Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ignorance is Amusing

There is no darkness but ignorance! - Shakespeare

Ignorance is amusing!” a very interesting comment from a very interesting man. It appears that life that lived in the middle ground is cognizant of the many nuances that exist in society. Here is where the amalgam of varied thoughts comes to roost. These thoughts from the periphery are assimilated and a finality of consequences is expressed. These expressers are by no means sages. They are not even intellectuals, especially not intellectuals. They are normal everyday human beings that get up in the morning and go to work. Have family to feed and live their lives in contented harmony of their souls. There are no blaring horns, no screeching brakes, and no rubber on the roads of expression, only simplicity of action.

The periphery in its fringes yelps and ponders, considers and interprets, shouts and debates, articulates and compromises, cajoles and threatens, sweetens and poisons, demands and strikes all in the name of reality. Something strange is going on here. Something that is quite contrary to the larger truth. Something equally as stubborn that defies in the face of reason.

The amusement of this weathered gentleman seemed infectious. He was not belligerent nor was he apologetic, just calmly considerate of reality. “Whenever there is anger, belying emotion there is always a considered threat. This threat can take any form. It can be a fear of loss, a loss of finances, anger related to belief, a loss of position, a loss of entitlement, a loss of power or even an expressed contrary opinion. This anger carries with it venom of such virulence that a perfectly calm persona can be reduced to an emotive wreck.” He shuddered, almost as if to rid of the feeling, of this decay of the human mind, of this laziness of thought and of mediocrity.

“But that is every person. We are all suited in opinions based on our own reality. Isn’t it?”

“Yes and that is the problem. Sometimes it is indoctrination, sometimes it is peer-pressure, sometimes it is plain ideology for power and other times it is plain laziness. But in all, there is an element of ignorance.”

“But the mind will confirm its prejudices?”

“Yes and that happens continuously in daily life. We see what we want to see. We hear what we want to hear and then join the chorus when such thoughts rhyme with ours and the symphony continues to draw us into its magical spell.” He reasoned quietly, “But it is up to us to be critical, to question, to understand the reality and the motive. It is for us…” He stopped talking and for a lengthy moment bent his head in deeper thought, as if anymore could not be expressed in words.

“So how does one purge such predetermined thoughts?”

“Easy.” He said, rising to the moment again, and his hand that had been stroking his chin and curling the gravity pulled skin into folds, let go momentarily and fell by his side, “Get rid of ignorance!”

Interesting how he sees the world. It is not all black and white. There is a lot of grey, as it exists in reality. But in that grey are the components of black and white. “There is no Shangri-La. There is no Utopian existence. Life is all blood, sweat and tears and if it is not then ignorance prevails. Ignoring reality can only last so long. It is a self-defeating code of existence. It is failure!” His voice a decibel higher but in control, his continence a shade rubious. He fell quiet for a moment, contemplating his next words with conserved measure.

“But knowledge is both true and contrived?

“Reality is real intelligence. True one cannot know all the facts because some are hidden but an average mind with average mental assets can determine right from wrong as it can differentiate between good and evil. The measure of life is in that and that alone,” he paused, “The difference is truth remains constant while contrived facts are constantly modified.”

Walking away from his humble abode, an inexpensive cottage perched atop a small hill, enclosed by the forest of nature; one got the feeling that this was no ordinary person. His wealth was in his mind. His riches in the banks were tools for advancement of science and life. He used those resources for a cause greater then himself. He used them for enhancing life.

It wasn’t like this forever. He grew up as a quiet meek kid in center city. He was one of eight and food was distributed in quantities that just barely satiated desire. Summers were always hot and the single fan blew a hot breeze on all of them lined up barrack style in their four-room home. But they were happy. He had a family that loved him and encouraged education. He would spend many hours a week under the trees and street lamps to read. He went to a public school and there he garnered a scholarship for his math capability. He went to a state college and paid his way doing odd jobs including pizza delivery every night after college. He married but never fathered a child, which tormented him all his life.

Life took its twisted turns and eventually landed him as a Chief Operating Officer of a Fortune 500 company. Money poured in and life became more comfortable for him then he desired. He convinced his wife to leave the expensive digs and move into his current modest cottage. There, retired from all obligations he learned to cook, bake, garden and think. He taught at a local community college and tutored kids who asked questions and several hovered around him as much as they could and would try every opportunity to gain access to him. If they could get an evening of his undivided attention at his cottage, which he granted once a month, they considered it a great gift. His tutoring started with one student and at last count there were fourteen, the maximum his cottage living room could afford to house in comfort. Even though what he said was simplistic but how he said it and worded it made them hungry for more. He never raised his voice just their consciousness. There was much to learn and much the students did learn. When asked he would say this was the best time of his life because he was helping shape the future.

He left a legacy for all students; a scholarship fund for any student with certain achievements that he defined. There were to be no committees. The student could apply and if he fulfilled certain criteria he could walk away with a scholarship. The only review was by a non-partisan out of state three-member body that confirmed the criteria. There was no politics involved and no enticement or inducement. It was simplicity at its best.

It was the summer of the following year when the ingenious clock of his thoughtful time came to a peaceful end. The known lion of ridding ignorance had passed and as his life had maintained, his death followed suit; he donated his life’s savings to improving literacy. He died to live through others. He gave others a chance to live in the real world. He was a lion in his beliefs and a martyr to his cause. He was the original banner against ignorance.

The world inexorably glides through space, turning and turning leaving its orbit ever so slowly by fractions as the universe expands. Time allots its vengeance on those that live in ignorance as well as those in the know, yet it is only the knowledgeable that are remembered by those that follow. It is only the truth seekers that live and make a difference. The rest, merely exist.

