Cafe Kerfuffle

This past Saturday I was at a lovely cafe in Minneapolis. It was bright and sunny outside but the looks of it were deceptive. It was -19C or -5F outside and this was without the wind chill. I didn’t hate it, I visited Minneapolis for exactly this. In fact, despite spending two years hovering around cafes in Minneapolis this particular cafe still was a new place for me to visit and I liked it. The coffee was local and tasted great along with the burrito that I ordered.

Picture by Brenda Johnson on Google Maps

The conversation that accompanied this breakfast was excellent as well. I didn’t know my friend was passionate about the subject of American values and global leadership. He wasn’t cynical about it and in fact, was very logical in the way he broached the subject. Acceptance of the flaws of any system, while supporting the system is an indication of a well-balanced viewpoint. We were only discussing why a system like that of the Chinese Communist Party could be a good system. Could there be a scenario in which authoritarian dictatorships are beneficial? A simple and non-controversial topic!

I was playing devil’s advocate as I often do and of course, the system that is beneficial for a people depends upon their culture. The culture shapes the values of the citizens, who then frame the politics of the future and this virtuous circle goes on and on. The Chinese government has played a significant part not just in Asia but in global politics and every year their influence seems to be increasing. Different populations react to this growing influence differently depending upon how they are impacted in the near term by China’s growing influence on the global stage. Some see it as a natural decline of an aging global power (the US), while others see it as a cycle that comes about for each country.

From my individual experience, I know that the Chinese people are very aware of their very rich culture. This is true for many Eastern civilizations. The existence of a long line of traditions that have been passed down through the generations plays an important part in the pride of the citizens for the nation. Even in the case of India where more than 80 million people live in extreme poverty, there still exists pride in the traditions and the culture of the various religions. Even if those religions and practices might have given us a divided and broken system in the first place. People might not understand how their economy, modern technology, politics, the sewage system, nutrition in food or government works and that might set them back from making positive change but they will not forget to continue religious practices that have been handing down to them by their elders, for e.g. a housewife living in dilapidated housing even though mistreated by her husband and prejudiced by society will not forget to water the Tulsi plant or visit the temple twice a day. The grip of religion is impeccable and it is not temporary. The Chinese people are in the group of an ideology that is very similar to a religion. Authoritarian regimes anywhere in the world are not a good thing in the long term. One could argue that at a certain age of the citizenry an authoritarian government could be a positive thing, but in the long term, it could never be a good thing. Not for that particular country and not for the world around it.

Abosulte power corrupts and does so absolutely

John Dalberg-Acton

I think a country as prosperous (from a cultural and human resources perspective) as China should be allowed to set the rules for its people but the incumbents who have enjoyed the thrills of power for as long have a responsibility as well. It might seem to the uninquisitive eye that the fall of the US is due to internal factors and a change in the culture but that is not the whole picture. Technology has helped the proliferation of foreign intelligence across physical borders and nefarious activities are not the doing of powerful nations but allies as well. I don’t think I can talk much more about this subject because I am uninformed about the details and much of what I say could be opinions and not state the facts. However, I am informed enough to have learned from history and aware enough to keep an open mind.

In other news, jiu-jitsu seems to be coming along well. There’s a competition in another 39 days and I can’t say that I’m feeling prepared but I’m feeling confident about my abilities. I don’t know where this will take me but it’s something I’m adding to this crazy life. Also, homesickness is a thing. So is everything associated with having people around that understand things. The reality is everyone comes into this life with nothing but has only their actions to speak for in this dream-like existence. Questions will be asked about the actions and to be honest to oneself about those actions is a Herculean task nonetheless.

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; cblessed be the name of the Lord.

Job 1:21

I am not much of a Christian or “Lord” fearing person myself but I think if you replace the Lord with the Universe it makes more sense. The entropy that causes the formation of elements and the combinations that led me to be sitting here today can all be encapsulated in one word and you could call that ‘the Lord’ if it pleases you or makes things easier to comprehend.

Privilege within the system and progress

The System

I agree the system been broken for certain segments of people to achieve certain outcomes. The corruption in south east Asia, the oppression against women, the caste system, the corruption of local authorities. These are all indicators of a broken system. I guess my thoughts differ from many people on how to fix something that’s broken and I think we should think through the solutions or a certain path that will bring us solutions. There are lot of things that are working, even for people of color in the US. Compare that to how the Modi government is sowing seeds of unrest against Muslims in India. She’s a young country and people (even in my family) are developing an outlook towards a segment of the population because they’re affected subliminally by what’s being done by the government. The messaging, the posturing, etc. in the US as well, I agree it’s not even close to “good” but it works, even for minorities, one can’t overlook the good that’s been done tirelessly over the ages.

