Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Liquid Refuses To Ignite- Dave Besseling

The year 2014 wasn't the best year for me for reading. I have come to believe, for reading, 2012 still rules as one of my best year.

Fortunately, whichever book decided to come to me this year happened to be a good read. Another thing that I have come to believe is that, you don't find books, books find you. Many things in universe come together to present books that you were meant to read. 

With that bit of extraneous information, I must present to you, Dave Besseling's The Liquid Refuses to Ignite. It's is not about anything in particular except that it encapsulates ten years of traveling around the world, including Varanasi. Funny, subversive and anecdotal wisdom and sometimes self-depreciating humor to probe deeper issues around our existence. 

Dave is no less than a hippie disguised as a hipster with his constant companion he has found in Dr. Heagney who accompanies him sometimes but not always physically though at many other levels of companionship. 
"If Dr.Heagney and I aware of this crutch of a good life, how do we seek to experience the shock of a shit one to find. Some kind of balance? Self destruction? Liquor and drugs? would our lives have been better served with a dead parent? Serving in a war, being homeless for a while, having kicked a terminal disease, killing someone? Fuck knows. Do we consciously chase down surrogates?"
Besseling's experience in Varanasi will leave you deeply moved while he tries to find some semblance in one of the oldest, filthiest cities in the world. 
"This is Shiva's city, and guess which God is also known as the lord of bhang? None other that our host Shiva himself. No wonder he's always half-lidded barefoot and wearing loincloths and beaded bracelets. He is goddamn hippie dope fiend."
Fair enough. 

Besseling is not the one to go only in one direction. He is seeking wisdom in frustrations and deep meanings of life with equal irreverent panache. Perhaps, all their is to life is seeking, more seeking, till you become it. Who the hell knows?
"What makes India a spiritual place is not the idols or the gurus, but everyday shit you just have to let go off, make peace with, or surrender to. And it's a daily regimen." 
Or take this for example,
"Unsettling stuff. Unsettling to contemplate the Nazi state as educators. Perhaps most unsettling is the fact that though we can laugh at such things now, this may be part of our condition. The one our pampered generation has set to conquer: that certain detachment from real suffering, so often interwoven with cynicism, either that, or to be able to laugh at such things is a privilege, an intellectual elevation to be appreciated."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Surrender and Detach or Just Let Go

I stumbled on these 10 commandments somewhere and I recall making an instant note of it. These may not always resolve many things or everything. But then we do not always have to resolve everything, perhaps there is beauty in unresolved spaces or divine timing. If there is any such thing but I question less. Spiritual or not, don't buy it, I am not selling these.

1. Surrender and Detach — Let go of control and allow the Universe to do it’s work. Create and visualize the end goal, then release it to the Universe and detach. Allow things to unfold.

2. Look for Little Miracles— By noticing and delighting in little miracles along the path of your ultimate goal or life improvement, it reminds you that the Universe is indeed working on your behalf. Look for little signs, small steps and synchronicities. It’s reinforcement for your trust.

3. Watch as Your Needs are Being Fulfilled — As your goals are achieved, you will gain confidence in the process of trusting the Universe. This will lead to greater trust. You may even want to keep a journal of all that manifests. When you look back, you’ll be surprised how many dreams will come true over the course of a year!

4. Remember it’s All in Divine Timing — If you get frustrated by the slowness at which your desires are fulfilled, you resonate distrust. So back up and remember that it is not your timing at work here; it’s divine timing. The Universe knows better when to grant your wish than you do.

5. Letting Go of Resistance – Don’t push, don’t react, don’t force. Let it be. If you keep resisting or pushing back, you are not allowing the Universe to give you its grace easily and effortlessly. You are constricting the flow. It’s another sign of mistrust. So just remind yourself to go with the flow.

6. Tune into Your Higher Self — It’s your ego that wants it now and is convinced your desire can’t materialize without your manipulation and control. Turn it over to your higher self, your “heart self,” and let it open the channel of trust with the Universe.

7. Trust God May Have a Better Answer Than You Do — Trust the Universe to come up with the right solution. If you try to push through or mandate to the Universe the solution you see, you may be limiting yourself. If you postulate in your head how things should happen, you are narrowing the Universe’s possibilities.

8. Give Up Your Problems/Turning It Over — If you have a specific challenge that is confronting you, ask the Universe to take it from your shoulders and resolve it. Trust that it is then being handled and wait for answers.

