A hole in the head

A hole in the head,

I had thought it was..

every day,

the monotonous dribble,

like the hum-drum regularity of taps-beyond-repair,

the irksome drone,

of leaking thoughts.

 

I tried to catch them, in the act –

” i should study.”

but as Sherlock-me picked up trails,

“yeah, isn’t it awesome – I am learning so much”

it was not elementary, at all!

“Now, politics, wait-a little philosophy next and then poetry”

behind the pretense of scholarship,

in the grim underbelly of  ubermensch-me

“yeah, and I can write a few blog-posts as well!  How nice would that be ?”

lay disarming simplicity.

Simplicity, so strong and crushing – it almost made me stop typing this.

“but No, this looks sufficiently impressive – one must finish this post …  and i should get back to work, really .. do i really always have to think with my dick? “

I think I may have got it — I am narcissistic, out-to-woo-others, insecure and vain.

“but is that why these thoughts keep slipping away, wasn’t that the original idea ?”

No. Mr.Watson, that isn’t it at all … you look, and do not see!

“Is there something wrong in being inspired by an idea?” “

Yes, that sounds more plausible. But a little hazy on details — an idea?

“an idea of being the One, the most-perfect-version-of-me, for that someone, waiting for that me to turn up.”

That’s it.  Caught you! red-handed, source of my pain,

Thief of my thoughts – someone, somewhere.

 

But what do you do, I wonder,

collecting thoughts,

You must have a veritable mansion of memories,

a collage of cogitations,

a melange of melancholy …. by now, surely!

Are thoughts still fresh-at-your-end, unformed-malleable ? …

or have they acquired weight, nay gravitas, in the long passage,

from my mind- to your blinking screen and drooping eyes.

“And do you even like them?”, “That’s it, too much revelation is dangerous for you”, “But, I want to —aargh!”

As you peruse the spoils of war (or is it love),

and trash them with the disdain of a

Ctrl+Shift+Del.

I feel my Thoughts have achieved nothing, like poor cursed Sissy-fuss!

But that was the point anyway,

Since they are forever running away from me …

this burden might as well be bliss …

this Leaky Cauldron, misplaced in Diagon Alley — far, far away!

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Of myself, for myself, from meta-self.

“That was a most curious and interesting remark you made about feeling, occasionally, very childish, in certain situations. Don’t you know about people this first and most crucial fact: every single one is, and is painfully every moment aware of it, still a child. To get beyond the age of about eight is not permitted to this primate—except in a very special way. But in many ways obviously you are still childish—how could you not be, you alone among mankind?

It’s something people don’t discuss, because it’s something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle. But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet. And if this is the only part of them we meet we’re likely to get a rough time, and to end up making ‘no contact’.

But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child, you find that everybody becomes, in a way, like your own child. It’s an intangible thing. But they too sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child. Usually, that child is a wretchedly isolated undeveloped little being. It’s been protected by the efficient armour, it’s never participated in life, it’s never been exposed to living and to managing the person’s affairs, it’s never been given responsibility for taking the brunt. And it’s never properly lived. That’s how it is in almost everybody.

And that little creature is sitting there, behind the armour, peering through the slits. And in its own self, it is still unprotected, incapable, inexperienced. Every single person is vulnerable to unexpected defeat in this inmost emotional self. At every moment, behind the most efficient seeming adult exterior, the whole world of the person’s childhood is being carefully held like a glass of water bulging above the brim.

And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It’s their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can’t understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That’s the carrier of all the living qualities. It’s the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn’t come out of that creature isn’t worth having, or it’s worth having only as a tool—for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful. So there it is. And the sense of itself, in that little being, at its core, is what it always was. But since that artificial secondary self took over the control of life around the age of eight, and relegated the real, vulnerable, supersensitive, suffering self back into its nursery, it has lacked training, this inner prisoner. And so, wherever life takes it by surprise, and suddenly the artificial self of adaptations proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, that inner self is thrown into the front line—unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears.

