Monday, 28 December 2009

Escapism: Hiding from Oneself

“No man is born without any ability with which he cannot change the world”, Osho.

Every one of us is special, for the simple reason that no one is devoid of any capability at all. Then why some of us achieve well beyond limitations while others spend their lives in oblivion. Psychology can help us understand some human traits here. A child is innocent; he has neither apprehensions nor malice. But we are here for some purpose and tragedies are part of the process of growing up. No one grows (both physically and metaphorically) without experiencing them, first of them being; being born itself. Then there are others like Oedipus complex which Sigmund Freud explained as “first sexual impulses of a child are directed towards his mother.” It stems mainly due to adverse climactic conditions faced by the child after birth, which is very different from the pre birth conditions when child is safe and secure in his mother’s womb “it is this desire of becoming one with body and soul”. Freud adds “the child wants to have his mother but realizes that he cannot, as she belongs to his father”. It might seem taboo to some, but as Freud remarked “because the oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth…

Thomas A. Harris in his book I am Ok You are OK points out that every child feels- after looking up to the adults around him- that he is “little, incompetent, and often makes mistakes”. Harris also points out that “fortunate are those children, who, early in their lives gets an opportunity to prove to others, and mainly to themselves, that they are worthwhile and competent”. For lesser fortunate children, however, repetitive limiting commands such as “You are worthless”, “You are incompetent”, “You can’t do it”, are found to be playing like a tape in their heads well into their adulthood. This condition has been termed as contamination of Adult by Harris. This is not just one form of contamination of adult as described by Harris; many abnormal human traits come under this head, ranging from masochistic and psychopathic to self defeating tendencies. But the former are much less common in comparison to the latter and in this text we shall deal with the latter only.

Most children grow up feeling feeble and petite. If they are not backed up with enough love and care they might develop an abnormal perception through false learning. Sure, a setback makes us grow out of our cocoon, but it might also do so in a negative way. If a child, during his developmental phase where he encounters a tragedy, is not reconciled with love, he might develop a pervasive view of himself and the world around him. Having abusive parents makes the matters worse. If a child is abused during early years of his life there is a hundred percent chance that he will associate so much pain to being himself that he will hide under delusions, projections, and other defence mechanisms. This is what is called hiding from oneself or ‘Escapism’. If these issues are not dealt with, a person can spend his entire life under their influence.

This condition is not limited to abused children. Children, who have faced domestic violence, had broken homes, poor nutrition, or even- as Thomas Harris points out- ‘didn’t have the opportunity of proving their worth to themselves’ may develop these tendencies. They are ridden by low self esteem.

There are a lot of manifestations of poor self-image or low self-esteem, primary of them being lack of concentration. Intense moments that requires focussed attention brings us to our True Self; this is the concept of meditation. Since the one ridden by low self esteem wants to hide from himself he avoids intense moments and lacks concentration. He lacks confidence, avoids confrontations, and also avoids silence as silence, like meditation, also helps us find our True Self. People having this obliquity can be broadly classified in two categories.

Those belonging to the first one (the primary) are trepid, emotionally insecure and afraid of taking risks. They never see dreams, because a long shot often involves a risk of failure. For them failure is the cardinal sin, they can’t take the risk of coming around as one. Their energies are diverted to addictions and obsessions. They might be galvanized into action by ‘ennui’, or in case they associate a lot of pain to their former self as pointed out by Harris. But if the underlying disorders in schema are not dealt with, they might develop a secondary condition described below.

The secondary condition is quite opposite to the primary in that that the person in concern does not underestimate himself but does the opposite, he overestimates, yet they are very much alike since the pain and sufferings are all the same. Quite notably primary condition is prerequisite of the secondary one. The secondary condition, where the subject overestimates his capabilities and considers himself the centre of universe, cannot develop on its own, an underlying inferiority is always there.

The person having any of the above described disorders eventually undertakes hollow or borrowed dreams.

This brings us to the question of whether dreams can be misleading. Yes! If one pursues goals which are inconsistent with his inherent values and gifted talents, one cannot find peace even after realization of the dream. Such individuals either comes through as a thorough failure or conversely might keep climbing ladders of success one after another, but never finding any satisfaction or sense of value addition in them. They keep asking the same question over and over again, after every achievement, ‘is that all to it?’

Can this condition be revived? This is the question on which psychology, religion, and philosophy offers a coherent view. Thomas Harris calls it emancipation of Adult; Carl Jung, disciple of Freud, called it self-actualization; religion named it apotheosis; while there is no one word for it in philosophy, it can be well assumed that philosophy do advertise that there is a way out or how else would you explain the existence of so many philosophical teachings, they ought to have some purpose.

