A TIME FOR EVERY PURPOSE UNDER HEAVEN :
THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES AND CONCEPTS ABOUT TIME :
King Solomon is believed to be the author of The Book of Ecclesiastes, The Old Testament Book of Holy Bible. These are his words from Chapter 3, verses 1-11 :
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under Heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.
What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
THE HEALING POWER OF TIME :
Human existence could be challenged by physical and psychological injuries. A physical injury could also cause a significant amount of psychological damage and to a similar extent, unhealed psychological wounds may impair physical health and wellbeing. A psychological insult or injury may impact the activities and the normal functioning of a person who is not otherwise physically diseased. Human body is naturally endowed with an ability to repair damage caused to body tissues by physical injuries and other insults. The Repair process by which body heals itself is described as Inflammation and Repair. Human existence is possible because of this valuable, and protective natural healing process. However, this healing process and mechanisms are not under man’s voluntary control. The inflammatory reaction and the repair process result in scars as remnants. Once inflammation has subsided, the body may heal by regeneration of original tissue or the original tissue could be replaced by fibrotic connective tissue leading to scarring; very often wounds heal by a combination of these two events. Different tissues in the human body have different regenerative capacities. Basing upon the ability of regeneration, three different types of cells make up the human body: 1. Labile Cells – have the ability to regenerate throughout life. The epithelial cells of skin surface are regenerated on a regular basis giving us the ability to sustain our physical appearance as long as we live. Several other cells particularly found in blood, lymph, and spleen have this ability. 2. Stable Cells – have the ability to multiply and proliferate throughout life but are dormant unless stimulated. The cells of liver, pancreas, kidney, smooth muscles such as found in the wall of intestines, and the cells of the inner lining of blood vessels belong to this category. If a part of liver is removed, the liver can regenerate new liver cells and the resected liver regains its original size. 3. Permanent Cells – these cells do not have the ability to replicate and when injured or damaged are always replaced by connective tissue that results in loss of function. Neurons, skeletal muscle cells, and cardiac muscle cells belong to this type. The injury of neurons may cause paralysis. The injury of cardiac muscle cells may cause heart failure or cardiac arrest.
The human body’s ability to heal itself also depends upon the nature of the insult and the agent causing the injury. Several physical, chemical, and biological agents have a great potential to cause severe damage and result in structural and functional impairment of the body from which recovery is not possible. Wound healing and restoration of function represent a process critical to the practice of Surgery. Surgeons are able to provide curative and restorative services because of the human body’s natural ability to heal itself.
TYPES OF WOUND HEALING :
Wound Healing is the process in which a physical injury ( like a cut injury ) undergoes repair with restoration of intrinsic tissue strength and function and also with resistance to infection and other external influences. Wound Healing is affected by the type of the Wound. Clean, sterile wounds that are not at the risk of contamination by other body secretions from the gastrointestinal tract, the genitourinary tract, or the respiratory tract heal better. Infected wounds and contaminated wounds heal slowly. If a wound is suspected to be contaminated the wound is often left open to evaluate the problem and to control any infectious agent. There are three types of Wound Healing described.
1. Primary Intention or First Intention Wound Healing – Primary Union occurs when there has been little tissue damage, the wound is clean and is not contaminated by foreign matter, the wound is not infected, and the wound edges are closely approximated and are in proper contact. The edges of a wound should be approximated as early as possible after the injury. The surgical procedure known as Primary Wound Closure allows the wound to heal by First Intention. These wounds heal rapidly with minimal amount of scarring. A Surgeon while operating inflicts clean incised wounds and closes the wounds at the end of the surgical procedure. Nature takes over the process of Healing which proceeds in a timely fashion.
2. Second Intention Wound Healing – It will not be possible to close wounds immediately after an injury if the wound is large, and the two skin edges are not in contact; the wound contains a lot of dead tissue or foreign matter, or is infected. The wound could be intentionally left open until the surgeon could make it clean. Sometimes, the injured person arrives late after sustaining an injury. The time of injury is of critical importance in choosing a course of action for its healing. The surgical procedure known as Delayed or Secondary Closure brings about healing by Secondary Union. Apart from the delay in Wound Healing, the resulting scar tissue is also more extensive.
3. Third Intention Wound Healing – Sometimes, the wound is left open and is observed for several days because of low-grade bacterial contamination. Eventually, when the wound looks healthy and the wound edges are healthy, the Surgeon would close the wound allowing it to heal by Third Intention. Depending upon the amount of loss in skin surface, and the size of the wound, skin grafts may be needed for Wound Healing and the process is delayed until suitable graft material is procured and the grafting process concludes successfully.
Wound Healing is affected by several factors that affect human body. A healthy person recovers faster and better if he is injured. When the health is compromised, the recovery from the wounds would be unsatisfactory. Malnutrition, protein deficiency, iron deficiency, Vitamin-C ( Ascorbic acid ) deficiency, diseases of liver and kidneys delay the natural healing process. Conditions causing poor blood supply( Peripheral Arterial Disease ), diabetes, other severe systemic diseases and infections like Tuberculosis can affect wound healing. After Wound Healing, the tissue never regains its original strength that existed prior to the injury. An uncomplicated wound, six months after its healing has about 80 percent of its original strength. Most wounds continue to remodel for more than one year. First Intention healing would generally produce cosmetically acceptable scars. Some scars are unsightly with a raised surface but the scar lies entirely within the confines of the wound. These Hypertrophic scars eventually stabilize in about six months time and are amenable to further cosmetic surgical correction to improve the appearance and to restore the function of the affected body part. Scars known as ‘Keloids’ invade nearby normal tissue that was not previously involved in the wound. This type of scar continues to enlarge even after six months time and does not usually regress or soften. The Keloids cause cosmetic disfigurement which is not easily treatable. Time plays an important role in all the aspects of Wound Healing and Wound Management and exerts an unique influence of its own in the outcomes.
THE EXPERIENCE OF PAIN AND THE EXPRESSION OF GRIEF :
We seek help and medical attention for our physical injuries and wounds because of our ability to experience pain.The experience of the physical sensation of pain is of utmost importance in defending and in preserving human existence. If the neurological function of pain perception is blunted or impaired for any reason, the recovery from physical wounds would be delayed and the body sustains further physical damage. Pain is of utmost importance in Clinical Medicine, both for diagnosing an underlying medical condition, to watch the progress, and in treating the condition. The human body that can not express pain or experience pain is at a great risk of harming itself. Psychological insults and injuries also cause pain and grief. To experience mental pain or grief is a natural protective, and defensive mechanism. Such ability to perceive pain from psychological attacks and insults is important to preserve the integrity and existence of the entire organism. By expressing grief, body initiates the natural healing process. While physical wounds need to be closed to help them heal faster, psychological wounds need to be exposed to bring about their healing. Emotional pain and grief must not be concealed. By properly expressing mental grievances, mind gets a chance to purge the negative emotions generated by the psychological assault. The grievance must be reported to a friend, a relative, a therapist, a priest, or to the Law Enforcement and if no such avenue is available it must be submitted to the God the person believes. Psychological wounds when hidden, fail to heal.
Time exists even when there is no conscious entity with its awareness of past, present, and the future. Time exists not because of human memory of past events, awareness of present, and expectation of future. Time exerts an influence of its own which changes our perception of events and alters the course of consequences. A person with very good memory function would experience less pain with the passage of time after sustaining psychological trauma. The qualities of patience, tolerance, and forbearance increase our ability to withstand physical and mental pain. In the Sanskrit language, the qualities of patience, tolerance, and forbearance are described as ‘KSHAMA’. These qualities not only make the individual Stress Resistant and Resilient, they would also allow the Time’s Power of Healing to come into play. Indians seek the quality of KSHAMA to withstand the consequences of physical and psychological wounds and they believe in the concept of Time as a Healer of all Wounds.