And yet that’s the moment it wants. That’s where it comes alive—even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that’s where it calls up its own resources—not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope, and to turn to account, and to enjoy. That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self—struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence—you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself. The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all. It was a saying about noble figures in old Irish poems—he would give his hawk to any man that asked for it, yet he loved his hawk better than men nowadays love their bride of tomorrow. He would mourn a dog with more grief than men nowadays mourn their fathers.

And that’s how we measure out our real respect for people—by the degree of feeling they can register, the voltage of life they can carry and tolerate—and enjoy. End of sermon. As Buddha says: live like a mighty river. And as the old Greeks said: live as though all your ancestors were living again through you.”    ….

 

P.S.  Myself is quite cured by Meta-self’s moving, cogent and kindly patronizing advice.

Wislawa Szymborska and a reading in History

Hatred

“Look, how constantly capable  
and how well maintained
in our century: hatred.
How lightly she regards high impediments.
How easily she leaps and overtakes. 

She’s not like other feelings.
She’s both older and younger than they.
She herself gives birth to causes
which awaken her to life.
If she ever dozes, it’s not an eternal sleep.
Insomnia does not sap her strength, but adds to it.

Religion or no religion,
as long as one kneels at the starting-block.
Fatherland or no fatherland,
as long as one tears off at the start.
She begins as fairness and equity.
Then she propels herself.
Hatred. Hatred.
She veils her face with a mien
of romantic ecstasy.

Oh, the other feelings —
decrepit and sluggish.
Since when could that brotherhood
count on crowds?
Did ever empathy
urge on toward the goal?
How many clients did doubt abduct?
Only she abducts who knows her own.

Talented, intelligent, very industrious.
Do we need to say how many songs she has written.
How many pages of history she has numbered.
How many carpets of people she has spread out
over how many squares and stadiums!

Let’s not lie to ourselves:
She’s capable of creating beauty.
Wonderful is her aura on a black night.
Magnificent cloud masses at rosy dawn.
It’s difficult to deny her pathos of ruins
and her coarse humor
mightily towering above them columns.

She’s the mistress of contrast
between clatter and silence,
between red blood and white snow.
And above all she never tires of
the motif of the tidy hangman
above the defiled victim.

She’s ready for new tasks at any moment.
If she must wait she’ll wait.
She said she was blind. Blind?
She has the keen eyes of a sniper
and boldly looks into the future
–she alone. ” 

Pathetic, though it may seem to attempt to add a footnote of prose after these lines, I would nevertheless, attempt to draw attention to some oft-forgotten historical lessons brilliantly woven in these verses.

The history book of hatred is ceaselessly adding pages as well as epitaphs. Even as I type Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine province face existential threats, Syrian civilians are dying while the world “urges” restraint or “closely monitors” the situation, a mosque in Afghanistan blew up killing fifty or so innocents. Palestinians face a continually forgotten and denigrating existence under the shadow of US’s closest ally in the region – Isreal (a fact which both Romney and Obama mentioned at least half a dozen times in the last debate). Israel drums up anti-Iran hysteria. The ugly head of hatred is rearing up. But was it ever gone?

Hatred has leaped over, nay side-stepped with scorn, all impediments placed before it. A rapprochement was tried with Pakistan in 1999, and before that in 1984 and later in 2005– only to be unravelled by fanatic acts of minority elements within both nations. Pakistan’s grim tryst with the Taliban, British diplomacy of the 1930s bear testament to the fact that appeasement does not quell hatred. Hatred of the other, is itself, the cause of more hatred. She begets herself. Witness racial violence in USA of the 1960s, repeated communal conflagrations throughout India’s free history, anti-semitism and apartheid violence in South Africa. Many causes, many faces. And the lowest common denominator being the passion these feelings whip up. The Gandhis, the M.L. Kings, the Nelson Mandelas of history can only be mute witnesses to their world collapsing in front of them while Hatred’s frenzied minions tear their world apart, just before punctuating their victory with the finality of a gunshot, or worse -irrelevance. The Russells, the Chomskys, the Camuses,the Edward Saids of this world, the doubters, “the sane voices”,  can only wring their hands in vain as Huntingtons, Friedmans, even the Sartres and Hitchens stoop to becoming Hatred’s apologists!  (Sartre’s defence of French imperialism in Algeria and Hitchens’ credulous defence of the Iraq misadventure remain blots on otherwise exemplary lives) Clearly, Hatred is a wily seductress.

