These are a few of my favorite things: #42(A Serious Man)

“Most people think life sucks, and then you die. Not me. I beg to differ. I think life sucks, then you get cancer, then your dog dies, your wife leaves you, the cancer goes into remission, you get a new dog, you get remarried, you owe ten million dollars in medical bills but you work hard for thirty five years and you pay it back and then one day you have a massive stroke, your whole right side is paralyzed, you have to limp along the streets and speak out of the left side of your mouth and drool but you go into rehabilitation and regain the power to walk and the power to talk and then one day you step off a curb at Sixty-seventh Street, and BANG you get hit by a city bus and then you die. Maybe” 
― Denis Leary

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In ‘A Serious Man’ we meet Larry Gopnik( Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor whose life starts resembling the situation described in the above quote. His complacent & normal world starts falling apart from all directions. His wife of so many years has a fling (with a guy named Sy Ableman) & unreasonably expects Larry to move out of his own home while she files for a divorce,his son is a music buff n a pot addict, his daughter has started stealing money from his wallet for an expensive nose job, his sick, somewhat mentally retard brother has moved in with him, his neighbor is encroaching on his property, one of his students is trying to bribe him to give the student passing grades n someone is sending anonymous derogatory letters to the college committee while Larry is being considered for a tenure at the university. In short everything that can go wrong is going wrong in Larry’s life. As the movie proceeds he starts facing serious financial problems as he has to engage various lawyers to deal with divorce n neighbor etc.  n then in a hilarious turn of events his wife’s suitor dies n wife expects Larry to pay for his funeral. Larry just can’t understand why all this is happening to him especially when, “I didn’t do anything”. This assertion is very heart breaking but starts to acquire comical proportions when he forgets to do anything to get his tenure, he doesn’t do anything, he doesn’t even publish research papers that are so crucial in academia. In trying to make sense of his troubles he tries to meet three rabbis but their advice proves to be superfluous, irrelevant, unhelpful n even laughable. So our guy Larry’s life is growing more n more pathetic n confusing but this may be just the beginning of trouble! Things do start to get a little better for Larry but only to get worse. There is some calmness before the real storm hits him hard. He finally succumbs to the lure of money offered by bribe n no sooner than he changes the student grade from F to C he receives a call from his Doctor who wants to discuss Larry’s X-Ray Report which is apparently too grave to be discussed on phone. n in another shot his son gets caught in a tornado. So there is no happy ending here. Welcome to reality.

The underlying question in the story of Larry n in all our life stories is why do bad things happen to good people?(This movie is a modern retelling of ‘The Book of Job‘) n when bad things happen how are we supposed to feel n react. Larry’s situation is appropriately highlighted by the Jefferson Airplane Song: When the truth turns out to be lies n all the joy within you dies, don’t you want somebody to love; Schrodinger’s cat n Heizenberg’s Uncertainity Principle. 

The Uncertainty Principle.

It proves we can’t ever really know…

what’s going on.

So it shouldn’t bother you. Not being able to figure anything out. Although you will be responsible for this on the mid-term.

 

 

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September 16, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Meaning of Life, Movies, Must Watch Movies, My Favorite Things, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings. 2 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things:#41(Visioneers)

 Visioneers is a satire on Modern Life where everyone is chasing happiness but no one is happy. It follows the life n times of George Washington Winsterhammerman(Zach Galifianakis) who works in a huge corporation known as Jeffers.

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Workers everywhere are exploding because of stress. George is trying to make sense of all this as he desperately tries to keep himself from exploding. But signs of stress in his life are palpable & growing, they just can’t be ignored anymore.Now ain’t this the fate of average cubicle rat everywhere? Work that gives one nothing but stress & emptiness, yet everyone just keeps going somehow. People know that their jobs are mind numbing n stressful but they try to address this very superficially. No one digs deep to find the root cause of stress.

A loudspeaker at the office keeps announcing the minutes of productivity left till the weekend.

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The corporation and its leader, Mr. Jeffers, claim success is achieved by its strict philosophy of mindless productivity. Jeffers teaches that productivity equals happiness, and the business logo (a middle finger) is the standard greeting in society.

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Now this is really telling! Are humans just  productive machines??I see most of wage slaves around me cursing mondays n waiting for fridays. They just bide their working week somehow n yet they can’t give up on their mind numbing jobs ‘cos they got stuff to buy. People are addicted to spending. They must have the latest costly gadgets n gizmos, branded clothing, glitzy, fancy cars, lavish homes, exotic holidays. & to finance all these needless aspirations they sell their time n soul monday to friday…can’t leave the job, gotta keep up with joneses. 

The answer is really easy. If one can live simply & frugally, then one can save enough n get off the bandwagon n enjoy really living the life, a life not with any of the shiny glitzy toys but filled with joys of simple things like a hot cup of tea drunk leisurely, the joy of Art, movies, books n music, walks n house hold chores. No more mad rush. But instead of choosing the Joyful less traveled road people keep exploding n wondering why…n looking for solutions in all wrong places. 

Talking of trying to find happiness in wrong places brings us to George’s wife (Judy Greer) who is always watching some Oprah-esque (yup, I coined this word,yayyyyy) TV shows about happiness & buying the latest Happiness Bestsellers. This is tragically hilarious. This is what is going around us everywhere. People are trying to seek happiness through shortcuts like ‘The Secret’ which promises to be a mantra for gaining all that we desire, whether we deserve them or not, whether we work hard for them or not. Just visualize it, give orders to Universe & receive it…achieving dreams are as simple as that. But there is just one little problem. It doesn’t really work it that way in real life. Here take a look: 

These happiness shortcuts don’t work either for the happiness show hostess nor for the wife n sure enough they simply don’t work for anyone. In a hilarious scene the hostess, finally realizing the futility of her own mantras shoots herself n dies. The wife leaves George. Fortunately, finally George is able to get a grip of his situation n finds a solution to his problems. I won’t reveal how. The Audience have a strong reaction to the movie. You either love it or don’t get it at all. It’s like some people are so much trapped in their corporate existence that they can”t see the trappings of their success n the reality of their own miserable existence. Visioneers has made quite a wave at film festivals:

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Visoneers(2008)

Directed by: Jared Drake
Written by: Brandon Drake
Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Judy Greer, Fay Masterson, James LeGros

September 10, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Happiness, Meaning of Life, Movies, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings. 3 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #39(Walden on Wheels : On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas)

Pic courtesy New york times

Pic courtesy New york times

This book takes us on an inspiring journey as we get to know how the author Ken Ilgunas frees himself from a massive educational loan by following the simplicity n frugality model of Thoreau’s Walden.

I was drawn to the book for 3 main reasons. First, I found Ilgunas’ desire to live super frugally in order to pay his loans Very refreshing. This is totally opposite of what I see the kids doing in India(majority though definitely not all).  Parents here  finance the most expensive education of kids, even taking loans in their own names. & after that if these kids don’t get a high paying job which  they feel they deserve, they won’t pick up some small jobs to support themselves + they never dream of cutting down their royal extravagant lifestyle. They must have all the luxuries: expensive gym memberships,  expensive food items. Even after draining their parents financially, they behave irresponsibly, can’t be bothered to switch of lights n fans even when not in use (electricity bills be damned, after all parent will be paying for that too in any case), they can’t even pick up after themselves or do things around home (they need to have their personal servants). The standards of living of these shameless, self entitled youth is very high. Ken Ilgunas is indeed the role model this generation needs.

