A Psalm of Life – Longfellow

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I have a list of inspiring songs and poems that I listen to or read when I’m feeling down or depressed and this is one of them. It’s a very didactic (preachy) one and though I normally don’t prefer preachy stuff, at times, in life, you need some advice 🙂 😉

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gives the message that we shouldn’t waste our life by considering it as futile, because every life has a higher meaning and goal apart from death – “Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal”. He states that the pursuit of this goal should drive us in our lives, that we should never lose heart and give up when we meet with obstacles on our path.

I first came across these two inspiring verses, loved them, and then checked out the original poem:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Modern day psychology research also supports Longfellow’s belief that one must have a higher goal in life and strive towards it. For example, Dr. Angela Duckworth, who’s a Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania has done some incredible research on the factors that predict success in life, and she came up with the result that “grit” is the most accurate predictor of success across fields. She defines “grit” as “passion and perseverance for long term goals”. According to her, its apparently much more important than IQ, talent, or any other variable. Also explains why it’s not necessarily the most talented or those with the highest IQ, who end up achieving the most success.

To develop “grit”, it’s very important to find out what you’re really passionate about, or at least choose the option that you’re most passionate about among those that are available. Knowing what you’re passionate about and having a higher long term goal is extremely important 🙂

Here’s the entire poem:

A Psalm of Life – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Quite simple and straightforward……..in the 4th para “Art is long, and Time is fleeting” – refers to the fact that the work we have to accomplish is huge, and that the time we have to finish it, is short.

Hope this poem inspires you as well! Have a Great Tuesday!! 🙂  🙂

The Road not Taken – Frost

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I’m in the mood for poetry today 🙂 Think poetry is a great hobby to cultivate if you’re somewhat lazy, or short of time, or the kind who’s always looking for shortcuts!! 😉

Seriously, a short poem can provide you with the same wisdom and insights that many pages of an essay or a book can. This very famous poem “The Road Not Taken” by American poet Robert Frost is one of them. It’s a truly great poem because it has a simple meaning as well as a higher symbolic one regarding taking risks and decision-making.

The poet describes how a traveler comes across a fork in his path and has to decide which of the two roads to choose. He takes a long time considering both but decides to choose the one that is more grassy and less worn out, because he believes that it looks equally good.

He also describes his hesitation and uncertainty regarding the decision by saying that maybe some other day, he might come back and try the other road – “I kept the first for another day!” But, he becomes realistic and goes on to write “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” The last paragraph is the best – do read the poem……….

The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

On Sabarimala

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I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved. – B R Ambedkar

It’s been a while since I wrote a post on women’s issues. Of late, have been really distressed to hear and read all the disturbing news regarding the “women’s entry” into the Sabarimala Temple. As a very liberal and South Indian woman – here’s my opinion:

I actually find it very ridiculous that some activists believe that entry into the Sabarimala Temple is one of the main burning issues for Indian women today. Really?!!  I believe that Indian women have free access to more than a million temples within India and there are no restrictions whatsoever!! I have never been restricted from entering any temple in all the decades of my life. Neither have I ever been stopped in a temple and asked regarding my menstruating status.

Sabarimala is an exception due to a legend and traditions – and therefore not the norm. So why are we generalizing from an “outlier” and getting agitated over it, without understanding it? I agree that there’s a lot of stigma regarding menstruation, and it exists across communities – but we can address the issue in a more sensible manner without hurting sentiments and making it unnecessarily contentious.

As progressive citizens and reformers, before we decide to pick a particular issue – we need to ask ourselves how important it is, how much good it will do, and execute it in a manner that doesn’t unnecessarily cause distress and damage – if possible. Otherwise, no one really benefits and we’re actually squandering a lot of energy and time, and hurting the cause 🙁

There are much bigger and more pressing issues like female foeticide, infanticide, dowry deaths, rapes and, harassment in workplaces that should be addressed. We need to think of ways in how our education system could be revamped to change regressive and misogynistic attitudes. We might need to amend or bring in new laws…….we don’t need to forcibly enter outlier temples to achieve that.

In contrast, the fight for women’s equality can be a great way to overcome the barriers of religion, caste and, community because it’s important for each and everyone one of us. Let’s not squander the opportunity by making it trivial, violent and politically contentious.