Ideologies are child’s play for her. Marx would have revulsed in horror at Stalin’s impression of Socialism, the very  egalitarian and ecumenical end for all- in the gulag! Or Khmer Rouge’s radical version of Mao’s philosophy, built on three million deaths. How easy it is to spin Mill’s utilitarianism or Adam’s capitalism into the napalmed, scorching reality of Vietnam or the tortured millions in Algeria (which was supposed to be France’s “civilizing mission”)? Sometimes not having an ideology is even worse, as Hatred twists the dagger of the world’s apathy into the hapless, eviscerated innocents (when 1700 civilians are butchered at Sabra and Shatila or a million Armenians are murdered by Turks, unknown and unheard).

And she has patience! It took decades of exploitation of the Middle East before the specter of terrorism was unleashed on the West. First came the Cold War, and puppet regimes and suppression of freedoms. Then came deliberate arming of desperate militias in order to battle another obsolescent ideology. Then came 9/11.

Hypocrisy is ever her most trusted confidante.

Iran’s official history of the 1980-1988 war shows that Iraq first used chemical weapons against its combatants on 13th January, 1981 — killing seven Iranians. Between 28 December 1980 and 20 March 1984, there were 63 separate chemical weapons attacks by the Iraqis. The world did not react. Never since the First World War had chemical weapons been used on such a scale and yet so great was the fear and loathing of Iran, so total the loyalty of Arabs to Saddam Hussein, so absolute the West’s support for Saddam against the spread of Khomeini’s revolution, that they were silent. These news items were never reported in the Arab press. In Europe and America, they were regarded as Iranian propaganda. Only in 1984 did New York Times grudgingly admitted that “Iraq used chemical weapons in repelling Iranian offensive.” The criticism was mild. There was no official criticism of Iraq’s policy. In 1994, the “United States Chemical and Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the health consequences of the Persian-Gulf war ” report acknowledged that government-approved shipments of chemical weapons were sent by American companies to Iraq from 1985 or earlier. Throughout the war, America supplied Iraq with battlefield intelligence — which was used by the Iraqis to defeat Iranian offensives using poison gas. Iraq captured Fao on 19th April, 1988 using gas. They then used hydrogen cyanide gas on the Kurdish town of Halabja , by dropping it from jets, accusing the Kurdish Iraqis of collaborating with Iran. The chemicals were German, the jet was American and the 5000 dead, Iraqi Kurds.

This was one of the charges which the West used when it invaded Iraq in 2003. “Saddam gassed his own people.” They forgot to mention how and why.

If hypocrisy doesn’t work, She just creates an “other”, very subtly at times. In time, the “other” can be objectified and dealt with.

There is a routine bestialisation of Arabs and Muslims in Western cinema. In the movie, “O Jerusalem” based on the eponymous book by Lapierre and Collins, there is an honourable, kind-hearted, moderate Arab who is friends with a Jew. Similarly, the movie Exodus, based on the Leon Uris’ novel of 1948, also has a “good Arab”. In the much-acclaimed  “Ben Hur” and “Lawrence of Arabia”, there are “good Arabs” who lend horses! “The English patient”, a brilliant movie, has a blatantly racist scene, where a British army officer is torturing a suspected German spy by chopping off his thumb. For this barbarous act, he calls a Muslim woman nurse forward, saying — “The Muslims, they understand this sort of a thing. What’s the punishment for adultery ? ” This abhorrently racist dialogue has no basis in the book.

