Thursday, April 30, 2015

Low Entropy Persons, Low Entropy Countries



A Galaxy, one of many in the Universe. The Universe is the father of all life, Earth is the mother


In a previous post it was mentioned that the basic purpose of life appears to be to evolve. In ancient times when civilization began, humans applied their mind to this notion. They came up with a large number of practices designed to improve body, mind and soul of humans. Many such practices were described by a common name Yoga. There are very many different types of yoga such as hatha yoga, kriya yoga, karma yoga and so on for the ways to improve body, mind and soul are countless.

This author has had deep interests in both physical sciences as well as spiritual sciences. As a result of this combination, the author had described a form of yoga that emerged from an intersection of both these sciences and gave it the name Entropy Yoga. It has been followed and taught by some in different parts of the world since it was introduced. An interested reader can find it in some of the early posts of this blog e.g.


What was described was that everything we do or even think, increases a certain quantity in the universe as a whole called entropy. Processes and actions that generate less entropy are more efficient than those that generate higher entropy. This principle applies not just to living beings but also to machines. For example a high entropy automobile would guzzle up much more fuel than another one of similar specifications and size that is low entropy generating one.

Amongst humans we have high entropy persons i.e. those who generate a lot of entropy during the process of living, relatively speaking. Generally high entropy person are those who are dishonest, disorderly and unclean. In comparison, a low entropy person is honest, clean, orderly and disciplined. Persons do not become low entropy persons because they necessarily practice yoga consciously or even know anything about it but more often because it is their nature or training to do so. A low entropy person may easily be recognized as more evolved compared to a high entropy one. Some may ask, what has honesty to do with evolution? It has, because look at a monkey, it will steal a banana from your kitchen and hand without any compunction but most humans would think twice about it.

The lowest entropy person is a zero entropy person i.e. someone who generates no entropy at all in whatever he does.  In science such a process is called an isentropic process. Therefore such a person may be called an isentropic personality. It is an ideal state and by definition there is only one isentropic personality in the Universe - God. Other beings may approach this state as they evolve but if they eventually reach this ideal they lose their individuality and become a part of the one and only Infinite being, a state also known as Nirvana by Buddhists. However since other processes and beings continuously increase the entropy of the universe as a whole, a day will come when the entropy of the universe would be unsustainable and require its annihilation in order to restore entropy back to a sustainable level for a new creation. From science we know that the only way to reduce entropy in the universe is by annihilation of mass. There is none other. In the meantime different parts of the universe may exist in peace by reducing their rates of entropy increase or in a mess and turmoil by generating high amounts of it.

When a large number of persons in a country are high entropy persons or if its governing structures and systems are high entropy processes then the country as a whole becomes a high entropy country, conversely it is a low entropy country. It goes without saying that high entropy countries are marked by disorder, corruption and inefficiency. At the present time it is perhaps some countries such as Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Germany that are the lowest entropy countries of the world. At one time UK, in the later Victorian era and for some time after, was also a very low entropy country; more recently it was America under Dwight D. Eisenhower. Both these countries are still reaping the benefits of those golden eras but it seems that it is being chipped away, bit by bit, decade by decade. These things change with time. In Asia, Singapore and Japan are examples of low entropy countries.

At the present time, perhaps Syria is the highest entropy country in the world. Sub-Saharan countries and South Asian ones are also some of the highest entropy countries of the world. When the entropy generation rate of a country becomes very high, it becomes unsustainable for humans to live in and they run away and become refugees. Although entropy may be high throughout a region or country, its source can be a single person, just as the source of reducing entropy in the universe is a Single Person. Not removing this cause would not help to reduce entropy and from this analysis pursuing things like ISIL would be futile in bringing peace to Syria unless this single point cause is dealt with, in order to make life bearable for the refugees to return home.

High entropy countries are marked not just by the presence of disorder and uncleanliness but also lack punctuality, constantly changing practices, schedules aside from all other manners of disorder. During my life time the design of coins, telephone numbers and schedules of examinations has changed so many times in India that it is difficult to even enumerate. It goes without saying that train timings and every other time including those of meetings and wedding ceremonies are never ever punctual. On the other hand, I have lived in Canada too and during my life time the design of coins, university exam schedules and my old phone number has not yet changed, although they added a new coin called the Loony some decades ago but that is development not increasing entropy. The first is an example of a high entropy country and the second a low entropy one, and it is not the cold and the snow that does it as some seem to think. In India one of the highest entropy provinces is also the coldest one - Kashmir.

Entropy yoga produces a high degree of efficiency but in itself it does not lead to a reduction of stress  It has to be followed by other yoga that include principles of love, truth and  simplicity. In the absence of that the increased energy may in fact increase stress, the state of many developed nations in the world today. However, it is the first step to evolution and cannot be skipped if humans wish to improve.

