The plan for the remaining years is to grow freer, lighter and less encumbered till eventually there is nothing left to weigh down the soul and it takes off into space, because it has grown lighter than the atmosphere. Isn’t this a worthier aspiration than being gradually pulled down into the earth by the deadweight of memories, knowledge, beliefs, allegiances, regrets and cares?
Spent a few hours
uglifying adapting my blog to suit the (slightly modified) Pumpkin theme of my Hubzilla channel. In this way, the two CMSs look more suited to each other. The Weaver Xtreme theme is one of the best and most flexible that is available in WordPress, and is very well cared for, well-documented and regularly updated. There’s a premium version, but a simple blog site doesn’t need it. Weaver Xtreme could exactly duplicate the Hubzilla theme, but for for now it’s close enough. There may be need for a second round of modifications for comments or other features.
Eventually, rather than move my WordPress blog into Hubzilla’s Articles module, which is still not perfect, I’ve created a close integration between my Hubzilla Channel and WordPress, more or less duplicating the Hubzilla theme in WordPress, and adding the same menu in the WordPress site and the #Hubzilla channel. I’m not completely happy with the theme colors yet, but whatever changes I make in one, I will change in the other.
Life is a kind of school but not one in which the syllabus is specifically tailored for the student, I think. Suffering (as well as pleasure) is there in abundance, and we can learn important lessons from suffering. We can acquire the capacity for empathy and compassion, for example. But I don’t think, as I used to, that the pain level is necessarily turned up in conformity with our capacity to learn from it. Many people suffer terribly all their lives without learning a thing from it.
Suffering is a kind of rich loam from which one can evolve spiritually, just as a lotus can only grow from mud. But the same soil can also nurture bad seeds. Life presents us with circumstances and lets us do what we want with them. It doesn’t necessarily give us the right circumstances to suit our disposition. But if we are sensitive not just to the circumstances, but to the lessons they potentially carry for us, there will be an evolution in our ability to understand life. And it will seem to us that we have been given exactly what we need; and in fact for one who is capable of such learning, this is always true.
Meaning is not inherent to reality (i.e. pain may come to us at random and does not target us specifically). And wisdom is not a matter of investing life with meaning (i.e. we do not need to adopt the superstition that we are being kindly mentored by our reality, and therefore the circumstances themselves are meaningful). The scale of meaning is a kind of human measure. Actually the universe is neither meaningful nor meaningless. If we can look back at the universe with the same dispassionate eye with which it seemingly regards us, our perception and frame of reference will begin to change. The view that we are victims or beneficiaries of an agency that is external to us begins to change too.
We live in an era of convergence but also of transition. It’s a delicate time when, more than at any time in history, the past is still available to us. We can reach out into the past, visiting the cave paintings and monuments of earlier civilizations, reading their literature, appreciating and understanding their different ways of thinking. This is partly because in our present reality we are still exposed to a variety of cultures and languages. Our world is enriched by diversity. We should be thankful to immigrants and refugees, who bring with them different ways and customs. They break down our assumptions about our own sometimes overly homogeneous or hegemonic cultures. At no time in our history have we been more capable of absorbing influences from past and present world cultures.
But there is no guarantee that this will be true in the coming years. We have already witnessed how wars and intolerance can wipe out the monuments of the past, from Syria to Afghanistan, i.e. the cradle countries of our current civilization. And even without ISIS and the Taliban, there are the effects of earthquakes, as in Bam, or air pollution, as in Delhi, and of course climate change everywhere, causing floods and fires, all of which take a toll on the preservation of the past. At the same time, languages grow extinct, from France to the Amazon rain forest, cultures are swept aside: it’s an age of mass cultural genocide.
As our culture grows more homogeneous we will begin to lose our ability to understand and appreciate the past. We will not understand the ways in which past civilizations could be based on different concepts than our own. Already we are seeing in western countries that the majority of people have a limited capacity to understand theistic cultures, and this is partly the reason for the rebellion of many citizens of those countries against the arrogant, cynical materialism and atheism of modern societies.
Two things are currently urgent. One is to preserve, to the degree that is possible, the diversity of civilizations still extant. We need to spend less time attempting to educate people of cultures different from our own, and more time trying to preserve these cultures. We’ve spent the last couple of hundred years ensuring that the people living in the tropics from the Amazon to Africa and India and further east, dress and behave modestly, in conformity with the norms of northern peoples. We have unified and homogenized the languages of the western countries in favour of standardized versions, and insisted that immigrant school children will adapt to the societies in which they have come to live. Once we have wiped out diversity it will be difficult to restore it.
