Fluidity of Life as Portrayed by Christmas Trees

2015-11-25-20.39.28.jpgThe pluralities within this festive centrepiece are manifold. Different varieties of pine, fir, cedar, cypress and redwood are just some of the common evergreens used to brighten the season’s celebrations. And there are bewildering arrays of ornaments to embellish its foliage.

When I was a kid I loved sitting under the lit tree while playing with the function controller that could adjust it’s lighting effects. As the different colours cascaded, flashed and twinkled in an array of bedazzling ways, the tree took on distinctly different appearances. And not just the tree, my body and the entire room will be imbued with this fast changing display of resplendence.

The Christmas tree is versatile in how it looks and what it exudes. It clearly demonstrates how everything is what it is only because of a confluence of many different factors. So too with people; how they appear and what they express is nothing but the integration of elaborate blends of ingredients.

A little click of a button can transform the lighting of a Christmas tree, so too can my little gestures make radical difference in a person’s mood. A little smile, a courteous greeting or a kind word; just some of the small gifts I can offer to brighten another’s day. Nobody is guaranteed grumpy or sad. It’s circumstances along with a mind-boggling array of elements that make people what they are.

Place the Christmas tree on a pedestal and it will look regal. In a big room with high ceilings, it might look dwarfed. In a small room it would be intensely bright and warm. It can be made to blend with other season’s decor or made to stand out in an otherwise stark room. Likewise, I can place people in high regard or close in my heart to make them appear beautiful, noble and skilful. I can just as easily make them look very small with prejudiced stereotyping and rigid or outdated labels. And the manner I engage with others can even bring out the best or worst in them.

Every being can benefit from knowledge and nourishment shared. Everyone is like a tree that can be adorned and lit. Even a willowy tree can be placed in a corner to make it stand upright. A weak trunk can feel supported in a basket of bricks. There are multiple ways in which a person too can be made to feel stable, secure and strong.

Even if I don’t have the means to help, at the very least I can refrain from making harmful and negative conclusions about others. We are all works in progress. Someday, even the best tree has to wither and die. Sometimes the demise is untimely or the fall hard. Sometimes it gets razed to the ground by sudden disasters. Similarly our steady gait, it can break at any time. The changing fortunes of the people of the world helps me remember my own vulnerabilities and those of my loved ones.

I can be just as merciful towards my own shortcomings. And being aware of the effects of others, there is less compulsion to be swayed by fear mongers or submit to pessimism.
I need never give up; there is always something that can help illumine my being and path. It can be as little as a simple morning ritual; meditate or dance to an uplifting song. I could choose to stop a few seconds to appreciate the beauty in my experiences. I can keep learning from that which I resonate with. I may never know if and when the tree of my being will find its home but I can find my fulfilment by joyfully adding the elements that speak to my heart.

And just as the ornaments and lighting of choice change with my evolving taste and influences, so too my preferences in human attributes. I need think twice before I condemn a certain trait or action. For given the right situation or time, it may even appear laudable. Even my own personal definitions of the desirable in life are always changing; how can I dictate what others should appreciate, remember, forget, value or condemn. For myself too, I’m free to learn and espouse entirely new sets of skills, qualities or virtues. There is no regret in relinquishing the accomplishments of past, nor am I obliged to live up to descriptions that no longer fit or handed down by others.

Depending on the hands that decorate, the tree will accordingly change its style despite the ornaments remaining the same. So also different lives live with different effects despite the same contributing factors. Each experiences losses and calamities differently; I cannot project my own fears or even history from seemingly similar events. The many aspects of a circumstance is not evident to those outside of it.

Some can create a pretty tree with few trinkets but some can only sit in despair despite an abundance; comparisons can be meaningless. Besides, the art of trimming and decorating is not a competition to come up with the brightest, tallest or fullest tree. Every tree holds its beauty differently. Sometimes it’s the fragrance of the evergreen. Other times it’s the colours or richness; its stature or freshness. There is a perfect tree for every type of room and there is a space just right for every type of tree.

I enjoy each tree for its unique features, so too can I learn to enjoy human quirks without judging. If possible I can offer an ornament or help string the lights; else just admire the trees I prefer and allow the rest to display their diverse renditions to those who adore them. I see value in every Christmas tree, so why miss the merit in every living being.


Exploring Creativity, Clarity and Charity a.k.a. Writing to Santa Claus

2015-11-25-20.33.28.jpgThe stores in my city have begun decking up for Christmas. Alongside brightly lit trees, ornaments and mistletoe, Santa Claus remains a popular embodiment of Yuletide cheer. The season’s spirit of hope and goodwill is palpable and is inspiring me to write to Santa.

Expressing to an imaginary Santa is a great way to put to paper the wishes and aspirations that are percolating in my mind. Santa is a friendly and trustworthy audience who doesn’t limit my word count nor enforce literary rules. This fun activity is purely an unrestrained delivery of my raw ideas and spontaneous feelings.

I get to reconnect with the child in me to unleash my unbridled imaginative powers; displaying to myself a creative and expansive alternative to the hopes and desires that are stifled by practical constraints. Social norms and propriety have also led me to silence my revolutionary ideas and my own aversion to risk-taking has subdued much of my innovative ideals. It’s liberating to let my hidden and uncontrived voices be heard; as Jesus so wisely said ‘The truth shall set you free.’

The visual presentation of my muddled yearnings could help me clarify and prioritize my choices. Seeing my thoughts on paper can also highlight the repetitive patterns and reveal unquestioned assumptions regarding my hopes for the future.

The process of editing and rewriting the letter will help me identify the changes that I could implement to make my hopes a reality. I can better identify my perception of myself and my proclivities, and reconsider the behaviours, attitudes and beliefs that keep my dreams a mere wish.

I would also love to include the qualities of Santa in my wish list. His preference to remain an anonymous benefactor is something I admire. Contemplating on Santa attributes, I realize that consulting others on how to cheer them is far more charitable than imposing my unsolicited “gifts” on them.

Another reason why writing to Santa isn’t a futile or childish act, is the literary masterpieces created within the genre of epistolary writing. One beautiful example is the hilarious yet profound insights offered in The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis. It’s a fictional satire based on a series of letters by a senior devil delivering secrets of the demonic trade to his rookie nephew. The author’s humorous style and sharp discernment reveals penetrating wisdom of the human psyche in an entertaining manner. I find this provocative book beckoning me to deeper contemplation. The unusual standpoint and exaggerated observations of the fictional demon offers heightened possibilities for radical perceptual shifts. Surely a similarly meaningful and beneficial composition is possible with letters to Santa Claus.

