On illusions and selfishness

Finished reading two interesting books recently.

The first is Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. A fictional story with profound messages such as:

“Anybody who’s ever mattered, anybody who’s ever been happy, anybody who’s ever given any gift into the world has been a divinely selfish soul, living for his own best interest. No exceptions.”

“Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully.”

The second is The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand. A journey to the essence of objectivist ethics:

“To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.”

“The three cardinal values of the Objectivist Ethics – the three values which, together, are the means to and the realization of one’s ultimate value, one’s own life – are: Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem, with their corresponding virtues: Rationality, Productiveness, Pride.”

Both the books deal with a common theme: happiness and man’s self interest; and make one ponder on the interconnectedness of the two. Happiness is often defined as a state of well-being, with the latter itself being largely dependent on living a productive life. In a highly interconnected and interdependent world, a person’s happiness, may however, not be independent of another person’s happiness; Ayn Rand answers this dilemma beautifully:

“The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice.”

Much to think about !

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Sense of loss

I am a fan of Will Smith and, as ritual required, watched his recent movie Collateral Beauty. The movie touches the themes of grief and loss from the death of a loved one. How do we find reason in the face of death of a child or a partner? The actor’s encounters with Love, Time and Death in the movie make one dwell on the interconnectedness of the three. Our sense of loss, longing and love define the interconnectedness of all life and the ‘collateral beauty’ of the experience that this is. This, as portrayed in the movie, alone is the answer to the ‘why’ that rings in our hearts each time we choose to live.

An equal life

Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In, urges women to take up leadership roles and prove their capabilities in greater numbers in increasingly competitive workplaces.

At the start of the book, Sheryl acknowledges, “Some of the most important contributions to our world are made by caring for one person at a time. We each have to chart our own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values, and dreams”. She develops the argument that as much as women have an equal right to fulfilment in the workplace as men, women’s contribution to economic growth is largely inhibited on account of factors as diverse as their self perception, societal expectations and unfriendly workplaces.

The book is encouraging in its premise and Sheryl’s personal account of her career. Women as much as men have a right to an ‘equal life’ – a life that provides them an opportunity to fulfil their desires and does justice to their intelligence. An empowered women workforce, however, will require as much initiative by men as by women.

A worthwhile read.

Banta and more

Life is an amalgam of experiences. Some of the most beautiful happen in the humdrum of childhood and before a world vision is born. The spontaneity of expression, the joy of discovery, and the intensity of curiosity are all childlike qualities. Much of our true education, I believe, consists in aspiring for these very qualities as thinking adults. Nonetheless, while there is naivety in childhood, there are biases in adult life. Isn’t the goal then to balance the sensibilities of both – the child and the adult – to live proactively and with a growing acceptance of differences?

Winter Sun

The Winter Sun reminds me of much warmth, much need, and much reverence for the old. The old is a witness to the new, as life is recreated and history made. How often do we stand in awe of all things old – nature and life – in a battle for survival? How often do we understand that the price of serenity is the conflict of renewal? That while the realm of wisdom belongs to the old, the realm of creation belongs to the new. Also that both the old and the new coexist in the form of the spirit and the body. The Winter Sun reminds me of such !

Nujeen’s story

I love stories, especially real ones. Recently read Nujeen’s story about her life in Syria and her journey to seek asylum in Germany. Deeply touching and humbling. I put myself in Nujeen’s shoes who, afflicted with Cerebral Palsy in early childhood, is a bright, intellectually curious girl who terms any kindness due to her as ‘disability benefits’. Nujeen, which means new life, is the story of a remarkable girl lacking neither in will nor in courage. Her arduous journey to a ‘normal life’ away from her home, the war-torn Syria, is a testimony to the important humanitarian challenges of our time. It’s tough being Nujeen for ‘new life’ is new hope, and the promise of a purposeful life is the moral debt we owe to her and others in need.

The Good Lie

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

The Good Lie – a movie based on Sudanese refugees in the U.S., touches chord with the ongoing refugee crisis across the world. It’s essentially a feel good movie, based on the story of siblings, caught in the Civil War in Sudan, rebuilding lives as refugees in the U.S. The movie does not do adequate justice to the plight of refugees. Nevertheless, it is courageous in the choice of a humanitarian cause.

I borrow the title of this post from the movie’s name. A good lie, as defined in the movie, is the one which is told for selfless reasons. Illustrations of good lies abound. Is all lying to be abhorred? Isn’t ‘good’ more forceful in its meaning? It stands to reason that as a good lie finds its basis in selflessness, it must subjectively be the truth. Needless to say, selflessness, conventionally goodness, alone empowers us in our search for a human identity. It is what enables us to travel far and travel together. A wise choice, for fast gets you ahead but far gets you newer horizons.

Today

Today is a random day in my life – just like any other and yet unlike any other for each day is new in its glory and opportunities. Spent the day working on a research paper and treating myself to dark chocolate and mint fudge.

Some related and unrelated thoughts below on how what I do matters.

I am a researcher working with a public policy think tank on various themes related to human development. I think research is an interesting place to be for the intellectually driven. It is a great place to be if you find the world of ideas, discovery, creativity and writing exciting. At the end of the day, however, a lot is to be said for the pursuit of results in the world of development economics. In public policy, in particular, the causal chain from research to results is as driven by grassroots demand as by the political economy of interventions. Does what we do realistically matter? The answer to this question will depend a lot on what and how we intend to ‘change’. What do you think?

Mister God, This is Anna; & Me

Mister God, This is Anna is a wonderful, thought provoking book. The story revolves around the friendship between Fynn and Anna (a precocious child); and Anna’s insights into the nature of God. Anna observes, “… we simply had to admit that Mister God was quite empty. Not empty because there was nothing there, but empty because he accepted everything, because he wanted everything and did not reflect anything back! Of course you could cheat if you wanted to; you could wear your bit of coloured glass marked ‘Mister God is loving’ or the bit marked ‘Mister God is kind’, but then of course, you would miss the whole nature of Mister God.” Ingenious !

I have, myself, often reflected on the nature of God and meaning of faith. I have often thought of God as a spiritual construct lending sense,  depth and value to our human lives within the unfathomable and infinite universe. Analogously, I have thought of faith as the experience of being spiritually driven. I have understood spiritual values to include universal brotherhood and harmony.

Much enjoyed the book and its insights.

Dear Zindagi in November

Spent the last Sunday of this month watching a movie, eating out and shopping – few of my favorite things.
I watched the movie, Dear Zindagi, with a dear friend. An easygoing drama with difference, the key message was loud and clear – if one accepts oneself, it does not matter what others think. But, what does acceptance really mean?
Acceptance is, in my view, a necessary progression to being self aware. Self aware people accept responsibility for their actions and reactions. Do we accept responsibility for problems in our life?
Accepting responsibility shifts our role from being a victim to being a problem solver, in myriad aspects of life be it our relationships with friends, colleagues and not the least our own selves.
Much food for thought was provided by the amazing thai curry at Bisque; followed by consumerist urges finding fulfillment at Bata. 🙂
Looking forward to the work week and catching up on my reading.