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Posts Tagged ‘Benny Thomas’

A Brahmin who traced his lineage to Sage Agastya worshipped his ancestor and the Sage one day appeared to him in his dream and said, ‘I have attained moksha and I am past attending to prayers of mortals. But if you must pray and ask for favours, try Mushika Muni, who between you and me shall never reach the lotus feet of the Lord Brahma. But in case of emergency he is the one to put your case.’ Thereafter  Brahmin did everything after praying to the muni.

Mushika Muni was a rat.

The Brahmin worshipped the rat, or rather his golden image. He prospered and he amassed great wealth and he became certain that he was beyond any reproach. He concealed his wealth and he had offshore accounts. One morning the Income Tax authorities raided his premises and they found incriminating evidence of tax evasion. He was not in the least fazed. He smiled when he was asked to come clean. He merely said, “My case is before Mushika Muni. There is nothing you or I can do.”

That night he slept soundly in his own bed; he was under house arrest but that did not disturb his sleep.

In a dream he saw an elephant and he said, ‘ Do not mistake, I was Mushika Muni, in my previous birth. I became elevated to this form. My devotee is the one who must try your case. His prayer has reached me and I am before you to tell this. I am to flatten you under my foot after your case is heard. No hard feelings.’

Appealing to ideas that ancients had accepted as truth are as sound as our Brahmin whose actions were as wrong as his idea that it can remain perfect or constant. Similarly misguided are “salafists”, advocating a return to the ways of the first Muslim ancestors, the salaf al-salih (righteous ancestors)

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. Heraclitus

benny

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Nature holds great many secrets, which we make use of and it can lead us for greater understanding of our place in the scheme of things. Growth rings of trees help us reconstruct climate conditions of a bygone age; marine animals like nautilus are marked similarly and shall we say we are custodians of time?  So much so we can say with the Preacher emphatically: Yes He has set eternity in our hearts! (Eccl.3:11). Our heatbeats are one way of counting it in terms of eternity. Who but a fool shall assume such a service that Nature does is to enable some fill their coffers with silver by exploiting the natural resources, and in the process make the world far less fortunate for future?

In our uniqueness we carry our condemnation that we neglected while we have had time to improve the lot of those who merited our support. Conservation is one way we point our kinship with our Maker.

ii

 

Researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of 28 of the sharks, and estimated that one female was about 400 years old. The results are published in the journal Science (science.sciencemag.org).

Lead author Julius Nielsen, a marine biologist from the University of Copenhagen, said: “We had our expectations that we were dealing with an unusual animal, but I think everyone doing this research was very surprised to learn the sharks were as old as they were.”

The team found that the sharks grow at just 1cm a year, and reach sexual maturity at about the age of 150. Greenland sharks are huge beasts, that can grow up to 5m in length.

For some fish, scientists are able to examine ear bones called otoliths, which when sectioned, show a pattern of concentric rings that scientists can count as they would the rings in a tree.

Sharks are harder, but some species, such as the Great White, have calcified tissue that grows in layers on their back bones, that can also be used to age the animals.

“But the Greenland shark is a very, very soft shark – it has no hard body parts where growth layers are deposited. So it was believed that the age could not be investigated,” Mr Nielsen told the BBC

However the team found a clever way of working out the age.

“The Greenland shark’s eye lens is composed of a specialised material – and it contains proteins that are metabolically inert,” explained Mr Neilson.

“Which means after the proteins have been synthesised in the body, they are not renewed any more. So we can isolate the tissue that formed when the shark was a pup, and do radiocarbon dating.”

The team looked at 28 sharks, most of which had died after being caught in fishing nets as by-catch.

Using this technique, they established that the largest shark – a 5m-long female – was extremely ancient.

Because radiocarbon dating does not produce exact dates, they believe that she could have been as “young” as 272 or as old as 512. But she was most likely somewhere in the middle, so about 400 years old.

It means she was born between the years of 1501 and 1744, but her most likely date of birth was in the 17th century.

“Even with the lowest part of this uncertainty, 272 years, even if that is the maximum age, it should still be considered the longest-living vertebrate,” said Mr Nielsen.

Trivia:

The former vertebrate record-holder was a bowhead whale estimated to be 211 years old.

