Renounce and enjoy!

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In the beginning there was the word. In prehistoric times before writing was invented a spoken language emerged and an oral tradition was established. The word was passed down from father/mother to son/daughter/disciple and the knowledge of the ancients passed down to us through the ages. In the forests above the Indus and the Ganges plain; the people who called themselves the arya or noble, sought the wisdom of creation and the understanding of why existence existed. They came across the people of the Indus Valley; who had been civilized for over a thousand years, and from their mingling rose the Indian civilization, that exists on till today. At first the Rig Veda talked about the arrival and the victory over the settled people of the Indus valley civilization and there is no fear but a rejoicing in it. Then the Sama, Yayur and Atharva Veda explored the mystery of creation and the relationship of the race, with its natural surroundings. The rishis and the thinkers took the word and made hymns out of them; and passed them down in an easy to memorize format, in Sanskrit to their progeny. The Vedas worship or sing to the elemental powers of life like war and thunder (Indra), sun (Surya or Savitiri the giver of life), wind (Vayu), death (Yama), fire (Agni), dawn (Usha) and offering homage to them. The Gyatri or Savitri mantra is even today a mainstay of any Indian prayer.
As the ritual of the fire sacrifice and the purification of the soul and the universe; through the offering of forest products and clarified butter, from their cows took place; it was a means of teaching the word to those, who would follow them. As the Vedas themselves are the root (vid, meaning to know the revealed knowledge given to humanity at the beginning); some seers took to the forests in search of greater knowledge, and delved deeply on consciousness itself. They wondered what reality was and questioned what was not real. Never before or since has such a deep examination of the ego, intellect, mind, senses and their role in human existence been studied to such detail. From these Gurukuls or schools came the Upanishads or the tradition of ‘sitting down near’ where one who had experienced the truth, explained it to the chosen disciples. This was just not rote learning like the early Vedic tradition and based not only on the intellect and blind belief, but on actual knowledge of experience. Each Upanishad is complete in itself and represents the seer’s view of the one truth that is called by many names. In its quest for human salvation (moksha) the realization that Atman or the eternal soul is one with Brahman the source of the manifested and unmanifested universal spirit; is one of the greatest contributions to human thought.

Shankara an eighth century mystic identified 10 Mukhya (major) Upanishads out of 108 and while there were many other historic works; these remain, as the recognized works that broke away from the rituals of the Vedas and expounded the single underlying power of Brahman, as the supreme reality and Godhead. The ancient ascetics in the forests delved deeply into the human mind; and studied various forms of reality from the dreamer, to the dreamless state, to the known reality, and asked themselves “Who is the knower?” when you pass into a dreamless state of absolute concentration where there are no sense organs or ego. They coined the name brahmavidya for this supreme science or the science of the supreme; as they found the meaning in internal consciousness; that answered the many questions, external and internal, posed by their quests. In their states of deep meditation they came to understand consciousness itself; and realized that the Self is not separate from the Brahman and that they coexist, and always have and always will. Aham Brahmasmi was espoused as I am Brahaman in the Brihadranayak Upanishad and not in the meaning that I am God; but in the realization that the Self is not separate, from the Supreme reality. There is no joy in the finite and there is only joy in the infinite and ‘sat-chit-ananda’ or that absolute reality, pure awareness and unconditional joy are the only state of the Atman. When their keen students questioned the myriad realities and paths that they discovered; the answer always pointed to more deep meditation on the internal state, till the realization of the supreme reality and “tat-tvam-asi,” or that thou art became realized in the Chandogya Upanishad. It was hard disciplined tutelage; needing decades of work and at the end of which, one either realized an enlightened state, or moved back to the duties of a householder with a deeper understanding of reality.

The Upanishads are not long philosophical discussions like Plato’s dialogs but concise essence of the realization of the sages, representing Vedanta or the end of the Vedas. As Mahatma Gandhi once said about the Isha Upanishad “If all the Upanishads and all the other scriptures happened all of a sudden to be reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live forever.” When I studied this book I found that only 18 short verses made up the whole tome; and they still had a fullness that remains fulfilling even today,even after all the millennium that have passed, since the words were first uttered. The first verse of this Sruti (revealed truth) reads:

The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all,
The Lord is the supreme Reality.
Rejoice in him through renunciation.
Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord.

The secret to a happy life, as Gandhi explained with a twinkle in his eye and his usual humor, to the western journalist who asked for it in just three words; is “Renounce and enjoy!” (tena tyaktema bhunjitiah from the third line). While Gandhi Ji was an ardent devotee of the Bhagwad Geeta he went back to the Upanishads for the sruti or eternal truth. So this is only the first book that I have rediscovered from among the many gems lying forgotten in our age; and then I went on to read the Katha Upanishad, where Nachiketa a thirteen year old questions; Yama the lord of death himself, on the secrets of existence, death and life everlasting. It is so appropriate to our times, where a burgeoning young India seems to teach its young ones everything; except, the knowledge lying in our scriptures. Death we have forgotten is the great teacher; and eternal life is the hardest boon, that we can obtain. So I will continue my study of these ancient words, that have been passed down to us, as a legacy of our ancient knowers; who did not even put their names down, as the authors. They spoke only from their own experience, and left a path for us to follow, that leads to the supreme reality. There are no messiahs here and no heaven awaiting us at the end of our lives. Moksha is to be attained here in this life itself through righteous living, deep internal concentration and a supreme effort that leads to the silence of thought itself. Each of the Upanishads ends with the solemn words “Om shanti, shanti, shanti” and in this modern troubled world; what can be more precious than the peace of our Atman, which itself is only found in the eternal peace of Brahman.

