The last day of the decade

Tree of Life (Greenwood cemetery, Brooklyn, New York)

Tree of Life (Greenwood cemetery, Brooklyn, New York)

December 31, 2019. New York, New York. 

And so it has come to the closing of a chapter. And yes, I will avoid the cliche of saying that a new chapter begins (except I just said that. Oof!)

The teen years of the 21st century come to a close. Onward we move to 2020. Albeit, it can be argued that these numbers are only from the Gregorian calendar, but for the sake of  convenience we’ll stick to that for now and not go off on a geeky/nerdy sidetracked vortex into various year numbering systems. (Check out the chart of different calendars at the end of this post though.)

[A note first. Ever since WordPress began to run ads on their free site, I admit that the visual cleanliness of reading its blogs has been immensely lost. Alas, since I already pay for two work-related websites, I am not going to dole out the now-required $80 annually to have an ad-free site + domain that WordPress asks you to go for. So sadly, I’ll stick to this randomly-popping-weird-ads-as-you-scroll-blog. Onward.]

So….. I suppose, like many a year-end-pondering-post – even more ubiquitous with almost every social-media friend, non-friend, media person/celebrity, non-celebrity, stranger and/or acquaintance on some posting spree – I have to blab how it is time for reassessment. reflection, rumination, regrets, non-regrets, gratefulness, gratitude, looking back, moving forward, speculation, celebration and all that jazz and fiz. And also that smug, oft-nauseating crowing of personal and/or career achievements, back-patting, name-dropping, self-soothing, barely disguised self-promotion along with some self-loathing meta-analyses – the latter for those who can look past the pompousness and approval-fishing or the general non-consequential-banality-in-the-long-run of the former.

Well, in some ways it IS time for all that pondering and processing and meta-analyses….it is but some long-induced part-habit, part-social-protocol, part-personal-mulling….as though a number on the calendar can magically change all our bad habits, re-consolidate our soon-to-vaporize New Year resolutions or reset our Optimism Bias buttons at the click of the midnight clock on New Year’s Eve.

As though posting a list of all our hits and misses – mostly hits to show the happy-happy-peppy-peppy ultra-annoying American expectation of the smiley-face frontage – will show the world: “Look-ey how great I am! Look-ey – I’ve done this, this and that, worn ma’ boots and ma’ hat, lookey – how fancy I am!” in some blithe spectacle of self-soothing deceptions of grandeur.

I’m not saying that sprinkling some optimism and benign narcissism around doesn’t work – i.e. it works in showing your friends and strangers that you’re upbeat and accomplished and not about to off yourself as some of those apparent bon-vivants who crowed and puffed and for various-whatever-reasons wore external fake masks of joy while hiding their pain/depression/self-loathing until it was too late. After all, even when it’s not that extreme and can be classified under benign preening and posturing, even in the parade of those who post constant “happy couple” posts, studies have shown that most truly happy couples don’t post as much or rarely post about their couplehood or their relationship on social media, although some do, of course; and while the virtual image is close to the reality for only a few, in a majority of cases, overt-relationship photo-posting is also a sign of insecurity and seeking external validation while undergoing internal turmoil. )

So perhaps what I am in some way trying to communicate is that IT’S OKAY to rip off those masks….it’s okay to purge the facades and unearth the truth….it’s okay to throw away those pretenses of the happy-happy-lookey-me-did-this-and-that….it’s okay to abolish that need for external approval…’s okay to state the truth for what it is. The truth – from your  blogging Gipsy-Geek friendly neighborhood misanthrope ;-) :

The pithy truth – if I may use a slang verb – is that the human species by and large really, truly sucks. Big time. 

We were a flawed fatal accident of Evolution. Ticking time bombs of planetary destruction. A locust-like herd, with year-round/ day-round capacity to breed and procreate, with lifelines prolonged thanks to the scientific brains and hard work of a few, a herd that has spawned at exponential rates to deplete the world of its natural resources, its natural beauty of splendorous magnificence, to rape its forests and grasslands and oceans, purge its mineral-rich mountaintops, tunnel through its mantle and core for shiny objects-of-greed-and-exploitation, devastated & eviscerated and near-driven to extinction its blameless, wondrous, spectacular animal kingdom; tortured, maimed and heinously skinned-alive/amputated-alive/hellishly-murdered billions and billions of sweet, innocent, sentient beings for food and fur and labor and entertainment and false ritualistic beliefs; poisoned its waters, chopped-off its old-growth trees, polluted its air, infected its soil; killed, enslaved, imprisoned, violated other humans since millennia in the name of race, religion, caste, creed, sexual orientation, ideology, greed, envy……….a warring, destructive, polluting species – consuming and buying and wasting like no tomorrow……….never satisfied, never content, accumulating more than it needs, wasting more than it should; apathetic to inequalities, to injustices; and worse, often worshiping demagogues and dictators and following murderous hateful ideologies; and killing or casting out those who DO care, those who DO dare to speak the truth, those who defend the voiceless, those who love and empathize and work to fix and rescue and save.

There is no Hell in the skies or the afterlife. Hell is created by the brutality of the human species on this very earth.

Want proof? I can post a thousand links of the history of violence and human rights’ abuses. And for anyone who watches the news or has the guts to look up sites that defend animals and outline their abuse – check out the pages of Anti-Fur Society Mercy For Animals Animal Save Movement
Toronto Pig Save among many others The cruelty of humans to sentient beings on a daily basis is easy to see.

Do you know that besides all the thousand heinous ways of torture inflicted upon them in industrial farming, even in non-industrial butchery gentle animals are skinned alive, fully conscious with their legs chopped off so they can’t escape while a crowd gathers in delight watching its suffering????!!! – photo) Bleating baby lambs, dog-like pigs, gentle calves beaten and eaten on a daily basis, and even millions of dogs brutally skinned alive and boiled alive to be eaten ( and )? I have blogged about the cruelty of the meat and fur industry previously here, and I will continue to – as well as join my fellow animal rights’ activists in their activism – till the day I die. There is NO excuse for this type of animal abuse except sheer apathy and psychopathy. No, Really!

If you wonder why animal activists feel the rage they do – frankly – let me ask YOU – if you know the facts, SEE the facts – the question rather is where is YOUR outrage? And Will to act? To choose to act with empathy? To prevent such hellish torture and not give up trying?

And then……

Then there is this: In all its ugliness, in all its ghastly concoctions of terror and torture, war and strife – there are those among humans who CREATE – works of brilliance, of wonder and immaculate beauty – Music that takes you to some metaphorical heaven, Art that explodes the very depths of your consciousness, Architecture that leaves you speechless in its sheer structural and spatial achievement, writings, Literature and Philosophy that nourish the soul, dancers and Dances that lift you to exquisite wonderlands, films, photography and cinematography that reach the very heights of Imagination and yonder, man-made means of transport that fly and swim and breeze to carry you across the world (and pollute plenty too – except the bicycle), the very internet through which I’m communicating now – despite both the pros and cons of this world-transforming-cyber-network, scientific discoveries and inventions that not just reveal the marvels and mysteries of the Blue Planet itself but of the Universe and propel one across the galaxy, acts of Love and Kindness and sacrifice and bravery that display the miraculous capacities of the human heart……

Were I to be a hopeless romantic, or more so – delusional – I’d have dwelt on all our so-called glories…..but sadly, when it comes to cost vs benefit – the Benefit of the human species is much, much less to the Cost it inflicts by its very polluting, destructive, cruelty-fueled existence on this planet.

In fact it is safe to say that we humans are at this point a virus on this planet. No, really. A demonic tribe that laughs and gloats while innocents suffer. Take a look at that photo of that cow linked earlier or the dogs being skinned alive and boiled alive. As crude and heinous as it is – it is an analogy of how our species, by and large, has treated Mother Earth. Torturing the Milk-givers, the Love-givers in acts of selfish, ungrateful heinousness for a moment of greed on their taste buds.

And you have to remember – yes, you HAVE to remember – that let alone those without the capacity to create – even the creators of art and science – may be quite flawed themselves when it comes to kindness and ethics, jealousies and greed, consumerism and narcissism. You have to separate the art from the person who makes it; the music from the madness; the invention from the innovator’s personal shortcomings…..

Do not make the mistake to fall for the halo effect; to lionize another human for a single-issue facet.

Where kindness and empathy and love and ethical thinking are absent from an artist or inventor or creator – learn to acknowledge and appreciate the aesthetics and functionality of the creation without attachment to its creator.

That is often hard to do for many, because we often make the mistake of believing that beautiful works may also come from beautiful hearts – and while, in some fortunate circumstances that is true, in many occurrences that may not be the case. There can quite frequently be a disconnect from the aesthetic beauty of someone’s work and the sheer brilliance of their brain-power from a lack of compassion within their hearts. I don’t need to say this – but humans are complex, complicated, contradictory, often chaotic and more often than not – cruel and corrupt and conniving. Bad apples exist in every race, country, religion. Because wherever there are humans – regardless of their gender or race – there will always be conflict, cruelties and injustices (albeit statistically, physical acts of violence are more often caused by men, but women who endorse and partake in cruelty are just as bad. A prime example is the fur industry – the men may be committing the acts of trapping, amputating and skinning-alive innocents, but the women who wear and covet fur are fully participating in this barbarism.)

If you look for salvation in the members of the human species – you shall, you will be disappointed. Such is the nature of their nature – a tragedy of Evolution. Too bad that a larger percentage of humans perhaps took after the warring chimps unlike the peaceful bonobos.

Complete Compassion – the one that envelopes all living creatures on the planet is an exception, not the norm. True empathy and the will to fight for injustices in action is rarer than it’s presumed to be…..if the world was truly fair and ethical and kind – the man-made horrors that exist today and have always existed (remember the Dark Ages and Medieval times?) would not be there.