This process of revival can be understood by the ancient principle of karma. According to this principle every individual has some duties to fulfil, whether of patrician or of petty nature. These duties are his dharma. Karma is the action one performs. One’s karma ought to be consistent with his dharma. A soul’s next incarnation depends on the nature of karma he performed in its previous birth. Duties here does not mean obligations in general, as many writers have time and again reminded us that it is the duty of each one of us to realize our true potentials and share them with others.

Osho in his book Freedom, Courage to be yourself says “if you are a painter, you’ll have to paint; if you are a dancer, you’ll have to dance; there is no other way to achieve fulfilment and come at peace with yourself”.

It can also be understood through science of psychology. Jung laid the principle of Self-actualization. According to him each individual is born with some unique set of skills. Self-actualization is the process of reaching a stage where all the faculties and inherent talents are optimally utilized and works coherently. It is obvious how closely this principal is related to the ones mentioned above.

Realizing our true Self is the key to achieving eternal bliss. That is how we can come at peace with ourselves and to the world around us. Silence is a good starting point. Spending time in silence can reveal to us our true nature. But ultimately we shall engage ourselves in the pursuit of our true calling. We’ll have to ask ‘what are we born to do after all?’ Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, said in his speech to the Harvard grads “find out what you are born to do, till then don’t rest, don’t settle”. That is where our hope lies.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Apocalypse II- Awestruck

Essar was ready. He and Dominic will board on the most ambitious project witnessed ever by the humankind. Mission Swarthy, an attempt to unravel the mystery of the dark planet. Essar couldn’t help but admit that he was being nervous. After all this was a ‘dream come true’ for him.

Five days before landing

The space ship has come close enough to penetrate the sight of its built in telescope through the dark envelope. Essar takes a look at their landing spot on one of the many screens. At the moment it was bamboozled by a cyclone passing by. The atmosphere is turbulent, it’s a frivolous storm. But such storm gets settled or passes by in a matter of a few hours or a couple of days at max. This too shall pass.

At present

Essar and Dominic returned from a hectic day. It wasn’t just another day at work. They’d seen both hope and disappointment on the same day. The discovery of that forsaken log had given them immense hope. They dug and dug hard, only to find themselves in a deep abyss. They found nothing except dirt beneath. It made no sense. No sign of life or water whatsoever in near proximity. Then where did that log came from and the skull. It seemed completely incongruous to the surroundings. Dominic was still driving and Essar was looking for an explanation. He could find none.

Dominic followed the marker he’d been placing throughout the errand. It was very easy for someone to get lost in such a hazy and dark planet. It was a good idea to put some marker. It was this system in the wagon. It will drop a minuscule of used oil, stored in a special tanker intentionally built for this purpose, every half a kilometer that will keep track of their trail. They were almost there. Tired and exhausted, both wished to have some sleep in the spaceship, their home for last two and a half months, and also for the next.

They’d landed during the daytime. Almost fifteen hours have passed and night is in its full bloom, except that there is no light, apart from the two headlight lamps from their wagon. Dominic could barely make out the spaceship. He’s not sure: is the ship a little tilted. No it can’t be. May be it’s just the darkness or the tiredness taking a toll on him. A closer view might give a better picture. No, may be he’s hallucinating. How a spaceship can be tilted on a dry and arid land. There might be water present but not in this part of the planet. There are no swamps; they’d chosen the landing spot well. Dominic was sure that now he needed some sleep.

Concluded: Apocalypse III- The Revelation

Monday, 14 December 2009

The Lost Symbol, Awesome!

No Spoilers, honestly

For those who thought The Da Vinci Code was the book of the century, get yourself a copy of The Lost Symbol. Just when I thought I was getting used to Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol awed me with its twists and turns. Dan Brown just emulated himself with this work. Sure he has a particular theme to which he always sticks to; the story occurs in a time span of few hours- twenty four at most, the story has a psychotic killer, a nymph, lots of facts, conspiracy theories, and there is always a father figure. The Lost Symbol is no different, but it's far from monotonous. Those who loved The Da Vinci Code will go crazy after this one.

Through Robert Langdon, Dan Brown gives us a sneak peek into the world of Freemasons. He gives a detailed picture of their ideologies and rituals, some of them esoteric as they may seem, nonetheless a picturesque representation of their diversity in terms of subscription from the members of a number of different religions. He claims, in his book, that all the religions of the world (and also science) more or less teaches the same philosophy and although through diverse metaphors and allegories, converges to offer the same wisdom. Dan Brown has integrated the preaching of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Freemasonry, Science, Hinduism, Alchemy, Egypt, Rosicrucian, and-as it seems -every other discipline that ever existed on this earth. According to what Robert Langdon discovers, all of the above mentioned disciplines are trying to guide mankind to a path where the man can realize his true potential. 'Apotheosis' as has been called in the book.