Autumn arrives

Grand Central

Grand Central

Chrysler Tower

Chrysler Tower

The first day of autumn found me grid locked in Manhattan; where the wise leaders of the countries that compromise the United Nations, had gathered to discuss and debate the weighty issues that confront humanity today. It was a beautiful sunny day ideal for walking around in the city and the ladies spent the time shopping for shoes and outfits for the new season of course. The city was full of security and the cops were doing a valiant effort to keep the traffic moving; as the largest egos on the planet had arrived in droves, to make their mark in this modern age. A day later Obama addressed the statesmen and women gathered; on American principles and concerns, and his plan for the last days of his presidency, on the priorities that his administration would concentrate on. There was however no historic handshake; between the modern day Satan and his righteous decrieres.
As I waited for the avid shoppers to try out their new found treasures, I came across the Grand Central Terminal and realized it was its 100th anniversary. It was the largest terminal ever built at that time by Cornelius Vanderbilt who had made his fortune on oil and railroads, in the gilded age, of a century gone by. It marked the death of the steam engines; and the arrival of the electric trains, that would henceforth ferry millions in the modern city. It was also the pioneer in “air rights”; as Park Avenue was covered up and the soot and smoke that had engulfed the granite facades of the buildings, was gone forever. Instead they sold the land above the open rail lines to developers, and a new concept was born. People, who walk along Park Avenue or live or work in the expensive real estate, do not realize that beneath them are the arteries of a modern railroad system that stretch across the continent. Over 700 trains move below them daily, and have done so for over a hundred years. The Beau Art building is beautiful to behold; and was saved by Jackie Kennedy and a host of others, after the disastrous destruction of the old Penn Station, that had been another beautiful creation, of the railroad baron era.
A block away stands the Chrysler tower; another monument to the building of the skyscrapers, that came decades later. It was a race between it and the Empire State building being built at the same time, to become the tallest in the world. In the era of the depression to even conceive of such massive projects, boggles the mind; and it is a testimony to American engineering, and a legacy of those legendary risk takers, that such projects even came to be conceived, much less executed at the speed that they were done. Grand Central took almost 10 years (the trains were still kept running) to complete, while the Empire State was done in less than 18 months. The vertical city connected to the world had arrived; and humanity was free to imagine and build gigantic projects, without which today’s world would not be possible. Now the challenges are different in how to make these more energy efficient and how to use fewer resources to satisfy the needs of more people. Innovation and risk taking continue; as we see in the rise of the Freedom tower, and the even bolder project envisioned, for the build out of the last large rail road yards in the Midwest section of NYC. When complete it will be the largest project ever built in the city; and the visionaries live on, as the city continues to evolve.
So as I am between seasons and assignments the days pass in a leisurely manner and back in NJ the colors of the trees change and the last of the summer flowers bloom. The lake is peaceful and a pelican chased away a stork to find a place to fish as I took my morning smoke. There were twenty two geese gaggling on the water and I appropriately thought of two sitting ducks moniker[ from the games of chance played in bingo halls, across the retired countryside. The greatest generation has passed away and now the baby boomers are retiring, in tens of thousands per day. Obama care will start next week and will the promise of Social Security, Medicare keep them safe in the times to come, will depend on the innovation and growth from the next generation. The Republicans and Democrats will continue to squabble and the exalted leaders; will make long drawn out speeches, that represent nothing. Historic come backs like the America cup victory will enthrall us, and motivate us to ever more exacting standards. The race is never lost till you give up hope; instead go back and rejigger that boat and find the leader who will provide the bold strategy, which will help you sail with the power of the wind and currents to victory. Long as hope lives; we will not be found wanting to surmount the challenges that face us, no matter how impossible the task, or how monumental our labor.

Action, devotion, knowledge.