So I’m off to let my imagination soar and explore infinite possibilities through my message to Santa. I can include the entire globe in my dreams for a better future, for this is the magical Santa I’m engaging with. This will also help me get out of the rut of self-absorbed thinking and dwell on the bigger picture of life. After all, my personal wishes are not independent of the world circumstances and needs. It’s not only caring but wise to incorporate the wider concerns in my own personal quest for a fulfilling life.

How do you give voice to your aspirations? Do you find greater clarity by partaking in hobbies and including playtime? Do creative pursuits evoke love and goodwill in you? Ho ho ho, everyone!

Enjoying birthdays, butterflies and endless beginnings


With my birthday just days away, my friends are reminding me to compose a grand wish for the year ahead. Why not, birthdays are a great excuse to indulge in the fanciful; to blow out cute candles for no logical reason and pretend I am more mature for equally unfounded reasons.
But what is the significance, if any, of this special day that I am fussing about?

Growing older? By how much and how so? The traditional Chinese community regard the newborn as already being a year old. The creation of the baby is reckoned from its moment of conception. Some others take the foetal heartbeat as indicating the beginning of a life form. And most Muslims believe that the soul is breathed into the foetus only after 120 days.
The exact time of birth is seen as paramount in determining the destiny of the child by those who trust astrology. Some Asian parents even consult astrologers before timing their cesarean delivery as to assure a bright future for their baby. But does anyone know which second or even minute the baby is considered as “born”. When the mother’s contraction starts? When the baby’s head is visible? When its toe is out? When it lets out its first cry? When the umbilical cord is cut? Even expert astrologers differ in their opinion on these matters.

A key concept of physics is the law of conservation of mass. It states that matter and energy can’t be created nor destroyed. The parts of the mass can be rearranged or transformed in nature, but the total mass itself remains constant.
To elaborate, I can examine the four distinct stages in the metamorphosis of butterflies. Are the eggs, caterpillar and chrysalis separate creations from the butterfly? The caterpillar doesn’t morph into a frog, so there is a definite element of predictable continuity; but are they the butterfly? Have never seen a flying egg or larvae, so it feels safe to say no. So when exactly is a butterfly, a butterfly? Or perhaps, as expounded by physics, the butterfly was never created nor the caterpillar destroyed. Even the egg is just a continuation of elements from the parent butterflies.

I can extend this scientific concept to my birthday wish. Not knowing when I began doesn’t mean forgoing my right to birthday wishes; I might just request for a magical crown to enthrone myself a writer. But wait, am I already one since am typing up this blog entry? Or do I have to wait till I sell my first novel; hit the bestseller list; win the Pulitzer prize?
Or did I become one when I first scribbled illegible marks and squiggles? Or is it imprinted in my destiny, astrologically charted, when the doctor decided it was time to cut the cord? Or was it confirmed centuries before, by the similar DNA which had been shaping the writers in my ancestry? Maybe a writer can never be conjured nor eliminated.

Just as the leaves nourish the caterpillar so it can grow its silky cocoon, likewise am I endlessly transformed by the elements that nurture me. I wasn’t created by the mere merger of an egg and sperm. I’m a continuation of mergers, including the extra helping of birthday cake that’s going to form my cellulite of tomorrow. If my body is ceaselessly shaped through the interaction with food, water and air, then surely my mind too can be perpetually transformed by engaging with people, ideas and activities. My birthday wish is valid for I’m not a fixed set of variables.

Birthdays are a social construct that can be better enjoyed if I’m not invested in its objectivity. In traditional India, birthdays are not celebrated on the same calendar date every year. Instead they are celebrated on the day of the solar-lunar return when the moon is at the exact angle from the sun as at the time of birth. Birthdays of Indian saints and sages are commemorated based on these calculations.
This day can fall anywhere between days to weeks from our calendar birthdays.

And Muslims, Indians, Egyptians, Chinese, etc., have their own calendars different from the Gregorian one commonly used.
So if I don’t wake up on the 23rd with a big birthday grin on my face or the day is ruined by incessant thunderstorm, I can always pick another date since there is already ample discrepancy and ambiguity as to the most suitable day or hour to renew my commitment to this human experience.

Birthday rituals can invigorate my intimacy with life. As a child I was taught to start the day by visiting church to express my gratitude for life’s blessings, and to make donations to reciprocate and acknowledge that without the world I cannot be.
Birthdays remind me that I’m never a separate bundle of chromosomes. If I were an isolated entity I couldn’t have graduated from milk to cakes.

And I don’t have to justify the passing years with achievements; I’m never accomplishing anything on my own to be claiming ownership of them. Everything I am today, is the coming together of everything I am not. Both years and success are socially constructed measurements.

When and how exactly this psyche typing this words started? And when will she end; when she closes the laptop; when this blog gets deactivated; when she dies; when her grave is no longer visited? And who knows what happens after death? Could this lifetime be but a dot in an infinite line of continuation?

If physics and ancient Greek philosophy of “nothing comes from nothing” is right, we can never be destroyed because we were never created in the first place. Humanity is as mysterious as the world it lives in. These are gifts that are neither earned nor deserved. I find I can discover exciting and timely secrets when I’m prepared to view myself, others and the world as ever evolving without conclusions.

I celebrate that understanding of human uncertainties just as much as I religiously follow the tradition of birthday wishes, blowing of candles, thanksgivings, sharings and gorging on cakes with my loved ones. Celebrate this weekend if you so wish, for all days can be special depending on different calendars, calculations and customs. See you again when I am officially a year older!

Life-Giving Powers of Unconditional Care

Interplay of Art and Heartwpid-fb_img_14467302006763209.jpgRina was looking more radiant than usual and Maya couldn’t help but wonder what had changed.
A boy? Could it be?

Maya continued to admire and speculate on her niece’s new found charm. Rina’s naturally long eyelashes beautifully accentuated the fresh sparkle in her eyes. It was almost eleven years ago that Rina had come to live with her as an orphaned five year old. This year she was away most of the time, studying in a top-ranking school in the city. ‘Nothing but the best for my girl’ Maya would often say.

