Faith is beautiful

Faith is a beautiful thing. Anyone in the health profession probably knows the effects of a placebo. When we take a placebo, we believe it is a medicine and have faith that it will cure us. And when we pray, what different are we doing than taking a placebo? Whether we pray to a God, to many Gods, or to men, we are all doing the same thing. We hope and believe that whoever we are praying to is listening to us, and we derive strength from it. If I pray to this pen which I am holding in my hand and believe that it is watching out for me, I will feel good about praying to this pen. So what is this faith that we place on animate objects or inanimate philosophy? Some name it God(s). While others call it positive thinking. Maybe there is a God somewhere. Maybe there is a God within all of us. Praying to a God gives us self-belief because we feel strengthened by the prayer. And there titans and champions in many fields who are highly successful based on self-belief itself. I am not writing to prove or disprove a God being. I am just writing to explain why having faith is beautiful. That faith does not have to be in a God being. All I am trying to show is the power of positive thinking, confidence, and self-belief. Some people go to temples before a big exam and do well because they believe that God is helping them. I wear my Yankee jersey to big exams and feel good and confident in the exam room. And I do pray to God too, asking for strength. And that prayer makes me believe that a God being is providing me with strength and no matter how hard a task might seem, I feel strengthened and confident to accomplish it. Therefore, I believe faith is beautiful. It is nothing but positive thinking and we give various names to it. But are faith and religion the same thing? Yes and no. And that topic is for another time.

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Perfection

I have always been amused by people claiming X is perfect or Y is perfect. Except when one points out some flaws in X or Y, their retort is that I should not be so picky about each individual detail. It always makes me laugh and reminds me a quote of Einstein – “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can wrong me wrong.” Ergo, even one tiny error in a trillion makes X, Y or anything else in the universe “imperfect”. But then explaining this is pointless because the folks who call many of these things perfect never really used logic before they made their claims.

Violence against women will abate when we stop seeing them as properties

I want to talk about the increasing sexual violence against women in South Asia, especially India. This week an entire nation is coming to terms with a brutal gang-rape of a young woman in Delhi – a city which has been termed as the rape capital of India for the last few years. And we are a society where sexual assault and sexual abuse of women is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Most of these crimes go unreported to protect the “honor” of the victims and their families.

But why does this horrific reality even exist? If a woman is assaulted, she is somehow blamed for “not dressing conservatively”, or the way she talked, smile, laughed, walked. She is blamed for going out to bars or talking to men. She is blamed for staying out late. She is blamed for “having loose morals”. It is somehow always the woman’s fault. And even if she is the “good, conservative, homely” girl, she is subjected to catcalls and lewd comments. And all of this is termed as “eve-teasing”. Instead of treating it as the crime of sexual harassment, we as a society give it a term that trivializes the criminal actions of grown men.

But again, why does this treatment of women exist? I have two important reasons for it – the ultimately veto power that men wield over women’s lives, and secondly the gender segregation in our conservative societies where men grow up seeing women only as that unattainable meat rather than fellow human beings. I will write about the second point later because it is a whole big topic. We self-righteously claim that women have equal rights under our constitutions or in our Scriptures. Only someone who has never read Scripture or drinks the Kool-Aid of Denial will say that Scripture treats women equally. And constitutions are just words on paper if the culture of the population is something else. I have seen women not go to school so that their brothers could. I have seen women eat leftovers after men, once they have served the tastiest of foods to their fathers, husbands, and sons. I have seen mothers fetch water for their sons and elder sisters cleaning up after their brothers. Parents yield the ultimate veto power over every aspect of the lives of their daughter. They get to decide what the girl will study, where will she study, where will she work. Some “liberal” parents give their daughters choices – with extreme limitations. Ultimately, most of those parents yield the most important veto power – who will their daughter marry. They do all of this with the following assurances to their daughters – “once you marry, you can do whatever you want”. And once she gets married, her parents give up all veto power over her life – which now transfers to her husband and her in-laws. The parents raised their daughter for one reason only – to give her away in “pristine” condition to her husband. If they do that successfully, they consider their parenting a success. Eventually, the same veto power transfers to the son. So for a woman, from the time she is born till the time she is put to rest, either her father, husband, or son decide every aspect of her life. The “modern” folks give her some choice where their own interests aren’t affected. But ultimately, nearly all of them have the final word over the woman’s life.

So in this type of thinking, culture, theology, and attitude, how will men ever learn to respect women? All these men have ever seen is the woman getting ordered around. All these men have ever known is that the place of a woman is in the house. And is it only men who are responsible for the conditions of women? Any woman from that part of the world would admit that other women put more restrictions and subjugate her independence. A man might have made the rules, but the mother, sister, friend or a mother-in-law enforces those rules. If a woman tries to break out of those rules, those same mother, sisters, and friends shame her for desiring to have her own voice and an independent mind. If a girl decided to do something against her parents’ wishes and was punished, instead of getting support all she hears is “well she made a mistake and hopefully she learns from this”. And then there are those women who agree that they are not treated equal, who agree that this is not the life they want, yet they live on a delusional self-sacrificial motto that says “my life’s goal is to please my parents even at the expense of my own happiness”. They might not agree the “choices” that have been put in front of them, but they will refuse “to go against parents”.  Men are not giving up the power they have given to themselves and which women refuse to challenge. And the cycle continues for generations and centuries.