Second I’ve always admired Thoreau’s experiments in solitude, simplicity & frugality.

Third I find the calm, quite life full of simplicity, solitude & grace which the author led far more desirable & charming than the grotesque life of the Filthy Rich n Famous

Here is an excerpt from the book:

My experiment began in the spring semester of 2009 when I enrolled in the graduate liberal studies department. Months before, I had just finished paying off $32,000 in undergraduate student loans — no easy feat for an English major.

To pay off my debt, I’d found jobs that provided free room and board. I moved to Coldfoot, Alaska — 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 250 from the nearest store — where I worked as a lodge cleaner, a tour guide and a cook. Later, I worked on a trail crew in Mississippi in an AmeriCorps program. Between jobs I hitchhiked more than 7,000 miles to avoid paying airfare. When I couldn’t find work, I moved in with friends. My clothes came from donation bins, I had friends cut my hair, and I’d pick up odd jobs when I could. Nearly every dime I made went into my loans.

I hated my debt more than anything. I dragged it with me wherever I went. While I was still leading an exciting, adventurous life, I knew I could never truly be free until my debt was gone.

I finally got out of the red when I landed a well-paying job with the Park Service as a backcountry ranger. Finally, after two and a half years of work, my debt was gone. I had four grand in the bank that was mine. All mine. It was the first time I had actual money that hadn’t been borrowed or given to me since I was a 13-year-old paperboy.

The more money I had borrowed, I came to realize, the more freedom I had surrendered. Yet, I still considered my education — as costly as it was — to be priceless. So now, motivated to go back to school yet determined not to go back into debt, I had to think outside the box. Or, as Henry David Thoreau might suggest, inside one.

In “Walden,” Thoreau mentioned a 6 foot-by-3 foot box he had seen by the railroad in which laborers locked up their tools at night. A man could live comfortably in one of these boxes, he thought. Nor would he have to borrow money and surrender freedom to afford a “larger and more luxurious box.”

And so: I decided to buy a van. Though I had never lived in one, I knew I had the personality for it. I had a penchant for rugged living, a sixth sense for cheapness, and an unequaled tolerance for squalor.

My first order of business upon moving to Duke was to find my “Walden on Wheels.” After a two-hour bus ride into the North Carolinian countryside, I caught sight of the ’94 Ford Econoline that I had found advertised on Craigslist. Googly-eyed, I sauntered up to it and lovingly trailed fingertips over dents and chipped paint. The classy cabernet sauvignon veneer at the top slowly, sensuously faded downward into lustrous black. I got behind the wheel and revved up the fuel-funneling beast. There was a grumble, a cough, then a smooth and steady mechanical growl. It was big, it was beautiful, and — best of all — it was $1,500.

I bought it immediately. So began what I’d call “radical living.”

My “radical living” experiment convinced me that the things plunging students further into debt — the iPhones, designer clothes, and even “needs” like heat and air conditioning, for instance — were by no means “necessary.” And I found it easier to “do without” than I ever thought it would be. Easier by far than the jobs I’d been forced to take in order to pay off my loans.

Living in a van was my grand social experiment. I wanted to see if I could — in an age of rampant consumerism and fiscal irresponsibility — afford the unaffordable: an education.

I pledged that I wouldn’t take out loans. Nor would I accept money from anybody, especially my mother, who, appalled by my experiment, offered to rent me an apartment each time I called home. My heat would be a sleeping bag; my air conditioning, an open window. I’d shower at the gym, eat the bare minimum and find a job to pay tuition. And — for fear of being caught — I wouldn’t tell anybody.

Living on the cheap wasn’t merely a way to save money and stave off debt; I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs. I wanted, as Thoreau put it, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life … to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Not only is his story of adventure very gripping n absorbing, but the book is peppered with little gems of wisdom like these:

“Reading sixteenth-century French poetry, suffering through Kant, and studying the finer points of the Jay Treaty may seem to be, on first appearance, completely, utterly, irrefutably pointless, yet somehow in studying, discussing, and writing about these ‘pointless’ subjects, the liberal arts have the capacity to turn on a certain part of the brain that makes us ask ourselves questions like: 

Who am I?  What’s worth fighting for? Who’s lying to us? What’s my purpose? What’s the point of it all? 

Perhaps many students would rather not be irritated with these questions, yet being compelled to grapple with them, it seems, can make us far less likely to be among those who’ll conform, remain complacent, or seek jobs with morally ambiguous employers” (p. 243).

“Discomforts are only discomforting when they’re an unexpected inconvenience, an unusual annoyance, an unplanned-for irritant. Discomforts are only discomforting when we aren’t used to them. But when we deal with the same discomforts every day, they become expected and part of the routine, and we are no longer afflicted with them the way we were…Give your body the chance to harden, your blood to thicken, and your skin to toughen, and you’ll find that the human body carries with it a weightless wardrobe. When we’re hardy in mind and body, we can select from an array of outfits to comfortably bear most any climate”

This book would be of huge interest not only for students, but for anyone seeking simple, spartan, frugal n calm way of living. We need more young guys like Ken Ilgunas n we need more inspirational tales like this.

September 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Happiness, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity. Leave a comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #38(Queen of Versailles); Quitting the Rat Race #19

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Queen of Versailles is a peek into the (sad & pathetic) lives of (filthy) Rich n Famous. We always try to speculate whether money buys happiness or not. We philosophize & wonder about it. We reason n we argue. There is no definitive answer to this quest. Everyone has their own hypothesis n conclusions. Now this Award winning Documentary  by Lauren Greenfield  gives us an excellent lens to see things with our own eyes. n then decide!! It’s a commentary on the emptiness of consumerism driven life & failure of the American Dream.

The Queen of Versailles” began as a documentary about a time-share billionaire, his ditzy wife, and their grotesque quest to build the largest house in the United States of America. It ended as perhaps the single best film on the Great Recession.”

The Siegels have a plan to build a 90,000 square feet home, bigger than the White house n modeled on the Palace of Versailles, ‘cos their life can no longer fit into the 26,000 square feet home!! Now just look at what all it will have when finished:

When completed it will have:

  • 15 bedrooms

  • 30 bathrooms, each with a full-sized jacuzzi tub

  • 10 kitchens and a sushi bar

  • Bowling alley

  • Baseball field

  • 2-3 Theater sized Entertainment Centres

  • Roller-skating rink

  • Arcade

  • 3 swimming pools

  • Fitness center

  • Spa

  • 20 car garage

  • Staff Quarters

10 Kitchens!! Are you fucking kidding me? I mean what do you need 10 kitchens for?? Reminds me of one of my favorite stories, ‘The Billionaires‘ by Maxim Gorky in which he wonders what do billionaires do with all the wealth..Do have stomachs twice/thrice the size of normal people? or do they have more mouths?? or maybe more teeth!