Despite her lively appearance, Rina was unusually quiet throughout the drive back home. “But I need to come home. We’re just doing revisions and I could use a break before exams; and I miss you. Please?”  and Maya was already reaching for her car keys to fetch her darling niece.

Rina dropped her bag and burst out in sobs as soon as the doors were closed behind them. “I’m so afraid… I’m possessed by a ghost!” she wailed.
’Possessed? Don’t be silly.” Maya’s voice took on a high pitch which was unusual for her. “It’s true… I can prove it!” Rina trembled as her voice stuttered the words.

Maya ushered her disconsolate niece to the kitchen and  reached for two bags of  calming tea. She was starting to regret her decision to send her niece away to pursue her dreams to be an art teacher. Rina’s paintings were masterpieces that won her accolades, and the girl was eager to the share the wide range of techniques she had perfected.

”Okay now, luv, why this sudden belief in ghosts? Have you been watching horror movies?” Maya teased in a modulated tone while smiling gently. Rina gulped down her tea and hurried to narrate how she and her college mates had been volunteering at an orphanage. There she had befriended a little girl who reminisced fondly on her mother, but lamented that she only had pictures of her without a smile. The child wished she had an image of her Mum that could smile at her when she gazed at it. Rina immediately offered to work on a portrait based on the photographs, but with an added smile. The little girl replied with a hug and Rina  held her tightly as she felt a drop of tear on her bare arms.

Rina pored over the details of the photographs. She wanted to capture every little nuance of the elegant face and stature in the pictures. She immersed herself in the images whenever she found a moment during her packed days. Every time she picked up her brush, she thought fondly of the little girl and poured all her love into the project. This girl was proving to be the sister she never had.
For the next nine weeks her brush strokes took on a natural spontaneity that she had never experienced before.

“Just in time to surprise her on her birthday” she said to herself as she beamed at the stunning result of many late nights. Her eyes glistened at the thought of delighting her “sister”.

wpid-img-20151113-wa0005.jpg”Oh my God, you even added her dimples, how did you know? I never told you.” the little girl was too mesmerized with her gift to notice Rina’s rosy cheeks turning a deadly pale. Rina never thought much of her decision to add the dimples, it just suited the shape of that face and highlighted the smile. “Oh? Lucky guess?’she said, with a nervous laugh.
The little girl barely heard the reply and went on without removing her eyes from the potrait. “And look, the white flowers beside her, those were her favourite from our garden. She loved  flowers.”  Rina hugged her knees and buried her head between them.

Her friends had wondered about Rina’s sudden interest in flowers. She had begun adorning her room with cut flowers. She visited the park daily and snapped pictures of the flowers as well as the birds and butterflies that hovered around them. She studied the fine details of the beautiful creatures and the lovely blooms they visited. Consequently, her paintings mirrored her emerging passion and her grades improved with the heightened depth and care she displayed.wpid-img-20151113-wa0003.jpg

Rina showed more interest in fashion, as well. “I must be entering adulthood,” she used to joke when asked about her new hobbies. She experimented with new food and ventured to befriend more outside her usual comfort zone. She was taking on a new persona and she was loving it. “It must be the new surroundings, and I’m almost 16,” she would muse “time to experiment with more.”

But now, listening to the little girl, she was reminded of a friend’s casual joke when she was caught signing up for tennis lessons at school. “Who are you and what did you do with Rina?’ They laughed at the possibility of an alien abduction. But now she knew; she was possessed by the lady in the photographs. She was too afraid to inquire if she played tennis or liked spicy Mexican food or loved bright colours. Rina had just gotten her bangs highlighted a beautiful shade of burgundy; was it just a coincidence that one of the pictures had the lady in a smart burgundy outfit?

Maya listened without interrupting as Rina tried to equate her  radical enthusiasm for life to a ghostly hijack. Though Rina’s artistic nature meant that she had an eye for detail, she had never really cared for life’s intricacies.
Most of her paintings were based on her own visualization and fantasies. She was a creative soul with an aptitude for vivid imaginations. It was her comfort, to entertain herself to sleep when her nights were empty with the void left by her parents’ demise.

Maya realized Rina was starting to reach out to the world that she had tried to protect her from. Maya gave her an abundance of love but failed to provide an outlet for the girl’s own loving heart. Her niece was the epitome of benevolence and needed to channel that bounty. The little brown kitten they had found, that would have been perfect. “No, luv, am afraid it might trigger your asthma, but we will find it a good home.” And Maya always refused her niece’s offer to assist her. She was too busy trying hard to fill her dead sister’s shoes to see the giving nature of her niece that was pleading to be liberated and expressed.

Rina’s little orphan friend had freed the shackles that had restrained her caring disposition. The child not only gave purpose for Rina’s art, but her heart as well.
”You are not possessed,” Maya announced with a big smile, and pulling her niece close she continued slowly and softly “you were asleep; and now, you are alive again.”

Nurturing the Illusive Fire of Life

In a few days, my Hindu and Sikh friends will be celebrating Diwali (aka the Festival of Lights). It’s greeted with both familiar and unusual observances in countries across continents. Even within India, with its diverse regions and subcultures, it comes with an assortment of legends, significations and customs.

wpid-lighy.jpgOne common highlight of Diwali is the assembly of lighted earthen lamps at the homes adorned for the occasion. Arranged in clusters or creative patterns, these resplendent flames seem to depict the warm hospitality and the elaborate spread of delicacies served.

Fire is a salient feature in many religions and cultures. From the blazing sword guarding the Garden of Eden, to the torch of passion heralding the Olympics; it has captured the imagination of devotees, poets, philosophers, artists, etc.
And Charles Darwin in his book Descent of Man, considered fire as “probably the greatest [discovery], excepting language, ever made by man.”

What then, is this multifaceted and awe-inspiring thing called fire? One refreshing suggestion that I like is offered by the Middle Way school of Buddhism. This philosophy analyses the object of its inquiry, and after meticulous investigations, concludes that there is in fact, no freestanding and self-sufficient existence to the said object. Any claim of independent possibilities is illusory.

To contemplate this proposition, I’m recalling my Scouting days. Campfires need fuel, heat, friction and oxygen. It entails a process of arranging dry wood, preparing the tinder, starting the fire and gentle prodding with a kindling stick. The logs and lighters, on their own, do not make the flame. Fire is also not present in the fuel that feeds it nor in the air that allows it. The kid tending to the fire and sheltering it from winds, is not it. And yet without all these ingredients there is no campfire.