In societies that are becoming more open, more and more of these crimes are getting reported. In these societies where women are going to work out of the house, we see more of these crimes occurring in the streets, malls, buses, and taxis. The conservative response to all of this has been “the place of the woman belongs in the house”. Yet in those same conservative societies sexual abuse of women by family members is rampant. Many a women talk in whispers that this happens to “almost half the women”. But in these societies such truth barely, if ever, comes out. And the rare instances when it does come out, the girl is found dead in mysterious circumstances.

We ask what can we do to stop this violence against women? Maybe the first thing we should analyze is how do we treat women in our culture. We should look at how we treat our wives and daughters. We should look at the images of women we portray to our sons. Do we treat our women like fellow and equal human beings? Or do we treat her as some object or property who is not allowed to talk to men till after marriage. What message does that send to these young men? Their only idea of women is someone they don’t know, don’t understand and someone they can only have after marriage who will bear their babies. We can make laws that prescribe capital punishment for rapists. We can put more policemen in the streets. We can lock up our women. But this will only transfer this crime to inside the house like in some societies or just hide it under the carpet. Maybe we should take a deep, hard look into ourselves and just ask – “do we treat our daughters the way we treat our sons, or do we treat her as someone we have to protect and “save” for her husband and in-laws?”. Do we treat her as an equal human being, or do we treat her at a “step below men”?

Guns, Germs and Steel

After reading Guns, Germs and Steel…I am ambivalent about the book. It does make some good points about geography and natural resources. But it felt too politically correct and misses one very important point – the choices that people make. Geography and resources are important for the start of civilization. But how can one explain the rise of powerful nation-states over the last few decades and centuries? I believe that is where choices come into play. Would the United States be the same nation if it was the Protestant Republic of America? What if Lincoln has said “let them secede”? Why was it so easy for a tiny nation to conquer the Indian subcontinent? Or compare the state of Pakistan and Bangladesh today, which were the same nation only four decades back. Would there have been a Hitler if Britain and France had not humiliated Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. I believe as much as surroundings give a head start to how civilizations develop, it is the choices we make as a people and society that determines the state and standard of our lives.

Guns, Moral Theology, and Biology

everyone has an opinion on how to stop, or if we can stop, these mass-murders. some say gun control and some say guns don’t kill, people kill (I have heard it for years but my brain has yet to understand the logic in it). some point to Good and Evil and how we cannot stop Evil because some people are just Evil (but is good and evil as clear as black and white? were the people who spread the Good Words through guns and sword really ‘Good’?) both points are valid. but how about adding a third point – mental illness. why do we stigmatize mental illness and tell the person “oh just stop being crazy” and ridicule them? the brain is just an organ after all. do we tell a person who is having a heart attack that he/she should stop having one and start pumping blood properly? we can talk about guns and moral theology, but let us not forget and trivialize biology.

History – a lesson

I love reading about history because it answers nearly all the questions we have today. By looking at history we do get an idea as to what falls on the right side of history and what falls on the wrong side of history. Paradoxically, we get these knowledge from history because it always repeats itself. Most of us never learn as to why certain traits always fall on the right side of history and vice-versa. To what some say “impossible”, history says “inevitable”. Those who foresee the inevitable are called visionaries. Those who fight it are called reactionaries who are condemned to ridicule in history books.

Truth vs Lies

The thing about lies is that you can change it in any and as many ways as you want. If you don’t like it you can re-word it. If it becomes politically incorrect over time you re-interpret it. You can bend a lie any way you like and it will oblige to your emotions.

Unfortunately, truth stays the same no matter how much you scream at it, stubbornly refuse to accept it, or try to run away from it. It is rigid, it is cold and it doesn’t care what you think, only what is.

Bringing Down Heroes

‎”In India we have extreme opinions. We praise someone very highly, and in a few games we start pulling the same individual down. I always say it’s important to be in the middle path. That’s how you will enjoy the sport.” – MSD

We take pleasure in turning boys into “Gods”, boys who are still teenagers. And at the first sight of failure we take even greater pleasure in bringing down those “false Gods”. We question their character, their attitude, and their reason to keep doing the only thing they have known since they were 3 years old. Any individual who has played team sports knows that individual performances do not even register in the brain if the team is losing. There is no greater joy than being part of a winning team. In the same calendar year we go from calling for someone to be given the nation’s highest civilian honor to calling them selfish individuals who play for records and not for winning. We never learned equanimity.