But if invertebrates are brought into the longevity competition, a 507-year-old clam called Ming holds the title of most aged animal.( ack: By Rebecca Morelle

Science Correspondent, BBC News/Aug.11, 2016)

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Uncertainty of Our Existence

 

Barclays, the UK bank, is to replace the password system on its phone banking service with personal voice recognition. “Unlike a password,” avers Steven Cooper, Barclays’ head of personal banking, “each person’s voice is as unique as a fingerprint.” Yet the reality is we have no idea whether either fingerprints or voices are unique at all.

If you buy a ticket for the lottery, the chances of winning the big prize are about 14m to 1. You might therefore be justified in regarding that as evidence that you are unlikely to win, and not buy a ticket as a result. Yet after the draw is made and Ms X of Glasgow is announced in the newspapers as the winner, the known unlikelihood of winning is obviously not evidence that she did not win. She did win. Unlikely things do happen.

Notorious case of Sally Clark, an English solicitor, for the alleged murder of her two babies illustrates well the problem. The case against her turned on the evidence of an expert witness, Sir Roy Meadow, who argued that it was highly improbable that two of her babies could have been the victim of natural cot deaths. Sally was exonerated by an appeals court after serving three years in prison, but died four years later. Her family said in a statement that she had never recovered from the miscarriage of justice. Expert opinion of Meadow was proved wrong in relying on the statistical improbability. It is like a meteor when it sets going we may, by assessing the available data and past history predict a doomsday scenario. But suppose along the way the larger mass of Jupiter which is at that precise moment throwing up -Aurora flares up on Jupiter is caused by volcanic moon Io*, and its path veers off one millionth of a hair width? Over the wide expanse between the earth and Jupiter the meteor would have strayed so farther off from the earth. In short statistical probabilities are never 100% correct.

The way forward

What do these insights mean in practical terms? People might well argue that even with our limited sampling of human voices, we have good reason to suspect we are very unlikely to come across two different people who have identical voices, even if we could never discount the possibility. Fine. Let us say that.

Human voice patterns or iris recognition need not be assumed to be unique to be useful tools for protecting private access to our bank accounts. In the same way, fingerprints need not be assumed to be unique to be useful in courts.

 

*Starting in January 2014, a telescope aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hisaki satellite focused on Jupiter for two months. At the same time, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope also focused on Jupiter for an hour each day for two weeks. Both observatories recorded random brightenings of the giant planet’s polar auroras.

These flare-ups occurred on days when the sun’s usual flow of charged particles was relatively weak. So the researchers conclude that they must be the result of the complex interactions between Jupiter and Io, and perhaps the other three Galilean moons of Jupiter — Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. (These four satellites were discovered by Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610.)

Io, Jupiter’s closest moon, gets “caught in this gravitational tug of war between Jupiter and the two other large moons, Europa and Ganymede,” study co-author Andrew Steffl, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, told Space.com. “It gets squished and squashed,” which drives internal heat just like if you bend a paper clip back and forth in your hands.

This process, in turn, drives a series of active volcanoes on Io. And when those volcanoes erupt, they blast large amounts of electrons and electrically charged atoms into space.

Jupiter’s magnetic field catches these charged particles as it sweeps past Io and “forms a donut-shaped region of relatively high-density plasma around Jupiter,” said co-author John Clarke from Boston University. This so-called magnetosphere is so large that it encapsulates all of Jupiter’s 60-plus known moons and extends nearly as far as Saturn.

(ack: The Conversation-Is every human voice and fingerprint really unique?/Aug.11- Hugh McLachlan

Professor of Applied Philosophy, Glasgow Caledonian University

benny

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ii

A politician who works with his times and has a certain vision is already on the rise; but necessarily he depends on his public to be relevant. Think of Hitler whose rise to power was phenomenal. Circumstances of his times made a pathway in the chaotic Weimar Republic where defeatism was as rampant as the reds scare of a Bolshevik take over. It is impossible to imagine the Austrian corporal could have got anywhere were it not for the general belief that the war was lost because of some conspiracy of International Jewry. Every German who subscribed to this canard made Hitler his man of the hour. From this to ‘the final solution’ by which some 6 million Jews perished by the state policy of Third Reich we see what compromise can do to the ruler and the ruled  . Here we see prejudice of Germans was very much in evidence as ambition at its worst. Banality of evil the man on the street supplied to the street corner agitator like Hitler who had seen the war and suffered as a result, a platform to air his ideas. Once his command over the nation was complete the mass murder of Jews was simple progress from A to B. Such are the stuff of leaders of men that they make use of lies that are convenient truths for them in their rise to power.

An artist communicates but his relevance can only be banked on truth. Thus with every artist who has endured across centuries.

