worldly power and glory.

4. To be indifferent to all. Behaving like the dog or the pig that eat what chance brings them. Not making any choice among things which one meets. Abstaining from any effort to acquire or avoid anything. Accepting with an equal indifference whatever comes: riches or poverty, praise or contempt, giving up the distinction between virtue and vice, honorable and shameful, good and evil. Being neither afflicted, nor repenting whatever one may have done and, on the other hand, never being elated or proud on account of what one has accomplished.

5. To consider with perfect equanimity and detachment the conflicting opinions and the various manifestations of the activity of beings. To understand that such is the nature of things, the inevitable mode of action of each entity and to remain always serene. To look at the world as a man standing on the highest mountain of the country looks at the valleys and the lesser summits spread out below him.

6. It is said that the sixth stage cannot be described in words. It corresponds to the realization of the 'VOID' which, in Lamaist terminology means the Inexpressible Reality.