THE DIVINE HEALING POWER OF TIME :
Human body exists with an ability to recognize its own wounds and initiates its well synchronized response almost simultaneously and this timely response could only be described as a Divine Gift, a gift which humans have no ability to invent on their own.
Please also view my blog post titled ‘Pain and Compassion – Philosophy of Medicine’
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.
IRATE MOTHER SQUIRREL ATTACKED A VISITING TEACHER ON UNIVERSITY CAMPUS :
The Ann Arbor News has reported this story about a mother squirrel’s angry attack. A 52-year-old Detroit Public School teacher was with a group of students touring the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor on Thursday, April 23. She had spotted some baby squirrels that were outside of their nest. The teacher had tried to alert the mother squirrel that was at a distance about a baby squirrel that was left behind. The mother squirrel could instantly recognize that the teacher was giving unwanted attention to her baby. The mother squirrel was instinctively aroused, turned on the teacher. The teacher tried to run away from the angry mother squirrel. She slipped and fell on the ground and injured her ankle. Seizing the opportunity, the mother squirrel bit the teacher on her leg. The teacher managed to escape and went to the Hospital Emergency for treatment.
PARENTAL CARE IS AN INSTINCTIVE BEHAVIOR :
Parental care is an aspect of social behavior exhibited by all animals. This is a complex unlearned or innate behavior that is influenced by heredity(genetic basis) as well as by experience. The study of behavior provides valuable information about relationships among animals. No animal is ever completely isolated from some kind of environment. Animals exhibit social behaviors and form parental societies to care for their offspring. This parental care/maternal instinctive behavior is highly organized amongst mammals. The young are part of the mother while growing inside the mother and are nourished before birth by the ‘placenta’ of the mother. After birth, the young still seek nourishment from the mother and suck or lap milk produced by the mammary glands of the mother. This ensures that there is a strong family association between mother and the offspring.
BEHAVIOR AND CONSCIOUSNESS :
The mother squirrel while displaying its maternal instinctive behavior has demonstrated that it is a ‘CONSCIOUS’ entity. Consciousness is defined as the state of being ‘conscious’ which has two components. 1. Being ‘conscious’ means being aware or recognizing the fact of one’s own existence. 2. Being ‘conscious’ also means being aware of our natural environment and it represents the state of knowing what goes on around one. Being conscious gives us the ability to interact with our environment and display an appropriate behavior. In higher animals this consciousness or awareness is also characterized by the presence of mental activity which includes an awareness of our own thoughts and emotions. A living entity is always conscious of its own existence. A living entity always exists in a state of consciousness. We identify a person as ‘UNCONSCIOUS‘ if the person is not spontaneously interacting with his environment. There are several medical conditions that alter and affect our state of consciousness. Several drugs and intoxicants such as alcohol and poisonous agents like carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide cause drowsiness, stupor, and various levels of semiconscious to deep unconsciousness. Consciousness is very important in evaluating people with head injuries and neurovascular accidents such as ‘stroke’. While a person is unconscious of his environment, he is still aware of his existence. This fact could be easily demonstrated by conducting tests. A living organism or a living cell responds when exposed to a stimulus. For example, an unconscious individual is evaluated by testing to see the response of the pupil of the eye which reacts by constriction of its size on exposure to a light beam.
CONSCIOUSNESS AND SURVIVAL :
An organism uses its awareness to survive in the environment. I could illustrate this by narrating my personal experience. While I was camping in the Himalayas, We were using the quarters left by the British while they ruled India. On a cold winter night, I was sleeping in a small room that was not heated, and the room had no fire-place or a chimney. However, I had used a coal burner to heat the room. The coal burns very slowly giving heat and it lasts for several hours and needs no attention. On that particular night, I did not recognize, the coal was of poor quality and it was not burning as expected and was giving away smoke. The door and the windows were shut, and the smoke started filling up the room. The smoke is lighter than the room air, and it slowly went up filling the room from top. While I was fully asleep in a dark room, unaware as to what was going on around me, I was suddenly alerted when I experienced ‘palpitation’, a consciousness of my heart’s rapid beating. I awoke, but still could not see the smoke in the dark room. I had evaluated my condition to understand my rapid heart rate. I was in good health and there was no reason to experience an increased heart rate. I had decided to investigate my problem and walked up to the door to turn the light switch on. The moment I had turned the light on, I could immediately see the smoke-filled room and the fresh, clear layer of room air was below my bed level. I immediately left the room to get fresh air from outside and saved my life. Many people are not that fortunate, and we read about entire families losing their lives while sleeping in rooms that are heated by improper burners. I was not conscious of what was going on around me while I was sleeping. However, my body was aware and conscious all the time. The chemical sensors in my body worked alright, they sent signals to my brain centers, which in turn sent signals to increase my heart rate to improve the oxygen delivery. It fortunately worked like an alarm for me. Very often, people become more drowsy, become fully unconscious, and lose life while asleep in smoke-filled rooms.
THE SQUIRREL IN THE STORY OF RAMAYANA :
Just like the mother squirrel in Ann Arbor which demonstrated its consciousness, in the epic poem of ‘RAMAYANA’, the awareness and the behavioral response of a squirrel is described. The story narrates the construction of what is popularly known as “SETHU” or a bridge across the sea from the southern shores of Indian peninsula to the island of LANKA. The squirrel was apparently conscious of its environment. It had observed the activities of thousands of monkeys throwing stones to build the ‘ADAM’S BRIDGE’, and recognized the presence of LORD Rama who had initiated the effort to build the bridge. The squirrel had volunteered to help and in its behavior it showed attributes of devoted service. The abilities of the squirrel are very small and yet it won the favor of the LORD and is blessed. The LORD is pleased with the squirrel’s conscious efforts to offer devoted service.
CONSCIOUSNESS AND ENERGY :
The living human entity or man is known as “NARA” in the Sanskrit language, and the superior energy is personified and is known by the name “NARAYANA”. The poem of ‘BHAGAVAD GITA'( The Divine Song) narrates the dialogue between ‘Nara’ known as prince ARJUNA and ‘Narayana’ known as LORD KRISHNA. The LORD describes the relationship between the human soul( ATMA) and the divine soul( PARAMATMA). In Chapter 7 which is called ‘PARAMAHAMSA VIJNANA YOGA'( The Knowledge of the Ultimate Truth), verse 5 describes the ‘energy’ relationships. The material nature which is composed of sky, earth, air , water, and fire are constituted of ‘inferior energy’ of the LORD. The superior energy of the LORD is manifested as the embodied soul of all living entities. This superior energy of the LORD which is in the living entities gives the ability to the living entities to exist in the world by exploiting the inferior material energy from nature.
THE ENERGY PROVIDER AND THE ENERGY SEEKER :
Humans like other living entities supports his existence by deriving energy from the environment. Living cells obtain nutrients such as sugars and use oxygen in their metabolism to generate energy to carry out their vital biological functions. The primary source of energy of all living entities on planet Earth is derived from Sun. The Sun provides energy by burning its hydrogen fuel. It is reasonable to assume that Sun has derived its energy from a higher source of energy or “Higher Power”. This is evidenced by the observation of stars in various stages of their natural cycles of birth , and death. We can observe the birth of stars, the stars that are existing for a long time, the dying stars, the spectacular supernovas, and the dead stars like the white dwarfs, and the brown dwarfs. Human consciousness brings us the awareness and sustains the connection between the energy provider and the energy seeker. We manifest our existence with this unique ability to gain energy from the environment. Just like the squirrel in the story of Ramayana, if we use our awareness, we will become ‘CONSCIOUS’ of LORD’s presence whose superior energy we manifest.
