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Is Art Relevant to Us? ©

An individual is a creature of his times. One of the enduring myths of the last century, especially with emergence of Nazism, has been of the ideal ‘superman’ a “Caesar with Christ’s soul.” Such a person of heroic mould, least of all in Adolf Hitler was it realized, who was neither a Caesar nor the other. Übermensch the Nietzschean concept has remained only in print. Reason for it is simple and almost humdrum to be ludicrous. No man may have been idolized in our time as Chairman Mao. He wielded power with possible exception of Stalin and Hitler as no other political figure. When his great leap forward failed what did he do to deflect criticism from him but let loose the Culture Revolution 1n1966*. He needed the youth and not sane cousel in order to hold on to power. Much as he tried hardly had he left the scene came socialist market economy under Deng XioPing (1) . In oreder to be relevant the powers-that-be had to correct the course in comparison with emerging nations each vying for relevance. China could not remain stuck in time of Charman Mao and instead veer in a tangent. Such divergence exists in belief-systems as well. Prophet Mohammed founded a religion, a third way because of his direct observation as to the manner Christianity and Judaism had evolved. His own vision of Truth will evolve after his decease into sects each claiming exclusive rights to his legacy. From experience we know the legacy of Chairman Mao or Prophet Mohammed was as durable as ‘writ in water.’ Is Truth so misunderstood that such luminous heroes end up as caricatures? Nations are made up by people as beleivers to a belief-system are but men. Each individual adds something of his own to the common experience and no one has ever taken the reins of a body of men and has shown himself like ‘superman.’ Look what followers of Christ or Mohammed have done in the name of religion. They were pioneers and their example as pure as driven snow, and consider what Papal infallibility or salafism has done to it. Their institutions what with so many adding their bit have been made to look like well trodden path of slush or a slaughterhouse.

No individual like a fish can superimpose his own values outside the stream in which he has his being. An artist similarly can only understood as child of his circumstances. (to be continued)

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What progress is it  if it gags on its own bottlenecks? It has not delivered its promises.

Progress sounds good on paper. Fame and Fortune await whoever has a genuine idea, drive and innovate. Recently Dr. Craig Wright came forward to claim he is the founder of bitcoin. Later he had to defend himself and said that proof would be forthcoming. Later we are told it is not so. What a pother!

We are children of a cashless society. In the Internet Age where we all have learned to reduce our reliance on paper, we became computer savvy. Instead of snail mail we send electronic messages that are quicker. Rather than waste our time shopping around we do online shopping and pay with credit cards. If such innovations keep working their way through it must create subtle shifts in us. It is natural to expect our lives as a result would qualitatively improve. Is it not? The job statistics in April 2012 indicate one in two of graduates fresh out of colleges are underemployed or unemployed. Our youth have come off worse. What of the old? Here is a news headline of Feb, 21-2012 For boomers, it’s a new era of ‘work till you drop’ (AP-Los Angeles)

According to US College Graduate Employment Study by Accenture Strategy in 2015 found that Forty-nine percent of 2013-14 graduates consider themselves unemployed.

Technology let us fall in with the latest trends and if we thought we have become progressive we are right. Progress made us connect with any part of the world. Connectivity is wonderful. Suppose we are looking for a career change. Under normal circumstances we only need our work experience connect with the openings most suited to our talent. But now? Is it not terrible to be told all those positions are gone?

Post-war generation or the baby boomers did not account for the economic downturn of 2008. Naturally we expected as the older generation before us to retire when we reached the age of sixty-five. Oh no progress has got in a downward spiral! The post-war boom helped us to go up in financial security and along with it in our expectations also rose. We have been riding the slipstream of many forces unknown to us expanding and contracting while we thought progress was letting us off easy thanks to the Internet. Now we find technology cannot put jobs back. Our progress has hit a blank wall.

Progress of man did not account for its hidden costs. If we look closely we shall see we have come worse off in great many areas.

Let us look at life expectancy of ordinary folks.

Between 1990 and 2010, life expectancy of low-educated white women declined by 1.2 years. That 1.2 years is about 13 years of progress washed away, so what seems to be minor changes in life expectancy signal really big problems going on underneath the surface.