It was not always like this in India. One of its earliest civilization, called the Indus valley civilization is an example of the lowest entropy civilization mankind has ever seen on the planet. It was marked by a high degree of order and cleanliness. Even five thousand years ago the cities had covered drains and individual toilets. So stable were its practices that even its home and street designs did not change for a thousand years.It appears to be the source from which organized human civilisation began in the world. Sumerian and Nile civilisations came later. See:

http://alienaccount.blogspot.in/2015/04/new-studies-push-back-dates-of-ancient_16.html

Recently, India elected a new government. The new leader – Narendra Modi – appears to be a low entropy personality of a high order. Indeed the first aspiration he expressed for India was of cleanliness, a desire for a low entropy state. Perhaps under his leadership India will once again begin its long march to becoming a low entropy country.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Join a prayer for non-violence in the world



A Grape vine in the auhtor's home

Archeology has revealed that in ancient India people led highly organized and evolved lives in the Indus valley. It was a time when there were individual bathrooms in homes for all and there was a well laid system of covered drains, something that does not exist today for the majority, indicating that somewhere in the intervening centuries, civilization and the quality of humans declined. Instead of evolving they degenerated. Similar has been the fate of other ancient civilizations from Sumeria to Nile and from Athens to Rome. It seems that a period of peace and prosperity causes some civilizations to decay morally and thereafter decline. Ancient Sumerian records describe a destruction of an even older golden civilization (perhaps the Atlantis of Plato) when a decline of human values took place. Some such thing may be happening today as well with the most advanced of nations on earth, and the first signs of that may be the incidences of brutal violence, not just by criminals and psychotics since some of those have always been around but by organs of state and not as a shameful incident to be deplored and punished but something that is being defended or even condoned by some.

Ancient scriptures of the times mention that the very first step to evolution for mankind is non-violence that while the use of violence for survival was necessary for animals it must not become the way of evolved beings except for self defense. It is the first of Yamas of the first of the eight steps to yogic evolution as described by Patanjali. Buddha repeated the message and so did Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi. If this blog has not touched upon violence earlier and gone in to more esoteric spiritual concepts instead, it was because it was felt that this first step is elementary and already well understood. However recent media reports suggest that it is not a fully correct assumption.

In recent times too we have heard horrific tales of violence from different parts of the world, some from the far away forests, many from developing and underdeveloped countries of the world. In all this, one hope humans have is that the well developed countries would play a role to help improve the world, through their actions whenever they are able to and also through examples. Elsewhere, this blogger had described how some of the leading countries of the world could easily create a new International law (named PHICS) that would permit take over of failed states such as Syria by an International consortium,  in order to restore peace.

However, what is very disturbing is the tales of brutal violence that are now emerging from even the most developed parts of the world by officials of the state such as some recent stories of violence by cops against some that involved the choking and breaking of necks most painfully by officers of the police force, something far more painful than a quick severing of the heads we see dramatized on media by some extreme organizations of the world today. While the latter is regarded as dreadful and brutal, how may the former be categorized? Coupled with this are stories of inhumane torture by official organizations of the same country, and the support of  the same by some public figures, occupying the most prominent of seats in the world today. Some trying to debate that it produced useful results so it was fine, as if means do not matter anymore; is it OK to rob or rape a fellow human if it produces a useful result?

What is most concerning is that people tend to follow the example of leaders and nations the example of leading nations. If there is such brutality in the leading nations of the world, what hope is there for the rest of the world? How will the world then condemn brutality by extreme organizations and primitive undeveloped parts, and by criminals?

Just as fire cannot be quenched by more fire but by water, violence cannot be curbed by more violence, only love can curb it. This blogger can only pray that the world return to a path of love and compassion and not violence and brutality; this level and type of violence is neither sustainable nor compatible with the idea of human. When one supports and aids and defends debauchery in far away homes, one day it reaches one's own home too. When one aids and defends the violent massacre of thousands of innocent children in far away lands, violence will surely reach one's own home too. If it persists, it would surely lead to what has been alluded to in an earlier post here If one may speak in metaphors, Perhaps the Bright Matter of the Universe in its love and compassion for beings put far too many animal souls in human bodies and the time to return them to where they really belong may be at hand, perhaps some even to the burning fires of Armageddon and of distant super nova or the bottom less pits of black holes. 


 
Buddha advocated non-violence with love and compassion for all life





Monday, April 27, 2015

A Spiritual Perspective - How to deal with good and evil persons



  
Some persons that we run into in our journey through life are neutral, neither good nor bad in any substantial manner. Yet, there are also others we may encounter who are intensely evil or immensely good, who did much harm or much good to us respectively or at least tried to. It is not that they always succeeded because eventually what happens to us has to do with our own fate. The difference between good and evil persons is that an evil person will easily harm others for the sake of their own self interest, ego or pride, whereas good persons often sacrifice their own self interest to do good to others. Evil persons also tend to impose their will on others and will easily do to others what they would not like done to them. Therefore a cruel person is an evil person. Good persons on the other hand appreciate the freedom of others to choose and tend to be compassionate to all life most of the time. Having said that, it must be recognized that some good exists in evil persons too just as some evil exists in beings that are in the main good. Here the reference is to the tendency that dominates a personality most of the times.

Some of these good or evil persons that we encountered in life were perhaps encounters of a brief kind, those that crossed our paths briefly, yet others would be of the intimate kind, our spouses, parents, children, siblings etc. with whom our interaction may have been a long drawn out one. While the obvious thing to do in life is cultivate association with good persons and move away from evil ones and while one can do that with associates, even a  a spouse by severing that relationship because it is one in law, it is quite impossible to do that with parents or children and the bond being a biological one can never ever be broken completely. It may only be minimized when one becomes an adult or children become adults as the case may be. Some ask how can parents or children be evil? That is not a sensible question because evil persons can also have children and are children of some other humans.