An artist worth his salt has no use for pleasing public opinion. Paul Gaugin had a family and a successful stock-brokering career but when the muse of art called him he left all to be painter. His contemporary Van Gogh in his brief and tragic life sold but one painting. But when we see a starry night do we not see through his eyes? This is the highest accolade an artist can merit for which his life is but a means to convey some inner truth. Life imitates art as Oscar Wilde quipped. Similarly we all have been acquainted with Turner on watching a sunset; or with the lush English landscape we acknowledge how much we owe Constable for the delectable realization that he is a kindred spirit after all. Death and ravages of time are past any man’s power but in a painting of Raphael or sunflower series of Van Gogh we affirm the artist’s commitment to be true to his inner vision. In a manner of speaking our ordinary lives transcend at least for an hour or two, to a sublime level.

Take the truth peddled by prophets. Has it ever made man any more enlightened any time any place that he set Truth its parameters? In teaching truth to masses, has its visible effects. Tolerance, love, compassion become in its votaries commonplace. How come the world is in turmoil and lives of men trivialized? Truth is not at fault but those who bow and scrape before Man with the Message and do much less than what was taught. These disciples merely threw wool over all and added their own and passed Truth for real! How much more can any one be misguided than a man is given power to issue ‘fatwa’ over but not register what is true for all to be benefited from it? This damns both the inflictor and inflicted at the same time. This is vanity of human mind. On the other hand an artist can empower his viewer with visions of bliss and make his view of things never the same. At what cost have artists their lives among fools and evil men bequeathed to us. Is art relevant? Of course it is without which, homo sapiens do not deserve the label sapiens .

The End

 

 

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Is Art Relevant to Us?-2

 

As a social animal man communicates with others; being endowed with a larger brain mass and given to abstract thinking he has several means at his disposal to communicate with others. Art is one such.

A shop assistant who decorates the window in order to catch the eye of the passerby relies on some intrinsic urge from within so he succeeds in his objective is as much as an artist as a housewife who decorates the home in order to speak for the people that live within. In their art there is something as natural and self-conscious attempt to communicate with others. Their naturalness springs from the manner they set out to achieve rheir objectives; even so it is an indirect social statement of the technology and social status. What makes then an artist special?

 

An artist is an individual given to express pictorially and has command over the language as much as a lawyer has command over the laws of the land and can employ them to make a case for his client to purpose. Language is such words used carries meaning and these are at deeper level rooted in culture and social history of the particular milieu that a viewer can identify with. Words also change meaning since these are dependent on the end user. How artists in the medieval times treated sacred subjects are not same as how modern artists would see symbolic value in the objects themselves.

Peter Paul Rubens made a triptych in which the central piece is deposition of Christ from the cross. This painting was made (1612-14) for the Guild of Arquebusiers, who wanted their patron Saint Christopher (meaning: carrier of Christ) portrayed. If Rubens had complied with this wish, he would have had to explain himself to the authorities, because the strict Contra-Reformation’s principles did not allow portraits of saints to be hung in cathedrals. Instead, Rubens chose to hide all references to Christopher by portraying Christ as being carried in all three panels. (artbible.info)

Compare this with Salvador Dalí’s Corpus Hypercubus(1954). Influences of his times and his personal attitude to Catholicism can be found in it. His interest grew from the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II which left a lasting impression on him. In his 1951 essay “Mystical Manifesto”, he introduced an art theory he called “nuclear mysticism” that combined Dalí’s interests in Catholicism, mathematics, science, and Catalan culture in an effort to reestablish Classical values and techniques(wikipedia- Corpus Hypercubus). An artist can only do so much as a child of his times despite the many tantrums he may throw in order to draw attention to himself.

Merely a shock value does not give art its relevance other than making the thinking person come to terms that there are more than many ways of looking at things. Many paintings that shocked the public in their time have become accepted as part of our cultural heritage. This is no different than the infant who threw many a tantrum has quietly taken place in the society of men as dutiful father hardworking tax-paying burgher as ever to do his duty to his family and state.

(To be continued)

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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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Visu the Woodsman and the Old Priest

 

Many years ago there lived on the then barren plain of Suruga a woodsman by the name of Visu. He was a giant in stature, and lived in a hut with his wife and children.

One day Visu received a visit from an old priest, who said to him: “Honorable woodsman, I am afraid you never pray.”

Visu replied: “If you had a wife and a large family to keep, you would never have time to pray.”

