Have a fearless New Year

Non abbiate paura : Be not afraid
~ Pope John Paul II

Throughout most of our evolution we were a weak, defenseless animal trying to survive in a hostile environment. The cautious among those lived long enough to pass on their genes. We are their progeny, and we are naturally fearful.

But today, as a species, at this stage of our development, we are also king of the hill.

Parents try to do the best for their kids. But we also do a lot of damage, unintentionally. We pass on our fears and insecurities, and not just genetically. It takes special effort to realize this, and heroic effort to avoid it. Every time we tell them to “be careful” or “don’t talk to strangers” we inadvertently diminish their bravery.

For most of those reading this, our lives are reasonably secure, reasonably free from danger and reasonably prosperous. We are members of a species that is king of the hill. We have little to fear. This lack of fear is, ideally, what we should be passing on to our kids, to help them unlearn—even if it’s just a little bit—the results of eons of evolution.

Whenever I feel despair at our broken world, I sit myself down and listen to Beethoven’s, Ode to Joy,  to lift my spirits and as a reminder to trust my hopes, not my fears.

I wish you a New Year free from fear. 

Gaurang Thakkar
January, 2018. 


March 9, 2017

Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” -Ursula K. Le Guin, author.

Wa and I have been married 25 years today. I can't imagine anyone else who could've put up with my idiosyncratic ways. To be fair to myself, I've been pretty good at putting up with her ways too.

It almost feels as if we were made for each other—soulmates, as they say. But really, it feels like that the way a magic performance, if it's done well, feels like a display of magic.

Thinking about it, it's clear that nothing was "meant to be." We made it be. We worked at it by being respectful, considerate, forgiving and quietly insistent where necessary; as honest as possible, with some sensible reticence. Have we made mistakes? Sure, plenty. But we persisted, learned from our mistakes, and, like ships in a storm, adjusted our course.

It helped that we had both seen much adversity in our lives and that we both enjoy simple pleasures. Also, we easily make each other laugh—we did on day one, and now still, after 25 years. But there was never any guarantee of success. And there still isn't, but we'll keep working at it.

It's a neat trick, but it's not real magic. It just seems that way from outside looking in.

Soulmates are made on earth, not heaven.

A Non Believer's Parable

Ah! what a divine religion might be found out if charity were really made the principle of it instead of faith. -Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet (1792-1822)

A non believer's parable.

I don't believe in past lives or afterlives; in rewards and retributions doled out by a magic man in the sky, or a universe inexplicably prearranged to take account of such things.

There's no reason to do good or be good just to fulfil any religious tenets, to claim rewards or escape punishments. The only reason to do good and be good is because it is the right way to live our lives.

As such it's important to set aside some of our time and resources to fulfil the needs of others, be they family, friends, strangers you will never meet, people less fortunate, our environment and its creatures. Why? No reason—not for self-fulfilment or to make ourselves feel better or to pry some sort of meaning out of our puny lives. No reason at all. Except that it is the right thing to do. We know it is. There need be no reason.

Here's my parable:

A monk dedicated his life to tending a garden at a monastery, a garden that teemed with all kinds of plant, insect and small animal life. One day, as he laboured in the garden, the Angel Gabriel appeared before him and said it was his time to go to heaven. "I'm busy," said the monk. "These flowers are about to bloom and the bees will come for the nectar. I need to properly water the flower beds." So the Angel left, to return another day. Years passed and each time the Angel appeared, the monk would say he was not ready, that the garden needed him. Finally one day, when the monk was old and weak and arthritic, he said to Gabriel, "you may take me now, I'm ready to go to heaven."

And Gabriel replied, "where do you think you've been all this time?"

From my lowly domain in a secondary city of a minor Asian country on this tiny third rock from an ordinary star at the edge of an unremarkable galaxy located in a nondescript part of a universe that's possibly just one of many universes, I want to strive to be like that monk. But without the gardening. I hate gardening.

Whatever your beliefs, may you tend to the garden of your choice, and do so for no reason at all.

Gaurang Thakkar