A Matter of Faith

In almost every Indian temple, you aren’t allowed to take a photo of the main deity of the temple. Some temples allow it, but without a flash. If you have been to an Indian temple, you will have noticed that the space where the main deity resides, is dimly lit, usually by oil lamps. Taking a photograph of a the deity, in such light conditions, is usually difficult, without a flash. In my experience, this rule applies only to Indian temples. I have not sensed this, severely enforced in mosques or churches.

Why this is so, is not something I can explain. There are a couple of scientific theories about why the deities should not be photographed, but they are based on faith and belief, not hard science, as we know it. Three of my best friends are atheists. My best friend believes in Jesus, though she is not a Christian. Given my engagement with these four people, my personal (inherited; would be more proper) sense of faith is often questioned. I welcome the questions, even, if at times I have no answers. But the questions do not shake my faith. They make me seek a deeper understanding of my faith. And the faith, and its understanding, is personal.

In a recent visit to a temple I saw a couple of my friends, who were faithful take pictures of a the main deity in a temple. One of my atheist friend was accompanying us. I did not see him take photos of the main deity, but if he had, I would not be surprised. Needless to say, I offered my worship in the way I do, and moved on, to take photos of some of the wonderful sculpture that adorned that temple.

I was, I confess, slightly disturbed by the act of my believer friends taking photos of the deity. After a while we left the temple and made our way home.

Stones, layer,

*

It was one of the most beautiful drives I have had in my life. We were circumferencing a large lake, in a valley surrounded by my favourite mountain range — the Sahyadri. Small village roads, meandering along the folds of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, a mountain road, cut across the Deccan Traps. My three companions in the car, juggling the role of the DJ; good music played. We sang along, we laughed: at each other and with each other. I was a bit preoccupied; my passengers thought it was because I had a flight later that evening; and was looking to back as soon as possible.

I was thinking of the meaning of faith. I was thinking of how I was disturbed because someone else did not follow the general belief and custom. Somewhere, in that question, I was asking myself why I was disturbed. It was not a good feeling, and I wanted to understand why I felt that.

*

All of this happened a week ago. And I cannot say that I now have a proper answer; the answer will evolve. I know this much, though: my faith, my sense of my faith is mine. It is personal. I need not seek justification for what I believe. I do not need others to practice what I believe. (For even if I could make them follow, it would be coerced; devoid of belonging) There is no science to it. In the same way that I seek answers, I have to understand that other people do too. They make their own meaning. And how we sense our answers varies from friend to friend. And it changes with time.

Faith matters. But there is no matter in faith.

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Writing Rigour

I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. – Agatha Christie

That’s the headline of a blog that I have followed for a while. For a few years now, the blog has been defunct; not the blogger. I met the blogger today; very much alive. Said blogger stopped blogging a few years ago. What’s the point, she said. When she stopped blogging, she did not explicitly ask this question. I know another blogger who did the same. She perhaps was asking different questions. I actually know of a third blogger. He stopped blogging too. His question — I have no idea. He went to the extent of deleting his blog. It must have been serious.

I have, I will confess, considered not blogging. But for the life of me, I could never consider deleting my blog. Good or bad, I cannot deny that this has been an integral part of my life. That, some of the followers of my blog bring up posts from several years ago in a conversation, is reason enough. (I tried doing an April Fool gag; fell flat on my face). There was a time when I wrote words that everyone most people liked. That’s not the case, now.

Not that words are foreign. They are still mine. I recognise them just like before. Just that the way they want to be together is unlike how they’d gather like obedient children; earlier. Perhaps, I am not a shepherd of words. Perhaps words shepherd me. Perhaps, that is why some of my recent posts are shite. Or, I have lost the ability to shepherd. The shepherding, notwithstanding — the words are mine and I am of words.

We have just lost the rhythm.

All I need, is to go to the dance floor that isn’t patronized by any one any more and do my silly dance. Where no one will see me. Where neither my words, nor I will care.  Salsa with adjectives and Samba with verbs. The apocalyptic dance. One writer in the world; no reader left. Is a writer made of readers or is a writer made of writing? Will a writer write if there is no one left to read? What defines a writer? The writing, or the readers?

*

I told her today, my writing, in recent times, has achieved heights of mediocrity, not knowing, if that is a sense of achievement. But I have to write. Not because you will read. Not because you will like it. I have to write, because I have to write. Scribble.

125659: Wall Grunge

*

No writer, if she can, should give up writing. Because every writer knows one thing (even if she cannot sense it) – she and the words are one. She may walk away from words. (Words are kinda stupid; they have no emotion – they will sit where they were last sat; where words should be – is a writer’s prerogative.) But there is no leaving. Even if she never writes them – she cannot escape them.