“If we look at the trends in the US in an international context, it becomes even more stark. US women are at the bottom in terms of other high-income countries on these measures. So we’ve really fallen off; the trends have really diverged in an international context which tell us there’s something unique going on in the US, especially for US women.

“Raj Chetty and colleagues came out with a very big study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April looking at the association between income and life expectancy in the US between 2001 and 2014.

“They showed rich women outlive poor women by ten years. They also showed that these gaps between the rich and poor in terms of survival have been growing over time. So over the period that they looked at, the richest Americans gained about three years of life expectancy, while the poorest had no increase.

If the nation cannot fix the American dream at least in terms of wellbeing of women there must be something insidious in the way progress is sold to the man on the street.

benny

 

 

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Man for whom abstract thinking is natural can always latch onto an idea, however impractical it may turn out in the end. Like the hero of Cervantes ideas turn always, blades one blowing this way and another in that way. History is such ideas creating a blur that only a fool would want to claim his idea is the best.

There is nothing heroic about taking on impossible if it is going to end in wholesale bloodshed. See the savage butchery recently perpetrated by the so called Daesh. They imagine they would thereby revive a Caliphate. Earlier  Joseph Stalin sent some millions to gulags and to death for creating a Worker’s paradise. How did it fare?

We only need consider Lenin’s idea of a Worker’s paradise when the Bolsheviks violently over threw the Tsarist regime. It was similar to a theocratic state John Calvin ushered in Geneva several centuries before. It did not work in Europe then; neither did it in Soviet Russia. Ideas are fine but man cannot stick to it all the way through. Did not the Allies set about ridding the post-war world of Totalitarian ideology? Nuremberg, the German city associated with the pageantry which the Nazi regime staged as they climbed to power was a potent symbol for the German nation. The Allies was sending a message loud and clear to the world. Nuremburg Trials was to be a show trial but as the legal process went about its rounds there was a perception among the Western powers that Soviet Union was the Threat that they needed to thwart. After all did not they dismantle the Nazi apparatus root and all? The US saw to that scientists who had helped Hitler’s war efforts were smuggled out to their country under Operation Paperclip*. V2 rocket program soon would provide the nucleus for the space war that came in play in the 60s. It was not surprising that the Trial of the century evaporated in the hustle and bustle of meeting the Cold War in offing.

Man has capacity to develop an idea like a Nuclear bomb to bring the WWII quickly to a halt. Neither his foresight and hindsight do match evenly. Of this we see even now. The Allies are at presented seized of the fact the Jihadi elements may lay hands on a dirty nuclear bomb. It has been thus progress that man cobbled up in the many innovations, has fared. Progress without exception has proved false.

Man is loath to turn 180 degrees from an idea, to which he has sold himself as well in which his experience also gives him certain pointers. Though failed in practice he trusts in his own power to pull it off. After the demise of the Imperial Rome, under Constantine the Great and Charlemagne (the Holy Roman Empire) the idea has been tried; Under Mussolini it was revived to no avail. Each idea and those who stake their legitimacy on its basis must cope with changed circumstances. In France the Second Empire under Napoleon III was a fiasco. He did not anticipate the revolutionary spirit of Europe and emergence of Germany under Bismarck. The events across the globe never stand still but like group waves negotiate with new ones where energy is passed around. Who shall cash in on these transactions by means of war, religion and cultural trade off remains to be seen. Pagan Rome under Constantine underwent a sea-change. Christianity became the state religion. The split between Rome and Constantinople as a result of political upheavals, became further weakened: The Church of Rome and the Greek Orthodox Church of the East would no longer come as one due to the  doctrinal differences. At present the idea of Caliphate like the idea of Imperial idea of Rome is doomed if lessons of history are of any guide. Cashing in on the demise of an old order of Byzantine Empire the hordes of Saracens, Moors and Arabs created a Caliphate that died its natural death. Those who are beating the dead donkey shall soon know what it is to stop the tide engulfing them from all across the globe.

benny

* Operation Paperclip (1949–1990) was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) program in which more than 1,500 German scientists, engineers, and technicians were brought to the United States from Nazi Germany and other countries for employment in the aftermath of World War II. It was conducted by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) and in the context of the burgeoning Cold War. One purpose of Operation Paperclip was to deny German scientific expertise and knowledge to the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, as well as to inhibit post-war Germany from redeveloping its military research capabilities. The Soviet Union had competing extraction programs known as “trophy brigades” and Operation Osoaviakhim. (ack:wikipedia)

