Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 21, 2012, The beginning of a New Age

A Spiral Galaxy

We are all familiar with the annual cycle of our planet around the sun in around the 365 days. We can derive a value for the Mayan estimate of the year by dividing 1,101,600 by 365, subtracting 2, and taking that number and dividing 1,101,600 again by the result. This gives us an answer of 365.2420 days. It is more accurate than the 365.2425 days of the Gregorian calendar.

Besides the annual cycle there are other cycles that concern the movement of our planet in the galaxy, the longest of which on a galaxy wide horizon is around 226 million years. Our sun travels through the spiral arms of the galaxy as it revolves slowly around the galactic center in an orbit that takes about 226 million years. Shorter cycles mark other movements of our planet. There is a dark patch called the dark rift in the Milky Way close to the galactic center. This is caused by an interstellar dust cloud obscuring the light coming from the stars at the core of the galaxy. It is from this dark rift that the winter solstice sun will appear to emerge when it rises on December 21, 2012 marking the beginning of a new cycle. The Mayan calendar finishes one of its great cycles on this day.

In some matters the ancients knew more about our universe than we do now in the modern scientific age. The reason is that modern scientific knowledge is limited by logic and evidence. The ancients had no such limitation and could combine intuition with observation to come with other findings, some ridiculous and others profound.  Ancient knowledge needs to be handled with respect so that the profound is not rejected along with the ridiculous.

Humans appear to have read too much or too little meaning into the date, December 21, 2012. Some have predicted it as the end of the world. There is nothing in the Maya, Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied a sudden end of the world on December 21, 2012. On the other hand it is unwise to reject the day as one without significance too. The day is a significant one in that it marks the end of a long approximately 5000 long year cycle of the Mayan Calendar and the day marks the beginning of a new age, the transition to which began 13 years ago in 1999.

It was thirteen years ago in December 1999 that the internet and mobile age may be regarded as having begun. Prior to this various internet search engines, browsers and operating systems were trying to establish a foothold on the online landscape. A firm trend began to be established soon after that and we have by the end of this year the establishment of a connected world wide online community through facilities such as Google, email, Face book, twitter etc., truly a new age.

There is no doubt in the years to come that this new form of communication will have a profound influence on human civilization as indeed it is already having as shown by such events as the Arab Spring and the financial crisis. It will also be an age of truth because whereas lies and exploitation based on lies can be preserved more easily by denying truth it becomes more difficult to do so in an informed community.  It may mark the beginning of the end of the dominance of the one per cent maintained through their servicing bankers that draw millions in salary and bonuses in return for their services to the one per cent. Changes will undoubtedly take a few decades to establish since the established order does not yield without a struggle as being illustrated in Syria. But change to a new age will undoubtedly come. Let us all therefore celebrate December 21, 2012 as the beginning of this New Age, the beginning of a new transition to a new Sat Yuga of ancient Sanskrit texts, The cyclic new age of truth following the undesirable age of materialism, exploitation and  unsustainable consumption where consuming more and taking more debt are bandied about as virtues.

This public domain photo is adapted with minor modification from GRIN, the Great Images In NASA Collection within the NASA image archive.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Being Alone and Happy

My mind was drawn to the present topic when the news came over the media that the visit of the music god Ravi Shankar to our planet has come to an end at the age of 92. Ravi Shankar was lucky that he found an intensely gentle and loving companion even in his late years.  He faced some of the social problems of our planet while he lived amongst us but loneliness was at least one impediment that he did not suffer from. It is something that at least half the humans on the planet will face sometime or the other during their lifetimes.

The Plains in Nainital District
The normal course of life for a human on our planet is that he spends his or her childhood with parents. This is followed by a transition period when the human becomes an adult.  This transition period is rarely a lonely one because the human is quite busy with friends and setting up a life and career. Soon enough, after that, most humans get married and have the company of their spouses and children. When the children grow up, the spouses have each other at the very least. However, a time comes when it is time for one of the spouses to bid goodbye to this life. The other person is then left more or less alone in this world. Rare exceptions aside, a male or female spouse leaves before the other hence the reason for my estimating that at least half the human population will face loneliness for a portion of their lives Usually this happens when one is quite old and least able to cope with the ensuing loneliness, unless, they prepare in advance for it. In a fairly significant number of cases, a person is also left alone much earlier in life because of early widowhood, separation or divorce that is becoming increasingly common.

When a person has been left alone at a very old age, one of the only reasonable options for him or her is to move into a facility for the old, if one such is available. For others, the need arises to move in with a son or daughter. Therefore it is important for married persons to maintain cordial and affectionate relations with their children even after they have grown up. This should include a visit to each others separate homes for at least a few days in a year - in summer for parents to visit the children and at Christmas time the other way around.