The question then arises as to how to deal with emotions that ensue out of such good and evil encounters? I too have encountered both kinds in life. In fact my very father did much evil to me all through his life from my birth to his grave. It was not that he was not affectionate or did not try to do his duty as a father. It was simply that he was made that way and he did that with all my brothers and sister as well as others he encountered in life, very deviously and discreetly, trying to maintain an impression through it all, that he was a good man. That was his very nature. If he did not do much more harm to each of us individually it was because he or we were busy elsewhere for periods, away from each other. My mother often remarked that I escaped his evil doings in childhood because he was much too busy trying to ruin my elder brother at that time. However, in later life after my elder brother emigrated abroad and a younger one joined the army, he did get much opportunity but being older I was able to ward of some of that evil some of the time. On the other hand our mother, a godly soul with a pure and divine heart, did much good to all of us, brothers and sisters, including my father as well as many others all through her days on earth. It was just her nature to do so. It was our mother who saved the  life and careers of my father, brothers, sister and my own from imminent doom at various times through her works and efforts. while also making our daily lives full of joy and goodness, a very hard job since our father worked so hard to make it miserable.

This is how I have learned to take it all in life through much reflection and much spiritual deliberation. The important thing to understand is that what is substantial to us is our own selves and the Lord or the Universe. Those are the only things that shall remain with us through many life times and it is He who is our eternal Father and Mother. He ensures that whatever happens to us in life is exactly what we deserve and is good for the growth of our soul. Humans or others, including Nature that brings about good or evil in our lives are mere instruments. Therefore, it is really not worth it to hold any deep or long lasting anger against those who harmed us. They were mere instruments to unfold the evil that was our due. Holding that anger imprisons our souls and harms us while letting it go in forgiveness or otherwise if not worth forgiving, such as discarding useless trash in the garbage bin,  leaves the Lord free to deal with it in an appropriate and just way.

On the other hand, we must be grateful to those who do good to us because gratefulness strengthens our soul and to be grateful to those who did good to us is to be grateful ultimately to the Universe our Eternal Father and Mother to whom we owe everything including our souls, for when the journey ends, everything whether it be secret or insignificant shall be brought into judgment, before we embark on the next lap of our eternal journey, when the next train is assigned to us along with its supervisory staff, and the uniform that we shall be made to wear for it, perchance it shall be like that of an insect that crawls upon the earth or one like that of the gods that rest in groves of awesome beauty and fly upon wings or even one like that of a King or Queen that rules upon the land, all this, after the dust shall return to the earth as it was and the soul unto God who gave it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tulsi, goddess amongst herbs – Holy Basil



A Tulsi, Holy Basil plant in the author's  home

 
While all trees, plants and herbs are regarded as carbon breathing life forms that exist in conjunction with oxygen breathing life such as humans, there is a herb amongst them that is not just regarded as a life form but also as a goddess and it is the holy basil known in the Himalayan belt as Tulasi/ Tulsi. It belongs in the basil genus, and as one would expect there is also much ancient mythology associated with this plant.

Being a goddess it is not just some of its components such as leaves and seeds that have highly beneficial health giving properties but its mere presence in a home is regarded as auspicious in South Asia and elsewhere in ancient parts of the world. It keeps away evil influences from the home in which it grows. Therefore it is not surprising that many in South Asia treat this plant with much respect and reverence. For example it is not fed dirty water and its leaves etc. that fall off are pruned deposited in a safe location where they may not be defiled. Its leaves are taken only after asking the plant for permission and with clean hands while thanking this goddess for them. Being a sensitive plant it will not grow in homes with any substantial evil owner or resident and every attempt to do so shall fail. However it grows easily in others and it has to be grown in a safe corner or a raised bed made especially just for it. Several grow in our home against an old stone wall that this author built with his own hands and help of masons 33 years ago. One has been shown in the picture. The plant is a future generation of a plant that I had brought from the home of my parents in 1993. The words on it in Hindi posted by this blogger translate as – Hail the goddess mother Tulsi, Praise the Lord – for at all times this blogger expresses gratefulness to wonderful aspects of creation as well as the Lord Universe that created them.

Beads made from the wood of demised plants sown in a rosary can be worn to ward off evil influences or used as a rosary for meditation and chanting. For medicinal use a few leaves of the plant, less than ten can be consumed after preparing tea either by itself or mixed with conventional tea. It improves immune system, reduces stress, promotes calmness, focus in thoughts and promotes quick healing of common conditions such as flu and colds. Its regular use promotes a long healthy life free of any major diseases perhaps because at the root of many diseases are microbes that this herb helps a body to ward off. In our home we dry the leaves of the plant add/ mix it in tea so that daily consumption is ensured. We use dried Tulsi leaves to spice food too but ensure that it is done only with lovegan food i.e foods that do not involve violence in their procurement, to both plants and animals, do not be surprised that there is lots of food on the planet from both plant and animal sources like that and it is what some of the healthiest, longest lived humans consume most time. On the other hand some of the vegan food although it does not perpetuate violence on animals does so to some plants (see here).

Some scientists have tried to extract active ingredients of Tulsi and used that but it caused adverse effects that way as proof that a whole plant with its many balancing components appears to be superior to extracts that modern medicine often relies upon in very many cases. In the opinion of this author, far worse is the case with intoxicating plants such as cannabis and opium whose extracts become highly dangerous as compared to the whole plant with at the most mild natural extraction that preserves several other components too such as when wherever legal, cannabis is smoked or extracted by simmering in milk rather than an extreme and costly industrial process isolation such as super-critical solvent extraction that attempts to isolate individual organic chemical components to use them in isolation rather than a group of chemicals nature thought was necessary for life. A doctor recommended taking instead an extract that contains three of the chemicals from this plant together, but why not the whole leaf?
It perhaps satisfies greed and ego of manufacturers, traders and researchers but defies imagination when expensive extracts are recommended instead of the whole natural plant available for near free. It is perhaps the blinding desire for profits by some in this and other areas that has led to rising  inequalities in the world for more than three decades now (see here)?
Hail Mother Tulsi and Praise the Lord who placed it amongst humans! May He and she grant more love, truth and sense to humans.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Harad, the King of Medicinal Trees



   
Harad, the King of Medicinal Trees
Of all medicinal trees, perhaps the most useful one is Terminala Chebula known locally as Harad or Haritaki in the Himalayas. It truly is a gift from the gods and mother earth for mankind and this blogger is sorry he did not learn of it much earlier.