Now about the Siegels:

David Siegel is the founder n owner of Westgate, the pioneer n biggest player in Timeshare holiday industry. He is 74 something. He married Jackie, a beauty pageant winner n 30 years his junior when he was 60. Together they have 8 children!!!. Jackie has a fondness for shopping n she shops things by truckloads (or rather limousine loads) when the stuff is already overflowing in their huge mansion. There are too many children, too many (neglected) pets,too many nannies n housekeeping help n too much clutter, n too little appreciation for anything, n no Savings. Obviously they fly in their Private jets n when the recession hit their fortunes, the ‘poor’ folks had to fly commercial…one of the son asks, ‘What are all these people doing in our plane?’ !!

David says everyone wants to be rich,if they are not rich, they want to feel rich n if they don’t want to feel rich, they are dead!!! 

But is he himself happy with all this wealth and opulence?? The Answer comes from the horses mouth. David  openly admits to the camera that nothing makes him happy any more. Asked if he draws strength from his marriage, he flatly replies, “No.” Finally , some sense starts to prevail when it becomes clear to him that recession has actually hit them too. Then he is like a normal middle class person getting worried about electricity bills, Housing staff is cut down drastically, but regardless the X’mas shopping n party are celebrated with fanfare.

As a person who actually enjoys frugality n living beneath the mean,I really don’t understand a lifestyle filled with so much extravagance n wastage. Period. Even if I had billions n trillions I would really want to stay the way we live now. The big mansions don’t even excite me. I dream of shifting into smaller n smaller homes n finally ending up in tiny house (1100 square feet). Tiny houses n simple lifestyle with low footprint is what excites me. I am not even interested in how their life fell apart during recession…I don’t like that extravagant n wasteful lifestyle even if had continued being so without hiccups. That kind of lifestyle is empty n hideous. I’m simply not interested in too much money, ‘cos all it gets you is a super ugly gold throne. I’m happy lounging in my easy chair, reading books n daydreaming.

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September 4, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . English Movies, Happiness, Meaning of Life, Movies, Must Watch Movies, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom. 1 comment.

These are a few of my favorite things: #37 (Picture of Dorian Gray-Oscar Wilde)

Though Oscar Wilde is more famous for his witty one liners which are abundantly present in ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’,what makes this work memorable for me is the exploration of the inner psyche of the eponymous protagonist.

Basil Hallward, an artist, paints a very beautiful portrait of his friend Dorain Gray.

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Gray himself develops a  narcissistic kind of appreciation for his own portrait & thinks:

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& his wishes do indeed come true. So it follows that whatever vile thoughts he thinks & deeds he does his face remains innocent & stays as handsome as ever.He becomes too hedonistic & stops caring for the feelings of others. He starts ignoring the effect of his actions on people close to him. When his fiancee Sybil Vane commits suicide because Dorian decided to dump her for a frivolous reason, he remains nonchalant. Then he goes n murders his friend, Basil n also Sybil’s brother James. The painting becomes uglier n uglier with each misdemeanor.

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Now this is really interesting a human face is indeed a mirror of the inner self of the person. Beauty or ugliness is not just  physical features but also reflects   the person’s  inner life & the quality of thoughts. (Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed.)

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Sadly this fact is not at all accounted by our beauty n youth obsessed society. Many people act like Dorian Gray(“Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself.” “I know, now, that when one loses one’s good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything.”~Dorian Gray) n make huge efforts (even resorting to painful n expensive surgeries) to remain ever youthful. But, alas their inner emptiness is reflected in their face despite impeccable features.

To continue with the plot of the story, finally inner demons begins to catch up with Dorian n one day he himself is disgusted by the ugliness of his portrait & decides to destroy it. As he stabs his painting, Dorian becomes ugly n old n dies n the portrait returns to it’s initial beauty & splendor. The message is quite clear: As Ayn Rand once said, ‘One can evade reality, but one can never evade the consequences of evading reality.

P.S. : It is widely regarded that Dorian became irresponsibly hedonistic n degraded under the influence of his friend Lord Henry Wotton. I’ve totally ignored that aspect because I believe in ultimate responsibility  of an individual for his own thoughts & action. One cannot blame others. One should be mature & wise to understand what advice to follow & what to ignore.

Okay, now having dealt with the story n it’s nuances,let’s sample the signature Oscar Wilde Witticism, which peppers the book throughout especially through Lord Wotton:

“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”

“Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different.”

we always misunderstood ourselves, and rarely understood others”.

“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”

“Some things are more precious because they don’t last long.”

“Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last for ever.”

“It is perfectly monstrous,’ he said, at last, ‘the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true.”

“It is only shallow people who require years to get rid of an emotion. A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”

He thought for a moment. “Can you remember any great error that you committed in your early days, Duchess?” he asked, looking at her across the table. 
“A great many, I fear,” she cried.
“Then commit them over again,” he said, gravely. “To get back one’s youth one has merely to repeat one’s follies.”
“A delightful theory!” she exclaimed. ” I must put it into practice.”

August 27, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Books, Meaning of Life, My Favorite Things, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings. 4 comments.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: #35(Once Upon a Time Was I, Verônica)

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Once Upon a Time Was I, Verônica is a Brazilian movie  by  writer-director Marcelo Gomes that tells the story about a woman  who lives in a Brazilian city with her sick elderly father Jose, whom she adores to the point that she doesn’t really want comit to any guy n thus leave her father (Father: Are you thinking about Gustav? Veronika: No, I am thinking how happy I am to be at home with you). Veronica(Hermila Guedes) is undergoing a crucial time in her life, a period full of doubts: about her professional choice, her most intimate bonding and her ability to cope with the adult life that lies ahead. Once Upon a Time was I, Veronica is a fairy-tale in reverse. There are no fairy godmothers, no weddings, no dreams. It is a story that reveals itself through adventures, misfortunes, desires and songs.

 Veronica works in the psych department of a public hospital, and spends most of her days listening to accounts of her of her patients’ mental problems. Her encounters with the patients are very interesting, they come to her with complex psychological problems, A boy suffering from Catatonic Schizophrenia doesn’t respond to anything around, he’s almost like a living mummy,another lady suffers from inexplicable lethargy, despite having fairly good things in life she just can’t get herself out of bed. Veronica feels she is not really able to help her patients but apparently she is very popular with them.

But Veronica’s trickiest patient is herself: she conducts daily sessions in which she examines her motives and neuroses, speaking into a dictaphone. (I, patient Veronica, uncertain about life like everyone else. I, patient Veronica, scared about future like everybody else. I, patient Veronica, in a crisis. I patient Veronica, not knowing what to do with the sense of loss invading my soul).Veronica is a believably complex and intelligent protagonist, facing up to and articulating universal insecurities in a world of increasingly challenging turbulence. Veronica is undergoing an existential crisis or  to put it a little mildly, Quarter Life Crisis. At times she tries to escape the angst by indulging in excessive sex, partying n such but the inner turmoil doesn’t fade. Escape or avoidance is never the solution, only facing it squarely is. Veronica finally realizes through intense introspection that she’s “sick of suffering” and “trying to dream more about life.” 

