The Absurdity Trap

Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Recently two interesting news got my attention.

The first was about a very rich community enclave in Europe which preferred through a referendum “to pay a fine” than “to take in refugees”, since “they had worked hard all their lives and they deserved their beautiful village. The refugees coming in, even if it were ten families would spoil the whole set up and besides, the kids would not know English.”

The second was an article written about the research study by a Professor of Psychology at Berkeley, in which based on a personal escapade (he literally escaped from being crushed onto the tarmac by a Mercedes driver who jumped the traffic lights) he analysed whether too much money leads to a sense of entitlement and a superiority that gives a damn (or at least its equivalent in a metaphorical sense) to other human beings who happen to be around the vicinity.

Why were the news thought provoking? One often reads newspapers that highlight the atrocities committed by “rich and spoilt people” on a roll. If they shoot dead innocents, plough over sleeping roadside vendors, kill teenagers who overtake them in humble vehicles- the grist keeps getting added to the mill. I had presumed that it was a problem with the noveau riche in particular parts of the world. Until I read a few years before about the behaviour of an internationally top shot Monetary Fund director and then discovered that the Tehelkaeque issues of India were also common across  the inhuman grazing lands of power play in the world.

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(From the book: The Power of Myth)

BILL MOYERS: We seem to worship celebrities today, not heroes.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Oh, yes that’s too bad. A little questionnaire was sent around one of the high schools in Brooklyn: What would you like to be? And two-thirds of the students said a celebrity. And no notion of having to achieve something, you know —

BILL MOYERS: Just to be known.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Just to be known, and have fame — name and fame. It’s too bad.

BILL MOYERS: But does a society need heroes?

JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yes, I think so.

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So does it mean, it all evolves to nurture than nature?

May be we should bring up our children with some basic lessons:

That to be human means to be considerate and compassionate.

That the world needs the true riches of the great human heroic soul.

A hero who respects another’s rights as equal to his/her own. Who will act to protect and not harm. Who will not abstain from a helping hand when he/she can.

Maybe then the absurdity of believing in a sense of entitlement due to  x, y or z ( gender, skin colour, riches, nationality, position, stature, power, x, y, z..) will cease and the ability to commit atrocities with impunity on ‘others’ will stop.

I would love to read about a true hero soon.

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Read:

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/does-power-really-corrupt

High Energy Musings

becoming-beowulf-Joseph-Campbell (1)

So the story goes that one day, someone offered money, to SriRamKrishna Paramahansa.

“I do not want it,” said RamKrishna.

“Why not? You are a Yogi- you will not misuse it. You should keep it,” the man insisted.

“If you know there is a poisonous snake inside a hole and still insert your hand inside, what would happen?”Ramkrishna laughed in merriment, “I do not want it.”

“But you are an evolved soul. Oil drops rise up even if they are mixed with water,” the man was indefatigable.

“But think of the rancid stink of that oil…,” chuckled RamKrishna. “It is better to avoid temptation altogether.”

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In the classic “The Power of Myth “, the great  scholar Joseph Campbell exhorts to do the same.

When Bill Moyers asked him whether a Hero lurked in each of us, he answered thus:

“Our life evokes our character. You find out more about yourself as you go on. That is why it’s good to put yourself in situations that will evoke your higher nature rather than your lower. “Lead us not into temptation.”

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Explaining how Ego gets into a competitive race wanting to prove oneself better than others, even in one’s spirituality, Wayne Dyer says, “Ego thinks that feeling more spiritual is equivalent to being in an elite classification and will try to get more spiritual points than your opponents.”

Personal Note:)

Replace “spiritual” with beautiful/popular/successful/prosperous/cool/adored/wooed/desired/whatever..

Wayne Dyer  writes, “It is that very elitist world of lower vibrations that you want to leave behind. ”

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Miracles

My elder daughter loves Rhonda Byrne. She follows most of the principles of Byrne’s great book, The Secret, and advises me to do the same.Her mother being an old curmudgeon ( yeah, she will tell me now- ma, you are making yourself into one  by spelling it out so! ), ok middle aged curmudgeon , with her own take on realities of life, is often half sceptical.

But recently, just a few episodes have confluenced so beautifully that I am re-reading Byrne’s latest: Hero. It uses Jospeh Campbell’s great metaphor of the Hero’s Quest and “Following Your Bliss” principle. It also has Liz Murray, among others, sharing her  fantastic  journey from the streets as a homeless orphan to  excelling at Harvard University.

On a particularly trying day, I found myself staring at an article in the newspaper’s spiritual column about different forms of service: physical, intellectual, spiritual, et al. An Aha moment happened to me.

Here was the answer of a deep query in my mind. Of why, it is so important to answer your true calling.

It all started making sense. Because, only service leads to peace. And if you do not serve, when given the calling of service-well, trouble starts brewing. Until you realise that your inner truth is stronger than any prejudice the world might be having. And you step right back to your original path.

“Try practising Gratitude ma. It is a free pass through life’s obstacles, ” my young adult advised.”Miracles happen, if you visualise goodness and say thanks,” she smiled. She had “Hero” in her arms.