It is a deciduous tree growing to 30-metre tall, with a trunk up to 1 meter in diameter.  The flowers are dull white with spikes. The fruit is hard and each fruit has a single seed.  The seed of the fruit has an elliptical shape, enveloped by a fleshy and firm pulp. It is regarded as a universal panacea in  Ayurvedic Medicine and Traditional Tibetan medicine. It is reputed to improve eyesight in the aging and is believed to inhibit the growth of malignant tumors, is rejuvenating and helps to control weight. It also helps cure many common disorders of stomach as well as the entire digestive tract. It helps the mind, memory and nervous system. In fact, so broad and numerous are its benefits that it may be regarded as an ideal general tonic for all humans over the age of fifty. It is consumed by dissolving a tea spoon of its powder in warm water for daily consumption. This is one magical remedy that any herbal enthusiast cannot afford to miss. Perhaps it is not recommended for younger and very lean persons including pregnant women by some but especially recommended for those who suffer from constipation or are overweight.. The fruit definitely needs more scientific studies and research. The peeling old bark of this tree has medicinal value and it is likely that the leaves are medicinal too although there does not appear to be much research or information on that. because in the experience of this author when a tree is good for food and medicine, most of it is useful except the roots in some cases such as the drumstick tree, that appears to be a punishment for humans who uproot trees rather than grow and care for them.

The reason why herbal medicines are not popular with many modern humans is because these act slowly and the effects of many may takes not just days but weeks to build up in the same way as it does with food. It is not a quick fix like chemical medicines that act fast but also produce most adverse side affects. In the view of this author their use must be reserved for emergencies and conditions that cannot afford to wait. In other cases when a human is seeking general health improvement and an escape from troublesome chronic conditions the world of herbal medicines is the right one to explore. The only limitation is that they have not had the benefit of modern research so that one does not know the best precise dosage as with modern medicines and a modern human may have to play it by the ears here. Nevertheless, one can proceed with less hesitation provided it has been a herb that has the benefit of long human usage, not just of hundreds of years but thousands. This fruit is also a component of a widely used tonic powder called Triphala in India that is a mix of two other fruits, one of them the vitamin C rich Amla.

The beneficial properties of this fruit arise from a number of its organic components held in a delicate balance to compliment each others property. Researchers have isolated a number of glycosides, phenol compounds and organic acids from Haritaki.



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Balsam Flower - Magic of Medicinal Herbs and Flowers



   
Balsam flowers

While a huge variety of seasonal flowers grow on our planet when it is neither too hot nor too cold, unfortunately some do have to put up with extreme heat or cold for a part of the year. In northern Indian plains, summer temperatures may easily exceed 40 Celsius in the months of April, May and June and it is only the early mornings and evening that are cool to get out into the garden and have late evening garden parties. However the difficulty at this time is what flowers to grow in the garden. Few can tolerate that heat. However, with the grace of the Lord, there are some. The most popular are Zinnia, the yellow Cosmos, Portulaca and Balsam.

The botanical name of the flower is Impatiens Balsamina.  It is an annual plant growing to 20–75 cm tall, with a thick, but soft stem.  Aside from the flowers the plant has beautiful leaves that are toothed and spirally arranged and that is something one has to look for in a pretty garden. The flowers range in color from purple to red, pink to white and shades in between.

The Balsam is a medicinal plant. The crushed leaves as well as flowers have a topical application on skin and hair. It is good for burns, skin blemishes and warts and on joints this application reduces pain.  The decoction of the flowers is great as a medicinal floral tea. It improves digestion, sex life for men and relieves constipation. It also purifies the system by promoting much forceful urination. Aside from folk knowledge there also exists a substantial body of modern scientific research on extracts of this plant. The interested reader may locate these easily through a Google search of the scientific name of this flower. Needless to say the tea is not recommended for those who already have a laxative stomach.

A Private Party Menu

Here is a full private party prescription just for two in romantic love and newly married couples keen to begin a family quickly on an appropriate and desirable occasion at the right time in a month,  that could get one steaming after the following simple dinner that does not have any thing expensive like caviar or Salmon on the list nor anything complicated as several courses, there won't be time for all that in any case on this one,