The cottage still stands, overgrown with weeds. The flowers that grow are all wild now. Life here has come and gone and maybe will come again in the form of another stranger. Where he will take it no one knows. But for now and until then this remains his domain, where once the cacophony of simple and complex questions from young students agitated the quiet and the quiet hush of students amidst the low baritone voice of the aged, wise teacher once filled the arrow of time.

It was in one of those last times when I saw him. His eyes had reduced to slits with overhung thick grey brows curling about in chaos, a crop of white unruly hair crowned his head and his sun drenched wrinkled skin like a freshly plowed field gave him even more majestic a presence. His frame was supported by a walking stick as he leaned over and in his usual quiet reserved manner said, “Remember, Knowledge is Strength!”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To be or not to be...

This is a story about humanity and is encompassed in the soliloquy by Shakespeare in the play Hamlet. Words so true and powerful that they defy age and time.  These words in essence speak of life. The truth in them is timeless.

HAMLET: To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action

One often finds that a story can be told in reverse and have the same meaning. But then to see the ending and from whence it came to be , a surprising but true tale appears.

(And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action)

In the end, it is interesting that Hamlet finds that Enterprises with vast resources and global dimension with many accrued successes to plead about their greatness can lose themselves and end up mediocre, or even in complete destitution. The fate of such institutions have been chronicled in our lifetimes take for example Pan Am Airways, Enron, Lehman Brothers and a litany of such modern debacles where excesses of the mind have driven the fortunes of countless into the abyss. Is it as Hamlet considers, related to Death or maybe fear of death as in loss or fear of loss that drives them to the brink and then they themselves tip over the precipice and all action is adrift like a rudderless boat?

Or is it conscience?

(Thus conscience does make cowards of us all)

No maybe not conscience in these days as the Bernie Maddoff case explains in vivid detail his lost moral compass. This life ebbs and flows to the carnal desire and hedonistic demands. So Hamlet may have hit upon the conscience of cowardice that makes such arteries of vigor and flow come to a complete stop with sludge, dread and self-immolation. It maybe that the hidden cowardice in some that commands them into such sociopathic behavior leading to loss of trust that puzzles the mind.

Humans no matter what station they reside at, what comforts they cushion their lives with or what power they ascribe to are frequently puzzled similarly by death, especially death!

(The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,)

It is that undiscovered country that makes them most fearful. This realization that eventually they (all of humanity) have to go to this unknown land and that they will never again return to the riches they have eschewed all their lives. This is the consciousness that makes them tremble and those that do spend the time to evaluate their own lives, live in the fear of doing others wrong. These are the few that live in the comfort of their conscience and fear of death retreats from their soul. These are the few if they make it up the ladder of success, stay grounded in the contentment of their souls rather than to the delight of their avarice. While others never having such introspection continue to advance their profligate wants.

Man and his insolence projected upon another man is the current day life where to get to the top one has to step on another persons dreams desires and literally face.

(Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns)

Whether it be some one in high office and use that threshold to obligate, suppress, oppress, condemn, judge harshly, demonize or harm another for self aggrandizement is doomed to the channels of tidal waves that will rise against him in the end and subdue, submerge and even drown all his ambitions, wealth, arrogance and desire.  Or it might be someone with limited power who seeks to wield it for self-promotion.  The culture of duplicity and selfishness is ingrained in such people.

Equally the law in its infinite wisdom concerns itself of procedures and demands rather than the merits. It hangs on the confluence of verbiage and a cataract of impressions rather than the virtues, rights and truths. Yet those that suffer the indignities of others with scorned looks, spurned hellos, denied presence and mere existence are the wronged feel left out. Sometimes in the future the prick of the oppressor’s conscience preys on their own cowardice when the specter of death is at hand and there is nowhere under the largest of gold mines nor the softest of comfortable blankets to hide and these proud men then turn to a new found faith, to find relief. It is this fear of the unknown, this vacuum of information, this lack of knowledge that turns the mighty into whimpering souls.

(To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,)

It is death that drives us from the injustice, the pain, the torture to forgo the wishes of too long a survival. It is the daily grit and grind that tires the souls of tested men. It is this conscience that gives us pause. “Hold it! Do I really want that?” the brain cries out.
Those harmed and those that will be then wish for a rest, for sleep, for reflection, for dreams to carry them away from the vicissitudes of real life. Yet the unknown haunts the mind.

(No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--)

It is the daily heartache that consumes us and makes us wish for that comfort and relief that can only come from an end to the bitter struggle of daily living. This is where Hamlet finds himself a servant to his own fears consumed of the anger, consumed of the frustration, consumed of the injustice that he wishes for a deep and permanent sleep. Suffering the thousand natural shocks of daily living is something to be freed from.

But he has come to this as do those tortured souls not from the premise of weakness but from a life filled with struggle to win, to proclaim justice, to stand up and claim his righteous place in the world.

(Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.)

To stand and fight, it is in the constancy of this battle within him and that outside of him fought against him that he finds solace in a quiet sleep, yet his conscience and the fear and dread prevent him from such an action and he wishes to fight against the slings and arrows and by opposing them end the war.

To be, or not to be--that is the question

And so we come to, “To be or not to be.” And therein lies the essence of truth in all of humanity. To live under the misery of another’s oppression or to take arms against these trouble and oppose them and in so doing the battle would either end their lives or end the oppression. The latter seems infinitely a better solution. Hamlet poses a question, is it better to suffer in silence or have the courage to fight the oppressor and in so doing, undo the oppression? If the oppressor wins then death ends the villainy if the oppressor loses, life starts once again anew -free. "To be," offers hope. "To be," thus compels us to fight, and "to be," also builds a conscience, for death is the final arbiter of all that is to be.
Hamlet is in all of us. We become him sometimes early and sometime late in life, but we do become him. It is an eventuality that must come “If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.” - Hamlet by William Shakespeare