The other thing we need to do is to take advantage of our still existent diversity in order to understand past civilizations and cultures, before we lose this ability. For example, we still have shamanic and animistic people in the world, and we know that their beliefs in some ways reflect those of paleolithic cultures. We know that the natives peoples of the Amazon or of New Guinea have an intimate understanding of their environment that we can only envy. They have a knowledge of the uses of every plant and substance and have developed the ability to survive in adverse conditions.
Humanity has not completed its evolution yet. We are not necessarily at the end of this process. But whether we evolve into multidimensional beings capable of creative, spiritual and holistic thinking, or cardboard automatons living in totalitarian societies where every breath of divergent thinking is suppressed, depends a lot on our present time.
Imagining the future has to take into account the degree to which our reality is conditioned by the existence of substances and materials. The common objects of our present day world, so much taken for granted, would have been unimaginable to people living in an era before their creation, and this is partly because new materials came into existence. Plastics, especially, made so many things possible, from seran wrap to artificial limbs. So when we contemplate the future, we have to take into account that equally unimaginable objects may come into existence due to the creation of new materials that we do not now possess. Frank Herbert understood this when he imagined buildings constructed of “plasteel”.
“Oh come! In whatever guise you appear, I know you!”
Oh Lord, without me you are a pauper.
You cannot find your own feet unless my lips brush them.
Oh Lord you would have no presence
If I were not here to reveal you to yourself.
What can you know without my eyes, my gentle fingers to divine your form?
I lead you Lord through the darkness of your hidden chambers and
In the dazzle of your sudden sunlight I am your guide.
O Lord, I give you your creation
In the moment that I, a man, destroy, disrupt, defile…
In the moment that I extinguish I make plain
The wonder of your works.
O Lord, without my belief in you, you would be nothing!
I’m the hound whose homeless master becomes through my worship a hero.
Be thankful for my diligence
In unmasking you O Lord!
In taking these many coloured beads and finding the thread
That makes of them a garland for your worship.
You placed baubles at my feet. I made sense of them.
You gave me worthless clay.
I fashioned it into an idol of you.
Do not be angry at my idolatry!
Only through it can you ever know your form.
I gave you yourself
I am your eyes, your fingers
Through which you can caress your creation.
Do not undervalue my gifts.
They are your own.
These stories of mob lynchings (this one in Reuters) are so depressing. I’m beginning to feel that there is something more going on than simply panic against child abductors.
I was just remembering a paragraph in Saki (HH Munri) story “Filboid Studge” (1912)
” There are thousands of respectable middle-class men who, if you found them unexpectedly in a Turkish bath, would explain in all sincerity that a doctor had ordered them to take Turkish baths; if you told them in return that you went there because you liked it, they would stare in pained wonder at the frivolity of your motive. In the same way, whenever a massacre of Armenians is reported from Asia Minor, every one assumes that it has been carried out “under orders” from somewhere or another; no one seems to think that there are people who might like to kill their neighbours now and then.”
That’s typical Saki. But it would be truer to say that this is a reaction of village people who have been left out of India’s boom. They see rich hi-tech workers from Hyderabad in their shiny new red SUV and something snaps inside them. Perhaps the story they tell themselves is that they are confronting child abductors, but unconsciously they are acting from a deep sense of grievance. All of these lynchings have been of outsiders. In the south, the victims have usually been northerners or people from the cities. In a case near Tiruvannamalai in TN, a 63 year old north Indian woman was killed after having been seen giving sweets to children. Probably the children themselves were pestering her for sweets or school pens.
Whenever there is a bandh (a strike) or any kind of civil unrest in India, the first thing you do is get off the streets, because if you are not a local, or are from the wrong community, you automatically become a potential target. If something unexpected happens, like the death of a well-known politician, the streets empty in an instant, because everyone is afraid.
Is India such a “primitive” country? It isn’t the only place subject to mob violence. In America, people become similarly afraid of each other after every national disaster. Every man for himself. Civilization is all too fragile.
Lately I’ve been reading a translation of Sarmad by Paul Smith, who seems to have translated almost the whole body of Persian language Sufi poetry into English – tons of material. Paul Smith is a disciple of the 20th century spiritual teacher Meher Baba, whose center near Ahmednagar in Maharashtra I’ve visited. Interestingly the small town of Ahmednagar is also the place where emperor Aurangzeb (or Alamgir) died. Aurangzeb was responsible for Sarmad’s execution; a year or so after he had his elder brother and rival to the throne Darah Shikoh killed. Dara Shikoh, like Sarmad, was also a sufi and a composer of poems. He is also known for translating the Upanishads. A great man but a poor leader of men, unfortunately.
