Monday, April 21, 2014

You are you, and I am I...

Gestalt therapy is one of the many forms of psychological therapies.  One of its founders, Dr Fritz Perls [1893-1970] made the following lines a kind of prayer:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped.

In my youth, I had typed this and pasted it in a place I could see often.  For years, it remained there.  Finally it was worn out.  By that time, however, it had become part of my memory, my consciousness. 

The fact is that I never mastered the art of relating to others.  Maybe, too much ego.  More probably, sheer inability.  Most probably, lack of inclination.  Today, moving towards the autumn of life, I’m still convinced that Perls is right. 

Each one of us has to grow in our own way.  There is much that others can contribute, but whether people choose to make that contribution or whether the contribution becomes relevant to us is often beyond us.  “If we find each other, it’s beautiful.  If not, it can’t be helped.”

Perls was a brilliant psychologist.  He counselled many, conducted seminars and workshops related to psychology and counselling, and earned a name for himself in the history of psychology.  Yet he was eccentric too.  He was viewed variously as “insightful, witty, bright, provocative, manipulative, hostile, demanding, and inspirational.”  [Gerald Corey, Counselling and Psychotherapy]

We may have wonderful theories which help others improve themselves.  Yet we are not perfect.  None of us is.  If we can discover and relate to each other, it’s beautiful.  If not, it can’t be helped. 

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter, the Spring Festival

Easter brings to mind the resurrection of Jesus.  But Easter was celebrated even before Jesus.  It was a spring festival.  Many states in India have similar festivals.  Vishu in Kerala and Bihu in Assam are examples. 

In Western literary traditions, winter symbolises death and spring is the harbinger of new life.  “April is the cruellest month,” begins T S Eliot’s classical poem, The Waste Land. The Eliotean waste land is a metaphor for the aridity of modern life.  In such a world there is only perpetual winter, winter that keeps us warm.  Our life is no better than death, implies Eliot.  We live death-in-life existence clutching lifeless roots in “this stony rubbish”. 

Easter, or resurrection as it has come to mean today, is a celebration of new life.  Spring comes with a new life that stirs up the dull roots that lay beneath the snow in winter, to use the Eliotean metaphor.  

The whole Christian concept of the Holy Week which starts a week before Easter Sunday is an interesting look at life.  Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, commemorates the glorious entry of Jesus to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  The donkey indicates that the glory is ephemeral.  Soon Jesus, the man who was raised by the people to the position of a king on the Palm Sunday, would be betrayed and crucified, by the same people!  Those who sing alleluias for you today will demand your blood tomorrow if all that you are offering is wisdom, because wisdom is not what they hanker after.

Jesus shed his blood for those same people who had hoped that he would redeem them from their slavery to the Romans.  From political bondage.  But Jesus was not interested in political liberations.  He was as cranky as the Greek Diogenes who lived in a barrel mocking the security people built up like fortresses round them.  He was no different from the Buddha who lived the life of the birds in the sky and the lilies in the wilderness. 

From Nehru Planetarium, Delhi
The new life, the liberation, Jesus promised was different from what people of any time have been looking for.  It was a liberation from the bondages of the spirit.  It was a liberation from the capitulation of human dignity to the glitters of the trivia.  It was an invitation to go beyond the body to the soul (or consciousness, as I would like to put it).  An invitation to rise above the animal existence to the level of the angels (beings who have conquered physical passions and emotions). 

The problem with such teaching as Jesus’ and the Buddha’s and that of Diogenes and others of the kind is that it makes superhuman demands.  It mocks our very simple delights and pleasures.  It makes our existence look like a caricature of what it should be.  That’s why we would rather keep Jesus, the Buddha and Diogenes on the pedestal and worship them rather than let them walk with us.

Happy Easter J  
From Nehru Planetarium, Delhi

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Do or Die

Along with other teachers, I took some students on an outing. Some pictures I found interesting.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Pope Francis

Christians all over the world commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus today, Good Friday.  Jesus, in all probability, did not intend to found a new religion; he wished to reform his own religion, Judaism.  This is the opinion of many well known theologians like Hans Kung.  In his brief history, The Catholic Church [Phoenix Press, 2002], Kung says, “... he (Jesus) did not seek to found a separate community distinct from Israel with its own creed and cult, or to call to life an organization with its own constitution and offices, let alone a great religious edifice.  No, according to all the evidences, Jesus did not found a church in his lifetime.” (page 12)

In Dostoevsky’s novel The Karamazov Brothers, there is a Grand Inquisitor who asks Jesus who appeared in Russia teaching people freedom and love, “Why do you come to disturb us?” 

Will Jesus be a nuisance to the Church and its leaders if he comes again today?  Will the priests seek a way to eliminate him?  After all, wasn’t it the Jewish priests who really got rid of Jesus?

Perhaps, we should not be so cynical.  The latest issue of The Economist carries an article titled The Francis Effect.  The article argues that Pope Francis is doing his best to make the Catholic Church a meaningful religion.  “One of his first decisions,” says the article, “was to forsake the papal apartments in favour of a boarding house which he shares with 50 other priests and sundry visitors. He took the name of a saint who is famous for looking after the poor and animals. He washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates of a juvenile-detention centre. He got rid of the fur-trimmed velvet capes that popes have worn since the Renaissance, swapped Benedict’s red shoes for plain black ones and ignored his fully loaded Mercedes in favour of a battered Ford.”

There has been some controversy too about the Pope being a socialist of some sorts.  The very mention of words like socialism and communism brings wrinkles on the foreheads of present day intellectuals.  Those ideologies may have become defunct.  But the world cannot go on for long as it is going today, flying on the wings of aggressively acquisitive capitalism.  Someone has to apply the brakes and say, “Slow down, there are more important things which we are missing while rushing thus.”

Can Pope Francis do that?  Isn’t he doing it already?

Maybe, Good Fridays and Easters will become really meaningful hereafter, thanks to the Pope. 

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