If you can help it – do not become a writer. There is no escape. If you become a writer; welcome to the club!

209 pages

This book that I am reading. A mass market paperback. It’s called “What is History?” by Edward Hallett Carr. I started reading it on 10th October, this year; am on page 112, now. That seems like an achievement to me. So, as is my nature, I posted this update on Goodreads, and it showed up on my Facebook feed. (Not magically; I’ve given Goodreads permission to publish on Facebook on my behalf.)

Of all the people who saw that post, it was picked up by my English teacher from school, and she commented, “Atul, keep up the speed.”

Disclaimer: She is my favourite teacher of all times and I am her favourite student of all times. (Irrespective of the thousands of kids she taught after I completed high school. A few of these thousand kids may have been good, but I am her favourite, I am sure. Let’s not dwell on the fact that I didn’t make it to Editor of the school magazine, in my last year. Those were purely technical issues.)

More than twenty-five years later, she keeps tabs on what read and write. On my previous post, she said, “Well tried.” That was a message, if I ever got one. That’s who and how she is; she always pushes you forward.

You are never as good (or bad) as what you just accomplished, you are as good as what you can achieve.

Perhaps, that was her mantra for all of us. Perhaps that’s why I am not as lost as I think I would have been, otherwise.

20161129_222808

Back to the book.

This book is about Historiography. Unlike most facile stuff that I once used to read, it’s not an easy read. Here’s a sample:

This is the real indictment of those who seek to erect a super-historical standard or criterion in the light of which judgement is passed on historical events or situations—whether that standard derives from some divine authority postulated by the theologians, or from a static Reason or Nature postulated by the philosophers of the Enlightenment. It is not that shortcomings occur in the application of the standard, or defects in the standard itself. It is that the attempt to erect such a standard is unhistorical and contradicts the very essence of history. [E. H. Carr, What is History?]

As is obvious, such a paragraph takes time (for me, at least). The idea in itself is quite simple and straightforward. The manner in which it is presented seeks that the reader be involved with heart, soul, and mind.

So, yes, I’ll complete this book. Soon enough, for it’s the kind that needs to be savoured.

And that’s the speed. Thank you Ma’am!

An Unfinished Thought

4958: Grand Ceiling

“How would you write about the end and the beginning…”

“Every beginnin…”

“…without a butterfly, caterpillar, window, sunsets, sky, clouds, linings or the tenses? No metaphors, no telling me what a great artist or a scientist said, no clichés, and definitely no fake quotes.”

“Whatever ends, doesn’t continue; whatever begins, continues.”

“Is that all? Would you write no more?”

“Well, if you took all my devices away from me, all my paints and brushes, deny me any decoration, then that would be all. In any case, there is nothing more to an end or a beginning. It is what it is.”

It’s over and it wont last
It ends, this is the last.
Only for that, it is the end
What’s new, at this end.

“You know what doesn’t have a beginning or an end?”

“What?”

“An unfinished thought.”

“An unfinished thought has a beginning, it hasn’t found its end, as yet.”

“But, if it is unfinished, how de we know where it begins and where it ends?”

“The very fact that it is un-finished…”

“Aaargh. When I began this conversation, I thought it would be fun. I’d like to end it now.”

The End

Time to Go

Ambition can change its character, and we end up not recognising it. In fact, we begin to question its very existence. The problem is just about syncing our place with our ambition on the timescale of life.

*

The Dharma Bum is doing a-post-a-day series about his workplace. Two things stand out, as I read his posts every day: one, the natural flow of his thoughts about his experience and the weave; and two, the nature of his workplace; it’s easy to be envious of him, working there.

Bala - The Dharma Bum

Bala – The Dharma Bum (Not the current true likeness; this one is from two years ago)

*

I challenged myself to a-post-a-day, two years ago. July 2014, to be precise. It wasn’t easy. But I completed the challenge. I can imagine what the Dharma Bum must be going through. The toughest promises to keep are those that you make to yourself.

*

I get angry with my words, sometimes. They seem to mock me. Like, when I said:

Tomorrow can either be impregnated with the sameness of all your suspicions, cynicism and scepticism, or it can be the tomorrow that rids you of that sameness that you so despise.

Your call.

*

A wise man once told me the secret of attaining perfection. You don’t. God is perfect, in whatever sense you choose to see. Being perfect is not for humans; there’s only striving, striving, and striving. (He used to do that; repeat a keyword thrice; each with a unique tone) The beauty of being human is in the striving. It is, indeed an unshackling philosophy. It took me a while, but I can sense it now.

*

It’s time to go. The skews are being straightened. Or perhaps, new skews are awaiting.

In Collateral we Trust

It’s been years.

