Monday, December 21, 2020

Show time at the office

It's rather funny how things that you tend to think of things learned for some purpose to be exclusively of use for that purpose. I mean, most people actually seem to have thought that the math that they learned at school was exclusively for use to pass exams and are astonished at the thought that it may have any applicability in life after school.

That, though, is not what I wanted to talk about. Though I am going to talk of what happened in offices, it is not about the applicability of math in office. ('Thank God', you murmur? Yeah, right, I know. Had it not been for calculators and computers, you'd have realized that math IS necessary for work in office. That you would need to know how to add, subtract etc instead of merely typing things into forms. See what you made me do? THIS was not at all what I intended...oh, leave it!)

Anyway, there was this friend of mine who was talking about his uncle's suffering at the hands of his much younger boss. (No, I am NOT that uncle though, but for my quitting early...)

"He is close to retirement, has quite a few lifestyle diseases which seems to have become the norm these days...even for people a decade younger than him. And this boss of his screams at him, stresses him out. No matter how often my uncle tells him about his blood pressure issues and asks him to not create such stress the bloody chap won't listen."

"Well, really, is there anyone who can understand things these days? I mean, they do not even understand if you tell them that the profit has increased by 25%. You need to SHOW them a bar chart with one bar 25% higher than the other for them to appreciate the fact."

"What's your point? Should my uncle be making a power-point with BP before and BP after graphs?"

"Hahaha! No, you take things too literally. He should do what my uncle does."

"And what does your esteemed uncle do?"

"He...well, he clutches his head, reels a bit and then drops into a chair. After the screaming session, he rushes to the company medico, complaining of dizziness. Of course his BP is high, after the stress of being yelled at. Whereupon he moans to the physician about how he has been telling his boss that all that screaming is only reducing his effectiveness by making his BP shoot. Apparently, after 2-3 episodes of this behavior and the consequent sick leave that he takes, he only has to lift his hands half-way to his head to silence the boss. Of course it's not a career-enhancing move. But, then, my uncle was close to retirement as I understand your uncle also is."

For the first time, I interjected. I mean, I had only thought of this as some esoteric idea used by writers.

"Ah! You mean TELLING people of your health issues is no use. You have to SHOW them. Like the difference between saying you are hurt and actually shedding tears?"

"Bingo! And you thought Show vs Tell was only a writing related thing."

Ye Gods! Now, if this sets people in your office reeling around every time you take them to task, do not blame me. Blame my friends!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Hate the sin first?

It never pays to assume that you have mastered something in the practice of philosophy. Never. It, perhaps, is fine as long as you are hugging the thought to yourself and feeling chuffed about it. But if, by chance, you feel the need to express your happiness...or, as the uncharitable are likely to say, boast about it...

As I made the mistake of doing. You see, Hinduism talks of three gunas - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Three character-types in a simplistic translation and, if this blog does not count as simplistic, I'd like to know what can be. Sattva is considered the best of the three and a Sattvik person is one who is peace-loving (among other things, yes, but those other things are not what I wanted to boast of, since I am too truthful, and of course too afraid of getting called on a lie, to boast of what I am not.)

Peace-loving should mean non-confrontational, surely. Now, as everyone knows, if I am running in one direction, you can rest assured that there is some confrontation going on in the other. Otherwise why would I, the model based on which the tortoise was designed, be RUNNING? Now if that does not count as being non-confrontational, what would, pray?

So, there I was, basking mentally in the glow of being that rarest of rare beings - a Sattvik person - and up pops a friend, needle in hand, to burst the balloon of my happiness.

He was not really opposed to my avoiding ALL confrontations. I mean, he very kindly agreed that when two people were fighting about who should get the first chance to bat - based on the eminently logical grounds of the one being the owner of the bat and the other being the owner of the ball - it was perfectly alright for me to avoid that confrontation. Where we differed was on my running away from ALL confrontations.

You know, like when people are ganging up on someone and pulling him down for being dark/fair or stammering or some such. I mean, really, to ask those guys not to do it is to enter a confrontation right? And to not enter confrontation is totally Sattvik behavior, right? Not so, according to this unsettling friend of mine.

