To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

~My Photo Blog~

  ...Worth a Thousand Words

Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Dear friends,

Am going on a little holiday ..........will be back on Monday..........

.......will miss my blog and need I say it?, will miss you all :)

Till Monday then,


There's something about this poem.......I find myself rather moved by it......

Breathes There the Man
from The Lay of the Last Minstrel
---by Sir Walter Scott

BREATHES there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.

Monday, February 25, 2002
"He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave."
-- Sir William Drummond

.......I perfectly agree.

I feel that it is the gift of reasoning, more than anything else, that distinguishes humans from other animals. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I had to judge the quality of a person on a criteria of my choice, I would solely go upon his reasoning ability.

There's very little to be said about those who cannot argue; simply because they cannot help themselves. You cannot blame a lame man if he cannot walk. But what I find extremely troublesome about these people is that they like to perpetuate the myth that arguing or reasoning is wrong. Unfortunately, they're successful to some extent. And most unfortunate that these people cannot teach their children anything better. Their reasoning ability is nipped before it has a chance to flower.

Those who will not argue are not a less smellier kettle of fish. Not so irksome, perhaps, but one cannot expect anything but a stubborn silence in return for any efforts to involve them in a discussion. Sometimes one might hear a grunt or some such sound but nothing more. Their ideas are fixed and nothing will change them, least of all some good hard reason. And it might really be better this way, because if these people were actually driven to open their mouths, you would wonder if they had lost use of their ears !

As for those who dare not argue; I haven't yet encountered this species, though I admit I feel pity for them. Imagine having eyes and yet having to live blindfolded; it cannot be easy.

I'm thankful that I do not fall under any of these brackets. If there is something I thank God for, more than anything else, it is this very gift of reason, which has always stood me in good stead. And if there is something I fear most, it is the thought that someday I might lose it......

Friday, February 22, 2002
I made a promise to a friend and like every one of my promises, I wished to fulfill it. The promise moreover, was made at my own initiative. I wanted to dedicate a piece of writing on a subject of his choice on my blog. He wouldn't suggest a topic; I had to coax and coerce it from him. What put this idea into my head, I don't know. Maybe the thought of how happy he would be to read something that I had written for him. Maybe the thought that while my blog was about me, it should also reflect something about my friends.

But I wasn't prepared for my own inability. "Simplicity", he said, and at that moment I very much wanted to ask him to think of something more emotional perhaps, or something more abstract, but I knew I couldn't or rather, I shouldn't. It would be the same as asking someone to choose his favourite fruit and then say, "Oh but, don't choose a mango" or "Don't choose grapes". I might as well do the choosing myself.

I tried. I like to think I tried very much and very hard and yet, I never managed to write a word on "simplicity". If only some divine inspiration would come to me, I prayed, but I still couldn't. Everytime I took up my pen, it seemed to acquire an energy of its own and meander into a different route. I could never make it pass through the one I so much wanted it to.

I don't call myself a writer, only one who can make an honest attempt at writing. It wasn't as if there was nothing I could write about simplicity, but something was stopping me. What that something was, I don't know. The word did not seem to represent or suggest any ideas but it stood more like a solid block staring me in the face, everytime I thought of it. Perhaps the fire of feeling (for the subject) that drives most of my writing was missing here and perhaps I was afraid I would disappoint him, however hard I tried.

Finally I’ve come to a conclusion…..I cannot write about his chosen topic ..........if I cannot give him my best, I will not give him anything less. This gesture was meant to be a little token of my friendship for him...…..I wish I could offer the token in the very form I had promised..........but even so, I hope he will accept it.

(I will not carry out such an experiment again.......but through other ways and means.......will devote some space here to my friends.....)

Monday, February 18, 2002
It's quite an accepted theory these days; those who can forgive and forget lead a healthier and happier life. In any situation involving a victim and a perpetrator, one finds that there is an additional burden on the victim; that he must forgive. The victim is accorded due sympathy, but with one advice and that, he must forgive.

It must be said that here the victim's well being is at the heart of the issue. If he does not forgive or forget, there is no way he can gain a peace of mind, there is no way he can move on to a better life. Keeping your wounds green is hardly the way to heal them. If you want to recover, if you want to come out of your suffering, then for your own sake, you will have to forget what was done to you; for your own sake, you will have to forgive the wrong doer. Perhaps he will atone for his sins in a better world, but for now, you need to learn how to forgive. These and numerous other arguments will be offered, which, one might say to oneself, have a lot of sense in them.

Trouble is, I fail to see it for myself.

I have nothing against "forgiveness" as such, but I don't think it's as simple as it is made out to be. If it were, there would be no need for courts and jailhouses. A simple dose of "forgiveness" would settle the matter, once and for all. The fact that these institutions do exist (and have existed for centuries past) should tell us something.

I would forgive a person, if and only if, I was sure that the person realizes the wrong he has done, is repentant, and is also ready to atone for his sin. If a person asks my forgiveness so he may escape punishment at the hands of law, I would not forgive him. It is not his conscience that drives him to me, but fear of punishment. On the other hand, if he asks my forgiveness so he may live in peace the last days of his life, after he has been sentenced, I would forgive him. I would want him to escape a harsh trial. He knows he has done wrong and is ready to suffer for his guilt. I would not let him suffer.

