Wednesday, December 17, 2014

God, Boon and Bane

If God - if there is a God,
gives - if such were to occur,
would it be upon us,
to good or ill, a status or intent confer?
Do we look a gift horse in the mouth,
or unwrap it and see what it might offer?

If boon - if we grant such a label,
were consumed without thought,
what perils it may later bring us,
consider - all of us ought?
And, with care, must we examine it
for our biases must be caught?

If bane - oh, what a shame,
were lamented and too early discarded,
all the fruits it may later bring,
all its hidden benefits prematurely parted..
Is it God that brought us such evil,
or was such ill, by our haste, started?

Oh, come now friends,
Let finding our peace within be our advice,
hold hands and accept what comes,
without grouping it virtue or vice.
Nor judging a supreme being or force,
of whose true nature we cannot surmise.

When one man gains,
and another man suffers,
Let us resolve to work together,
like caring sisters and brothers.
For true lasting happiness within us comes,
from being grateful and seeing happiness in others.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fairness of life - and the purpose of civilization?

This post is inspired by a post by a dear friend of mine...

"The only thing fair about life is that it is equally unfair to all!"

to which my reply was... "I really wish this were true." and I pledged to write a blog post about this.

That status message made me think a lot... about fairness, about equality, about people, experiences, society, and many other things. I'll try to make (and support) two assertions today:
  1. Life is unfair. And life is unequally unfair.
  2. We've all known Point 1 for a long time, whether consciously, or subconsciously. And we're all already working on this together, and we recognize it as a problem. The solution is called "Civilization".
I don't think we need much debate on whether life is unfair. We see plenty of instances of it in each of our lives - anything that you wished for, or wanted, and somehow, despite your best efforts, seemed to escape you - whether it's a meal, a job, a grade, a vacation or love.

We aren't born equal. Some of us are born without a hand, a leg, with a weak heart, or blind or deaf or dumb. Some of us are born with a predilection towards certain diseases or disorders, some physical, some mental, some triggered only when our life leads us towards certain circumstances. Some of us are not even completely born - dying in the womb before we see light. Some of us meet accidents down the road of life, often for the sole reason that a set of events coincided at a time in a certain way.

If we were all born in jungles, Mother Nature would apply its standard rule on all of us - "Survival of the fittest". Predators would attack anyone that "fell behind" in any way at all. And by this discrimination itself, Mother Nature would demonstrate that we are not born equal. And since all of these "weaknesses" were not ours to choose at the time of birth, it is indeed unfair as well.

This unfairness is also unequal. Even two identical twins may have very different lives. It could take just some camouflage on one fine day to end the fate of one while the other lives on. 

Alright, we're done with the sad stuff now. Here comes civilization...

Man is a social being. We don't believe in each finding our own way from birth to grave. We believe in cooperation. If you can pick berries and I can hunt deer, we team up and work together, so that we both gain. If you're good at growing crops, and I'm good at knitting clothes, we work together, and gain. This is the essence of civilization. We each find the things that we're good at, and we take care of each other. And if someone hasn't yet figured out what they're good at, we share and we protect them, because we care. 

This is the essence of civilization... that collaboration of the human spirit... which has inspired us to build societies of democracy, of egalitarianism, of chasing down every single thing that we see as the unequal unfairness of life, and to pledge our cause to understanding the nature of this unfairness and to try and bridge the gap... so that tomorrow we may all look forward to a world of less unfairness.

It is this same essence that has made us recognize the nature of discrimination of gender, caste, color, creed, race and religion, and made us enact laws that prevent such discrimination. It is this same essence that makes us work towards understanding health, to find and cure diseases as they break out, or to study the brain, understand how it functions and how to repair it when things go wrong. It is this same essence that inspires us to make bionic eyes for the blind, ears for the deaf, limbs for the paraplegic. It is this same essence that inspires so many of us to build new things, so that someone in another part of the world can save their time, or be saved from inconvenience or pain, or perhaps be given a smile once again, whether by curing an illness, or just listening to that song that touches our hearts.

Civilization is not perfect. Indeed, perfection is not what civilization strives for, or believes in. Rather, civilization strives for equality. It strives for being a voice for the voiceless. For giving each and every one the opportunity to act as they choose, as long as their action is not at the expense of others - and to protect those that face the ill consequences of the actions of others. Civilization is a process, not a state of being, and it will not end its continuous cycle of finding and leveling out the imbalance of justice that is inherent in nature - for civilization believes that "Survival of the Fittest" is not what should govern our existence, and that we can defy this "edict" and recognize the deeper value in each of our lives.

And with every stride that civilization takes, we are brought closer to an understanding that despite all our seeming differences, we all can and will work towards an environment in which we can not only peacefully coexist and prosper, but also bring equality and fairness to counter that unequal unfairness that Mother Nature so ruthlessly imposes on us all.