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According to a NASA scientist the current 11 year ‘Solar Cycle 24’ is the weakest in 100 years; which may be helping to keep the full effects of Global warming, from taking effect. We cannot count on the Sun to give us respite from our own follies; but our unusually quite star, has got scientists wondering. We do not have enough statistical information in our time series since record keeping on the observed number of solar flares and sun spots started in the 18th century; to extrapolate if we are headed, for another mini ice age yet. There are multiple cycles in the sun’s activities and we are not even sure what they are caused by; to predict future changes or outcomes, and can only wait and see how long this one will be.
Luckily for us our planet is still absorbing more energy; than we are releasing out into space, so we are confident that life will continue as it is, for quite some time. Just an imbalance in our one star can cause havoc for our lives; and so what happens if our Milky Way galaxy suddenly collides with another galaxy, which has billions of more suns and what havoc will that cause for existence is a cosmic mystery. In the Hindu tradition while Brahma is the creator and created the universe and all that is in it from his mind; it is Shiva who is the leader of chaos, change and destruction in the universe, and Vishnu rounds off the trinity, and is the only one to have taken avatars, to save life forms and preserve creation in the form of Krishna, Ram and many others. So I would equate the sun’s peaceful time to Shiva’s meditation and contemplation before he starts his next chaos theory. We all know that Brahma’s Kalpa or time horizons run into billions of years; and may be compared to a high mountain against which a bird flies a silk cloth every 100 years, and one Kalpa will last till the mountain is eroded away by the passing of the cloth.
As such infinite time and space is not quite comprehensible to normal humans we have to find an easier way to understand our birth, life and death. The Bhagwad Gita (Song of God) teaches many different ways to live a righteous life and of these I will just chose three, to simplify finding a path for salvation in this life. The first of course is the path of Karma Yoga or the carrying out of our Dharma by doing righteous deeds. For good to triumph Krishna teaches Arjun on the battlefield of Kurukshetra that a warrior must do his duty, even if it’s the killing of near and dear ones who are following the path of Adharma or evil. So this is a primary motive for us to live righteously; as one has to first act out the duty that is given to us in this lifetime towards our family, wealth, status or spiritual leanings. We have to carry out this duty without attachment to its outcomes. We do not destroy an evil empire in the hope of attaining all its wealth; but do so to make sure a righteous rule, can be established for its citizens. Only when we act without attachment; do we ensure that the Karma does not add to our desires, and we can then move into a state where we become detached from this body and its reincarnation to attain eternal peace.
The second path is of Bhakthi where we seek meditation and devotion and become immersed in the love of a Guru, God or Mantra; that we repeat constantly to ourselves and lose ourselves in it. All our actions or Karma are then devoted to this being and we do not become attached to the outcomes. Every action we take; we do for this love of the object of our devotion, or God. Our mind is removed from evil thoughts; and we seek only the eternal love, that comes from our prayers and sacrifice. This is also the path of renunciation; as we give up our earthly desires, in pursuit of the love of the pure state, that our ideal represents. To follow this path we need to open our hearts to love and devotion. On this path many saints have gone before and we find faith in their writings and songs, and we seek ‘Satsang’ or righteous companions who are also progressing along the path of Bhakthi. This path also teaches detachment to bodily desires; as we know the love that comes, from an open heart and mind. This love cannot be explained as it has to be felt; and this path of salvation comes from faith, found in the heart and soul, and not from the intellect.
The third path is one of Gyan or wisdom where we seek the truth through meditation, contemplation and study of the scriptures and learned treatises. We seek other intellectuals and learned beings to discuss and debate the meaning of life and the means of creation and destruction. This is a path that may lead to many missteps; as we attain levels of knowledge and attain ‘sidhis’ or powers, as we progress along it. We can be easily distracted from the goal of salvation; when we become entangled in our own wisdom, and attached to our knowledge as superior, to that of others. With knowledge can come power and if we get caught in the power trap; then we cannot progress, along the true path of renunciation. The other fallacy of this path is that true renunciation of the senses; cannot be an intellectual process, but has to be felt from the soul. As the mind cannot easily understand the time space continuum; and easily part with its ego for eternity, it becomes hard to let go and we are reincarnated again and again, to go to ever higher levels of wisdom. True Gyan is only attained when we are ready to give up all we have learned; and enter the void, with no karma to tie us to this birth.
This is a simplistic view of the knowledge that Arjun learned; as his heart was open to listen to Krishna and his friend and guru taught him slowly, and opened his mind, as he progressed through the different levels. As each level became clear; Krishna moved on to the next concept, so that Arjun could understand that there is no one path to salvation. I believe that we need to follow all the three paths outlined above, at some time or other in our life. The path of Karma is where we act to carry out our duty to society and our family and do it without getting attached. The path of Bhakthi is important as we need to open up our heart; to the beauty and love of the creator, as just duty is not the only goal of life. Lastly we need to exercise our intellect to attain a higher learning; as only then are we distinguished from the animals and other living creatures, like the fauna and microscopic beings. We need to pass the wisdom on to our progeny; so that they have a path to follow, that leads them to salvation, and away from superstition and false beliefs. Our body, heart, mind, soul all have to be purified to get to the next level. Choose any path and follow it; as in the end they all lead, to the same goal. The biggest mystery is that our soul is already eternal, and our mind refuses to accept it. We become attached to physical beauty, wealth and power and with it come all the vices of lust, anger, greed, hate and ignorance. These are all untruths of maya (non-permanent) and we cling to them and they become our chains to pain,suffering and death. The truth which is eternal remains lost, till that awakening when we break the threads of attachment to maya, and our heart and soul opens to experience Brahma.Then all you do is just an offering to him, as everything flows from and to him; and no Karma attaches to you and you are free at last.

