Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NARCISSISM IS AS OLD AS HUMAN NATURE

ABC WEDNESDAY

         N is for Narcissism

Friends, do you know that some peoples’ main credo in life is I, me and mine? While healthy interest in oneself promotes happiness and success,  foolish obsession with one's physical and mental superiority is tragically binding. Such people even start believing that the world exists only for them. Others’ reactions or opinions hold no significance for their cocooned minds. In fact, they brush aside any opposing stance to their own as contemptuous. Sometimes over trifles, they pretend to be hurt and victimized. They often accuse others of malicious intent towards them, where none exists. Harboring fantasies of grandiose schemes where they are the chief protagonist wielding power is their compulsive addiction.

Self-absorption and expecting others to toe their line ever, becomes central to their narrow thinking. Vanity and self-admiration acquire the status of their nagging need. Their worldview is confined to their own internal perceptions and they jettison the ground realities of life by a nonchalant nod.

The term 'Narcissism' originated with Narcissus from Greek mythology, a handsome young man who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and fails to pull himself away. Subsequently he pines himself to death.

Later Sigmund Freud used this concept in his psychoanalytic theory. He developed the idea further in his book ‘On Narcissism’ as a personality disorder afflicting many.

One of the greatest examples of destructive Narcissism in literature is that of Shakespeare’s King Lear. On being asked how much she loves him, Cordelia his youngest daughter,  who unlike her cunning older sisters declares, “I love  your majesty/ according to my bond, no more no less” which so  enrages Lear that he curses Cordelia, disowns her and distributes his entire wealth and kingdom between his  other two daughters. His misery and humiliations that followed at the hands of his crafty daughters rouse pity at his ignorance of human nature. His childishness to expect the same authority, entitlements and sycophancy from his kin and minions, even after relinquishing his kingship speaks of intellectual immaturity even though he was the all-powerful king. How he fails to see through the empty rhetoric of Regan and Goneril claiming to love him above everything else in the world proves his shallow and tragic overestimation of his self.

Another fable, which is also a metaphor for tragic self-love, is that of a stag. He comes to drink water at a stream in the forest and is so mesmerized by the reflection of his majestic looking antlers that he fails to sense danger on time and though he runs for his life, his antlers get entangled in the bushes and he meets his death in the ferocious attack of the lion.

The worrisome part is that the malady of preoccupation with the self is becoming a rage amongst modern youth. Studies point out the electronic gadgets and social networking sites take up so much of their time that actual human contact becomes a casualty. Coupled with that the trend of being soft on children even when they make mistakes, for the false fear of lowering their self-esteem has contributed to the erosion of discipline and parental influence. The clich├ęd syndrome, ‘I am on my own’ is feeding isolation and irresponsible individualism.

The  spread of this unhealthy culture of arrogance and rude assertions such as ‘others may go to hell’  need to be debated seriously for the good of society.

Images courtesy: Google

Friends, pl. leave a comment

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

MORNING MANTRA

ABC Wednesday


M is for Morning

I feel deep reverence for the mystic allure of each morning. When my eyes open to the sweet morning light, stealing benignly through the bedroom window, the whole body responds eagerly to the sensation of freshness and tranquility. Even when up and doing, the silence of the morning connects me to my spiritual self, making me feel light and hopeful.

The first cup of tea pours energy into the system and there you go chasing the morning chores.

In fact, morning sets the mood of the day. For me, the most important activity is the morning walk in the nearby park. It is the greatest mantra for maintaining well-being, which I have adopted since my retirement. There are no more urgent household tasks to be carried out before leaving for work.

Undoubtedly, morning walk or some exercise regime is necessary for a healthy living for all of us. There are no two opinions about the belief that the threesome of prayer, meditation and exercise performed in the morning, work wonders for overall wellness, creativity and productivity.

I experience morning walk as a channel for the restoration of mind body connect, which we have almost lost in the fast pace of modern life. Walk in a park surrounded by trees and floras that emit oxygen in the morning, fill the lungs, improving blood circulation. Brisk walk provides muscular strength to the skeletal and lubricates joints and cells, promoting fitness. It is also your ‘me time’ when day’s distractions haven't  yet invaded your mental space.You converse with your inner self. The greenery around soothes the eyes, envelops you with grace and resilience to face the day.