 

 

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In the following posts I want to look at progress that modern man has implicitly believed in and has accepted his circumstance for him to do something about. Progress keeps him going with hope and trust in fulfilling his dream to some extent. There is no denying to the inescapable truth that we could not have arrived here without it. Progress has pitchforked our ape-man ancestor from Savannah to the moden world of conveniences and miracle drugs. If he is curious to what goes on he might have news of the world at a click of a button.

We are assailed oh with what a variety of news!

Progress brings news to you. Only what it does not disclose is what good is to be told of a billionaire born with a greasy silver spoon in his mouth has become presumptive nominee to the White House while the GOP on whose shirttails he had joined the fray do not want him. What do I care what goes on in that part of a world which according to Mental Health reports* one in eight is in need of psychiatric care? I am also aware that many of them cannot avail of services even if they would be served. Cost of care throws some to the street and even a pauper’s grave. What a pother to be told that there are two alien tribes there and one party that stood for conservative America has perpetuated myth of Union of the State while systematically whittling away the soul of its basic principles. It is not Bill of Rights but of one percent such a party was all concened about. So they have a problem, which does not mean a dime to one who is in Kerala, India.

Progress is in making the world a global village. The idea is vitiated if one nation has cornered most of the natural resources of the world and wants to impose a one sided TTIP on another Bloc across the Atlantic. Progress as indicated by the ability of one nation to impose its terms arbitrarily on others  is like pot calling the kettle black. The most advanced nation relies on untested business practices of which the world is yet to recover fully from 2008 economic meltdown. It also shows what lessons they  ought to have learned from the Depression of ’29 was unlearned in order ‘the Banks that are too big to fail’ can hold the world to ransom once again. Under the terms of TTIP the multi-nationals are given more clout over  countries on this side of EU bloc.The biggest culprit in making the world vulnerable to economic insecurity gives unlimited powers to some Czars a blank check. It is a case of pot calling the kettle black.

You see the hollowness of the premise that can tout the World as a single entity albeit the title of Global Village. If any one peers closer there is so much inequality ingrained in the premise as the water that you get to drink on closer inspection is awash with industrial effluents, deadly cocktail of poison. #Flint, Mchigan is merely a case in point.

Why talk about Flint or America for that matter. A nation is made up of people and the fatal flaw is not in a body of men but in the least reducible factor that makes up institutions, tribes nations whatever.Man is the fatal flaw , the Achilles heel and it shall remain so. Till man can progress beyond his narrow circumscribed line of vision to include the whole mankind he is mere prattling and the politicians aggrandize themselves while throwing wool over the electorate.

It is a truism in parental care that a child made to grow up in an atmosphere of domestic violence the child will continue perpetuating the same cycle of violence. Experience of the child is violence as a norm and unless early correction is applied to the child the society is letting another number to join enemy forces and it becomes embedded in the very fabric of the particular society. Violence against women greed, unruliness etc ., eventually shall lead to a societal collapse can be expected in not so distant future. Nations similarly can create a breakdown. Take the case of South Africa under a brutal apartheid regime. One only need fill up the dotted lines between it and the massacre of Marikana mines on April 16,2012. The oppressed becomes the oppressor, notwithstanding all the humbug we attach to the nationalism and principles of ANC as embodied in late Madiba. He himself could not save his family front let alone the nation. Now Joseph Zuma faces corruption charges that ought not come as a surprise to anyone. In an individual given his attention span for any specific problem being so short, a character flaw halves it even from the problem on hand.

benny

(*MentalAmerica.net

Mental Health America released its annual State of Mental Health Report, with startling numbers of how many Americans are not receiving the necessary treatments for mental health and substance use issues. Of particular concern is that even among our most severely depressed youth, 6 in 10 are not receiving any treatment for their mental health problems. )

#

The Flint water crisis did not begin on April 25th, 2014, when the city switched its water supply from Detroit’s system, tapping Lake Huron to its own on the Flint River. That tragic mistake was the culmination of a much longer ongoing disaster, one caused by greed, politics, incompetence, and selective amnesia. The known consequences include lead poisoning, skin rashes, and carcinogens in the water. Flint’s water crisis begins with the pollution of the Flint River, which has been going on for well over a century.

