Friday, October 9, 2015

Miracle

"The miracle of Jesus is himself" - Rumi 

I have been reading 'The essential Rumi by Coleman Barks and I came across the phrase mentioned above in the chapter titled 'Jesus Poems'. Somehow, it resonated very strongly with me. While I can only guess what exactly Rumi had in mind when he wrote this, what it triggered in my mind was the wonder and mystery on 'being fully man and fully God at the same time' - which, to me, is the biggest miracle of Jesus. The incarnation of Christ (Son of Man) did not involve the subtraction of deity, but the addition of humanity.


Another 'miraculous' aspect for me in all this is how Jesus allows me to find Him in 'unconventional' places!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Questionable Assumptions?!

The last two posts ( ദൈവത്തിനു ചൂണ്ട ഇടുന്നു & ജീവിത ശകടം പംക്ച്ചര്‍ ആയി) that I had written, talk about communion with God (thinking about God, praying etc.). This raises an important question, ‘why should we have this communion with God’? Would God punish us if we don’t do this? Should we feel guilty if we don’t think about God?

These questions made me think about the assumptions that underlie the last two posts. The main assumptions were regarding the nature and purpose of the relationship between man and God.

In Christianity, the relationship between ‘God and man’ is considered to be that between ‘Father and child’ & I had assumed the same when it comes to the nature of the relationship. In such a scenario, communion (thinking about/interacting with each other) is a must for making the relationship work. It also follows that both God and man will ‘miss something’ if the communion does not happen.

No; I don’t think that God will punish us if we don’t think about(interact with) Him. But I do feel that we will miss out on a wonderful opportunity if we don’t do it. We discover certain dimensions of ourselves only in the context of interactions with others. So if we don’t interact with God, we might not be able to realize our full human potential.

To me, what happens when we interact with God is that we 're-member'. Remember (re-member) in the sense of being a member again (being united again with the 'Whole'). After this 're-membering' we re-emerge as renewed (refreshed, 'born again'/'born from above'*) human beings with a greater degree of awareness. This higher awareness will help us in making better choices - in dealing with ourselves and with others. It is not a matter of God telling us not to do certain things when we interact with Him. It is more a matter of we making different decisions (start, stop, continue, do more of, do less of) ourselves, based on our enhanced awareness.

Again, I don't think that God punishes us. I think that our actions, laws of nature and chance (entropy) combine to produce certain outcomes. I do believe that God nurtures us and gives us the strength do deal with the outcomes by 'being with us', suffering with us and suffering for us (as in the passion/suffering of Christ). God also gives us the wisdom to make better choices. This happens in the context of our interaction with God.

Hence it ‘makes sense’ for us to feel guilty if we miss out on this opportunity (to reach out to God). The feeling of guilt (like the feelings of anxiety, fear etc.) can be a useful warning signal. As long as we recognize the signal, we don’t really have to suffer the pain of guilt.

I understand that different sets of assumptions (on the nature and purpose of the relationship between man and God) are possible and they will lead to different conclusions (if we follow the same process of logical deduction). As I had written earlier, any sort of beliefs/assumptions about God is problematic (as they will limit God). I am also aware that many of these assumptions/beliefs are ‘anthropomorphic’ (attributing human characteristics to God) and can even amount to ‘creating God in the image of man’ – not a particularly noble endeavor I must say!

ബോബി ജോസ് കട്ടികാട്‌ ഹൃദയവയല്‍ എന്ന പുസ്തകത്തില്പറയുന്നു " ദൈവം നമ്മുടെ ശാഠൃങ്ങല്കും  ധാരണകല്കും മുകളിലെവിടെയോ ആണ്. ഇതാണ് ദൈവം എന്ന് പറയരുത്. ഇതല്ല ദൈവം എന്ന് പറയുക കുറേകൂടി എളുപ്പമാണ്.  അതുകൊണ്ടാണല്ലോ എന്താണ് ദൈവം എന്ന് ചോദിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ 'നേതി - നേതി' (ഇതല്ല - ഇതല്ല ദൈവം) എന്ന് ആര്ഷഭാരതം ചൊല്ലിക്കൊടുക്കുനത് പരമാവധി നിനക്ക് പറയാവുന്നത് ' ഇതുകൂടിയാണ് ദൈവം' എന്നുമാത്രം. അതിനപ്പുറമായ ശാഠൃങ്ങള്‍  ദൈവനിന്ദകള്ആണ്.” 