We are a deeply flawed species, despite all the capacities of the high-functioning human brain. As an organism, a group – we don’t have the efficiency of ants, we are incapable of the pure, heavenly, unconditional love that dogs possess and we lack the ability to get along simply and lovingly like so many animals effortlessly do (if you’ve ever watched the Odd Couples segment on the Dodo….a lighthearted segway to link here – but necessary if you need some mood-lifting therapy)

And so. Here we are…

Ten years spent.

Ten years flown by, or grinded by….a mere insignificant infinitesimally small fraction of a nano-nano-nano second if you think back to Carl Sagan’s Cosmic calendar….

….Whereupon I am supposed to wax eloquent about the last decade about personal milestones, while politely kvetching about its socio-political horrors. I should speak of the countries I have traveled to, the panels I have been on, the speeches I have given, the protests I have marched in, the stalwarts in their respective fields and/or the celebrities I have met and befriended and/or already have a close personal relationship with, the newspapers (or in this case the newspaper – a.k.a the New York Times -) that quoted me and invited me, the lectures I’ve given at some university, the publications I’ve featured in, the journalists and writers I’ve rubbed shoulders with and had deep conversations with, the shows I have seen, the shows I have attended as a guest, a TV appearance or two, the places I have been to, the projects I have undertaken….inflate my ego in some delusion of misplaced self-importance, oblivious of the insignificance of it all, really.

I am supposed to display it all in carefully curated and filtered photos or a collage, if you will, with eloquent brief descriptive paragraphs of gushing joy and humble-bragging vignettes – head cocked on the side, face semi-profile, smiling-yet-serene, hands on hip or neatly folder in front in an “I-am-woman-hear-me-roarrrr”-pose, displaying the societal “image” of success and relative well-being – some form of show-and-tell for adults in a hierarchical world – consisting both of ass-kissing hierarchies and status-conscious social stratification – they’ve/we’ve created for “signalling” (albeit such hierarchies in other forms exist in the animal world too – we may not be going around sniffing butts or chest-thumping…and while the format or expressions may be different – the goal is the same – to show dominance or fertility in one way or another)……

(Trivia wisdom: It actually requires a very healthy dose of self-esteem to be very content with humility & the perspective to laugh at the posturing or d*ck-measuring-contests and displays that go on. 😂😄
– 😏 You’re welcome!)

And in the same manner in which I should put forth my “shiny-happy-lookey-me-so-cheerful” appearance, I should neatly “edit” out those “darker” sides of life which may not look appetizing or appealing or appeasing enough in the past decade – the professional worries during the Great Recession at the start of the decade, being attacked on the street by a felon, the grief at the death of my dad, the days where certain challenges had to be worked out with my romantic partner, the ever-present very real sorrow I feel as I sob at the constant cruelty meted out on animals across the world (along with my fellow animal rights’ activists), those PMS-fueled painfully debilitating 48 hour-long migraine headaches, the fatigue of fighting against becoming jaded and cynical, the realization on how much I agree with (and always thought similarly, even when I’d become a Buddhist monk in the Himalayas for a few months in my very-early 20s) philosopher/author David Benatar when it comes to the case of (against?) human birth..and so many other factoids. No, those are “supposed” to be edited out in the “framing” of “happy-happy” times!

But then again, if the above paragraph were my only string of woes (amid others, too boring and silly to even post, let alone elaborate) how indeed fortunate I am! No truly, I am being serious and not sarcastic here….it is hard not to feel utterly grateful for being so much luckier both through chance, choices, work and circumstance than live in the horrors of reality that so many across the planet face. My limbs are intact, so far, I have food on my table, a roof over my head, educational degrees, I’m not living in a war zone, I can read, write, kvetch and have no addictions (other than an earlier voracious encyclopedia-reading and later Wikipedia-binging addiction) and am more than content with all that I own (to the extend that I have hardly bought anything new in items of clothing, bags etc. in the last 12 years or so), am grateful for my loving partner, for my parents who exposed me to good books early on, grateful for my friends and very grateful for certain wonderful former teachers and professors.

But then who says I have to speak, let alone write about those “happy” moments outlined earlier, and let alone post curated or non-curated photos? The only interlocutor here is me myself asking a rhetorical question in some neurotic loop in a vortex of cyberspace in a blogosphere that houses several millions or on social media which contains billions?

Technically, I am not required to speak of anything at all, to write nothing at all – except as my own outlet. And if I don’t take out the time to post and “curate” photos, it is out of my own reluctance, or more specifically – some languishing laziness – the lethargy of which I’m quite embarrassed by, afflicted as I am by it … a nonchalance that is part instigated by some pathological innate proclivity to procrastinate when it comes to personal preening (as well as several other activities) but mostly an astounding amount of laziness when it comes to organizing and selecting photos of fellow-humans – my own included.

Because, you see – the most liberating of mental and emotional Freedoms, one of the great secrets of happiness (which I’ve long known since childhood – maybe by default being quasi-Aspie-ish) is to not give an iota of weightage to seeking approval from other humans….to not care about impressing, of status-signalling, nor caring to rock the boat and calling out the so-called “polite” outward pretenses of others hiding their apathy or cruelty underneath.

I don’t really care for the approval of other humans. I prefer enjoying the approval of animals. 

If social media has shown us anything at all in the past decade – it is the immense amount of narcissism tied to keeping up appearances – an entire industry of (often idiotic) “influencers”- who don’t care about the suffering inflicted on billions of innocents across the world – as they pose and preen, puff-up and peddle – their “perfect” selfies and pouted portraits placed along backdrops – real or fake – as they wrap their bodies in the skin and hair of tortured innocents….peddle “lifestyles” under idiotic hashtags of #lifestyle as they espouse an overtly consumerist and materialistic “aspirational” persona that is often times as fake as it is destructive to the pristine landscapes that get defiled in the process. (Please read this excellent article on “selfie”-tourism:

Which brings me to: The secret – or rather my personal secret of joy. Yes, yes, while I do have the true love of my human partner and the well-wishes of true friends – my secret of joy truly comes from not really relying on any human for my internal state of happiness. Never did, even as a child as much as was possible. I derive joy internally from that space of silence and solitude within and externally from the company of animals and trees. Anyone who has had or deeply loved a dog or cat or any other non-human family member will understand this. And even more so – those who have loved ALL animals – their love and empathy not just restricted to their pets.

Numerous studies (to be listed at a later date here) have shown the therapeutic, healing, incredibly powerful mental, physical, emotional benefits of the true angels in our midst – animals – and the TRUE giver of unconditional love – D-O-G.

Has there been anyone so innocent, so unconditionally loving, so supportive, so beautiful, so life-nourishing, so healing, so loyal as an animal – especially a non-human mammal – you’ve cherished or known?

Of course if you’re a parent or have a child – a lot of this may not be applicable, as while you may love and be loved by a family pet – you’ll always feel more bonded to your child. It is after all the strongest evolutionary bond, and placing the focus of one’s very life to the immediate needs and caring of one’s offspring has got to be the greatest distraction and savior from existential angst and pondering for sure, even while it exponentially increases material worry for provision and upkeep (if you are a good parent obviously). There is no time to think about many other problems of the world when one’s purpose is to to raise one’s dear child.

And yet, and yet….the same human parents who could never think of any harm befalling upon their own child often have no qualms of snatching away a milk-suckling baby from his/her mother – an innocent lamb, a baby calf, a little baby goat or a suckling piglet and putting them through unbearable harm and torture for eating their body parts! With no concern of the pain and suffering of their mothers who too are tortured, miked dry and brutally killed off! Have you ever wondered just how barbaric the process is? They are fellow mammal babies and mothers for goodness’ sake. And yes, they absolutely DO feel the same feelings of love and bonding to their children as you do and unbearable physical pain when slaughtered.
Evolve. Indeed – Evolve already!

All these gentle creatures ever wanted was just to live and to love and be free and the human species decided to take away even that basic right from them. (Yes, carnivore animals do hunt in nature – but…just binge watch BBC Earth’s Planet Earth series to realize the very STARK difference between how they do it vs. how humans do it if you don’t know so already. Also, unlike big cats and other carnivores we certainly do not require meat to survive.)

But to return to the point of the innate love humans feel for their children – for those who relate with Benatar’s views (a few quotes here: and feel ambivalent about parenthood, you know what I mean. To quote Anatole France: “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

But though animals bring so much joy with their very sweet dispositions and presence, there again is the source of my great sorrow and for those like me….for when you love animals and trees you feel that unbearable pain when you see their deaths and their suffering and worse, feel the helplessness when you can’t stop it all….and in many ways you are tied to that pain forever…until it is your own time. An existential certainty tied to love and pain. To attachment. To bonding.

At least you know that your dog will never be disloyal….something which cannot be said even about human childre

And so, as the last teen decade ends – the decade of Haitian earthquakes, Filipino typhoons, Australian wildfires, Brazil’s Amazon burning and depleting, BP’s and other “natural” gas companies’ oil spills, the Arctic melting, civil unrest, the rise of right-wing populism, the ever-present terrorist bombings by fundamentalists of all kinds around the world, of psychopathic world leaders and their army of Orcs, of Orange idiots and power-hungry dictators, of divisiveness and irrationality, of increasing populations in many places with decreasing population in others, with uprisings of concerned citizens who are much younger than the elder-folk but generally far more aware of the science of climate change and our biodiversity’s degradation, of the ever-increasing shortages of resources, of territorial conflicts, the humanitarian crises of refugees and migrants only increasing around the world (and obviously the torture of animals which I don’t see ever ending – for if there is one thing in common among people of all races, regions, countries, religions (except Jainism), ethnicities around the world – except for the minority who have evolved enough to be truly kind – it is the horrendous apathy and psychopathy meted out on animals) – just remember that environmentally, and let’s accept it – the world won’t get any better. We’re past the tipping point (…/is-it-too-late-to-save-the-climate…)

Short of some scientific miracle – that fundamentally exorcises the cruelty and greed and stupidity of the human species – the pillage of our natural landscapes and our wild and domestic animal-world will not stop in the future. Even if certain states or cities bring in more ethical regulations just like a few recently have (finally having developed some awareness thanks to the relentless work of activists), there are vast swaths of entire countries and people, who, well – really don’t give a damn about their flora and fauna. Sad, but completely true.

