Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Accidents?

The chaos caused by supernovae does not remain static since it leaves its consequences. Interstellar medium or ISM is one such consequence.

If one star dies it is possible other stars shall die too whenever they run out of fuel.

A supernovae creates shockwaves through the interstellar medium, compressing the material there, heating it up to millions of degrees. Astronomers believe that these shock waves are vital to the process of star formation, causing large clouds of gas to collapse and form new stars. No supernovae, no new stars.

Think of space as one vast cemetery as well as a cradle.

Such accidents are in-built and conducive to overall development so much so we let the term accident in our usage on account of our limits to understanding.

What is interstellar medium but debris of stars floating about? How one war creates more wars in the history of nations is similar. War in Syria triggers war in Yemen and it shall in the end undo the very fabric of sectarian divide in the Middle East. Survival mechanism of ordinary person is not for satisfying some fools prattling things they have not seen or can live up to. Just as Europe learned to put the Holy See where it belongs and get on with their lives Moslems shall certainly get on past the tribal mindset and some foolish traditions associated with their nomadic way of living. It cannot be otherwise: Moslems or Christians are of the selfsame star materials calling themselves names just as the astronomers thought up names for the stars they discovered. The stars themselves have no need for such labels.

benny

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

 

Once upon a time there lived a stonecutter, who went every day to a great rock in the side of a big mountain and cut out slabs for gravestones or for houses. He understood very well the kinds of stones wanted for the different purposes, and as he was a careful workman he had plenty of customers. For a long time he was quite happy and contented, and asked for nothing better than what he had.

Now in the mountain dwelt a spirit which now and then appeared to men, and helped them in many ways to become rich and prosperous. The stonecutter, however, had never seen this spirit, and only shook his head, with an unbelieving air, when anyone spoke of it. But a time was coming when he learned to change his opinion.

One day the stonecutter carried a gravestone to the house of a rich man, and saw there all sorts of beautiful things, of which he had never even dreamed. Suddenly his daily work seemed to grow harder and heavier, and he said to himself: “Oh, if only I were a rich man, and could sleep in a bed with silken curtains and golden tassels, how happy I should be!”

And a voice answered him: “Your wish is heard; a rich man you shall be!”

At the sound of the voice the stonecutter looked around, but could see nobody. He thought it was all his fancy, and picked up his tools and went home, for he did not feel inclined to do any more work that day. But when he reached the little house where he lived, he stood still with amazement, for instead of his wooden hut was a stately palace filled with splendid furniture, and most splendid of all was the bed, in every respect like the one he had envied. He was nearly beside himself with joy, and in his new life the old one was soon forgotten.

It was now the beginning of summer, and each day the sun blazed more fiercely. One morning the heat was so great that the stonecutter could scarcely breathe, and he determined he would stop at home till the evening. He was rather dull, for he had never learned how to amuse himself, and was peeping through the closed blinds to see what was going on in the street, when a little carriage passed by, drawn by servants dressed in blue and silver. In the carriage sat a prince, and over his head a golden umbrella was held, to protect him from the sun’s rays.

“Oh, if I were only a prince!” said the stonecutter to himself, as the carriage vanished around the corner. “Oh, if I were only a prince, and could go in such a carriage and have a golden umbrella held over me, how happy I should be!”

And a prince he was. Before his carriage rode one company of men and another behind it; servants dressed in scarlet and gold bore him along, the coveted umbrella was held over his head, everything his heart could desire was his. But yet it was not enough. He looked around still for something to wish for, and when he saw that in spite of the water he poured on the grass the rays of the sun scorched it, and that in spite of the umbrella held over his head each day his face grew browner and browner, he cried in his anger: “The sun is mightier than I; oh, if I were only the sun!”

And the mountain spirit answered: “Your wish is heard; the sun you shall be.”

And the sun he was, and felt himself proud in his power. He shot his beams above and below, on earth and in heaven; he burnt up the grass in the fields and scorched the faces of princes as well as of poorer folk. but in a short time he began to grow tired of his might, for there seemed nothing left for him to do. Discontent once more filled his soul, and when a cloud covered his face, and hid the earth from him, he cried in his anger: “Does the cloud hold captive my rays, and is it mightier than I? Oh, that I were a cloud, and mightier than any!”

