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August 31, 2005

The 'more equals' reflect

The session started with Soujanya saying that she gets absent minded sometimes. Sreekanth said that in order to not forget something, he made it a habit to do the least obvious thing first. For example, he said he puts the sugar first in the cup before he adds water and coffee and he packs the laptop battery charger first before he packs the laptop. Vijay said he does similar things. I remember that once Viral was asked to deliver a suitcase to Berkeley that another friend forgot in his house. After mindfully driving to Berkeley, Viral discovers that he forgot to put the suitcase in the car. After sharing this experience he asked whether there is a different between being mindful and having a presence of mind. This is echoed in the saying, �missing the forest for the trees�.

How can one be aware of the part and the whole, the specific and the abstract, the particular and the general � at the same time? If we can find the answer to this, then we could work on becoming aware of our individual self and the universal self, the micro and the macro cosms at the same time.

I then asked the group, �How can one listen/understand and respond to another person in a way that is actually beneficial.� This question comes from my many interactions with people that seem to be full of rich information but I have rarely seen any evidence that the interactions have been useful. These are interactions that focus on change (internal and external) and are usually initiated by the person who is seeking change.

Some of the difficulties are:

� The person seeking change often is not able to articulate what he/she wants to change, why and to what.

� There isn�t enough time to explore many angles of the subject being discussed

� There is urgency in me to tell the other person everything I know about the subject.

� Any attempt to suggest a solution results in a friendly yet unproductive argument

� My expectation to �make� the interaction useful creates agitation in the mind

After reflecting on it for a while, Manju asked me to just stay with the question.

This led to the question whether we ever communicate with people in towns and villages in India without an air of superiority.

Sreekanth said that he had a hard time explaining to a villager what exactly he does as a software engineer. The closest he managed was �I type�. Vijay and I have had similar experiences. This invariably makes us consider ourselves as more creative and knowledgeable. On the other hand, Manju said that our economic superiority makes us look down upon them.

Vijay said that military and economy have been driving forces of humanity for centuries. Being part of the system that controls military and economy to a great extent in this world, we know we have the power to buy or destroy those who do not control the system.

We then talked about the �inevitable urbanization and globalization� of India as discussed by political leaders and MNCs.

Vijay mentioned that no one is hiding the severe consequences of urbanization and globalization anymore. For quite some time, the new argument has been that the benefits outweigh the cost (for people and the environment).

In spite of all external evidences of the powers of military and economy (and the inevitable urbanization and globalization that they create), I am beginning to see that the real cause of superiority is highly influenced by ideology. A simple, comfortable life led by the Indian villager (once upon a time), was described as insignificant and barbaric by the British. The British sincerely felt that Indians are primitive and they have no choice but to teach Indians how to become real human beings. This feeling continued even after they discovered the first class social systems, the steel production methods, plastic surgery etc in different part of India and copied them in Britain.

Even today, we look at the life of tribal people in National Geographic and inside us, we smile a little at their primitiveness. In fact, their primitiveness is precisely what entertains us. That is why no economist would take the Gross National Happiness proposed by the Bhutan government seriously.

Happiness is not a measure of superiority for the �haves� in the world.

Reminds me of what Satish Kumar once said, �We behave like human havings and not human beings.�

Befriend someone from the have-not group (oh, there are about 6 billion of them) and try to just be with that person as a simple human being.

Posted by Ragu at August 31, 2005 05:53 PM

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