Having so examined its nature, I have enough evidence to conclude that fire does not exist by itself. It can’t create, nor maintain, its own actuality. And as with fire, so too the inner spark that lights our being, This guiding flame is no different in its vulnerability towards  external influences. The concept of an inherent force within is seen to be an illusory idea.
There can’t be intrinsically gloomy or bright souls; both are mere constructs of the various inputs from life. Hence, there is the possibility for appropriate means to initiate the awakening of our inner fires; might include an ideology, love, religion, story or even an uplifting song.

Fire stops burning when its requirements are no longer present. Accordingly, there is the need for unceasing openness to propitious elements that can enliven our zeal. These igniting factors vary, for each of us is kindled by different blends of causes and conditions. By exploring our interests and seeking new challenges, we further facilitate its growth.

Stormy times needn’t completely dampen our fire; but if strong gusts of misfortune blow it away, we are better-off when prepared to rebuild from scratch. Regrets and disappointments are cinders that are best discarded to make room for innovative sparks to be discovered.
Diluted passions or weak initiatives may not suffice; but at least we can take heart that these are not our fixed truths. Every heart can revive its light and create fulfilling serendipities; may this assurance facilitate our ardent measures.

The little Diwali lamp urges me to be brightly lit and share the effulgence. My wish for all is continued brilliance and greater inspiration in everything encountered.
Happy Diwali, everyone!!

Identity from an Unusual and Practical Perspective

Sticker “bindi”  in varied designs

Halloween is here again to excite kids in many parts of the world that has adopted this popular American holiday. It has aroused mild misgivings and even intense dislike among some; but for others it is a time for the young and young at heart to play dress-up in costumes patterned after occult figures, popular fictional characters or just quirky personalities.

Though not everyone shares this enthusiasm for Halloween, I feel most are familiar with putting on different attires or accessories and feeling transported to different eras or transformed to distinct personas.
Many girls feel different by just slipping into a pair of stiletto heels or having their hair up in a sophisticated bun. Some guys enjoy a trendy watch on their wrist or feel rugged in their leather boots. And stylish hats can take one to cute, classy, chic, elegant, hip, or glamorous within seconds.

Wearing my sneakers almost always makes me want to run!! I feel more feisty and energized. Using a piece of jewelry gifted by the people in my life instantly makes me feel warm and tender. Tying up my hair into a tight ponytail makes me a warrior ready to tackle the chores; and when I let it fall carelessly I am the carefree spirit in the mood to relax and play. A dot of striking ‘bindi’ can transport me to exotic India and traditional attire lends charm and ceremony to my mood. I love the feel and subtle sound of the silver anklet around my ankles; it makes me feel grounded and animated. I can keep going but I think my readers will have much more interesting examples of their own. Hope to hear of those in your comments 🙂

...for dulcet steps

…for dulcet steps

When it’s time to kick off those favourite shoes or remove a jewelry or change a hairdo we never experience pain; well, I believe, at least most of us don’t ;-). But when we have to relinquish, reverse or assume unfamiliar roles in life, why does it upset us? Why are parents, at times, reluctant to be a friend to their kids; and why is it sometimes a burden to show parental care for friends or even strangers? Are we not already experts in wearing many different ‘hats’ throughout our day? We all have many functions to fulfill. And have we not walked in various ‘shoes’ in our journey through life? Most are familiar with fluctuating fortunes in at least one aspect of their life.

Do the roles we play have a reality in and off themselves? Is our personality our birthright or a responsibility to be safeguarded? Are the relationships in our life a privilege that cannot be withdrawn? What if I felt that my shoes were a part of my feet or my tight ponytail has to remain so 24/7? It would make for a freakish lifestyle to say the least.

What if like outfits and trimmings, I can let go of my persona and roles without distress? The inevitability of change in life will surely feel less daunting and I will be able to flow and adapt without resistance. I can be a friend to a stranger; or help my friend like I would a sister. I am not obliged to uphold characteristics that limit me. And I need not fear nor suspect a trait that I’m not accustomed with. Life can be a lot more freeing.

This does not mean that I take on haphazard attitudes and neither do I give up my individuality. My personality, values and relationship boundaries remain, but they no longer dominate my life experiences nor control my choices. They are given a more balanced perspective and seen as merely an instrument to navigate life; no more a fixed feature than my precious jacket that warms me in the cold. My character, purpose and affiliations in life, no matter how cherished, need no longer define me in rigid ways.

By putting aside the idea of a permanent persona and espousing pragmatic approaches to my identity, I can engage in wider range of relationships and play multiple roles with the same persons. My self-contemplation, too, can take on a richness that is brought on by the openness to more diverse attributes. There is potential to be a lot more versatile, creative and embracing of growth.

Self-evolution is facilitated by this liberating idea; the process becomes more enjoyable and the changes easier to comprehend and manage. Life becomes a potential for splendid adventures with so much more to explore and experiment with.

Pluralism acknowledges that each community, and even individual, grants importance to different aspects of identity. Religion, ethnicity, gender, education, physical attributes, talents, skills, creativity, lineage, nationality, culture, pursuits, hobbies, accomplishments, values, integrity, morals, profession, relationships; phew!! …everyone esteems and cherishes distinct and often disparate properties of self. So even as I benefit from the freedom of a more flexible identity, I will accord similar charity to every other preference for self-identification.

If someone wants to be identified by the colour of their skin, then I acknowledge that; just as I honour the wishes of those who do not. Religion is not mere superstition for many and takes precedence when establishing their sense of self. Some define themselves by their morals; it’s not at all stodgy for them. Materialistic aspirations are not selfish in all cases and physical beauty is not always a superficial vanity. If one can gainfully utilize academic certificates in depicting themselves, why shouldn’t another choose to be identified with their attractive appearance?

An aptitude for numbers is no more special then the ability to kick a ball into a goal post. No part of our identity is less valid than another when appreciated from different angles. These qualities assume a different hue when seen within different contexts. Pluralism encourages conscientious attempts to understand, recognize and allow the varied identities to flourish. These can contribute to more considerate playing fields and harmonious interactions.

What specifics do you prioritize when contemplating or introducing yourself? And how do you regard and maneuver them in your fun and fruitful ways?

Poetic Musings on the Magic and Miracle of Memories


When did I create them?
I was just spending time with you;

How do they now appear,

Magical projector hiding within?

Did I store them in a cloud above me?