Among this sacred wisdom is the enigmatic figure of Mal'akh, who although is after the same knowledge- seeks it for ignoble purpose. There's a lot of mystery throughout the text regarding this idiosyncratic entity. But what awed me most was the shocking revelation that Dan Brown has placed adroitly as the book nears the end. I was awestruck when I came to know the reality about Mal'akh.

I can only say that Dan Brown has done justice to this work. After The Da Vinci Code one can be inclined to assume 'can something as good as this could occur in a matter of few years?' With Dan Brown, the answer is yes. Do get yourself a copy of this one. You won't regret, that I can assure.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Apocalypse I - Expedition in the dark

The black orb - oblivious to the tiny metallic bullet closing down on it - continued on its elliptical path. Inside the metallic bullet, two figures chattered continuously on the radio, informing about their whereabouts to the home base. "The distance is now forty six thousand kilometers, we'll land on this planet in about thirty hours" said Dominic Wilde. "We'll enter the atmosphere in about twenty five and a half hours approx" said Claudio Essar, proud of his recent achievement. He had been pioneer of this project. Essar was a strong supporter of the view of existence of life on this dark planet. Although the planet had been enveloped by CO2 and a handful of other toxic gases, it was still highly likely that life existed at some point of time here due to the presence of life saving nectar around its poles- water.

Although skeptics ruled out the presence of any form of life on this planet owing to its black sulphur-di-oxide envelope that prevented sunlight entering its atmosphere, other possibilities allowed this voyage to get manifested. One corner of Essar fantasized about finding living things on this misty planet. He recalled stories from his benign nanny 'We do not belong to this world son, we used to live in a beautiful paradise, heaven. Then some of us committed a sin and we were sent in this ugly world to suffer.' Little did his granny knew about Panspermia.

Twenty five hours later.

Dominic pressed the radio button "We are about to enter the atmosphere, a mild radioactive radiation has been detected. The intensity of the radiation is harmless."
Essar, concurring to Dominic, raised his brow in amazement. A mild radioactive radiation implied a larger radioactive reaction in recent history of this planet. He wondered why this radiation wasn’t detected by their ultra-modern microwave telescope back home, or by the inhuman spaceship they’d been sending here over last ten years. Perhaps the low intensity of the radiation allowed it to get masked by other toxic gases. Or may be the telescope didn’t have enough resolution to detect such a mild occurrence. Whatever the cause, for Essar, the hope of finding life at this point of time vanished. Dominic continued “high density of CO2 and sulphur-di-oxide confirmed. We are preparing to land on the surface.”

Five hours later.

"Five, four, three, two, one, zero. We have landed on the ground, preparing to set out of the spaceship." Dominic informed and terminated the connection. Both the astronauts readied their space suits and prepared to set their foot on this mysterious planet, an event that the whole world was looking forward to. Essar was the first one to set out on this mysterious planet. Dominic had the camera and he took the video. The camera was connected with an instrument on the spaceship, which would not only save it but will also send a copy to the home base without any of the astronauts having to press a button. This video would be released to the press so that whole world could witness this magnificent site. Although there was a petite group who considered such a voyage a complete waste of money and time- that the money spent on such an ambitious and obsolete project should have been used to elate the living standards of some lesser fortunate instead, the people who didn't had access even to basic amenities and health care- but chances were good that even those people would be looking at this video for its sheer enormity.

They landed on an arid land and started looking around. The idea was to thoroughly examine the place in the proximity of the spaceship. The two had at max one week before the return journey. Both of them wore a spacesuit which insulated them from the outside environment, especially from the toxic gases. The variations in temperature and pressure were of little concern as this planet had an environment highly conducive to life. Or at least Essar thought so. They had a backpack that carried oxygen supply and a small wagon, armed with equipments, for carrying out errands during their brief stay. They both carried torches as light was scarce. After traveling an hour or so they encountered, for what it seemed like, a forsaken log. Both alighted from the wagon and started speculating. Essar sneaked through a small hole. Dominic watched him gasp. "Roaches" Essar blurted as he tried to comprehend. It made perfect sense. Roaches are known to survive the greatest catastrophes. Its hard to eliminate them by any natural phenomenon, even nuclear reactions as it was known to Essar. Dominic had a quick look and he too looked equally startled.

They took a sample of a roach. This confirmed the presence of both flora and fauna on this planet. Both astronaut studied that log for a few hours and then decided to roll it over to see what lies beneath. A look of amazement, if not horror, ran through their faces as they gaped at the calcium composite lying before them- a human skull. "We need a driller" exclaimed Dominic his eyes still fixed on the skull.

(Apocalypse II - The Revelation)