When a person is left alone at a much younger age, say forty or fifty, there are no problems of infirmity but there are a new set of problems that suddenly take birth that can add to the loneliness. Relatives tend to avoid such single persons and move away from them unless the single person is wealthy and distributes gifts to relatives regularly as one of my father's childless widowed aunt used to do until she ran out of her wealth. She was a very sweet and gentle lady and relatives competed to house her. Her name was Shanti Devi Mehra. She sold of several homes that her husband left her because she could not bear the thought of living alone. However, after her wealth ran out she was nudged away and relatives did not bother to inquire where she got lost. If a person who is single and not wealthy then relatives will usually tend to avoid such a person and this also includes close relatives such as brothers and sisters. The avoidance can be subtle and polite or in some cases it can include rude rebuffs from the insensitive and uncouth, a kind our planet is not short of. There is also the brother or sister that suffers from an underlying guilt in doing so and overcomes this guilt by a rationalization that includes disparaging remarks, assumptions and character assassinations that they begin believing in from repetition and sharing amongst each other. Usually parents, especially mothers and children do not fall in this latter category but parents move on to the next life before one's time is up and if the 'being alone' status has been caused by divorce the children living primarily with one spouse are frequently fed with propaganda about the other spouse so that they are distanced or even alienated from one of them. Many unable to face the situation go in for a second marriage. While this can be a blessing if one finds a true soul mate, it can be a pain in the barn if it is not so. As one grows older one gets more set in one’s ways and adjustment with a new partner is not assured unless fully assisted by true love. While it may be sad being alone, living with incompatible company can be hell. While there are beautiful solutions to loneliness there are few to incompatible or bad company except putting an end to it..

Against the backdrop of this sorry picture painted above there is also a bright one because as someone wise said (I forget who) that there is a silver lining to every dark cloud and an opportunity in every adversity a human faces.

Some of the greatest good to human society has come from persons who have been alone in their personal lives and the greatest amongst these were persons such as Buddha and Jesus. A highly respected social-worker in India – Anna Hazare - has recently become famous for his fight against corruption. He is fond of saying that although he has no personal family, his family is actually very large being the society at large. For sure these examples are exceptions and do not apply to the average human in the same measure. However every human who has less of family commitments can involve himself or herself in some social cause in some minor way at least. Then there are pursuits that require one to be alone such as writing or spiritual practices. It is because of this that The Mighty Buddha left his family, palace and kingdom at a young age. Everyone cannot write but anyone can start a blog on blogger and share a few words and pictures etc on blogger and facebook and thereby make friends across the world. True, the internet does not lead to an interaction that is as close as real life one but it leads to an interaction that is much wider.   Once again everyone is not oriented to spiritual life but many can learn to commune with nature. That also is a form of spirituality because ultimately the aim of spirituality is to achieve unity of the individual consciousness with the consciousness outside and beyond. Much joy lies on this path. The birds and butterflies, ferns, flowers and trees put up a lovely musical performance endlessly for such a person on a stage that lights up with the stars and the moon at night. While such persons are alone in the eyes of the world, they are ever in the blissful embrace of the Universe. In fact nature organizes such a destiny for those It loves most.

While I lived in the Middle East I had an Arab friend who said that if a man or woman enjoys neither music nor nature his or her soul is similar to that of a donkey :).

Hari and his Wife cleaning wheat

As a doctoral student in Canada I had found lodging with a Canadian lady – Olive Cuthbert – who being alone used to let out a couple of her rooms to students from the University of British Columbia allowing them to share some of her home and thus never faced the problem of loneliness. I too was left without a wife around two decades ago and my daughters who have their own busy lives visit only on rare occasions. Around twelve years ago I employed a young village boy – Shyamu - for domestic help. He was from a poor family in the village and completely illiterate at that time. But due to his devoted service I soon enough began to treat him like a son and now regard him as an adopted son. I also educated him at home so that now he is fully literate with a fluent knowledge in Hindi and a working one in English. He is now married and has a lovely son – Golu - whom I regard as my grandson. However he has agricultural land and a family back home in the village too and therefore has to divide his time between my place and the village. That has led me to do something else besides. My home is large enough to give out furnished rooms to village youth who come into the city for temporary work because the city temporary wages are massive as compared to those in the village and moreover there is a perpetual shortage of such workers in the city. They also assist me in domestic chores for an hour or two every day. One such boy – Hari - has been visiting for the last ten years. A few years ago he got married and now comes in with his wife. He grows wheat on his land in the village and therefore brings over a sack for his own use in the city. It has to be cleaned and then ground into a flour before it is kneaded and baked into delicious Indian bread on a wooden fire. Today, as I am writing this post, he and his wife are busy doing that in the front of the house and therefore I am including a picture of his with this post. His wife is covered in traditional attire, still common in villages of India. It is not that I have any special preference for village persons but they are most in need and there is no university very near my home to find students.