Let’s also stop a while and rethink whether we’re right in prescribing a pilgrimage to Sabarimala as the magic pill for all the problems that an Indian woman faces today? Also, don’t we need to be “cultured”, mindful, respectful and tolerant in our battles? All temples, Ashrams and religious institutions have some rules that might seem unwarranted and weird – but adherents follow them out of faith and respect. We need to fight or question those only if the battle is worthwhile. Otherwise, we may win a battle but end up losing the war 🙁

There are so many better and more intelligent ways of fighting for women’s rights that would be much more effective and less troublesome. Hope you agree 🙂 🙂

Here are some interesting articles related to the subject. For example, there’s a religious island in Greece (Mount Athos) that totally bans women – including non-menstruating women and female animals as well – more rigid than even Sabarimala!! But, would forcibly entering that island solve any problems for women or result in global “emancipation”? I don’t think so – because again, it’s an “outlier” and not the norm. I’d like to end by stating that these are my current views but that I’m open-minded and willing to entertain other viewpoints 🙂 😉

 

 

How to Win a Debate

 

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. – Bertrand Russell

Recently came across this very interesting talk given by a world champion in debating – it has many important insights. Her speech is quite relevant in the highly polarised world that we live in today, where we’re being manipulated by vested interests.

Ironically, she claims that the mantra to be successful in debating is to “find common ground and shared reality”!! She states that it’s important to focus on ideas and not on identities, and not to get personal during arguments – if one wants to win. In addition, she emphasizes “intellectual humility” – the ability to be open-minded and open to persuasion.

It’s important to think about what she’s saying considering the kind of acrimonious and pointless TV debates and social media fights that we witness nowadays. They’re more like bullfights or boxing matches and serve no purpose whatsoever…….we’re all getting nowhere unless we overcome the hostility and find some “shared reality” 🙂  🙂

Happiness Quote

DSC06583Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness. – William Gladstone

PS: Photograph of a trail in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA.

Kannada Poet Kuvempu

DSC02628Eminent Kannada writer and poet – Kuvempu (K V Puttappa 1904 – 1994) was born on this day – Dec 29. He’s considered to be one of the greatest Kannada writers. Sharing an English translation of one of his most famous poems – “Aniketana” (A Free Spirit).

Among other things, Kuvempu wrote about his vision of a “Universal Man” and his message as a writer was that we should transcend all divisions like caste and religion. He believed that all men are born “universal” or similar to each other, but get bound later on by petty divisions that limit our advancement and development. His message of “Vishwa Maanava” or “Universal Man” is still relevant today, when we see constant attempts being made to divide people on the basis of caste, religion or language.

English translation of his poem “Aniketana“:

O my spirit! Set roots nowhere, O my spirit!
Grow beyond the myriad forms, go beyond the countless names,
When the heart is overfull, inspiration bursts forth
O my spirit! Set roots nowhere O my spirit!

Winnow the chaff of a hundred creeds,
Stretch beyond the stifling philosophies,
Rise, immense and endless as the cosmos,
O my spirit! Set roots nowhere O my spirit!

Rest nowhere on the unending road, never build a binding nest,
Never touch the boundary, Remain infinite and boundless!!
O my spirit! Set roots nowhere, O my spirit!

Infinity has no end, endless is the quest you apprehend,
You are that infinity, become that boundless,
Ascend, ascend, ascend, ascend!!

References:
http://kuvempu.com/en/vishwamaanava.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuvempu

 

New Year Resolutions

 

Sharing an interesting video that might actually help you achieve all your New Year goals in 2019 🙂

If you’re like me, you probably make resolutions/set goals every New Year and forget about them within a month or two. That’s nothing unusual – research shows that most people aren’t very good at following up on their New Year resolutions 🙁

The key to actually achieving them is not to merely list out your goals but to think of the behaviours needed to achieve them, and implement those behavioural changes. For example, if you want to lose weight – don’t think of an ideal weight (a goal) that you want to achieve, but instead think of all the behaviours that you might need to indulge in to achieve the weight loss: eating right, exercising more, walking instead of driving, climbing stairs instead of taking the lift etc. You’re more likely to be successful if you focus on the required behaviour and list out its components 🙂

Any behavioural change that you try to implement will meet with resistance because of “inertia”, hence, first make a few small changes and gradually increase the time you spend on them.

Try making behavioural resolutions instead of setting goals in 2019, and let me know if it works! All the Best!! 😉

World Soil Day

Today (Dec 5) is “World Soil Day” – a day demarcated to bring attention to soil pollution and erosion. Needless to say, it’s a very important day! Feel quite strongly about this topic because my father was a soil scientist – I also have a lovely farm view from my new apartment and get to see the changing soil landscape every few months…..  😉

Soil conservation should be one of our topmost priorities because the quality and quantity of food we produce depend on it. We need stricter environmental regulations to prevent soil pollution with heavy metals, harmful chemicals, antibiotics, plastics, garbage in landfills, e-waste, non treated sewage, and excessive pesticides. Many of these pollutants are permeating into our everyday food, threatening soil quality and have very harmful effects.

