I am a war child, in a manner of speaking. When I came to this world, there was a world war inexorably grinding down to its bitter end. Short of everything that made life easier, the wartime austerity left its scars on me as with all others of my generation. At home a meal was not just a meal without being told we ought to be thankful whatever was ladled out to us. ‘Consider the millions who are orphans elsewhere and you ought to be thankful..’ while the spinach and rice were served, leftovers warmed for the occasion. The parents prided on their duty and knowledge they did it with their sweat of blood. It was thus our meal-time, it was tantamount to a moral issue every time. A clean plate at the end equated with a clean conscience.
Now that I am on my own (I for one eat indifferently) while my siblings and I have learned to put our ghosts behind us. We have no excuses and we dribble a little with our conscience when we splurge on food we have brought from far corners of the earth. Did we not filch with our colossal capital reserves from those who are economically less endowed? We call it free enterprise that they must deliver at our terms. Africa, Asia and Far East we know as country of origin when we survey the overstocked shelves in our supermarkets. Fishes from their rivers feed us and their grains we import wholesale, in cereals, crispies cookies and what not. We supply the cunning to make their produce palatable, We bar code their sweat to make it sell. Moral issues are dismissed with the click of cash register. When we cart our weekly grocery we are only conscious of the parking place and not of some rain forests cleared for biofuel. We of our generation have distanced from the burden of our parent who made both ends with hard cash while we do it on credit. Our families were raised on future promises by living beyond our means. Plastic credit cards opened doors at High Street shops and our children knew branded items gave their childhood pleasures a shine. A pair of Reebok shoes made them forget the boredom of walking to the school bus. Our consumerism dulled our conscience from harsh realities of global trade and commerce unduly. Children learned to appease theirs.
Moral issue of now is made more abstract, since our children have no time to listen to us anyway. They are all into the sweet life of virtual reality, of their consumables and privacy of their own den. We are made to feel more as intruders at home since our economic clout is becoming fainter and less constructive to be providers for all. Of course children have their own means of which we are least in the know. We have our own worries: issues of pension funds to sort out than of children whose worlds are on fast tracks. Our world wherein we lashed ourselves to work ethics and burnt incense before family gods for prosperity is gone; those corporate heads whose appeasement was chief concern also have gone; and so are pension funds.
Coming to think of it we have only ourselves to blame.
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Posted in life, tagged #2, art, Benny Thomas, illustrated omar khayyam, life as one, Omarikhayyam, philosophy, quatrain, The Rubaiyat on December 21, 2012 |
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In continuation of the last fable of Dec.20, think of parallel worlds represented by the tree of Life. Here is Quatrain #2 from The Rubaiyat-Benny Thomas.
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Posted in current news, life, Science, tagged Benny Thomas, brain, brain-spotting, Chris Reid, current news, da vinci, environment, Julius Lothar Meyer, memory, Mendeleyev, Periodic Table of the elements, Pythagoras, relative, slime mold, Univ. of Sydney on October 10, 2012 |
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What exactly is the function of a brain? There are creatures that can very well get around without having a brain as we know the term.
“Even without a brain, a slime mold can essentially remember where it’s been, helping it navigate past complex obstacles, much like modern robots, researchers say.
These findings reveal how ancient organisms could solve certain problems well before complex brains evolved, scientists added.
Slime molds were once thought to be a kind of fungus, but later work revealed that these puddles of goo are part of a motley group of microbes known as protists. The yellow slime mold the investigators studied, Physarum polycephalum, is actually a giant single cell up to more than 1 square foot (900 square centimeters) in size with up to several million identical cell nuclei inside.
“For a single-celled organism, it has shown remarkable abilities, such as solving mazes, anticipating periodic events, and even making irrational decisions like we do,” said researcher Chris Reid, a complex systems biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia. “It is truly a remarkable creature that is redefining our notions of intelligence.”
