Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why I write this blog

[Approximate Reading Time: 7 minutes]
[Mood: Optimistic, Excited]


Between writing the post on Voluntary Simplicity and the Indian Summer, almost 2 months elapsed. It wasn't that I had nothing to write about during this interval. In fact, I thought of writing several times about very many things but certain questions kept popping up repeatedly in my mind. I wondered if there was much point to me writing these long monologues. Why am I writing a blog? I had never journaled or written a blog before. I almost never use Facebook and other social media. Why this blog? Why now? Who's reading? How many of my friends are interested in what I have to say? How many people outside my friends' circle would be interested, if they came across it? Who am I writing this general content blog for (with topics as diverse and esoteric as the plight of tribal peoples and the perils of technology) and what am I hoping to achieve? Is it an expression of my ego to want to write a blog? Do I derive a certain kind of validation of the self and fulfillment of unmet needs by being read by others? Would more readers make me happier?

As I mulled these questions over for several weeks, one fine day, a kindred spirit, Sven Eberlein, over at svenworld wrote about one of my blog posts and it generated an interesting conversation at dailykos.com with some of the readers there commenting on the debate at Google. This was the event that kick-started it all again and I returned to writing. I had been wanting to write about "Indian Summer" for a while and I went for it.

Some of the above questions that I have been asking myself remain unanswered for now but I have a feeling the answers will reveal themselves in their own time. For now, I feel satisfied that it is reason enough that I have something to say. Writing is therapeutic. I get to organize my thoughts as I write and as I imagine you reading what I write. It appears more like a conversation in my mind even though it's decidedly one-sided. It's a window into my mind for you to look through.

I've also been receiving a number of favorable comments about my posts. Thank you! Thank you for reading. In the 24/7 go-go world of ours, you're giving me a gift every time you read a post. And thank you also for sparing your brain cycles to think about the issues I talk about. I know it takes a certain mental effort. I want you to know that I feel gratitude for that. And on my part, I will make every effort to connect with you by not being afraid to be human.

So, why do I write about the stuff I write about? Why am I so opinionated about certain things? Why do I rant about technology? Why do I dislike capitalism? Why do I think there's something messed up about the mainstream media? Why is propaganda so bad? Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, I talk about empathy! What does that have to do with anything else I talk about?

If you continue reading me over the next several months, you might see that there's a method to this madness. At the moment, it might appear that the issues I talk about are disparate and unrelated. But they are all pieces of a puzzle that I intend to tie together. If you're unable to relate to me on a particular post, please don't stop reading. Come back and read the next post which will likely be on a different topic. And as we proceed, hopefully, more of my writing will start making sense and the pattern will become clearer. Here's a sneak peek: it's nothing less than the story of mankind on mother ship Earth! But it's a story you will be able to relate to. A story you'll find yourself in, playing a role. A story that's your own. Because, now more than ever, I believe our individual stories are intricately and intimately linked with our collective story, the story of our species itself. An important piece of the puzzle that's yet to come is the ending. Will we make it past the next 100 or 200 years? In what form? Does it matter? Perhaps not.

Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” -- Alan Watts

Who cares about what happens in the next 100 years, anyway? It seems there aren't many people in the world who get worked up over stuff like this. It feels like I'm in a very small minority. And perhaps you are beginning to feel I'm different from you. That we don't have much in common. I have to tell you I wasn't always interested in grand stories of humanity. I always had a good ounce of curiosity most of my life, but this obsession with the grand story and empathy is relatively new. And it has something to do with my years at Google as I alluded to in a post I wrote soon after leaving Google. Working at Google introduced me to two key areas: emotional development and thinking BIG!

If you haven't seen this 10-minute video on empathy yet, I highly recommend it. It's empathy that's the underlying theme to everything I will be writing about. It's the sinew that binds together all the disparate issues I've been writing about and will write about in future. I'm specifically referring to cognitive empathy, as mentioned in the above video. It's an art I'm trying my hand at. An art of perspective taking. A way of understanding the world by stepping into other people's shoes. A way to understand other cultures and civilizations, both present and past. And a way to understand oneself. I find that an attempt to empathize with someone I don't have much in common with helps me immensely to understand their condition and mine. It helps me understand why a Billionaire CEO does what he does. It helps me understand why we tolerate a Billionaire CEO. And this helps me understand the world I live in. It also informs my spirituality and helps me answer deeper existential questions. I invite you on this journey!

Feel free to suggest topics you're interested in and I'll write about them and tie them into the other things I write about. In fact, many of my blog posts are based on conversations I have with friends. I tend to take issues I come across in daily life and put them in perspective. If everything goes well, my writing will start to jump out and speak to you. But until then, I ask you to put in some effort to empathize with me. And give me plenty of feedback to help me empathize with you. In the end, I firmly believe, it's empathy alone that will help us weather storms, both individually and collectively.

Now, I don't mean to pretend that I have figured out the solutions to all our individual and collective problems. And if anyone does make such a claim, I will take a long skeptical look at him or her. In fact, I tend to think the problems we do have are very much a result of a people either individually or jointly proclaiming that they have figured it out all. They've gone on to model the world around their ideologies and beliefs and look where that got us. So don't believe me for a second if I seem to suggest that I have figured it out all.

