Monday, April 24, 2023

Smash thine enemy?

It is sort of normal for me to see people exalting Tamil in Tamil movie posters but that exaltation very seldom carries over to actually excerpting anything from Tamil literature in the posters. So, it was a bit of a surprise to see an excerpt...but, yeah, if there would at all be an excerpt it would be from good old Tiru's work.

Uyirrpa ularallar mandra seyirppavar semmai sidhaikkalaa Thaar - Tirukkural

He who destroys not the pride of his enemy shall not exist to breathe - Loose Translation

Tiru does get blood-thirsty at times. Especially when it gets to writing about how best to treat enemies. He is clearly not of the 'turn the other cheek' school of thought. At least not till he has ensured that his enemy is properly chained up so that he can do nothing about the invitation to slap the other cheek. No wonder, his pieces do get picked up every now and then by today's movie-makers. I mean, like, they are hardly likely to find Ahimsa a fit subject for making a movie...especially considering that their heroes are more the 'bash the lessons into the other guy's heads' sort.

So, this one rather fits the bill. It does not go so far as to say that the only good enemy is a dead enemy. But Tiru may as well have said it. When he says 'destroy the pride of the enemy', it is essentially a euphemism for rendering the enemy powerless to retaliate. What he says is that, if you leave your enemy with even a smidgen of ability to act against you, you will not live long thereafter. So, you either have to completely break the will and power of your enemy or, obviously, your ENEMY must cease to breathe.

This is one of those areas of ambivalence. Talking purely pragmatically, a live enemy is always a potential source of danger even if he will not instantly cause you to 'cease to breathe', but then what is poetry without hyperbole. On the other hand, there is always the morality question including that of what it will do to your character to be perpetually unforgiving.

THAT, though, is for other people to worry about. I have hardly ever been in a position to decide what to do about any enemy. The boot has always been on the other foot!

Monday, April 17, 2023

Austerities lead to wealth?

Ilar Palar aagiya kaaranam norpaar silar palar nolaadhavar - Tirukkural

Many are poor and few rich because the few do austerities and the many do not - Loose Translation

It's a ticklish thing when it comes to translating words in Tamil (or Sanskrit, as I have had reason to bemoan when I wrote 'Maya-Is it all Illusion') into English. This word - austerities - for example. Or, even, these words 'poor' and 'rich' which I have used for 'have nots' and 'haves'. The meanings can all be misleading.

I mean, like, when in Tamil we talk of a 'have' or 'have not', it can be wealth OR knowledge OR ability depending on context. Likewise, though austerities normally mean the disciplined rigor (AND the frugal life, too, yes)  as applied to the pursuit of the divine, it can (and in the current case possibly does) mean that sort of disciplined and unwavering pursuit of your goals, keeping aside the pursuit of your pleasures. In that, a man who is keen on achieving his goals should be as much the yogi as any saint is.

Thus, while Tiru may seem to be saying that Wealth comes to he who is devout, it is more likely that he says that success crowns unwavering effort. And the reason why few are successful and many are not is because very few pursue their goals with the requisite rigor.

Now THAT can open a can of worms these days. "What price privilege?" some scream! "Nepotism rules" cry out others. Quite true of the way the world is. But, the point is that you can either use the lack of privilege as an excuse or you can strive to win. And, among people with the same level of privilege, those who succeed are more likely to be those who strive than those who complain.

Does that then mean that fighting Nepotism is useless? Come on, IF THAT is what you are out to do, do it with the same rigor as Tiru suggests. His point is that you should concentrate on what you do and do it with unwavering devotion. So fight Nepotism with vigor alright when you are doing that, but do not just sit back and complain that you never made a go of coding or banking or whatever because of lack of privilege.

Though it appears like Tiru is saying that all failure is due to lack of effort, it is not true. You should note that he is attributing the low PROPORTION of successful people to the fact that few really strive with all their heart. If everyone did so strive, then the PROPORTION of successful people would be higher, which does not mean that EVERYONE who strives will succeed.

So, yes, lack of privilege may prove a barrier to success. Whether the barrier seems like an obstacle to be overcome or a wall that stops you will depend on you. And, yet, your lack of privilege or your misfortune could keep you from succeeding. The difference is whether you failed despite your best efforts or you failed because you did not even start trying.

Unless, of course, you are like me. Pursuing idling with all the vigor at your disposal and giving reasons for not doing better just to keep the rest of the world off your back! In which case, you ARE succeeding in what you chose to do.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The sharpest weapon?

