Scarcity of nuance

A good friend forwarded an article by Ta Nihisi Coates – extracts from his forthcoming book, apparently – published in ‘The Atlantic’.

I read it and I was profoundly disappointed. It was an article written for the faithfuls. He was singing to the choir.

The author makes fundamental errors of distinguishing between ‘average’ and ‘at the margin’. Uses exclusionary arguments. Broadbrushes everybody else and quotes out of context. Contradicts himself liberally (pun intended).

It should be possible to accept and argue

that racism remains an issue in America,
that America has indeed made considerable progress,
that many conscientious Whites have done their bit to remove the racism barrier,
that the election in 2016 was between two unworthy candidates,
that the more populist won (because of race, among other things)
and that President Obama did not do much for blacks (except tokenism as he ‘did’ for world peace)

Exclusionary and exclusive arguments and assuming what one needs to establish are the stuff of polemics and not scholarship.

Articles or books such as these, in the environment that the world finds itself, won’t shake up the establishment and narrative. They would worsen the divide. What is in short supply is ‘nuance’ and that is what intellectuals need to supply. What is in short supply has value. Polemics and polarisation are on offer plentily. No value. Sheer Economics.

But, nuance is hard work.

Nice

Confronting our profound ignorance is frustrating, but it is also crucial. It is the force driving us forward. Real progress in understanding the Universe requires recognising that every instance of our ignorance is a scientific opportunity, and then resolving to chip away at it. Advancing our understanding requires venturing beyond the edifice of current thought and opening our minds to new ideas. [Link]

Kinderschule

It is easier to sit around in a drawing room and pontificate on how Narayana Murthy or Ratan Tata failed to let go. They hung on and want to hang on. That is the chorus. But, letting go is easier said than done. We turn the inward gaze and check. It is there. It is universal. ‘Clinging on’ is the default mode. The justification, the strength and the intensity of clinging on vary. It is there.

When friends asked me months ago whether I was prepared for the departure of my daughter for college in a faraway land, my answer was that I did not know if I was prepared or not. That was an honest answer. Now, I know that I am not prepared. Much work remains.

Mixed feelings and mixed emotions.

The justifiable part of the mix is the one that deals with the issue of familiarity. Sheer force of habit. For about eighteen years, there has been a routine, a familiar pattern. Kids go to school, come back, homework, vacation, play dates, falling sick, etc. That is about to be broken. Habits die hard. Creatures of habit that sapiens are, it takes time to adjust to the new routine. That is the easily understandable part. But, it runs deeper. More on it later.

Then, there are other feelings. Will she acquit herself well or will she self-destruct or will she fall victim to undesirable friendships and habits?  Equally, if not more importantly, will she cross the road safely looking left first? Will she be texting while walking? Will she know how to handle black ice? Will she handle the rapid onset of darkness and biting cold in the winters?

Questions and more anxious questions. These are not questions arising because of distance and faraway lands but questions of the illusion of control, of the feeling of ‘being in charge’. Which one is more laughable? The width of the range of thoughts and anxieties or the depths of ignorance?

Who controls what and who takes care of whom? A saint said in Tamil that even the hair does not obey human laws. Natural laws. Someone or something is guiding us all, including the worrier. Or, if you don’t BELIEVE, it does not matter. It happens anyway.

As the familiar pattern looks set to be disrupted (yes, that word has to be in), the mind thinks of ‘What Ifs’. What if I had stayed in India throughout my life?

The problem with WHAT IFs – they are partial differentiation calculus. Life does not work that way. One cannot change only the part that is jarring and that too for now. WHAT IFs are about total differentiation.

The struggle to adjust and adapt as the ‘familiar’ gives way to the ‘unfamiliar’ is not one of adaptation and adjustment alone. It is about remaining relevant in our children’s lives. The truth is that we would no longer be relevant. Well, not THAT RELEVANT, any more. As a mother wrote, she was the sun and her little ones were the planets revolving around her. That is not going to happen anymore. That, in the end, may be the real issue facing parents. Their increasing irrelevance, amplified and reinforced by aging and the prospect of loneliness that come with it.

This is true of all parents who were children once to their parents and all children who will be parents in future. The archer put the arrows in the Quiver. The person carrying the bow and the quiver full of arrows is not the archer. He is just as passive a participant in the ‘Leela’ (the drama) as the arrow itself because he is an arrow himself! The archer takes out the arrow, strings the bow and is ready to launch the arrow for its own journey. Some of the arrows might return to the quiver again. But, it won’t be the same arrow nor is the quiver the same, anymore.

How does one adjust to this new reality?

Some run, some drink, some pick up other habits, some learn and some get a dog. Some write blog posts!

But, is there an alternative? YES.

It can be the beginning of the journey to non-identity. Non-labels. No labels. It is a journey with no destination. It is a journey towards a JOURNEY. That remains the ideal. These episodes and milestones – important and emotionally challenging, they may be – are, in the end, reminders of that journey barely begun.