  1. Three or four days before the party, start drinking a cup of tea made from a mix of  dried Balsam flowers and dried Horny Goat weed leaves sweetened with honey. Use a tablespoon each of the dried herbs and flowers. In case you are on a regular medication for any condition, especially blood pressure skip the horny goat weed part and only use balsam flowers. Please do not have this tea for more than a few days a month. It can harm then. Perhaps the Lord has designed this tea with procreation in mind and that requires only a few days a month.
  1. The recommended drink for the evening party is two glasses of green coconut water. In case you consume alcoholic drinks at parties; you may add an ounce of scotch whiskey and some ice to the coconut water (name of the cocktail is Pee Johnny). However do not exceed two such drinks to be consumed before or through dinner.
  1. The snacks before the meal is almonds fried in butter but no more than ten each, and some or all of the following:  white/green table grapes, cos or iceberg lettuce central leaves dressed with just a hint of olive oil and vinegar (do not sprinkle any salt or the leaves will go limp), pickled olives ( green not ripe), thin slices of a strong cheese. All snacks in very small servings please so as not to ruin the dinner, to be eaten with  fingers.
  1. The menu for the dinner is sliced onions fried in butter sprinkled with a  bit of ground cloves instead of black pepper, a two egg omelet with sliced button mushrooms, and steamed asparagus tips/spears, and a small dinner roll or toast and butter. Use any sauce that you fancy with the dinner menu, white tartar, red ketchup or yellow mustard. However, the Chinese red chilli sauce would be the best. If you wish for the dinner to have an exotic touch sprinkle some grated black Truffle on the omelet and garnish the asparagus serving with some some freshly crushed dried buds of lavender. The fried onions may be piled on the toast cut in two halves like an open sandwich. Remember no wine is to be served with this meal, just the coconut water-scotch cocktail drink or plain coconut water and thereafter if one is thirsty just iced water during the meal and floral tea later as described next
  1. After dinner sip some of the Balsam plus Horny goat weed tea. In case you have Lavender or scented rose water add a dash of that to the tea. A few dried Lavender buds may be added while preparing the tea this time. Serve small chocolates broken into squares on the side. Extending the event is possible, in case you wish to stretch out the evening and are able to, by moving to the fireside rug with some chestnuts to roast in the fire.

Yes, a bit of effort to collect the whole lot of ingredients from the stores and garden (shade dried leaves and flowers from a home garden can be used for the tea) but then who said such things were meant to be organized at the drop of a hat; if you can not locate an ingredient or two suggested here, still go ahead, there is enough in there for fireworks anyway, :). The interested reader may learn more about the horny goat weed through a Google search perhaps beginning with this 


Horny Goat Weed

It may however be reminded that spiritual persons only recommend this sort of entertaining when procreation of new life is desired, best for young married couples looking forward to starting a family, and not for entertainment since far superior, long lasting rather than brief, forms of entertainment that elevate a soul lie in spiritual pursuits marked by abstaining from lust that leaves one drained of physical and spiritual energies when the event is over.  When such an indulgence is devoid of romantic love the loss is much greater. It is one of the major factors that ties the soul of a human to the ground and prevents it from rising to higher levels. An escape from it however does not lie in hypocrisy or suppression because that may lead a soul to the doors of hell. An escape from it occurs by an exploration and experience of higher goals.


Images Courtesy of:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Musings of a Mystic - The Lord and His Angels




One teaches by example
Examples never fail to teach
One whose lust rapes a girl
One who hurts another
Sets an example
For same to be done to him

An angel of the Lord
Is one from amongst us
Just one more life
In this universe so very wide
Who loves the Lord so
To serve Him so
That there is nothing to cover
The light that shines forth
With his burdens lifted
Is it a surprise?
If far he flies

One who loves and trusts the Lord
How can the Lord disappoint such a soul?
But one who does not believe
How can the Lord interfere in his goal?
Yet all cry for Him
When difficulties arise
And this perhaps is His reply
Had you called in time
Why would difficulties arrive?

Secrets and deepest intrigues
Some for love some for discord
With much ease He does read
The angels and the Lord
A human judge one may mislead
Not the Lord, beware do heed



 


Public domain art images, courtesy of Wikipedia commons

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Good food on a low budget



 
Every now and then one hears of news items from the developed world as to how persons on a low income or welfare are trying to manage their food on a low budget and the difficulties they are facing. I have seen this at first hand with some of my students in Canada who were facing similar difficulties. Often I had to step in with a bit of friendly advice as to how to go about dealing with the situation based on my experience of South Asia where very many families have managed to get by on very little for centuries. In North Western India for example, these are the five things that bring down food costs when a household is facing financial difficulties:

  1. Meat is not consumed but when a vegetarian meal is balanced people are just as healthy or healthier. There are earlier posts in this blog describing how some of the healthiest, strongest and longest lived persons are in fact vegetarians or near vegetarians.
  2. All food items are prepared starting from basic ingredients rather than factory prepared or processed ones.
  3. Bread, usually unleavened flat bread, called roti or chapati, mostly from wheat is prepared fresh at home at every meal. Once one is experienced at preparing these, it does not take more than a few minutes a piece and it is something that can be prepared even on a small camp fire on just a flat plate of iron..
  4. The vegetables and lentil beans etc. if at all with a meal are seasonal ones, the cheapest in any season when one is poor.
  5. Use of low cost herbs and spices such as ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilies to improve the taste of a dish.

When these five rules are followed, food costs come down dramatically. Those who are better off add eggs and milk products to their daily diet to make it better and healthier but the poorest rural persons consume that only if they have a cow at home that is yielding milk.

Aside from carbohydrates and proteins a human needs a variety of other micro nutrients for robust health and these can be obtained from leafy green edible foliage, some that come from trees and some from the wild such as Dandeloin and Goosefoot and others that can be grown easily around a home even in containers such as celery and spinach. There are older posts in this blog that describes some of the healthiest of edible tree foliage such as white mulberry and drumstick. Most of such leafy greens can be dried in shade whenever available in abundance and stored in tight containers for adding later to soups and other dishes in order to enrich them. Persons living near forests have a great opportunity to collect these once they learn to recognize the different edible leaves that may grow in their area. Such crushed leaves can also be added to wheat flour for bread for better health and variety from time to time. Dehydration of vegetables was much used in Asia in older times to put a variety of vegetables on the table even when times or the season was harsh.

The difference between diet of rich and poor in South Asia is how many dishes of what accompany bread at a meal. The poorest might just manage with a pickle or an onion or a cheap seasonal vegetable such as goosefoot that comes up as a weed on farmlands in winters. The rich on the other hand have several dishes and side dishes to accompany every meal and use expensive ingredients such as cardamom, saffron and gold or silver leaf.