This slime mold leaves a thick mat of translucent slime behind it as it moves, ooze that Physarum later avoids. As such, the researchers thought the slime mold might use this gel trail as a kind of memory.
“The key misunderstanding might be that slime mold has a memory like we do,” Reid told LiveScience. “I can’t stress enough that the slime mold is incapable of creating, storing or recalling memories like ours, because it does not have a brain such as we are used to think, even neurons.”
The scientists detailed their findings online Oct. 8 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.(LiveScience.com of Oct 9.
Memory of slime mold is the trail it leaves behind. It is like the breadcrumbs by which Hansel and Gretel ensure their safe return from the deep recesses of the forest. It is the memory for future. The bread trail was meant for their return from the forest.
Defining memory from our own abilities that a brain is capable of, is therefore erroneous. Memory need not necessarily remain solely within the brains was shown in the case of slime mold. Memory could be drawn from external circumstances as well. In order to explain some extraordinary ways in which humans have arrived at solutions almost identical without having the means to pick each others brains may seem incredible. Now that the slime mold have shown the possibility do we unconsciously rely on external influences?
Consider the Periodic Table of the elements. From the time Pythagoras suggested certain harmony of seven planets as ‘celestial’ there has been attempts to explain his mystical leap into the unknown in many other areas. Take Chemistry for example. Why the elements when numbered in the order of atomic weights tended to repeat fairly similar properties at every seventh element like notes in a musical scale? Just as the Russian scientist Mendeleyev worked out the Periodic Table one German chemist by name Julius Lothar Meyer also had independently conceived the same periodic Law. Is it just coincidence or memory, collective or better still in the public domain of life forms, supplied the solution?
In human context do we not create memories for future as well? da Vinci on observing the sycamore seeds making through the air got an idea for helicopters. Only that the technology was not developed to make it a reality. Memory in our universe must be relative: complex multicellular organisms exercise their brain on the memory impressed in the environment just as matriarchal elephants can dig up salt and other needful minerals in the years of drought. These show their young so they may in future similarly leave a trail for their young. Memory that is more enduring in short is external and is passed from one age to another to which so many could access. If we have been using wars as settling difference indeed wars shall come uppermost when nations consider a way out.
Coming back to da Vinci what he set down on paper bears a milestone in the development of flight.
(ack: Music of the Spheres by Guy Murchie/Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston/1961-regarding the Periodic Law)
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Posted in life, nature, tagged acceptance, Benny Thomas, happiness, life, philosophy, positive, rainforests, Rule of Changes on June 15, 2012 |
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The Secret Of the Rainforests
In a rainforest the ground cover receives only filtered sunlight. Whereas plants in the middle growing from branches of trees get more share of light. They get light but not as much as trees at the crown. These tree canopies receive sunshine directly from sunrise to sundown. If the ground cover and plant life on the middle were to survive they would require the wind to do its job. The wind has been at work for months and years striking the canopies together gradually wearing away here and there, letting more sunshine in. In time it so does, by a gust of wind some trees shall be sent down, clearing the way for the ground cover to survive; fire also does its own bit. These are not disasters but Nature’s way of clearing the old and useless so the rainforests may still flourish. Do we call the wind as cruel? Or blame the trees for denying the ground cover adequate sunlight?
Nature’s way of things in this instance can be applied to life of every man and woman. Change is a secret. It has its own rules. But rules apply on physical realm where everything changes. Our youth is no guarantee; much less can we crow about our material possessions. Happiness is that state of life and keeps itself whole and impervious to changes. It is in fact an higher state of life of working with Nature. We did not came into being by exercising our will; nor will we prevent death from sweeping us away. This too shall soon pass but happiness is placing ourselves beyond the Rule of Changes.
Happiness of trees is regardless of age or external circumstances; we humans are no less special.