9. Believe in the Best — Believe in the best of people, circumstances and solutions. If you fret about all the ways things could go wrong, you again demonstrate your mistrust in the Universe. Assume that all will be well and when you turn it over, an elegant solution will turn up or that people will do their best.

10. Listen Deeply and Follow Guidance — The Universe’s answer to a challenge or the achievement of your goal may not be some external resolution. It may be guidance you are given, things you are directed to do or signs that you need to follow. Once you turn it over to the Universe with trust, listen deeply for the wisdom you are offered and follow the guidance.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Günter Grass to Rushdie

Salman Rushdie in Joseph Anton
He was remembering  something Günter Grass had once said to him about losing: that it taught you more profound lessons that winning did. The victors believed themselves and their world views justified and validated and learned nothing. The losers had to re-evaluate everything they had thought to be true and worth fighting for and so had a chance of learning, the hard way, the deepest lessons life had to teach.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Keeping Our Agreement with the Wild

Extract from the chapter Our Agreement with the Holy in Nature of book The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic by Martin Prechtel.

The most delicious and comforting characteristic of the strenuous, earthbound, and spiritually drenched existence of intact people worldwide is the cellular detail of the knowledge all their people have of not only their tribal origins, but the origins of every star, planet, rock, tree, animal, sound, food, all mores, strangeness, mood with which people live with and by, and finally resting resprout again. 
This vast education is what makes all things feel at home with all other things and to know where to tread and where to be cautious: how to lie still and when to move; how to eat, speak; and what things are biggest, and which are bigger still. 
The loss of capacity, of detail in our modern lives descended from production-oriented imperial civilizations and may well be the driving force behind the need for science, as its penetrating need-to-know analytic capacity tries to fill the painful void of the civilization it serves to make up for the loss of the lyrical mythologic reality of the indigenous soul present at the deepest levels in all human beings. 
But the loss of this natural education has put out hearts into a zoo like condition of unnatural confinement, causing the worldwide mass epidemic of depression, of lives lived at a spectator distance from the warm soil that births us. Our memory of what it is like to know the story of every rock face in the canyon through which you and your pony ride, what it is like to know the story of how every one of these rock faces originated, and what it is like to know how your ancestral past appeared pushing in and out from their massive cracks, once lost, our memory of being at home on Earth in a real way sinks out of sight back into the indigenous wilderness of our souls, and we become meaningless and depressed. For without that memory, we can't know where we are. 
People say, " I just want it all to be simple so my gardening relaxes me from the incomprehensible overwhelm of the world, so I don't have to worry about all this." I suppose selective ignorance on the right day is relaxing, but that's the creed our most recent ancestors taught us to adopt. But remember, just because you don't know what happened doesn't mean it isn't banging around in your blood somewhere making trouble with your soul and eventually your health. After all, anything not committed to our awareness becomes history repeated by none other than the ignorant and eventually settles in our lives and bodies as sickness and neurosis.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: Martin Prechtel

Recent debate outpouring surrounding Wendy Doniger's work on Hinduism reminded me of this extract from the book I read in recent past, The Unlikely Peace of Cuchumaquic which was worth mentioning to all, leftists, rightists, liberals, conservatives and all those grey shades of outlook in between:
"All of these ways of reacting to curious and lost outsiders have their manifestations everywhere in the world where there are yet real people at home in their own beloved land. By using such beautiful humorously camouflaged verbal detours, they attempt to keep alive what they hold precious far away from the scalding, culture-wilting gaze of modern people who, having lost their own linguistic seeds of indigenous understanding to civilization's amnesia and being aware how destructive and discourteous an interruption they are, are themselves only frustrated by the precious tangle of such long-winded linguistic treasure. 

While I couldn't say much authoritatively about the rest of the world's antique living cultures, what investigators and other impatient travelers have rarely understood, in the instance of these elderly Tzutujil, was that the questions put to them by the outsiders were not considered by these Mayans to be altogether answerable because they were not considered questions that could be indigenously asked. To the old people these questions themselves were parentless orphans who like linguistic slaves sweated away for academics, forced to work "extracting," artificially mined isolated facts with tools of pointed words to remove a single idea out of greater and necessary matrix of a more diverse and immense natural cultural environment. 