The movie proceeds at a laconic pace, no action taking place. I really liked the scene when Veronica & Gustavo meet to break up after Veronica indulges in sex with a random stranger at the Carnival. They don’t fight, they don’t shout, they don’t get overly emotional. The imminent breakup is conveyed through silence, both of them sitting n looking in different directions.

I had to love the movie ‘cos I love all movies/books/songs/even paintings which give us a sneak peak into the character’s mind. & surely Veronica has a very rich inner life. Lot more goes on inside her head as faces her external n internal demons. My interest was piqued by the title of the movie n the protagonist’s name ‘cos ‘Veronika Decides to Die’ by Paulo Coelho also happens to be among my favorite books. Both Veronikas haven’t disappointed me n gave me fertile ground to grow my own thoughts.

The Film has been showcased at & received accolades at several Film Festivals.

August 6, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Meaning of Life, Must Watch Movies, My Favorite Things, Reflections/Musings. Leave a comment.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: #34 (Right Here, Right Now: A Short Film by Anand Gandhi)

Pondering over the imponderables like the meaning of life, Karma, etc is one of my favorite things. As is the nature of such enquiry I get no definite answers but these exercises help me shape my personal ethics n value system.

Karma is the basic law of cause & effect: As we sow, so we reap. Intuitively we all know that Karma seems to be a basic law operating all our actions but at times I wonder, is it so really? n if it indeed does, then how exactly? The thing about karma is that it is sometimes hard to discern it’s effect because Karma weaves a complicated Web. It’s not a simple case like we get wet in the rain n we catch flu the next day.

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Right here, Right Now, a short film by Anand Gandhi (Who is currently making huge waves with his Magnum Opus, ‘The Ship of Theseus’) explores this complex web of Karma rather brilliantly. A good story can convey obscure ideas more powerfully than anything else. An ounce  of story is worth tons of theory.

A young man in his haste to go some place takes two actions – he screams at his mother for making him late, and he lovingly appreciates his brother’s painting. By doing so, he strikes off two cycles – one of frustration and sorrow and the other of love and joy. His mother vents out her anger on her maidservant. His brother gifts the painting to his girl friend. Thus begins the cycles of sorrow and joy, forming a Domino stairway, leading to an unknown doorway. After shaking hands with 15 other characters and traveling through 17 locations, in just two shots, both the cycles meet at the end in an attempt to give a logical understanding to the seemingly absurd human life. It’s a humorous look at the bizarreness of the cosmic accident, otherwise known as life.

 

July 30, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Meaning of Life, Movies, Must Watch Movies, My Favorite Things, My Values, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings, Short-Story, Uncategorized, You tube. Leave a comment.

Ship of Theseus (The Film): A Philosophical Exploration

 Ship of Theseus:

Ship Of Theseus

Ship Of Theseus

After a long long time there comes a movie which is intellectually stimulating & which stays with you beyond the 2.5 hrs in the movie theatre. It makes you think and think and think………  ‘Ship of Theseus’ by Anand Gandhi belongs to this rare category.

The intrigue of this movie starts with the title itself, ‘Ship of Theseus’ also called ‘Theseus Paradox’.

The paradox engages in the idea of identity: “If parts of an object are replaced with similar parts, does it remain the same?” (In ancient times, there was a ship, called the “Theseus” after its famous former owner. As the years wore on, the Theseus started getting weak and creaky. The old boards were removed, put into a warehouse, and replaced with new ones. Then, the masts started tottering, and soon they, too, were warehoused and replaced. And in this way, after fifty years, this ship now has all new boards, masts, and everything. The question then arises: Is the ship in the harbor, now called S2, the same ship as the ship that was in the harbor, fifty years ago (called S1, for convenience)? In other words, is S2really the “Theseus”?~ Wikipedia). A simplified way to express the same thought is ‘George Washington’s Hammer’: A guy is admiring a hammer at an antique shop, he is informed by the dealer that it belongs to George Washington, so the guy says it’s in a pretty good condition considering it’s rather old age to which the dealer says sincerely, why should it not be considering he had replaced it’s head twice n it’s handle thrice. 😀

The film also refers to ethical issues brought out by applying the Theseus paradox to human beings, “All the cells in a person’s body regenerate entirely in seven years. An individual goes through a shift psychologically, ideologically and physically. Is it still the same person?”

Main theme is the theme of identity…or what makes Me, Me? What makes You, You? What makes Us, Us?? If some of our organs are replaced we are still the same person. That means we are something more than the sum total of our body parts..who are we then? Are we our thoughts? But even the thoughts theory is not satisfactory ‘cos as I look back on my life most of my thoughts n behavior patterns have changed totally. I have transitioned from a shy teenager to a confident Professional to a laid-back oops a hard working 😉 housewife and yet I am the same person that I used to be!! Even my passions have changed completely. Earlier I was a bookworm, then I became a travel enthusiast & a fashionista, now I’m more into cooking n yoga etc..yet I remain the same person! This thought is mind boggling to me at this moment.  This argument builds a strong case for the existence of a Soul. Despite the changes in physiology n psyche it is the soul that provides continuum to a living object as a single identity. (Ask yourself this one. I was born John Doe.<Insert your own name in place of John Doe> The cells and organs in our body die off and become entirely new cells every 7-10 years. In essence, I become an entirely new person every decade. At age 80, am I still John Doe? Am I still that tiny infant? Some would argue no, but following my line of prior reason, we are ourselves for our entire life, because of emotional memory.)

Several other themes like Atheism, Ethics, Compassion, Vegetarianism, limits of human goodness, Death, Soul, Reincarnation etc. are explored.

The movie comprises of 3 stories which are beautifully weaved together as the movie approaches its end. The first story is the story of a blind photographer n how her Art changes as she regains her vision. Is she a different person with eyes than what she was before?(“A frog once asked a centipede how is it able to walk on a hundred feet, so gracefully synchronized while the frog finds it difficult to manage even two. The centipede took a moment to analyze its own walk and was baffled. So as it tried to walk further its feet got entangled and it tripped.” – Aliya in Ship of Theseus)

The second story is about Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi) ,an Urbane, suave, good-natured, rational, compassionate, atheist monk!,  as he faces the dilemma of choosing between his ethics (compassion towards all living beings n not just human being) and his very life. The Philosophy of the Monk is Brilliantly captured in the Song ‘Naham Janami’ . This is the Quintessential Atheist Anthem. By large Atheists are a misunderstood lot. We are accused of behaving as we please in the absence of fear of God. But Atheist Ethics are stronger than blind faith ‘cos we take responsibility  for all our actions and our firm belief  in ‘cause & effect’. This part has some very Cerebral & witty conversation between Maitreya & a young Lawyer Charvak . Charvak asks Maitreya a question which I too have pondered for many years. How does one reconcile the paradox of existence of soul and reincarnation without the existence of God?? Buddha too propounded that there is no God but  asserted about Reincarnation. Maitreya initially held Buddha’s view on the matter but later as he grew physically n emotionally exhausted he admits that he doesn’t know anything definite about the existence of soul. (Charvak:”you say you’re an atheist and at the same time you believe in the concept of soul, which I think is rather convenient. I don’t think karmic causality is a reason enough for anybody to behave ethically. You know, that there is retribution of any kind in this life or any other. It’s like a weak man’s hope for some kind of cosmic revenge.”)