And the mountain spirit answered: “Your wish is heard; a cloud you shall be!”

And a cloud he was, and lay between the sun and the earth. He caught the sun’s beams and held them, and to his joy the earth grew green again and flowers blossomed. But that was not enough for him, and for days and week he poured forth rain till the rivers overflowed their banks, and the crops of rice stood in water. Towns and villages were destroyed by the power of the rain, only the great rock on the mountainside remained unmoved. The cloud was amazed at the sight, and cried in wonder: “Is the rock, then, mightier than I? Oh, if I were only the rock!”

And the mountain spirit answered; “Your wish is heard; the rock you shall be!”

And the rock he was, and gloried in his power. Proudly he stood, and neither the heat of the sun nor the force of the rain could move him. “This is better than all!” he said to himself. But one day he heard a strange noise at his feet, and when he looked down to see what it could be, he saw a stonecutter driving tools into his surface. Even while he looked a trembling feeling ran all through him, and a great block broke off and fell upon the ground. Then he cried in his wrath: “Is a mere child of earth mightier than a rock? Oh, if I were only a man!”

And the mountain spirit answered: “Your wish is heard. A man once more you shall be!”

And a man he was, and in the sweat of his brow he toiled again at his trade of stone cutting. His bed was hard and his food scanty, but he had learned to be satisfied with it, and did not long to be something or somebody else. And as he never asked for things he did not have, or desired to be greater and mightier than other people, he was happy at last, and never again heard the voice of the mountain spirit.

This story is very similar to the Grimm brother story,  The Fisherman and His Wife.

Culture is derived out of one Source in that group of people living n some part of the earth can adapt it  to be as fitting as a garment as it were. In Japan  people believe inanimate objects as stone, water do have soul. If they treat their ground as sacred and revere the old trees and learn to see beauty in gnarled forms of rocks what are we to assume from their expression? Beauty is truth and truth is beauty. It is what they in their material form can appreciate and identify with.

benny

 

 

Read Full Post »

Paris, in Balzac’s words ‘is a sentient being’. If you need understand its sense of being one need only have entered into one of its houses in the early nineteenth- century Paris. Different classes and degrees of affluence might well be housed in the same building; only a subtle hint clued you in: higher you climbed you were entering a world of its own something out of Dante’s inferno. For every casual visitor again to quote Balzac, ‘Paris is still the same monstrous miracle, as astounding assemblage of movements, machines and ideas, the city of thousand different romances, the world’s thinking voice.’

Paris in the fin de siècle for all the restless movements must not have imagined it was standing on the rim of a crater and the beguiling way of living was merely a mood; despite swirling in a whirligig of ideas and fads the city would soon be swallowed up by the events of 1914. As such the good old days of Paris mark socially as well as culturally  a distinct social phenomenon called La Belle Époque.

France had much to be proud about. The nations industrial, scientific and cultural advances would be showcased by the International Exposition of 1900 and the Eifel Tower was its jewel in the crown. A million visitors ascended the Tower, which was completed 11 years before, all blissfully forgotten of its scathing reception during its erection (‘A ghastly dream’ it was called in 1887; Guy de Maupassant supposedly ate lunch in the tower’s restaurant every day because it was the one place in Paris where the tower was not visible.)

On April, 14,1900 at four in the afternoon a balloon rose from the Tuileries Garden while 15,000 Parisians watched the cameraman who filmed the city for the coming Cinéorama, to be screened at the Exhibition that was due to open on the Left Bank.

The city was remodeled in the 1850s during the Empire Days by Baron Haussmann and had survived great many upheavals since then( the Commune of 1871 and Metro, whose first line opened to coincide with the Exhibition) and was the pleasure ground for two and a half million people. Symptomatic of the grand vision of the city everything was gigantic: the Ferris wheel 350 feet high, could carry 1,600 people at a time; The President of the Third Republic threw a party for 20,000 of mayors who were served by waiters on roller skates. The guide to the Exposition called the century ending ‘the most fertile in discoveries, the most prodigious in sciences’, that the world had had known and it spoke of a revolution in the economic order of the universe.’