And these questions were held captive by the outside investigator, and any "native" responses to them were collected like unrefined ore that the investigator then hauled away, processed, and smelted into bare facts at the university, stacked as facts into some obscure book which itself would most likely end up deeply buried in the catalog dungeon of some university library of microfiche. Such questions, if responded to, gathered only dead ideas out of their context; responses, when held far away from their parent culture, remained trapped like baby quail, stuck in category cages shackled into equations. Without their mother cultures and living supporting world, they were like wild animals sold to a zoo where with other such artificially extracted ideas they paced behind bars of rigid objectified bias where they could no longer function as themselves, the words no longer able to make real sense of themselves in such rarified unnatural settings.
When such strange lines of questioning were fired at them, the old people knew they were being unconsciously attacked in the most insidious and violent way by a people who were uneducated in any real art of speech. The worst part is the invaders were ignorant of the fact they were attacking, unaware that they were just big powerful people whose every motion and word was a weapon of objectivity calibrated to aim at capturing a concept, or possessing something "never discovered before." At least not by them. Just like Columbus and the so called New World.  

It was apparent to these old Indians that though the "attacker" was definitely dangerous, ironically he or she usually showed some signs of human goodness and wounded affability and that all of this unconscious violence probably came from the huge and hungry cultural vacuum from which the outsider themselves originated. This seemed to be an origins empty of self-awareness causing the investigator to be "sick"; someone in need of spiritual repair, an illness that caused the investigator to need to constantly mine the world in order to fill with material or intellectual acquisition the spiritual vacuum created by the sickness. Because the visitors had obviously not grown up in a living world where they should have been taught as children to speak in such a fashion as to "feed and sustain" the people, the village, and the world around them with the magic life-giving eloquence as they conversed with one another, they instead lived by always trying to get something they didn't have, chaining what they captured into immobilized ideas of dry prisoners of words, in order to be told by people they didn't like but feared that they were good enough when they hauled their tale back to headquarters."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

On Coetzee's Fiction Writings

Discussing Coetzee's work recently with a dear friend, this is what he said, 

I think, I liked and disliked him all for exactly the same reasons! Namely, and in his fiction at least, for his remarkable ability to conceptually knit events within each book he wrote, that turned the original premises round. He deals brilliantly with hypocrisy! But I suppose it is that very skill he has, the way he made art of writing, instead of simply writing to the default of art that turned me off a touch. Dont mind me, his books are amazing regardless.

Spot on. Even though, Coetzee leaves no opportunity to be clinical (I sometimes wonder if he does that intentionally), his work still remains stellar. 

Friday, April 19, 2013


जनम जनम माँगूगी तुमको , तुम मुझको ना ठुकराना।
मैं माटी में मिल जाऊँगी, तुम माटी हो जाना।
Its not Rumi. Rumi like?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie

Having read only two of his books, I was eager to lay my hands on this one, a book, perhaps triggered as a reaction to the controversy that surrounded the author for good part of his life. His fault, he wrote a book about a religion he was born into, Satanic Verses. He had not pleased the fundamentalists. But since when the artistic expressions were made to merely please our senses? Its about raising difficult questions, investigating the unknown and pushing boundaries through struggle to understand our presence here a bit more. With the fatwa in place and bloodthirsty search for Rushdie by Jehadis, it was only one thing that was left to answer, what will one achieve by killing the artist? Because, art or its remnants will remain here forever. Or as Rushdie says,
Art was strong, artists less so. Art could perhaps take care of itself. Artists needed defenders.
Thus he defended himself and was defended by others. In doing so, he lost a great deal and gained a good deal as well. Rushdie is not the one to sit back and mourn about the lost years, he is about making it up for lost freedom, suppression of expression and a whole gamut of evolution that took place when he was presented with this unique tragedy and dealing with it. The book is a detailed one of the years before and during the fatwa years. It's detailed, nuanced but sprightly, nonetheless. Its an emotional journey of his upheavals of a literary life, personal both difficult and beautiful relationships with friends, two sons, four wives, sisters,  parents and through all that emergence of the person he was to become. Its a story told well. 

He has been accused elsewhere of being ostentatious of his literary world in this book. Quite honestly, that was his world too and he has written about people in it, with honesty and with humility. He perhaps doesn't need brownie points for moving in that circle, he was it too. He admits somewhere in the book that the greatest compliment he ever received was from Jorge Vargas Llosa, when he said that, outside spanish literature the two authors he always keeps a track of are- J.M.Coetzee and Salman Rushdie. Precious.