(Ack:Tim Cormady Feb.26-16/The Verge.com)

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Our generation can be truly called the film generation. Our modern world having survived quite a few cataclysms like two World Wars, the great Depression   can still be accessed. Lessons from history thanks to it are not forgotten if not really learned. I do not intend to discuss this aspect but rather film as art. For those who consider film as their bread and butter my approach may seem that of a lounge lizard. Nevertheless I am an artist. While I am an amateur in the Seventh Art my life I take in all seriousness to be lackadaisical about this medium. I have pursued it with the monomania associated with a butterfly collector who in order to add to his collection, would pursue one rare specimen to the ends of the earth. I have skipped a 1962 University exam in order to see The Streetcar Named Desire in its last run. For me exams were part of preparing for a career but a film meant much more. Like the doomed heroine Blanche I pursued the magic of art in life in whatever form I could distil, amateur or not.

Art in its essence is man’s touch with reality of his world that has more than one point of view. Palaeolithic art of a running horse discovered in Lascaux or a Bison charging (Altamira) are examples where his touch with reality forces him to fix the physical aspect of what makes up his world; in order to succeed in hunting a bison for instance, he needed an accurate knowledge of it as well as to capture its spirit by magic as it were. A filmmaker as an artist does in essentials the same as his stone-age ancestor. He works as a chronicler of his world in which his point of view may take several positions: his world vision licked into shape by life experience and also his role as a translator of the spirit of his age. Of the second let me merely say film art gets its force from that spirit of his age one of which is technology. Technology has made development of film possible but the basic principles of film, remains the same. Modern art for example did not change art but allowed the artist another vision. Cubism in the way Picasso demonstrates it, say Demoiselles d’Avignon, is about the genre of painting nudes but its meaning rather extended. His art, his experience of formal kind is clothed with elements of primitive art. A filmmaker similarly experiments in art and his technique may change with the help of technology as we see films of today. What with the electronic age is not Neo-Realism of Rossellini of Vittorio de Sica as dead as a Dodo? As Stanley Kauffman says in his essay on The Film Generation (A World on Film-the New republic) a film ‘has its roots –of content and method-in older arts. yet it is very much less entailed by the past than these arts.’

Reel Life is a movie list as a collection of 120 best films chosen from world Cinema with a preponderance for American and European films. There are a few Japanese and Russian films, which I am familiar with. There are equally significant films from many other countries but here again it is my personal preference dictated the list.

2.

I am an old man. But don’t get me wrong; it calls for a celebration of sorts. This present book of movie list is the summing up of my lifelong fascination with films. Many passions that convulsed me from time to time, I can now recall with a smile, were over-prized and with age I have given their due place as part of learning process. It cannot be without reason the films included in this book hold an abiding interest in me. Movie list is the reel life for me. As I rerun images from films in my mind’s eye I see their significance all the more clearer. My second childhood isn’t a bad thing at all if a worldview could sort it out better.

How do I know it for sure? Of course second time around I do not swallow everything that my eyes see as I had done once. Magic of the movies tempered with life experience makes this phase something to celebrate, explore (of the art behind the medium) and to seek perhaps some aspects that sets Truth in a way I can subscribe to.

Is Truth out of place in a medium that is as contrived as cinema? ‘The Mongrel Muse’ as Raymond Durgnat would call it in his ‘films and feelings’ is a synthesis of arts. If arts do hold any connection to life, in a moral sense or aesthetically, film also must bear relation to Truth. While I watch a film I am fully engrossed and not conscious my being except as a vehicle for various emotions or thoughts, of which I can only vouch for after having experienced them. Somewhat like our dream-state. Life for me, as a moviegoer does not cease but I have absorbed from the experience, a heightened sense of Truth, despite those flickering images so contrived to pass for real.

As a child what made me lap them up and what do I now with a sure sense of purpose are altogether different. So be it.