Please also view related blog post titled ‘I am consciousness, therefore I am’.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.
ONCE IN A ‘BLUE MOON‘ – WELCOME TO NEW YEAR :
In the United States, on New Year’s Eve, we had a ‘Blue Moon’ to ring in the Year 2010. As the saying goes, the Blue Moon is a rare event. In any given season, we encounter three Full Moons. Blue Moon is defined as the third Full Moon in a season with four Full Moons. It is also easy to define a Blue Moon as the second Full Moon in a given month. A Full Moon occurs every 29.5 days and most years have 12 Full Moons. An extra Full Moon in a month is described as a Blue Moon. The name has nothing to do with the color of our celestial neighbor. The first Full Moon of the month occurred on December 2nd. On Thursday, December 31, the New Year’s Eve, the Full Moon appeared for the second time. An extra Full Moon occurs every 2.5 years. New Year’s Eve Blue Moons are rarer occuring every 19 years. The last time was in 1990, and the next Full Moon comes on New Year’s Eve again in 2028.
While the United States ushered the New Year with a Blue Moon and in the Eastern Hemisphere, people celebrated the arrival of the New Year with a partial Lunar Eclipse when part of the Moon entered the Earth’s shadow. This Eclipse was not visible in the Americas. As to how we recognize the arrival of New Year depends upon the place where we live on this planet Earth. This New Year’s Blue Moon is unique to the place where we live.
THE PERCEPTION OF CHANGE :
The experience of time on this planet Earth is an illusionary experience and is not an ‘absolute’ experience. In New York City, at Times Square thousands of people gathered on the New Year’s Eve to watch the “Ball” drop to ring in the New Year.
The future does not exist except in our expectation. The expectation that the Ball would drop at a precise moment is the anticipated future. The future gets transformed into the past in an instant when the Ball drops down. The past does not exist except in our memory. The present represents that instant in the future and past continuum. The New Year has arrived at the middle of the night not because of a perceptible ‘Change’ in the environment. The ‘Change’ is recognized by the use of a clock and the Ball in Times Square drops by perceiving the ‘Change’ in the clock’s time. Time is perceived by the ‘Change’ it brings. Man has invented calendars and clocks to affix numbers to the passage of time. The most a clock can give is the time an instant ago and not even the time ‘now’.
In Indian Tradition, the New Year is associated with more perceptible changes in the physical environment. According to Indian calendars, the New Year arrives during the Spring Season, and the New Year’s Day is heralded by the dawn with the Sun rising above the horizon.
THE HISTORY OF TIME MEASUREMENT :
Earth’s rate of spin is the determinant of our day. The speed of the Earth’s rotation can be described in two ways: 1. The Angular or Omega Speed – the Earth rotates 360 degrees in 24 hours, or 15 degrees per hour, or 0.5 degrees of rotation in two minutes. 2. The Linear Speed or Velocity of a point on the surface of the Earth is about 1,000 miles/hour. A clock ( from the Latin Cloca – bell ) is an instrument for measuring time intervals of less than a day as opposed to a Calendar which measures time intervals greater than a day.
The day is measured in relation to the time taken for Earth’s rotation that causes perceptible environmental changes. Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens ushered us into the era of precision timekeeping. During 1884, Greenwich in England was adopted as the zero degree longitude. U.S. time zones came into existence in 1883, the global time zones came into use in 1884, and ‘daylight’ savings time came into use in 1915. However, the Earth is an erratic time keeper. The Earth’s rotation is affected by the tides, changing weather patterns, ocean currents, and polar ice variations. The net effect is that it is slowing, losing a few thousandths of a second per century. Half a billion years ago the planet took only 20 hours to make it through the day. In another 200 million years an Earth Day will last 25 hours. Man has acquired the ability to track the motion inside atomic nucleus. Picoseconds describe trillionths of a second, and Femtoseconds describe thousandths of a Picosecond. To give a better perspective, it could be stated that there are more Femtoseconds in one second than there were seconds in the past 31 million years.
The seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn and the phases of the Moon are used to measure the passage of time of a greater duration than a day. The Babylonians, and the Egyptians had used calendars. The Calendar developed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 is accurate to a day in every 3,323 years. The Calendar is related to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Earth’s orbit around the Sun takes about 365 1/4 days. Earth orbits the Sun at a distance of about 93 million miles. Earth travels a distance of about 584 million miles per year at about a speed of 66,660 miles/hour. The Moon rotates on its axis and revolves around the Earth in about 29.5 days and has helped man to devise the 30 day Lunar Calendar. Moon spins with the same period as its revolution around the Earth and hence the same face of the Moon always points towards the Earth.
HUMAN CONCEPTS ABOUT TIME :
We run our lives by numbers on Clocks and Calendars. The Clocks and Calendars create the illusion that we live in a world of mathematically measured segments of time. Man acquired advanced language abilities to descirbe the past in terms of personal experience. Because of linguistic skills, man is able to communicate his expectations about future and reminisce about past events. Time is lloked upon as a flow like a river.
Sir Issac Newton claims that the time “flows equably without relation to anything external.” In 1905, while postulating the Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein had observed that time is not absolute and that the measurement of time is affected by the motion of the observer.
The relativity of time becomes significant only at very great speeds. Rapidly moving clocks tick more slowly than clocks at rest. Herman Minkowski, a mathematician, added time as the fourth dimension of three dimensional space. Time is seen as a dimension like height, and width, and it gives meaning to events and the order in which they occur. Gravity affects both time and light. Time is affected by the gravitational field of each celestial body and thus is unique to any one spot in the universe. The physicists tend to view time and space as the building blocks of the universe. However, time is not a substance and it is only a measuring tool. Motion and time are invariably linked. There can be no velocity without the concept of time. While time is not absolute, the speed of light ( 186,282 miles/second ) is absolute. Now, we have the practical ability to actually look at past while living in the present. By looking at light reaching us from a far away Galaxy, or a Supernova, we are looking as it was billions of years ago.
THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK :
A biologist sees time in the ‘internal clocks’ that keep all living entities in sync with nature. The body’s dominant time cycle is called the ‘Circadian Rhythm’ ( Latin Circa – approximately; and Dies – day or About a Day ). For most of us a normal circadian cycle is 25 hours. A seven day week could be described as a unit of time for the biological rhythms that regulate changes in body chemicals, the response pattern of the immune system, the rise and fall of heart beat and changes in circualtion display this periodicity of functioning. Human body undergoes age related changes in structure and function with the passage of time and it is unrelated to man’s ability to measure time or man’s concepts about time. Aging is a time related biological phenomenon on which man has very little control. The biological clock measures time and the activity of genes is selectively turned on or off. Apart from cell damage due to the products of cell metabolism, effects of physical environment, and biological agents, cells experience senescence. We are predestined to exist as mortal individuals and the human body experiences changes in its structure and function even if we fail to keep track of the passage of time. Humans lack the biological and physiological abilities to transform our physical bodies into sources of perpetual enjoyment. Time has influence over both animate and inanimate world. Apart from human existence, the existence of this created universe is subject to time’s Power of Dissolution. The White Dwarfs, the Brown Dwarfs, the Super Novae offer observable evidence about the effects of time on physical objects and its power to cause change, transformation, and eventually dissolution.
WHERE ARE WE NOW ?