I so admire the brave and wonderfully optimistic scientists, designers, ecologists, inventors and doers who are bravely trying in so many ways to improve or heal our ecosystems. And I salute the medical scientists throughout history who substantially worked to alleviate physical human suffering….and yet, how sad it is that in a resurgence of anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-kindness demagoguery of the ever-increasing masses who exhibit stronger traits of dumbness, cruelty and/or both – there is a denial of the wisdom of proven science – the very science that doubled their life-spans…..

Is it wrong for me to sometimes wonder if humans should have ever come into existence at all?

Is is wrong for me to often state that I so wish that Evolution had stopped at the Bonobos?

Is it wrong for me that when I hear of self-induced “selfie”-deaths occurring by slippage or mauling, I say under my breath: “Darwin” (as in the Darwin Awards.)

Is it wrong of me to have a fantasy that somehow the human species had evolved in a way that it could be fertile only every 10 years only twice in their lifetime? I mean they could have sex whenever they chose but except for once or twice in their life they would be sterile the rest of the time? 

Obviously I’m not asking for anyone’s opinion of whether my rhetoric is right or wrong. I already know the answer 

For many of us who live in the USA, it was one of the darkest days in American history when the vomitous Orange Goon became Peesident.

But for those who have studied Ecology in-depth (myself included) the dice had already been cast when Al Gore lost the crucial election in 2000 thanks again to the outdated Electoral College system and the infamous Florida recount. Because he knew the precariousness of our environmental fragility.

The ultra-capitalist ruthlessness of Reaganism (not that morbid Stalinesque-style socialism or Maoist Communism are any better) had already set in motion much of the damage that unbridled greed would cause, but Gore at least understood the science behind climate change. He would have worked for environmental protectionism and conservation which he continued to do even without holding political office.

Instead, the devastating Bush Jr. years and its resulting chaos, wars and reversal of environmental policies, followed by Obama’s luminous personal presence and intellect – which brought back a glimmer of Hope – (but sadly most of his time in office spent in cleaning up and recovering from the mess of the Bush years with antagonistic opposition from a Republican House and Senate because the idiotic (yes in this case) and complacent liberals had not turned up in the midterms to vote for the Democrats) – was followed by the Army of Orcs installing their Orange sociopath-moron in the White House despite him losing the popular vote in 2016, fueled by their hatred for a far superior Black President and their misogyny against a whipper-smart (albeit with past political baggage-thanks-to-husband) woman candidate.

Trump is the ultimate rabid bull in the porcelain shop of our fragile ecosystems – which had already been subjected to cracks from years in advance and harmed even more once Gore lost in 2000. (Let me not even get into animal-rights issues in this paragraph, because we already know the truth on that.) If you don’t have eco-anxiety already, which several ecologists and land planners had for eons – then I assure you – following long-time environmentally-aware actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s facebook or instagram feed is sure to give you Eco Depression. Because the latest news stories about our depleting landscapes and fauna are always on his feed. One may choose NOT to see that of course, but avoiding reality won’t necessarily change Reality.

The precipice has been reached.

The only way is a wild ride as the roller coaster hurtles downwards, and then hopefully (hoping against Hope) perhaps, perhaps it rides up again? Humans won’t go extinct – fear not. They are far too resilient and far too numerous. Like in earlier times and in the past century – the innovations of a few in the future will carry on the survival of the multitudes. The plot-lines of Sci-Fi movies like “Elysium” will likely be a reality, albeit conditions in “The Road” are just as likely while “Idiocracy” turned out to be the most prophetic of all.

No, our species won’t go extinct. It is too resilient – or rather with too much of a killer’s or psychopath’s survival instinct. But what it will do is drive most of the rest of our beautiful, unique, innocent life forms to extinction. It already has done so for millions. And it will only continue to do so.

Until then, all you can do is choose Kindness. And choose to fight against barbarism. Because every individual act of kindness counts. Every drop counts. Believe it. After all, it is a multitude of drops that make the ocean.

Every plastic bag NOT taken from the grocery, every act of not creating waste, every act of ethical ecological responsibility counts.

Make that choice to not endorse the murder and torture of absolute innocents; to not pollute the planet with more plastic; to reuse clothing; to sip from the cup and not use plastic straws; to stop rabid consumerism, your lust for crystals and diamonds; your lust for always bigger, for more, more, more…the list goes on and it’s simple (; to choose ethics over greed and shallow posturing.

Is that really that hard to do? 

Here’s to #2020 ahead and to 2020 hindsight.



Choose Life

As 2020 comes in, if you haven’t already -Choose life over death; choose compassion over torture…. ……and you don’t need Paul McCartney or Prince or Mr. Rogers or Benedict Cumberbatch or Peter Dinklage or Jon Stewart or Joaquin Phoenix or Anoushka Shankar or Billie Ellish or Natalie Portman or Carl Lewis or Venus Williams or Martina Navratilova or Novak Djokovic….you get the point – many others who do it for the animals and/or their health – to say so. 😄 Basically, if your brain’s not wired like a psychopath or Narcissist and if functioning properly in the empathy-area – watching any animal raising+slaughtering or fur video or dairy industry calf-killing should make you reconsider partaking in this heinous abhorrent theriocide…. But if even after knowing/seeing, it doesn’t rankle the empathy area in the brain – then, well – no words really. (And no – those who say they love their dogs and cats – but are absolutely okay wearing fur and eating animals who are intelligent, compassionate mammals just like their dogs and cats are just plain hypocrites – yup – pretty much) (Won’t post horrific slaughterhouse videos obviously – as there are SO many truth-exposing vids and even documentaries out there – but you can always see where your meat and fur and down and fancy croc+ostrich/lamb/calf leather purses or Ugg boots come from – straight out of the worst horror shows on earth involving the horrendous torture of absolute innocents in the most heinous ways. For those who are not hypocrites or apathetic you can go to Mercy For Animals or Anti-Fur Society or Animal Save Movement and several others. There is no shortage of information. ) …and if you’re of an older generation – be prepared one day when your grand children and Gen Z – most of them way more aware and FAR more outspoken than older generations of the heinousness of the meat and fur industry – look at you in disgust one day and ask you: “Mom/dad/grandpa/grandma how COULD you?!!??? How COULD you – you horrible, disgusting, cruel people?!! You ruined the planet for us! You eat innocent BABIES!! You wear the fur of dogs skinned alive!! You’re cruel beyond words!! You’re cruel beyond words…” #ChooseLife #ChooseCompassion #ChooseTRUELOVEforALLanimals 🍏🍊🍋🍎🥦🍇🥭🌶🌽🍆🍅🥕🍐🥑🍉🥒🍍🍒🍑🥂🍾🍷


* Calendars from various systems:

2019 in various calendars
Gregorian calendar 2019
Ab urbe condita 2772
Armenian calendar 1468
Assyrian calendar 6769
Bahá’í calendar 175–176
Balinese saka calendar 1940–1941
Bengali calendar 1426
Berber calendar 2969
British Regnal year 67 Eliz. 2 – 68 Eliz. 2
Buddhist calendar 2563
Burmese calendar 1381
Byzantine calendar 7527–7528
Chinese calendar 戊戌年 (Earth Dog)
4715 or 4655
— to —
己亥年 (Earth Pig)
4716 or 4656
Coptic calendar 1735–1736
Discordian calendar 3185
Ethiopian calendar 2011–2012
Hebrew calendar 5779–5780
Hindu calendars
 – Vikram Samvat 2075–2076
 – Shaka Samvat 1940–1941
 – Kali Yuga 5119–5120
Holocene calendar 12019
Igbo calendar 1019–1020
Iranian calendar 1397–1398
Islamic calendar 1440–1441
Japanese calendar Heisei 31 / Reiwa 1
Javanese calendar 1952–1953
Juche calendar 108
Julian calendar Gregorian minus 13 days
Korean calendar 4352
Minguo calendar ROC 108
Nanakshahi calendar 551
Thai solar calendar 2562
Tibetan calendar 阳土狗年
(male Earth-Dog)
2145 or 1764 or 992
— to —
(female Earth-Pig)
2146 or 1765 or 993
Unix time 1546300800 – 1577836799

A Closure of sorts for some…10 years later

A Closure of sorts for some…10 years later

New York, May 1, 2011.  Late last night, a historic announcement was made by President Obama that the whole world watched. The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and leader of the terrorist group Al- Qaeda had been killed by special combat troops while he was hiding in a mansion in Pakistan.

I was glued to the TV since 10 p.m. when they’d announced that a grave national security address by the President would be made around 10:30 p.m. Nothing had prepared us to know the rather celebratory news – and once the surprise sank in, it was as though the streets of New York suddenly burst out in some form of disbelief and relief.

I headed to Ground Zero around 1:30 a.m. and took several photos, some of which I have placed here, along with two others from an earlier time. It is 4 a.m. now but I couldn’t rest till these were up. What a day…what a surprise….and of course, a closure-of-sorts for many who lost their loved ones that day.

Just two weeks back I was on Tower 7’s topmost floor with Kenneth Lewis – the director of Skidmore Owings Merrill – the architecture firm that is building the Freedom Tower and had also designed Tower 7. It was mind-boggling to tour the construction site and see how the Freedom Tower was being built. Alas, I had forgotten my camera….but the overwhelming feeling, in the giant construction site of the two towers and their surrounding buildings whose destruction had changed the course of western security in many ways, is very hard to describe.