Emotional intelligence

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Came across this very interesting article in the NY Times by Jennifer Kahn of Berkeley “Can emotional intelligence be taught?” and it got me thinking. Could it be true that teaching our children how to have a better SEI or social and emotional intelligence may lead to more fulfilled lives? It seems that academic achievements (IQ) are not the only measures that show how successful a child will be when he\she grows up. Their ability to handle stressful situations and the ability to empathize with others may be strong points leading to a better rounded and more fulfilling life. I look at the four quadrants of blue (malaise, indifferent), yellow (excited), red (angry), green (peaceful) to simplify the theory and wonder how we react to social situation, and why it affects our lives in certain ways. If we can teach our children to understand their own emotions and then to further be aware of their reactions to external stimuli; it would help remove a lot of angst, emotional pain and suffering.
We live in a land of the walking wounded; where many of us are socially and emotionally spent, from what life has served up to us. Even Charles Darwin recognized that emotional intelligence is important for groups to survive and evolve. From the deprived inner city single family kid to the special privileged child living in the world of plenty, we are slowly being drained of social and emotional skills. TV and computers may be great to pass our lives but human interaction is strangely lacking, for a lot of these children. No longer are the long dinners followed by storytelling on an almost daily or weekly basis; or the large family gatherings where the elders weave magical tales, which define the clan’s identities and social backgrounds, practiced as rituals or rites of passage. Both the working parents (if the kid is lucky to have them) are often too busy coping with their own lives; and their teachers too busy coping with the standardized tests, that the job of teaching social and emotional skills ends up on the TV in sesame street like programs, or at worse daytime soaps. War games on game consoles are more popular with boys and young men than the social interaction with peers and adults and girls. We are always connected with phone messaging, Facebook, Twitter and the internet but do we connect physically or emotionally with each other?
It is no wonder that our loved ones are walking around with grievances, perceived insults and hurts from a long period ago; that just will not go away. We do not question why we feel this way; or wonder why the other person did or said, what we thought they did. It is better in our narcissist behavior (I am special) and neurotic feelings (nobody understands me) to remain cocooned in our righteousness (his duty to take care of me) and hang on to our obsessions, for the rest of our lives. How can I walk without my crutch that I have built my life around, and if I give it up why would anyone look up to me, once they realize that all this was only an act to get their attention. As nobody can understand me; then why do I need to empathize and understand them, why does the burden always lie on me, while all these hateful persons just walk away Scot free, after all the hurts they have given me? So on it goes and often life is spent; and you are about to pass on to your maker and then you want to reach out and say something, and realize it is too late and it does not matter as that person has already moved on.
I look at the red square and understand its attraction as if we are showing anger then we are showing that our life is important, if you do not do things my way then I will shout and hit and do whatever it takes to make you do what I want (right or wrong). The blue square is also very tempting as I can pass the poor and the needy; in ignorance of my responsibility, and leave them to their fate. This is a misguided philosophy as if do become emotionally and socially involved, all of us will benefit. The yellow square is exciting and all of us should try to feel its power within us. It is the first rumblings of life and even the creator must have seen this; as we equate yellow with light and life, and all it bestows. The green is the final stage when life has come its full circle, when we look up at the green of the mighty trees or the endless expanse of the grasses swaying in the spring breeze and peace is within and without us. We raise our self-esteem and are comfortable with who we are, and are better able to emotionally connect with those around us. This is when we are at first peace with ourselves and then share empathy, love, compassion and peace with all around us.
It seems that the SEI people may be on to something after all and emotional intelligence may indeed be a factor in how we live life. We all have our crutches and our pet grievances or low self-esteem, which we carry around like the rock of Sisyphus up and down the hill of life. All our life we push it up hill and then the next day we start again; as somehow it always ends up back downhill, and we love the labor, as if we were born to do just this. We will not give up our neurotic behavior and it defines our personality and our spouses, children and dear and near ones step around them on tip toe avoiding the eruptions that will ensue; if the volcano simmering inside is stirred. When will we learn to throw away the crutch and remove our shoulder from this emotional boulder that we have attached ourselves to. To stand upright and realize that the other person was fair in his treatment of us, and we were the ones who did not understand what they did. When will we let bygones be bygones and get on with our lives; to make a better today, and love those we need to love and cherish? Spring again into the yellow square and feel that excitement; that you have let your emotions remove, and get ready to work to move into the green of universal peace. It reminds me of our clan’s havans and the Hindu prayers always ending with the mantra that goes Om shanti, shanti, shanti Om. Oh God bring us to the stage where even peace itself may be at peace.

Mega clusters

There is a slight wrinkle in the time space continuum it seems; as Google is going to build its new Moto X phone, right here in the US. Flextronics the colossus in worldwide logistics and manufacturing; will be using Motorola’s 500,000 square feet manufacturing facility in Fort Worth TX, and 2,000 workers will be assembling custom designed phones for the US market. This will allow better collaboration between the innovative designers in the US; and the factory to incorporate the latest designs and allow customers to enjoy the flexibility, of making their own phone. This is in contrast to Apple’s policy of making its phones abroad, and bringing them in standard configurations. The latest cheap iPhone announced at $ 99 is not so cheap it appears; as Apple knock offs in China are available for $ 40, and will the brand help them to bridge that gap, is still up in the air. The Moto X will have 70% of its components made here, and only the processors will come from Taiwan and the displays from South Korea. This may change in the future as U S manufacturers will be able to work with designers and come up with alternatives; just as Taiwan and Korea have been working with the designers, for the past decades.
In a sign of the times even Apple is going to produce its high tech Macs here in the US. Those who have given up on the US as a manufacturer; should not give up hope, as the times they are a changing. Whirlpool just announced appliances that will have iPhone like exteriors; and the stainless steel kitchens appliances in upscale homes, are about to change. These will be built in the US, and the use of latest materials and designs and it may be a broader new trend about to happen. The auto industry is making a comeback and while it is not roaring; it is still growing, and Obama’s bailout has left them standing, and they will soon be running. As more processors end up in the latest cars and high end music systems like Bose and others made in the US are added, the innovations will continue. Everything is going to become smarter and use less energy and for that the latest materials and designs have to be incorporated. The new muscle cars will be made not of metal alloys but of synthetic composites to lighten weight and increase strength. The greatest fear for people buying electric cars is that they will run out of juice and get stranded. This will change as they become more energy efficient; and run longer on a single charge, with improved storage. These cars will not break down and last much longer; than the inefficient internal combustible engines, which also pollute a lot more and add to greenhouse gasses.
With the revival in housing markets the new homes will use more items manufactured right here; as high end consumers, will seek the latest designs. These will then trickle down to the masses; in mass production methods adopted from the USA or its NAFTA partners. Energy production is going to grow right here in the US with abundant gas, oil, solar, bio mass, wind, nuclear and it will feed the cities of tomorrow. The building boom for the next millennium has not even started as the millennials, still have to decide where they will live and work. Having grown up in suburbs and small towns they will increasingly opt for city living; as that is where the action, will be. You cannot import a city; and modern life will change how and where we live, and how we communicate and spend our leisure. Hot spots of high speed communications and public transportation will be concentrated into mega clusters, as they are easy to maintain and support. The national parks are not going away any time soon and nature will be better husbanded; without encroachment, from human sprawl. Giant sports arenas, concert halls, exhibition grounds, theme parks and convention centers will incorporate the latest technologies and the wonders will continue endlessly in these mega structures, where the future generations will play and entertain themselves.

