Posts Tagged ‘Self-reliance’

Thoreau’s essay on Civil Disobedience inspired MK Gandhi to hone his own idea of passive resistance into an effective weapon. His ‘Walden’, though were ignored by his contemporaries -only 2000 copies were sold during his lifetime, no other American books have been discovered into more languages. His books and essays which he wrote about his struggle to stay free became one of the world’s great testimonies to the values of personal independence.
His first book,’A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers’ sold only 219 copies, and one day an express wagon drew up before his house with 706 unsold copies. Later Thoreau scribbled cheerfully in is journal ‘I have now a library of nearly 900 volumes, over 700 of which I wrote myself.” Each copy of the book published at just over a dollar is worth up to 600 dollars today.(this was written some 30 years ago.So the present exchange rate will vary. b)
In India Gandhi’s name is a cloak for politicians to fool the public. How many Indians do really care for his ideals or practice his homespun way of life? In this present day of market economy everybody has become a mountebank than march to his own beat. We wear Levis, Versace, Ralph Lauren or some other because these are famous brands. Many uphold their labels because themselves are zeroes.
There is one passage from Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac that I recall often:”…There is one crown I bear away with me,/
And to-night, when I enter before God,/My salute shall sweep all the stars away/From the blue threshold! One thing without stain,/Unspotted from the world, in spite of doom/Mine own!-
And that is /-That is…
My white plume…”

mon panache is what you and I have let drag through mud and for another to spit upon just because he has money to pay for the damages.
Isn’t time we stopped playing the fool and discovered afresh our heritage as shown by Gandhi and Thoreau?

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As a child I lived under the thumb of my father. My mother was the  silent one. She was in a way a shadow, who nevertheless managed the household silently. My father taught what he thought I ought to know. It was dinned into me even at times with a rod. My adolescence was in unlearning a few things that I thought didn’t bear my seal of approval. Everything that he taught me for my own good  somehow went underground so to speak. Now I’m surprised it has become part of my conduct in life.

For all that parental imposition of values, as an old man I see my father more as a shadow and without emotional coloring a faded image in my memory.

With years my mother of whom I knew very little looms larger. I saw very little as she passed her self effaced in the glare of my father’s personality, and later as she faded progressively by illness to her end.

Now my thoughts often dwell on her and think, ‘I could have got to know her better if only I tried?’ Is it a mystery that love and life could work at cross purposes? While there is room for both life that is on the go takes love for granted and when it is too late love luxuriates in the ‘what might have been’.


Before sending me off to boarding school, at the age of twelve, my mother gave me a few words of advice.

One of which was this,’Mon, you are on your own now. We are not around to pick up the broken pieces. If you break things you have got to make good of the loss. You are on your own among boys who may not have love for you. They may hurt you. We are not around to wipe your tears or comfort you.’ I managed to rely on myself and avoided getting into trouble.  My boarding school days helped me win quite a few friends. (Even now I have kept them as friends.)

If my father was all harsh hiding his love my mother was all love in silence. It is her advice that rings still in my ears.

It is a mystery of love or whatever has become of it.


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Self-help guru in court on manslaughter charges(AP News)

It is a curious phenomenon of our times that self-help gurus have entered in every aspect of our lives. These gurus motivate us to run our lives in ways they think are right . For instance Dr. Lean Meat MD  will tell the right diet for us. He has his mantra, a best seller and no one dare prove it wrong: he is a self help guru and if he advocates that  red meat is good for us   yes, we had better include red meat in our diet. Or if he says avoid bread  in any form we are ready to throw overboard our lifelong habit. Bread,  the staff of life  that was with us from time memorial has become out of fashion.

Is it because we want to be like sheep and follow a herd mentality the last refuge of the insignificant? Or does it tell our lack of intelligence to choose the best course for ourselves? Or is it shrewdness to latch on to the best in a flash?  Be that as it may, self help gurus have become the arbiter of our good living. If it is money we have self help gurus in that portfolio also. As Bernard Madoff did with our personal finances we overnight found ways to make million.

Alas we only see how solid these gurus are late when nothing much can be done to save the situation.. We have been so sensitized by hucksters in pinstripes that we are willing to hand over wallets and health to them. They take jets to meet their heavy schedules and lead sweet lives while we sweat, literally. ‘Sweat Ray’ by all accounts knew what was best for us. Till his bluff was called. The self-guru it turns out is as clueless as we. Wonder of wonders!


For now, Ray remains in an Arizona jail on a $5 million bond and faces three to 12 1/2 years in prison on each of the three manslaughter charges if he’s convicted, with probation being an option.

Regardless of the outcome of the criminal case, Ray could face deep financial troubles brought on by the episode as his self-help empire crumbles. He made millions with a motivational mantra that preaches spiritual and financial wealth, and the lucrative speaking gigs and books have dried up.

He also faces the likelihood of several costly civil lawsuits filed by the victims that could further erode his wealth.


I am a self help  guru. This means I must help myself to make each day count. I must seek unexpected pleasures of Nature at my own terms. I must sweeten my passage among the uncouth, illiterate, genteel folks  as best as I can. I need not throw my degrees or learning at those who takes pleasure in the helplessness and confusion of others. Thus when some cretin step on my corns or elbow me and say it was unintentional I have to accept it even though I know it was not. I have been sent on wrong directions in a new and strange village by yokels who have never thought of new ways to amuse themselves.  There are such who delight in others discomfort in villages and cities alike. Some find pleasure in oneupmanship or in playing on one’s creduiity. I am a self help guru so I content myself that they have risen to the level of their intelligence or breeding.