It’s pure joy to watch the frolicking squirrels and buzzing honey bees and other insects flitting around blooming flowers and creating their own music. It is however, the birds, which steal the morning show. They flutter overhead, chirp, tweet or squeak on the branches conducting an orchestra of improvised notes. It is like nature’s lyrical poetry. Nevertheless, the experience is as holy as participating in a sat sang to rejuvenate the soul.

Morning is time for thanksgiving to God for His countless blessings. Also the consciousness of proper planning for a purposeful day happens in the morning.

A light and healthy breakfast is a great beginning to the day. It accelerates your brain functions, and alerts your responses.

Morning exudes vibes of inexplicable sensuous charm and spontaneous positivity. Childlike innocence of an unpolluted mind is the persona of the morning hour.  Sweeping away inertia, it adds swing to your movements and sees you through the good/bad of each day.

Friends, pl. share your thoughts on the subject.

Image courtesy: Google

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

THE ANIMAL FARM





                                   L is for lampoon


image courtesy; Google

George Orwell’s famous novel “The Animal Farm” has always been a thought provoking reading. It was published after the Second World War in1945.  It is a political novel written in the form of an allegory with the animals as the major characters. It was, in fact, written to lampoon the despotic regime of Soviet Russia after the ouster of the Tsar by the revolution of 1917.  

Orwell superbly fuses two levels of the narrative, which run parallel in the plot structure. At the manifest level, it is a humorous story of farm animals and at immanent level, a subtle lampooning of the totalitarian Oligarchy, which usurped power and entrenched itself menacingly through cleverly devised propaganda and  intimidating threats. Orwell’s animals show human qualities and represent easily identifiable characters of the then prevailing corrupt system.

The novel was inspired by Orwell‘s firsthand experiences of appalling political upheavals during Spanish civil war and two World Wars. He could gauge the extent of suppression of the public, especially after Stalin wrested power by defeating Trotsky. The atrocities leashed against Russian people by a handful of wily leaders who seized power after the October 1917 revolution shocked him. He felt duty bound to reveal the tragic consequences of absolute power wielded by a tyrannical group, which controlled all forms of freedom and infringed upon people’s rights.

Ironically the principle of equality and freedom, which were the slogans before the overthrow of the cruel regime of the Tsar, were tacitly twisted to mean ‘all are equal but some are more equal than the others.’ Moreover, they maintained, masses need to be controlled for their own good.

At first Lenin’s and later ‘Stalin’s coming to power was engineered through malicious power struggles. Stalin’s rival for power Trotsky was dishonored called a traitor and exiled. All the dissenters met the same fate. The revolution betrayed the people. Working class got such a raw deal that thousands died in abject poverty due to exhaustion and misery, whereas the rulers enjoyed a luxurious life style.  The system of double speak, hypocrisy, lies, false propaganda, and distortion of history to foil any comparisons, form the basis of Orwell’s incisive lampooning which shook the reading public throughout the world.

A well-meaning socialist as he was, his anxiety for social justice was an intensely felt genuine concern. The leaders of the revolution made empty promises to provoke the people against the Tsar and the capitalists. They named it a class war between the owners of property and the poor masses who did all the backbreaking tasks and the profits of their labor went to the rich.
Karl Marx’s philosophical treatise "Das Capital" theorized about a classless society that was okay on paper but too confusing to implement. The system, which was established post revolution, was more reprehensible, despotic, and tyrannical than the former. People’s hardships and woes far from being addressed were aggravated. Dissent was unlawful and opponents were purged through summary trials on made up charges. Private property was abolished and there was no incentive given for innovation or hard work. Farm output went down drastically and thousands of people died due to wide spread famines.  

After Gorbachev’s Perestroika and glasnost (the opening up of the system), the world came to know about the dark side of communism practiced in Soviet Russia. Orwell’s fears proved right.