 “If you think you know everything; you know nothing. If you think you know nothing; you know something.” -- Jayce O'Neal

What I do intend to do is to comment on the current situation. The current state of the planet. I make observations. I reflect. I question (and encourage you to question) our long-held collective assumptions (for instance, the purpose of the public school system). I try hard to sift fact from fiction all the while asking myself what's fact if not a very strong belief? I step into others' shoes and try to empathize with them and see their point of view. I ask what sort of background might one have and what kind of circumstances might one have had gone through and be surrounded by that's making them say what they're saying and do what they're doing? What drives people to do what they do? What drove Hitler to do what he did? What makes a stranger risk his life to save another's? And sometimes I take a break and wonder what drives me to ask these questions and what makes me wonder about them so seriously. After all, not very many people seem to care about these things, much less enjoy them. Why am I different from others in certain ways but not in other ways? (which leads me to wonder about the perennial question as to who I am anyway) I'll be going into the realm of metaphysics, spirituality, and other such topics sometimes, and when I do, I will try to comment on how the here-and-now hard reality ties into it.

I will also try my best to relate what's going on out there in the world at large with our very individual and personal lives, the mundane, the daily grind. For example, I talk about what centralization of power has to do with the fact that you could be fined for growing a vegetable garden in your front yard. You may not agree with everything I say and I fully expect that from each and everyone of my readers. I would be very surprised if I came across someone who agrees with me on all counts. My intention is neither to convince you of my viewpoints nor convert you to my worldviews.

There's no dearth of unanswered questions that swirl in my mind. I have barely started this journey of discovery, to be honest. I have many things I'm not sure of and there's so much to explore. And I ask for your help. My hope is this blog will start conversations that will help me find answers to the many questions that I already have and those new ones I will no doubt keep coming up with. I think this blog will be the perfect vehicle to connect with others who are like-minded and who worry and wonder about the kinds of things I worry and wonder about. I hope you will reach out to me and tell me you're able to relate to me. Fortunately, some of my friends have made some excellent book recommendations already upon seeing my writing. So, please, point me to the books, web sites and other resources that might help me and other readers. Give us your own interpretation of how you see things. Open the window to your own thoughts on the world we share. Perhaps this blog will evolve into something more collective.

It goes without saying that many of my ideas build on other ideas that people have talked about as I alluded to here in my first blog post over an year ago where I said I'm a channel for such thoughts. This blog is a vehicle for me to collect my thoughts and connect the dots! Join in!

2 comments:

  1. Asking questions that aren't just about how to make ordinary life more efficient are really in short supply these days, my friend. That's why it may feel a little lonely in your place, because most of us have been so conditioned to stay within our 4 walls that anything beyond that seems otherwordly,out of the comfort zone. The 4 walls is not just meant metaphorically, but literally. How many people actually look at the sky anymore, other than astronomers, who are paid to do so? It's hard to believe how many people don't even look up and marvel when there's an amazing full moon rising over the city roofs. We seem to have perfectly isolated ourselves from the grand universe we reside in, and thus become desensitized to any larger connection our daily routines might have. And our removal from the cosmic cycles also explains how removed we've become from nature's cycles and the ecosystem within which we live and upon which we still depend on.

    When you talk about empathy I think you're addressing the part of ourselves that is not the brain. I call it the heart or the soul. Or the Third Eye. Or Imagination. Or Love. Or God. It's our connection to the vast and unspeakable beauty and mystery of the universe, and we have systematically squelched this amazing channel of understanding we all possess naturally, all in the service of being rational, productive, and explaining every detail of our most mundane transactions.

    So you may not get a whole lot of feedback, at least at first, for asking all those big questions, but that's not necessarily the purpose of your inquiries, to my understanding. What you're doing is you're exercising your "God muscle" to begin accessing information that is not available through what society has declared as valid information or knowledge. You are connecting with the source, which is connecting you with your full humanity, which in turn opens up a whole range of new insights into how to be more happy, conscious and complete in this world, and thus how to be of service to humanity.

    Two books that I found very helpful in understanding the larger questions and integrating our heart within our earthly existence are Thomas Moore's "Care of the Soul" and Neale Donald Walsch's "Conversations with God."

    ReplyDelete
  2. The 4 walls of the classroom, the office room or the cubicle have imprisoned not only the body but also the mind. As Vandana Shiva puts it, they've given rise to monocultures of the mind. The age of logic doesn't provide much time for contemplation. Time is money and money is important. Not that we want it to be like this but it is. It's the story we've been telling ourselves. A story that has little place for wonder. A story that puts more value on knowing the distance between the Earth and the Moon than on basking in the cool glow of the moon or wondering just what life on Earth looks from the moon's perspective.

    Imagination and Love are both good ways to describe empathy. They beg the question,"what do I need to do to not be myself but be this other person for a little while?" If that's not imagination, I don't know what is. If that's not love, I don't know what is. If I come across someone wearing clothes that look different from the clothes I'm wearing, I can picture easily, what I need to replace to look like the other person. I need to switch my clothes and try on a new set and I would look more like him. Likewise, what stories and images do I have of myself that I need to drop that would prepare me to try on a new set of stories and images which would make me think, see and act like this other person? If both of us try on this exercise at the same time, this other person and me, how many assumptions do we both need to drop, how much conditioning do we both need to overcome to start seeing each other as more or less the same? What do I have to unlearn and destroy to picture myself as an aboriginal child 300 years ago? Or as a hedge fund manager in NYC who's just been handed a promotion and a Million dollar bonus? What is his story?

    The God muscle is a good way to think about it. And presently, it could use some exercise. You're absolutely right... I have come to the realization that the knowledge that society has furnished me with is not only insufficient, it's quite misleading. It appears one has to eschew the numerous sources of information, even though they often come free of cost and conveniently delivered to our devices, and delve inward to find real answers. As the age of information marches forward, it's becoming more important to understand that we cannot easily find what we need to understand. As depressing as it sounds, it's an invitation to get back in touch with our true selves.

    Thanks for the book recommendations. Checking them out...

    ReplyDelete