Where were we in the year 2009? Where would we exist in the year 2011? In the year 2010, where are we now? Our measurement of time gives the illusionary experience of the material world in which we exist. Our experience of time is illusionary as we do not know as to when time began and we do not know as to when it may cease to exist. Indian thinkers have described time or “KAALA” as eternal and time existed before creation, and would continue to exist after dissolution of creation. During this middle interval, after creation and before its dissolution, time exists in relation to motion. When there is no motion in absolute terms, there would be no time interval that could be measured, and the stillness arrests the flow of time. Since, time is related to movement, we need a reference point to know our exact position at any given instant. Our position on the surface of the Earth keeps changing as Earth participates in the motions of the Sun as a member of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Sun also revolves around the galactic center at a speed of about 155 miles/second and Earth participates in this motion along with the rest of the Solar System. We need to know the precise location of the Sun in the Milky Way Galaxy at any given time and also know the precise location of the Milky Way Galaxy in the universe in which it exists. Without this information, our experience and understanding of time remains purely a local experience relative to a spot in this universe of unknown dimensions.
LINEAR vs CIRCULAR TIME FLOW :
Is past, present, and future are arranged in a straight line? In the West, time is more often viewed as a one-way track. The “monochronic” perception about time in the West could be related to its cultural beliefs such as resurrection which gives a sense of the arrow of time pointing in one direction. In India, time is viewed as a circle and all things are expected to return to a former state of existence. In nature, the seasons repeat themselves, and the living entities follow this pattern of cyclical growth and regeneration. According to the Indian concept of ‘Samsara’, the individual soul is eternal but is trapped in a cyclical existence of birth, death, and rebirth. The Indian concept of ‘Karma’ also very firmly binds the individual soul to its past states of existence and the individual experiences the past in his present existence, and also in all of his future states of existence. The cyclical flow of time would let us experience the past and lets time to repeat itself.
TIME’S POWER OF DISSOLUTION :
Time exerts a powerful influence over the qualitative aspects of human existence. Whatever qualities or attributes such as material wealth, power, status, and social position that man cherishes and desires most could be dissolved and rendered useless by the effects of time. Indian thinker Adi Shankaracharya has cautioned people to be aware of the powerful force of Illusion called ‘MAYA’ and we are asked to avoid the perceptual problems it generates. Since the manifested world and universe gives illusory experience, we need to be careful about the effects of time that tends to dissolve the manifested universe at an individual level and also as a collective human sensory experience. A philosopher had observed that:”Time is the Best Teacher, unfortunately, it kills all its pupils.” Humans have no choice. Time alters our ability to perceive the sensory experience and enjoyment of our physical body. Time with its Power of Dissolution would eventually compel us to investigate and to explore the Concept of Absolute and Unchanging Reality. The Strong Nuclear Force, the Weak Nuclear Force, Electromagnetism, and the Gravitational Force operate the Four Fundamental Interactions and the role of time has not been explained by physicists. Natural scientist Charles Darwin had observed that things in nature change with time. Does time exert a force entirely of its own to change things in nature? If time is viewed as a power or a force, who controls this force and what are the Laws that operate this Force? Indian thinkers are of the opinion that Purusha ( the Divine Soul ), Prakriti ( the material Nature ), and Kaala or Time are eternal and these three entities existed before formation of this created universe, will operate during the existence of this created universe, and eventually remain existing after the total dissolution of the present created universe. The flow of time is eternal, but time is not absolute. Purusha or the Supreme Divine Soul is the ultimate Controller of Energy in all of its forms. The Power of Time to dissolve the creation has no effect on the Creator. All the living entities are created by the Superior Energy of the Supreme Divine Soul, and the individual souls have the ability to exploit energy of an inferior source such as Prakriti ( material Nature ). The physical body experiences dissolution as per a predetermined time ( Kaala Sutra ), and the individual souls alone survive the dissolution of animate and inanimate world and universe.
ESSENCE AND EXISTENCE :
Everything that is born arrives with a plan for its dissolution. In the multicellular human organism, each individual cell has its life span and the human individual has his life span. How is the existence of the individual is established in a multicellular organism? Man may choose to define his essence, and the cells need to function to support the existence of the individual. Man’s identity is just one face of the coin, and the second face of the same coin represents the individuality of that person. Man exists as long as the individuality is maintained. Man is not capable of independent existence. The individuality is sustained because of ‘God Connection’; the Connection that connects the individual who is energy seeker with his energy provider. Man’s intellectual or physical effort is not the basis for this God Connection. As time flows, man lives his life span because of the mercy, compassion, and grace of the Creator, who had caused the existence of this object that has identity and individuality.
Please view related blog post titled ‘The Perception of Reality-Maya is a Fundamental Force’
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.
‘A MILLION HAPPY LANDINGS’ – A LONG AVIATION CAREER :
Captain. R. R. Rao, Aviation Consultant, SKYCARE Aviation Society ( India ) as a pilot, General Secretary of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, a Manager, and as a Flight Instructor, won the hearts of several thousands of pilots, colleagues, and students. His dedication for aviation and his constant drive to improve safety of flight will forever remain his greatest contribution to all pilots and the flying public.
A PSALM OF LIFE :
“Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.”
( Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882 )
‘THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM’ – AN ENCOUNTER WITH REALITY AND AN ILLUSION :
During the academic year of 1958-1959, at about ten years of age, I was a 9th Grade ( IV FORM ) student at Danavaipeta Municipal High School, Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India. Amongst other subjects, I was studying Physics and the Laws of Physics that operate in the physical world. One day, myself, and a few of my classmates saw a small airplane circling in the sky over Rajahmundry. At that time, we had no Airport in Rajahmundry. The airfield at Madhurapudi had one runway and had no terminal building. It is located 8 miles away from Danavaipeta. Myself, and my friends had spontaneously decided to physically see this aircraft and had walked all the way to the airfield under the hot Sun. Fortunately, the plane had returned and we found it parked on the runway. We found the pilot relaxing under the shade of the plane. Captain. R. R. Rao, my uncle was that pilot. As far as my memory goes, that was my very first time I was meeting him during my life and it was also the last time that I had met him during my life. During that brief and purely chance encounter, he had asked me to climb into the cockpit and had guided me in checking the instrument panels, operate the wing flaps and the tail while explaining a few basic aspects about flying a plane. Apart from this reality of meeting my pilot uncle at Madhurapudi airfield, I had also witnessed for the first time in my life the illusionary phenomenon known as Mirage. Rajahmundry gets very hot but we do not get the right atmospheric conditions to actually witness a highway or a hot road Mirage. I had learned about it in my Science class but the actual sensory experience of this illusion in the natural world is really memorable.
THE PERCEPTION OF PHYSICAL WORLD :
Human perception is the process and experience of gaining sensory information about objects and events of the natural world. The process of perception translates sensory stimulation into organized experience. That mental impression or percept is the joint product of the stimulation and of the process which involves the intuitive and rational parts of the brain. However, a real, physical world exists independent of man’s experience. A real, physical world has existed long before man’s arrival and man’s physical interaction with the elements of nature. The branches of Physics concerned with electromagnetic energy, optics, and mechanics describe the apparent physical world. When physical energy such as light interacts with the perceiving individual, percepts are formed. The degree of correspondence between percepts and the physical objects or events to which they relate also depends upon certain other external factors beyond human control. There could be a difference between Real World and the ‘Perceived World’. Sometimes, man perceives physical objects or events that may not exist in reality, and yet other times man fails to perceive physical objects or events that may actually exist and the manner in which they really exist. These perceptual problems are not attributable to the sense organs and are not due to inadequate sensory endowment. Apart from the basic Four Fundamental Forces that operate this physical world, there is another Fundamental Force that alters or transforms human perception. The Force of Gravitation gives the man the ability to experience his body weight and like all other objects in the environment, man exists on the face of Earth according to the Laws of Motion and the influence of Gravitation.