When anyone talks of ancient wisdom, you automatically assume that the chap is going to spout off about how 'Love conquers all' and how money is the root cause of all evil and so on. The said man could well be on a lecture tour, being paid a hefty sum of money so that he can tell you about how money is the enemy of happiness, but still...

It's a pleasant surprise, therefore, to see Tiru actually egging you on to earn wealth. True, the chap wrote one-third of his Thirukkural about Money, Wealth or what we may call the Economy, if we are inclined to sounding particularly erudite. But still...

Seyka Porulaich Cherunar serukkarukkum eqkadhanir kooriya thil - Tirukkural

Accumulate wealth for there is no sharper weapon than that to lop off the arrogance of foes - Loose Translation

Tiru, has, in the past also said that 'Knowledge is the most supreme of all types of wealth' etc. the context of foes I suppose, Knowledge is not all that great a weapon. I mean, you prate of how much knowledge you have and your foe is only likely to scoff at it and ask you why, if you are so wise, you are so poor. Tiru does know to pick his weapons to suit the battle, one must admit.

It is difficult to argue against success or scoff at it without sounding like a loser. And 'success' is largely defined by how wealthy you are. All the more so, one supposes, in Tiru's times when you could not stand for an election and become the king. Acquire wealth and you need hardly bother to fight your foe. If he scoffs, he will get laughed off as a sore loser by Society.

Which sort of proves one of my pet theories. That people tend to shape their lives because of their foes and not because of those dear to them. They strive harder to show up a foe than they would to benefit those close to them. If their family wishes them to give up a course of action but their foe will celebrate it as a victory then...

And, thus, it is more likely that the need to show up your foes is the reason for why the world keeps going around than Love!

Monday, April 3, 2023

Who needs reality?

There is this scene in one of the Matrix movies where a character bites into a hamburger and says something like "I know this is not real. But who cares? It tastes damned good." Just the way I would feel, I suppose, and I think most of the world would feel like that.

I mean, come on, what you experience of the world is mostly through your five senses. It is all fine to be telling me that machines are exploiting humanity. But it is not like they are running labor camps or concentration camps. I am not being whipped to work 18 hour days, am I? I mean, like my life seems cool enough to me, so what if it is all virtual? After all, I am not experiencing that so-called reality, am I?

So why this sudden digging into ancient history now? Well, people seem to be telling that technology is moving with breakneck speed these days. AND I have heard about this 'Meta' thing and Virtual Reality and all such. AND THAT lead me to wonder about whether the Matrix is round the corner after all.

Ah, No, No! I am not wondering about being used by machines as a biological battery. Not yet. What I AM wondering about is the possibility of this VR thingy actually being able to give a complete sensory experience - sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. So much so that it seems completely real, just as it is supposed to be in Matrix.

Then, would I even need reality? Would anyone? Yeah, I know, someone has to be out there in 'reality' to keep the IV running to keep you alive, keep all the infrastructure going, yada yada - you know all those mundane things of life which seldom hit Page 3. But, given that THAT is taken care of - by humans or by machines - would I bother about not experiencing reality? 

I mean, reality is so...messy...full of unpredictable things, especially people. You do someone a good turn and he throws a tantrum because his cook put in too much sugar in his coffee in the morning. You greet your colleague with a smile and he snaps, "No need to smirk at me just because you got a bigger raise." So, there you go. VR is probably much more predictable and more fun all around.

What was that? A sense of achievement? You get that ONLY in reality when you do real things on the ground? I mean, really, if I manage to get the Wand of Death from the Cave of Thetis; or carry succor to my stranded colleagues braving the sulfur pools of the Death Planet; or rescue a small girl from the ravening hordes of nomadic warriors; or whatever counts as achievement in the virtual world I am in, do you think I will feel any less a sense of achievement than you do when you capture an additional 3% market share for your company's soap? Come on!

I mean, like, for ages people have been telling in India that there is a reality beyond the world of your senses and it is the purpose of life to pierce through the veil of your senses and appreciate the true reality. Does anyone take that seriously? AND, now, of a sudden, you tell me that what my senses tell me is 'virtual' and there is a reality behind that, why should I heed you, now? OR, even if I believe you, why should I bother to perceive that reality instead of wallowing in the world of my senses?

So, yeah, if at some future date we CAN achieve a Matrix like VR WITH a social infrastructure that can keep you inside it...

Will we still need to be in touch with reality?

OR, will we be like the kid in a Keanu Reeves interaction? He is supposed to have asked Keanu why he was fighting in the Matrix; Keanu is supposed to have said something like 'To show and change the reality' and the kid is supposed to have said the equivalent of "F@#K Reality".

Who needs reality, really?