Much of what is presented in the Reel Life is collated from existing reviews, essays and information provided by others, and I have acknowledged the source wherever I could. However each film bears my worldview and my attitude to life and art. Somewhat like a book packaged from writers whose contributions forms a part but not the whole. My choice of films itself tells its own story. My life experience and its conscious thrust over the material justify my work. In short the book is my reel life.

If the reader should find the List incomplete, I alone am to blame. Out of thousands of films I have merely picked 120 best films that for some reason or other had better claims on me. For example The Blue Angel has been remade in 1959 with Curt Jürgens and May Britt in the roles played by Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich. I have chosen the original version of 1930 for the wonderful performance of Emil Jannings. Personal tastes in this case decided what to be included or left out. I hope to follow this up with a second book.

(Selected: My Reel Life/introduction-2014)

benny

 

 

 

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La Belle Époque in ultimate analysis reveals no substance or a constancy of national character but an acute elevation of senses. This would be reflected in the works of JK Huysmans(Á Rebours) and of Proust (Á la recherche du temps perdu). This upbeat mood was steadily dissipated in the light of events that convulsed entire Europe. It was a mood that a man about town would feel after a satisfying night out, before confronting dismal circumstances awaiting him at home. A brief respite it gave Parisian, a hope that emerging industrial and technological advances would lead to richer, happier life. But by the 1910s much of that promise had vanished. As poet, philosopher Paul Valery put it, our civilization had found that it was mortal. While the delicate Marcel Proust stood on the balcony of the Ritz to watch the German planes strafe Paris a young priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was serving as a stretcher bearer of the trenches. He would write home that the front was ‘the extreme boundary between what we already know and what is still taking shape.’

The north and western suburbs of Paris were the motor city of the day. There were 600 car manufactories in France and 150 different makes – not just the emerging giants of Peugeot and Renault, but long-forgotten treasures like Berliet and Delaunay-Belleville. Delaunay-Belleville, which operated from what is now the high-immigration suburb of Saint-Denis, made limousines for Tsar Nicholas of Russia. France was the world’s biggest exporter of cars, and there was pride, but no great surprise, when the racing driver Jules Goux won the 1913 Indianapolis 500 – in a Peugeot.

France led the way in the skies. Bleriot crossed the channel in 1908, and in 1913 the sportsman Roland Garros – later (after his death in combat in the last month of the war) to give his name to the tennis stadium in Paris – completed the first ever crossing of the Mediterranean. And in cinema, invented, of course, by the Lumiere brothers two decades before, France vied with the US for first place in number of films produced – more than 1,000 every year, made by names still familiar today like Gaumont and Pathe.

Modernity was the moving spirit. It was the time of the machine. The city’s last horse-drawn omnibus made its way from Saint-Sulpice to La Villette in January 1913. From the top of the Eiffel Tower, built 35 years earlier like a symbol of the coming age, a mast had recently been erected, beaming radio waves into the ether.

Advances in Science and a new understanding of the nature of time and space would enable artists and writers to break the mould and experiment as Gertrude Stein did with language. As an art movement cubism entailed a new way of looking at things. In Paris Pablo Picasso and his friend Georges Braque would take the lead. Instead of painting things as they appeared to a single pair of eyes at a single moment in time, they painted things from a variety of possible viewpoints, creating a shifting world of abstract space. In the words of the late art historian Robert Hughes, the cubism of Picasso and Braque, created in the years running up to the war, was every bit as modern – and indeed part of the same destabilising intellectual movement – as the contemporary forays of Einstein into the secrets of relativity.

The speed of change, the rise of technology over craftsmanship, the frenetic search for new modes of artistic expression, as one avant-garde was overtaken by the next (and let’s not forget that 1913 was also the year in Paris that Marcel Duchamp presented his first “readymade” – a bicycle wheel on a stool – making the point that anything is art if you say it is), all this must have worked its way into the collective subconscious, creating a feeling that matters were accelerating out of control. It was indeed so. Just as the ideals of 1789 went out of control in the Commune of 1971 while the social changes merely created new class system and inequalities the spirit of optimism of the Parisians was backward looking than in the future.