This remark made the priest angry, and the old man gave the woodcutter a vivid description of the horror of being reborn as a toad, or a mouse, or an insect for millions of years. Such lurid details were not to Visu’s liking, and he accordingly promised the priest that in future he would pray.

“Work and pray,” said the priest as he took his departure.

Unfortunately Visu did nothing but pray. He prayed all day long and refused to do any work, so that his rice crops withered and his wife and family starved. Visu’s wife, who had hitherto never said a harsh or bitter word to her husband, now became extremely angry, and, pointing to the poor thin bodies of her children, she exclaimed: “Rise, Visu, take up your ax and do something more helpful to us all than the mere mumbling of prayers!”

Visu was so utterly amazed at what his wife had said that it was some time before he could think of a fitting reply. When he did so his words came hot and strong to the ears of his poor, much-wronged wife.

“Woman,” said he, “the Gods come first. You are an impertinent creature to speak to me so, and I will have nothing more to do with you!” Visu snatched up his ax and, without looking round to say farewell, he left the hut, strode out of the wood, and climbed up Fujiyama, where a mist hid him from sight.

When Visu had seated himself upon the mountain he heard a soft rustling sound, and immediately afterward saw a fox dart into a thicket. Now Visu deemed it extremely lucky to see a fox, and, forgetting his prayers, he sprang up, and ran hither and thither in the hope of again finding this sharp-nosed little creature.

He was about to give up the chase when, coming to an open space in a wood, he saw two ladies sitting down by a brook playing go. The woodsman was so completely fascinated that he could do nothing but sit down and watch them. There was no sound except the soft click of pieces on the board and the song of the running brook. The ladies took no notice of Visu, for they seemed to be playing a strange game that had no end, a game that entirely absorbed their attention. Visu could not keep his eyes off these fair women. He watched their long black hair and the little quick hands that shot out now and again from their big silk sleeves in order to move the pieces.

After he had been sitting there for three hundred years, though to him it was but a summer’s afternoon, he saw that one of the players had made a false move. “Wrong, most lovely lady!” he exclaimed excitedly. In a moment these women turned into foxes and ran away.

When Visu attempted to pursue them he found to his horror that his limbs were terribly stiff, that his hair was very long, and that his beard touched the ground. He discovered, moreover, that the handle of his ax, though made of the hardest wood, had crumbled away into a little heap of dust.

After many painful efforts Visu was able to stand on his feet and proceed very slowly toward his little home. When he reached the spot he was surprised to see no hut, and, perceiving a very old woman, he said: “Good lady, I am amazed to find that my little home has disappeared. I went away this afternoon, and now in the evening it has vanished!”

The old woman, who believed that a madman was addressing her, inquired his name. When she was told, she exclaimed: “Bah! You must indeed be mad! Visu lived three hundred years ago! He went away one day, and he never came back again.”

“Three hundred years!” murmured Visu. “It cannot be possible. Where are my dear wife and children?”

“Buried!” hissed the old woman, “and, if what you say is true, you children’s children too. The Gods have prolonged your miserable life in punishment for having neglected your wife and little children.”

Big tears ran down Visu’s withered cheeks as he said in a husky voice: “I have lost my manhood. I have prayed when my dear ones starved and needed the labor of my once strong hands. Old woman, remember my last words: “If you pray, work too!”

We do not know how long the poor but repentant Visu lived after he returned from his strange adventures. His white spirit is still said to haunt Fujiyama when the moon shines brightly.

This story reminds us of Washington Irving’s Rp Van Winkle. What conclusion can we draw from this? There is nothing new under the sun, is it not?  Stories from other lands travel freely like pollens in the air.  Some are sensitive to them and some are not. Creative spirits are such free spirits to spin a yarn out of what impresses upon them and sign it as theirs. Who shall be affected by the idea out of air and make a story is chance. Washington Irving clothed  his memorable tale with the praxis and modes prevailing of his time. In earlier posts I had discussed it as Cosmic Mind. For example  the story of Cain and Abel circulates down through ages. Presto! one rehashes this murder to mean  as ‘Jihad’ . Cain killed his own brother is it not?  Some clerics who have nothing else to do give it a cock and bull  story treatment. There are those who insist on literal interpreting such ideas passed through several hands so much so that the coin they tender is of no value. When they teach from pulpit there are fools who imagine they have divine sanction in slaughtering infidels. Some criminals who have not ever thought of doing a day’s labour carry it out using some others as suicide bombers. They are touted as martyrs. It is all play of words. Only that rest of the world catches fire. We see it happening in our times.

 

 

 

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