Shame, Honour, and Dignity

India lost to Australia today in the semi-final game of the Cricket World Cup. I am quite sad about it, but I am very proud of my team in the way it has conducted itself through the stages to get to this particular game. A few of my friends, who are more passionate about the game than I am, are devastated. No doubt there will be analysis of how and why we lost the winning streak, of the mistakes we made and such. And if we are to improve, it is important that we do. Analysis, however is an exercise devoid of emotion and it is necessarily impersonal, at least in sport.

3446: The Warrior Art - 8a

One of the news channels — Times Now — in India, decided that we were shamed at the venue by the loss. As is its nature, it asked its viewers to trend a #hashtag on Twitter that said that we were ashamed of what happened, in foreign soil — Sydney, where the game was played. Our team did everything that they could to win the game. We are the defending champions, and there is no reason to believe that we spared any effort in winning the game. On this day, however, it was clear that Australia was the better side. Given what little I know of cricket, I can tell you that we made some mistakes. But none of them were to be ashamed of. Fans of the game came out in strong support against the hashtag that Times Now had proposed. Instead, the hashtag #ShameOnTimesNow was trending on Twitter, not just in India, but worldwide. Hopefully it sent a message to the channel about their blunder.

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Perhaps a larger issue hides comfortably in this incident. Is defeat shameful? We prepare for a game, an exam, or a life event to the best of our abilities. When that comes to an end, we get to know if we have won or not. And if we don’t win, and if that is shameful, what would motivate us to participate, in the first place? Every day a coach, a teacher, a parent teaches us about winning. Trains us. Provides us with means to win. Yet very few tell us, if at all, about what it means to be defeated, in spite of giving your best. Sadness and despair are perfect (and natural) responses to a defeat. But shame? That is one feeling that has to be eradicated from any duel.

“In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity.” ~ Winston Churchill

I recently saw a video that described honour. Of the many things the video said about honour, it talked of gaining and receiving honour from honourable people. If you award (or, for that matter devalue ) yourself, it means nothing. It follows that dishonourable people giving you an award (or taking it away from you) means nothing. I believe this is what the channel has done. Without having the honour, they tried to dishonour an honourable team. That’s what failed.

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Shame and honour may be public issues. They are seen, expressed, and experienced publicly. Dignity is not. Dignity is as personal as it gets. Your judgement of what makes up shame and honour, is dignity. And a flawed or a biased judgement, or just pure malice, exposes how undignified you are. The people see it. It becomes public. And then you are stripped of any honour and are publicly shamed. It doesn’t matter if we are the highest rated TV channel or an unnamed census statistic in 1.2 billion people. We have to maintain dignity.

You just lost it.

Question’s Question

I have a friend who asks questions. And asking questions is good. But, to an extent. If the questions you ask are such that you seek truth, knowledge, and pertinent information, they are good. Beyond that, they are cynical. Beyond that, they only seek to create an event, where you are the superhero. If you have already decided what the answer to your question should be, there isn’t a need for asking the question.

Polarisation is the buzzword. We often attribute it to persons and personalities. Here’s a polarising figure, we say. In that instance, we give up our objectivity, I feel. Like a predator, we sit and wait; and the moment when a person says something that we can question, we pounce. But, that’s us. Because we seek that, that would confirm our own sense of beliefs. And we say it out loud. We describe the purpose of the pounce. It isn’t the person. We create the polarisation because of what we think should be.

3286- Blades in the Sun

A question has to be rooted in a belief. It has to be rooted in understanding. It has to be rooted in curiosity. It has to come from a platform of an open mind. Everything in this universe is open to a question. But if your question has no root in this universe, what would be the value of your question?

Teachers often tell their students, that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. I agree. No question is stupid, by itself. But some questions are trivial, provocative, and superficial. So-called stupid questions are often from an open mind. They seek to fill the gaps. They come from the view of un-understanding. They are usually accepting. Questions that seek to corner the answerer should not be asked, if you ask me. By the purpose of cornering, your answer is available to you before you ask.

Scepticism is a virtue, and a worthwhile one, at that. It informs that we will not accept something for the sake of it. When it is stretched, however, it becomes a vice. When you question everything, it follows, that you believe in nothing. Which is a big question mark on your sense of being.

In a recent 3AM conversation, a friend affected my belief system. I realised I was questioning it in a predetermined fashion and I promised her, I will learn more of the issue and come back to her with better questions, if at all.

We can ask questions that validate what we already believe, or we can ask questions that help us understand the human condition.

We’ll have to choose.