If the crowd is too much to my liking I must find some spot where I could nurse my bruised ego or nerves. In short no one can help you get the most out life than yourself. Self help guru is one who can swat the hand that reaches for your wallet while talking about where you want to spend hereafter. Remember Jim Jones and his followers? or David Querishi of Wacco?

Self reliance might make your span of life much longer.


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A Spartan of Ancient Greece did not fight merely for himself. But also for others. His Spartan living began from the day he was born and his whole life was spent in service of the city-state. What moral sense one can hold without giving the individual his due?
A nation may hold me under its obligation this much and no further. It may be the most enlightened and noble. Even so I must never sell myself to its bondage.
Coming back to Sparta, the city-state with its scant regard for individual liberty did a terrible mistake. There was no dissenting voice to make it take a warning or reexamine its perilous path. The state that let the weak and sickly to perish and admitted only fighting men, and women to give birth to more of the same could not have known democracy; The Spartans never learnt to govern by consent but instead spent their lives to fight wars. It earned them victory and slaves. They thrived on slave labor on a massive scale that was a pointer to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.

I do count in the scheme of things: on the anvil of time human society is hammered by time and I may not escape the hard blows and shape may be changed, drawn or made into some ingot. These are outward forms of my destiny as to be part of the whole but there is still me as part of it all. I may have been tested by fire or dipped in cold water of chance. I still count. Since I have imparted something of my own to the whole lump I shall be present in whatever society may finally end up. Should I care as to what shape? Not exactly. Had I while there was time and power to understand my place in the scheme of things and could rise above my limits I have reinvented myself. If once it stands to reason there shall be many more such changes.


To reinvent and to hold my own is the excellent goal I have set for myself. For what purpose? My answer is simple: I please myself. What would the world care if I rose like a phoenix above every circumstance? The world seeks its own pleasures to understand the values I have set for my own world or motives. Strangely enough every change that you and I make alters the existing status quo. It matter not in the least whether it is noticed by others or not.  If not for that there would not be such a thing as progress. In the stone age a flint must have been the state of the art. But iron age made it outdated and inadequate. It is thus human society is made up where human excellence is never lost. like the proverbial leaven any one may affect the whole. Sparta or Rome or any other may be breached by any individual who has not compromised to ride the coattails of others.  I consider any such compromise is suicidal.


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Manuel Philip, who was a comrade at arms with Miguel Cervantes at the battle of Lapento, had high opinion of himself. As a child he
excelled in studies which made his tutor predict high things for the boy. The boy grew up into a man, conscious of his calling: He wanted to serve the Church.
Being taught of the Church he wanted to serve the Mother Church with his pen. His earlier pamphlets on the doctrines were well received by the clergy that goaded him to further efforts. Somewhere along the line he realized that he had a facile wit. As one wag put it, he could write comic verses with one hand and dry as dust treatises on dogmas with the other.
In one of the lively moods when ideas burst forth leading one on a merry chase, Don Philip drew up the draft for a humorous tale. Surprisingly it was the misadventures of a Knight errant, an uncanny copy of the Knight of Mournful countenance: ‘Don Quixote’.
Of course ‘Don Quixote’ is the work of another. Don Philip and Cervantes were by a queer coincidence struck by the same idea. Incredible still, the first draft was close in spirit and style of Cervantes! But for the names of characters and locale everything else was exactly the same.
Underneath the draft one cannot fail to note three words penned by the author which would remain one of the worst cases of wrong judgment in literary criticism. Don Philip had written thus: ‘Not serious enough’.
Setting aside the comic novel he spent the next sixteen years of his life to write diatribe against Jews and other minority groups which were in disfavor with the Church. Though the Church recommended his book as one of the hundred books indispensable for the faithful, he died a forgotten man.

Speak your own words, man. Even if you speak as angels would, neither man nor angel would take you seriously. Why, something of the speaker gives the lie to his speech. What grows in your native soil and watered by conviction shall have its own majesty.

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Certainty of our character is not something that we can recall out of the blue. It must be made part of our nature so certainty is a cumulative result of lessons we have learned by living right. The story of Samson, a Judge of Israel has an important lesson. Keeping company with Delilah he was forced to reveal the secret of his strength to her. He was so smitten by her that he never realized its consequences. Consequentially he was betrayed by her to his enemies. When Delilah told him the Philistines had come to take him he shook himself out his drunken sleep but found that his strength had left him. Character is in preserving the certainty of the promises that Life holds for each of us. Like Michelangelo’s case it needs courage, discipline and care to bring it to fighting fit. Moses was uncertain as to the circumstance that would save him. Only that he was certain the Lord of Israel would keep His promise.

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Man as a rational being uses his intellect to make sense of his world. It is made in terms of ideas. Given an absolute position totally different from everyone else how each borrows ideas from Cosmic Mind is different.
From whence came his impulse to seek beyond his term of life on the earth? One wants to build up a mighty business empire and leave it for his descendants; another creates beautiful works so his name may live after him. Or one devotes his life in works of charity so his name will be recorded in heaven and so on.
Ideas are what give man or woman a special significance: power to transcend his or her lifespan. For example Alexander Fleming’s discovery and pioneering work in antibiotics makes him still relevant.
Without a viewpoint none of us shall know what to get out of life. Thus we create new pathways and in that process we are hailed as pioneers. Most of us tend to hide our power and wisdom behind the bushel of opinions of others. To those conformists I shall suggest Emerson’s Self Reliance to read.

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