Aftermath

Institutions would not escape the blight that had eaten into the vitals of  the republic. The Church, the Army and Politics were at odds with one another, which would bedevil the Third Republic till the Nazi Germany marched into Paris on 14 June 1940. These six weeks it took the brown-shirts to claim control of Paris showed the lie of La Belle Époque: it had lost its will. The setting up of the Vichy government under Marshall Philippe Petain was the coup de grace given to the nation that could never come to grip with ideals for which they fought the Great Revolution.

(Ack: Hugh Scofield-BBC news Paris/magazine- 7 Jan, 2014 (2) Wikipedia

(3)Eugen Weber-Paris La Belle Epoque/ NGC-July 1989)

Benny

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Music of Orpheus made even nature sit up and notice; or as we have been told by accounts that Tansen the immortal singer in medieval India by singing certain ragas could make rain come down. Likewise we exercise our reason in Science and Art to create a semblance of reality. How true is it? Or rather how much of Truth has been skipped in transcribing reality in human terms?

How we arrange our universe is based on certain assumptions: All life forms seek pleasure and avoid pain. We project our emotional ‘bank’ into getting the best of pleasure and avoiding it in pain. Of the latter we only need to look at higher percentage of divorces. Entire gamut of human experience is arranged on this assumption. When our pet dogs wag tail we know the signal, but in case of cats we say it is a brush off. Our experience mostly bears our assumptions as true. When your Rottweiler or pit bull badly mauls a child out of the blue one might assume there are always exceptions to the rule. What are we to make of it? There is a bubble of ignorance in our knowledge of the world about us. Interest from our emotional bank is supplied from our perception of self and nature. But where is the account-keeper that must account for other species as well?

What makes animals extra-sensitive to earth tremors? How sound is it to judge their extra-sensory perception by our reason alone? It does not make an exact fit. In our failure to match them is a good reason to let the nature of miracles existing at a dimension beyond our rational powers.

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In the way we compare material world on the basis of reason can we compare our emotional responses to material objects evoke in us?  Ecstacy of St. Teresa of Avila vis-a-vis that of Midas whose touch turned matter into gold? One over some abstract feeling based on faith the other over something concrete as gold.

Or take attitudes of man against his external world. The adage ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do.’ prompts some to let go their scruples in order to add to their experience. They want what life has to offer to the excess. On the other hand St. Paul may consider his belief stands in the way of eating unclean food of the gentiles. Who is right? Comparing value of experience with value of faith is a vain exercise. Man who makes use of thermals of human enterprises to become wealthy and St. Teresa who left her homeland to work with the poor and terminally ill in the slums of Kolkotta work on two different perceptions. The former works for this world to be seen and admired for his ‘smartness’ . He must however realize he cannot take his gains with him when he dies. The  saintly nun converted her opportunities for another world. Which is right?  There is seemingly no yardstick to get the reading right. Evenso both nestle each other.

Like the world here and now and the world to come duality of these is reflected in our chromosome in cells. It is a discrete packet with ends called Telemia. Everytime cell divides the telemia ends get shortened. There is a limit to which such cells can undergo division. In short death is worked as part of life. Period. Can we call this supersymmetry?

When Paul Dirac established the most general theory of quantum mechanics and it is from his equation we have this notion of an antiparticle to each particle – i.e. the positron as antiparticle to the electron.

Without arriving at this notion by experimenting, -a fundamental creed of Science to solve a problem only by undeniable proof, Dirac worked out by unerring mathematical logic, only reliable tool at such quantum level. Is this super symmetry consistent all throughout? If antimatter and matter were so constituted we might say universe will cancel itself. There are many imponderable forces in flow to which Science shall never be able to fathom fully without giving element of uncertainty its due place. For a Christian faith is not uncertainty but giving the pulse of life in him or her  a sound anchor.

What is faith but giving life that pulsates in us to get up and go about without fully understanding our physiology? A baby whose impression of the world is backed up even before he is conscious of what shall follow, the same growing up phase as any other infants. What loads its interior impulses even in so naked stage is its own, something that stamps it as an unique being. One might call it soul or its essence. Experience is merely molting wings but the direction in which it may want to strike out is not answerable to any known maps drawn up before. Whose hands drew it up? One need to suppose the answer for which goes farther in time and space. If we were to reason of experience we need to ask if there is a cut off point like the Pillars of Hercules, ‘No Further?’