The theme this year is “Be the solution to soil pollution”. You can help by:

– Demanding stricter regulations.
– Preferring organically grown food.
– Reducing waste by recycling.
– Cutting plastic use.
– Planting more trees.

Moronization for Dummies

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. – Bertrand Russell

Sharing an article that I posted two years ago on polarization (moronization), popped up in my FB “memories” today! I generally don’t post anything on politics because sooner or later, the debate gets acrimonious and vicious. Unfortunately, we’ve created an online/offline culture where no healthy debate is possible and where any kind of debate only leads to more extreme positions instead of some reconciliation on both sides.

Media and political parties benefit from this situation, because they get dedicated followers who are more emotional rather than rational, who blindly follow them and stop thinking for themselves.

If you think rationally – there will always be some meritorious positions as well as miscalculations on both sides, and we can get the best of both worlds by keeping an open mind. Also, need to be aware that there will always be some fanatics on both sides who’re totally prejudiced as well as hypocrites, and its best to ignore them and not pay them any attention. But unfortunately, the extremists get the most attention while the moderates are ignored.

We might not be able to change what’s going on, but at least its good to be aware of these traps. Interestingly, while we remain polarised and angry, political parties are much more pragmatic and often surprise us with unexpected alliances! We must learn from them – let’s hope for the best! 🙂 🙂
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A Dummies guide to “Moronization”

Definition of Moronization: A process used to convert absolutely normal, happy go lucky and peace-loving citizens into warring and unhappy morons (via TV)! The closest synonym would be “polarization”.

You would imagine that by now, this should be common knowledge, but surprisingly, it isn’t!!

Having been a moron myself (maybe I’m still one), I’ve first-hand experience of my conversion and have managed to decipher the process. All I had to do was to become a couch potato and watch the idiot box for long enough. All news channels use these methods!  🙂

Here are the steps:

1. Pick a recent, stray, unfortunate incident that’s very emotive. Even though there have been many, many other dissimilar incidents of the same or greater magnitude on the same day all over the country, telecast only this one, and make sure that you rerun this news 24/7 for a few days with never-ending in-depth analysis. Have a lot of melodrama, excessive emotion and nail the suspects without an investigation (the last step is the most important). As simple as that!  🙂

2. When you have TV debates, make sure that you invite an odd number of debaters. This way, you can always make sure that one point of view always gets more time (because an odd number of people can never be divided into two equal groups).  🙂

3. Encourage participants to scream and outshout each other. Cacophony without clarity is absolutely essential to push your own agenda.  🙂

4. Never give enough time for any participant to speak. Make them all very frustrated and unhappy, to create an atmosphere of negativity and uncertainty.  🙂

5. Have one to one interviews with moronization agents who can disseminate the desired misinformation.  🙂

6. Follow the above 5 steps diligently and consistently, and before you know it, the job’s done! Congratulations! You would have created an army of morons big enough to create more morons automatically. It’ll be a satisfying geometric progression  🙂  🙂  🙂

On Kindness

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Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate. – Albert Schweitzer

Sharing a link to an interesting article and have highlighted some of the main ideas below:

– Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

– Being kind often requires courage and strength.

– Science has now shown that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, brings about lasting well-being.

Ten Ways to practice kindness:

1. A kind word.
2. A smile.
3. Helping carry a heavy load.
4. Celebrating someone you love.
5. Giving honest compliments.
6. Taking a photo of someone and sending it to the person 😉
7. Sharing homemade food.
8. Donating old clothing and things you don’t need.
9. Kindness is a willingness to full-heartedly celebrate someone else’s success!
10. Most importantly, be kind to yourself 🙂

Reference:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/…/…/the-importance-kindness…

Niels Bohr

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Niels Bohr (1885 – 1962) was a Nobel Prize-winning Danish physicist who was born on this day (Oct 7). He was also a philosopher who promoted the scientific temper. Here are some of his interesting and witty quotes:

*Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself it’s own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it.

*An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.  🙂

*If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.

*We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. (on atomic models)

*Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation but as a question.

*The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth. (!!)

*How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress. (Height of optimism!!)

*Your theory is crazy, but it’s not crazy enough to be true.  🙂 🙂

*There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niels_Bohr

A New Beginning….

farmhouseKeep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose … not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember. – Anne Sullivan

Music is the Original Poetry

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Wrote these lines while listening to some soulful instrumental Rabindra Sangeet in a restaurant, during my recent visit to Kolkata! Amazingly touching and inspiring music that communicated without words or voice, and made it very easy to write……..should get hold of the collection for more inspiration…. 🙂 😉

After years of promises
and aeons of waiting
you broke my heart today
You’d touched those chords
that never existed
and evoked tunes
that brought new life
But it all ended
on this rainy monsoon day

I’ll shed a few tears
before I face the world
and put on my smiles