FLYING AND PERCEPTUAL APPRECIATION OF REALITY :
Flying demands an acute awareness of the physical world. Man interacts with his physical environment using his sense organs of vision, hearing, touch, and smell. To move effectively, we must perceive our own movements to balance ourselves. The eye is by far the most effective organ for sensing. Movement detectors exist in the human brain. The vestibular organs in the inner ears provide us with the sense of balance and equilibrium apart from other kinesthetic sensations from muscles, tendons, and joints. A visual field containing familiar objects provides a stable framework against which relative motion may be judged. For purposes of path recognition and navigation while flying in air, the pilot requires reliable perception of the vertical and horizontal dimensions. Preservation of perceptual constancy for the vertical and horizontal dimensions during the flight are based on the parallel activity of vision and the vestibular sense of balance or equilibrium. Even in flying small aircraft it has been shown that the pilot becomes disoriented unless he preserves visual control of the horizontal dimension. The movement of an airplane produces centrifugal and centripetal forces, particularly as the plane tilts or changes direction, which easily mislead a person’s vestibular( balance ) receptors. For this reason, in high-altitude flying the horizontal line of the surface of the Earth is simulated for the pilot by an optical display unit. When an aircraft takes off to begin the flight, and when it returns to land at the end of the flight, the perception of depth and distance are of critical importance. The perception of depth and distance depends on information transmitted through various sense organs. Sensory cues indicate the distance at which objects in the environment are located from the perceiving individual. Man has the ability to differentiate his own body from the surrounding environment. Man has the ability to perceive his own movement, and also the movement of other objects in his physical environment. But, man has no sensory perception of the reality of the movement of his earthly home in space. Man only recognizes relative motion of objects in his visual field. Just recall the illusion that your train is moving, when in reality, it is really the moving train along that is seen through the window; and the moving train on the adjoining track is falsely accepted as the visual frame of reference.
PERCEPTUAL CONSISTENCY AND CONSTANCY :
Spatial perception tends to ensure that a person experiences the continually changing circumstances of the environment in which he moves and lives with some degree of stability or constancy. Some degree of selectivity in perception is required for the survival of the individual. The individual gradually learns about the significance of observable ( empirical ) spatial cues. There is a well-known apparent difference in the size of the moon when it is at the horizon and when it is fully risen. The horizon moon, though it is actually further away from the observer, looks larger than it does when it is high in the sky and closer. The retinal images in the eye of the high moon and the horizon moon are about the same, but the perceived size of the moon differs grossly. Indian thinkers have always asserted that ‘TRUTH’ and ‘REALITY’ have the qualities of consistency and constancy and hence are not subject to sensory perceptions which tend to vary because of external influences.
THE NATURE OF ILLUSIONS :
Perceptions accord more often with object’s properties than with the sensory stimulation. Perceptual constancies cause one to perceive the world more correctly than would be expected from sensory stimulation. Illusions are perceptions where perception accords neither with how the sensory receptors are stimulated nor with the characteristics of the objects themselves. Illusions are pervasive phenomena. Such experiences have been regularly and consistently reported by virtually everyone. Illusions are defined as special perceptual experiences in which information arising from “real” external stimuli leads to an incorrect perception or false impression.An illusion is not a simple error in perception. Illusions have features whose nature it is to evoke an incorrect perception. Illusions describe subjective perceptual experience that contradicts objective reality. Some of these false impressions arise from factors beyond an individual’s control. Bending or refraction is a property of light rays. We seek light energy for its ability to provide a realistic experience. When the illumination is insufficient, such as in a dark room, a rope could be misinterpreted as a snake(“Rajju Sarpa Bhranti”). The moment the room is illuminated with light, the darkness is gone, and the misconception is destroyed. Indian traditions encourage individuals to avoid the products or results of an illusionary experience. A rational individual would not chase a mirage to find water. When we use sensitive instruments, we take care to avoid optical errors while recording our observations. Any impression that contradicts the ‘facts of reality’, or fails to report the ‘true’ character of an object or an event should be discarded. The apparent daily motion of the Sun and stars across the sky is an illusion that we experience all through our existence. This illusion is not caused by any of the Four Fundamental Forces that operate in the universe. Gravitation is the universal force of attraction that affects all matter and it could explain the consistency of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Gravitation is not the force that is mediating the mechanism that gives us alternating periods of darkness and light while the reality of Sun is different.
MAYA IS A FUNDAMENTAL FORCE :
The most important motion of the Earth is its rotation or spinning on an axis. This is the motion that gives us the experience of alternating days and nights while in reality, the Sun shines brightly all the time.The speed of the earth’s rotation can be described in two ways, the angular speed and the linear speed( of a point on the surface of the Earth). The angular or Omega speed of Earth is 0.00007272 radians per second or about 0.5 degrees of rotation in two minutes. The Linear speed or the Linear velocity on the surface of the Earth is 0.278 miles per second or about 1,000 miles per hour. It is surprisingly a very fast motion. While it spins on its axis, the Earth orbits the Sun at a speed of 18.6 miles per second( 30 Kms/Second ). On an average, Earth travels about 66,660 miles per hour and in a year Earth travels about 584 million miles. Earth also partakes of the Sun’s motion as a member of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Sun revolves around the galactic center at a speed of about 155 miles per second( 250 Kms/Second ). We exist upon this planet Earth with no sensory perception of the physical motions of the Earth.We exist in a universe without knowing the reality of our physical movement and position in a system that is constantly in motion. However, the periodicity of man’s earthly existence depends upon Earth’s spin. Man’s fundamental biological functions are synchronized with the rhythmic phases of environmental changes caused by Earth’s rotation. Apart from ‘Sleep-Wakefulness’ Cycles, man seems to be unable to live without some concept of time. Through conditioning to time, and by way of biological rhythms ( Diurnal Rhythm, Solar Rhythm, or Circadian Rhythm), human physiology provides a biological clock that offers points of reference for temporal orientation. The biological clock induces age related changes. As long as Earth is spinning, it would cause both environmental changes as well as physical changes in our bodies. Since, we do not have the ability to stop the Force/Power/Energy that is causing the rotational spin, we are encouraged to dissociate our sense of ‘Identity’ with our physical body which is subject to physical changes such as old age and death. To perceive is to become aware of a stimulation in the present. The present is only a point along the continuum of becoming an instant when future is transformed into past. As the Earth is constantly spinning beyond man’s control, the instant known as ‘present’ gets transformed into ‘past’. Indian tradition claims that ‘ reality’ could not be an experience of past, present, or future. Reality has to exist in a state that is unchanging and eternal. A Fundamental Force that moves the Earth and contributes to this spin governs man’s earthly existence. Man is virtually ruled and dominated by this Force/Power/Energy which causes the rotation of Earth on its axis. No other planet that we know today exhibits an Earth like spin. The length of day and night is totally different on planet Venus. One day on planet Venus is equal to 243 Earth days. Moon spins with the same speed as it revolves around the Earth, one face always points towards the Earth. The Moon rotates on its axis and revolves around the Earth in 27 1/3 days. Because of the rotation and revolution speed being the same, man never sees the dark side of the Moon. Man celebrates ‘Full Moon’ Days when in reality Moon is never fully lit. Man marks his Lunar Calendar with important events with his limited knowledge about the waxing and waning phases of Moon. Man is literally trapped to exist upon Earth and live in accordance with the changes it brings while it is spinning. These are the trappings of the Fundamental Force which I would like to describe as “MAYA” which provides the man with an illusionary sensory experience of Sunrise and Sunset. The physical world is real. Sun is a real object. Darkness and Light are actual, real visual experiences. But, Sunrise and Sunset, in reality are not actual events in man’s life and existence. The reality of man, the reality of man’s identity does not belong to the material realm where man perceives the physical world in which he exists. “Maya” is also described as “AVIDYA” which contributes to ignorance and it would not let man gain true knowledge of his identity. Man gains true knowledge when he gets away from the trappings of Maya and recognizes that there is no dawn or dusk and he has the same identity of that Light described as “PARAM JYOTI” which shines with constancy and consistency and is the Ultimate Reality.