For they seem to rain all around;

In a song or picture, or even a word,

They pervade my every sphere.

Do they proceed with different clocks?

For I see days in just a minute;

And yet some seconds seem endless,

They linger in my vision.

Do they include their unique lighting?

For they can illumine my darkest hours;

And yet the brightest of lights,

Can never infiltrate their shadowy mist.

How do they heighten the intensity?

Of what was simply quiet joys beside you;

Now the calm is vibrant with emotions,

Creating feelings I never knew.

I did not know you could magnify,

As to fill up my entire night;

Bringing giggles or sobbing cries,

How did you get so large?

Some call memories their worst enemy,

Others say they are priceless scenes;

They bring tears and smiles alike,

What are these mysterious conjurings?

Might someone steal them from me?

For I wish to let them run free.

Won’t someone heal them for me?

For it hurts to let them be.

Water runs down my hands,

Soothing my sun-kissed limbs;

Can memories comfort likewise,

Could they supplant your absence?

You are at all places now,

and yet not a hug or even touch;

What if it’s no different,

Contact or its remembering?

When did those moments get so precious?

I was just experiencing daily rituals;

Why did I sanctify the casual?

For I cannot now replace nor ignore.

What are these stories that render them sacred,

Just fables to amuse the mind?

What if they are mirages of flimsy clouds;

Not foretelling storms nor reflecting heavens.

And are they really apart from me,

For me to yearn or regret them so?

Is not all sensations equally close,

Both of the mind and the flesh it muses on?

The shattered dreams of future hopes,

Are now the resilience infused in me;

Your love and care that seem missing,

Are still here in my own benignity.

This memory depends on you and me,

It’s neither the past nor its absence now;

For what is a past without the present,

Nor can the present manifest sans its past.

I alone don’t create the person I am,

I am my memories both remembered or not;

But then memory itself is just my current chronicles,

The infinite interplay of the new and bygone.

Diunital Tips for Better Writing Experience


The choosing game

Writers of all genres are faced with many decision-making tasks; these begin even before they start writing.
Example: To put pen on paper for a stronger visceral feel, or fingers on keyboard for the speed and efficiency?

Some may find the use of their favourite pen to add delight to their project. Using stationery gifted by an esteemed writer or mentor, might facilitate inspiration and motivation. Others may find that their thoughts are worded with a lot more care and love, when transcribed by hand. And the distractions of the internet are kept at bay.

For the writer multitasking on a laptop, having the internet alongside can be invaluable for research and accuracy of content. Handy tools, for converting notes into flashcards and mind-maps, are plentiful.
Sections of writings are easily reorganized, and editing is a lot more tidy.
Work in progress can be easily shared with others for timely feedback.

And that was just one out of numerous sets of divergent options faced by avid writers. There are many decision-making techniques that assist in picking the best alternative. My preferred strategy is a discerning selection using the ‘both-and” approach.

“Both-and” cognition

”Both-and” thinking is a powerful and liberating tool for resolving the many contradicting choices in life.
It is less restrictive than the more common “either/or” rationale which demands the exclusion of one end of the polarity of options.
With a “both-and” mindset, we can consider embracing both opposites or even multiple ideas in a novel way.
This enables a wider range of results and becomes a more fulfilling method for navigating the richness of diverse preferences.

For the “both-and” writer, there is no need to rely completely on the latest gadgets and devices. All present-day availabilities are considered, but without needing to dismiss the specialties of the handwritten work. There are many ways to cleverly combine the two to come up with an enhanced system. The personalized mix of tools can contribute to a more productive and harmonious work-flow. It may even inspire a completely distinct and revolutionary method for converting thoughts into words.

As with many good concepts, the “both-and” thinking is also embedded in a variety of excellent theories. Polarity management, Yin-Yang approach, Jain logic and Buddhist dialectics are just a few examples of how prevalent this idea is both within traditional and contemporary philosophies. I hope to explore many of these for their subtle and distinguishing features, in future posts.

This time, I am keen to delve into a 20th century theory pioneered by Vernon J. Dixon. To present his ideas he constructed a brand new term; diunital.

Diunital Mindset

In his paper for Princeton University entitled, “The Diunital Approach to Black Economics” Dixon describes his original term as such:

Webster tells us that “di” means “akin to two” or “apart.” “Unital,” the adjectival form of the word unit, refers to a “single thing that constitutes an undivided whole.” Di-unital, therefore, means literally something apart and united at the same time or something simultaneously divided and undivided-a union of opposites without inherent antagonism.

In this paper he uses diunital ideas to suggest alternatives to the common understanding of economics. He explains that the “either/or” approach sees culture and economics as mutually exclusive. Likewise, the black and white cultures of America. And the irreconcilable separation of economics from other fields like sociology, anthropology and philosophy.

A diunital approach, he says, would recognize how culture and economics effect and continue to transform each other. And culture itself gets diunitalized by his view of himself as a black who embodies both black culture and white culture ‘without inherent contradiction and antagonism” .
Experts from other academic fields are appreciated for their valuable inputs on economics, for every angle of perception is seen as simultaneously separate and linked with each other.

Versatile and Dynamic

The possibilities for diunital applications are vast and far reaching. All forms of artistic crafts, professional fields, social structures, relationship paradigms and global agendas can benefit from this magnanimous outlook.

It encourages innovation and creativity by its recognition of the multiple alternatives that are able to coexist in a diunital framework.
Nothing is taken for granted as corresponding to its popular label; for example, a best-seller list may or may not include the best works. And our own standards are not seen as the ultimate benchmark to gauge others. It is an opportunity to appreciate more of life in all its diverse manifestations.

I have been playing with the diunital thinking in many areas of my life. The results have been most fulfilling and I look forward to discussing these in future articles.

I may also write about an online forum dedicated to bringing diunital ideas and ethics, to the forefront. The moderators of the forum are putting together the finishing touches and will soon introduce their public portal on Facebook. Given the depth of this topic, the group is most likely to be a stimulating gathering of diverse ideas and meaningful sharing.

For now, I wish to share on how diunital thinking is proving to be a joyful and beneficial presence in my writing endeavours.

Diunital Writing

I love writing. Like many of my favourite activities, I find writing to be similarly diunital in itself.. There is a necessity for the extraction and absorption of life inputs. And yet there is an equal need to relinquish and declutter. It is a mixing and also a sifting. A confluence of coherent ideas and also its dynamic dispersion.