In conclusion may I say that when humans complain for what they do not have, then life becomes miserable but if they are grateful for what they do have and add to it whatever is worthy and can be added easily, happiness is found with ease in our wonderful universe.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Climbing out of a Fiscal Hole and not a Fiscal Cliff

Economic Wisdom from the Himalayas

In recent years there has been much discussion about the one- per- cent i.e. the small percentage of the world’s population that possesses and controls most of the wealth of the world. However, there is one- per- cents in numerous other arenas of human life and perhaps if one examined carefully enough each one of us probably falls in the one-per-cent in some category or the other. One of my neighbors would probably meet the criterion when it comes to ugliness and a friend in the size of his ---   :)  nose.

Each one of us is unique and special in some way or the other for sure. If I turn my gaze towards myself, I find that I fall in that category as regards education is concerned. One consequence of this privilege is that one often develops a view point that is different from what ever is being upheld by the ninety nine percent from time to time on all sorts of issues. I have continued to persist with the habit because over the past decades, I have found to my delight that my one per cent view was eventually upheld as the correct one, perhaps because of King Solomon who said some three thousand years ago – lying lips are but for a moment ( read decades here), a truth is forever.

My most recent one percent view is on what is being bandied about as the Fiscal Cliff that USA is going to fall over on December 31st of this year, unless of course the Mayans were right all along and the world will end ten days before that  :0) .

My own one per cent view is that what is being touted about as the Fiscal cliff is actually a Fiscal escape out of a deep hole that many countries are already in because of debt and it is not really falling off a fiscal cliff. Perhaps one famous person who would agree with me is on this is Warren Buffet ( Perhaps Barack Obama too agrees secretly within his heart). Incase this measure reduces the prospects of inflation in future as it surely will; it will compensate for the hundred dollar or so a month increase of tax.

If one looks at it carefully, what does the fiscal cliff imply? It is about a five percent cut in expenditure and a tax rise of between a hundred to two hundred dollars a month for most Americans and much more for the one-per-cent rich – good for them. Greece, Ireland etc. have recently been obliged to make cuts that are larger than 15 per cent. By undergoing these measures USA would begin to take its first steps towards tackling its burgeoning debt. It would be the first baby steps back to living within one’s means and the possibility of averting massive inflation or even economic collapse sometime in the future.

The downside is that growth and job creation would be slowed down somewhat, but who needs that growth if it leads to massive economic problems that will occur by kicking the can down the road?

In the past, governments of developed and other countries have recklessly depended on debt under a false assumption, and that assumption is that economic growth will continue forever. Aaron Heslehursrt a friend and BBC news presenter once remarked a few years ago during the News Broadcast, “One grows one’s way out of debt.”

A growth forever depends on increasing consumption forever and this is only possible if Earth’s resources are infinite. That is not going to happen especially as the rest of the world globalizes. Other countries (China and India for example) with abysmally low per capita consumption of the world’s  resources such as energy compared to similar consumption in developed countries are following the footsteps and increasing their consumption by the day.

The question that arises is if growth does not take place where will the new jobs come from? The answer lies in some of my earlier posts, there is even one on how to create ten million jobs in USA. It is to do with life style changes that accompany a simpler style of living, some by returning to the land, rather than in increasing consumption. Certainly humans do not budge from their rears easily and it would take a push or a shove by father Universe before that happens.

Therefore, my own considered and admittedly very different view is that the much feared Fiscal cliff is actually a much desired for climb out of the Fiscal hole and the four of us mentioned in this post – Aaron Heselehurst, Warren Buffet, Barack after his term is over and me – would perhaps raise a toast to that in a quiet lovely Himalayan retreat while the rest of the world perhaps sinks deeper into the abyss, unless they get their act together.

UPDATE:  1  JUNE  2013: Reviewing this post again, it does seem that what was written here back then made more sense for the US economy than what the fiscal holes were saying. It has been like that with many other posts of this blog too a bit of prophecy because that is an unavoidable symptom of a bit of spirituality. Some that i removed after the deed was done like the referendum of Falklands to avoid political controversy, and some that are being done now in Mexico like legalising Cannabis to prevent deaths from making it illegal.I am quite certain the US economy will sooner or later get to the job creation plan of this blog as in AM farms that can be searched.

For the concluding note on a series of notes on the economy do read this final one