The above discussion clearly indicates that my current responses to the questions at the beginning of this post are far from adequate. I hope and pray that my understanding (and my answers/responses) will evolve!

* "Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again'" (John 3:3). Please note that the Greek for 'again' also means 'from above'.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

ജീവിത ശകടം പംക്ച്ചര്‍ ആയി!

ജീവിത ശകടം കൂടെ കൂടെ പംക്ച്ചര്‍ ആകുന്നു. ആലോചിച്ചു നോക്കി - എന്താ കാരണം എന്ന്.

ആദ്യമൊന്നും പിടികിട്ടിയില്ല. പിന്നെ മനസ്സിലായി. പ്രശ്നം സ്പയര്‍ ടായരിന്ടെ ഉപയോഗവുമായി ബന്ധപെട്ടതാണ്.


ദൈവത്തിനോട് ഒരു സ്പയര്‍ ടായരിനോടെന്നതുപോലെ ആണ് പെരുമാറുന്നത്. വണ്ടി ഓടുമ്പോള്‍ സ്പെയര്‍ ടയറിനെ കുറിച്ച് ആര്‍ ചിന്തിക്കുന്നു? സ്പയര്‍ ടായരുമായുള്ള സംസര്‍ഗം വണ്ടി ‍പംക്ച്ചര്‍ ആകുമ്പോള്‍ മാത്രം! ദൈവമാകുന്ന സ്പയര്‍ ടയര്‍ ഇടുമ്പോള്‍ വണ്ടി നന്നായി ഓടുന്നു. അത് മാറ്റി സാധാരണ ടയര്‍ ഇടുമ്പോള്‍ വണ്ടി വീണ്ടും പംക്ച്ചര്‍ ആകുന്നു. 

ദൈവമേ, വണ്ടി ഓടുമ്പോള്‍ തന്നെ നിന്നെപ്പറ്റി ചിന്തിക്കാനുള്ള മനസ്സ് എനിക്ക് തരേണമേ!

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name".(Psalm 91:14)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

ദൈവത്തിനു ചൂണ്ട ഇടുന്നു!


ദൈവവുമായി ചില ധാരണകള്‍ ഉണ്ടാക്കാന്‍ ഞാന്‍‍ നടത്തിയ ശ്രമങ്ങളെ പറ്റി ഇതിനു മുന്‍പ് എഴുതിയിരുന്നു; അവയൊന്നും വിജയിച്ചില്ലെന്നും. ഈ ശ്രമങ്ങള്‍ പരാജയപ്പെടാനുള്ള ചില കാരണങ്ങളും പറഞ്ഞിരുന്നു. ഇപ്പോള്‍ തോന്നുന്നു വേറൊരു കാരണം കൂടി ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു എന്ന്.

കാരണം ലളിതം ആണ്. ഈ ശ്രമങ്ങള്‍ ഒരു തരത്തില്‍ ദൈവത്തിനു ചൂണ്ട ഇടാനുള്ള പരിപാടികള്‍ ആയിരുന്നു. ശ്രമങ്ങളുടെ അടിസ്ഥാന ഭാവം ഇതായിരുന്നു : "ദൈവമേ ഞാന്‍ ഇതു ചൈയ്യാം, പകരമായി നീ അത് ചെയ്യേണമേ", അല്ലെങ്ങില്‍ "ദൈവമേ ഞാന്‍ ഈ നല്ല കാര്യം ചെയ്തിരിക്കുന്നു പകരമായി ഞാന്‍ അത് പ്രതീക്ഷിക്കുന്നു". വലിയ മീനിനെ പിടിക്കാന്‍ ചെറിയ ഇര ഇട്ടു കൊടുക്കുനതു പോലെ!