According to him, that sort of avoidance is Tamasik behavior. And, when someone is inclined to do things like this avoidance, he has to first learn at least the Rajasik option to fighting against that sort of injustice. Only when he DOES oppose that sort of action AND does it in a peaceful manner can he consider himself Sattvik.

Obviously, I'd have given him the horse's laugh, as anyone does to someone who tells them unpalatable truths. But then he threw in my face the name of Swami Vivekananda who, according to him, had espoused that view-point. That sealed my mouth and he started giving me a lecture on it.

Well, the gist of it was that I needed to first learn to hate the sin AND to oppose it. THEN, if I could learn to fight the sin without hating the sinner, I could call myself Sattvik.

Ye Gods! I mean, come on, that's putting the cart before the horse, right? The way you identify a sin is exactly the opposite, isn't it? You first hate someone, ergo he has to be a sinner. Therefore, whatever he does is a sin. THEN you hate THAT sin. How the hell, then, can you hate a sin, without hating the sinner, when the very identification of the sin depends on hating the sinner?

If THAT is what philosophy expects you to do, I give up. It requires performing six miracles a day before breakfast and then continuing it all day. No wonder, people have lost all interest in being Sattvik these days.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Golden Silence

 "Silence is golden", they used to tell me in my youth. I used to be duly impressed and think very highly of silence even at that age when I had no clue why gold was supposed to be so valuable. Though, yes, belonging in the 'Have mouth, will speak...incessantly' category of human beings, it generally made me feel inadequate for not being able to belong in the 'gold' category of people.

Of course, I also did not understand why silence was held in such high regard. I mean, yeah, they did tell me, "It is better to be silent and be taken for a fool instead of opening your mouth and removing all doubt." The problem was that, when my geography teacher asked me, "What is the capital of Denmark?" and I remained silent, she started swishing her cane. No sign of any benefit of the doubt to me, let me tell you. Nor did that IIM professor who interviewed me for a seat in IIM-A select me because he had some doubts about whether I was really a fool when I maintained silence to almost all his questions.

On Social media, I find that this saying 'If you have nothing to say, say nothing' is looked upon with great contempt. It, apparently, is when you really have nothing to say that you express yourself with great verbosity. In this, I find that age had caught up with me, after all, and I have been left so far behind the curve that I can never hope to catch up. True, I belong still to the 'Have opinion, will speak' category of people but I fail miserably on two counts.

I still have this old-fashioned idea that it is not necessary to have an opinion about everything. I mean, really, is it absolutely vital for me to form an opinion about Gandhi's stance on feminism or about whether Arjuna was a better warrior than Karna or...? The number of things people form an opinion about, and practically go to war about on SM, astounds me. I bleat about why it is not necessary to have opinions about everything and they look upon me pityingly as a poor outdated Boomer. I...oh, forget it, it's too painful to remember.

The other way I prove my age is even more damaging to me. To actually think that you should form an opinion based on knowing at least some of the facts and assumptions to base it on; that you should be open to modify your opinion or change it if new facts are presented to you or if your assumptions are falsified...I mean, if that is not a sign of old age, what is? If I were really young, would I not know that an opinion is unassailably right if it is what all my friends think?

And, so, I find that age has caught up with me and I NOW understand how silence can be golden. NOT the silence that you keep simply because you do not know; or because you just do not care to know what people are saying; or because you have closed your mind to whatever the people around you are saying and do not care to argue with these 'mindless idiots' who do not know the one right way to think about these issues.

It is more to do with a receptive silence. The intent to listen with an open mind, where you are not busy thinking of what you will say next and actually listen to what the other guy is saying; not busily thinking up counter-arguments to what the other chap is saying. In short, a silence that can come only when you consider a conversation as a means to widen your own knowledge and attitudes, and not a debate which you intend winning at any cost.

Which essentially means that you listen, process the information, check out any areas where you do not agree and ask for clarification (NOT jump up saying, "THAT is wrong, which is WHY I keep saying you guys are stupid").

In short, Silence may well be golden but I do not know whether it can be considered human!