My on-going explorations of the various philosophies of our times have required much exchanges and sharing with the learned and experienced perspectives of mentor and friends. Bringing a diunital mindset to these dialogues is proving to be a great boon to my writings.

The synergetic nature of diunital discussions exude a feeling of abundance. The scarcity mentality which is linked to pride and self-centeredness is thwarted. There is plenty of room for the fulfillment of all points of view without even needing to adapt or oblige. Diunital conclusions are always a notch higher than mere compromises, for it does not require the reducing of one variable in favour of the other(s).

These diunital dialogues are not limited to the external sources of inspiration; my own contemplation is no longer limited to my own preferred vocabulary of opinions. Diunital attitude is eliminating much of the divisive tendencies in my ruminations.

Having to embrace diverse options with a keen receptiveness and genuine interest, gives my writing task an added zest and excitement. I become more open to the expanding boundaries of my writing style and also the subject matter being considered.

It is important for me to gain clarity on the intentions and content of my prose; as well as a clear awareness of what I am not delivering. These are some of the many instances where diunital thinking in my reflections have been priceless.

Exploring the Polarities

Now I would like to invite my readers to explore with me!

Let’s see how we can incorporate the diunital thinking in our own writing process. I am doing this by presenting the many contradicting options that appear throughout the writing journey.
These are just some of the concerns that demand our discerning response.

Some of these questions can change our outlook on writings, its process, our style and genre, our readers and also our sense of self worth as writers. Much can depend on how diunital we are willing to be with our answers. Please feel free to add or minus from this list to suit your own writing temperament and inclinations.

*To immediately get to the writing or to sit back and ponder on its structure and premise?

*To compile the necessary research needed or to accumulate the information on a need-to basis?

*To brainstorm and lay out plans or let the writing guide its own course?

*To focus on content or delivery and style?

*To make the content information driven or an entertaining narrative?

*To keep the content current or based on time-tested traditions?

*To express my own views or explain timeless wisdom set forth by others?

*To consider the realities of the world or to focus on what I know experientially?

*To focus on my reader and consider their feedback or to be true to myself and rely on my own intuition?

*To work alone or to collaborate with other writers/artists or join writing groups?

*To work on developing my own skills or to lend support to other writers/artists?

*To learn and stay updated for my benefit or to share and teach others?

*To spend more time and effort towards producing a better piece or to pay attention to mundane tasks?  Or relationships? Or health? Or finances?

*Can my writing be both good and bad? Can the seeming weakness in my writings have hidden strengths, and vice-versa?

*To work on improving the shortcomings or to capitalize and build on the strengths?

*To consult seasoned writers and experts or to get feedback from laypersons with less preset ideas on what constitutes  good writing?

*To write to contribute to positive changes or to support/supplement the existing paradigms?

*Is my writing result oriented or is the process enjoyed as an end in itself?

*To set out clear goals and definitions for readers or to make room for reflection and imagination?

*To stay true to my own values or to adapt and adopt the popular values of the times?

Sweet Paradox

The list of possible questions is inexhaustible!

The happy paradox in the very contemplating of these polar opposites is that there actually arises greater clarity and balance. The benefits are just as endless as the possibilities. I feel much optimism and enthusiasm in having my writing adventure be guided by diunital discernings.

I will continue to refine the steps and style of my diunital dance with words and ideas; the lessons are infinite. Diunital thinking permits consideration of all points of view. So I invite you all to comment on what has been some of your favourite strategies for writing; as well as, for life choices in general.

Introducing an Informative Blog on Useful and Fascinating Philosophies

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

..to read my reflective writings on the philosophies of the times










Revisiting the Remarkable Pluralism

Greens in diverse guises, poised for group hugs at the united porch ;-)

Greens in diverse guises, poised for group hugs at the united porch 😉

Defining Pluralism

The word “pluralism”, has a variety of significations and interpretations attached to it. Its utilization and relevance, extends to a myriad of social and religious discourses. And it thrives within numerous academic and professional fields. Given the wide range of applications and functions linked to it, the term itself provides an opportunity to adopt a pluralistic approach.

Of the many definitions, one is an offering by the Pluralism Project at Harvard. Its website states: “pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity”. It goes on to say that “mere diversity without real encounter and relationship will yield increasing tensions in our societies.”

Diversity in our world is a fact. However, pluralism is something that needs our concerted efforts. Having said that, pluralism itself acknowledges that it’s just one of the many ways to approach diversity.


~ A delightful attribute of our very existence and experience. As obvious as the colours in a rainbow or coloured candies in a packet of M&M’s. It can’t be missed; both in nature and human creativity.

Despite its natural occurrence, i sometimes think it’s introduced as a novel invention by savvy community leaders or angry activists looking to promote limited agendas. In these instances, it at best comes across as something contrived and constricted; at worst something divisive and hate-inducing.

And is there room for hybridity and creativity in the played-up versions of diversity? Where does the kid with four ethnically different grandparents fit? Where does the fusion artist go? What about the displaced migrant or refugee who doesn’t fit into any neat borders? Is it possible that many will feel alienated when diversity is limited to convenient chunks of well-intentioned yet impractical compartments?

We come in multiple blends of culture, gender, nationality, religion, ideology, interest, taste, talents, physical capabilities, types of intelligence etc. It will be great to allow flexibility and dynamism in managing diversity and not limiting the pluralistic powerhouse that it is.

Responding to Diversity

How then, shall we respond to our ever-increasing pluralistic world?
Do we ignore or downplay the diverse peculiarities, heritage, principles and beliefs of people of this world?
Do we just observe it? Or be critical of it?
Perhaps we can engage in charitable celebrations of diversity in exotic cultures, food, tradition and heritage?
Should we reinforce the boundaries of diversity to further accentuate it?
Or might we feel threatened by it?

There are many options and medley of choices, that may resonate for different people. That too, will be partly dependent on our own unique mix of the assortment of attributes that colour our views. My own preference, possibly based upon my own histories and inclinations, is to first see the resemblance within diversity; and then to fall gracefully into a recognition of pluralities and a remembrance of diverse histories.

Resemblance nurtures Diversity

Picture a dozen young professionals from around the globe invited to an international convention. The organizers have botched the accommodation arrangements and the participants have to hang out at the lobby till the mistakes are ironed out. Curiosity, fueled by the unfamiliar skin tones and facial features, compels these bright young people to actually look at the interesting others rather than take comfort in their familiar devices and gadgets.