There are many places around the world where things are worse not even by a little margin, much worse. I guess a comparison with other systems would be fair, wouldn’t it? If we were to fix everything from scratch, then where should we start in the US? Should all white people go back to Europe, leave this land to the natives, why stop at African Americans and Hispanics? And who defines how much the majority needs to undo? I guess we’ll need to talk and find out. I think the pain that non-white folks endure is not understood by the majority. Sometimes it almost seems the helplessness to understand those different cultures is making them support anything and everything? An ally who wants to support but doesn’t know what and how to support. (Reminds me of missionaries who went to other countries to show them the light. This is a sensitive subject and I know I should tread lightly and read more here particularly) Coming back to the US, there is a systemic issue, because the systems were defined without heed to people of color, perhaps even bending the system to their disadvantage. I agree and I see the pain it’s causing. But and this is a big but the system has evolved, people have worked within the system to make changes for the better. So, is it broken? Yes, does it need fixing? Yes! Does it need to be razed to the ground? No! And no, I also don’t think that if small changes are made, they’re only band-aid fixes. I think the Cruzes, the Cottons, the Grahams and those people (who I personally consider hideous) need to be sat down with. Their ideas are ridiculous and they need to be exposed on a public forum intelligently. There are people who have compassion and are intelligent to have a dialogue. Not all of the smartest people are cold blooded and on Wall Street. I don’t even need to say this to you. These politicians shouldn’t be allowed to hide their ideas behind a veil of facetious agendas and policies. Otherwise more people will learn to thrive in the “new system” they’ll only just not talk about their ideas and stay silent. There will be new impostors who will learn to get there work done even in a new system.

Recognition of the privilege

I then had a great conversation about how it is important to recognize that I am privileged. It stays in my memory and makes me thing not because I wasn’t aware about it but because I needed to hear it. I think sometimes even if we know things, we don’t actively think about them. They might be somewhere in our subconscious, just like our breath. When we breathe involuntarily, we usually use a certain amount of lung capacity that is not close to maximum. Yet, when one meditates, or consciously focuses on deep breaths it causes the body to feel rejuvenated compared to before because you’re now breathing 30%-50% more oxygen. I think it’s the same way with realizations as well. There are things you know and you’re aware about but you’re not actively making decisions with those realizations. So, it’s good to be made to think about these things externally.

That recognition leads to many things, out of which one is action for people who don’t have that privilege. The conversation brought out things like where I lie in the social structure of a country like India. I’m probably in somewhere in the 95th percentile by financial wealth, access to information and awareness among other things. Yet, there are problems that I face in society which keep me awake at night when I think about facing those challenges in an Indian society. Traveling by mass transit, dealing with government officials, opportunity to pursue new work, among other things. What must be the condition of those people who are in the strata of society that I have no idea about? I haven’t forgotten the face of the poorest man. I continue to build myself up so that one day when I can turn around, I can talk about these things on my platforms. I think very soon I will be at a position where I will have influence. I’m glad I harbor these opinions because these are morals that are required and much lacking in people who have influence today. Authority corrupts, even if not in sense we understand corruption in a social sense. It moulds the way of thinking that is advantageous to the thinker and detrimental to people disconnected from the thinker. Putting this in record is a good idea because then I can be reminded of this later. Memories that I currently have already haunt me and push me to do better. I hope my realization of privilege will propel me to be more mindful when I have more authority.

Happy New Years

Technically still day one for me because I haven’t yet slept. So, happy new year. Day 0 was crazy but day 1 was great. Did a few things today:

– the zoo
– the movie at home (netflix and chill, but not really netflix)
– writing this blog

In the middle of all that was a nice 5K run and some weights. Tomorrow I jump on the excel sheet bandwagon for maintaining a schedule for my workouts again. And then I also have to maintain a list of things I need to do:

– Work towards immigrating somewhere for good
– Start recording my podcast again (I’ve been paying them $5 for the past 5 months or so)
– progress in BJJ
– and then Yoga for BJJ

Those are my big goals for the year. The daily goals will be more detailed but will address those larger goals.

Are you reading?

Love and Peace,

If The Modern Heraclitus Went Gentle Into That Good Night

Poem 1
This poem was written by a great person who appreciates life in all it’s fine details. It was a pleasure to read it the first time and every single time thereafter.
1. Warm sun drenches my face
And the smell of turmeric and cinnamon
Fleets across my nose,
As a calloused hand brushes the hair away from my face
The menacing footsteps of my father’s leather slippers
Makes the wooden floor tremble
The mischievous laughter of my brothers and sisters
Dances with dandelions in the summer wind
“look”, my mother whispers, as a shy little woodpecker perches on a
Plum tree outside
I wear my dreary grey socks and begin to tread the frowning road to
The frowning road merges into rock and stone and changes form
To a frowning cliff so determined in its Solitude.