I will end with one final note. When you feel that life is unfair to you, reach out to civilization - whether it's your family, your friends, your loved ones, or a stranger who will lend an ear - not because we have all the answers, or that we have any miracle cure for what you're going through - we probably don't. But reach out to us - because we care.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The walk

I went for a walk day this weekend.

This line and pause is for those of you who started laughing at the end of the previous line... to help you catch up. And yes, I admit I should take walks more often. *sigh*

This post is going to be less about the aimless paths my feet took, and more about the journey of my mind.

As I walked along the highway, I noticed a line of idols of Lord Ganesha, each about one and a half times my height. I noticed that most of them were yet unfinished. What caught my attention most though, is that the hands of the idols were left hollow. I stepped closer to one of them, and noticed, through the hole, that there were cobwebs being built inside. I was struck by the contrast of the two varieties of artwork in progress. I let that thought linger while I moved on.

Soon, I came across what I thought looked like a series of finished idols of Lord Ganesha, with one hand up, and one hand down - the symbol of protection and blessing. I observed the curves of these completed idols, and how they looked so identical from a distance, but perhaps differed in very small measurements. Each of these quite likely had some quirk that made the piece like no other next to it. I also thought again about the spiders that would perhaps not survive in these finished and sealed idols. Each piece of artwork made, quite likely, by clearing out many more pieces of artwork that had formed within it as it made its progress.

There seemed to be something very subtle about that thought, though I couldn't yet start to describe it. So I walked on, past the many slums of the artists who had probably spent ages making each of those idols.

Presently, I chanced upon an artist working on one of those idols in progress. She appeared to be sitting in roughly the same pose as the idol she was drawing - legs crossed, on a stool of some sort, only with the raised hand holding a tool which she was either carving or painting with, and the other hand, down in her lap, her eyes focused in concentration on the job at hand. It made me wonder for a while who was the creator and who the created. Or, really, was there any distinction? Or perhaps such labels only helped us in forming some abstract concepts for the relationships between the things we see, for the purpose of the perspective we choose to assume in the present.

I decided to change my subjects, and let my eyes wander, my mind still stuck on the juxtapositions. Soon, my attention was drawn to the beautiful bridge-like structure under construction for the new MetroRail of Hyderabad, hovering over the highway. A man put on his hard-top hat, chatted with a coworker, and picked up his welding machine to make some changes. As I turned my eyes away to avoid staring into the bright splinters from the welding, I realized it was just about time for sunset. And lo and behold, on the other side of the road, the clouds had become a soft orange. A bird flew through the sky, through the fading sunset, and right over the concrete of the bridge, and past it. I wondered if it was headed back to its nest.

Now, with the sunset over, I attempted to cross the road, and turn back, to be homeward bound myself. Yet, my thoughts were still jittery, and I stood still under the bridge, hesitating to cross till I had enough attention to avoid being run over.

Then, slowly, the pieces appeared to come together. Here was nature on one side - the bird, the sky, the clouds, the spiders and their cobwebs. And on the other side were the bridge, the construction worker, the artist, the idols of Lord Ganesha. It often feels like an Us versus Them. Man versus Nature. Artificial versus Natural. And, yet, in that moment, they didn't seem all that disparate at all. It appeared as if the patterns were just repeating themselves. It seemed as if the spider's cobwebs were really no different at all from Man's idols, roads, buildings and bridges. They were no different from the honeycombs made by the bees, or the nests made by the birds, or the anthills made by the ants. Man is just another organism on Planet Earth, with a different manner of artwork than the other organisms out there, changing his home to suit how he pleases - sometimes dislodging other organisms, sometimes remembering them and providing for their coexistence.

I smiled to myself and thought... at the end of the day, everything Man has learned, he has learned from nature. And that complex learning itself, is perhaps, just his nature.

And now, I was finally ready to finish crossing that highway and head home.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You make me...

(Inspired by conversations with the moon)

You make my head go *poof*
You make my heart go *flutter*
Coz when you’re with me
You make me… me.

Your smile brings me to life
Your eyes electrify my soul
Coz when you’re talking to me
You make me… me.

Never thought I could feel so good
You take bliss to a whole new level.
You bring down all my walls.
And you make me… me.

All I need is a little patience.
Coz nothing worth it is easy to get.
But I know that you are worth it.
Coz you’ll make me… me.

I watch the setting horizon
With the hue of your blushing face
I think of the times we’ve had together
And how you make me… me

Is this… the end? Or is it a new beginning?
Have I... lost myself? Or have I found myself finally?
Has the… world stopped turning? Or has my life come to a still?
I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’m undergoing a transformation.
Will you… please caress me? Tell me it’ll all be alright.
I believe in you now… coz you’re the only one.
That can make me… me

As we part ways, I have no hard feelings.
Every single moment, was how it was meant to be.
Though the distance appears to grow,
I know we’ve blended into one.

You’ve made me… me.