I feel that the act of forgiving cannot be one-sided. If it involves a person ready to forgive, it must necessarily involve a person who desires to be forgiven. Desires to be forgiven in that he is aware of his guilt and recognises it as such. He is genuinely ready to make amends, not merely to mouth big words. Here, I would say, forgiveness, real forgiveness and healing can happen.

Those who don't really care for forgiveness but nevertheless ask for it are the types who would "like to have their cake and eat it too." Forgiveness cannot be bought cheap, least of all, for free. It involves a cost on both sides.

I wonder if one can really achieve a peaceful frame of mind by saying "I forgive" when there hasn't even been an acknowledgement by the wrong doer. When there hasn't even been a validation of one's right to forgive. If one can, there's nothing like it.

Even God requires men to confess their sins before they're forgiven (or atleast, we're told so), and after all, we're only men.

Thursday, February 14, 2002
Where both deliberate, the love is slight;
Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?
-- Christopher Marlowe.

I don't believe in love at first sight. Infact, not even at second, third or fourth sighting, for that matter. The definition of "love" in my book wouldn't allow of such a stand. I can't even begin to understand how two people lock eyes with each other for the first time and deem it 'love' without hesitation. From what I've heard, it's possible for one to feel such chemistry with atleast 250 out of a 1000 people. (excuse me, if I've botched up the statistics but that's the general idea).

To me, love comes out of a deeper understanding. The attraction must be there, of course, but unless there's something deeper than that, something that goes below the surface, I do not think such 'love' (if one chooses to call it that), can last long.

I'll explain what I mean. Some people may connect with me on a purely physical level, some might connect on a purely intellectual level, and some on an emotional level (I will not get into the spiritual). I wouldn't call it love for all that.

But, if a person can reach out to me on all three of these points: physical, intellectual and emotional; if his touch excites me, if his thoughts find an echoing response in my words, if we can feel for the same things as much as we can feel for each other, (a spiritual bond would not be as simple to define); Well, here’s a basis for everlasting love, I would say.

Not one of these ties is any less important than the others, I feel, though some might think so. I believe that when any one of them is missing, a void is left, which is felt sooner or later. (Man is a giddy thing, don’t they say?)

This is not a topic I usually harp on, but what with it being Valentine's Day, I couldn't resist giving my own little take on the elusive emotion called "love".

Here's wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day;
And, may the love of your life soon cross your way !

Wednesday, February 13, 2002
I'm quite a private person, so to speak, but since the time I created this blog (courtesy: the author of Full TP), have become much more open about my views. The greatest satisfaction I receive is, when I read the comments. To know that people not only read, but have also thought about what I said and have taken the trouble to acquaint me with their own opinions, offers me great pleasure, and it is this pleasure I look forward to, everytime an idea occurs to me.

It would not be wrong to say that this blog has become something personal for me. "If I think it, it's there" doesn't sound too bad for a punch line, does it? It’s true, whatever the case.

I'm one of those who wouldn't know how to sell an oven to an Eskimo. Marketing is just not my scene and I can't remember ever having recommended anything to anyone. Even if I had, my diffident manner would have been enough to put the most susceptible man off.

Now, well, now I’m one of the "check-this-out-buddy-it's-worth-every-penny" lot. No friend has been spared, I'm sure. (I've double checked). And if you're a distant cousin or a long lost uncle, you've definitely got mail !

Of course, not being used to blowing my own trumpet, I find the noise a little jarring. When what I really want to say is, "Do look into my blog and if you like what you see, keep looking", I'm afraid it will sound something like "My blog's great; you got to see it to believe it". I wouldn't be caught dead with that statement. It's just not me.

Ownership comes with its own responsibilities. I feel a sense of ownership over my blog. I feel as possessive about it as with any other of my cherished possessions. When I don't post anything on it for a few days, I feel as one nursing a small plant would feel, when he is unable to water it for that long a period.

As I am not in the best of health these days, my energy fails me when I start to write. And being the person I am, I just wonder....I wonder if my little plant will ever grow to be a tree. Or will it just fade away, like so many plants do, when the hand that nurtures them is suddenly called away......

Saturday, February 09, 2002
I was born into a non-vegetarian family and have always been one. I'm not particularly partial towards any kind of food (except the sweet variety) and nor have I wasted much thought on the matter.

Recently, though, I came across a few people who had turned vegetarian. Neither did they offer any reasons, when confronted with my questions.

It is strange that when an avenue of thought is opened, one suddenly begins to see what one did not see before. I now think about what I eat and when I do, I somehow don't like the look of it. The only way I can enjoy it is by suspending all thought.

I do believe it's in the natural order of things that man should survive by the best means he can. Till today he has been doing precisely that. I just wonder at the reason for our new found revulsion. Or perhaps, in every age there have been categories of people with extreme sensitivities, of whom we do not know much about.

