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Wake up 94 - Privileged aren't we?

I'm back to thinking just how lucky we really are. There are times when you feel a kind of slap in your face or a kick in your back that gets you 'kick'started. Perhaps now is one such moment.

I came across some news articles which had shades of what we see quite regularly these days in the paper: story of a wife being abused by a drunken husband, story of prisoners who were tortured by policemen who poured acid in their eyes, story of a lottery millionaire who spent so much that he became quite literally a beggar. And at night, after a long time a blind kid chatted with me about my Dubai trip; his voice was filled with joy when he said, "I liked your blog describing the flight and the airport." And I had a tinge of sadness when I thought over what he must be going through - how much he desires to see the world outside but for now he just has to be satisfied with mental visualization. And when you look back, I think most of us would feel (ought to feel!) we are a lot more privileged; we've been given better circumstances; we have a lot more things in our control. With greater power comes greater responsibility, right?

We watched the BBC movie Earth 2007 (BBC and Disney venture) on Earth day which showcased the struggles of different species - how elephants had to walk for days without water in the Kalahari Desert; how a polar bear swims for miles in search of land and food, how birds brave extreme conditions while migrating across the mighty Himalayas - and all this not for finding better pastures or fortunes but just for survival. I wonder what the animals would think of us if they saw our typical day and the amount of time we had at hand! The movie centers around 3 families - polar bear, elephant and the humpback whale; and interestingly in all 3 families it was the mother that took care of the young ones; getting food for them and protecting them from the dangers of the wild!

Nature reminds us that we are a privileged species.

And if you haven’t watched the movie, then do check it out - 90 mins. visual treat along with some impressive scenes of the Himalayas; supposed to be the first production to shoot aerials of Mt. Everest!

Wake up 93 - Being wise

There was this interesting article about a tin can collector dressed in rag clothes in Europe. He hardly had any friends. He made his living selling tin cans that he collected on the streets and sometimes ate from leftovers in trash bins. He did have a peculiar habit - he spent time reading books in a local library. Just a couple of weeks back he died. The guy was a millionaire who made money in the stock market. His library time was spent in reading papers and books about the stock market. He used the money he earned from tin cans to make money in the market. It just reminded me of something that used to crop up while chatting with friends - knowledge and wisdom.

I feel we sometimes read so much information daily that might never be of any use to us; the argument is that we don't know the limit of our brain and that there is plenty of memory available in the brain. But just because we can remember so many things, do we really need to know so many things?

"The wise sees knowledge and action as one; they see truly" - Bhagavad Gita

Knowledge is defined as "The state or fact of knowing" while wisdom is defined as "The ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding".

The below from Sherlock Holmes (in "A Study in Scarlet") stretches this point (you might feel it is a little too extreme!)

"You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."
"What the deuce is it to me?" he interrupted impatiently; "you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work."

By the way, do you know what happened when the tin can man died? You can take a guess - people started fighting over his fortune! Huh; shortcuts!

Wake up 92 - Self sympathizing

I spent my time over the weekend lazing around. Even though the body was in lazy mode, the mind was racing back and forth playing flashbacks of missed opportunities and then trying to console itself. I came up with innovative reasons for the missed opportunities and then wondered if I was looking for sympathy; maybe I’m self sympathizing! Ever been in situation where you had the chance to do something but let it pass by? And then later when you look back you console yourself saying, "Ah, I couldn’t have done it because I had to do something else at the same time." "I didn’t have an idea about what it was I didn’t have enough support for it", "I didn’t have the money for it", "I wasn’t given enough guidance to proceed" and a whole bunch of excuses are made up in the mind; it’s like vindicating our past actions to make ourselves feel better!

"We excuse our sloth under the pretext of difficulty" - Marcus Fabius Quintilian, Roman writer.