In summer 1913, a party of San Francisco boy scouts passed through the city, and Le Figaro newspaper ran a survey – what had struck them the most?

Apart from the monuments and the gardens, they loved the trees lining the streets, and the general cleanliness. They thought the red trousers worn by soldiers most impressive, but it was odd how many young men wore moustaches and how many women smoked.

They loved the way policemen still wore swords, the dog barbers by the Seine, the glorious outdoor cafes. At the opera, one young American stared at the women “pivoting on their high heels, offering a fine view of their resplendent gowns and jewels”. This was Paris on the eve of war. Just doing what it did. Typical of the city, a thinking box, merely skirted the past, living for the moment. (Balzac quote is from his novel-Ferragus)( To be continued)

 

Read Full Post »

Man is a social animal. Language was a necessity, a tool with which he could communicate with others. Culture is a natural extension of such communal living in context of his environment. In savannah folks need carry water from the nearest watering hole. In their daily chores they alter their environment indelibly. So many feet carrying on daily fetching water must surely create a path? Necessity and custom becomes set on a familiar pattern. It also gives groups of men with similar needs and aims a certain guidelines. Folks do not consider creating another path between the watering hole and their dwelling place. Culture creating a tradition is similar.

Prophet What’s-his-name was born on the saddle so to speak. In Mongolia among the nomads it was nothing unusual. But the baby was born with a wart as big as a quail’s egg. It was right hanging on the chin and every time he saw his reflection in some vernal pool he shuddered. In deep embarrassment he grew a beard as soon as it would grow. He would not miss the single shrine he passed along the caravan route. Something of a habit and it somewhere connected. He became a spiritual person and when he reached age of maturity he took time to retreat into some part of the Gobi desert to commune with his uncles as he said.

One day he told his companions to hit in the direction of the Big Heap a mound of stones that had lain for centuries undisturbed since it was out of the route of caravans. As he predicted there was plenty of water for the animals to drink and a grazing ground. It made the entire tribe happy. They revered him as a Prophet. For the simple nomadic folks the Prophet was a figure of awe and they averted their eyes not daring to look.

They began growing their beard precisely in the same cut as that of the prophet.

It was an unwritten rule: all men in the tribe must sport a similar beard or be cast out of the group. Some traditions are useful and some are useless.

benny

Read Full Post »

At the moment India is a rocked by the news of the Chief minister of Tamil Nadu convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Special Court in Bangalore pronouncing AIADMK general secretary, Jayalalithaa, guilty in the disproportionate assets case discharged their responsibility. (If law were to go after the political leaders guilty of amassing disproportionate assets hardly a handful will be left in the field with clean hands.) But the party workers are not obviously happy at the fate of one in whom they had blindly laid their hopes on.

Tamilians by and large invest their loyalty blindly on anyone who shall pour honeyed words into their ears be it in alliterative prattle as M. Karunanidhi can or one who has the power at the moment. Karunanidhi who was once darling of the masses is a loser whose stars now seem to be on the rise. Come 2016 elections we shall know. If Jayalaithaa has lost power she shall know where her masses stand, soon enough.

But now it is another. Tamil Nadu reeled under violence as party faithful went on rampage as soon as verdict was announced. One AIDM party worker in Kancheevaram committed suicide while a young woman immolated herself unable to contain her grief. Was it because her trust in the incorruptibility of ‘Amma’ was shattered beyond repair? I do not know.  I suppose over excitability is a key personality feature of otherwise simple tenor of Tamilians.  Over large part of my adult life was spent among them and I have noted with amazement how this emotionalism overtakes them. When Chief Minister CN Annadurai of DMK party died in the late 60s I was a witness to their mindless acts of violence. It defies rhyme or reason.  Even this day. The American doctors who were called then to treat a hopeless case must not have quite forgotten it either.