I asked a wise man once, what collateral meant. Patiently, and in his own inimitable style he explained the meaning of that word. I had some follow-up, what-if questions, which were more to confirm what I understood, than pure questions themselves. His answers confirmed that I had understood collateral correctly. Apparently, learning Computer Science is useless if you do not learn where to use it; we had to, therefore learn something called “Commercial Applications” – Banking, Accounting, Finance, Ratios, and related boring (but money-making) stuff. That’s about college; I usually tend to remember other, interesting, college stuff.

Bound: Original

In the following years, I heard the word trust many times. In different contexts: love, family, friends, organisational structures (See Business & Legal), and of course as simple day-to-day use of trusty-phrases. Much later, (as a young, ambitious — and obviously foolish — man) I went to a bank and asked for a loan to start a business. I have to admit, I loved the attention when they knew I had come for a loan, though that delight was short-lived. I had no collateral to give and therefore they had no money to give. But that’s how banks operate, and without any grudge, I found other (legal) means to start my business. And it was good for a while, which is another story.

But it is not just about banks (and their business model is to trust only in lieu of collateral) – this transactional trust tradition has become a part of our everyday lives. The forms have changed; the nature has not. The presentation has become sweeter, the legal document has not. But, there’s more to trust, than that. Trust is not a street-kid that you adopt out of sympathy; but sense it, acknowledge it, and embrace it.

In the times we live in, your future is the new collateral. One might say, that’s fine. Hedge, I think is the word. (But I may be completely wrong, because “Commercial Applications” wasn’t my favourite subject.) And I may even agree, if it was just that; just the unknown future; a random bastard value, legitimised by sheets and sheets of non-native numbers and foreign formulas. But I don’t agree, because, essentially, it is not just the future which is in lien; a slice of your present, is also to be surrendered: for that possible future. [Fun activity: look for the etymological roots of the word lien and ligament.]

Here and now, she said, here and now. You are slashing your supreme sword at empty shadows that have long been sent skywards in the pyres of the past. At the same time you are nitpicking on details that you know not how will unfold; entitling it grandiose: opportunity and strategy. Be with me? In these war games that are long dead and the chess games that haven’t begun, I see you nowhere. You are behind me or ahead; but not with me. [Dramatical abstraction of an otherwise simple, straightforward conversation]

Commitment considers not cost, neither collateral. Nor does Passion. Experience is the evolved cousin of commitment and passion; perhaps the most arrogant of the three — but is rooted in certainty and reality. And all the wealth that Kubera hoards; cannot stand collateral for these three cousins. All three cousins are here and now. They have no sense of the future. But they are faceless intangibles seeking a presence within noxious numbers and random ratios.

You and I, distant cousins of these three; once removed, perhaps twice removed, know them very well. They are almost us. And so we say, No! No, sir. We have nothing tangible to deposit in those vaults of yours, what we have, cannot be stored or locked behind those steel doors. For they are formless and beyond being bound.

But, if it is to be a market, in spite of all, we walk with swords ready to be unsheathed, that have value inscribed across the blade.

Light & Darkness: Remainders

It’s been a long time. I’ve been blogging for over a decade. And I have forgotten all that I have planned for this blog. Mostly, I’ve confused the summary posts. Those that have been called many things. Summary posts, pot-pourri, schizophrenic, remainders, and other such names. The Schizophrenia label was my doing. I used it in the sense of disconnectedness. Most of these posts have found refuge in abstraction. A person, who once was a friend, might find some closure in this statement.

If there were a machine that could extract every emotion of me – and classify it; my being would fill every compartment that was defined, and then, some would be dropped in a big basket called “Miscellaneous.” I know not this for a fact, but it might be the same for you too.

Light Leaks - As Nature Imagined It

Light Leaks – As Nature Imagined It

There’s pride and there’s humility. There’s fear and anger. There’s desperation and there’s conviction. And more of these opposites. A friend today referred a popular theme; I thought of darkness. We never tend to darkness; there’s no pull: it is within; We fight it, if at all, towards our way to light. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. Or, that’s what we think. For how are we to know if we have succeeded or failed? What’s light, and what’s darkness? Is it the same as brightness and shadow?

Abstraction is good for expression; not for experience.

What do we ask for, when we ask the power-that-be to lead us from darkness to light? If we have never experienced light and never recognised darkness, how will we ever know, even if we are led? We know light only by the way we have been informed about it – it has never been an experience. We know darkness only by the way we have been informed about it – it has never been an experience. Our meanings cannot be slave to inherited meanings. We have to discover them all over again. And in that, if we fall to the so-called depths or have to rise to the so-called peaks, so be it. Our inherited meanings are shared – so we bond and become social. There’s comfort in those shared meanings, even if they do not mean anything.

Our experience is our only guide. The experience of others is, but, a perspective. It can never be ours.

One day, we will walk out in the sun.