The Book and I

The same wise man I referred to in my previous post is the reason I love reading. I have many books, and may I say — just like him. As I have said before, I haven’t read all the books I own. I’ve seen books go out of print, in my lifetime, so buying them while they are available makes good sense. It’s, what has been called an anti-library.

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As I have grown, I have toned down my belief in books that are life-changing. There was a time I believed that. Apart from God himself (or herself, as the case may be), I believed Richard Bach and Paul Simon to be Gods. Perhaps, I still do, but I don’t pay as much attention to them. Amit recently shared a trailer of a documentary on Richard Bach. I liked it, but I am not sure I want to see it. God may, indeed, be a human.

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Our Prime Minister, in a recent public address, exhorted us citizens to read biographies of great people. I took it up with some seriousness. And I am glad, I did. I am more than half-way reading a biography of a great person, and it is inspirational, to say the least. It is changing how I think. In a nice way.

113508: Kalilah-wa-Dimnah (Panchatantra in Arabic)

Kalilah-wa-Dimnah (Panchatantra in Arabic)

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I have recently developed a phobia of publicly claiming books that I am currently reading. I discovered, I end up not finishing that book. And this is backed up by personal empirical evidence. So, this particular book that I am reading, will show up after I have read it. I am more than half-way through it. A little over 600 pages.

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Superstitions, and all.

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Books aren’t life-changing by themselves. We are influenced by what we read, learn, and assimilate. There may be an impressively life-changing book and we may ignore all that it has to offer us. Or we may find meaning in the trashiest of all books. And while Amit (yup, same guy as above) said this in a different context, I think its pertinent to this post:

It’s a sorry state of affair, two misdirected iconoclasts going after each other when they have a lot of common foes to go against, and common ground to build on. Good literature is beyond language. So is shitty literature. And thank [G]od for that! We’re richer because of the vernaculars, and because of IWEs. [Indian Writing in English] Give me more, not less … [Emphasis, and [Edits], Mine]

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And while I have not been able to do justice being a member of a library, I am glad that they are doing a wonderful job of spreading the love of the written word. In an inimitable way.

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Grudge not the unread book. Each one of them has something to say. It’s just foreplay for now. Those inanimate pages will express themselves, when the time is right.

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Meanwhile, embrace what you are reading. May there be a union of what you seek and what is on offer.

Beyond Anger

A wise man once advised me that I should be open about my feelings. Negative, even if they are. Years of suppressing your emotions is the means for creating an unpredictable event at an unpredictable time.

“It’s like trying to force an empty pot, face down, in water. For a while, you will be able to manage it by brute force, but the pot will resist and it will flip out,” he said with a peculiarly balanced tone, “and you will not be able to control the jounce of that flipping pot.”

I smiled. I nodded my head, as if in acknowledgement and agreement. The sense that you could hurt someone with a clinical explanation of your feelings was much to bear. At the time, the unpredictable pot in the future made more sense.

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Sleeping Pot

There’s an ugly side of sarcasm’s coin that I am not fond of. I love humorous sarcasm, heck, I enjoy it. Sarcasm is always a package of what’s said and what’s intended. Funny sarcasm is well-packaged. It’s simple. There’s a wrapper and the content. Completely unambiguous. When you open it, it’s clear as sky. The ugly version has compartments. Many compartments. Often, hidden compartments. That’s the one I dread.

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I am unable to relate to most of my contacts on social networks. I continue to fail to understand their sarcasm, which is veiled in cynical scepticism. Most of them seem angry. The word they are using for anger, nowadays, is outrage. Most of them are taking sides. (Which is, I will admit, so much better than sitting on the fence). There’s too much data. No, not information or knowledge. Data. And these data grenades are being hurled in the dark by people who are blinded by their shades. Each data grenade has a counter-data grenade. The hurling continues. No targets. Just hurling. There is no stock-taking of the damage. Just hurling. And data is never wrong. Data is unintelligent and perhaps, even stupid, but never wrong. It is what it is.

All this anger (outrage), righteous as it is, is an unending ripple in the calm. Minds seem so agitated and busy finding the next counter-grenade, there isn’t peace. In the mind, i.e. We aren’t talking about the world. The narrowness of belonging is sharp, one-way, and unrelenting.

We’ll have to pause.

If you read accounts of enlightened people, you will notice that because they are so open, with so few filters on perception, everything for them is poetry. Everything is alive, asking for attention.