I don’t much care for Paul Smith’s translations, unfortunately, at least not his rubaiyat of Sarmad. He attempts to follow the traditional rubaiyat format of rhyming the first, second and fourth line, as Edward Fitzgerald did more successful with Omar Khayyam back in the 19th century. But whereas Fitzgerald employed blank verse, Smith’s translations are almost like prose, except for the rhyme at the end of the line. This convention doesn’t work very well, in my opinion.
This is what I occupy myself with instead of worrying about citizenship laws, impending wars and other troubles. Sarmad would feel right at home I think, or not at home:
“Until your last breath
This world won’t be your friend.”
I feel a need to write some sort of manual about how to spiritually survive the current dark age. It would be full of quotations from Lao Tzu, Ashtavakra, Sarmad… Lao Tzu was probably the most practical survivalist. His teachings provided the philosophical basis of Chinese martial arts, but he also showed people how to stay out of harm’s way. In T’ang dynasty China, many a disgraced courtier would find asylum by adopting a new life far from the emperor in the forests and mountains south of modern day Xian. Even today, folks who are disgruntled with modern day China and want to lead a simpler lifestyle are reportedly finding refuge in these same mountains. There have been a couple of films about these modern day hermits. However, the spiritual survival about which the sufis and vedantins (and Lao Tsu himself) speak is more important than merely living out one’s days.
Shorten your complaint.
Of two choices, take one.
Either surrender your body
To the will of your friend
to sacrifice your soul.
At the time of his death, he was perfectly ready. He “looked straight into his executioner’s eyes, and spoke the following words:
o come, I implore you!
In whatever guise you come
I know you well.
Aurangzeb, on the other hand, lived almost to the age of 90, but did not know peace. He had on his conscience the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men. From his deathbed he wrote:
I know not who I am, where I shall go, or what will happen to this sinner full of sins. . . . My years have gone by profitless. God has been in my heart, yet my darkened eyes have not recognized his light. . . . There is no hope for me in the future. The fever is gone, but only the skin is left. … I have greatly sinned, and know not what torments await me. . . . May the peace of God be upon you.
I was just reading a review of the Logitech G710+ mechanical gaming keyboard. I was given this as a gift some time ago by my son when he bought for himself a still more expensive keyboard. In general I’m quite happy with the keyboard, though I can’t say that the typing experience is amazingly better than my other keyboards. I think I might agree with one reviewer who said the keys are just a shade too close together. Perhaps keyboards should be tailor made for the user, based on expert evaluation.
I also have a cheap Rapoo bluetooth keyboard, for example, which I bought once in India for usage with an Android tablet, but which can be used for any of my devices. In some ways this keyboard feels a little bit easier to use, despite its small size. The only trouble with bluetooth is that it is not 100% dependable. I keep the Rapoo next to the Logitech. For night use, when my spouse is sleeping, the Rapoo is a bit quieter than the Logitech, though then there is the disadvantage that the keys are not lit.
The keys, are if anything, a little more generously sized on the Rapoo, though the keyboard itself is so much smaller. There is no number pad on the Rapoo. Since I never use those number keys, it is an advantage for me that the number pad is absent: the wrist is closer to the mouse or trackball.
By and large, I think my typing experience on the Rapoo is better than that of the Logitech. An irony, since the Rapoo is so much smaller and cheaper.
Fortunately, on account of my desk setup, I can shove the G710+ to the back whenever I feel like using the Rapoo. And whenever the Rapoo decides it isn’t going to work, or I feel like I would like to use the G710+, it’s available as usual.
Recently I bought a Logitech M570 trackball, even though I have a good Logitech mouse. I’ve actually always liked trackballs, just as I’ve always hated trackpads. With a trackball, the hand does not need to travel around the desk, which I think is easier, and the actual surface under the pointing device is unimportant. Our glass topped coffee tables, for example, are fine. There’s also an advantage if one is using a laptop on a portable knee tray, for example, or an airline’s tray, in that less room is necessary. The only thing is that it is more important that a trackball be well designed and engineered than for a mouse. Logitech’s M570 fills that bill, and has been tested by many users. My history with trackpads is that these too must be well-engineered, and I have never been able to afford the high end laptops such as Apple products, that presumably are equipped with better trackpads. I possess a Logitech keyboard – trackpad combo which is the most horrible device that I ever purchased from Logitech. I use it for our media pc, but even for that comparatively light use, it is ill-suited.