Tonight, throngs of people had gathered around the site, some walking silently towards the site, some younger ones cheering (I will not make value-judgments) since the mastermind of the attack had been put down. The ‘cheerers’ were mostly young 20-somethings who said that they were 10 when the attacks happened and for the last 10 years they had only heard of war and terrorism. It seems  since the death of Hitler (who coincidentally also died on the same day as Bin Laden but 66 years ago), no one’s death has been celebrated with such glee. It was interesting to note that. 

The trigger of the war against terror.

Ground Zero in April 2010. Viewed from the Hilton hotel.

A giant slide near Ground Zero of the 9/11 memorial garden. A metaphorical healing of the gaping wounds.

May 1, 2011. 1:45 a.m. Jubilant crowds gather near Ground Zero to celebrate the fall of Bin Laden.

May 1, 2011. 2:00 a.m. Ground Zero. Patriotic chants fill the air.

More cheering.

Two policemen stand near barricades for crowd control. The financial district of New York had come alive with crowds in the early hours of May 1, 2011

The new Freedom Tower in the backdrop of the crowds.

An impromptu plaque on the side of the memorial exhibition hall placed by a family member of a victim in the 9/11 attacks. (Click to enlarge.)


Sidetrack: I have started a group on Facebook after I couldn’t take the rants of the moronic Donald Trump anymore. Feel free to join if you believe that media-hungry loudmouths like him should be told to shut their pie-holes, instead of the crazy lies he touts about President Obama:

And it was wonderful to see the President himself and SNL comedian Seth Meyers deal with the Donald in their own way with wit, humor and a long-deserved  punch line.


February 11, 2013 Update: Journalist Phil Bronstein reveals the fate of the Navy SEAL who shot Osama Bin Laden. Besides this being an incredibly engaging article, and a dekko into the ways of the military and the U.S. Government, it is good to see that good journalism is still alive and kicking. Article: The man who killed Osama  is screwed.


Related Post: This Too Shall Pass



Chicago. July 30, 2010.  I’ve always wondered why governments (be they eastern or western) and even people are often times so afraid of facing the truth. I once met a former US marine who had fought in Operation Desert Storm and had spent 16 years in the Marines. He had joined it having been orphaned at an early age, and being very poor. The Marines was his way out. He had seen so much hypocrisy in the world that he confessed that now in his 40s he felt like a 100 year old man. How, as they were flying to Iraq back then, before even a single bullet was fired the marines were first told to surround the oil wells. How, as he tried to tell the truth about the real reasons for the war to news channels that later interviewed him, he found that truth had to be cloaked and even news channels he thought would like facts to be known did not wish blunt truth to be heard in case it enraged the ‘higher authorities.’  He’d described to me what shooting in a war truly felt like 20 years back – no Hollywood version – rather frightened 20-somethings blindly shooting in the enemy direction amidst low visibility caused by flying sand and gun fire smoke, knowing you can be killed any moment. Later he’d go on to become a private helicopter pilot. He and many of his former marine buddies still get together once a year and shed tears because the horrors of war and its hypocrisies had still not left them and they knew that their truths would never be heard in the world. 

Whistleblowing is not easy – although people who have worked in big organizations know what goes on behind closed doors: Employees in planning offices who know where tax dollars really go, or why forests are bulldozed to encourage cookie-cutter suburban settlements (often as simple as the fact that bad planners do not care to use GIS maps to see forest locations nor think outside the box to know that houses can be laid out to encompass the woods rather than clear cutting them and the fact that developers pay campaign money to the politicians who vote on the project); The huge amount of unfathomable money spent on marketing kitschy products for big corporations and the ruthlessness of many of those marketing managers, be they male or female – who care little for anything else except their own paychecks and possible promotions; The kickbacks and corruption occurring in even certain humanitarian or ‘international development’ agencies or their use of aid money which often doesn’t trickle down to the real victims; The hypocrisies of evangelist/catholic churches or even certain new-age schools (same bullshit, different building, bottom line chant/prayer: “Give ME your money, so I can tell you how to be happy without it! Reveal to me your ‘pain’ so I can feed off it and get paid while I’m at it!”);  The true stories of power-hunger and cruelty of bosses with narcissistic personality disorders, borderline personality disorders (both consist of Machiavellain personality types, and a milder form of psychopathy) in the offices of dazzling ‘leaders’, be they political, financial, religious or even artistic; the stories on how war is a business-move for many countries as it promotes sales of goods – and a chilling story I myself heard about a business owner who would sell army helmets for both warring factions and therefore heavily bribed instigators of skirmishes and gave them cuts to encourage riots and clashes……The list goes on.

Perhaps only children are truly innocent – away from the muddy twisted ways of the adult world and perhaps it’s looking at the faces of their own innocent children that make many potential or capable whistleblowers maintain their silence, lest telling the truth for what it is unleashes the bullets – not against the truly corrupt that hold power – but on the messenger himself. Those who do it idealistically thinking ‘people care’ often find that mostly, people don’t care. After the initial furore of the news they settle down, complacantly happy shopping at the big box store (that has razed the local forest), investing in the 401(k) which might contain shares of BP oil, dining in the restaurants that uses meat from some ruthless slaughterhouse, wearing clothes made by child sweatshop workers….and then watching some ‘reality’ or other tv show or computer game and forgetting about their woes and the world’s realities. This is just an observation, not a value-judgment. People have to exist, to live, to look after their children and with the intricate network of connvulated practices of various systems of production and consumption that exist in the world, what other way is there?  Either becoming an ascetic or a hermit or a self-sustaining hippie? In other words a pure escapist? Or at most, becoming aware of the many aspects of reality in the world and making conscious choices or asking questions on to what extent do we continue endorsing our ‘age of excess’?  We have all become part of the system no matter how much we rant about it. Perhaps that is why sometimes seeing the courage of those who do dare to reveal the true facts of the world bring that sparkle in our eyes – for they have dared, where many have chosen apathy. Like sports fans vicariously live through their favourite athletes, the average, relatively good-hearted person who desires justice and truth lives for a moment vicariously through the whistleblower wishing he/she had had the courage to do that and face the aftermath.

Earlier this year I’d seen a touching film on the whistleblower who changed the course of the Vietnam war – Daniel Ellsberg’s story (The most dangerous man in America – Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.) I saw this week the movie ‘The Yes Men Fix the World‘ which was released on bit-torrent last week, though the actual film is a year old.  It is a one-of-a-kind film, sort of a ‘comedic vigilante justice.’ Two real -life professors who literally masquarade as big company/political executives to impart hypothetical acts of justice and ethics. Or at most, draw attention to horrendous acts of gross injustice committed in the world, ranging from the Bhopal Gas tragedy to the sneaky ‘housing’ mismanagement post-Katrina in New Orleans to unethical practices committed by Exxon Mobil amidst others. And their hoaxes are not small – they are huge, at one instance, speaking out to 300 million viewers through the BBC, while pretending to be Dow executives apologetic about the Bhopal disaster and finally paying the compensation packages.

What is always interesting though, is that after every hoax is revealed, the media resorts once again in shooting the messengers, rather than acknowledging that – true, this is what Dow SHOULD be doing, or this is how things SHOULD be managed in New Orleans, if the interests of the people are truly taken into consideration. The actual sufferers be they in Bhopal or New Orleans were in fact rather pleased that the Yes Men’s spoof had highlighted at least a hypothetical act of justice. (The ‘strangling’ scene in the trailer is an act for the trailer – the women go on to speak how glad they were at the Yes Men’s spoof.) The film also interviews high level finance cads, revealing the immense greed and twisted extreme-money-driven business structures we do live in.

The final scene of the movie is like a practical application of John Lennon’s wistful song ‘Imagine.’ It is a hoax done on an exceptionally grand scale, fooling the residents of New York City, and yet for a short period of time, it is heartening to see the smiles on people’s faces to see a world filled with justice, peace and love – the way it would be in a Utopian dream. If nothing at all, the Yes Men were able to bring that smile on the faces of thousands of city folks who for once didn’t have to wake up to the usual turbulent news that persist in reality. Yes, perhaps they were being male ‘Amelies’ in some ways (Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain) on a much, much larger scale, but for brief moments they had shown a glimpse of dreams becoming ‘reality’.

A must-see film. It is available online .Although they have won numerous awards in film festivals, its makers do it for getting the truth out, not for the money, so they don’t care if its available free.

I have to confess objectively though that even though initially people might think that extreme socialism is good, in truth healthy, truly ethical capitalism mixed with social democracy (the key word being ‘healthy’ and ‘ethical’) is a better option as communist and other totalitarian regimes have revealed through history that once its leaders become power-hungry, the atrocities committed are far worse and horrific than those seen in any democratic, capitalist country. (Or the capitalist/socialist blends like Canada & Australia which work well.) Greed, power-plays occur in both arenas – be it extreme capitalism or communism. The truth is that without  financial transparency, personal freedom and a good balance of ethics, practicality and above all justice (whether it is being just to the inventors/ the intelligent or talented to be recognized for their skills or it is being just to all citizens equally to have their human rights, standard of living, freedom and so forth be maintained at a good healthy level ), governments based on false ideologies, lies and lusts for greed and power – are bound to be unhealthy. The truth is that sadly, the choices of governments we have in the world are quite simply between : the ‘lesser evil’ and the ‘greater evil.’ Or if you are wealthy enough and enjoy solitude – to buy your own little island or a vast wooded hillside and live off the grid. (Mmm. That’s a wistful dream for me…..except I don’t have that much wealth to buy. So – back to reality. sigh.)