The day he died all the shutters were down while the mob went on abusing even the pedestrians for no reason. One was slapped for wearing flip-flop on that day of mourning and another who looked a North Indian and well-heeled was manhandled. These are hiccups issuing from some unexplained fault line of human psyche that would require Science to put the finger on. This trait also may partly explain the first suicide bomber was a Tamilian groomed by the defunct LTTE to promote its greater Eelam demand.

A Tamilian can only put up with so much stress be it individual or as a movement.

Every now and then I have read a housewife hanging herself from the ceiling fan over some trivial domestic quarrel.  Is there a hidden death wish that an anthropologist can explain?  It invariably needs a flashpoint  as the death of a well loved father figure or conviction of Jayalalithaa would illustrate. There is a cult group that originated from Sri Lanka that insistson ‘divine healing.’ What it means is that those who are taken into ministry cannot take medicine. Instead rely on God to heal them. From the mortality rate one may imagine if it is God or some atavistic death wish taking over the ministers of the Pentecostal Mission.

benny

Read Full Post »

If we are made of atoms that have inherent quirks and quiddities it must also show in some unmistakable manner when made as complex as human beings. What is the nature of atoms? You smash atoms into fundamental particles but you try dividing them further you get more of the same. Can it be a moral quotient to give us a place in the scheme of things? We are connected to all things at the level of atoms where quiddity of nature has written its moral imperative consistently throughout. It is like a giant jigsaw puzzle where we must fit with all mankind. In terms of a physical dimension it may not be possible. Yet in terms of moral sense we are painted with the same brush. You destroy one area and you are breaking the moral order of universe in some manner of speaking. Its consequences, (I deliberately avoid the term ‘sin’ for its theological connotations) must leave its impact in some manner. For example, you exploit nations and the lawlessness of it, call it imperialism, leaves its mark on you. Africa was formerly the white man’s burden and Africa has still not recovered from it. While the west exploited the Arab merchants were carrying on slave trade in the heartland of the continent ,converting the natives and throwing down the genuine and natural form of their culture to suit their form of religious requirements. If Africa is reeling under the fresh onslaught of these Arab imperialism the west paved the way. Moral sense when outraged as Africa has experienced it must express itself in some manner. It may be that in not so distant future Arab fundamentalism will be pitted against the west from this part of the globe.
benny

Read Full Post »

“Ramanna was the closest friend that I had as a child,” Gampa Guru was once telling his disciples who had come from many places to have a darshan of the mystic. “His father was a weaver as my father was. Our houses were divided only by a mud wall and I could sometimes call out to him in the middle of our studies to clarify some point of doubt.”
JP continued,” He was very backward in Sanskrit and for that matter anything of our folklore. Naturally he just scraped through the padhasala with just enough marks.”
“Great was my surprise when one day he turned up to say he was traveling to the east.” “East?” one of his listeners asked. “Yes to China?” the mystic said and his astonishment was still somewhat sharp after some 28 years. “What took him to that far?”
The mystic shrugged as if it was a mystery.” If I recall rightly there is a Chinese connection. Ramanna had in a jar, some coins with Chinese inscriptions and a pagoda on the other side.” After a pause he added, “In all probability those curious writing and image would have triggered something in him. It led him to the life of the Buddha. To my surprise the last time I saw him he was tonsured and dressed in saffron colors. He had become a monk!”
“Has any Chinese monk ever before passed through the kingdom of Kothipalli?” “Yes,” The mystic said,” some 180 years ago.” “How do you know that Master?” “I saw in the king’s library the other day,” he explained, ”a scroll written in Chinese script, giving the date. It was strange to look at but beautifully brushed unlike anything that I have ever seen in our parts.”
“So you are also into their culture?” “Yes, what attracted my friend naturally led me to know more.”
What is the point of the story, master?” one wanted to know.
“If a culture so removed from our way of life could make such claim on one so supposedly insulated from every strange custom, we are not safe. None of us are.”
After a pause he said, ”We need to see ourselves instead of a closed society, as part of the whole. We are open ended indeed!”
“What will you advice us then master?” “More understanding, – still more, I say!”
benny

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »