Monthly Archives: April 2012

Better Together

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This blog post is the part of a six-post series paraphrased from the sermons of Pastor Mark Hughes of the Church of the Rock, Winnipeg in connection with the ‘40-Days of Community’ small-groups initiative. 40-Days of Community is a method of extending love in the way Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback church has demonstrated. Ideas in this series are not mine, I have only a paraphrasing role. 

Ecclesiastes: Chapter 4 – Two are better than one!

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Declaration of Independence :

The modern North American society is fiercely independent. Canada has not always been like that. There were times, not long ago, when people never locked their doors. Not any more!

Walk Together:

Neighbours:

We know too much about them – when they come home, when they go to wash room, when they have dinner, etc.; yet we don’t even know their names!

Alone in a crowd:

We may be physically in an Indian market place, which, in a city like Mumbai is literally filled with thousands of people; but we might have no one to turn to for help.

African proverb: If alone, you would run fast, but together, you would run farther.
Exodus 18: Small groups are better.

JethroMoses‘ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain —and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

It is a secret: You could appoint a few board of directors for your life. Never let them know. In case you have a problem, pick up a phone and ask them.

Work together

Sometimes we might be in a desperate need for another pair of hands. A neighbour nearby is far better than a brother far away.
Mother Teresa, contrary to popular belief, did not work alone; she was CEO of a worldwide missionary group.

Watch Together

Who is Vince Lombardi? He was the coach of Green Bay Packers football team. He once disclosed his secret winning formula. Good fundamentals- discipline – team that loves one another.

Standing Beside Jackie Robinson, Reese Helped Change Baseball.

When Robinson was jeered at by crowds for mistakes with racial slurs, Pee Wee put his hands around him in support. That turned the career around for Robinson, who later ended up being inducted into Baseball hall of fame. 

Friends come in when the world leaves. 

Shelly, Dylan Thomas and Arundhati Roy: My Take

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An young English poet‘s revolutionary outburst against an 1819 English massacre in which he advocates non-violent resistance. Dylan Thomas talks about raging against injustices in mid-twentieth century. Arundhati Roy uses a footprint-less and fingerprint-less character Velutha. I am trying to combine these three treatises into a unified theme with ‘My Take’. Please read through. I will be honored if you would choose to comment. Thanks in advance.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLY (1792-1822)

“Stand ye calm and resolute,

Like a forest close and mute,

With folded arms and looks which are

Weapons of unvanquished war.

And if then the tyrants dare,

Let them ride among you there,

Slash, and stab, and maim and hew,

What they like, that let them do.

With folded arms and steady eyes,

And little fear, and less surprise

Look upon them as they slay

Till their rage has died away

Then they will return with shame

To the place from which they came,

And the blood thus shed will speak

In hot blushes on their cheek.

Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number,

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you-

Ye are many — they are few.

 

DYLAN THOMAS (1914-53)

Dylan advocates raging against injustice. But what are the tools available to Dylan? Please read.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

MY TAKE

Shelly’s poem seems to suggest he is an advocate of peaceful resistance. In that sense he fed ideas into Gandhi and Mandela; Shelly wasn’t a Gandhi himself.  I don’t think that is his main purpose, though. Why is that? Well, let me explain.

Idea of peaceful resistance was not invented by Gandhi, or even by Shelly: Jesus implanted the metaphor of ‘showing the other cheek’. So all are followers of Jesus– Shelly, Gandhi, Mandela and all!

Shelly died young, was he murdered? Also Keats and Byron, who were contemporaries, died young too! They were three too many young men dying  to be coincidences.

The poem itself wasn’t published until after Shelly’s death, fearing reprisals!

I am reminded of Chinese activist Wei Wei, Danish cartoonists, Indian painter Hussain.

Thomas’s poem reminds me the plight of sensitive poets. Rage, rage against dying of light: don’t go gently accepting your predicament even if it is the end of your life.

I am reminded of God of Small Things. Author Roy uses special tools to describe the character Velutha, a man without finger prints, who doesn’t leave foot prints on sand. Velutha raged in his youth as a communist activist, but when he was up against the brutal system, he chose to be fingerprint-less and footprint-less.