ദൈവം ചൂണ്ടയില്‍ വീണില്ല. ദൈവത്തിന്നു സ്തോത്രം!

പിന്നെ തോന്നി - ഈ പ്രശ്‌നം കുറച്ചുകൂടി വ്യാപകം ആണെന്ന്. നമ്മുടെ പല പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥനകളും നേര്‍ച്ചകളും ഇത്തരത്തില്‍ ഉള്ളവ ആല്ലേ?

ഞാന്‍ ദൈവത്തോട് പറഞ്ഞു "ചൂണ്ട ഇടാന്‍ ശ്രമിച്ചത് ക്ഷമിക്കേണമേ". ദൈവം പറഞ്ഞു "ഞാന്‍ ചൂണ്ടകളില്‍ വീഴുന്ന ദൈവമല്ല. ഒരു കാര്യത്തില്‍ എനിക്ക് സന്തോഷം ഉണ്ട് - ചൂണ്ട ഇടുമ്പോള്‍ എങ്കിലും നീ എന്നെപറ്റി ചിന്തിച്ചല്ലോ. എന്നെക്കുറിച്ച് ചിന്തിക്കുവാന്‍ ചൂണ്ട ഇടീല്‍ നിനക്ക് അവശ്യം എങ്കില്‍ എത്ര വേണമെങ്കിലും ചൂണ്ട ഇട്ടുകൊള്ളൂ. ഞാന്‍ വീഴാതെ നോക്കിക്കോളാം."

ചൂണ്ട ഇടുക, ചിന്തിക്കുക. ചൂണ്ട ഇല്ലാതെ ദൈവത്തെ ധ്യാനിക്കുവാന്‍ കഴിയുന്നത്‌ വരെ.

ഹോമയാഗങ്ങഴെക്കാള്‍ ദൈവപരിജ്ഞാനത്തില്‍ ഞാന്‍ പ്രസാദിക്കുന്നു (ഹോശേയ 6:6)

"I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Designed to think?!!

"The quality of my thinking is directly proportional to the level of my frustration", I heard myself saying this to a friend of mine. Initially, I didn't think much about it. I felt that I was just trying to be funny. Then I realized that the above statement came from the core of my being and hence I should look at it more closely.

I like to think. I feel happy when I sit down and think (in a relaxed manner) about a topic that I am exploring. The results of the various psychometric instruments that I have taken show a preference for thinking/intellectual activity. However, this does not mean that I actually do a lot of thinking or even that I am good in thinking.

May be, I am not doing as much thinking as I should. May be, I have fallen into some sort of an intellectual slumber and frustration (with other parts of my life) is required to wake me up! May be, when I feel uncomfortable I sort of 'regress' into thinking as a source of comfort. May be, I have some sort of a 'fear of failure' when it comes to intellectual activities also and frustration is required to overcome that. My be, I am 'designed to think' (possibly about certain topics) and my path to happiness and fulfillment is through thinking about/exploring those topics/aspects to the maximum extent of my abilities/talents!!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Creative destruction: Fullness in vacuum!

I have been searching for some sort of‘equilibrium’ in my relationship with God. But as soon as I think I have reached a ‘workable equilibrium’ it promptly gets destroyed. This pattern has been repeating over and over again in the last few years of my life. This has left me quite unsettled and puzzled.

“What is the meaning of all this?” I have often asked myself. Isn’t it reasonable to wish for some sort of stability and predictability in one’s relationship with God – especially when one is trying to anchor one’s entire life around that relationship? Won’t this kind of a pattern destroy a person’s self confidence, self respect and even his belief in God?

While I haven’t yet found any ‘logical’ answers to the above questions, the following is ‘my current thinking on this matter’! May be, my definition of equilibrium is a bit too ‘static’. May be, my compulsion to reach equilibrium (even a ‘dynamic equilibrium’) is coming from a hidden desire for predicting and even influencing God’s actions (which is a dubious endeavor - as I have discussed here and here).

May be, all my beliefs about God (including the belief that such beliefs can work!) have to be destroyed before true understanding of God can emerge. May be, once the mental chatter/clutter from all these beliefs and hopes is cleared, knowledge of God would emerge from that silence! May be, this is also a belief and/or hope. May be ...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Manna!