So if we ask ourselves ‘Why?’ – why do we live in a world or in political, social, academic, business systems where truth is concealed, injustices prevail and truth seekers punished, or why those with an insatiable greed for power who do not seem to follow any rational ethics are often so invincible – the answers at the end boil down truly to the functioning of human minds and emotions. And at the end boils down to the Machiavellian people who are often found in positions of power in various political, financial, religious systems.

Two years back in late July I was attacked on the street by a stranger, an alcoholic serial disturbance-maker who it seems even at the time of the attack was violating his parole order, as I found out later from the police. He was trying to force his way into my apartment building on the pretext of his ‘lost’ cat in response to a series of ‘found cat’ flyers I had naively posted on my quiet Canadian residential street, completely ignorant just how stupid a move this can be to attract predators. Some day I will write a separate post about it to highlight what measures women should take on seemingly safe streets because predators can strike anytime, anywhere. I used to be so over-confident before this incident, it was a humbling though frightening experience on how women are still not safe and can any time become victims even in seemingly safe, quiet North American residential streets. Having traveled around certain far more dangerous countries of the world, I’d become complacent and over-confident of the safety in first world countries.

I was comparatively lucky as I escaped with only a crushing fist blow to my face while trying to defend myself – a hard one that made my lips and gums bleed and left my face swollen for a week, and thankfully since a witness rushed to my rescue on the street outside my apartment and dialed 911, the police came on the scene and the man was later convicted. It seems I had not been his first victim and he had sexually harassed and attacked other women too on the streets but had escaped each time, but I’d become the first who was able to provide sufficient proof by sketching his face and describing him in detail later to the police along with other factual details and gone through with the trial – something I dreaded but had to, since the Crown (state) was defending me.

The detective on the case was also relentless and told me that if I was not strong enough to go through the trial, this predator would be left back on the streets to endanger other women in the future. The attacker it seemed had a violent side, enhanced more when he got drunk, as in the cover of daylight this middle-aged man held the guise of a ‘cultured artist’! He had been previously arrested for a drunken fight with a man but his violent attacks on women had hitherto avoided trial due to insufficient proof. Besides the witness had luckily seen the man from down the street hitting my face and had confronted him trying to hold him before he escaped, so his statement to the police helped. What was most disturbing to me however was that the man had used my own kindness against me and the fact that I was putting up posters for a cat I’d found had turned against my own safety as his ‘approach’ had been to claim it was his cat (which it wasn’t) to try and get access to whatever crime he intended. Which meant that even while drunk he knew how to be cunning! Thankfully I was so much luckier as so many far more horrible acts of violence are committed against women every day and many are not lucky to escape.

The incident was a turning point for me to finally read up on psychology and try to understand what the ‘psychopath’ mind was. I cannot speak for others but I’ve noticed that architects and engineers are often extremely reluctant to read about psychology as we find it rather boring. Until this incident, I certainly did find it boring and never really bothered ‘figuring out’ people – even though I had been attacked twice before but didn’t let the incidents affect me. This time, instead of getting afraid, I thought it’s better to educate oneself and not be so naive about those wearing masks of ‘normalcy’ – be they street attackers, or seemingly ‘nice, charming’ folks who hide sinister sides beneath. While male psychopathy is exhibited in openly criminal behaviours, female psychopathy can be in the form of women displaying NPD and BPD. The devastation and insidious damage they do in relations and even in work places is not much different from ‘soul-rape’.

I sometimes think that male psychopaths ‘hone’ their skills by torturing animals in their younger days before moving on to human victims. And female psychopaths ‘hone’ their skills by being the ‘mean girls/bullies’ to the kinder girls in high school before going on to wreak havoc in the lives of their future boyfriends/husbands with chilling emotional and mental bullying that leave many a kind-hearted man excavated emotionally and financially. In either case the chilling lack of empathy is the common point in both. Case to point – when recent bullying victim Phoebe Prince killed herself after months of isolation and torture, one of the chief girl bullies chillingly placed the word ‘Accomplished’ on her facebook page. Lack of empathy? You betcha!

So after my attack I read up a few books to understand how the minds of sociopaths work, and for some reason, I like looking at concrete facts far more than psycho-analytical hypotheses. Academic books on mental health helped much more and also reading up on case studies. But the book I found most enlightening, that a neuroscientist gave me, was written by a woman medical engineer Dr. Barbara Oakley titled Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole my Mother’s Boyfriend. Although this is based on newer research, the book is an utterly fascinating read as it shows the brain scans of psychopathic minds along with many case studies of the ‘successfully sinister.’ It also combines research in the fields of psychology, anthropology, evolution, neuroscience and psychiatry that reveal how ‘double-faced’ minds work, but is written in an easy-to-read style, more like non-fiction rather than a scientific journal. Throughout evolutionary history, and especially during the time of empires and kingdoms, the more cruel/powerful men and the more manipulative women had better chances of producing a greater number of children. The tyrant warrior Genghis Khan for instance is known to have fathered the maximum number of children in the world. And if we view this simply from ‘humans as a species’ where the reproductive drive for progeny was evolutionarily ingrained in the majority, we can logically see how the assertive, the cruel, the more ruthless and the crafty were indeed able to reproduce far more throughout early history if even for sheer propagation of their ‘seed’ (whether they knew it for not) either by force or by instinct.

Nature, nurture and numerous other factors certainly came into play. But the cruel/unempathetic/apathetic amongst us are in larger numbers than we might care to admit, though of course not all turn into killers or attackers – and these percentages are certainly low.

The book covers not just the profiles of megalomaniac leaders and duplicitous financial organizations, it even covers the omnipresent ‘attention-seekers’ we see sometimes in showbiz, the power hungry narcissists we see even in academic and social-work settings and then gets closer to home when she analyses the minds of men and women like her own sister who showed an alarming lack of empathy and narcissism as seen in the condition called BPD. (It is important to note that not all BPD sufferers faced actual trauma in early life, though some certainly have. Many simply have a personality problem that makes them experts at manipulating, lying and wreaking havoc in the lives of their close ones – usually kind-hearted individuals who have a tendency to ‘rescue’ or ‘fix’ and fall for the ‘professional victim’ alternated with the bullying stance Machiavellians take. I am reticent to even mention the abbreviation, because sufferers of the disorder are often online and relentlessly blast and personally attack anyone who writes the truth of the condition. Even therapists and Oakley herself was not spared.)

On a personal level, my first boyfriend was a brilliant young university professor but clinically diagnosed with BPD on the NPD continuum. I had been ignorant and stupid enough to not have read up on this, having been merely told that he was ‘slightly bipolar.’ (‘Let me solve your problem’-quasi-Aspie-types like myself are incredibly susceptible to being extracted by borderlines – both male and female. You’ll be surprised how so many geeky engineers and kind, talented giving people attract Cluster Bs like honey due to their eager-to-help ‘fix-it’ tendencies, which in itself should be fixed to stop from falling as easy BP prey.) No matter how much kindness and understanding I tried to pour in, along with all-my-‘first love’-naivete, the lack of empathy he showed on many occasions and the constant changing of moods once he’d won me over, as well as the ‘mask-to-the-world’ vs. the ‘reality-in-private’ was very hard to figure out, until I read about the condition years later. It was as though light bulbs of comprehension lit up finally.

I used to be very private, never talking of this neither to friends nor family – let alone online, mellowed as I was with an over-extreme ‘see-the-half-full-glass’ attitude and parents who taught me only to look at the brighter side of things without complaining, but now am comfortable stating the 360-degree version of truth for what it was without editing out its dark and painful sides, since reading online stories of other people who suffered relations with partners with BPD and NPD helped me too.

I think (and Dr. Tara Palmatier from Shrink for Men who has years of clinical experience and is a fresh breath of rationality has often reiterated) that unfortunately many therapists/books for the past several decades have resorted to asking sane or non-BPs (i.e. non-borderline persons) to be extremely kind and patient to their BPD partners thereby acting as servile ‘enablers’ to borderline/narcissistic/histrionic/sociopathic bad behaviours, rather than calling them out on their lack of empathy and remorse for what it is – incurable and chilling. And this ‘bad behaviour’ applies to both male and female partners – considering that plenty of women out there can be as abusive as men, except it’s ‘politically incorrect’ to speak up on this.

In my case the BP was an emotionally unstable man, but most often BPs are women. This boyfriend came from a suicidal family, had a disturbed-though-highly-educated mother and exhibited a lot of the traits that come with this condition of BPD (i.e. rapid mood swings, quick idealisation-devaluation of their close ones, a fractured sense of self, extreme rage fits over inconsequential matters etc.) In men, this is often misdiagnosed as bipolar, but bipolar disorder can be checked by medication, ‘borderline’ is quite something else. He was not an extreme case though, certainly not criminal, rather quite talented and intelligent in his work and our good times were fun – like the highs of a roller coaster. He was able to overcome quite a few of his personality problems later in life through therapy. But the ‘gaslighting‘ and the chilling lack of empathy along with the roller-coaster mood swings remained, as one of our common friends, a doctor, ascertained years later; though it seems he had been able to control his destructive rages. It was an intense, turbulent 14 months for me – which I later found out was usually the ‘normal’ time for relations with BPD people as the non-BP partner takes upto 15 to 18 months (and in some cases, upto 8 to 13 years if one of their parents also had BPD) before they draw boundaries and defenses, and not allow further eroding by the BP. (My next relation thankfully was healthy, peaceful and sane, with a like-natured person as myself, and lasted for many years and we still remain friends with mutual respect and goodwill; and his mother still remains one of the most inspirational women I have met.) But it took me a while to logically understand the psychology of borderline/narcissistic people and that first boyfriend. Apparently throughout history many painters, writers and entertainers have also exhibited clinical borderline/narcissistic traits. The condition does not inhibit talent or intelligence but makes its sufferers extremely manipulative, attention-craving, unstable and have a black-white way of thinking.

