Friday, September 29, 2006

Oil or Water?

You may have seen this photo on another of my blogs recently, but it just fit too well with this post not to use it again. Sorry for the duplication.

We hear a lot of talk about oil these days. Soaring prices (though we feel a temporary respite at the moment). The source of middle east strife, propped-up monarchies, reasons for war, etc. Increasing world energy demands, decreasing supplies, etc. Global warming, pollution, etc.

But let's talk about something that is only simmering on the back burner right now -- don't worry, it will come to a boil soon enough: water.

I recently visited India, in particular the city of New Delhi with a visit to Agra. This was a business trip, and as such, I was put up in the highest of the high rent districts, in amongst the diplomatic housing. For any that have traveled, even in this country, that is surely the nicest of the nice areas. And it was.

Sure, you could drive a short distance and still find slums and shacks, but this city looked like it had some modern potential. It looked like there was a plan. It seemed from this very limited perspective as if the tide was coming in, and perhaps it would lift all boats.

Then just today, I read this article in the New York Times. If you have a minute, I commend it to you.

Here is a brief abstract to make my point, and the rest of the article paints conditions significantly more dire. But this is how it appears to some in the middle class:
The quest for water can drive a woman mad.

Ask Ritu Prasher. Every day, Mrs. Prasher, a homemaker in a middle-class neighborhood of this capital, rises at 6:30 a.m. and begins fretting about water.

It is a rare morning when water trickles through the pipes. More often, not a drop will come. So Mrs. Prasher will have to call a private water tanker, wait for it to show up, call again, wait some more and worry about whether enough buckets are filled in the bathroom in case no water arrives.

“Your whole day goes just planning how you’ll get water,” a weary Mrs. Prasher, 45, recounted one morning this summer, cellphone in hand and ready to press redial for the water tanker. “You become so edgy all the time.”

In the richest city in India, with the nation’s economy marching ahead at an enviable clip, middle-class people like Mrs. Prasher are reduced to foraging for water.

Take a moment and close your eyes. Now just imagine that the basic infrastructure of clean, abundant water and functioning(out-of-sight) sanitation is gone or severely disrupted. Try to imagine how your life would be different. Lacking clean drinking water. Uncertain if you will turn on your faucet and get potable water, or frankly any water at all. And the situation gets worse over time, as the population around you swells, ground water supplies continue to shrink, and competition for this most basic of life's necessities increases. The stress would be unimaginable. You would start fighting for water (not oil) -- the lifeblood of mankind.

Source: NYTimes article cited above.

Of course it is so very hard to get into this mindset. We would just move if conditions around us got that bad. But you have to take a broader view. New Delhi is the most modern of India's cities. Elsewhere, things are worse.

Source: NYTimes article cited above. Click on the graphic to enlarge it.

So what is my point? First, as India promotes itself as the largest emerging democracy, it is sobering that so many basic necessities are still lacking. India has placed a premium on education as the means to bring itself out of colonial times and onto the world stage. It is, after all, now a nuclear power. And yet that technical prowess has yet to manifest into satisfying basic necessities. To me that seems to be the most basic role of Government and its leaders.

And second, now please consider your own situation. Perhaps worrying about whether to get the 42" plasma TV or the 44" LCD HDTV is really not worth fretting about.

I'm sorry. I don't mean to be snide. I just mean that when you think life isn't giving you everything you want, maybe that's because it has given you everything you need. So maybe boundless gratitude should replace any anxiety. And after reveling in that gratitude, think about what you can do to ensure that our sons and daughters will have at least as much of life's needs provided for them as well.

Now I think I'm going to have a nice cup of tea, from my magic faucet that just keeps providing and providing glorious, clean, refreshing, water. The true elixir of life.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Simply a world citizen

In the past I have quoted from The Happy Guy, who kindly sends out daily e-mails if you are so inclined. This one came with a link to what David Leonhardt calls a World Happiness Manifesto. Have a look and see what you think, and see if any of it resonates somewhere deep within you. If so, feel free to copy it as per his instructions below. In any case, you may want to probe a little more deeply into this mindset.

World Happiness Manifesto

My personal manifesto for a better world

I am a member of the human race. The only race I recognize is my own -- the human race.

Members of my race are carbon-based bipods, with one head and one heart. They all smile. They all despair. They all feel anger and pain. They all feel joy and hope. They see. They smell. They hear. They learn. They love. They seek happiness for self and for others.