Manna, is the name of the food that God provided for the Israelites during their journey through the desert (Exodus - Chapter 16). It was available six mornings a week. The Israelites were instructed to eat only the manna they had gathered for each day. Manna stored up for the following day "bred worms and stank" the exception being the day before Shabbat, when twice the amount of manna was gathered, which did not spoil overnight.

What makes me think about manna now? It is because I have noticed some interesting parallels between ‘my relationship with God’ and ‘relationship of the Israelites with God’ – in the matter of God providing for human needs.

For all the 40 years in the desert, Israelites received manna. But they received it in such a way that they could gather only that much manna that they could eat in a day. They were specifically instructed not to store manna. But some of them did store manna with the result that the stored up manna “bread worms and stank”. Similarly, by the Grace of God, I have always had enough in my life so far. Sometimes, it did seem as if I won’t have enough, but when the day/situation arrived I did have enough. Logically speaking, this should be a strong enough signal for me to believe that God will provide for my needs when the occasion arises. But still have a strong desire for storing up some ‘manna’.

Possibly, it has something to do with the excessive discomfort that I experience when I feel that I am not in control of my life – that I had mentioned in an earlier post. I don’t want to control anyone. I just want to be in control of my life. This is partly coming from the compulsion that I feel for being responsible and reliable (and possibly, comfortable). The crux of the matter is that the arrangement of daily provision of ‘manna’ (with no storage rights and advance provision) would mean that one has to be dependent on God on an ongoing basis. May be the solution is to find a way to be responsible and reliable (and comfortable) without necessarily being in control. Possibly, this solution also requires a higher level of awareness (about God, about myself, about my relationship with God, about the meaning of concepts like dependence, control, responsibility, reliability & comfort and about how all these come together), than what I have at this point.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hoshana!

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday. I was feeling quite depressed in the morning – having been under a lot of stress during the past few days. In our church we have the tradition of going around the church singing Hosanna on Palm Sundays. I remember telling my wife “I don’t want to go to Church today. I am not in a mood to sing Hosanna”. My understanding of Hosanna was that it was purely ‘a declaration of praise’ and I was in too grumpy a mood to sing praises. While I did ‘know’ that one should praise God in all situations, I was feeling reluctant to do so. Nevertheless (by the Grace of God!), I did end up going to the Church.

During the sermon, the priest talked about the origins and meanings of the word Hosanna. It was quite a revelation for me. While the Greek word ‘Hosanna’ is indeed the cry of praise or adoration shouted on Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (“Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” – Matthew 21:9), the Hebrew word ‘Hoshana’ is a cry for salvation. ‘Hoshana’ means “please save” or “save now”. So Hosanna/Hoshana is both a cry of praise and a cry for salvation at the same time! So singing Hoshana was precisely the right thing to do for me (who was torn between the requirement to sing praises and the reluctance to do so because of the state of mind – a depressed mind crying out for salvation) at that time. I am amazed at how perfectly and beautifully God can engineer situations!!! Thank God I went to Church that day!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Divine Example

In the previous post, I had described how my assumptions (beliefs) about God were 'proved' to be inaccurate (one by one - over a period of time - through hard experience) and how that in turn forced me to think about what kind of belief (if any) would be appropriate for me. I had also said that any assumption, belief or any definition of God will limit God and hence it might not be a good idea to have any such beliefs or definitions and that 'pure faith' (without any beliefs) might be the answer. I was thinking about examples of such pure faith. Initially, I was not successful in this endeavor. Then I came across (during a sermon in my church) what I think can serve as an excellent example - based on the behavior of none other than Jesus himself.

There are seven sayings of Jesus on the cross (seven short phrases that Jesus uttered at his crucifixion immediately before he died, gathered from the four Gospels). The fourth saying was that "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?". And the last (seventh) saying was that "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit". Now, here we have a Man, who after having felt that God had forsaken Him, again saying that He is committing His spirit into God's hands. Can there be a better example of pure faith - after all the beliefs had been broken down!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bargaining with God

I have been trying to bargain with God – for a long time. And, I have failed – consistently and miserably. I am a reasonably good negotiator (going by the standards of the world); but that didn’t really help – actually that might have made the matters worse.