2. As I contemplate about the death of me
fragments of my childhood memories
Run wild before my glistening eyes
So welled up with all that has transpired
My childhood blossoming into a
Painfully aware adolescence, maturing into
A confused adulthood, so much more intriguing
I had hopes and dreams
And desires still that beat inside that restless heart of mine
I dreamt of my own starry night
That rivals Van Gogh’s ever still
I imagined my quiet paradise
With a tender love
Only a mother can fathom
Alas! My hopes , my dreams , my aspirations
All came crashing to the ground
Their lofty citadels turning to dust

3. For the sad lack of elements
that make everything possible
My efforts all burnt to ashes
And as my father breathed his last
His eyes is now cloudy and senile
His robust, jaunty frame reduced to a cadaver
The stiffness of his corpse filled me with an unearthly terror,
I was in the throes of madness, thinking about this man whose warmth
Pervaded my childhood, but lay cold and lifeless now
My failure so exacerbated by my loss
And the despair of my sick mother
My incompetence and failure still haunted me like a phantom
As I left my abode to search for better means, my dear angel of a mother
Turned blind with grief …and tears still stained her bony cheeks and deep
furrows lined her
Divinely smiling visage
Her crumpled tattered sari wrapped around her like a chrysalis
And as the ruthless wind
Blew out the waning light of the dying candle,
So did my lovely mother waste away
In those pitiable circumstances

4. I wandered and loathed and wandered some more
Until my body was home to a thousand plagues
And my mind so numb, it seemed lost somewhere
I lost it in the slums I think, beside the baby sleeping in the drain
Beside woman with hollow eyes selling herself for bread
Beside the wailing, crippled beggar…
Or the stray dog howling in pain
I sit here like a wandering fool, an insane bard
Singing of my misery to a frowning cliff-
So determined- in its solitude
The air now feels calm and clean so high above
So determined in its solitude
I felt uneasy and was raving mad
Now an unusual deadness pervades my being
As my mind knows what follows
The agony of my existence
The big black hole of sadness
Gnaws at my soul
And creeps through my nightmares
I don’t have an inclination to live
I don’t have any happiness to give
Despair and black grief follow me
I stand up and breathe in, I look around
And taste the air
The smell of the earth wet from dew,
And the fragrance of the gum oozing from the trees
The crows cawing among the cool branches
I hear a tiny scratch
And look down to see a silvery yellow clump on the rock
It frets and trembles and rolls down a pebble
The Sun begins to rise from behind the hills
The cold, morning blue sky
Now scattered with red and orange
And the trees all glistening like gold
I am surprised how shadows and light frolic on the visage of the frowning
And the frightful frown turns mild
It seems the cliff has a weary smile
I look at the ground again
And out of the silvery clump crawls out a beautiful orange butterfly
It writhes and flaps
Lovely orange wings to take flight in the cool morning air

5. So content in its solitude
My tempestuous mind is calm
And I feel hope and contentment in my tired heart
It warms me up inside
Like my mother’s hands
Smelling of cinnamon and turmeric
I know what this is
With unabated mirth I know what this is….!
This is a story about a sad hopeless man on a cliff
A modern Heraclitus
So desperate in his solitude
So dismal and pathetic
And weary of life
But this would be just another story he would tell his grandchildren about
With a copy of Treasure Island and a pipe
A story of a spectacular comeback
In a world where it is so difficult to be You, without dying
Or killing a part of you

Poem 2
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Poem 3

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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The Giant is NOT Sleeping

I didn’t write since quite a few days. It might seem like I was off track. The truth is far from it. I have reigned in almost all of the distractions in my life. My life that is basically a preparation to die in peace, maybe not just for me, but for me and my loved ones. Maybe that was the goal always. Spread your seed, do the deed that life wants you to and then perish, but gently and then rest in peace.
At any rate, while I might not be supporting life in it’s mission I know the clock is ticking for me and my loved ones. This is why each day is a grind and inspired by a few people on the internet I make sure that I rise with a renewed hope to earn the sunrise. With that thought, here’s my progress tracker. The days I’m not successful at doing what I should be doing I call myself out.

The BJJ restarts next week. Running is still on the backseat because my ankle is hurting but after BJJ starts running may or may not start in parallel.
Love and Peace,