Members of my race speak many tongues, wear their skin and hair in a variety of hues, choose from thousands of occupations and live in a multitude of places. They are all good. They are all worthwhile. They are all human. In my world, the only racism is love of the human race.

I am a citizen of the world. I recognize my overriding responsibility to be a good citizen. To care for my fellow citizens. To share with my fellow citizens. To be a good steward of the planet and its resources, for the wellbeing of my fellow citizens and of future generations. The absence of a world government in no way diminishes my obligations of citizenship or my sense of belonging.

As a citizen of the world, I recognize local governments. I pay my local taxes. I obey local ordinances. I salute my local flag. I protect my neighbors and their rights. My responsibility to my neighbors and to my local government is part of my citizenship in the world.

It is a sad reality that many local governments do not recognize my citizenship in the world. I pray for the day when no person shall be called an “alien" anywhere in my world.

I am a child of God. I reside in my family home with my brothers and sisters. Some have heard the voice of God and some have not. I do not begrudge those who have heard the voice, nor those who have not.

To the best of my ability, despite my many weaknesses, I will endeavor to do God’s will. I recognize that most of my brothers and sisters also do their best to follow God’s will, even when the message they are following sounds different than what I have heard. I will not second-guess God’s message to others; I respect God’s divine right and wisdom to send different messages to each of us children.

I am an instrument of peace. Happiness and peace go hand-in-hand. Complete happiness might be unattainable on this planet, but it remains crucial that we never stop striving for it. Therefore, we must all be instruments of peace.

Members of every race sometimes fight amongst themselves. As a member of the human race, I will strive to promote understanding amongst humans and to reduce conflict within our race.

Members of every nation sometimes bicker amongst themselves. As a citizen of the world, I will strive to promote understanding amongst citizens everywhere and to reduce conflict across our planet.

Members of every family sometimes quarrel amongst themselves. As a child of God, I will strive to promote understanding amongst my brothers and sisters and to reduce conflict within our family.


This world happiness manifesto is reproduced from the original World Happiness Manifesto, a production of The Happy Guy’s happiness center

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Not everybody will agree with every detail in the World Happiness Manifesto above. However, if the bulk of these principles speaks to you, you are invited to select one of the republishing options below for your website:

Click here for code to republish without changes. Please keep this code completely intact.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On Unconditional Love

I made a recent post over at Reflections of Beauty having to do with Love. And I've been having a dialog in the comment section with Mr. Anonymous. I thought I'd like to share some of that, since you might not have stumbled upon it. Here is an edited version of the conversation:
Mr. Anon: Now Love - there's a subject. What a power in our lives. Coming upon us unexpectedly, turning our lives over and over again. Takes us out of ourselves and makes us forget ourselves like nothing else can. But what is Love? It is Gift and Mystery - like Life itself. And when Love focuses on someone, it is one of the strongest addictions we can have, and one of the most difficult to deal with.
Thanks for the comment, and yes, I can see that such love as you describe can be a tremendous force -- a powerful emotion -- exhilarating or debilitating, depending on the outcome.

But for the record, I was going for unconditional love -- you've described something else entirely. Unconditional love can include passion, but at the same time, dispassion for the outcome. Detachment, selfless caring for the other's well-being. What say you about that?
Mr. Anon: Well, I guess I did not communicate well because I was talking about unconditional love. When I fall for these women in my life (except for times when I am just playing around, or recreating), it is unconditional, and total. And that is why it is so painful when it ends; these endings usually leave me so totally spent, lost, betrayed, and wandering in an unknown land, and of course, wondering at the meaning of life, and at this mysterious Human Condition that we are enduring. If it was anything less than unconditional, then ou might say, ah! then it does not end, you still have it! Forever, and always in your Heart. And of course, I agree with that. That love is still there. But the object of my love is not longer beside me - and that is the hard part. Not seeing his or her face beside me anymore when I wake up.

[Now you] say you wrote about something entiredly different than I did. That confuses me. I can't understand that comment. Are you confusing unconditional love with compassion? Love always has an object doesn't it? Are you talking about some kind of objectless love? I am pretty clear about the love I am pointing at. Been in and out of it enough times (and everytime is different). But now, I am getting confusing about what it is you are talking about, specially when you "entiredly something else" it throws me for a big loop.

I think many people do not understand what love is, or at least what is can be. Maybe we all make up our own versions of it.
I certainly do not mean to debate with you. And words are such a terrible medium to communicate about such intense feelings.