I thought I was making a good offer. And I did revise the offer – many times – when the previous offers seem to be getting rejected.

The initial offer from my side was ‘I will pray to you and I will keep away from major sins and in return please keep me away from major problems’. For a while, it seemed to work, and then it failed. So, I deduced that immunity from major problems in life was not a realistic demand. Hence, I revised my offer to “I will pray to you and I will do the best I can and in return please don’t give me any trouble that I can’t handle”. This also didn't work. Then I tried a variation of the same. "Please give me the strength so that I can deal with any trouble that I need to handle". The variation also failed to do the job. Then I realized that the rationale behind the last two offers was that while I was prepared to face major problems, I was scared that if I was hit with something that I couldn’t cope with I will lose control. And I was mortally afraid of losing control. This offer was also ‘rejected’. Hence I realized that ‘not losing control’ or ‘not being broken’ was also not an acceptable demand.

Now I am not sure what to bargain for. I do have some ideas- like asking God to “make me fruitful in my land of suffering” or to ‘be with me in my suffering’ or to ‘show me the meaning of my suffering’ or ‘to show me the light at the end of the tunnel’. But, I have a nagging suspicion that ‘God does not want to negotiate with me at all’! It might be that any offer that I come up with (and even the very attempt to negotiate) will based on a certain underlying belief about God. As I had mentioned in the previous post, any belief or definition of God will limit God and hence it might not be a good idea to have any such beliefs or definitions. May be pure faith – without any beliefs – might be the answer. But is that also a kind of belief??!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

One thing that I know...

"Is there something that I learned from my life so far in the domain of spirituality?" - This is a question that has been popping up in my mind quite often these days. A few years ago, I thought that I knew quite a lot in this domain. I am not so sure any more. It is in my nature to 'doubt' and to 'question' - any sort of knowledge/conclusions. May be, the way towards faith for me is through 'doubting my doubts' (e.g. 'how do I know that I don't know?').

Let me come back to the original question that I started this post with. There is nothing that I am absolutely sure of - in the sense of having arrived at my final unchangeable conclusion. I feel that one's answers to fundamental questions in life should (and do) evolve throughout one's life. This also means that one's knowledge/conclusions also evolve. Having said this, there is something (among the list of inferences that I have drawn from life so far) that is quite high in terms of degree of conviction - at least at this point.

The inference is something like this. I can't understand God in the scientific meaning of the term 'understand'. In science, when one tries to understand a 'phenomenon', it is usually with the objective to use the understanding to predict and possibly influence (or even control) the phenomenon. Now, any definition of God will limit God and hence can be problematic. Also, if one is able to predict what God will do or if one is able to influence God's actions, that can also limit God. While I do think that it is possible to get connected to God, to catch a glimpse of God's mind or even to feel one with God, I think that these are hugely dependent on the 'Grace of God'. While one's readiness/preparedness/actions can be a significant factor, it is definitely not a sufficient condition or even a necessary condition!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jesus and simplicity on the other side of complexity

There is a post on 'simplicity at the other side of complexity' in Prasad's blog. This is the kind of simplicity that is arrived at after working through the complexities in life. This simplicity helps us to deal with the complexity by understanding and leveraging the patterns that underlie the complexity. It also follows that a relatively simple set of principles (based on the patterns mentioned above) and their interactions can generate responses complex enough to effectively deal with a wide range of complex situations.

I feel that the following response from Jesus (when he was asked the question - ' Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" ) embodies this simplicity in a most elegant and profound manner. "Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)".

