Today I offer you random, scattered thoughts to ponder on.
Last week parents had a hectic time as families prepared for the start of another school year. A passive observer sitting on the sidelines, it is difficult for me to fathom everyone’s fascination with this materialistic “back to school shopping” and the almost obsessive, yet stressful mall visits. I cannot say whether it is a case of the tail wagging the dog, but here’s hoping that in addition to the proverbial three R’s (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic), we are also able to inculcate in our children the values of an ethical, just and caring society.
The famous comedian Groucho Marx reportedly said, “These are my principles; if you don’t like them, I have others.” I am not sure whether the remark attributed to him was in fact someone else’s quote that he used for his show. However, what was perhaps said in jest appears to have become acceptable conduct, today. Public figures, corporate leaders and ordinary folks, all of us readily draw a line in the sand; but, equally quickly we remain willing to step on either side of that line to suit our interests, ethics be damned. We have seen it all – constantly shifting sands of statements – whether it be Brexit; regulations and walls to keep out immigrants; benefits of demonetization; diversity, inclusion and transparency in our dealings with others; cultural appropriation or just about anything else. Prejudices, not rational thinking shape our actions.
Nature then stepped in to remind us how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme. We have recently witnessed the awesome power of nature as never before! Floods, earthquakes and storms of unprecedented magnitude have resulted in enormous loss of life and property. Is global warming causing these climatic changes? The debate rages, even as we continue to manufacture and deploy weapons of mass destruction that must surely be impacting the tectonic plates, depleting the ozone layer and upsetting the natural equilibrium. Nature extends a free helping hand in our efforts to obliterate our species.
In today’s world, full of turmoil and daily stresses relating to school, work, family or just trying to exist and stay in place, one needs to create a zone of harmony and peace to maintain one’s mental equilibrium. Stories, such as one of my favourite Zen parables narrated below, help us to accept the state of flux where good and bad co-exist and like two faces of the same coin, are always being flipped over:
Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.