Understandably when there are several side dishes, the bread becomes smaller and thinner whereas for the poor it is thick and large, since most nutrition has to come out of that alone. It is easy to make out the financial background of a household in India by the thickness and size of the roti i.e. bread consumed regularly at home.

Just for a bit of diversion in to family trivia, My mother who belonged to an aristocratic family of north India moved to my father’s parental home that was less well off after marriage at a young age and was shocked to see the large size of rotis and talked of that till her last days. She would hold a hand to her mouth in a gesture of embarrassment and say, “ My God the size of those rotis --” However things changed when my father set up his own independent home and started a family. He had one of the best paid jobs of the times - an officer in the British India Army. Till years later my father’s sister who visited often would remark that she remained hungry at first because it took her time to get used to the vanishingly thin pieces of bread that were served with meals at our home. It takes a little time to adjust whenever food patterns change even for the better. In later years there were times in my father's life as well as mine when we went through difficult financial times for a few years at a time. The first was when my father had to get his sister married, the second when he incurred debt to build his own family home. In my own adult life, hard times were witnessed first when I had to set aside almost all of my assets for the future life of my daughters at the age of 41 in one go and again some years later when I had to spend my last penny to build a home for my own living.  However, through all these periods of difficulty the family has managed to survive with low cost food that did not lead to any serious malnutrition and no severe health problems except for some weight loss, and all this was with the help of wisdom by the grace of the Lord..

Bread being central to diet and prepared at home brings down food costs drastically. The lord has made this humble grass food abundant on the planet. Wheat flour in India costs about four dollars for ten kilograms and perhaps would be around the same in other countries too. It is even less when wheat is ground at home. The hungriest of adults depending primarily on that can consume no more than 25 kilograms of wheat a month and that means around ten dollars is the base cost per person per month to mitigate hunger although bread alone does not mitigate malnutrition. Nevertheless it helps a person to buy time. The amount of wheat consumed comes down when other items are added to meals to accompany the bread and that is what South Asians do when they have more money available for food.

The closest analogy of the diet of a poor South Asian to food in the west is what is served in free soup kitchens, a loaf of bread and some soup or stew. However, it must be noted that even this costs significantly more if bread is bought from the market rather than prepared at home. Use of herbs and spices that do not cost much such as garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin and chilies fried in a bit of cooking oil are used routinely in South Asian dishes to improve the taste of a soup (called tari or tarkari) that may not have much else besides water in it. There are chemicals available now that would do the trick but being chemicals are not good for health. When food tastes, looks and smells good and is cooked and served with love one digests it better and fares better. On the other hand an unpleasantly prepared meal that does not taste good may not do much for a human even when prepared with rich ingredients.

Food that is fresh and clean, prepared and served with love and care does far more good to a human than another that is otherwise even if prepared with richer ingredients
"Eat not the dainty meats and rich foods of the evil one; eat, eat he says to you but his heart is not with you and you shall vomit out what you have eaten and lose your good words" Old Testament
Home Made Pasta

For those who like pasta , home made pasta or pasta fresco is much healthier and much cheaper than the dried variety from the market. Kids love it. See an older post on how to make it easily at home along with recipes for a variety of sauces to go with it here:

http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2012/09/five-colors-of-spaghetti-sauce.html



This blogger wishes all humans everywhere may be able to procure the best of food at all times, but at the same time he also wishes that they know how to manage with less, when God forbid, times are hard. It is essential knowledge for all humans. One may find in history of how even some rich kings managed to bide their times in forests for extended periods based on this knowledge.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Non-Organic Human



Fruit and Vegetable Seller, Louise Moillon, 1631. Musée du Louvre


Vegetables and fruits come from plants that are a complimentary life form. They have genes, chromosomes and blood (chlorophyll) just like us except that at the center of the blood molecules in plants there is a magnesium atom instead of iron and therefore its color is green. Different shades of green in plants are because we see this green blood in combination with other plant matter that differs from plant to plant. 

The Universe created the two different life forms so that they may support each other and prosper together. Our waste including the carbon dioxide we breathe out as well as the other waste we produce daily is fresh food and air for plants. When we pass away, the bodies we leave behind provides more food for plants. Similarly the exhaled waste breath of plants- oxygen is fresh air for us. However while plants satisfy themselves with our waste we go further and kill them too for our food and that is not surprising when we even kill animals for that and in the past in some parts of the world even other humans for food directly, some preferring an arm and others a leg with a barbecue sauce  :). Now it is done indirectly by killing humans to maintain our economic and other interests or slowly by destroying their homes and pushing them out as refugees. After all humans have a mind and it is great for hypocrisy and maintaining a pretense to the background chant of holy, holy, holy. .

Plants excel from animal and humans in other ways too. They satisfy themselves with what comes unasked while doing a service to the planet, animals, birds and insects. On the other hand many a human would rob a bank with a gun or if they are afraid of the law, they may do it with a bonus the first chance they get.

It is only the rare human that will satisfy himself with food from plants without killing them and that kind of food from plants is in great abundance too beginning with food grains that grasses produce far in excess of their seed needs, fruits meant to drop off, excess foliage that sprouts in excess like hair on animals ready for a cut, left over root matter when plants go dead such as onions and potatoes too. There is an older post in this blog about precisely the kind of food that does not employ violence called Lovegan foods (see here)  However most any human will kill a plant with ease with a belief that human life is more precious than that of a vegetable. But wait a minute, even if that were true if one may so assume, humans are not doing that very intelligently, are they?