Now, you can leave a relation with a man/woman you have known on a personal level displaying mentally unstable traits but not all-out ‘evil’, rather with mood-and-empathy-and-reality-regulation problems. You can be lucky to live in a country where a stranger psychopath displaying true sociopathic behaviour and attacking you on the street can be taken care of by the judicial and security system set up by the country and a good samaritan who you are incredibly lucky to have come up on the scene of the attack. But what do you do if you have to work for a mentally disturbed person wearing a mask of charm and sanity? Or be governed by one? Or are related to one? Or have to cope with in seemingly ‘normal’ bureaucratic/educational/social/religious systems? Or wonder how genocides in some African nations still continue, financial embezzlements have become the North American crime-du-jour, or in Iran clerics can actually endorse stoning a woman to death and crowds actually participate in this murder?! And in all cases, the perpetrators of crimes walk away with no accountability. That’s where Oakley’s book is very enlightening.

Barbara Oakley has been dubbed a female Indiana Jones — her writing combines worldwide adventure with solid research expertise. Among other adventures, she has worked as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers in the Bering Sea, served as radio operator at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and risen from private to regular army captain in the U.S. Army. Currently an associate professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Oakley is a recent vice president of the world’s largest bioengineering society and holds a doctorate in the integrative discipline of systems engineering. Oakley incorporates sociology, psychology, anthropology and biology in her analysis in her book ‘Evil Genes’

As a peer reviewer and author Cliff Pickover has written on Oakley’s book: “A magnificent tour through the sociology, psychology, and biology of evil. No one should pass up the experience of stepping through the portals of this fascinating book to answer Oakley’s crucial question: Why are there evil people, and why are they sometimes so successful?”

For a small dekko, I’ve decided to place here an excerpt from the last chapter of Evil Genes:

‘The Sun Also Shines on the Wicked’

Note: The term Machiavellian used here as per Oakley’s definition at the glossary of the book is as follows:

*Machiavellian = A person who is charming on the surface, a genius at sucking up to power, but capable of mind-boggling acts of deceit for control or personal gain. Ultimately a Machiavellian, as the term is used throughout in Evil Genes, is a person whose narcissism combines with subtle cognitive and emotional disturbances in such a fashion as to make him believe that achieving his own desires, and his alone, is a genuinely beneficial – even altruistic – activity. Since the Machiavellian gives more emotional weight to his own importance than to that of anyone or anything else, achieving the growth of his preeminence by any means possible is always justified in his own mind. The subtle cognitive and emotional disturbances of Machiavellians mean they can make judgments that dispassionate observers would regard as unfair or irrational. At the same time, however, the Machiavellian’s unusual ability to charm, manipulate, and threaten can coerce others into ignoring their conscience and treading a darker path. A synonym is successfully sinister.

“Who are the successfully sinister?

Before Hitler’s seizure of power, psychiatrist Ernst Kretscmer remarked: “In normal times we diagnose them; in disturbed times they govern us.”[i] In my reading, however, Krestschmer’s quip misses the mark in a number of crucially important ways.

Rather than being diagnosed “in normal times,” it appears that most people who interact with the successfully sinister, even trained psychologists and psychiatrists, have no idea with whom they’re dealing – not unless these analysts are given twenty-twenty hindsight clues such as a dead body or unexplained missing millions from a company’s accounts. A charming, highly successful lawyer for example, who beats and abuses his wife and children can almost literally get away with murder without being caught.[ii] A major company like Enron can run a flagrant Ponzi scheme where dozens of insiders are in a position to know something seriously strange is going on – and still no one says a word publicly.[iii] Pedophile priests in the Catholic Church can be responsible for the rape of tens of thousands of children, and the church hierarchy not only manages to keep the offenses hidden but knowingly moves the priest to new parishes, where fresh prey await.[iv] Key members of the United Nations can literally be in “Complicity with Evil” as described in Adam LeBor’s meticulously researched book of that name, in the commission of genocide after genocide. And yet those who allowed these disgracefully corrupt and malign episodes to proceed are granted a golden retirement with plaudits.[v] And individuals like Mao not only kill tens of millions but are worshiped in godlike fashion and touted as countercultural icons. Incidental death totals equivalent to a dozen or more Nazi Holocausts are minimized or tucked away from public discussion.

No, rather than being diagnosed, per Kretschmer’s quip, highly successful Machiavellians* appear to lurk in every human population. Whether their extraordinary ability to stack any deck in their favor, their relentless need for control, and their self-serving ruthlessness, those with at least a modicum of talent, looks, and assertiveness are more likely to be found in positions of power. This means the closer you climb toward the nexus of power in any given social structure, the more likely you’ll be able to find a person with Machiavellian tendencies. It really doesn’t matter what the underlying political system is – democratic, fascist, communist, or religious – or whether the social structure involves a company, university, schoolboard, religion, group, city council, state government, federal government or UN-style supragovernment; the larger the social structure and the bigger the payoff, the more Machiavellians eventually seem to find a way to creep to the top in numbers all out of proportion to their underlying percentage in society. Don’t forget the growing body of research literature that reveals how people selectively sort themselves into positions congenial to their personalities.[vi]

Machiavellians can have an incalculably restrictive, demoralizing, and corrupt effect on those in their sphere of influence. But what is worse is that Machiavellian behavior in a family, company, religious institution, school, union, or government unit – in fact, in virtually any social group – often seems to reach awe-inspiring proportions before anyone feels compelled to take solid action.[vii] Many people simply prefer to go about their everyday lives than take up a righteous cause; it is often much easier to simply ignore, evade, justify or silence the speech of anyone who does speak out than to constructively act against unsavory activities. Ordinary people’s emote control also means that sinister behavior can be seen as less important or – because of calcified beliefs about an ideology, institution, or person – even justifiable. Moreover the utter ruthlessness of some Machiavellians can mean that even the most sincere and altruistic keep quiet because of realistic concerns for themselves and their loved ones. Taking action against a Machiavellian is often a dangerous proposition, and no one takes on such a task lightly.[viii] (Friends in the know are often just being reasonable when they recommend cautious silence.) All of these factors serve to keep a stable sinister system intact, despite the fact that such a system is often less effective than other, more open systems. (Machiavellians in fact, often work behind the scenes to ensure their system is not put in a position of competing with other systems.)

Opaque organizations, systems, and ideologies that easily allow for underhanded interactions play to Machiavellians’ strong suit, allowing them to conceal their deceitful practices more easily. Idealistic systems such as communism and some religious or quasi-religious creeds are perfect for Machiavellians because they often lack checks and balances, or don’t use them.

When kindhearted people are unaware that a few leading individuals in “their group” are likely to be sinister, they are ripe for victimization. Their own kindness can be turned against them and others. Hitler’s greatest strength, for example, was his ability to appeal not only to the worst characteristic – hatred – but also to people’s best qualities – faith, hope, love and sacrifice. As with most Machiavellians, he was a master at turning people’s best traits against them. “He confided the secret of his approach to an intimate : ‘When I appeal……for sacrifice, the first spark is struck. The humbler the people are, the greater the craving to identify themselves with a cause bigger than themselves.’”[ix]

Such factors as political instability with no end in sight, worsening economic disaster, and rapid social changes have been pointed out as critical to the rise of the successfully sinister dictators such as Hitler. In reality, what these factors appear to do is merely allow the successfully sinister – always loitering near the top of every significant social structure – to not only gain ascendancy but also to rewrite the rules. As power is consolidated, the sycophantic cocoon that a leading Machiavellian is able to encase himself in can, it seems, reinforce his own narcissistic thought patterns. (as Ovid is said to have observed over two thousand years ago: “All things may corrupt when minds are prone to evil”)[x] In light of all this, it becomes clear that Kretschmer’s comment “in disturbed times they govern us” is true but misleading. Machiavellians are always present in every system that relates to power. It’s just that in times of troubles and in nontransparent systems, it’s easier for them to reach the pinnacle.

This is not to say that everyone at higher levels is Machiavellian. (One British study, for example, found that only one in six supervisors is thought by their subordinates to be a psychopath.)[xi] But certainly there appear to be high enough percentages of deeply Machiavellian individuals at powerful social levels to make for very different social interactions in that milieu. In such a high-powered setting, even if one is not deeply Machiavellian by nature, it is difficult to survive without using some Machiavellian strategies oneself.

The devious methods for success used by the sinister help explain why systems of ethics can at times be so surprisingly ineffectual and sometimes even counterproductive. Altruists who draw up rules and legislation to deter Machiavellian behavior are often surprised to find their policy turned on its head and used by Machiavellians for nefarious purposes…….”

[i] Redlich, Destrutive Prophet, p 334

[ii] Ann Rule, Dead by Sunset

[iii] Eichenwald, Conspiracy of Fools

[iv] David France, Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal, 2004

[v] Adam LeBor, Complicity with Evil, 2006

[vi] Carnahan and McFarland, Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment

[vii] Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, 1974

This behavior can’t help but evoke shades of psychologist Stanley Milgram’s work. In a classic set of experiments, Milgram revealed that many ordinary people will go to absurd lengths – even giving electric shocks to shocking screaming victims – in their blind tendency to obey authority. Perhaps this relates to Posner’s research involving people’s varying ability to resolve conflicting information and Wilson’s studies related to decision making and synchronized neural systems.

[viii] Myron Peretz Glazer and Penina Migdal Glazer, The Whistleblowers, 1989

[ix] Waite, Psychopathic God, p. 396

[x] Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations, 1906, p. 198

[xi] Rita Carter, Mapping the Mind, 1998, p. 93


The book is available on Amazon here: for one wish I’d read this even earlier. It would have helped in understanding why evil exists and thrives so well in this world, and how too much trustful naivete, optimism in human sanity, and our own kindness can work against us.