Isn’t Thomas saying: “DON’T EVER DO THAT; RAGE-RAGE-RAGE.” But he is not clear what the tools with which to rage are. Peace or Violence – Thomas either doesn’t know or doesn’t make it clear. This is the plight of sensitive poets: all they know is to rage-rage. It may be futile, darkness may be temporarily right, but they do want to keep up the rage.

Shelly’s attitude seems to approve Velutha’s methods of fingerprint-less and footprint-less passing out into oblivion. But he is hoping that the sacrifice would rise like Lion later to humble the oppressors. In that context, is Shelly actually looking for creating powerful symbols or martys as rallying point for larger  number of activists ?

Thomas actually wrote the poem when his father was dying. But it was not written for his father . Thomas probably wants his readers to RAGE, RAGE like Shelly’s Lion. But there is no sacrifice involved in Thomas’s poem and hence the symbolism is not powerful enough. He is appealing to the intellect of the people to rage, whereas Shelly is hoping that the emotional appeal of innocent sacrifice would provoke people to action.  Life is too precious to be thrown away. But Shelly lost it anyhow on the altar of radical thinking.

NOW TO THE IMPORTANT PART – WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS?

 

Jack Nicholson is 75!

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I have been awed by his sheer stage presence and power. Later I mistook him for the famous golfer Jack Nicklaus – my bad – and attributed a lot of mistaken greatness to him. But even devoid of this mistaken greatness, his kitty of greatness still is very large indeed. I ran into his ten best known lines from a Time tweet. I am compelled to quote them here.

Easy Rider, as George Hanson, 1969

THE LINE: “This used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.

Five Easy Pieces, as Robert Dupea, 1970

THE LINE: “I move around a lot, not because I’m looking for anything really, but ’cause I’m getting away from things that get bad if I stay.”

This line is my favorite as it explains a lot about me!

Chinatown, as Jake Gittes, 1974

THE LINE: “What can I tell you, kid? You’re right. When you’re right, you’re right, and you’re right.”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as R.P. Mc Murphy, 1975

THE LINE: “I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this.”

The Shining, as Jack Torrance, 1980

THE LINE: “Heeere’s Johnny!

Terms of Endearment, as Garrett Breedlove, 1983

THE LINE: “I don’t know what it is about you, but you do bring out the devil in me.”

Prizzi’s Honor, as Charley Partanna, 1985

THE LINE: “Do I ice her? Do I marry her?”

The Witches of Eastwick, as Daryl Van Horne, 1987

THE LINE: “Well, if that’s how you feel about it, then that’s how you feel about it. Is that how you feel about it?”

Batman, as the Joker, 1989

THE LINE: “Nice outfit.”

A Few Good Men,as Col. Nathan R. Jessup, 1992

THE LINE: “You can’t handle the truth!

As Good as It Gets, as Melvin Udall, 1997

THE LINE: “You make me want to be a better man.”

About Schmidt, as Warren Schmidt, 2002

THE LINE: “I know we’re all pretty small in the big scheme of things, and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference, but what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?”

The Departed, as Frank Costello, 2006

THE LINE: “When I was growing up, they would say you could become cops or criminals. But what I’m saying is this. When you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

 

Earth Day – a short story

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The setting is the pristine Palaruvi waterfalls near Trivandrum, South India and the year was 1992.

I decided to set out with my Yezdi motor bike on an adventure trip on one Saturday afternoon to this place. Sunita jumped into the back seat and we were gone in no time out into the road. Those days, we needed very little planning.

We headed to the town of Punalur which is closer to the falls. It was becoming dark and we decided to go into a lodge.

We plied the length and breadth of the town and had some snacks on the way, and eventually roosted by night.

Early morning, we set out again. The road was becoming a winding hilly tract and after about an hour of ride we reached the detour that goes to the waterfalls.

The road from that point was a narrow one. Picnickers in buses will have to get down there and walk. As I rode along, I realized that it was becoming a deep forest. I also realized we were all alone there. Not a single soul to be seen anywhere. That was kind of an eerie feeling.