A brief overview of the characters:
 
Before his death the old Major (Marx) addresses the (People) animals and outlines the future action to overthrow Mr. Jones (Tsar) who is the enemy of the working class. The speech is satirical portrayal of the perfect society envisaged by Marx, which turns out to be impractical.
Snowball a boar in the Animal Farm (Trotsky) is a strategist and imaginative but fails to outwit Napoleon (Stalin) in the power struggle and is discredited and exiled.
Napoleon another boar (Stalin) is crafty and uses force to have his way. There are periodical purges of the malcontents by him. Finally, he becomes a cult personality and a deified leader.
Boxer a carthorse toiled hard to build the Windmill but is sent to the slaughter house when he falls sick. ‘Clover’ a mare supports animals in all situations.
Benjamin a donkey is a cynic without any hope of betterment of workers plight.
Moses (a crow) represents organized religion and talks about Sugar candy Mountains where life is better. Stalin initially bans church services but later restored it as he considered religion as a useful opiate to delude the masses.
Squealer a porker stands for the propaganda machinery Of Napoleon (Stalin) to hoodwink the poor animals.
The Dogs: Napoleon’s bodyguards and secret police who strike terror in the hearts of his opponents.
The sheep: the uneducated masses who bleat the slogans repeatedly without understanding.
Most of the other animals represent average citizens.
Apart from Jones the previous owner of The Manor Farm, there are three other human characters. After Jones ouster by the animals, it is renamed as Animal Farm.

Friends,Your comments are welcome!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

KNOWLEDGE EMPOWERS




                                               
K is for Knowledge
How often do we hear the words “Knowledge is Power”? However, the one who made this seminal statement was Francis Bacon the 16th century essayist. The concept underlying this assertion has generated  deep resonance in thinking minds all along. Ironically, most of us don’t care to mull over the significance of these words which can be life changing.

What does knowledge mean? In simple words, knowledge is what you have imbibed through study, observation, traveling and interaction with different types of people in the course of your life.

In the present times however, internet has acquired the status of a magical wand possessing a colossal reservoir of knowledge at a click away. You marvel at your luck to be around at such a period of history, where internet is the unique wizard and leaves the likes of Harry Potter much behind. In fact, every literate person with internet connectivity has legendary Aladdin‘s lamp at his disposal. Internet opens doors and windows of information to help you explore the depths of the micro world and the expanse of the macro world. Here you go for any topic and lo and behold, the fairy tale treasures of knowledge present their pearls for you to make a pick.

For knowledge to happen good education is fundamental. It feeds imagination and intellect. It enables you to be informed about things, which were never in the radar of your mind scape.  The learning ability empowers you to understand and cope with life situations, think maturely and decide options freely. The awareness which only education imparts, allows you to weigh the multiple choices you have to steer your life. Moreover, the knowledge, acquired by you, is your power with which to influence others and it results in the cycling of information from one to the other. This is how knowledge multiplies.

Education is a prerequisite for success in any field under the sun. In under developed countries people’s participation in the affairs of their nations is possible only if awareness of world is assimilated via relevant education. In this regard, social networking sites are playing a major role in exchange of information, mobilizing people for concerted actions, highlighting causes and enlightening people about their rights and responsibilities.

Knowledge fuels social movements. The surge of Arab spring protests that jolted the entrenched regimes in those countries is the case in point. Wall Street demonstrations in New York against social and economic inequality are an example too.  

In the overpopulated counties like India, educating women shall be able to have control over their bodies, in the sense that they can restrict the number and manage the spacing of their children. Literacy will enable them to take recourse to family planning measures and have better information about nutrition and health issues.

The idea of self-knowledge in improving your chances of a more purposeful life needs attention. No wonder Socrates said, “Know thyself” and much before that Hindu scriptures critiqued the quest for self-knowledge. The desire to ‘know thyself’ is timeless. However, to achieve it is as difficult as it is easy to spell.

The upside is that even the plain consciousness of the need for such knowledge spurs you to make inroads to understand your personality.  In the process, your strengths, abilities, core beliefs and your limitations, which form a part of the knotted jungle within you, take shape as separate entities for you to explore dispassionately. The knowledge of the self will enhance your capacities for self-improvement and service to others. The freshly roused voice inside you will balk at the violation of your personal values at your work place or in numerous other situations in life. The approach boosts self-confidence and cements the validity of the ethics as a way of life.

Plato the Greek philosopher opined that the essence of knowledge is self-knowledge. Yet to deconstruct the psychic layers of the complex human mind is beyond any mortal being. Moreover, this universal search for decoding the mystery of the self has gone on through ages and will continue.

" ......To know the thoughts and deeds that have marked man's progress is to feel the great heartthrobs of humanity through the centuries......"  Helen Keller