We are star children since every element of our bodies has been bequeathed to us from interstellar events. Faith is therefore is much more than material facts that can be examined as a fossil or fitted to an original form. (To be concluded)

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Man in exercising his intellect and manual labor, is not merely filling time but validating his life. He is making useful to others. Man as a social animal in order to be happy has to connect with others. Society is his creation and quality of which reflects his inputs into the common fount.  As a useful member he is standing between his ancestors and future of his offspring. But as a social animal you and I are not simply connecting dots in time and place. We are part of social changes like the heat thrown from blazing fire. Ancient Greece is the cradle of democracy. This form of people power has enveloped much of the world and quality of the present government reflects also social changes. Welfare state may be viewed in some parts as Nanny state and in some government interference to regulate unfair trading practices as not desirable to them. Quality of life under different forms of governments reveal social stagnation or progress. In short the present is not merely man bridging the past and future. He is like honey bees carrying social changes.

If such social changes have only produced  some one percent garnering national wealth it might show laws are not correctly formulated as to have produced this vast inequality. There are special groups to push their own agenda and lobbyism has become incorporated into the people power within which law makers work for particular advantage of some section than the whole. The idea of Bread and Circus by which Imperial Rome bought the mob works even now. Social changes have thrown wool over the citizens. Happiness that is inherent in individual, a virtue has by default come to be equated in the consumables that he could purchase. We are a victim of our own success.  

“The pursuit of happiness” is the most famous phrase in the Declaration of Independence. Conventional history and popular wisdom attribute the phrase to the genius of Thomas Jefferson when in an imaginative leap, he replaced the third term of John Locke’s trinity, “life, liberty, and property.”  It was a felicitous, even thrilling, substitution. How did this work out in practice is yet another.

ii

Timon of Athens belonged to the school of Cynics and while the city was in an uproar he went around as though he had no idea of coming invasion of Xerxes and asked why they were working themselves to a lather. One morning he went to the woodlands accompanied by his servant. Seeing the nobleman in charge of logging, Glaccus by name Timon asked why he was up there about so early in the morning. The man said he was supplying the wood for ship building. “There is a war coming on !” exclaimed Glaccus. At the end of conversation Timon advised that there was no guarantee the wood going into building a vessel for naval battle would serve its purpose. He explained all the hazards the vessel was subject to when uncertain weather and uncertain course of the war were against her. ” But she can carry sea-men.”the man insisted. “Why you want them to drown rather than on land?” At the end the Cynic advised. “If you were to hang from any of the branches, you are dying among your kith and kin and you are assured of a fine funeral.” Glaccus knew well enough to keep quiet. At the end of the day Timon had seen enough folly that his fellow men committed in the name of patriotism. He turned to his servant, “I am so happy. I need not skip a rope every time Athenians throw one”. Timon proved in his conduct he was a cynic. The term “cynic” comes from the same root as “canine.” Their view : The world is basically evil: in order to live properly, people must withdraw from participation in it. You know what the world will be if all good people were to shirk their responsibility in changing it for the better?

If man does not dare change society according to his vision he will be condemned to live in one that he cannot see eye to eye with it. It is what we see in our present world though social changes were not result of a cynical view of the world. Progress and undue reliance in our own ability to work changes created the world. Naturally in a consumer society happiness has come synonymous with fad and novelty of things. It is a cashless society and progress spelt for all a good life on credit. It was a disaster waiting to happen for people who dared not follow their own vision. People perish for want of vision. Virtue of an individual is not in his holiness; not in his intellectual capacity; nor in his religion nor in any ideology. All these are means to fix his vision and happiness is the result of being able to make them serve his best interests. Period.

Vision of man is in his integrity that he is an individual. If he wants only to conform to the general trends he has  compromised his virtue. Happiness derived from goods than from happiness that is based on soul is as different as a drug induced happy feeling than the happiness of being alive to the world of real time and people.

