Neither Seek Nor Avoid, Take What Comes.

The title is a quote from the collected works of Swami Vivekananda. My choice for the topic for this week’s 2 on 1 post came about inspired by the following comment by my fellow 2 on 1 blogger Shackman on my last week’s 2 on 1 post. “Mostly though I simply accept what has been my life essentially as my destiny – which frankly surprised me.” He zapped me further when I suggested this title with – “The Swami speaks again! Sounds good!”

Here is the Swami’s take on the topic.

In 2007, Nassim Nicholas Taleb published a book called The Black Swan. In it, he argues that human history is best understood in terms of its most consequential events. The thing about these events is that, once they’ve already happened, we always think we understand the causes of why they occurred. But the truth is, that they’re fundamentally unpredictable. We only have the illusion of understanding them. The implication, and the meat of Taleb’s book, is about how you have to expect the unexpected.

So, how does one go about expect the unexpected and also accept that there is every likelihood of the unlikely happening?

The answer lies in two parts.  The first is in The Serenity Prayer. For the uninitiated, it is as follows:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Even if one is an atheist or an agnostic, instead of “God”, one can say “May I have” as a means of auto suggestion and the advice given in the topic becomes a child’s play.

The second part is in the Zen observation’

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself.”

~ Matsuo Bashō

Both parts suggest developing a state of equanimity. Difficult to put into practice but,  not impossible.  Just about every spiritual discipline suggests that one tries to reach this stage of being, so that one can live a peaceful and stress free life.

To know others is wisdom;
To know yourself is enlightenment
To master others requires force;
To master yourself requires true strength.”

~ Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching. Ch 33.

Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the same topic.

Never The Twain Shall Meet.

Rudyard Kipling wrote this famous poem The Ballad Of East And West in 1899 when The British Empire was a major factor to reckon with in wold affairs. The British found the natives of their far flung empire quite different from themselves and so such works of literature were not uncommon.

While the rest of the poem is hardly remembered, the start – “0h, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” has been used to explain many instances of break down of communications or relationships between the West and the East.

If a Britisher thought that this was the situation, a not very different perceptive was brought to it, strangely enough in the same year of 1899, by an Indian of great stature in his own country and among his followers in the West, Swami Vivekananda. He is quoted by one of his Western admirers Sister Nivedita, as having said to her, “Social life in the West is like a peal of laughter; but underneath, it is a wail. It ends in a sob….Here in India, it is sad and gloomy on the surface, but underneath are carelessness and merriment. The West had tried to conquer the external and the East, the internal nature. Now, East and West must work hand in hand for the good of each other, without destroying the special characteristics of each. The West has much to learn from the East, and the East has much to learn from the West; in fact, the future has to be shaped by a proper fusion of the two ideals. Then there will be neither East nor West, but one humanity.”

Both Kipling and the Swami were observing that the East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. While the former accepted that it is a permanent state of affairs, the latter felt that there was a possibility to change the situation.

Since then, the world saw two world wars and particularly after the second one, it saw a meeting of minds and cultures between the East and West like never before without the baggage of colonialism in the background. A lot of cross pollination of ideas, technology and values has taken place between the two to mutual benefit as Swami Vivekananda had opined. I for one am a product of such cross cultural and linguistic influences as are many of my relatives and friends all over the world. In fact, I have two nieces and a sister in love, all three Americans in Texas from where the other writer Shackman will write today on the same subject. I also have Scottish nephews and their families and another American sister in love and brother all British nationals. I worked for a British company for near a quarter of a century and still have friends made of colleagues of then now resident in many parts of the world. I have another cousin now an Australian citizen. The list is simply endless as I have friends and relatives in just about all the continents of the world now.

The vast majority of my readers who comment regularly are from the West and they would be puzzled as to why I chose this topic when in their and my personal lives, the East has met the West and have in fact established a healthy and interesting relationship. I chose it because in the last couple of years, there are very strong signs of nationalism and protectionism rising all over the world and I wonder if the cycle of globalisation and free trade has come to its nadir and a new cycle of a different world order is developing.

It would be interesting to read what my readers have to say here as well as at Shackman’s blog where he too would have written on the same topic as his take on our weekly Friday 2 on 1 exercise.

Education IV.


I think that with this post, I will stop writing anything more on this subject unless something else triggers a new thought process.

In my blog post Education II, Pravin commented as: “What is the purpose of education? It is not to get the JOB… as yours only has an MBA 🙂 all B-school talk about their placement! The purpose is to enhance students analytical, creative skills et al.  When that happens automatically people would understand what they are being fed with is at times nothing more than garbage. Even the idea of “Education is under attack” would be analytically weighed by “educated” people :).”

I had responded:
“Well said Pravin.”

But, Pravin being Pravin and I being I, the matter will not rest there till I elaborate for Pravin who, to use Maxi‘s words, keeps me on my toes. So, I went to my library to find the one quote that I wanted to share with Pravin which is so good that I want to share with all my readers.

Three Monkeys
“Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man. Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library. The ass carrying its load of sandalwood knows only the weight and not the value of the sandalwood. If education is identical with information, the libraries are the greatest sages in the world, and the encyclopedias are the Rishis.”
~ Swami Vivekananda.

Nick’s/Speccy’s Questions.

Nick’s latest post is unusual, but he does come up with unusual posts on and off. Otherwise he would not call his blog Nick Here And Now. His post led me to Speccy’s blog which too is an unusual one, which I intend visiting regularly.

He has not asked me to, but I think that it would be fun to answer those questions any way and here goes.

1. What was the last concert you went to?
Bhimsen Joshi, Savai Gandharva Festival, 1995.

2. When did you last drink champagne?
1999. A friend’s wedding anniversary party.

3. Have you been dancing recently?
To my father’s tunes? Yes.

4. What’s the first track on the closest CD?
I don’t have a CD collection any more. It is all in my computer. I listen to whatever my mood takes me too.

5. If you could compete in the Olympics, in what event?
Falling flat on my face.

6. What is your favourite children’s book?
Ali Baba and Forty thieves.

7. How did you choose your blog title?
Sheer inspiration!

8. How long do you spend on blogging each week?
More than I should really be doing.

9. What was your biggest achievement?
I am one of those fortunate beings with no achievements to its credit.

10. Who are you inspired by?
Swami Vivekananda.

11. Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?
Very likely my son Ranjan who feeds about a zillion stray dogs in our neigbourhood.

Like Nick, I leave others to follow suit or not as they wish. I enjoyed the exercise.