The only Force/Power/Energy which can help man to overcome “AVIDYA”, the Force that causes the Illusion of Sunrise and Sunset, is the Force that I have described before as “KRUPA”( Krupa – A Force to Preserve Human Existence, published on August 10, 2009). I have described the importance of Gravitational Force in my post titled ‘Earthly Existence – Enjoy the Fragrance’ published on November 20, 2008. Man should realize that he is not the perceiver. He is not the organ of perception. What has been perceived does not describe his true identity or the ‘Real World’. Since its time of origin, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Sun, and Earth have existed in a state of motion. The universe is still expanding, the Galaxies are moving apart and we do not know our precise location in this ever-changing universe. As long as man is attached to his physical body, man would experience the changes in his environment and also in his body that causes old age and death. He need to illuminate his mind with a light that illuminates the three planes of human existence, the physical, the mental, and the causal or spiritual dimensions in a constant and consistent manner.
The personality of Rama had an earthly existence. The name of Rama is identified as Eternal Truth. His name is associated with the power to destroy the Force of illusion that causes old age and death.
Jayatu, Jayatu Mantram, Janma saaphalya Mantram,
Janana marana chheda klesha vichheda Mantram,
Sakala nigama Mantram, sarva saastraika mantram,
Raghupati nija Mantram, Raama Raameti Mantram.
Please view related blog post titled ‘The Ushering of the New Year – The Perception of Change’
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.
EAST AND WEST – WHAT SETS US APART IN LEARNING AND CREATIVE WRITING?
Besides food, in the East, particularly in India, we tend to use visual images and use imaginary personalities with individualistic characteristics to engage in all kinds of human effort and activity. In the field of Education, we use the images and the characteristics associated with the following personalities :
Lord Shiva, the God of Learning insists that we should seek the ability to think for ourselves. Learning commences after the student respectfully submits to Him and states that he is ready and prepared for Learning. In Sanskrit language the student makes his submission to Lord Shiva : ” OM, NamaH Shivaya, Siddham NamaH.” An attitude of humility, and a willingness to accept personal responsibility and being mentally prepared before any Learning instruction is imparted are the first steps for Learning to begin. In my view, Lord Shiva presides over the frontal area( Prefrontal Cortex) of the human brain which is the seat of intellectual thoughts.
Sarasvati is the Goddess of Wisdom and Perfect Knowledge. Learning is not about the mere exposure of a student to new information. Learning involves the process of assimilation of new information and an ability to analyze that information, and to formulate an opinion based upon that information. The student should be able to express that information in his speech and prove that he had imbibed the information in a critical manner. Sarasvati is also the Goddess of Speech or “Vaak” and controls the Speech Center or Area of the brain known as Broca’s Area. She banishes mental lethargy, mental laziness which impedes the ability to learn new information. She removes the mental barriers, the mental fences that we erect which disrupt ‘mental fluidity’, the fluid dynamics required for smooth flow of mental impulses between different areas of the brain involved in Learning and Speech.
Lord Ganesha is the Mentor of Learning. Learning is a complicated process. At individual level, it needs neuro-muscular coordination and at an external level it needs the removal of all distractions that interfere with the process of Learning. Ganesha removes all obstacles that could prevent the student from his pursuit of Learning.
Apart from the three personalities, the student can choose an image of his choice to specifically draw inspiration while he travels on the path of Learning. The personality of Lord Rama alone had inspired thousands of Indians to express their devotion to Him in creative and distinctive ways.In the Indian Tradition, the ‘GURU’ or the teacher has a very unique position and is elevated to the status of the Divine Trinity represented by Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Protector), and Shiva (the Restorer).
George Bernard Shaw apart from being a great playwright, was an influential music and drama critic, a superb essayist, and a penetrating analyst of virtually every important aspect of Western culture. The adjective ‘Shavian’ describes anything resembling his distinctive ideas or personality. Shaw rejected orthodoxy to become an atheist and a Darwinist, and moved through radical anarchism, Marxism to Socialism. He had finally arrived at Creative Evolution which viewed life as a whole and over an infinite time span. I could use his image to inspire myself while I indulge in expressing my thoughts, but I cannot draw any inspiration from his distinctive ideas and use them as a basis for my writing.
THE CREATIVE WRITING CLASS AT PIONEER HIGH SCHOOL, ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN :
Jeff Kass is a teacher of Creative Writing at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor and he also teaches at the Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He teaches four sections of Creative Writing per day and over 110 students attend his classes to learn Creative Writing at Pioneer High School. He had included a quotation from the playwright George Bernard Shaw in the hand-out for his class and had designated the quotation as the Mission Statement for what his students will be doing throughout the semester. The quote is as follows: ” I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.” Jeff Kass has further instructed his students : “I want you to be thoroughly used up. I want you to feel like you gave this class everything you possibly could and you have nothing left.” He drew the analogy of a boating crew, the athletes who compete in boating races. These athletes at the end of the race are very physically exhausted, they manage to hobble across the dock without an ounce of energy left in their bodies. Jeff Kass has stated that his Creative Writing Class students may experience a figurative death at the end of their semester as they are thoroughly used up.
CREATIVE WRITING AND MENTAL FLUIDITY :
Creative Writing should not demand any kind of strenuous effort and particularly should not result in mental strain. Firstly, writing needs neuromuscular coordination but it is not viewed as a physical effort. What makes an individual ‘creative’ is his ability to think for himself. An individual may need the necessary language skills to express his thoughts; he needs information about the subject of his thoughts, and his mind actually experiences a sense of profound relief when the thoughts find an outlet in the form of written expression. It is like the sense of relief a pregnant woman experiences after delivering the baby she had conceived before. A mind, full of thoughts is often compared to the state of pregnancy. The act of delivery is the ultimate Joy and the painful contractions of delivery are instantly forgotten and the face of the mother reflects a glow of happiness. I would expect to see such glow of happiness when the students leave the Creative Writing Class. Creative Writing should not be like that of a boat rowing race and it should rather represent the act of gently rowing the boat down the stream and the act of rowing should give a sense of Joy as expressed in the following popular nursery rhyme :
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a Dream.
A Creative Writer never dies as he always lives through the thoughts that he had expressed in his Writing.
INDIVIDUALISM AND CREATIVITY :
We come into existence as individuals. We are created as persons with qualities and characteristics that set us apart from others. Our personal identity relates to the condition of being an individual or different from others. The students of the Creative Writing class should be able to describe their ‘Individuality’. For Creative Writing, the individual need to express his original, distinctive ideas, the ideas that set him apart from the ideas expressed by other individuals. The ‘Individuality’ is not related to the individual’s skin color, hair color,or the glasses the individual may wear. The ‘Individuality’ exists in the thoughts and which when expressed in words speak about the ‘Creativity’ of the individual. The students of the Creative writing class should seek to exist as individuals, capable of thinking for themselves, form their own opinions, and express their own distinctive ideas. The Class should provide tools to students to express their ‘Individualism’.