We soon reached the end of the road, which was a parking lot. Nearby there was an old dilapidated building of the erstwhile Kingly era, which we quickly recognized as the rest room of the former Maharaja. There was nobody in the vicinity. I didn’t let out my antsy feeling and acted brave.

Oh! boy, it was a marvelous sight of the waterfalls in the middle of the forest, a narrow thread of clear water coursing down the rocky face of a hill and splashing all over into a clear pool of water. The only sound to be heard was the gentle and rhythmic splatter and flowing of water. It was heavenly.

We moved into the water and had a little bath there. I even moved to the waterfall and let the water splatter on me and so did Suni. We noticed s torn shirt hanging down from one the low branches of trees nearby where we plunked down. Didn’t give much more of a thought to it than it merited.

On the way back, one guy turned up from nowhere and he was walking fast to approach us. I felt uneasy and got to my motor bike fast and started it. I am not sure what he was trying to do – probably trying to sell something. But I was too terrified to ask. We left in a jiffy.

As I was going back on the narrow road through the forest, I realized again how helpless we were if someone attacked us. Nobody would know for a while!

The return journey was uneventful except for the interesting ride. I remember stopping by in different places and going through the winding roads and overtaking some jeeps and trucks. I believe those days a young couple on motor cycle overtaking trucks must have been a plucky or kinky thing in the minds of the villagers, so much so that some of them jeered at us aloud!

Back home, everything was back to normal until Iheard the following piece of news in the evening radio. Those were the days former Prime Minister Rajiv’s assassins were at large.

“There have been some rumors of sighting Murugan and Nalini, wanted criminals in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case, in the town of Punalur yesterday. Police are investigating.”

Did someone mistake us for the dreaded terrorists?

There was more to come the next day in the news paper. I read a story that there had been an unsolved murder at Palaruvi waterfalls the week before. My goodness! The torn shirt piece I noticed at the water fall was probably torn off the victims body in a scuffle. Now a real eerie feeling set in.

Weren’t we stupid to go into that forest all alone?

On this earth day, I fondly reminisce this story of long past. Palaruvi would be a much safer place today, I am sure. It is a breathtaking scene and a place one can connect with God.

Vishu Festival (Kerala, India) and the Biblical parable of Talents

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Vishu and Onam are two festivals celebrated in Kerala Indiawhich lies between 8 and 13 degrees (approx.) north of the equator. Therefore the sun would be at the zenith in April on its apparent northward movement, and again in August on its southward movement. These two events are celebrated as Vishu and Onam respectively, which also explains why there is a 4 month difference between the two celebrations. In the celestial cycle, this would mean the beginning of four months of summer. Translated into practicalitiy, it would also mean the word ‘go’ to everyone to get to work and earn money by farming or commerce.

Vishu celebration is a joyous occasion that also reminds me of the parable of talents in the Bible. On Vishu the head of the family gives out gifts of money to all the household members! I would like to think that this was intended as a bounty to all able bodied persons as working capital for business! Now this activity has lost such a significance and is largely symbolic. Children still look forward to receiving a gift of money, but it is not too much to talk about.

For the benefit of readers who don’t follow the Biblical parable of Talents, let me explain that it is a story told by Jesus, which goes like this. Talents – a measure of gold in biblical times – are given out to servants before the master goes away for a long jaunt, without mentioning anything at all about what to do with them. Now, after a long while the master comes back, and sure enough wants to see what happened to his talents. All servants had multiplied the supplied capital with commercial activities, except one, who chose to keep them under safe custody buried in a hole! The parable ends with the master proclaiming harsh punishment to the safe-keeper. This parable is widely understood to be a moral lesson in support of engaging in activities to expand one’s available capital and resources and as a strong indictment of laziness. Normally one would imagine that the safe-keeper did well, especially since nothing had been mentioned about what to do with the ‘talents’; but we are shocked to see this safe-keeper being punished! That is a surprising ending indeed, serving as an exaggeration of the negatives of laziness.