(Charvak:”We invent God, soul… heaven, afterlife…even life-imitating technology, all sorts of transcendence to cope with the idea of an absolute end. And then, we die for an idea that promises us some sort of immortality.”)

(Charvak:“Exactly. See, it’s pretty clear how inconsequential our actions are in the larger scheme of things.”

Maitreya- “Main is baat se sehmat nahi hoon. Hamaare har kaam ka prabhav karaakash mein rehte har parmanu par padta hai. Agar yeh baat sach nahi, toh phir sab nirarthak hai. What is the sense of existence then? The hedonism and nihilism of your namesake, Charvaka?”)

(Maitreya- “You see, in his world, it’s not all humanity that’s equal, it’s all existence that’s equal.”)

Naham Janami

Naham Janami

The third story is of Navin (Sohum Shah, also the co producer of the movie), a stockbroker,  who has his kidney transplanted. He apparently loves only money & is shown doing his business even when critically ill ,as opposed to the so called finer things like music, literature et al which his Granny(Ajji) would like him to explore & appreciate. But as the narrative progresses he shows great empathy n compassion for a poor bricklayer whose kidney has been stolen.

(Navin-‘Kuch ho nahi paaya’
Ajji-‘Jitna kuch hua, kyunki tumne kuch kiya. Itna hi hota hai’)

Everything about this movie is immaculate and Superlative. The Script, Direction, Acting, Cinematography, Subtle Humor, The Underlying Philosophy, and The Very title of the Movie.

Also read about my other all time favorite movies:

The Groundhog Day

Babel

Guzaarish

Peepli Live

Chalo Dilli

 

July 22, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Existentialism, Meaning of Life, Movies, Must Watch Movies, My Favorite Things, My Values, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings. 5 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #28 (The Hermit by Eugene Ionesco)

The Hermit by Eugene Ionesco

English: Eugene Ionesco on a ship's deck cross...

I love everything about this book, starting with the title ‘The Hermit’…the word Hermit is so beautiful n peaceful. To me it signifies one who has found value in one’s own company.

 (Great minds are like eagles, and build their nest in some lofty solitude.~Arthur Schopenauer;

Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.  ~Tillich, Paul)

I was immediately attracted to the Title of the book a couple of years back (& I reread it just now). At that time I did not in any way know about the Genius of Eugene Ionesco or that I would start loving his absurd plays.

Then there is the most wonderful opening sentence of the novel:

At thirty-five, it’s high time to quit the rat race. Assuming there is a rat race. I was sick & tired of my job. It was already late: I was fast approaching forty. If I hand’t come into unexpected inheritance I would have died of depression & boredom.

(Now it is a coincidence that I too gave up the rat race if there was any rat race for me to begin with  at 35, not that I was bored of my job…I was thoroughly enjoying my stint as a teacher but there came a time when I said to myself enough was enough…already time to quit n explore new things..the new things being doing nothing but devoting a large part of my time to thinking n philosophizing, devoting time to explore n adopt a simpler way of living, a frugal way, a Zen way, a quiet way, far from the madding crowd, far from the white noise of the society n confirmity )…so our unusual protagonist retires at 40 & devotes his time to ponder over the existential issues & the real meaning of our lives, not the superficial or mundane but the actual why n how of the human existence. He devotes his time to ponder over the nature of time, memories, death, infinity of the Universe, n such. Most people would regard him as eccentric n that is the general opinion of people towards him in the novel…sample these conversations & interactions of the narrator with various people:

~ I have a suspicion that the way I lived, the way I acted, rarely if ever going out, must have struck to her as odd. She made a number of allusions to my inactivity. According to her, I had no right to be retired in the first place. Not at my age anyway.

~Yes, that was it: they are all hostile towards me. What did they have against me? The fact that I didn’t live the way they did; that I refused to resign myself to my fate.

~She asked me questions that were vaguely indiscreet: “So it’s you again! Where are you going at this time? You always seem to be going out. And yet it’s safe to say you’re not going to work. You are lucky. Not like the rest of us.”

& the Best of all

~ I was about to drift off when Jeanne (His maid) came into the living room. As she rubbed the furniture to make it shine, she upbraided me, telling me that the life I led was unhealthy. Wasn’t I  going to buckle down & find some work for myself ? All right, so I had an inheritance. That’s no reason to sit around and do nothing all day. At least get married. Did I intend to go on living all alone like some impotent? I ought to start a family. I should have children. Man is made to have children, and there is nothing cuter than little ones underfoot. And then when they grow up and you grow old, they don’t abandon you to poverty; no, they reach out a helping hand when you need it the most. If there’s anything worse than living alone, it’s dying alone, with no one around to offer you a little milk of human kindness. I didn’t know what was in store for me. As for herself, she had a husband she didn’t get along too well, but now he was sick. They had had a child, a boy they had brought up with tender loving care, he had a heart of gold, only he had gone away and left them; he had a heart of gold, it was only because of that wife of his. They hadn’t heard from them in a long time. Apparently they had a baby. She had also had a daughter whom they had raised with similar loving care. A lovely girl. That is, she had been. But she too had a baby, only the baby had died. After that she deserted her husband. She came back home for a while, then left again, she had begun living fast n loose, from all that they had heard. Some cousins were in contact with her and kept them informed. Apparently she was on drugs. Children are ungrateful! You bleed yourself white for them, they aren’t all that easy to bring up in the first place and then when they grow up they go away and leave you, forget you: the best thing is not to have any. You’d better not count on them to show you any gratitude in the time of need.

I told her I was sure she was right. That didn’t stop her, she was still talking, with the dustrag in the right hand while she gesticulated with her left. She made me promise to marry and have children.

This conversation with Jeanne is perfectly classic Non-Sequiter dialogue in which Eugene Ionesco excels. The maid has not too good experience with her own children & yet she wants our guy to marry n have children. Somehow everyone is uncomfortable with anyone who leaves the race of conformity n who wants to live life on his/her own terms, then everyone will jump over each other n try to convince her/him to make the conventional choices no matter how badly they themselves are faring in life with their conventional/conformist choices. I too find myself on receiving end. People try to convince me that I must be bored to be staying at home all day n doing nothing since I don’t have any children either. No matter how happy I am & I look they are not convinced. How can I be happy until I am behaving like everybody else? Unless I have a fancy Job Title n a fat pay packet?

And one more thing is that people never value anything we do for it’s own sake. Not for making money but for the joy of doing the thing, like Vincent Van Goh painting his master pieces none of which sold during his life time. He said he painted for the sheer joy of painting regardless of them not selling. People can’t accept the fact that a guy wanna leave his job n focus on his inner life.