It doesn’t take long for the friendly glances and smiles to morph into an impromptu mini convention of their own. Topics range from gadgets and devices, fashion, celebrities, TV shows, sports, books, science, ethics, family, friends, childhood, pets, romance etc. With shared millennial lingo and popular jargon of the times, they chatted on like old neighbors, with deep connection and comfortable familiarity.

Even as the popular themes of the day were enjoyed, they couldn’t help but notice the different priorities and values that cropped up in their friendly banter. “Oh, is that why you like it?” “Why is that feature important?” “Never saw it that way.” And the intriguing differences were lapped up as enthusiastically as the comforting resemblances.

Tears, laughter, solemn contemplation, admiration, and a feeling of deep comradeship and love. In seeing another who is no different than me and my own; and yet having to dodge a drone or run from gun wielding terrorists or learn to use heavy weaponry or has lived through severe food shortages and stringent rations or walked across scorching desert or had to fight for a right to education…

They are the same compeers who enjoyed the same zest for friendships, family, great food, adventure, innovations etc. And yet there are such similar beings living radically different lives. There springs empathy and compassion, and a lifelong bond is born; and with it, commitments to care and make a difference.

If the twelve had met at the convention proper, would it have created a similar rapport? They would be officially introduced as hailing from distinct geographical boundaries that are said to accurately reflect the pluralities in our world, in effect, a politically defined global diversity. Ceremoniously brought together as ‘ citizens of the one world’, they would take to the podium to educate the world of their nation’s peculiar predicaments. Will that evoke strong kindred feelings?

If I really believed these representatives to be a completely different genus of humanity, I may be tempted to say, “Yes, we’re all human. And yet you speak of stuff I don’t recognize. So it must be something you are hardwired for. You’ll be fine; you’re weather-beaten to endure your ‘searing temperatures’ or ‘freezing cold’. If I’m able to deal with my peculiar set of problem then so must you. You have my good wishes and prayers; and hope to see you another year at another convention.”

That hypothetical response may sound like an exaggeration and yet looking at some of the world’s indifference and even contempt for people from different countries, I can’t help but wonder. Sometimes even among citizens of the same land there is much apathy or even disgust for those from the lower economic or social divides.

So is it really an acknowledgment of diversity that is missing? Or rather the unity that can exalt and nurture that diversity? Diversity in these cases has only served to accentuate the lowliness of the others by classifying them as poor or out-castes. And diversity within religious sects, never mind among different religions, has caused many a tragic fate for countless who were seen as not worthy to be dignified as human. Here too, I feel, it’s the common thread that is missing; that benevolent bond that can lay the foundations for diversity to flourish without fear.

Diversity – a Reality

I feel that more often than not there’s apprehension towards speaking about our similarities. For I find there can be much boredom with the notion of Eurocentric whitewashing that has been popularized by years of widespread westernization; and tiredness from the clichéd spiritual oneness preached by some new age pundits that don’t always come down from their lofty seats to acknowledge the real life battles within the ‘one’ field.

It’s alright, though. We can dip a slice of strawberry, banana or apple in a yummy bowl of liquid chocolate and it will still taste very different despite the similar deep colour and glossy exterior! Any attempt to coat us with the same “chocolate” topping, will not dissolve our unique qualities.

In this age of high-speed internet based social networking, there is a definite landslide of fast-moving “chocolate” for sure. Both in its goodness and bitterness we are all dunked in this similar zest for speed, diversity, expansion, novelty, beauty, exploration, communication, justice, radical outreach, etc. Yet, happily, the differences are a given; no two same thumbprints! No two identical beings, nor histories, nor environments.

Unity respects diversity

Unity does not mean we see everyone as the same or even equal in all respects. We are different; and irrefutably so. What unity does strive for, is a similarly civil, respectful and dignified treatment of all people.
Unity emphasizes the underlying interconnection among all beings. It’s neither lackluster similitudes nor over-bearing in its tyrannical conformity. It highlights the intrinsic, connective human bond, even as it recognizes and respects the vast and complex differences within humanity.
Unity is not expressed as protecting all the different beliefs and ideologies, but more about recognizing and understanding the various human sentiments that gravitate towards these diverse beliefs and ideologies. I feel this to be an important distinction.
Some think that uniting people is about bringing them all under one umbrella of ideology, philosophy or religion. Even some liberal-leaning views may insist that others follow its lead. This is more akin to dictatorship albeit with liberal intentions. It’s not the same as the pluralistic unity that I muse on; where even liberty is not something that is forced on others.

Celebrating both

Celebrating diversity is wonderful! But perhaps it’s also appropriate to celebrate the similarities; and simply recognize the unmistakable diversity and let it effortlessly charm us into its depths. Cause sadly from what I see, it’s the recognition of similarities that’s missing. The raw, flesh and bone similarities which are much more far-reaching than the whitewash of commercialization and the abstract oneness of spiritual theories.

I see people bleeding and crying in similar painful ways; all equally vulnerable to illness, disability and death; hunger and poverty is feared; grief, frustration, heartbreak, guilt, humiliation, anxiety; hurts just as much. I feel people desiring to speak their hearts; wanting to freely walk where they wish and looking up to see brilliant stars and not blinding bomb blasts!

I think the affection, spontaneously born out of the shared resemblance, can guide us gently into the deeper, far-reaching diversities of our global village. And the more obvious differences are enough to fuel the curiosity for that deeper excursion. We don’t need the more sly politicians to keep drumming on diversity and neither shall we be bullied by some radical activists nor guilt-tripped by simplistic spiritualists into a brainwashed acceptance of basic diversities that were never not apparent. Taking our cue for diversity from these standard-bearers, can only inspire in us a superficial tolerance for their clichéd stereotypes. My preference is for life’s rich tapestry of diversity to be honored in a more spontaneous and magnanimous manner.


Important, and yet by itself, tolerance can be just a shallow decency. It can even hinder an active engagement when it’s seen as an excuse to just observe. Tolerance doesn’t need an intimate nor updated knowledge of others, hence will allow us to hang on to all the stereotypes and outdated beliefs handed down by history and our own prejudiced misconceptions.