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In a couple of weeks I hope to celebrate my birth day. Should I treat it as a day of sorrow? You see I am coming into the wrong side of sixties. But incurable and hopeless idiot I am for a good laugh, I could celebrate it for another reason. You see I am still on the good side of seventies.
On looking back I see the moments of panic and shudder in my life and see nothing I feared did really happen. Fear of parents,teachers who breathed fire and rattled rulers and imposition are all gone. Faces of martinets and House rules are out focus. A nasty marriage divorce, and the fearful step unto the unknown are equally behind me. From where I stand clarity of life as I imagined and how it has been give me a new insight. Clarity of life as a whole, places emphases elsewhere; the reality is much more significant since I can see many chain of events that I had merely treated then as coincidence connect and a few others disappear as of no consequence.
My trust in grace of God and in the mysteries of life has been vindicated. Love as an experience I find far more important and satisfying than a life of ideas. What are sparks of ideas without the reality of life? What is love but the nature of life given the wick to burn? I hope my wife and I shall be warmed even as old age is about us.
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“Life the great Natural he is, can’t find the purpose so he relies on man and woman to keep reminding him. So shall we live well and play a little joke on him? He will believe he represents a moral purpose. If we were to do just the opposite equally would he believe it was his purpose.”
I speak for myself but just the same by trying to live well in the light of my conscience, I represent all who similarly want to live well. It cannot be otherwise. Life demands it.
benny, presently in Norway
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Posted in humor, life, tagged adolescence, dumb, dumber, humor, life, sex, shmucks, slice of life on April 5, 2012 |
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Many years ago I went with a friend of mine on a long journey. We both had entered into that exciting part of our lives namely college education. My all male boarding school was behind me. Girls, girls girls were all about us!
It so happened we both were about to spend our first vacation in Simla, a hill station. At the first leg of the journey we are buoyant of what waited at the end of it. Of course we both were eager to share our experience with girls. And my friend was equally brimming with joy of discovering how far I had progressed in the matter of the real thing. And we drew lots and it was my friend’s turn to describe his experience.
So he takes a bottle of vodka that he said his uncle got from the Russian embassy. In those days it was Soviet Union (for those who prefer to have the details right) and pouring me in a thimble he says,’Uncle Jacobi gave the shirt off his back to get this beauty.?
‘You mean vodka or girl?’
“Ah Ben, must you interrupt?’ he was at the moment performing something akin to a Japanese ceremony while the train rolled and pitched. I was sure the engine driver was drunk to which he merely said,’Nonsense.’
I didn’t mind it since he was pouring libations before a great subject like sex.
He held out my thimble. I smelt it with what I remembered of WC Fields in The Bank Dick. The drink was colorless odorless and I said,.’is it water?’
Ignoring my inanity he downed his and said,’I think I had sex the other day with the girl in the C division.
‘Is name important?’
‘Oh no.’ I stopped and he said,’I managed to find her alone and and sweet talked into sex.
‘What you were talking about?’ ‘Oh sweet nothings.”
Ah common, pardner, ‘did you talk of dirty stuff to get her interested?
Giving me a sad look he said, ‘I got close to her saying I knew who were all making the women’s hockey team.’He added,’That floored her.’
Almost immediately I wanted to ask where, at home or any other specific place. But I was already in his bad books. So I let him talk on.’It was smooth go till I said team building was like sex. Ben she let out a squeal and I knew she was almost in shivers. So I lost no time but groping where to begin.
‘Between legs if you were to ask me.’ I snapped on my fifth swig. Vodka was my excuse. So I went bold.
‘Did she let you?’I asked looking squarely at him.
When I casually put my hand around her waist all she said, ‘Will I make it?’
‘Sure thing, I said while she went on giggling and saying all kind of excuses. So I had to remove her folderol one by one.
‘Yeah she was talking as if she had been cut out to lead the team’.
I had heard enough. I said wearily,’So you had sex at the end?’