This response from Jesus is much more than a neat summary of the commandments. For example, this response/principle transcends the problem of 'having to choose between code ethics and situational ethics - and all the issues associated with code ethics and situational ethics' . However, this does not always mean that it would easy to act according to this principle. Since this is a 'principle to live by' and not a 'prescription for a standard response to situations', we still have to formulate our responses to individual situations . The principle would guide our actions/If we consistently practice this principle, we would develop a state of mind that would enable us to respond appropriately to all situations. Of course, this is easier said than done - and that is why we need the grace of God!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

My newfound love for history

When I was in school, I never used to like history much. My favorite subject was physics. In the last couple of years I have found myself getting increasingly attracted to history. Initially, I did not know why this was happening to me. Now I feel that I might have a clue about what is going on. There are two factors involved - my changing perception about what history is all about and a better understanding about how my mind works.

Earlier, I used to view history as a description of a series of events/happenings . Now I am beginning to see the connections between these events and also the underlying patterns (social, cultural and psychological) - the forces that cause/ shape these events*.

Again I have realized that I have a 'connection seeking and pattern recognising' mind (my top two strengths in Gallup 'Strength Finder' are 'Ideation' and 'Strategic') - whenever I get an idea (a connection between two apparently unconnected things) or recognize an underlying pattern in apparently random data, I get a jolt of energy. I feel more alive and happy!.

I also realize that my love for physics is also largely because of the fascination with 'laws of physics'. A law in physics is nothing but a statement of the patterns underlying a set of phenomena. Earlier, I was viewing the events in history only at the phenomena level - as discrete happenings. Now I view history at the idea level - in terms of connections and patterns - in terms of the underlying principles of sociology, cultural anthropology and psychology - and hence my newfound love for history. By the way, understanding of the patterns* in the past events would also help us to make predictions about the future - making the study history even more useful!

I don't feel that the discovery/addition of 'pragmatic reasons' for doing something takes away anything from the original pure/aesthetic reasons for doing that thing. While it can be argued that 'engineering is prostitution of science', no one can argue that the the tremendous benefits derived from engineering has hurt pure science, so long us study of pure science does not get neglected because of the pragmatic reasons for studying engineering. After all, pure scientists would also need computers/databases to easily access relevant information related to their field of study, funds to support their research and aeroplanes to go to conferences !

*Note: I realize that many of these 'patterns' or 'trends' are retrofitted (i.e. they emerge only in retrospect). Now, if one looks for 'patterns' one is likely to find patterns - if the data set (or database) that one is looking at is sufficiently large. Some of these patterns would be purely accidental - and hence might not mean anything. So theorizing (especially theorizing that involve establishing cause and effect relationships) and predicting on the basis of these patterns can be problematic. From a 'scientific method' point of view, it is a much better approach to 'create a hypothesis first and then look at the data set to test the hypothesis' as compared to proceeding the other way around. Of course, hypotheses don't come out of nothing - often they are triggered by observations. So what one should guard against is the tendency to look only for data that confirms the hypothesis as opposed to looking at all the available data to test the hypothesis. So I understand that some of the patterns that I see don't mean anything. But that does not reduce the pure joy that I experience when I see patterns or the importance of pattern recognition in my life - as pattern recognition is a very key part of my individuality. I think I can safely indulge in this activity in its pure form (even without the precautions mentioned above) so long as I am doing it for intrinsic satisfaction and not for deriving actionable inferences!!!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Interesting Links

The aim of this post is to highlight some articles/posts that discuss matters in line with the basic nature of this blog.

1. Zazen and Christianity : This is a talk given by Yamada Roshi more than 30 years ago. It provides an insightful comparison between Zen and Christianity - the focus being on meditation.

2. Christianity in Kerala : This is an article written by Abraham Tharakan on the history of Christianity in Kerala.

3. India outside my window blog : This blog has very good pictures and articles focusing mainly on life in South India

4. Prasad Kurian's blog : While most of the posts on this blog are on HR/OD, it has some interesting takes on personal effectiveness. The most relevant posts are Making problems disappear, Everlasting or timeless? , So true that it can't be real, Personal effectiveness and wisdom , Leaders and battle scars and Of problems, paradoxes, koans and wisdom.

5. Experiencing life blog : Interesting posts - often from a social science perspective - like this one On maturity.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Samayamam radhathil (On the chariot of time)

If one tries to find out which is the Christian song in Malayalam that the maximum number of people know, the answer is likely to be 'Samayamam radhathil njan swarga yathra cheyyunnu' (I am traveling towards haven on the chariot of time). However, one is also likely to find that people sing it very rarely and that most people are rather uncomfortable with this song.

'Samayamam radhathil' is an absolutely beautiful song that was written by the missionary V. Nagel. But people are uncomfortable with this song as this songs is sung during all funerals. Thus, people associate this song with death. However if we can live with our discomfort for a moment and look at the song more carefully, we will find that this song is more about life than it is about death. Our journey towards haven begins much before we die. Actually, the key part (and possibly the part that we can influence the most) of the journey takes place while we are alive. So this song is mostly about our walk with God while we are very much alive. Yes, this song does speak about death. But it is to make us aware that we have only a finite time on earth and hence to encourage us to live/experience life fully. So, the next time we come across (or seek out !) this song, let us listen to it/read it with an open mind and hope that it would enable us to be more effective in our walk with God.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My biggest gift and my biggest curse

Of late I am coming to the realization that my biggest gift is also my biggest curse.

My biggest gift is the ability to see three steps ahead. This enables me to visualize what could happen at a later stage if a particular action is taken now. So as soon as I hear something my mind races off to visualize multiple scenarios (and their probabilities and their implications) that could result as a result of the current situation and the inherent choices in the current situation. I call this a 'gift' because I was born with it, though I might have fine-tuned/polished it to some extent. This ability to do scenario planning/strategic thinking has helped me a lot in my career. So this has been a very valuable gift.

Now let me explain why this gift is also my biggest curse. This ability that enables me to 'see' possible opportunities in the future also enables (or forces) me to see possible problems. This becomes even more problematic when I am not in a great mood - I tend to visualize lot more problems than opportunities. This in turn worsens my mood further and brings in the possibility that a vicious cycle might develop. In addition to all this there is the risk that this scenario planning ability (especially when it runs wild) could lead to 'paralysis by analysis'. So some times it becomes very difficult for me to 'make a decision and move ahead' even when that is the 'wisest' thing to do. Thus I end up thinking (or even worrying) too much. This is the reason why I say that this ability is biggest curse in addition to being my biggest gift.

If we analyze the above descriptions carefully, it becomes apparent that the key intervening variable in this cause-effect chain is my mood/frame of mind. So logically speaking, the solution lies in maintaining a positive frame of mind. But it is easier said than done.

Any comments?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What shapes my perspective?

The introduction to this blog talks about exploring and celebrating life from my unique perspective. So what is this unique perspective? Answers to this question can be attempted at many levels - from very material ones to very mystical ones. To put it in another way, it can range from those from the point of view of my self to those from the point of view of my Self - 'self' meaning my 'personality' and 'Self' meaning my 'ultimate Self'. This post is essentially at the level of 'personality'. It is also the level of my biases, prejudices and assumptions. I feel that exploring the factors that that have shaped my perspective is an essential part of exploring and celebrating life. This series of posts strives for a deeper understanding and appreciation of these factors.

I feel that one of the key factors that influences my perspective is my double heritage - that of being a Christian and an Indian (a Syrian Christian from central Kerala to be precise). I am not sure about the extent to which this has influenced/biased my perspective. After all, exploring oneself is a tricky venture.

If we examine Christianity in Kerala, it has some very interesting dimensions. Syrian Christians in Kerala claim 2000 years of Christian heritage - dating back to the arrival of St.Thomas in India. Now this 2000 years of coexistence has influenced both Kerala and Christianity. The impact of Christianity in Kerala is quite apparent - especially in fields like education. For example the word for school in Malayam is 'pallikootam'. 'Palli' means a church building and hence pallikootam literally means an annexe/extension/wing of the church.

What is not so obvious is the influence of the Kerala culture on Christianity. While this influence might not be obvious, I feel that the influence runs quite deep. For example, though Christianity reached Kerala 2000 years ago, only about 20% of the population in Kerala is Christian. I feel that one of the key factors that has influenced this is the basic Hindu philosophy of 'universal acceptance'. It was this cultural context/background that welcomed Christianity in Kerala. Thus culturally speaking, the Christian 'way of life' was assimilated into the mainstream of Hindu 'way of life' to a large extent and this made the need of having to forge a very distinct cultural identity less pressing. While a somewhat distinct cultural identity evolved over the centuries, the identity was not radically different in most dimensions. Again, as mentioned earlier, this Christian way of life also influenced the mainstream Hindu way of life - making the cultural distinctions even less pronounced. For example Christmas is celebrated across Kerala and 'Christmas stars' would be found in many non-christian homes also. Similarly Christians also celebrate 'Onam'. While Onam is a harvest festival, the mythology that underlies Onam is a distinctly Hindu one (that of Mahabali and Vamana). But this has not in any way affected the enthusiasm with which Keralite Christians participate in Onam celebrations. It is interesting to note that Keralire Christians are quite open to study/learn (and also open to let their kids study/learn) the religious texts/ philosophies of other religions. In Kerala, knowledge is given high importance/status. Most of the Keralite Christians view the religious texts/ philosophies of other religions essentially as knowledge - and hence worth studying/ learning ! I feel that knowledge of other religions would enable us to understand our own religion better.

Another relevant factor here is the 'bed-time stories' told to young children in Christian households in Kerala. They hear stories based on Hindu mythology in addition to the stories from the Bible. I feel that this leads to greater understanding, appreciation and respect for the Hindu way of life. May be, more religious harmony gets created through these stories than through the formal initiatives of the religious leaders!

Monday, August 6, 2007

From Cross to Crucifix

Till a few years ago, I used to prefer a Cross over a Crucifix. Actually, I was a bit uncomfortable with crucifix. Crucifix seemed invoke somewhat messy and painful sensations in me. In comparison, cross appeared to be neat and elegant. These days, I prefer a crucifix over a cross. I feel that crucifix is more real. May be it is because I can relate better with a crucifix now. I think that it reflects a change in my perspective on life over the years.

Till a few years ago, my self image was that of a person who is 'not perfect but largely OK and in control'. Over the years, expanding life has brought in new complexities, problems and paradoxes. Many of these (especially the paradoxes) have no immediate solutions (in the usual meaning of the term 'solution') and hence one has to live with them. Hence, I am beginning to understand the inherent 'messiness' in life. May be, it is not appropriate to call it 'messiness' (as it has a negative connotation). May be, it is the essential reality of life and spiritual growth and anything 'neater' than this would take away from the richness of life. This also makes one more humble and more welcoming of God's grace! Grace is an essential requirement for successfully grappling with the problems, complexities and paradoxes and to learn and grow in the process.

Another relevant factor in my case may be an increased awareness of the reality of the 'person' of Christ - in the sense of being 'fully God and fully man' at the same time. Now, this mystery (of being 'fully God and fully man at the same time') is something that I have very much struggled to understand over the years, often making many mistakes in the process. It is very easy to make the mistake of underestimating one of the aspects and overestimating the other aspect.

For example, a few years ago I thought that Christ was essentially a divine being and that his human nature was secondary - something that the divine being can put on and take off - almost like a cloth - to achieve the divine objectives. The problem with this kind of thinking is that this could lead to the conclusion that the crucifixion and the suffering of Christ was not fully real (at least in the physical/human plane) or that the 'teachings of Christ' was more important than the 'life of Christ on the earth'. With God's grace, after many messy, painful and highly personal struggles with the ambiguities, problems and paradoxes of life over many years (a process that might be very similar to what is meant by the 'circumcision of the heart'), now I think that Christ's crucifixion and suffering was real and that the 'life of Christ on the earth' (as 'fully man and fully God at the same time') is what makes his teachings real. Again I believe that Christ also experienced joy (in addition to sorrow) during his life on earth and that his joy was equally real as his sorrow. I also believe and and pray that my understanding of this mystery would continue to evolve !

Recently, I came to know that my initial inference (underestimating the the humanness of Christ) was a heresy called 'Docetism' (attributed mainly to Gnostics) that existed during the first few centuries of the Christian Era. May be I should try to learn more about Church history !