So as I said it seems a wrinkle is appearing in the space time continuum of human existence. It will change the path of development and allow better coordination between design and high end products and new technologies. The developed world will continue to pull ahead and the developing will be hard pressed to follow. There will still be the ones who want to adopt a Thoreau or Gandhian philosophy or the religious right; of living closer to nature, and minimizing our needs and imprint on this earth and avoidance of big government and societal ills, born of ever increasing desires and consumption. The struggle for the modern soul will continue, as we evolve and seek out new frontiers and the extremists will do anything to stop our progress. Will the rising spiral of innovation’s bounties; satisfy our physical and social needs, or will society breakdown into clusters of the have and havenots, is still to be seen. We cannot turn back the clock as these messiahs of hate and bigotry would have us believe, and change will come; and we just have to be better prepared to ensure we ride the next Tsunami of desires from the teeming billions, with resources that can satisfy them. The design of a new world order is taking shape right here and now, and we better jump onto this band wagon for a better tomorrow, before it leaves us in the dust. From the ashes of hate will rise the phoenix of a better world; as the human spirit is magnanimous, loving and compassionate, at its very core.

Dow changes

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There is a change in the 30 components of Dow Jones Industrial index as Bank of America, Hewitt Packard and Alcoa come off and Goldman, Nike and Visa are the new blue chips crowned in all their new glory. It is a change that represents our time and how we live. Alcoa the mighty producer of aluminum was always the first to report and represented the coming of age of the American Industrial power, earlier in the last century. From Carnegie’s huge new furnaces that first introduced the world to mass produced steel at an economical rate, that gave rise to the modern vertical city; to the likes of Alcoa that showed that human ingenuity can convert earth’s abundant resources for the use and upliftment of the masses, America was in ascendance and by the end of the second world war; was an industrial power house producing more that 50% of the world’s output of steel, oil, aluminum and other goods. We say goodbye to an era of industrial production and the age of the greatest generation that built it, which changed the way we live forever.
Goldman and Bank of America were on the two sides of the last crisis. BoFA had made a huge bet by acquiring Countrywide Financial at the peak of the mortgage boom, looking at its huge profits and growing revenues. Goldman however correctly analyzed that this was a house of cards; that would soon come tumbling down and bet heavily against the boom to continue foreve,r and may have even been the bad wolf who helped blow it down. There are always two sides to a trade and BoFA with its long history suddenly found itself at the wrong end of the calculation and lost. Greed and wealth know no limits and the big financial institutions continue to grow, and without the constraints of equality and a sense of fairness; will continue to increase the gap between the top 1% and the bottom 80%. The poor home owner got no respite, and billions went to feather penthouses of the billionaires; who did not really need it. The working families will continue to strive to carry the burden of over inflated houses from the bubble for their life; and the Goldman’s will make their storied bets on their ability to do so, in interest rate swaps and derivatives and instruments so complex, that a sane man would be hard put to understand the jargon. Suffice it to say the Goldman will continue to make huge bets for and against its customer base for the benefit of itself and its millionaire’s club. Welcome the latest member to this exclusive club as it has brought panache and refinement to this august institution. I am sad to say that in this case us poor piggys have lost the American dream, and the big bad wolf has been crowned a prince of the castle.
The replacement of Alcoa by Nike is a true changing of the guard. While Alcoa invested heavily in America and heavy industry and remains an industrial power house till this day; in the case of Nike it is the new globalization, and innovation that made it a leader. They have harnessed all the modern forces of production worldwide, and become a leader in their field. Their advertisements with the simple swoosh; have been iconic and with the birth of a super star in basketball Nike Air and Michael Jordan, rose to new heights. I remember seeing the huge modern factories in China; where the shoes were rolled out to the millions. The best brains designed the footwear in America and then developed the best assembly line processes invented by Henry Ford and refined it, into the modern consumer goods built by cheap labor, flooding the coastal cities of emergent China. Super power America brought the latest technology and methods of production; to an old and communist China, and our world changed for the better. Inner city kids killed each other for the expensive designs and the hype from the modern advertising machines. After all America does spend more on advertising than on education and many other human services. For inner city kids struggling without role models; and with the breakdown in their education system and society at large, the high top air from Nike was the ultimate status symbol and Jordan was a star, who they could all strive to be.
The saddest perhaps is the turning away of the company that started in the iconic garage and which later grew, into the new world known today as Silicon Valley. This was the ultimate representation of the pioneering spirit and the innovation that America has represented to the world. Here two young kids got together and started an entrepreneurship that truly revolutionized the world at large like nothing before them. The information age was transformed forever by their tinkering around; and the modern age that we take for granted, would not have been possible today without their efforts. With the demise of the personal computer they are off the prestigious list; but what a ride it was and how many modern marvels have come about, because of this one single company. We owe them a great debt for while the giant corporations plodded on in their set ways; it was HP that opened up the West into a new gold rush and drew the best and the brightest, from around the globe to become pioneers in new fields. Here the wildest ideas were tried out and venture capitalist’s funded bizarre schemes and who cared if you failed, as you could always move on to the next great idea. It goes to show that opportunity and hope are still the wild horses that the cowboys of old rode, and we should never give up on change. Even today while the world may has many divisions; it is still an open range for ideas and innovation to spread like wildfire, toppling age old regimes and loosening fanatical societies, with the tiny message from the air of common men, sharing new age ideals. Change is coming and the Dow and all else are only reflecting, what our spirit has brought about, in the continued pursuit of happiness.
The rise of Visa is a new chapter in modern commerce of catering to individual customers across a large geography; probably started with a railway clerk discovering that the new railroads were ideal for distributing goods, across the vast growing lands. Sears Roebuck catalogs became the prized possession of many people; across the Wild West, as their only connection to goods being produced in the huge factories, rising in the new cities. No longer did you have to wait for a wagon trail to come by and barter and trade for goods and tools, and could select an item from a vast catalog and then just wait for it to be delivered like magic through the railroads. The only credit that existed before that was the local merchant extending it to you; as he knew where you lived, and what you did. It was a cash economy and you worked hard and saved and paid for goods or service, up front.
With the return of the greatest generation from the second world war; there were suddenly fifty million people building homes, townships, suburbs and consumption shot up as the war machines turned to become purveyors of Fridges, air conditioners, TVs, and of course the love of the open road in the automobile. Where just 50 years ago the credit card was issued only to the rich; it soon became ubiquitous, and within a few decades trillions of dollars are being spent using plastic card with a strip of information. The baby boomers exploded into an era of unprecedented wealth building and development, which has never before been witnessed on this earth. The credit simplification has allowed the growth of modern commerce, and Visa has been at the forefront of this new revolution. Today it is such an acceptable way of paying for goods and services that the growing eCommerce new world; would not have been possible, without it. Now faceless consumers buy from faceless suppliers; and a few bits exchanged over the internet, allow any consumer to live like a king. The growth of Visa and credit fuel the largest economic engines ever built; and globalization itself would not be possible, without it. I am; so I consume, and hence my credit goes up. This little plastic has truly become my visa to the whole world; to enjoy with all my senses, anything that is available, for my consumption and pay for it later. Dante’s inferno beckons us and we romp happily in Sodom and Gomorrah, as if there is no tomorrow!

Democratic franchise

Watching the TV series ‘America the story of us’ on this hot Indian summer weekend in Arkansas I finally got through the episode on the bloodiest war; where brother fought brother and the ideals of the Union finally prevailed, over the beliefs of the Confederacy. Ten sentences uttered at Gettysburg PA by President Lincoln have stood through history and they summarized the many years of the divide caused by cessation;and the struggles of the civil war and ended with the immortal words, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Modern warfare had killed almost two percent of the US population; which would amount to six million today, and the end was not in sight. The President was a visionary in so many ways besides the abolition of slavery, as the modern nation was being born. Railroads spread across the land and the telegraph became the new internet of instant messages. The first land grant colleges appeared and education got its great boost. Westwards the nation grew at a pace unimaginable before; and a whole continent was opened up, as one of the greatest migration from the old world to the new started. The Indian nations declined into reservations and the African Americans fought shoulder to shoulder for equality and the opportunity to be free.
Today we have a black President whose family in the White House is an inspiration to many other inner city kids; who may have a renewed faith of what can be achieved in this land. There are no excuses any longer; and while the road is still long, and the hidden prejudices still there below the surface, driving the descendants of slaves into pockets of ignorance, without opportunity or franchise, the hope will not perish, of a better world to come. Those who continue to divide humanity by playing the race card or morally superior beliefs of caste or religion should be banished from the public stage. We need to remember the words of the famous philosopher at the dawn of modern Democracy that “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors” – Plato. This is even truer in the developing world and the Middle East and Africa where nascent democracies are struggling; in the same way the soul of America was raked through the fires, of the great civil war. Great achievements require great sacrifices; and we are still at a delicate balance in our history, all over the world.

How can these ignorant, filthy, downtrodden millions know any better; than what they have. They deserve what they get; as they are not ready to lead the disciplined lives, that would let them rise out of their poverty and ignorance. Their leaders are often dynastic rulers cheered on by sycophants and those who benefit from their largess. They cater to a band of loyalists or thugs that project their power; and are often immersed in personal gain or misguided philosophies, at the cost of their larger constituents. The means of production and capital are often controlled by a few; and the masses struggle on, eking out a living at a couple of dollars a day or less. They are chattel and fodder for the great game of politics, that are played across their own lands. Vested interests take a toll on resources and hold back the ingenuity of millions, in the twin reins of power and corruption. They are allowed to live and die in darkness; bereft of basic human needs of energy, sanitation, food and health.
We should again become the beacon on the hill as that is our manifest destiny. There is no longer room for the despots to hold back their huddled masses; and subject them to conditions, that should have been removed by the industrial revolution and modern science. As the last super power we do not need to wage war and invade, to put things right. There are more enlightened ways to take this war on ignorance, disease and poverty to the masses. We have eradicated small pox (which was one of the enemies that George Washington battled in that cruel cold winter in Valley Forge PA, during the revolutionary war) and there are still many more milestones to conquer. Overwhelming force and shock and awe as shown by General Sherman on his march to Atlanta; and then on to the sea in to Savannah Georgia were the final straw that broke the proud South’s back, in the civil war. We do not have to use the scorched earth policy across the globe; to bring bad regimes down, but need a better way.
Visionaries like Bill Gates and other philanthropists like Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford before have shown that along with great wealth comes a great responsibility to do the most good. One cannot bring democracy to the masses but one can aid in bringing education, health care and better nutrition to the poor. The forces of good can overcome the draconian policies of these regimes by taking steps to provide opportunity and knowledge to the people. Then it will be up to the people to bring about the change they so desperately need. We can be the agents of the change; but cannot force it, as it is the people who have to decide what they need or want. They themselves will create the society that will benefit them and their belief systems; will have to evolve to come, into the modern era. This process cannot be forced and will take its own time; depending on the the ability for a region or people, to accept change. All change will not be for the better, so we cannot foresee what the future will bring. The forces of good and evil have fought for millenniums and will continue to do so in the future. We can only chose our leaders well; and then make sure that they do the right things, and if not make a change. Throw the bums out; but use the force of law, and not the capricious whims of the moment. The pursuit for a more perfect union; must first be carried out at home, as there is a lot of work still ahead of us. The war on ignorance, superstition, bias, poverty and bad faith has just begun. Democratic franchise is the greatest choice the founding fathers made for us; and we must continue to strive, to help to perpetuate their legacy.

Wrist watch

The new thing is going to be watches that let us view messages enjoy stereophonic Bluetooth connections and wireless talking as Samsung, Sony, Apple and Qualcomm and numerous others introduce the latest versions of this new product. We are about to give new meaning to the word wrist watch and a whole new era is about to be born. Google glasses are the other new toy about to come to a store near you and so we are headed to the age of seamless always connected era in a rush. Miniature screens with high resolution will bring the world to us; no matter where we are, long as the internet can support us. We will be talking to these devices, as if they were an extension of our personality; and eventually they will become our personality as they will know more about our preferences and with algorithms built in, and become the purveyors of all that is available out there and offer up the results of searches on things we may like. . The build out of the core infrastructure like power plants, transmission capabilities memory and storage, miniaturization and display capabilities are about to take a gigantic leap forward.
That brings us to the question as to whose data warehouses will provide the content for all these always connected millions. In cloud computing Amazon leads the way with Google, Microsoft and numerous others continuing to build out the huge server farms that house the increasing data needed by each of us. The TV industry and the deliverer of news and entertainment as known today will continue to deliver content over the airways and cable to residents but the mobile consumer may well choose another path. Netflix, You Tube, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook are all vying for our online time; and content creation, storage and delivery are the next big thing. From MIT videos on education, to the sluttiest porn; it will all be there at our voice command, and we will pick and choose at our leisure. A digital smart grid will provide energy, content, connectivity, social media and countless other things, in ways we cannot imagine today. We will be limited only by our imagination; on what to do with those free minutes, we have at our disposal.
Today the cost of these build outs are being paid out in the developed world and the digital divide continues to grow. The citizens of the developing world are not to be left behind and are demanding the same delivery and the rush to reduce costs and improve the devices so that they just sip energy continues. Advertising and commerce pay for the new frontier and the consumers benefit from the build out, by the Governments of infrastructure and research. The path is not sustainable and the resources required although enormous are still limited, and taking away from other life’s non digital necessities. Mothers and children continue to die and diseases that are curable still kill millions across the globe. Food security, potable drinking water, medical health supplies, decent housing are still dreams for billions; as the elite consume the new universe. He buys a $ 35,000 handbag for his trophy girlfriend, while it could feed thousand starving children with that same money.
So what will our priorities be in the future is the question; and I am not a Luddite and against progress, or the new frontier. We need to be seamlessly connected, as it will help make a better world. Education and knowledge are the destroyers of ignorance; and we have the greatest opportunity, to lift millions into the new age. The problem is not this new age that we want to build, but how we will build it. Will it be one filled with compassion and love for our fellow beings, or will it be one where divisions and exclusions rule and whole species are destroyed to make room for our ever expanding needs. Can we make a more sustainable future for our coming generations, while still making progress in tackling some of our toughest problems? The politicians have no clue; and are mired in their daily wrangling, power sharing secrets, and backward visions. They are solving yesterday’s problems, and not too successfully at that, and only for their deemed constituents. Statesmen are a rare breed and getting rarer as sectarian and cult considerations are more important for them to sustain their identity than a universal approach. We are doomed to live in a world of violence and hate propagated by the extreme left or right wings, and the middle will continue to suffer.
I look forward to looking at my wrist and finding not just the time but my whole social world there, or wear those glasses and watch the world literally go around me. Toys have always fascinated me, and these will be par excellence as far as Christmas gifts are concerned. We may not make love any more, but at least we will be digitally connected. ‘I see you’ will take a whole new meaning as holographic images will project versions of you that you want others to see, and avatars will become a blurring of reality and fact. We will be able to be whatever we want to be in our digital life, but at the beginning of the morning when we look into the mirror who will we find there? Take a closer look, as we may be the next extinct species.