‘I think so,’
I knew that he wasted my time. To think he would have scored was beyond me. It was his turn to ask me so I said, ‘My sex was fantastic. It was the world of pleasures all distilled into that brief moment’. He squirmed in his seat feeling a little uptight. So I said slowly,’ My eldest sister’s friend came visiting us. When I got a chance I walked where she was sitting. I looked around and saw it was all clear. So I put my hand out.’
My friend evidently was feeling extreme discomfort. It was his turn to ask,’ What happened?’
‘I pressed against one bosom and she said only for me to hear,’Stop it’and I stopped’.
After emptying the bottle my friend knew the vodka was nothing but water. He said in a disinterested way turning in for a nap,’You cant’t get a better deal from a Russian. My uncle was wearing a terylene shirt and he got a dud in exchange. And we have been drinking it like real pro.’
Coming to think of it we were talking of sex like jerks.
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The best economic advice I got was from my pop who said,’Hand to mouth financial plan is your safe bet if your lifestyle is laid back.’
I knew he meant good. But I already had settled on a better course. So I said when he said once too often, ‘
But I found a better one, ’plain living and high thinking’.
I also borrowed part of my pop’s rule.
Now my hand knows at least where it is going. I have grown old on this precept.
My advice for the young is this: ‘
In these cash strapped times you should be developing new skills instead of cursing your luck.’
Set up your own job, capitalize on your plus points so you don’t have to split takings with others.
The fellow who learned carpentry made a door on the excuse,’Who knows when opportunity comes knocking at least my door must warn me instead of my nose being flattened.’
And finally, ‘To thine ownself be true.’
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I am at a stage life has come to mean something; funny it also means it doesn’t make much difference one way or other.
I can see it as if it is happening to someone who has to live while each day I am on the go under creative urge. I almost wanted to write fire but it sounds a little over the hill.
I sleep soundly and even though shorter duration the moment I open my eyes most of the time my head is clear and it is to write or read as though during the night my filing cabinets have been cleared and rearranged for the day. My memory is as good as ever. It was total recall but now it is downhill. Yes. it is natural.
Curiosity and creative touch is still as though in full flow and ready at the turn of a tap.
Of course there are moments that I feel time’s winged chariot to borrow Andrew Marvell’s expression is getting nearer. Should I really bother? Wisdom of age tells me it doesn’t matter.
I live on the nerves and yet I seem to be teflon coated to get down to the brass tacks when things need to be done and keep my inner poise in tact. Words crowd into my mind and while speaking I am at a total dither since I have to concentrate what I need to say. Sometimes, no often I have made nonsense of what I what I intended to say. I have laughed myself at it. A man of contradictions and yet old age has given an inner resilience to laugh at my own follies and go past them.
My childhood was terrible and yet I could weather it all and be all things to all without giving away myself. My inner life without let up was spent making sense of all I read, heard and outward thing hardly made a dent unless I let. Use of money and fashion didn’t make much claim and yet all that I value, I could indulge in art music books cinema and still they do claim my attention.
From youth up I was at ease with the idea of a loving God and I never let fear ruin my bond. It was an everyday thing. Even now it is thus. I know I am in the plan of God and our relationship is bonded by age.
At a time of my utmost need in the early morning(late 80s) I was woken up by a thought. It was clearly a verse. I took my bible to read. The exact verse was Moses blessing on Benjamin( I was Benjamin to my father) where it is written He shal dwell between his shoulders( Num.33:16). What is between shoulders but the head? I knew what it meant in my case. Five years later I had to step out of nasty relationship and when it came I knew everything shall be Ok. It was so.
So many years in personal and creative life I could not wish more. Now I keep recalling the words of A.C Swinburne a poem that makes more emotional appeal to me.
From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
I take exception the idea that ‘dead men rise never’ but as poem it takes on meaning and poetry suits my mood to set out passing thoughts. Sometimes droll, foolish wise well all these are part of me. So why complain what is natural?
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