And why even now, despite the truth often being exposed by whistleblowers like Ellsberg or Assange, many of the systems-of-power in the world prefer to shoot the messenger rather than acknowledge facts for what they are – cold hard truth. Perhaps those who are too cowardly to face the truth about their own dark selves but prefer wearing smiling masks before the world are afraid that the hard truth of their actions and their double standards will be exposed to the world?  And their masks of sanity and charm removed? And for these hypocrites it is easier to punish the truth-teller rather than face their own Mr. Hydes (or Cruella d’Evilles).

It is a duty of self preservation for the truly kind and honest to not be made into sacrificial lambs nor pay the price for seeking justice. How do we do this? By gaining knowledge and deciphering the vile code of the successfully sinister. That, I believe, is the very first step. Knowledge, facts, wisdom. The first ‘how’ to answer the screaming ‘whys’ that resonate over the injustices, the crimes and concealments of truth that occur in the world. To remove the blindfold of Themis’ statue. And look straight up at naked Truth objectively. And without fear.



D-Day anD Dieter Dengler


For  the  post  on  NASA’s  LANDSAT 7  &  TERRA  Satellite  images  go HERE

*  *  *


Today, 6th June (6-6), 2010 is the 66th anniversary of the Normandy landings by the Allied troops which changed the course of World War II and the start of the defeat of Hitler’s reign of evil. For more details on this, here is a wiki article. June – D-Day

But what I wish to write here mainly about is of one the most profound and unforgettable documentaries I have ever watched. In my entire life. My only regret is that I had not watched it sooner. It is one of those stories that changes forever the way you view life, your place in it, the stories behind seemingly ordinary folks you run into at the grocery store or walk by the street; the manner in which you perceive reality in this world, the relativity of pain and sorrow and most of all, to witness first hand the incredible human spirit of survival against all odds. Yes, against every possible odd, when death is possibly your only friend and yet you do not give up on life. The documentary is named ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly’.  Directed by the unique and amazingly accomplished and talented film maker Werner Herzog. I do not think words can do justice to the experience at a deep visceral and existential level that this film produces, so remarkably engrossing it is. Both visually and audibly in its unique artfulness. And with just a real life character and a few hired locals from Laos who help re-enact Dieter’s journey as he narrates it, it is still the simplest yet most profound stories on film a man can experience.

The story of a man who grew up in great hardship and all he wanted was to learn how to fly, from the day  as a little boy he caught the eye of an allied pilot who was shooting down his house. The grandson of the only man in his entire village who had not voted for Hitler and faced its consequences. The man who ended up as a pilot for the US Air Force and later a POW in Laos during the Vietnam War. And a man who for some reason just did not give up on life. I will not write the details of the harrowing tortures he went through in the hands of the Vietcong, or the details of the horrors he himself participated in due to his actions as an US army-man. Because this is a film to be seen, not written about, even though most of the experience of the viewer is simply from the narration of Dieter talking to the camera. What struck me most was quite simply the state of being of this man who was neither bitter, neither angry, neither judgmental nor traumatized but came across as just an objective, almost obsessive observer of life and the situations and realities that surrounded him. And saw both sides without any hatred, but only an obsession to fly. And in the harshest of circumstances since his childhood still somehow found inspiration. In war both sides are victims in the power play of leaders who use their citizens and soldiers as pawns. There are no winners. One country’s hero is another country’s barbarian and vice versa. And the torture of a Caucasian is no greater nor lesser than the torture of the Asians killed by dropped bombs. (Although you do begin to understand why the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners of wars were made, in 1929 and 1949, not that they are still followed everywhere.)  As Dieter says: “I don’t think of myself as a hero. No, only the dead people are heroes.”

I have amongst my friends a few who were former US marines and pilots. And an older lady who had fled Vietnam during the war and is a well established painter in America now. The marines I knew had entered the force more out of financial necessity. The lady had fled on a boat from Vietnam and would end up as a prominent painter and anti-war activist in the U.S. They had stories that were remarkable  and poignant. They had told me tales of their experiences and their views on war. The ways in which they perceived the world after that. How sometimes simple joys such as even lying back on a mound of grass and watching the sunlight filter through the veins of a leaf was a profound source of pleasure. This film only reinforced the point even more.

This is a documentary that despite picking up several awards is not something that has been shown around with great fanfare or publicity. There are no glamorous posters, and the online videos are insufficient and misplaced and it is best not to see those. And though it was remade as a full length feature film later in Hollywood, the latter did no justice to the real thing. Dieter Dengler in real life with his ordinary looks and captivating thickly accented monologues is ten times better than any Hollywood actor playing his part. But every person who has seen this documentary knows that it is one of those rare gems that changes  your life forever. That makes you view every moment of freedom, every meal, every drink, every warm bed as a gift. And makes you thank your lucky stars for the gift of life and comfort. That makes you question why people get into wars over ideologies and religion. And most of all, gives you the courage and determination to overcome every little hardship in life without complaining. A truly remarkable testament of the human will, of luck and of optimism.  As one reviewer wrote on the IMDB site – ‘Cancel your shrink and watch Little Dieter.’  And as though the documentary isn’t enough to uncover the unbelievable truth of Dieter’s life, at the very end of the credits, as a postscript you see a last clip of a very solemn yet somewhat comical ritual (comical only because the steps of folding a flag seem  so far removed from the gritty reality of the unpresumptuous basics of life that the protagonist has lived through) and at the ceremony the face of a woman of a certain ethnicity which leaves you intrigued and wondering that there is a whole other story of his private life that we do not know of.

If there is one documentary on DVD (and darn – there are SO many good ones, how can one pick!) that will make you determined to be content with the life you have and count every gift as a blessing, and to come out against all odds, this is the film. Amazingly intriguing. Indescribably captivating. Gut-wrenchingly true. Unfathomably powerful  in both its minimalism and intensity. And only the mastery of Herzog behind the camera could have brought this to life.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997) – a film by Werner Herzog.

I think I’m just going to go and watch it all over again.

*   *   *

Sidetracked Alert: A Very Happy Birthday today to a very special friend – a former accidental US marine who was born more to be a marine biologist or an evolutionary scientist  (with his INTP disposition) but instead ended up as a computer whiz after a stint at the Marines (and thankfully did not kill anyone.) Avid canoe-er and fisher, dog-lover, wood worker,  and a man of many varied trades, talents and quirky interests. With an exceptionally good heart. And a very unusual and intriguing story of his own life and adventures that I hope he writes a book about someday. Happy Birthday! Hope you watch the documentary if you haven’t. I remembered you a little as I watched it because Dieter’s style of narrating reminded me of the detailed manner in which you talk (minus the accent.) And your general optimism against all the odds you yourself have faced.

Empty Spaces

COMFORTABLY NUMB IN EMPTY SPACES: I have watched the movie ‘the Wall’ seven times in the past 12 years and it always remains haunting. Questioning. And always powerful. And while it outlined excerpts from the band members’ lives, parts of it are said to show Syd Barrett’s fall into schizophrenia. But this excerpt from the movie in the first video posted below is one of the most powerful animations I had seen on film when I’d first viewed it years back. And still remains to this day. (The flower is symbolic, as any man who has had his heart ripped would know.) As dark and symbolic as the whole movie is about a man’s existential crises,  as he isolates himself from the apathy and chaos of the ‘usual’ ways of thinking around him, at least by the end of the film it ends on an ambiguous but positive note when he finally breaks free from the wall that he had made around himself one brick at a time.

The metaphorical film released in 1982 is rich in graphic, often disturbing imagery, music and symbolism and punctuated by animated sequences by political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. It was directed by Alan Parker and the screenplay written by Pink Floyd vocalist and bassist Roger Waters. Waters in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine had discussed that the album as well as the film were both derived partially from Jean-Paul Sartre’s story by the same name, which according to Waters had deeply moved him and changed the way he viewed life.

Pink Floyd’s music was always reflective. Contemplative. Haunting. I had first heard its sounds when my mother had used parts of the soundtrack from the Dark Side of the Moon album for a play she was directing. I was too young to understand much of what their lyrics or music signified at that age but later in architecture school (where they were madly popular) I began a very serious appreciation of both the creativity and departure-from-norm that their work had encompassed, away from the ‘pretty’ and lovey-dovey boy-bands that had won more hearts in the 60s and 70s. Pink Floyd instead was cerebral, intellectual, questioning – it tackled pondering and pain, not fluffy teenage fluttering hearts. I was blown away by their depth and imagery and music. The band had formed in London’s architecture school and its initial goofy name was ‘The Architectural Abdabs.’
Today I am finishing a book I had received sometime back:
Pink Floyd & Philosophy: Careful with the Axiom, Eugene. Edited by George A. Reisch – professor of philosophy at the Northwestern University. An excerpt from the book’s back cover:

“What does the power of great art have to do with madness? Should psychedelic drugs make us doubt the evidence of our senses? How did power, sadism, and conformity turn education into mind control (not that we need either)? Can a rock band keep its identity as its members change? What can we learn from the synchronicities between The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz? Did Friedrich Nietzsche foreshadow Syd Barrett? When did you realize that you are the hole in reality? How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?

The existential, cinematic music of Pink Floyd made them one of the most influential and recognizable rock bands of all time. They didn’t do it by leaving their audiences comfortably numb, but by unsettling, disturbing, questioning, and criticizing.”

As I write this, it is one of those nights when from the sour warm depths of a spring evening, melancholy takes over; and after a while soaking in its darkness and stilling those questions, one begins to feel uncomfortably numb………

(Warning: Both videos have graphic content. And are very dark. Not for the faint-hearted. To be watched only during melancholic moods. And at night. Do not ruin your mornings by watching these….)