Attention to what? To the divine that hovers beneath the surface of all life. What we respond to in the great paintings of history is the depth of attention the artist had focused on the project. We could even use the word prayer—not in a religious sense, although for some artists that might be accurate. But prayer in the sense of communion with the stuff of creation. [Principle Fifteen: Creative Authenticity]

Anger/outrage is no more an expression, it is a community. Only two sides. With us or against us. Yet, I am sure, there be pastures, where the shades of green and gold abound and call for a sense of being, and not belonging:

Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

[Gitanjali, Rabindranath Tagore]

We have to stop imagining our life; start living it.

To Be and To Do

To be, and to do, are two very different things. The act may be the same. And yet, it is different.

Just because you sing (“do”) you aren’t a singer (“be”).

More often than not, people will recognise who you are. Not what you do.

Destiny, You are Mine

In terms of identity, what’s the most personal thing for you?

I’ll look for your answers in the comments; as for me, a fingerprint and a retina scan are as personal as it gets. One is in the US database, the other in the UK database.

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A few years ago I was to apply for a US visa. Along with the form, I had to attach a few kilos worth of supporting documents. Notwithstanding the effort it caused, I carried a file of a few kilos worth of original documents to be photocopied to the local store who had a photocopier machine that was placed between an ice-cream freezer and a refrigerated counter of branded cola drinks.

“All of these need to be photocopied.”

“That’s a lot. Will take some time. Leave it here, I’ll send a boy to deliver when it’s all done.”

Bread, medical plaster, desiccated coconut, pulses, gram flour, soda, and such things was what he used to deliver at the beck of a phone call from us. He knew us well.

“I’d rather stay.”

“It might take a couple of hours. No need for you to stay. I’ll send it home as soon as it is done.”

“These are important papers. Certificates, testimonials, account statements — all originals. I dread to imagine losing any of the papers. This is my life!”

I will never forget his face.

“A paper here or there may get lost; your destiny — can never be taken away or be lost. Go home. I’ll have the originals and the photocopies sent.”

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Privacy is personal. The act of revealing who we are is an extremely personal choice. When I read various articles scaring us about privacy (some intentional, some not) I often ask myself, if I have long crossed the line. Given my presence on the Internet, there’s enough to know about me as a person. Given the degree of how well you are connected with me, you may know or not know things.

Private

Is my attitude cavalier? Do I care less? No. I don’t voluntarily share personal information that I do not want to share. Privacy is (truly) violated when the inner recess of your self is exposed. Everything else is data and it is out there for some one to extract and expose. We just have to balance how and where we are seen.

No one can steal our destiny.

Negotiations & Conversations

“You aren’t a good negotiator, are you?”

“I guess, not.”

“Why the ‘guess’?”

“Your question is not open-ended, you don’t want to know what kind of negotiator I am, you seek that I agree with your impression that I am not a good negotiator or defend the accusation.”

“It’s not an objective question. You are free to agree or deny, and elaborate. This is a conversation.”

“I do not want to. I am not here to impress you. And this is not a conversation at all. A conversation doesn’t necessarily have a well-defined outcome. A negotiation does. And it is either-or.”

He smiled, said nothing.

“Cheers!”

He raised his glass, half-heartedly, I thought. He didn’t seem to like that the rules of the game belonged to me. But he attempted a play.

Light Experiments

“What kind of conversationalist, are you?”

“A good one.”

“That hardly explains it.”

“I am not the one who is to decide how good or bad a conversationalist I am. It’s for those to decide, who have a conversation with me. You, for example, you should tell me if I am good at it or not.”

His years of training became a hurdle, then and there. Most people do not want to know the nature of another. They want to explore how best they can bracket another. He is like this. She is against that. He doesn’t care. She makes a big deal of it. And such. We try to make things easy for us. We rarely exit our world to understand what’s out there, but we crowd our own, and try fit everyone, somewhere, in the limited understanding of ours.

“Let me ask this another way, what kind of negotiator are you?”

“The worst kind.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t negotiate.”

“That’s often a loss.”

“Yes. Yet, each time I don’t compromise on my values, the value of my values increases ten-fold.”

“You’ll walk away?”

“Yes, why waste everybody’s time in trying to get to a place where neither is happy?”

“You are then, if you don’t mind the term, an extremist.”

“I don’t mind the term. Words are a cheap currency that we spend with gay abandon. The small differences between close cousins allow us to call a criminal an accused and an accused a criminal. And that is only because we are pressed for time. We don’t want to wait for the long and proper procedures of the court. We are keyword thinkers, we hardly pay attention to sentences and paragraphs. Forget context and intent.”

“That still doesn’t explain what kind of negotiator you are.”

I thanked him for the drink, got up and took my coat. As I buttoned up, collared up, and slashed my hands in the overcoat pocket, to ready myself to walk away towards what I called home, I thought of only one thing to say to him.

“Goodbye.”