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It is in the nature of things all life forms seek to fulfill their inner most urges in the manner they are most suited for. Even unicellular organism like amoeba will shrink from pain and seek source of food. Pleasure and pain have different values on the Nature’s trading floor. When man with his higher capacity to think and hold back the currency of happiness for a higher gain it demonstrates Nature-plus. A scholar who foregoes easy living and roistering with fellow scholars late into the night in some stewpots, foresee certain advantages by his restraint. He is banking on the foreseeable future he shall be in command to please himself. A higher capacity to negotiate with future means he can also enter into the nature of things and modify changes. For example a dog cannot tell us it is under stress but by measuring changes in hormonal level we can find it out. Man with his higher ability to abstract thinking has entered into the suffering of fellow creatures. But what use is if he would know feelings of fellow beings but does not want to help?

Philosophy of man has helped man to explain the nature of pleasure and pain.In that case how do we explain happiness?

Consider a middling tree in a rainforest dwarfed by other trees. This would mean other trees have cut it out os its share of light. Its circumstance do not give much to be happy about. But in the nature of things wind works rubbing trees at the top sending them down in time. The tree could only hope the nature is in control. It means the one who is in control of natural laws is not nodding of. Meanwhile the old trees have sent their seeds far and wide or birds have done it for them. Trees that enjoyed uninterrupted sunshine shall one day hit the dust. Hope of the tree is justified. It is in line of the sun. Living and dying is part of making opportunities to others as a whole. Happiness for a tree is not thus not limited in one per se but being part of wind, weather sun and connected with the earth. Does it necessarily justify to be passive accepting happiness while we can change the terms of engagement?

The Stoics (from the word “stoa” = porch, where the founder Zeno sat to teach) taught a less extreme philosophy: not to withdraw from the world, but to be indifferent to it.

They were determinists, and believed everything that happened was pre-ordained by God according to a divine plan. Virtue therefore consists in learning to accept everything that happens, understanding it as part of a divine arrangement we are powerless to alter.

Indifference to events means that they have no power over a person; this is how one becomes truly free – virtue is a purely personal matter, residing only in the will of the individual. From modern history we realize indifference to events breed much worse discontent that shall drown everyone in it. Brutal regimes have used terror as its instrument to browbeat opposition to complicity. We have seen in the emergence of Hitler exploiting the apathy of the Allies to impose his will on Europe. A similar situation we see in the Middle East. Brutality of groups feeding on indifference shall create an atmosphere that can imperil peace of the whole. Happiness is not guaranteed by indifference but from active involvement of all parties for the general good.

(To be Concluded)

benny

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What is pleasure ? In Wordsworth’s poem we read that it is a series of sensations affecting the heart to create a certain state of being.

They flash upon that inward eye


Which is the bliss of solitude,


And then my heart with pleasure fills,…

Happiness we may gather from above can fill the heart. The heart here mentioned is not in literal sense. Nevertheless the meaning is clear.

Happiness takes care of the whole life form. We are not affected in part just around our heart or even part of the body but as a whole. Happiness fills our body making certain changes that it can make use of.

King Solomon was one of the wisest kings and the book of Proverbs is credited to him. It was his saying, ‘Merry heart makes a cheerful countenance’.Pro 15.13 On the other hand by sorrow of the heart spirit can be broken. ‘He that is of a merry heart has a continual feast.'(15:15) The significance is clear. Happiness triggers certain changes in your body that adds to the quality of eating. When your appetite is restored a simple meal is heightened to the level of a feast. 

Biology of life forms are not set down in isolation. For example look at the way nature has taken a hand in ensuring propagation of species. Love of two human beings may well begin with a kiss. A kiss at any rate sets off a cascade of neural impulses that bounce between the brain and the tongue, lips, facial muscles, and skin. Billions of little nerve connections distribute information around the body, producing chemical signals that change the way we feel.

A passionate kiss can spike the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is linked to feelings of craving and desire. Oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” fosters a sense of closeness and attachment. Adrenaline boosts our heart rate and can make us start sweating as our bodies begin to anticipate what might occur later. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, also dips to reduce uneasiness. Blood vessels dilate, breathing can deepen, cheeks flush and our pulse quickens. With so much going on in our bodies to think pleasure is located in any particular area is not correct.

Nature fixes guidelines for progress in biology by which happiness signifies the general state of a life form in terms of the whole. Safety of the group of bisons having grazing grounds and enough members to propagate their kind must mean a higher state in which to exist.

(To Be Continued.)

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