A lady who owns and runs a petrol pump in Johannesburg says that one grows when one lets go. Yes, we grow spiritually. Well, the evidence is I am barely out of the kinderschule.

The reminder follows.

Nirvana Shatakam [LINK]

Mano-Buddhy-Ahangkaara Cittaani Naaham
Na Ca Shrotra-Jihve Na Ca Ghraanna-Netre |
Na Ca Vyoma Bhuumir-Na Tejo Na Vaayuh
Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivo[a-A]ham Shivo[a-A]ham ||1||

Meaning:
1.1: Neither am I the Mind, nor the Intelligence or Ego,
1.2: Neither am I the organs of Hearing (Ears), nor that of Tasting (Tongue), Smelling (Nose) or Seeing (Eyes),
1.3: Neither am I the Sky, nor the Earth, Neither the Fire nor the Air,
1.4: I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,
The Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness.

Na Ca Praanna-Samjnyo Na Vai Pan.ca-Vaayuh
Na Vaa Sapta-Dhaatuh Na Vaa Pan.ca-Koshah |
Na Vaak-Paanni-Paadam Na Copastha-Paayu
Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivo[a-A]ham Shivo[a-A]ham ||2||

Meaning:
2.1: Neither am I the Vital Breath, nor the Five Vital Airs,
2.2: Neither am I the Seven Ingredients (of the Body), nor the Five Sheaths (of the Body),
2.3: Neither am I the organ of Speech, nor the organs for Holding ( Hand ), Movement ( Feet ) or Excretion,
2.4: I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,
The Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness.

Na Ca Praanna-Samjnyo Na Vai Pan.ca-Vaayuh
Na Vaa Sapta-Dhaatuh Na Vaa Pan.ca-Koshah |
Na Vaak-Paanni-Paadam Na Copastha-Paayu
Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivo[a-A]ham Shivo[a-A]ham ||2||

Meaning:
2.1: Neither am I the Vital Breath, nor the Five Vital Airs,
2.2: Neither am I the Seven Ingredients (of the Body), nor the Five Sheaths (of the Body),
2.3: Neither am I the organ of Speech, nor the organs for Holding ( Hand ), Movement ( Feet ) or Excretion,
2.4: I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,
The Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness.

Na Me Dvessa-Raagau Na Me Lobha-Mohau
Mado Naiva Me Naiva Maatsarya-Bhaavah |
Na Dharmo Na Ca-Artho Na Kaamo Na Mokssah
Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivo[a-A]ham Shivo[a-A]ham ||3||

Meaning:
3.1: Neither do I have Hatred, nor Attachment, Neither Greed nor Infatuation,
3.2: Neither do I have Pride, nor Feelings of Envy and Jealousy,
3.3 I am Not within the bounds of Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Desire) and Moksha (Liberation) (the four Purusarthas of life),
3.4: I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,
The Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness.

Na Punnyam Na Paapam Na Saukhyam Na Duhkham
Na Mantro Na Tiirtham Na Vedaa Na Yajnyaah |
Aham Bhojanam Naiva Bhojyam Na Bhoktaa
Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivo[a-A]ham Shivo[a-A]ham ||4||

Meaning:
4.1: Neither am I bound by Merits nor Sins, neither by Worldly Joys nor by Sorrows,
4.2: Neither am I bound by Sacred Hymns nor by Sacred Places, neither by Sacred Scriptures nor by Sacrifies,
4.3: I am Neither Enjoyment (Experience), nor an object to be Enjoyed (Experienced), nor the Enjoyer (Experiencer),
4.4: I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,
The Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness.

Na Mrtyur-Na Shangkaa Na Me Jaati-Bhedah
Pitaa Naiva Me Naiva Maataa Na Janmah |
Na Bandhurna Mitram Gurur-Na-Iva Shissyam
Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivo[a-A]ham Shivo[a-A]ham ||5||

Meaning:
5.1: Neither am I bound by Death and its Fear, nor by the rules of Caste and its Distinctions,
5.2: Neither do I have Father and Mother, nor do I have Birth,
5.3: Neither do I have Relations nor Friends, neither Spiritual Teacher nor Disciple,
5.4: I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,
The Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness.

Aham Nirvikalpo Niraakaara-Ruupo
Vibhu-Tvaacca Sarvatra Sarve[a-I]ndriyaannaam |
Na Caa-Sanggatam Naiva Muktirna Meyah
Cid-aananda-ruupah Shivo[a-A]ham Shivo[a-A]ham ||6||

Meaning:
6.1: I am Without any Variation, and Without any Form,
6.2: I am Present Everywhere as the underlying Substratum of everything, and behind all Sense Organs,
6.3: Neither do I get Attached to anything, nor get Freed from anything,
6.4: I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,
The Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness.

Listen to it here.