But I admire him for his ability to quit, afterall all of us know many people who crib about Monday mornings n enjoy life only on weekends n yet they can’t give up their lousy jobs ‘cos they gotta buy stuff to impress the people whom they don’t like’…that urge seems to be powerful for the masses of people.I guess it’s very easy to quit the drudgery of work if one wants to follow a simple n frugal life. Our guy (he remains unnamed in the novel) doesn’t squander money on big n fancy things like flashy car or luxury villa or such but just buys himself a modest flat where he can be with himself

I found his character intriguing in it’s aloofness. He tends not to think too much about other people. He is very much attached to his girlfriend upto the extent a person of his nature can be attached to anyone. Yet when she leaves him he has great difficulty in recalling her name…he’s always like ‘I miss Yovne or was her name Marie?!! In this sense he reminded me of another of my favorite character Meursault from ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus  (“Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.”)

 I like this novel for what goes inside the mind of the narrator. This book is not for anyone who likes suspense/thriller. I never like that kind of books where you are on tenterhooks as to what will happen next. I could not care less for a whodunit. My kind of book is that in which nothing happens…just life goes on at it’s own pace n that’s it. So no wonder I found this book extremely satisfying.

 

March 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Eugene Ionesco, Existentialism, Meaning of Life, My Favorite Things, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Solitude. 2 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #22 (Happy Days by Sameul Beckett)

Happy Days by Sameul Beckett

English: Sketch of scene in Happy Days by Samu...

Happy days is an Absurd play by Samuel Beckett who is best known for ‘Waiting for Godot’. Happy days is the story of Winnie, a woman who is trapped waist down in a mound of earth. As she begins her day she declares it to be another lovely day, a rather strange assertion for someone in her situation. She has a huge bag in which she has an assorted nick-nack of items, her toiletries, a hat, an umbrella, a revolver, etc.  Burried in a nearby mound is her husband Willie. Throughout the day Winnie keeps herself busy with her possessions in the handbag & engaging in a long monologue while Willie is busy with his newspaper n occasionally grunts in response (eh, this is how all husbands indeed are, whether in an absurd play or in real life (and there is nothing more absurd than real life after all)!! This is the situation of most married people, the wife chatters n the husband suffers her chatter,is engrossed with newspaper n grunts in response occasionally).

As the Act II of the play begins, Winnie is now buried neck deep inside the earth but continues her life in the same fashion, as optimistic as ever.What makes this play extraordinary n poignant is that the story of Winnie underlines the general human condition, it is the story of all of us. We all get stuck in certain situations in our life n we try to take it in our stride by calling it our inescapable fate. (Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.~Lemony Snicket). Despite it all  we try to resort to positive thinking n make the most of it anyways. There seems to be no other choice. This is the absurdity of our existence. And even as we keep repeating our positive mantras our lives as that of Winnie moves from bad to worse. I remember a joke which goes like this, a guy goes to an astrologer who tells him that his life will be very hard for 2 years…the guy asks will it improve after that? Nopes, says the astrologer, but you will get used to it!! So in life, nothing gets better but we learn to adjust.But the tragedy is that when we get used to our bad situation it grows even worse.

In a way we can say Winnie is trying to ignore the reality of her situation by being exuberant. This is both a good thing and a sad thing to do. Is it really wise to engage in the trivialities of contents of handbag? (in real life we are engaged in the trivialities of money, possessions, career, success while ignoring the real futility of all this, while the real issues in life are un-understood & unsorted we are like Winnie who says ‘There is of course the bag. There will always be the bag.). This is like trying to paint one’s house while it is on fire.

One more way of looking at Winnie’s predicament is realizing that sometimes in life we are not in a position to control our external environment but still we can control how we react to them & how we try best to cope up with our bleak reality. (everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.~Victor Frankl). The Title of the pay is very ironic, the situation is not called sad days! This is the way our life seems to be designed, we have to extract our happiness from our life experiences. (Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world.~Samuel Beckett)

February 25, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , . Book Review, Books, Existentialism, Meaning of Life, Philosophy, Reflections/Musings, Samuel Beckett. 2 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #14 (The Lottery Ticket by Anton Chekhov)

Do you feel your life will be all milk n honey if you win a lottery ticket?? Do you believe money is the solution to all your problems?? Well read this story & think again ^-^

CHEKHOV, Anton Pavlovich (1860-1904)

The Lottery Ticket by Anton Chekhov

IVAN DMITRITCH, a middle-class man who lived with his family on an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the newspaper. 

“I forgot to look at the newspaper today,” his wife said to him as she cleared the table. “Look and see whether the list of drawings is there.” 

“Yes, it is,” said Ivan Dmitritch; “but hasn’t your ticket lapsed?” 

“No; I took the interest on Tuesday.” 

“What is the number?” 

“Series 9,499, number 26.” 

“All right . . . we will look . . . 9,499 and 26.” 

Ivan Dmitritch had no faith in lottery luck, and would not, as a rule, have consented to look at the lists of winning numbers, but now, as he had nothing else to do and as the newspaper was before his eyes, he passed his finger downwards along the column of numbers. And immediately, as though in mockery of his scepticism, no further than the second line from the top, his eye was caught by the figure 9,499! Unable to believe his eyes, he hurriedly dropped the paper on his knees without looking to see the number of the ticket, and, just as though some one had given him a douche of cold water, he felt an agreeable chill in the pit of the stomach; tingling and terrible and sweet! 

“Masha, 9,499 is there!” he said in a hollow voice. 

His wife looked at his astonished and panic-stricken face, and realized that he was not joking. 

“9,499?” she asked, turning pale and dropping the folded tablecloth on the table. 

“Yes, yes . . . it really is there!” 

“And the number of the ticket?” 

“Oh, yes! There’s the number of the ticket too. But stay . . . wait! No, I say! Anyway, the number of our series is there! Anyway, you understand. . . .” 

Looking at his wife, Ivan Dmitritch gave a broad, senseless smile, like a baby when a bright object is shown it. His wife smiled too; it was as pleasant to her as to him that he only mentioned the series, and did not try to find out the number of the winning ticket. To torment and tantalize oneself with hopes of possible fortune is so sweet, so thrilling! 

“It is our series,” said Ivan Dmitritch, after a long silence. “So there is a probability that we have won. It’s only a probability, but there it is!” 

“Well, now look!” 

“Wait a little. We have plenty of time to be disappointed. It’s on the second line from the top, so the prize is seventy-five thousand. That’s not money, but power, capital! And in a minute I shall look at the list, and there — 26! Eh? I say, what if we really have won?” 

The husband and wife began laughing and staring at one another in silence. The possibility of winning bewildered them; they could not have said, could not have dreamed, what they both needed that seventy-five thousand for, what they would buy, where they would go. They thought only of the figures 9,499 and 75,000 and pictured them in their imagination, while somehow they could not think of the happiness itself which was so possible. 

Ivan Dmitritch, holding the paper in his hand, walked several times from corner to corner, and only when he had recovered from the first impression began dreaming a little. 