In order to make the astrological phenomena easily understandable, folklore and superstitions have been associated with them in every culture. In the case of Vishu too, there are countless stories involving gods and heroes.

I haven’t seen Vishu being looked at in this practival way anywhere else. I definitely hope to hear from my readers about this point of view.

Omens and superstitions of south India – ‘Vishu’ and ‘Onam’ in context

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Vishu was celebrated in South Indian state Kerala yesterday. I am getting emails from many wishing me Happy Vishu! What is Vishu?

The flower Vishukkani, also called Kanikanal, is inseparable from Vishu. According to the age-old belief of Keralites, an auspicious kani (first sight) at dawn on the Vishu day is lucky for the entire year. As a result, the Vishukkani is prepared with a lot of care to make it the most positive sight so as to bring alive a wonderful, propitious and year ahead!

Picture and above paragraph courtesy of Wikipedia. 

You can read a well-written article about this celebration in the newspaper article here. 

The technical name of the flower is Cassia Fistula or called golden shower tree. I find that the flower is also the national flower of Kerala. It is the symbol of Thai royalty.

My take: Vishu and Onam are two festivals celebrated in Kerala India which lies between 8 and 13 degrees (approx.) north of the equator. Therefore the sun would be at the zenith in April on its apparent northward movement, and again in August on its southward movement. These two events are celebrated as Vishu and Onam respectively, which also explains why there is a 4 month difference between the two celebrations. In the celestial cycle, this would mean the beginning of four months of summer. Translated into practicalitiy, it would also mean the word ‘go’ to everyone to get to work and earn money by farming or commerce.

Vishu celebration is a joyous occasion that also reminds me of the parable of talents in the Bible. On Vishu the head of the family gives out gifts of money to all the household members! I would like to think that this was intended as a bounty to all able bodied persons as working capital for business! Now this activity has lost such a significance and is largely symbolic. Children still look forward to receiving a gift of money, but it is not too much to talk about.  I haven’t seen Vishu being looked at in this practival way anywhere else. I definitely hope to hear from my readers about this point of view.

In order to make the astrological phenomena easily understandable, folklore and superstitions have been associated with them in every culture. In the case of Vishu too, there are countless stories involving gods and heroes.

I had a chance to look at the amazing book titled Omens and Superstitions of Southern India yesterday.  It is an amazing book written exactly 100 years back and I am kind of celebrating its anniversary here.

Interestingly, sighting a prostitute first thing in the morning is considered a lucky thing as does the sight of a cow and calves. There is a comprehensive list in the above book, for those of you who are interested.

As the reader can easily verify with the original text, Indians were steeped in superstitions of indescribable idiocy and cruelty as late as 100 years back. Some of the superstitions related to even, believe it or not, human sacrifices. We come across gory stories of human sacrifices from rural India occasionally even today.

I commend Edgar Thurston CIE for his painstaking and dispassionate effort in documenting the compendium of superstitions of his day as he encountered them. Thanks to him and the amazing website called Project Gutenberg we have this book online free for perusal. My hats off to the author and the team that did the all the work behind this including proof reading.

Much of what we know of as Hinduism is actually an eclectic collection of superstitions. Higher thinking and debates and world view do exist as subsets of philosophical discourses in ancient texts as well as embedded in some of the famous social movements. But they are largely not part of the religion of the masses. If Julia Roberts claims to be a Hindu, as she does now after her Eat-Love-Pray movie, she probably means the higher philosophical underpinnings. That is distinctly different from the Hindu religion of the masses.

What is your opinion about this? I am curious to know.

Titanic sinking anniversary

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The word was often invoked on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s departure from Southampton, England. For example, as The Guardian observed:

“Part of the enduring pull of the Titanic story is that it, yes, illustrates man’s hubris to the point that the ship itself has become a cliched metaphor.”

Hubris means “exaggerated pride or self-confidence” and comes directly from the Greek word with the same meaning.

Hubris is nearly always used in this context to refer to human ambitions – and not, for example, to the specific actions of the Titanic’s crew.

Post : Courtesy of Merriam Webster dictionary.