With the progress of science, many humans have realized that organic fruits and vegetables are healthier and prefer that, especially if they can afford it. Organic fruits and vegetables are those that make use of natural products only for their growth and do not make use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides. So the question that arises is why does a human who eats only organic food because chemicals make vegetables less than healthy makes his own body non-organic by eating a lot of processed food that uses chemical additives and also chemical drugs to ward off disease and chemical vitamins even when there is no dire emergency or a crying need just to add a quick muscle etc. and when a human will not do it on his own, governments may mandate chemical additives to food and vegetables or in schools as done in many countries around the world. Perhaps the philosophical side of Louise Mouillon the artist realized that as early as 1631 suggesting what some humans put in their mouth may be less than elegant.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bio-Green Soaps and Detergents for a Greener World


Author's backyard greened with help of kitchen waste water
 
While we hear of water shortages in California, several arid parts of the world have had to manage with little water for centuries. Human habitations exist in semi desert areas of the world that have little green growth around them A partial solution to this problem is to direct water used for bathing and washing clothes to a patch of green near the dwelling while directing toilet water to a septic tank and growing trees around it. Fruit Trees or a grape wine grown around it would only have to be watered a little for a couple of years. thereafter their roots shall find the nutrient rich septic discharge to convert the shit back to the fruit it came from :)

One difficulty with directing waste water from washings to plants is that some of the available soaps and detergents harm plants and ruin the soil, some more than others, whereas some could even benefit certain plants. But, how does a consumer know which is which? That is where the Bio- Green label comes in that can tell a customer that the detergent water is safe for soil and plants. The industry is welcome to use this idea and even copy the label at the bottom of this note for non-exclusive use with others who may wish to do the same. If you give credit to this blogger it will be appreciated but it is not necessary. It will tell the consumer of a cleaning product that waste water generated by its use may be used for watering plants with a reasonable assurance that it would not harm most plants. There is a great market out there waiting for you in California presently. Some redesign of the plumbing would have to be done to direct the water properly.

In my home as well my father’s home earlier we have taken a chance without the bio-green label. While the results have been great with kitchen water (see the backyard photo above) the results were mixed with detergents. A patch of crotons did amazingly well with it but then another time it seemed to spoil the soil and I have a dwarfed lemon tree at home because of that. It appears that detergents containing sodium, chlorine bleach, boron etc. may have negative effects while potassium, ammonia and phosphate show good effects on plant growth. Detergents containing harmful ingredients cause damage to the soil structure by raising alkalinity of soil. They may can also kill the good bacteria. On the other hand some plants with low concentration of some detergents show signs of better growth and development.

All this needs more research by the industry that may sell Bio-Green detergents with a small book of instructions. Feel free to use the logo design non-exclusively with others on a corner of the package if you like as a gift from this blogger towards a greener planet. Any detergent or soap manufacturer can create a new profit stream by creating a separate bio-green variety along with their usual one for arid areas and to green the world.

Waste water generated by  use of this product may be used for watering plants with  reasonable assurance that it would not harm most plants

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to improve urban climate




The Driveway

Very many posts in this blog have stressed the usefulness of growing more trees and green plants of all kinds to improve the planet we live on. It may be mentioned that an increasing human population on the planet has caused an expansion of cities and this is one of the factors that contributes to adverse climate changes. Not only is there less oxygen and bird songs when cement and concrete filled spaces increase but such cities act as heat sinks contributing to global warming.

Humans do need strong homes to live in but there are ways in which cement can be minimized. An example is my urban home. A portion ahead of the gate is paved to create a driveway in my area, but mine has left a foot unpaved on a side to grow trees and bushes as shown in photo. Then a central portion on which a car tire would not come has been pebbled. That way rain can soak in. There was a time grass grew in the pebbled portion but now because of shade it does not. Some worry about tree roots spoiling foundations but that is only true for some trees and in any case bushes do not do that.

What if one has a driveway that is already paved from neck to neck? No problem! ask a mason, he will pull it out in a day. Pile up the rubble that came out in another corner to build a rockery with a water fall and fill in the new space with compost and grow strawberries and other curry leaf, herbs, white mulberry, drum sticks, luscious fruits, vegetables and flowers in it. You will never be out of fresh healthy organic salad at home and fresh organic herbs for the soup and garnish then, would you? Our compost came from collecting the leaves and cuttings we compost in another corner as described in an older post.

A few feet between one and three feet wide all around buildings needs to be well paved to protect foundations from moisture, however on other sides of my home I have covered that with soil too for shallow root plants. Or one can place potted plants on it or even develop a rockery as we did in a corner shown in the bottom picture.

Elsewhere in this blog it has been described how green agricultural spaces can be incorporated within city designs to improve urban areas even more (see here) and reduce the damage that is caused by use of much concrete and cement in cities while filling cities with life giving oxygen, low pollution, farm fresh vegetables, the song of birds  and joy.

Green reduces stress. Modern urban dwellers are so stressed that they start screaming and bashing each other on the street, as some tend to nowadays when their cars bump into each other. However one can't win with humans, with that impediment out of the way some would get into fornication instead  :)   LOL

If you read my novel, Nude besides the lake (it is besides not beside) you will find the lady who pebbled her driveway ended up doing just that, even in old age,  LOL.

While humor is great fun at times, the message of the present one is the same as a  tweet today, "False pride, ego and anger drive servants of the demon, the majority are driven by lust and greed. The godly on the other hand are driven by love, light and beauty

We all have to leave our homes, cities and life behind one day, but while we are around would it not be wonderful if we could do our bit to improve it and leave a better place for those left behind or those to come, just a little cleaning of the train seat before you get off for the next train, or perhaps even leave a flower at the window, the Lord shall place some for you in advance around your next seat, perchance then.