But when I refer to unconditional love, it is such that you will not have such pain. Do you feel pain when the butterflies migrate south? Do you have pain when your enemy becomes your friend? Do you have pain when your child grows up and begins his own life?

Unconditional love in my mind does not cause pain. You are giving it freely (unconditinoally -- expecting, needing, wanting -- nothing in return). You are happy to give it. So then how can it cause you pain? It has already caused you happiness to give it away?

The love you describe -- to me anyways -- sounds like a different kind of love. One that expects, however gently, to receive love back. For example, you would think I might have unconditional love for my wife, right? How can I offer unconditional love to others, if not my wife?

Becuase I so much want her love in return. It would wound me to the core if she did not love me back.

And that is OK. That's what makes a marriage. Which brings children that we want to let go -- to see grow in their own ways. To evolve to their own future. Which is of course, life itself.
Mr. Anon: Ah so! Your description above of unconditional love as being painless because it needs nothing in return, is interesting. It sounds like a riskless way to love. And you were right - that is not the "unconditional love" that I was talking about.

Actually, the unconditional love that you are talking about seems to me almost like a "state of being."

To my way of thinking, what you are talking about is something that not all of us can experience, but only some very lucky beings among us who happen to be (for some reason or other, maybe genetics) blessed with a state of being so complete, fulfilling, and pleasurable (if not ecstatic).

A great question is: for the many people out there who have no knowledge of this way of being, or for those who know it, but are unable to sustain it - is it possible to enlighten them? Possible to help them reach to that state, and maintain it? Or is it just something that you have, or you don't have (for example, like physical beauty)?
I definitely don't think it is genetic -- except perhaps differently than you imply (that some few have it, and others cannot). If anything, I believe everyone of us is capable of expressing this type of love, and yes, as you say I would describe it something as a state of being.

As for how to come to this realization. Well, I believe the primary action would be to have the intention to be in this state. Once that notion is internalized, I believe it will drive one to invesitgate what path would work best for them to uncover this inherent potentialilty. I suspect the path is different for everyone. Hence all of our religions, our cultures, our squabbles, etc.

I believe the insights, truth, beauty, englightement, call it what you may, exists within. Perhaps that is the "genetic" seed that we all share. Personally, I believe our egos tend to mask this insight, and actually work activtely to oppose it. Why you ask? Beuase, I suspect, of our current state of evolution -- we still carry this baggage of "survival of the fittest", and the ego is our tool to help us to survive and reproduce.

Ultimately, one needs to transcend the ego, and recognize that our individuality is but an illusion. Once there, unconditional love is rather a natural state -- why would you not love another, if that is just a different manifestation of your true Self.

But again -- your path may be different. As Jesus' was -- as Buddha's was -- as Gandhi's was.

I hope this help you understand my thinking; and I hope it is helpful for you as well. Namaste.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On Judgment

Have you ever thought about judgment? Well, why not think about it for a minute. It is simply a human phenomenon — it doesn’t occur in nature.

Do you think this bird is worried about its hairdo? Are his friends embarrased to be around him? Animals don’t have bad hair days. Are you having a bad hair day?

It’s really rather profound, when you stop and think about it. Nature doesn’t think about “good” and “bad” -- it doesn’t judge things. Things just are.

As I consider this, I realize judgment is a purely human phenomenon. And boy are we good at it. Or bad at it. ;-) Either way, we certainly judge. We pass judgment on our past. We even prejudge things that haven't hapened yet -- and worry about what the future will bring. And with that come all of our prejudices. We judge both our friends and our enemies. We judge our lifestyle and most especially the lifestyles of others.

And then there is God. We’re not satisfied with all of the judging we are doing, so many of us define God (or accept others' definitions) as the ultimate judge and jury — guaranteed to judge every act you’ve ever done or not done — and sentence you accordingly. According to his beliefs about what is right and wrong, good and evil — which just happen to match your beliefs (or vice versa).

Newsflash: God, by whatever name you give him/her/it, doesn't judge. Leave behind your thoughts of everlasting damnation. Ultimate retribution. Or even eternal paradise. All of these attributes are the creation of man.

Consider what the world would be like if we escaped from this part of the human condition. If we opted out of all of the judging. If in the immortal words of Lennon and McCarthy, we just “let it be”.

Then you would see life as it really is. You would appreciate its splender as it unfolds. You would avoid the labeling, which is connected to judgment. You would just recognize your presence in the glorious creation, and be able to appreciate it all -- what others call both good and bad.

And you really wouldn't care what others might think of your hairdo.