“And if we have won,” he said — “why, it will be a new life, it will be a transformation! The ticket is yours, but if it were mine I should, first of all, of course, spend twenty-five thousand on real property in the shape of an estate; ten thousand on immediate expenses, new furnishing . . . travelling . . . paying debts, and so on. . . . The other forty thousand I would put in the bank and get interest on it.” 

“Yes, an estate, that would be nice,” said his wife, sitting down and dropping her hands in her lap. 

“Somewhere in the Tula or Oryol provinces. . . . In the first place we shouldn’t need a summer villa, and besides, it would always bring in an income.” 

And pictures came crowding on his imagination, each more gracious and poetical than the last. And in all these pictures he saw himself well-fed, serene, healthy, felt warm, even hot! Here, after eating a summer soup, cold as ice, he lay on his back on the burning sand close to a stream or in the garden under a lime-tree. . . . It is hot. . . . His little boy and girl are crawling about near him, digging in the sand or catching ladybirds in the grass. He dozes sweetly, thinking of nothing, and feeling all over that he need not go to the office today, tomorrow, or the day after. Or, tired of lying still, he goes to the hayfield, or to the forest for mushrooms, or watches the peasants catching fish with a net. When the sun sets he takes a towel and soap and saunters to the bathing-shed, where he undresses at his leisure, slowly rubs his bare chest with his hands, and goes into the water. And in the water, near the opaque soapy circles, little fish flit to and fro and green water-weeds nod their heads. After bathing there is tea with cream and milk rolls. . . . In the evening a walk or vint with the neighbours. 

“Yes, it would be nice to buy an estate,” said his wife, also dreaming, and from her face it was evident that she was enchanted by her thoughts. 

Ivan Dmitritch pictured to himself autumn with its rains, its cold evenings, and its St. Martin’s summer. At that season he would have to take longer walks about the garden and beside the river, so as to get thoroughly chilled, and then drink a big glass of vodka and eat a salted mushroom or a soused cucumber, and then — drink another. . . . The children would come running from the kitchen-garden, bringing a carrot and a radish smelling of fresh earth. . . . And then, he would lie stretched full length on the sofa, and in leisurely fashion turn over the pages of some illustrated magazine, or, covering his face with it and unbuttoning his waistcoat, give himself up to slumber. 

The St. Martin’s summer is followed by cloudy, gloomy weather. It rains day and night, the bare trees weep, the wind is damp and cold. The dogs, the horses, the fowls — all are wet, depressed, downcast. There is nowhere to walk; one can’t go out for days together; one has to pace up and down the room, looking despondently at the grey window. It is dreary! 

Ivan Dmitritch stopped and looked at his wife. 

“I should go abroad, you know, Masha,” he said. 

And he began thinking how nice it would be in late autumn to go abroad somewhere to the South of France . . . to Italy . . . . to India! 

“I should certainly go abroad too,” his wife said. “But look at the number of the ticket!” 

“Wait, wait! . . .” 

He walked about the room and went on thinking. It occurred to him: what if his wife really did go abroad? It is pleasant to travel alone, or in the society of light, careless women who live in the present, and not such as think and talk all the journey about nothing but their children, sigh, and tremble with dismay over every farthing. Ivan Dmitritch imagined his wife in the train with a multitude of parcels, baskets, and bags; she would be sighing over something, complaining that the train made her head ache, that she had spent so much money. . . . At the stations he would continually be having to run for boiling water, bread and butter. . . . She wouldn’t have dinner because of its being too dear. . . . 

“She would begrudge me every farthing,” he thought, with a glance at his wife. “The lottery ticket is hers, not mine! Besides, what is the use of her going abroad? What does she want there? She would shut herself up in the hotel, and not let me out of her sight. . . . I know!” 

And for the first time in his life his mind dwelt on the fact that his wife had grown elderly and plain, and that she was saturated through and through with the smell of cooking, while he was still young, fresh, and healthy, and might well have got married again. 

“Of course, all that is silly nonsense,” he thought; “but . . . why should she go abroad? What would she make of it? And yet she would go, of course. . . . I can fancy . . . In reality it is all one to her, whether it is Naples or Klin. She would only be in my way. I should be dependent upon her. I can fancy how, like a regular woman, she will lock the money up as soon as she gets it. . . . She will hide it from me. . . . She will look after her relations and grudge me every farthing.” 

Ivan Dmitritch thought of her relations. All those wretched brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles would come crawling about as soon as they heard of the winning ticket, would begin whining like beggars, and fawning upon them with oily, hypocritical smiles. Wretched, detestable people! If they were given anything, they would ask for more; while if they were refused, they would swear at them, slander them, and wish them every kind of misfortune. 

Ivan Dmitritch remembered his own relations, and their faces, at which he had looked impartially in the past, struck him now as repulsive and hateful. 

“They are such reptiles!” he thought. 

And his wife’s face, too, struck him as repulsive and hateful. Anger surged up in his heart against her, and he thought malignantly: 

“She knows nothing about money, and so she is stingy. If she won it she would give me a hundred roubles, and put the rest away under lock and key.” 

And he looked at his wife, not with a smile now, but with hatred. She glanced at him too, and also with hatred and anger. She had her own daydreams, her own plans, her own reflections; she understood perfectly well what her husband’s dreams were. She knew who would be the first to try and grab her winnings. 

“It’s very nice making daydreams at other people’s expense!” is what her eyes expressed. “No, don’t you dare!” 

Her husband understood her look; hatred began stirring again in his breast, and in order to annoy his wife he glanced quickly, to spite her at the fourth page on the newspaper and read out triumphantly: 

“Series 9,499, number 46! Not 26!” 

Hatred and hope both disappeared at once, and it began immediately to seem to Ivan Dmitritch and his wife that their rooms were dark and small and low-pitched, that the supper they had been eating was not doing them good, but lying heavy on their stomachs, that the evenings were long and wearisome. . . . 

“What the devil’s the meaning of it?” said Ivan Dmitritch, beginning to be ill-humoured. “Wherever one steps there are bits of paper under one’s feet, crumbs, husks. The rooms are never swept! One is simply forced to go out. Damnation take my soul entirely! I shall go and hang myself on the first aspen-tree!”

So there..winning the money might not be such a good idea after all. All the feeling of relaxation, love n contentment were evaporated at the mere speculation of a chance to win big money. This story very well illustrates, ‘Money doesn’t change people, it merely unmasks them’.  This story is a very insightful commentary on human nature. Reminds me of a joke , ‘A man comes home one day and says, “Guess what honey? Pack your bags, I won the lottery!” The wife squeals with delight and says, “That’s great! Should I pack for the mountains or the beach?” He says, “I don’t care, just pack n get out of here!”

February 7, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Consumerism, Happiness, Meaning of Life, Reading, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom. 3 comments.