One other thing interests me very much. It is that we feel moved when we see dumb creatures in a wretched plight; a dog trying to limp across the street, a horse being whipped unmercifully, all our sympathies are aroused. But we think nothing of having those creatures for dinner. Not dogs and horses, of course, but I don't see why a goat should not fit the fill.

I suppose at one time animals were classified in terms of uses; for food, for domestication, etc and we've followed the tradition so faithfully all these centuries that it seems very natural; while we can feel for some creatures, we can't for some others.

I feel that if we eat animals, it is for nothing so much as for our own "enjoyment". Not because we cannot survive otherwise. But if we can eat them for pleasure, why do we object when people beat them for the same reason? Which of the two seems worse, in any case?

A friend of mine said, and very rightly too, that I cannot preach about something I haven't yet practiced. For fear of being misunderstood, I will say that I haven't been making any point here. Just dwelling on a question that occupied my thought processes and offering a glimpse into what progressed.

Friday, February 08, 2002
"Men show their character in nothing more clearly than by what they find laughable."

...........This might prove to be an interesting study.....

I for one hardly ever find anything worth laughing about, wonder what that says about me :(

Wednesday, February 06, 2002
So loud each tongue, so empty was each head,
So much they talked, so very little said.
—Charles Churchill

I have a particular liking for these words and it's amazing how frequently I quote them to myself ;)
Tuesday, February 05, 2002
When we read a good book or watch a great play, what is it that stirs up our emotions?
Why do we feel certain reactions and responses, when we know that the characters and situations are not for real? Given a particular fictional situation, would all of us experience the same emotional reaction? If not, would the reaction only differ in terms of degree or in its entire nature? And if it differs in its nature, what can we say, determines different people's reactions to different situations?

Among Shakespeare's plays, Julius Caeser is one of my particular favourites. The scene that, till today, leaves its impression on me and even today, would evoke the same response in me, is the one which follows immediately after Caeser is brutally murdered by Brutus and his friends.

There is a crowd gathered outside the town hall, Caeser's dead body lies in their midst and Brutus starts off with his famous speech. The words "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more" are firmly embedded in my mind.", not for a positive, but for a negative significance.

I don't know what other readers would have felt at this point, maybe they felt that Brutus was a noble and honest man, maybe they felt they could understand his motives, maybe compassion that he was taken in by people who used him for a wrong cause, maybe pity that he would not be able to escape guilt, but for myself, I remember feeling something different. Since I hadn't read what was to happen later, I said to myself that this is impossible. This man killed his friend and what is he talking about. What kind of justifications are these? He should not and must not escape the jaws of justice.

I felt anger. And my anger rose when I read on and found that people were actually congratulating themselves on having found a hero. I wondered what Caeser had died for. For people who, far from avenging his death, were smiling at his murderer. I was close to tears (was but a child then) by the time I came to the part where Anthony is asked to speak.

Anthony: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

I can't describe my feelings after reading this speech (I hugged him in my imagination). It was as if a friend had betrayed and murdered me, and my ghost struggling with pain and bewilderment, looks on to find that, there is yet a true friend on earth standing up for me. A friend ready to "take up arms against a sea of troubles" for me. A friend who is not fooled by sweet tongues but who remembers me for what I had been to him, and judges me from what he had seen and known of me. A friend who will not let my death be the last word on the subject. That was how I felt.

What I found most strange was that after Anthony had delivered his speech, the people have again changed their minds. They now call Brutus a villain and everything else. They are now thirsty for his blood. How easily people are swayed ! Their hearts are in the right places, but if only they had heads to govern them. I felt contempt for these people who not a moment ago would have garlanded the person they were now ready to kill.

If Brutus hadn't been Caeser's friend and one who professed to love him as a friend, I would have, perhaps, not felt the same violent reaction. The back stabbing nature of his actions and the cowardliness of it was something I couldn't even begin to stomach. He was not a true friend, but he was not a true enemy either, I felt.

Like Anthony said, that when everyone else was thrusting their sword into Caeser, he still had the heart to resist, but when he saw Brutus come forward, "that was the unkindest cut of all" and such a cut, that even someone as noble and mighty as Caeser, was unable to resist.

His heart burst open.

Saturday, February 02, 2002
A good conscience is a sign of bad memory...............

So I've heard.

I dare say not all people who pride themselves on their conscience suffer from weak memories. But you can't discount the possibility, can you?

"Ethical sensitivity is a precursor to moral judgment, in that a person must recognize the existence of an ethical problem before such a problem can be resolved."

This makes sense, I would say, though it took me a minute to understand what it meant. If one lacks the ability (to use a milder word) to differentiate between right and wrong, one definitely is not in a position to choose. And when one chooses in good faith (albeit wrongly), one definitely does not develop the symptoms of a troubled conscience.

Then there's something called "Confabulation". The term sounds more complicated than it actually is. The Skeptic's Dictionary describes it as "a fantasy that has unconsciously replaced fact in memory. It may be based partly on fact or be a complete construction of the imagination."

How it can be used to achieve a favourable frame of conscience is anybody's guess. I start remembering a version of the story that suits me best and after a time it becomes real enough for me.

There are other explanations to a good conscience, of course, and happily, not all of them perverse ones. Another cause to be happy is, I won't be getting into them !!