Friday, July 26, 2019

Ownership issues, trophy wives and societal goal setting

The iconic diamond manufacturing group De Beers came up with their famous slogan “a diamond is forever”. Likewise, I keep seeing quotes like ‘she’s mine’ or ‘forever mine’ - and I get befuddled whenever I come across such lines.

I think the mentality as a whole is deeply flawed that you can “own” somebody. None can own anyone - not friends, not spouse, not even your children. Spouses, at best can be your co-travelers in this sojourn called life, but you can’t own them nor can they own you. To own someone is to reduce them to objects. Neither do we own our children for that matter - Children may come from us - still, it’s stupid of some parents to treat them as property. Not that people who use such terms understand the deeper meaning, but I think it's derogatory to even use it although one may not understand its full implications.

I guess society shares some blame in this objectification. Right from childhood, children are fed with thoughts like - you do this and this, you’ll get this kind of job and this kind of girl. This very mentality gives rise to ‘trophy wives’ and ‘trophy husbands’ (I don’t know if it exists). This is a deep malaise we are to get cured of a society. The objectification is one of the causes of rape so to say, although I concur rape is too complicated a topic to pin it on one single reason.

But some are compulsively slaves and as Voltaire quipped it’s not possible to free people from the chain they revere.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Necessary Illusions

I have always had issues with fakeness and pretentiousness – life in general and relationship in particular. Perhaps that’s the reason it endeared me with the first few movies of Kannada actor Upendra. He has multiple themes – mainly psychological – running in his movies. One of his main hypotheses is that we wear many masks in life which makes us unreal, and we weave many illusions and some illusions are necessary to get through life – many people can’t live their lives normally without the ruse called illusion. The protagonist in the movie tries to live his life as per his rules, without pretentions, without masks, facing brutal realities as they are  but fails miserably in doing so. 

His thought process goes something like this – Say, in a marriage, whether the husband loves the wife truly or not, but if the wife thinks he does, she can live happily. It works the other way too. For that matter, societies can’t function without some illusions. It can be extended to cultures and even nations. As per him, all the existence is cobweb of lies and illusions. Maybe he takes the idea too far. But he has many valid points.

To illustrate the point, I quote a scene from Terry Pratchett's Hogfather :
Susan: All right, I'm not stupid. You're saying that humans need fantasies to make life bearable.
Death: No. Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

Susan: With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?
Death: Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.
Susan: So we can believe the big ones?
Death: Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing.
Susan: They're not the same at all!
Death: You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and THEN show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet... you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some... some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.
Susan: But people have got to believe that, or what's the point?
Death : My point exactly
Without some of these illusions, relationships, societies may break. As ironic as it may sound, some illusions are necessary to get a grip of realities we have created or chosen for ourselves. Perhaps this is what many ancient Indian seers called 'Maaya' or the veil. Perhaps some veils and thus illusions are necessary.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Margaritas ante porcos

It is said that eyes only see what the mind is able to comprehend. The guru doesn’t appear until the disciple is ready.

There’s an anecdote of an interesting meeting between the popular anti-guru U.G. Krishnamurti, who derided everything holy & a profound yogi of recent times, Ramana Maharshi. This is from his memoirs : 
In 1939, when U.G. was 21 years of age, he went and met Sri Ramana Maharshi and asked him, "This thing called moksha [liberation], can you give it to me?" Ramana replied, "I can give it, but can you take it?" struck him like a "thunderbolt" and set him up on a relentless search for Truth that ended at the age of 49 with a totally unforeseen result.
Let me dissect this a bit. Unless one is prepared, one can’t handle the truth - the ultimate truth, that is. From a yogic standpoint, it requires a lot of preparation from an aspirant to attain the goal. It’s a lifetime of an effort. People who have gone searching for shortcuts have been beaten so badly. The symbolism of kundalini to a snake is very pertinent. Unless one knows how to handle it, one will be bitten badly and will suffer for the same.

There is one anecdote from Ancient Greece - that of philosopher Plotinus and his disciple Amelius. It’s from John Dillon’s book “Prayer and contemplation in the Neoplatonic and Sufi traditions”.
If it turns now abruptly to Plotinus, we can find from his pen or his lips scathing condemnations of what one might characterize as the ‘popular’ attitude to prayer - an attitude fully shared, it must be said, by contemporary Christians, whom he probably has in mind. First, there is his notorious response to his senior disciple Amelius, as reported by Porphyry, when Amelius invited him to accompany him on a sort of Temple-crawl, at the festival of the new moon: ‘The gods ought to come to me, not I to them’. ‘ what he meant by this exalted utterance, we could not understand and did not dare to ask’ says Porphyry. A Possible interpretation, surely, However, is that our relations with Gods should be based, Not on our going out of our way to solicit them for favors which we have not made an effort to deserve, but rather on our making ourselves ready, by the practice of spiritual exercises to receive their beneficial power. It is not the expression of impious or arrogant attitude to the gods; merely a properly Platonist one. We cannot except the gods to help us, maintains Plotinus if we are not prepared to help ourselves.
After the sacred, let’s come to the mundane: margaritas ante porcos literally translates into pearl before swine. The value of anything is apportioned by only the one who is capable of recognizing it. The entire idea of value is dependent on the beholder. This is applicable to so many things – knowledge, relationship, information, etc,.

There are two implications from this: First, we should be ready in all possible ways before wishing and realizing something; the second, we may be searching for great people but we may as well miss the great and exceptional people amongst us.