*  *  *

For one of those nights when the shadows and voices of life and existence cannot remain still any longer – the movie The Wall is available here  (in parts) :

This Too Shall Pass….

Written in Woodstock, NY and Boston, MA. April 12, 2010. Abstract : The good thing about growing up and gaining experience through the years is that when either ecstasies or sorrows and pain get too overwhelming, we have the internal wisdom to know that ‘this too shall pass’ (or ‘gam zeh yaavor’ in the original hebrew)

FROM HIPSTERS TO HIPPIES: For the early part of last week, April 5th to be exact and two days before its record-breaking hottest day, I was in New York City but by mid-week left for a cabin in the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock to wind down. And pretty much lived off the grid till my return back to Boston. I will be writing a new post more on it some day. There are so many thoughts, so many reflections from what I saw in NYC. My hotel window 50 floors above at the Millennium Hilton directly looked over into the World Trade Centre construction site for the new Freedom Tower and adjoining buildings and it was an unbelievable sight – which evoked so many different emotions. The ‘whys’ that arise when you wonder how psychopaths can cause so much destruction knowingly in the name of fundamentalism.  The repercussions that followed with more deaths and more wars in the aftermath. And also, all the questionings that were evoked of injustice and the absence of ethics in certain other parts of the world too in some tribal communities near a bauxite mountain  when I recently heard an extremely heartfelt and tumultuous talk given by architect-turned-writer-turned-social-activist Arundhati Roy at Harvard for her book promotion.

I have seen both parts of those worlds, and many many other parts as well, in depth; in substance; in smells; in sweat; and in their sweetness and  their sadness. And the brutal truth is that in all the wars for religion, resources, ideologies, inequalities the ones who die are mostly the innocent….be it the children in a day-care in building 5 on the WTC site, or the everyday workers,  or the firemen on that fateful day. Or the soldiers and civilians who died during the war that followed. Or the journalists including the one who was beheaded. Or the people in certain unrelated tribal areas who are being killed and bulldozed off through twisted politics of industry and a greed for wealth for forcefully obtaining the raw resources the mountains in their rural land contain. It is always the innocents who suffer and die………

From here..

..and here…

To Here.

But I am here now, and a calm serenity has overcome every conflicted questioning of the early part of last week. I do not know if this is escapism, or treating yourself once in a while to utter, unadulterated calm and peace, but it certainly feels wonderful. And renewing.

lamb and daffodils

RANDOM THOUGHTS THAT PASS ON: The mountain air, far from the madding crowds, does something to clarify the signal to noise ratio in favour of the former. Perhaps somewhere, deep inside, rather than our analysing, questioning minds, our bodies ‘sense’ much better that the simple joys of life often arise from the simplest and most serene of little pleasures – a good cup of tea, a beautiful sunset, a little 400 square foot cabin, the warmth of a fireplace, the smells of the fresh earth of springtime, the chartreuse green of the new leaves, the skipping of a happy baby lamb full of joy to be born. (Just so you know I have never eaten lamb or veal or for that matter any baby animal in my life. There is something too unfair and macabre about that act. I also believe that any person who hugs a newborn lamb, or caresses the soft skin of a gentle calf or watches the toddling steps of a suckling pig will be unable to think of snuffing out its innocent life and letting that life end up as human poop.)

How much do we really need to be happy? How much is too much?  Where do we separate ‘need’ from ‘greed’? Where do you draw the line for personal ethics?

I do not want to end this on a sad note.  A man I had once met who had traveled around the world on returning back home to Canada had rightly observed : ‘We all have the right to feel sad at times, but we do not have the right to feel ungrateful.’ How true! I often wonder how some people squabble and fight over petty seemingly trite problems which seem so trivial in comparison to so many horrific problems and disasters that life could have thrown at us by accident, by luck or worse, through the intended malice of psychopaths – be they in the form of venomous and manipulative men and women, or larger organized death cults and clans. We have to learn to be careful – blindly forgiving psychopathic behaviour in some magical wistfulness of a misplaced naïveté of ‘eternal optimism’ is a sure way to self-immolation. But at the same time, we have to be objective about the degrees of ‘pain’ in the world and where our own ‘problems’ fit within it. Emotions are funny creatures. While poems are written about them, they after all are still a product of our thinking, of our hormones and enzymes and the neurotransmitters in our brains. But an act of consistent wisdom (as any person who laments how much better life can be viewed in 20/20 vision when you look back) would be to not let overwhelming emotions – especially if they are negative– dictate our actions. Actions that arise out of fear, anger, extreme sadness, wrath, malice, hatred, hurt are always counterproductive in the long run. We do not have to turn into consistently logical Mr. Spocks (nor his evil opposite which would be unfeeling empathy-devoid sociopaths) but knowing that overwhelming negative emotions can well become momentary time-bombs is an important step towards growth.

My mother had once written to me in a letter: “Constant pristine permanency is an impossible phenomenon. Happiness consists simply of a collection of sporadic beautiful tangible and intangible moments in life and in their experiences and memories. It is a state of mind and a choice dependent on our internal concept of our present being, not some external future elusive goal.” Or in other words, Happiness (at least if you are in a place or relation where you are not living under constant threats of being shot, killed, hacked or abused) is a state of mind dependent on our ways of perception and self-reflection as well as an acceptance of our present reality and not some ‘goal’ that can be obtained by chasing rainbows. The second method never works in the long term because when those who have that mindset once ‘reach’ something, they raise the bar and are on to chase the next elusive illusion that they think will ‘make’ them happy, and thus become eternal chasers, who miss the flowers to be smelled and noticed in daily life.

The ‘state of happiness’ in any case always evolves, always comes and goes and explodes or recedes through the day and years within a certain continuum or within a stable mid-point of equilibrium if one is mentally  healthy.

In the same token, all negative emotions also pass and it is even more important to remember that; and therefore not hurt others in that moment of wrath, weakness, sadness or anger. Justifying it later through rationalization and excuses does not work. Would the lasher do the same if the recipient of his wrath was standing before him holding a gun? I guess not. Except of course if the lives of his loved ones or children were at stake, he might have braved the gun. So I have observed in life that we (humans) victimize only those who we can. As horrific as it sounds it still is the truth in so many ways be it those civilians who were killed in war in far-off lands,  or the people who were murdered that day in September, abused lovers who receive rage-filled threats and rants in relations, or even those baby animals who are killed and cooked just when they have opened their eyes into life and do not know how cruel the world can be. It is always the innocent who are the real victims.

Like the change of seasons, a healthy mind knows the ephemeral nature of emotions. Some remain steady and stable and this requires practice – in fact it is worth stabilizing our feelings of love, compassion for the truly innocent, our integrity, courage and a quest for peace, truth and practicality without compromising objective ethics. For other feelings, especially the bad ones, it is important to remember that ‘they pass’ and to wait till the heat is over instead of burning those in its vicinity. There are no two ways about it. Like springtime renews the earth each year in northern climates, each season passes in the garden of our thoughts and either scorches or hardens or rather renews and rejuvenates. It is a way of life and the more we fight against the laws of nature, the more we stagnate, caught in the detritus of rotten leaves and cold snowstorms. There are those who cannot neurologically overcome sad and crazy thoughts and they are literally mentally ill, but for those who have the capacity to think, reflect and live in healthy ways, I honestly think it is ignorance, laziness, false pride, or a refusal to self-improve that holds them back from experiencing joy and love in the simplest things life has to offer. Or refuse to welcome ‘Springing’ back to life. And to love.

This is why I like that Hebrew saying : Gam Zeh Ya’avor or This Too Shall Pass. The phrase has featured in the fables of Krishna, of King Solomon and has been used by quite a few including Abraham Lincoln in an 1859 address:

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! – A.L

Gam zeh yaavor. There is so much wisdom packaged in those three little words that even chunky books on psychotherapy and neuroscience aimed towards healing mechanisms in the brain would finally come to similar conclusions as the summary of their research, unless there is irreversible physiological damage. My great-grandfather had found that the Hebrew word for the ‘spring blossom of renewal’ was the same as the Pali (Buddhist) word for ‘the possessor of wise understanding.’ He always believed that it was no coincidence. That the one who has mastered the art of self-renewal and welcomes spring each year (or for that matter each day) of his life in fact understands and possesses true wisdom.

And as I recalled the gigantic construction site back in the crater that once held the twin towers and its surrounding buildings, and the thousands of workers who have found jobs in this economy as they rebuild once again the tall towers and its new gardens, I felt that in many ways that site represents renewal, regrowth and above all,  a most symbolic resilience  of the human spirit. (But then my neurotic mind wonders where the steel for the construction comes from? Could it be from the bauxite ore of a mountain far away – and a string of thoughts about another post germinates….)

So here’s something to celebrate Renewal and Passing. And just to see how great videos CAN still be made without CGI effects, here’s an absolutely brilliant, goofy and incredibly ingenious video made by the alternative rock group OK – go. In many ways, our lives are like dominoes too – one event leads to a chain of others and triggers many more within or without our control over them. We cannot undo the past. Or at times get out of a mess created through our own or someone else’s  accidental or deliberate mistakes. But what we can do is at least to have the wisdom to say ‘This Too Shall Pass.’

Is this a form of escapism? Could it be that confronted by the horrors of the world we fall into some self-preservation  mode and escape into music or ‘escape’ like the hippies in Woodstock or say ‘this too shall pass?’  Or one has to be always angry and angsty  like Arundhati Roy? Where is the middle ground? Where is it? I know where that point of balance and peace  is in my own mind- but I don’t see it out in the world……  And if this is a post on recovery from personal pain and not the pain-in- the-world, then for the former indeed ‘this too shall pass.’ For the  cycle of pain in the world – well, that’s another post. Another day….

Be sure to click on the ‘full screen’ button!

*  *  *