His life was anything but linear and he painted many moving images of this being, of this migrated self. The uprooted existence that leaves you with the longing to belong in its most difficult form. 
The migrated self became, inevitably, heterogenous instead of homogenous, belonging to more than one place, multiple rather than singular, responding to more than one way of being, more than averagely mixed-up. Was it possible to be-to become good at being- not rootless, but multiply rooted?
With roughly 600 pages, book may seem fat, heavy, tiresome and laborious. It's none of those. It is stimulating, insightful, wise, moving and of course humorous in several places. 
The family was not the firm foundation upon which society rested, but stood at the dark chaotic heart of everything that ailed us. 
The soul had many dark corners and books sometimes illuminated them.
India was surrounded by unfree societies- Pakistan, China, Burma- but remained an open democracy; flawed, certainly, perhaps even deeply flawed but free.

And finally, its no defense but appropriate to ask, 
The Satanic Verses or any other book, no matter how wretched, what sort of Almighty could be shaken by the work of man?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Essential Rumi

I believe none of us are fully comfortable with words like soul, pure love and heart. And perhaps we never will be as we do not fully comprehend their workings. This could be, for all we know that there is something we do not know- something that we will never be able to fully know. Thus begins our spiritual journey, egotistical as it may sound, our quest to find serenity and beauty that comes from deeper exploration of our conflicts and confirmations. Essential Rumi can be an useful set of ideas that presents a philosophy which may ease one's strain and you actually experience inner walls of pre-held understanding crumbling, brick by brick. Leading you to recognize that our presence is perhaps a myth. And its left to us to unfold this myth,  our mystery away from rational. 

Look at this
just finishing candle stub
as someone who is finally safe
from virtue and vice
the pride and the shame
we claim from those.

Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now. 
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
There is a field, I'll meet you there. 
Finally I know the freedom
of madness. 
No one who really loves,
loves existence.

And in that vein, Rumi suggests to dissolve your boundaries, pull and push and reach towards tenderness, of attempting to live beyond that may be undefined & unclear at this point, of sailing inside the inexplicable, drifting within your privacy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Misfits (1961)

While Steve Jobs had his version of misfits who thought differently, thinking of an older conversation with a friend, made me come back to the idea of misfits and understand it differently, perhaps. He had described a certain set of professional set-up as dusty, lawless, territorial. All those epithets that come to our mind when we think of Wild West. I had agreed with him wholeheartedly, then. But then,

Here is an excerpt from an essay by Coetzee on The Misfits that I ran into while reading Inner Workings:

The misfits (1961) was put together by a notable set of creative people. The film is based on an original screenplay by Arthur Miller. It was directed by John Huston; and it starred Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable in what turned out to be their last big roles. The plot is simple. A woman, Roslyn, visiting Reno, Nevada, for a quick divorce, gets friendly with a group of part-time cowboys and goes off with them into the desert on a jaunt to trap wild horses. There she discovers that the horses will end up not as riding mounts but as pet food. The discovery precipitates a breakdown of trust between her and the men, a breakdown that film patches over only in the most uneasy and unconvincing of ways.

Aside from the ending, the script is a strong one. Miller is operating at the tail end of a long literary tradition of reflecting on the closing of America's western frontier, and the effects of that closing on the American psyche. Huckleberry Finn, at the end of the book about him by Mark Twain, still had the recourse of lighting out for the territories so as to escape civilization (and Nevada, in the 1840s of Huck's childhood, was one of the territories in question).

Miller's cowboys, a century or so later, are trapped in the States with nowhere to go. One of them, Gaye (Clark Gable), has become a gigolo preying on divorcees. Another, Perce (Montgomery Clift) scrapes together a living as a rodeo performer. The third, Guido (Eli Wallach), exhibits the dark side of the male homosociality of the frontier, namely a vicious misogyny.

These are Miller's misfits, men who have either failed to make the transition to the modern world or are making that transition in an ignominious way. The three are presented with a rounded ness that is rare in cinema, the result of Miller's deft professional stagecraft.

But of course Miller's title has a second ironic meaning. If the cowboys are misfits in Eisenhower's America, the Nevada mustangs are even more deeply so. There used to ten of thousands of them; now they are pitiful troops up in the hills, barely worth being exploited. From being an embodiment of the freedom of the frontier, they have become anachronism, creatures with no useful role in mechanized civilization. It is their lot to be herded and hunted from the air; if they are not actually being shot from the air, that is only because the flesh would spoil before the horse-butcher could arrive with his refrigerated truck.
 It dispelled my notion of our transition to mechanized civilization and our precarious origins, evolution and our current belonging and perception towards it.