Once we have thus established that there are “good Arabs”, out there, somewhere — we are, of course, free to concentrate on the rotten kind and treat them as we will! 

Hatred is calling us ever more insistently, luring us with the a delicious offering of pawns — it is our move. Let us not get check-mated again.

(Kasparov is getting increasingly frustrated by our ineptitude at learning historical lessons. While he continues to hate Putin and fight.)

Nothing bad has taken place

What is absurdity?

“In a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between a man and his life the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity.”  — Albert Camus, in the Burden of Sisyphus.

For a moment, you might read the above lines and be swept into the grim Palestinian page of World History – “the memory of a lost home“, you might also note with irony that the Jewish page follows eagerly – “or the hope of a promised land“, but these are the dusty, worn-out nooks of our collective inheritance and revisiting graves is, most decidedly, out of fashion. Public memory, intellectual fashions, pseudo-intellectual ideologies do concern me though. And I heard that there is an election to be won, somewhere in North America, and the results of that election will determine how much the world loses, at least in the next four years.

Following the Presidential Obama-Romney debates has been an exercise in discovering absurdity, and the power it holds over people. The American Right and its sheer paucity of ideas needs no further excoriation.

Consider their views on rape :

“legitimate rape does not produce babies. Female body has ways to stop that.”  or

” birth of children out of rape is something that God intended” .

You would think that it could get no worse. That educated politicians could commit no bigger gaffes. You would be wrong. Recent statements about rape emanating from the anachronistic-medieval Haryana politicians would put above comments in a far more respectable light.

“Rape is caused by fast foods and resulting hormonal disturbances!” or “Rape can be countered by child marriage.”

This is what happens when religious dogmas seep into political discourse. A rape of ideas!  And talking about ideas, there were far too few of them from the Republican challenger. He promises tax cuts, increased military spending without a care about where the money comes from.  And his views are remarkable in their protean abilities. So changeable! A humorous take on his fiscal policy can be found here —

http://www.romneytaxplan.com/  . Obama, the silver-child of 2008, the White-Knight of idealism, the most undeserved Nobel Peace Prize winner in history, who has been taking painful lessons in pragmatism from long-dead G.E. Moore and Machiavelli for the last four years – still represents the much saner view of world-affairs. And that is all that we can hope for: a sane US President, who does not sleep with interns (Clinton), talk to paintings (Nixon), confuse movies with reality (Reagan and StarWars) or play bumbling idiot all the time (Bush Jr.).

Things much closer home seem far more “Up in the Air”!

Vadra. Gadkari. Virbhadra Singh. Navin Jindal and Zee, S.M. Krishna. Rajat Gupta. The closet is pullulating with skeletons!  Bal Thackeray says “India is a land of cheats. ” And I agree with him. Yes, I agree with Bal Thackeray.  Szymborska’s lines on the Soul should be required reading for Indians in this hour, ”

We have a soul at times. No one’s got it non-stop, for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it. …… 

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.  …… 

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.…….

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too. ”    

Let us not prefer silence now. When Europe and the world came face to face with the stark realities of World War 2, they chose silence. Konrad Adenaur wanted people to forget what had just happened. The scope of tragedy, the gloom of cynicism and the gargantuan efforts at de-nazification needed that interregnum – that pause, before they could open their eyes and question the past. We need not let things get that far. And if you think all this is hyperbole, think twice. Narendra Modi harbours realistic ambitions of leading the country. There exists a TV channel in Gujarat with the name “NaMo” . If that does not chill us to the bone and evoke Orwellian memories, I fear I might have to emigrate!

What is most certainly not desirable is to heed to this distinctly Indian-remedy, which was nevertheless, issued by Isocrates to the Athenians at the close of the Peloponnesian Wars:

Let us govern collectively as though nothing bad had taken place.