Labor Day

The Bumble bees, the smaller worker bees and the moths are all busy sucking the nectar from the lavender flowers; of the variegated leaved hedge that grows knee high, between my driveway and my neighbor’s entrance. They are all doing their karma without attachment or resentment, as each flitted from flower to flower and sucked deep of its sweet bounty. They have no dream of acquiring an empire of lavender flowers; or in harnessing slaves to do their bidding, and gather the nectar for them, so that they can become ever more powerful, with growing mountains of nectar at their command. They do not attack each other or create outcasts; as nature’s bounty is here for all of us to enjoy together, as we are all part of the same universe in this particular space and time. We are just working out our karmic experience in perfect harmony of body and soul and should suffer no duality of experience, or delusions of grandeur.
The problem I think comes down to space and time; as while each is unlimited and possibly extends out into eternity, our minds cannot comprehend this. We are limited by our sense organs and our intellect, to a known creation and its limits. We cannot experience outside our senses or think beyond our intellect. We acquire a lot of knowledge all our life on different waves, within the time and space continuum. This knowledge is what causes our ego to grow; and we can create an identity around this knowledge we acquire; which defines what we are, and also what we can or cannot achieve. The higher we climb; the more we can see, and the more we acquire, the less we know, about the minute individual details. So knowledge diminishes, as wisdom expands. There comes a time when we have reached the peak of a certain field; we have a new revelation and have to unequivocally state, that we know nothing, and need to start all over again. While others may be blinded by our knowledge and the brilliance of our research; we ourselves are just opening our eyes to a new wisdom, on a different plane.
Thus we are engaged throughout our existence in this field of illusion; where we use our sense organs and our intellect, to gain more knowledge. The problem becomes compounded as we also put on certain glasses, as we go through life. For an example a pick pocket on meeting a very holy man; will notice only his pockets, a hungry man going through a market, will only notice the eating places and neglect the places of worship or beauty. Whatever our mind or body is seeking becomes this opaque vision; using which, we look at the universe around us. A holy man sees goodness, and an evil man sees temptation, and a tailor sees clothes and their cuts, and so on. None of us sees the whole universe, or what it has to offer. We seek within our limits; and are surprised at the end of the journey, that we only found so little for life, to offer us. It is not life that limits us; but our own vision, that clouds us. As we go beyond each veil; new vistas open up to us, and as we move along the Jnana or knowledge path, we start unfolding the tree of wisdom. I am full of my ahamkar and ego so I know everything and the saint in his wisdom knows nothing. As we shatter successive levels of our egos; we find that there is more light coming through our filters, and enlightenment is slowly building up.
So as we step up to the gates of heaven; or are ready to pass into the state of nirvana, what is the essence that we will take with us? Precious little; as all that we will have is not of this life, it is not these sense organs, or the walking organs, or the knowledge learnt from our books and exploration, or our wealth and earthly success, as they are useless where we are going. All our life we worked on earning and preserving our wealth; or army, or force, or food stocks, or energy, and in the end it is all left behind. It is our duty to do these things during our existence; but the key is to do it without attachment. If our wife, car, home, possessions start to define us; then we have not done, our righteous duty. We need to do all this and more; as the lotus that needs to be tended, is within us. The kingdom of heaven lies within us and not outside; and similarly Nirvana has to be realized internally and not externally from material possessions or from others. Only when we labor without attachment to the fruit of our labor; and when we do our best to do our duty in whatever existence serves up to us, does life become meaningful and our karma falls away.
The bumble bee’s labor is done now that it is dark and the flowers sway in the light breeze. Labor Day has come and gone and still the work remains the same. Holidays are for contemplation and stepping away; and taking a chance to look inwards, and discard some of the distractions we have created for ourselves, in our relationships. Discard this pursuit of useless knowledge, and pursue the path of wisdom. Learn from the bumble bee, as it does not fight with the flower to give it what it needs. If one flower refuses, it moves on to the next. Do not get hung up on a particular path or a particular action or a particular person or obsession. Instead lift the veil and let light in and move on; as wisdom comes from removing ignorance, and not just heaping knowledge upon knowledge into an overextended mind. As Bob Dylan sang, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” When you reach that plane of nothing, only then can you start to strive to unravel, the true meaning of this existence. It is in the innocence of a child’s smile; as it shows the infinite possibilities, which lie ahead of all of us in this karmic life. Learn to hear afresh and see again; and the wonders will unfold and nothing again will be the same, as even the “I” will fade away and you will be free at last; and Heaven’s gate or Nirvana, will just be another stage you pass.