CREATIVE WRITING : INDIVIDUALISTIC RHYTHM vs GROUP DANCE :
Jeff Kass encourages his students to perform a ‘Group Dance’ to encourage them to share their thoughts with the ‘Group’ and getting connected to them.The individual always exists in an environment. For Creative Writing, the individual need to get connected to his ‘Inner self’, set himself apart from the social group to which he may belong. His concern should not be about the ‘Group’. His concern should be to focus on his own thoughts about everything else. What he thinks about the ‘Group’ is more relevant than being part of the ‘Group’. Creative Writing is not like the ‘Group Dance’ and it describes the ‘Individualistic Rhythm’. Lord Krishna in the above illustration is seen dancing with a Group of maidens known as Gopis. He appears before each of His dancing partner as a DIFFERENT individual. He uses His Creative Energy to perform His Individualistic Rhythm. Creativity gives us the ability to express individualistic variation and define our Identity in thought and action.
“REFLECTIONS” – CREATIVE WRITING CLASS AT PIONEER HIGH SCHOOL :
The Creative Writing Class has started with an incomplete quote from playwright George Bernard Shaw. The quote should read as follows :”I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.” This is GBS’s view about the purpose of his human life and existence and hence the quote cannot be used to inspire students learning the Art of Creative Writing. For Creative Writing, the individual must first recognize his individuality, define his identity and purpose, and get connected to his ‘inner self’ before paying attention to the social community or “GROUP”. This flawed ‘Mission Statement’ is now getting expressed in the ‘Reflections’ of the students. Two of the students of this Class had used a homophobic word in written assignments submitted to the teacher. Sexuality describes our attitude about human sexual relationships. A Creative Writer should first learn to express his/her ideas about his/her own gender. The same applies to issues such as race, religion, or ethnicity. The Creative Writer must be given the tools to express ideas and thoughts that explain his/her gender, race, ethnicity, physical or anthropometric identity, and purpose in life before venturing to express opinions about relationships with others. The student should first recognize the difference between an ‘idea’ and an ‘opinion’. The Class should aim at expressing ‘ideas’ and not upon voicing ‘opinions’. By including the ‘opinion’ of GBS in the ‘Mission Statement’, the students are given the wrong impression that their purpose is that of expressing ‘opinions’. If I am a male, my own personal awareness of my gender is more important than expressing that gender identity in the context of homophobia. A Creative Writer needs to express unique, and distinctive ideas and such ideas would arise only if he/she understands his/her own self.
A TEACHABLE MOMENT TO THE TEACHERS : CREATIVE WRITING AT PIONEER HIGH SCHOOL :
In the last three weeks, the teacher at Pioneer High School has publicly disclosed verbal or written statements of his Creative Writing Class students without giving them a prior warning. It would be appropriate to disclose to the students that their statements would be publicly disclosed and would be openly debated by the rest of the Community. A physician who may have seen or diagnosed the pregnancy of the teen in the Creative Writing Class would not have divulged that information to others. A priest who may hear confessional statements of his parishioners would not disclose them to the rest of the congregation. I wonder if there is a confidentiality clause in the teacher-pupil relationship. At a minimum, the students should be aware of the blog postings of their teacher and the public discussion. It is relevant as the teacher has not set boundaries to the freedom of speech in the context of his lesson plans. The homophobic word or expression in the written assignments rendered by two students should be evaluated for its academic merit. It appears that the students who used the words have not yet acquired narrative skills. The word ‘idea’ in the context of Creative Writing could be defined as something one thinks, a thought, mental conception, or image. Students should be encouraged to visualize their ideas and then describe their mental pictures or images. The ‘reflective’ statements with the homophobic word lack this quality; a clear description of a mental image or picture and from an academic point of view, a creative idea is not described or stated. The word ‘opinion’ is defined as a mental conviction, a belief, an evaluation, impression, estimation, or judgment of the quality or worth of a person or thing; a conclusion affected by one’s personal manner of looking at things. The homophobic word qualifies as an ‘opinion’ and if it is used as an ‘idea’, the mental concept or image is poorly narrated. Creative Writing demands that the writer should project his mental concepts in a vivid manner and a reader should be able to visualize that ‘idea’ described by the author. It is a teachable moment to the teachers as the incident reveals the pitfalls of inadequate instruction.
RELATED BLOG POST :
Set your Mind Free – Let Sarasvati Flow .
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.
THE LAW OF KARMA AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO FATE OR DESTINY :
The Sanskrit word ‘KARMA’ describes the totality of a person’s actions in any one of the successive states of that person’s existence. The ‘Law of Karma’ governs all action and its inevitable consequences on the doer. The ‘Law of Karma’ determines the consequences on the doer not only during the course of his current existence but also during the course of the next successive states of future existence. In whichever manner an individual chooses to act, the action may have been predetermined by his past Karma. In this sense, Karma could be described as the rootcause of any action or event. The word FATE or DESTINY is described in Sanskrit language as ‘DAIVAM’,’BHAAGYAM’, ‘NIYATI’, and ‘VIDHI’. Fate or Destiny is the Power or Divine Agency that determines the outcome of events before they actually occur. Fate or Destiny determines what happens or has happened to a person during his past, present, or future existence. Very often, people are confused about the relationship between the concept of Karma and the concept of ‘Daivam’, or ‘Vidhi’ which is popularly described as Fate or Destiny. People very often invoke the concept of Fate or Destiny to explain only when something inexplicable and unexpected happens in one’s life. The belief in a Supreme Being and the belief in God as the ‘Prime Cause’, and the concept of God’s Will are slightly different from the concept of the Power represented by Fate or Destiny. God will not contrive the actions of an individual for His own benefit. God has the intrinsic ability to execute His own Plans. It is the individual’s Karma ( from present and past stages of existence ) that determines his Fate or Destiny in the next and subsequent stages of existence. The Power or Agency of Fate or Destiny is not operated by the individual but by a Divine Strategy. The individual has no control on the Divine Strategy. A person can exercise control over his own actions but cannot modify the manner in which the consequences for his actions manifest. The consequences for the actions in one’s own life may manifest at an unknown time, in an unexpected manner strictly according to the Divine Strategy, the Power or Agency that administers Fate or Destiny. Karma literally writes the Fate or Destiny of an individual and yet they may not be used as synonyms. However, it would be correct to attribute any inexplicable event to the doings of Karma or Fate/Destiny. Because of this deep-rooted belief in the inevitability of consequences on the doer, the Land of Bharat or India is identified as ‘Karma Kshetra’ or ‘Karma Bhumi’ where the ‘Law of Karma’ is enforced upon all living and non-living entities. Since most living entities are dependent upon Sun for their biological existence, the Sun God or Lord Surya is also known as ‘Karma Saakshi’ which means that Sun is a Witness to all of our activities( Karma) during our physical existence. In the ‘AfterLife’, if an individual has to be punished for his actions, a divine entity known as Lord Yama or ‘KARMAKAR’ imposes punishment strictly according to Karma. The idea or concept of Karma is firmly associated with the idea or concept of ‘SAMSARA’ and the belief that a living entity has existed in the past, and would continue to exist in the future and death is viewed as a transition from one stage of existence to the next.