Tolerance is especially inadequate for top-down discrimination that are hierarchy based. I feel there is a greater need for deeper acknowledgment of our similarities in these scenarios. This will ensure that the “injustices” are not defined as such by just the more politically or economically powerful regions of this world. Another example of rank inspired inequality is when in some arenas, the social and legislative norms are seen to always override the various cultural norms or religious laws of people who may want to prioritize them. Likewise, the weight given to urban practices versus the rural traditions; it’s injustice via pecking orders.

Diversity has depths

The celebration for diverse food, tradition and music makes for a very interesting and exotic experience. But to meet with the resemblance of our human sisters and brothers, is to enable us to see how we are more privileged despite the sameness; how similar sensitivities of our human psyche are being exposed and made vulnerable to drastically different degrees of torment, shame and injustice.

My hope is for the more meaningful integration and transformation to take place and be given space to evolve. It needs to go beyond just a staged display of diversity with different coloured skin tones walking away with pageant crowns, or simplistic, multicultural posters with ‘oneness’ slogans. Sure, every little counts; but do we just settle for the little that comes from a constrained display of the greater diversities?

Pluralism is not Relativism

Relativism sees all views as context dependent and equally valid.
It sees no way to discern between various expressions of life because it considers discernment unworkable without an absolute vantage point. Since relativism denies the possibility of an absolute view, making sensible comparisons is seen as a futile attempt. It believes it can’t reach satisfying and useful conclusions.

Pluralism itself agrees that views are derived from, and related to other views. They don’t magically appear from nothing. However, for pluralism, that doesn’t preclude the possibility of intelligent discernment of views. So, unlike relativism, it doesn’t need to see all views as equal.

Pluralism doesn’t insist on a single best view or absolute truth. At the same time it does not deny the possibility of better views or even an absolute view. It encourages creative learning and active growth towards achieving these ends. I feel it’s less fatalistic than relativism.

Pluralists are dedicated to a multiplicity of ethical values. But, unlike relativists, they also pledge their hopes on the possibility of working towards more wholesome and beneficial values. Pluralism recognizes that there are numerous wellsprings of different types of value and moral claims. These are acknowledged for their incommensurability. But this does not make pluralists moral skeptics.

Pragmatic Persuasions

Pluralism does not preach; not even on pluralism. Yet in my poetic vision for pluralism, there is room for ‘pragmatic persuasions’. We can discuss our various perspectives rationally. There are bound to be overlapping consensus on the hopes and aspirations of different communities.

Despite the incommensurable nature of these different points of view, there are still many common concerns that are important to most people. We all need shelter, food and clean drinking water. Everyone I know likes to be treated with respect and kindness. Justice, equality, prosperity, order, solidarity and basic human rights are rarely regarded as unacceptable even if communities differ on their definitions of what constitutes them.

Pluralism requires the furthering of constructive dialogue to reveal both common grounds and subtle, yet rightful differences. These similar results and consequences, hoped for by most people, can be a uniting factor. With its help we can determine the values that have a more legitimate and convincing place among the multiplicity of values. The prevailing depths of diversities require us to put forward more efforts, both in quantity and quality. Our common values and shared goals can lend the impetus for those efforts.

Pluralism is not Liberalism

It’s important to note that pluralists are not restricted by the more common values. There are no overriding commitments to these. They see these values as only having the potential to contribute to judicious agreements and implementations of common principles. Unlike liberalists, they do not assume that even something like self-determination to be an overriding goal for all people. The pluralist sees it as one among many valuable aspirations. They recognize that the nullifying of individual preferences or orthodox pursuits, in favour of the common values, may not be the optimal choice. In some cases, the more unusual needs being snuffed out, can even reduce the ability to enjoy the liberal values of freedom and prosperity. Hence it defies the very purpose of this liberalist insistence.

Spaces for dialogue

The complexities in defining the basic principles and requirements of our human welfare can be discussed in our public squares which vary in size and complexity. From schools, places of worship, universities, non-profit organizations to community centers; there is a plurality of these spaces and opportunities for dialogue. Increasingly, it feels, we are also moving towards a single, concurrently running, virtual public square.

I feel we can no longer lead insulated lives based on our own cultures. The world borders are becoming blurred. The internet and media brings people together in virtual platforms and forums to speak and be heard on the issues of the times.
I think there is a need to be more sensitive to the world’s eyes and ears. We can no longer justify everything merely based on our own diverse way of living. I don’t see pluralism as advocating extreme individualism.

Tragic consequences and unfortunate incidents have occurred in our physical reality, when two or more radically different points of view meet in our borderless cyber world. Multimedia communication makes for almost immediate information sharing. Without the feeling of human solidarity, these fast-moving streams of diverse information can be misconstrued in negative ways.

One example, is when freedom to express artistic creativity, butts heads with orthodox views of respectful sensitivity towards religious sentiments. My view is that it doesn’t help to insist on either one of these poles of different perspectives. And I would not wish for power to be wielded by one perspective that is presumed to be the “right” one.

Rather, I feel, we can bring awareness to the common human needs that gave birth to the different actions and reactions; eg., freedom to express, and freedom to voice dissatisfaction and have it taken seriously. In seeing the similarities in the struggles and causes behind the seemingly alien intentions, we can perhaps make more informed choices around our responsibilities and responses towards our global neighbours.

Reciprocity of Diversity and Unity

Diversity, when seen for its intricate web of rich offering, is welcomed as an important contribution to our healthy and progressive evolution. Probed in a conscientious manner, we may see how very different the other is not just a beautiful addition, but a crucial necessity for the leaps to new heights desired in all areas of human endeavours. Penetrating insights into our complex pluralities can show us how diversity can inject robust vibrancy and prosperous dynamism to our unity. Our respect and appreciation towards diversity is strengthened by our common values and shared humanity. So too our unique contributions enliven and excite our united visions.

Productive dialogues and creative persuasions need meticulous study of the diverse potpourri of perspectives of our times. And our common bond can trigger the pivotal elements of care and deliberate reflections needed in these discussions.
And to sum it all up in poetic prose, I could say: Unity inspires hearts and diversity stimulates minds. Together they reciprocate to bring to fruition the hopes of pluralism.

It’s not a philosophical pronouncement, but the poetic touch helps me to liberate the play of pluralism in my own interactions and contemplation. My practice of pluralism is free to adapt, learn and grow from the many nuances of life’s grand diversity. Being pluralistic about pluralism helps me to appreciate it from many fresh angles. The possibilities are endless. I feel much enthusiasm for this multi-layered exploration and heart expanding adventure.