My daughter switched on Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger..”What doesn’t kill you , makes you stronger,  stand a little taller, foot steps lighter, what doesn’t kill you…” I rather liked the lyrics.

Recently when I talked with my friend, he said the same: ‘I feel so thankful most of the time, for what life has given me! ‘

“Imagine you are sitting on the moon and looking down, and look at your own little troubles from that perspective…”, advised a mentor lately.

All of what they were saying, were like guideposts for me.

Yes, thank you for what I already have.

Frankly, You have been very kind towards me!

May I never lose the faith to whisper a thanks , at least once a day…

For truly my cup runneth over with love, joy, opportunities and grace…only make me a more deserving receptacle of thy blessings.

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The Night of the Grand Mothers…. and Other Ramblings

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M.T. Vasudevan Nair or M.T. as we know him, call him, love him is a great figure of Malayalam Literature. His memoirs in the series of Kashu, Kanji, Kuppayam, Kallu, Kamam ( Money, Rice gruel, Shirt, Drink, Lust ) is being serially published- with one chapter coming out every  year in August-September during Thiru Onam in Kerala!

Being a Non-Resident Keralite, I have been depending upon the assiduousness of my father’s book packing and the punctuality of the Trans India Kerala Express, to deliver me my annual nirvana aka his memoir, for the last three years. The fourth year has not disappointed me either.

In this chapter on Drinks, M.T dwells with childish glee upon the strong, self dependent Nair  women and its matriarchal culture – a group of old grannies who relish Chicken curry and local Arrack/toddy/drink during the Puja rites to appease the Family Goddess!

In deft lines, he portrays the women- the hassled mother who has to coordinate the whole goddess business, the cantankerous old women who arrive in threes and fours with their pet peeves and desires; the all-efficient aunts who manage puking children, deceptive local men, catch and cook aggressive roosters, narrate stories of haughty Goddesses who pick fight with one another…the home becomes a hub of activity, the narrator falls ill, grannies share stories, and enjoy a good meat and toddy break, the goddess is hopefully appeased.

Incidentally, all happened because ill timed things started happening in the family- basically the cow being discovered upside down in a small pond and it obviously being the “push” of someone thirsty for appeasement!

Magical Realism might have been introduced to the Kerala reader via translations of Marquez! Remedios the Beautiful ascending to the heavens with white sheets ( For those who want to know how Marquez struck inspiration after suffering from writers’ block on that one, please read the book :  The Fragrance of Guava- Conversations with Marquez in the Faber Caribbean series) but a series of incidents like the above, aided by a rooster killing, the dance of the grand mothers in the dark night into which three other mysterious dark figures join in from the night..M.T. took me right back to a rainy night in Macondo!

Artist Namboodiri has delighted Malayalis with his blessed sketches for years now. His sketches (of which I have tried to copy one!) of the women especially- flawless, fluid, spirited, beautiful, adds a special beauty to M.T’s charming reminiscences.

I have to wait another year for the last episode, (and I do get vexed with the publisher who decided to pen a five year agreement with the genius!) but hopefully the Kerala Express will chug its way to my heart again, next August.

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After a long time, I had cried on seeing a movie. I was late to see it, and a flight saw me fiddle around with the choices. Between a re watch of  Casablanca and a first look at Celluloid I meandered; and then my mother tongue won out.

I was treated to an excellent movie by Kamal. It was based on the making of the first silent movie in Malayalam “Vigatha Kumaran” by a great soul called J.C. Daniel – and the travails and agonies an insensitive world subjected him to! The passionate young man sells his acres of ancestral land, his beloved wife’s jewellery to make the first movie. He tries to get a female actress from Bombay but it ends in wastage of money. Finally, a woman from a lower caste (the movie is a pointer on the atrocities of the caste system too) enacts the role of the heroine. The film triggers disastrous responses from a prejudiced, narrow minded society which chases the woman away and destroys the visionary’s dreams.

The fall of J.C.Daniel, and the insensitivity he faces from bureaucracy, the film world, his own close circle, the struggle with penury and later…the much wonted recognition which arrives after his death is the theme of this beautiful movie.

I ended up reading a series of criticisms and letters to the editor on the whats and whys and why nots and who’s and whose and blame games which were enacted out after the movie was appreciated by ordinary viewers.

The movie made me think of pioneers in every front of this world- who battled deep seated prejudices and oppression- from Galileo to Alan Turing to Caroline Herschel, because  the society in general just cannot tolerate dreamers! We are after their fault-lines, their perceived defects, their imperfections and ignore their great capacity to advance the cause of human excellence.

As Brutus ranted, ” As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his
fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his ambition.” (Julius Caesar, Shakespeare)

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Or maybe the answer to the conundrum is in Jospeh Campbell’s conversations with Bill Moyers

( Jospeh Campbell, The Power of Myth, 1988; Chapter: “The Hero’s Adventure, pg187)

” That each of us is a completely unique creature and that, if we are ever to give any gift to the world, it will have to come out of our own experience and fulfillment of our own potentialities, not someone else’s.”

That summarises what I felt after meandering through M.T, smiling about Marquez, brooding over J.C.Daniel and wondering on the golden thread of it all…

More power to creativity!

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