Thinking of some people who made their mark in history, they did go through rough and tough times; and knowing that they got through those rough times to succeed makes their stories inspiring. Lance Armstrong’s (7 time Tour de France winner) story draws awe when we know the background about his fight against cancer, Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple Inc.) story is more interesting when we learn that he was fired from the company he founded and then invited to join again, Nelson Mandela is more revered when we hear stories of years spent in prison. Interesting to think over what might have happened had these people self sympathized instead of taking action!

"And oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse."
- William Shakespeare (King John: Act IV)
"He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else" - Benjamin Franklin

You know, this wakeup isn’t good because I had to write it very quickly; hardly had any time to prepare or research and I was so busy over the weekend that I couldn’t even finish it on Sunday! "It’s okay SS, it just wasn’t possible!"

Wake up 91 - Being blunt

You might know why most judges in competitions, when declaring the winner proclaim, "It was tough to judge but at the end of the day there has to be a winner and a loser." They say it even though some of the performances may not have been anywhere near that of the winner.

In real life, we come across different types of people when it comes to finding fault - some who will point the mistake in a refined manner to avoid hurting, some who will never point out anything and some who are downright blunt in the way they say it. We would be led into believing that the polished way of putting it across is better but sometimes the blunt way fetches immediate results - and immediate results is what we look for in everything in life! Think over it - when was the last time you were embarrassed by someone? Some victims will feel angered and fuel their anger to ensure perfection next time, some will feel so embarrassed that they will never attempt the task again and others who do attempt it again will suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder and ask many people to verify that they have done it right. If we all could be categorized in the first bucket it would be great; strive for perfection when we are wrong. But we generally tend to fall in the second (inaction) and third category (fear) when faced with bluntness. People who are blunt might argue that when the ego is hurt, the person will not repeat the mistake. But it is hard to argue from this angle considering the fact that out of the 3 eventualities, two actually hurt the victim. Talking of bluntness, I feel many of us have the habit of being too blunt when it comes to sportsmen and movies. Agreed we spend our time and money but is it appropriate? Some effort has obviously gone in the background which could be acknowledged. Which is what our contest judges do all the time!

How will it feel if someone tells you immediately after your first public presentation that your content was nonsense, the grammar was horrible, your voice was unintelligible and it was a horrendous presentation?

Wake up 90 - Money money everywhere, money money from thin air

It’s fascinating how money can tear apart relationships. I heard the story of two brothers who have been long time allies and partners. But recently in an issue involving a large loan, the two brothers broke apart. Reason was the repayment of the loan and as the old saying goes,"Money can ruin any relationship". It’s a pity that we fight over money; money that doesn’t even exist! It’s true - they say 90% of US dollars don’t even exist in currency notes or coins! Money is just created out of thin air whenever a loan is taken! It is something that we fight for but something that most of us haven’t tried to understand - the story is fascinating if only we would search for it; the evolution of money and evolution of banks. There is this myth that for all the money being printed there needs to be some gold kept in reserve - in some secret vault in the central bank perhaps! But fact is that the gold standard was dropped long ago and our money is not backed by gold or anything - it is money just because the Government says it is money; money backed by order!

Another myth is regarding the creation of money - we think that the Government prints money when it wants to increase money supply but fact is that they usually don’t need to print anything; instead they encourage us to take loans, which in turn increases debt and the money supply. You stare in disbelief saying, "We can’t get new money from a loan; no way." A simple example: You deposit Rs.1000 in the bank and I step into the bank for taking a Rs. 900 loan. The bank approves my loan and what do we have now - you assume you have Rs. 1000 available and I assume that I have Rs. 900 available because my loan was approved. So we have Rs.1900 available even though the only deposit received was Rs.1000! When I took my loan, the bank never told you that they have lent out your Rs.1000 and neither did they tell you that you can’t use your Rs.1000; Voila! Magic - money from thin air! So to increase money supply the interest rates are reduced to encourage us to take loans! People debate whether this system can survive and people blame this system for the bubbles that keep bursting but for the time being money does matter and people fight and kill to gain more money.

"What difference does it make how much you have? What you do not have amounts to much more" - Seneca, Roman philosopher