A rockery in a corner


Friday, April 10, 2015

The Golden Years - A Meaningful Retirement



Relaxing with a college friend, Bittoo in the Garden

Recently a friend who had just retired from an active professional life in USA dropped in for a visit. Among other things we talked about how to make retirement years meaningful. As a thinker I have pondered over the subject from time to time.

Many persons on retirement at 60 or 65 end up doing less than the best because of insufficient planning for these golden years. While some adjust happily to a new life of freedom some undergo a period of depression or confusion that may be called retirement blues.  As a result the health may suffer a bit too. A second category of persons are those who struggle to find re-employment and their situation is not very good either since they end up working just as hard in years they should be taking it easy at a job that in most cases is less than satisfactory as compared to their earlier one. Moreover they simply kick the can down the road and postpone the inevitable to a point when it would get more difficult and reduce the chances of a good last phase to life. Most important of all, as mentioned in another post on the five stages of life, they would miss the purpose of an evening after a hard day of work thus messing up the next day too. Similar is the case of persons who were in business from the start and hang on to it with dear life until their last breath without passing on the mantle to younger persons unlike Bill Gates. In some cases there may be a financial need to do that and then there is no choice but every retiring person must consider if they can avoid that by living more simply if necessary.

The Golden Engagement

Between the two extremes is a middle path that in my view is the ideal option. It is to look for part time work, activity or engagement that fills up the period between 9/9.30am to 12.30/1pm for three to six days a week. It may be called the Golden engagement. There are very many ways one can do that at a location that is not very far from home to commute to. A few who are not the outgoing types and have an indoor engagement such as writing books and blogs can have that as their golden engagement but most do better by going out and interacting with others. When gainful part time work cannot be found nearby one may also explore voluntary work in the area and thus give back something to the world while earning good karma.

The golden engagement need not be at just one establishment. A few academics that I know visit different education institutions on different days of the week. Various organizations would benefit by engaging retired persons for such part time work and perhaps someone enterprising out there can come up with a website that would match such persons with needs of organizations and businesses in various postal zones of the world (to minimize commuting) for such a golden engagement (Please do give credit to this blogger for the idea if you do). Retired persons may also explore setting up a small business with younger persons and spend a few hours a day there to create the golden engagement. Some could make use of their experience in launching a whole new project to benefit the world such as the design of a retreat described in an earlier post in this blog.

Living close to nature and communing with beautiful wilderness  is an option for a highly rewarding golden engagement at least for the spiritually minded. A time must come in every life when the throbbing and hopping that takes place must be replaced with the joy that emanates from the heart for the wonderful creation we all happen to be born in.

Whatever be the golden engagement it must be such that you can absent yourself from it for days or weeks in order to retain the freedom that should be the right of every retired person. Spending time with infant grandchildren is one of the most rewarding and joyous part of life for many senior persons as it has been for me and of great benefit to both the child and the senior and most must be made of it.

A Possible Schedule

Once the golden engagement has been worked out making retirement years meaningful become a breeze. Here is a plan that can fit many on most days when not traveling or engaged in activity that requires attention elsewhere such as visits of grandchildren, that much needed renovation work, a stint at the health camp or retreat etc. 

6 to 9 am: These hours are filled easily with some or all of the following activities - morning tea, reading newspaper, gardening, exercise, walk, meditation, bath and breakfast.  Avoid the internet or TV in this period.

9am to 1pm:  Golden engagement

1pm to 2pm: Lunch on Broadway or home in front of TV News

2pm to 4pm: Nap, reading newspaper, book

4pm to 6pm: Afternoon tea, family chat, visiting neighbors, entertaining neighbors, walk. Email, social media

6pm to 9pm: Visiting club, watching TV, supper or dinner, phone chatting with friends and family

9pm to sleep: Meditation, reading

One might ask: What about by modelling, pottery or music hobby; well just make it a part of the golden engagement, one, two or three days a week; and what about that picnic, well there are Sundays for that and the kids can join in too; or my day on the beach? How about another Sunday for that? a lot more on the beach for sure on Sundays.

The schedule here is just one of many possible ones and must vary since each person is unique. However, whatever be the chosen schedule, through it all a sense of discipline is required and perhaps that is the hardest thing to do. When one is freed of the imposed routine of regular full time work it is easy to open the net or TV at the wrong time or to maintain odd hours for sleep or meals or miss out on physical exercise as I tend to. However attempts at meeting a desired discipline add to the challenge and spice up life. Everything in this post is directed at persons younger than 75 because soon after that ends the evening of life to enter night time when the golden engagement must come to an end. At that age what is done between 6 and 9 am may fill up the entire morning. See the post on the five stages of life  and where these retirement years fit in. If you liked the message of this post this other one is a must read in order to properly balance it and appreciate it in the correct context.

Best wishes to all readers from this blogger. If a reader contributes more ideas as a comment it could benefit others who come to read this post.  A spiritual master whose own journey was just 33 odd years said, it is not important how long the journey is but it is important that every day of it is lived well in service not just to self but the world around; often a brief journey brings one to a more beautiful destination and long one is tiresome, that passing difficulties are viewed as mere inconveniences, and when that flight called life stops, the stop be a smooth and swift landing without the engine catching fire, a punctured tire or parts dropping off. That is something not in one's hand fully but something to be prayed for to the Pilot and his engineers, the angels of the Lord.  May your life be a rewarding and meaningful one filled with peace, happiness and joy for whatever be the length of its journey this time around.
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