These are a few of my favorite things: #11 (Society by Jerry Hannan & Eddie Vedder)

These are a few of my favorite things: #11 (Society by Jerry Hannan & Eddie Vedder)

Society

It’s a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all, you won’t be free

Society, you’re a crazy breed
I hope you’re not lonely without me

When you want more than you have, you think you need
And when you think more than you want, your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
Cause when you have more than you think, you need more space

Society, you’re a crazy breed
I hope you’re not lonely without me
Society, crazy indeed
Hope you’re not lonely without me

This is a beautiful song both in music & in lyrics. Song for the people who refuse to be a part of the crowd. Our so called ‘society’ is nothing but crowds who have agreed pretty crazy & stupid definitions of happiness & success. Success is defined by one’s possessions & power. Whoever has the most stuff wins!! Looks pretty bad to me. No thanks, I’d rather be singing the song of my own soul than be caught up in this silly, mad frenzy. Society has no place for individuality. Those who live by their own rules are failures in the eyes of society. But ironically the so called successful people who played by society’s template of success (get good grades, slog your ass off in some stupid dumbass job that you pretend is very important, get married, produce 2.5 children, get a house, get 2 cars, go to exotic vacations, compete with the neighbors, compete with co-workers over who has more stuff, who eats out more, who vacations more n so it continues) are deeply unhappy & at a loss to understand why they feel so bad when they are doing all the ‘right’ things. This template looked non-sense to me from the beginning. Never appealed to me. I never felt the need to be a super-woman, to have it all. I’m my own person & that is more than enough for me. It’s really a mystery that people actually engage in all this n then they die without having known what is life really all about, what peace of mind is, what individuality is. How much happiness you can have sitting in your room, idly thinking, contemplating, gently communing with nature, taking things slow, living life at the pace of life n not running endless rat race. As Mark Twain noted, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).”

Also see my other favorite: Soak up the sun

February 1, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Consumerism, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Solitude, Wisdom. 1 comment.

Be a Light unto yourself: Zen Moments #6

Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana

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Every day Zuigan used to call out to himself, “Master!” and then he answered himself, “Yes, Sir!” And he added, “Awake, Awake!” and then answered, “Yes, Sir! Yes, Sir!”
“Do not be deceived by others!” “No, Sir! I will not, Sir!”

Buddha also said ‘Be a lamp unto yourself’

As his death approached, the Buddha said to those gathered around him:
Be a light unto yourself; betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth. Look not for refuge to anyone besides yourselves.


But it’s very common for people to fall into the trap of external voices & confirming to what ‘society’ wants people to do…many people fall into this trap and become sheeple (Sheeple (a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people”) is a term of disparagement in which people are likened to sheep, a herd animal. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research. By doing so, they undermine their own individuality and may willingly give up their rights.)..people do not listen to their own inner voice but do what everyone else is doing without as much as questioning their choices. In today’s world it’s very easy to fall into the traps of advertising, peer pressure, American Dream, Indian Dream & what not…so like Zuigan we must keep reminding ourselves everyday to be our own master & march to our own tune.

February 16, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Buddha, Buddhism, Happiness, Meaning of Life, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom, Zen. 3 comments.

Zen & the Art of Dying:Zen Moments #3

Daruma by Hakuin Ekaku (白隠 慧鶴, January 19, 168...

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A samurai once asked Zen Master Hakuin where he would go after he died. Hakuin answered ‘How am I supposed to know?’ ‘How do you not know? You’re a Zen master!’ exclaimed the samurai. ‘Yes, but not a dead one,’ Hakuin answered.

A General and a Zen Master

During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived – everyone except the Zen master.

Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was.

When he wasn’t treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger.

“You fool,” he shouted as he reached for his sword, “don’t you realize you are standing before a man who could kill you without blinking an eye!”

But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved.

“And do you realize,” the master replied calmly, “that you are standing before a man who can be killed without blinking an eye?”

Usually people are interested in finding whether there is a life after death. Zen teachers say it is better to focus on the present moment than worry about the afterlife. The real question is not if there is life after death but if there is a life before death. As far as life after death is concerned there are just 3 possibilities: either we die n that is the end of our story or we keep reincarnating till we achieve nirvana or we pass on to other realms of existence…we can never be really sure of which of this 3 actually happens until we are, errr, well actually dead. Like the famous Greek Philosopher Epicurus said “When we are, death is not & when death is, we are not”. So what happens after death is really unimportant. It is a mystery for us the living. But death is certain that much is pretty sure & in fact though we hate to die, paradoxically it is death which makes life exciting or even bearable. Imagine being immortal, that would be a fate worse than death. So we as human beings are not meant to figure out what happens after death but rather how to make the most of life in face of impending death. The answer is we must learn to live each moment fully. To squeeze the juice out of each moment. It is said those who live wisely are not afraid to die. Only those who live half heartedly, die half heartedly. Just like we get a good night’s sleep after a day well spent, we can get a good death after a life well spent.

“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.”

Yamamoto TsunetomoHagakure (c. 1716)

February 9, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Buddhism, Death, Happiness, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Parables, Reflections/Musings, Wisdom, Zen. 4 comments.

Quitting the Rat Race #10: Finding Joy in Chopping Wood & Carrying Water!

There is a Zen saying, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” What’s the difference? The tasks are the same & yet different, ‘cos of a change in how we view them!!

Before enlightenment (in our context while we are still running the Rat Race; Quitting the Rat Race is nothing short of Enlightenment!!!) chopping wood & carrying water seem boring & mundane. We resent doing that…we do it grudgingly while our mind craves for excitement. We’d rather be living a high life, seeking thrills & excitement, planning our next purchase, next promotion, & impressing people with our shiny possessions. There is a huge Gap between reality & expectation & our mind is under constant stress.

After Enlightenment we start appreciating the beauty of mundane stuff. We perform the task of chopping wood & carrying water with Zen like ease & peace, basking in the sun & appreciating the miracle of existence & nature. Every breath is filled with peace & Joy. Profound Spiritual Joy can be found in everyday activities. The Chop Wood Carry Water attitude can be applied in the context of our everyday chores & help us realize that there is joy  in doing the laundry, cleaning, paying bills, bathing, cooking, and doing what many people sadly think is boring everyday needs. 

In this day and age where people rush here and there and express a sense of loss, because they feel they need to always be doing something noticable, I think this attitude would be a great healing tool, in teaching people that doing the “chores” of life, can in fact be a relaxing and growth enhancing activity.

This also reflects the attitude of rejoicing the way things are rather than always wanting for something else to happen. Usually our attitude is something like “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”~Abraham Lincoln. We just crave for the things that we don’t have instead of enjoying what has indeed been given to us. 

”The Master sees things as they are,Without trying to control them.He lets them go their own way, And resides at the center of the circle. He/She understands that the Universe is forever out of control, And that trying to dominate eventsGoes against the current of the Tao. Be content with what you have; Rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, The whole world belongs to you.” ~Tao Te Ching.

This is the only meditation I know. 
While I eat, I eat. 
While I walk, I walk. 
And while I feel sleepy, I sleep. 
Whatsoever happens, happens. 
I never interfere.

Bokuju

October 15, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Happiness, Meaning of Life, My lifestyle, My Values, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Uncategorized, Wisdom. 4 comments.

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