THE ATTRIBUTES OF KARMA :
Karma encompasses all actions performed by the organs of Karma known as ‘Karma Indriya’. These are identified as hands, legs, feet, speech( Vaak), ‘Paayuvu’, and ‘Upastha’. The last two describe bodily functions associated with excretion and reproduction. In the West also there are stringent laws to protect people from offensive behavior. Lewd public behavior is prohibited by law. Karma describes a variety of activities. It includes occupational duties and work, rituals and ceremonies particularly in the context of death and mourning, the rituals of sacrifice such as ‘Havan’ or ‘Yajna’, the interest paid on a loan or debt, the struggle or effort to safeguard existence ( ‘YATANA’ ), the good deeds ( ‘PUNYA’ ), and also the sinful activities ( ‘ Paapa’ ). An individual is expected to exercise control on his ‘Organs of Karma’ and this attitude of self-restraint is described as ‘Indriya Nigraha’. An individual has no foreknowledge of his own Fate/Destiny and the only manner by which he may shape the future events is by choosing appropriate Karma according to the ‘Laws of Right Conduct’ described in Sanskrit language as ‘DHARMA’.
THE MECHANISMS OF KARMA :
Karma operates like a Bank Account. An individual entity comes into existence with a Credit Balance of Karma known as ‘SA BEEJA KARMA’. This Credit Balance represents the Account Balance that is carried Forward from the individual’s previous existence. An individual’s physical existence may end with death, and the Karma Account would not be permanently closed and the Balance is carried Forward and represents the Beginning Balance with which an individual begins a new journey in the cycle of Life-Death-and Life. Whenever, an individual actually experiences the consequences of his past Karma, the Karma that is withdrawn from the Karma Bank Account is called as ‘PRARABDHA KARMA’. The individual actually tastes the Fruits of this Karma and hence it is also known as ‘KARMA PHAL’. The taste of the Fruit depends upon the nature of Karma that is being consumed by the individual.The experience of Prarabdha Karma has direct consequences as it afflicts the human body in its present state of existence. Individual has no choice in matters concerning this Withdrawal. Individual cannot control the Amount of Withdrawal, the Time of Withdrawal and the effects of the Withdrawal. The Authority which administers the Bank Account makes all the decisions in the manner a Karma Account is operated. The individual during the course of his existence would be continuously replenishing his Karma Bank Account. This Credit Balance in the Karma Account is known as ‘AGAMI KARMA’. This Balance is not yet Withdrawn and is held in store until such time the individual gets a chance to experience its Fruits. Agami Karma represents an individual’s Pre Destination of which the individual has no foreknowledge. It is not exactly ordained by God. It is only operated by a Strategy which chooses its own Plan to deliver this Agami Karma to the individual from his own Credit Balance. When the Karma Bank Account’s Balance becomes ‘ZERO’, the individual is promptly released from its shackles and entanglements. Such Liberated individual Entity would gain his total independence from the Cycle of Life-Death- and Life. The Purpose of Life and Human Existence is ultimately that of eliminating the Balance in the Karma Bank Account and a Zero Balance is the Goal to be obtained. The idea of ‘Liberation'( Moksha ) or Salvation is unlike a reward or punishment and should not be confused with the concept of ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’. Liberation requires that there should be no ‘credit’ ( positive Karma ), or ‘debit’ ( negative Karma ) Balance in the Karma Bank Account.
It may not be easy to empty the Karma Bank Account as the individual could only make deposits into his Account and the Account is withdrawn under a Plan operated by Daivam. Adi Shankaracharya had described the True Identity of SELF and Self-Knowledge is the key to obtain ‘RELEASE’ or ‘VIMOCHAN’ or ‘MUKTI’ from the entanglements of Karma. He had asserted that the Five Organs of Karma known as Vaak(organs of Speech ), Paanee( Hands ), Paada( Feet ), Upastha( organs of reproduction ), and Paayuu( organ of excretion ) would “NOT” describe his True Identity.
WHO CAN OPPOSE DESTINY ?
Who can resist Fate ? The epic poem of Ramayana very explicitly states that human entities are ‘WEAK’ ( ‘DURBALA’ ) and should not attempt to challenge or fight against Fate/Destiny. Since it is the work of Divine Strategy, we need to humble ourselves, exhibit an attitude of humility, and seek Divine Compassion or Mercy to deal with the doings of Fate. In the story of Ramayana all the central characters willingly submit themselves to the Power of ‘DAIVAM’, the Agency that operates Fate/Destiny. To illustrate this point of view, I shall quote from Valmiki Ramayana, Book VI, Yuddha Kanda – The Book of War, Chapter(Sarga) 113, verses 30 to 47. It describes the scene after the killing of King Ravana of Lanka who had earlier abducted Princess Seetha and held her captive in a grove known as ‘Ashoka Vana’. Prince Rama dispatches Hanuman to give Princess Seetha the message about His victory in the War. After having delivered the message, Hanuman seeks the permission of Princess Seetha to kill the notorious female-demons, the servant-maids of King Ravana who were frightening her during her prolonged captivity. In her response to Hanuman, Princess Seetha claimed that the servant-maids were only acting in obedience to the orders of their King and hence should not be targeted with anger. She had also further explained that she was only reaping the consequences of her misfortunes on an account of misdeed she may have committed in the past and stated that ” The Fruits of one’s own making is indeed experienced in one’s life.” In verse number 42, Princess Seetha asks Hanuman to refrain from talking in that manner ( about angry retaliation ) and instructed Him; ” This indeed is a great Divine Strategy. It was ordained that this type of situation( her captivity ) is to be obtained by Me, due to the application of Fate. Feeble as I am in these matters ( about counteracting the Power of Fate ), I shall grant protection from retaliation to the servant-maids of Ravana here.”
MaivaM vada Mahaabaaho Daivii hye Shaa paraa gatiH,
PraaptavyaM tu dashaa yog Anmayaitaditi nishchitam
Daasiinaam Raavanaasya aham marShayaami iha durbalaa.
Mahaabaaho=O’ the Great Armed( Hanuman), maa vada= do not speak, evam=like this, eshaa= this, paraa hi= it is indeed great, Daivii gatiH= Divine Strategy, Nishchitam= it was decided, iti=that, idam= this situation, praaptavyam=is to be obtained, ma yaa= by me, durbalaa= feeble, aham=(as) I am, marshayaami=giving protection from retaliation,daasiinaam= the servant-maids, Raavanaasya= of Ravana, iha=here.
It is very interesting to note that Princess Seetha had specifically chosen the phrase “Mahaa baaho” to glorify the physical prowess of Hanuman. He had merely asked for Her permission to punish the female demons and it is absolutely clear that no physical effort is truly required on Her part to execute that punishment. And yet, She claimed that She would not consider punishing the servant-maids just because of Her own physical weakness. In saying so, She is actually suggesting to Hanuman that He must also consider Himself to be physically feeble and should not engage in any action with an intention to counteract the doings of Fate. Princess Seetha has delivered a clear message to all living entities and reminded all of us to realize the ineffectiveness of our physical abilities and the Superiority of the Divine Power which governs Fate/Destiny. In her concluding remarks, Princess Seetha has further instructed that it is incorrect to respond to evil with evil. No evil is to be done, even to those cruel persons of sinful deeds, who take pleasure to harm others and continue to perpetrate their sinful acts. Kindness is to be shown by a noble person either towards a sinner or to a virtuous person or even to a person who deserves death, for , there is none who never commits a wrong. Virtuous persons value good conduct as an ornament. A Superior person does not take into account the sin of those who have committed an offense or a transgression.
The epic poem of Ramayana firmly establishes the concept of Karma and the inescapable consequences of Karma and the role played by Daivam, the Divine Power which is manifested as Fate/Destiny and supports an attitude of humility and submission to the Divine Strategy.
THE SECULAR ASPECTS OF INDIAN IDENTITY :
The ideas and concepts that originated in the Land of Bharat or India are secular. None of the concepts demand that the individual must worship any particular God. While embracing these ideas and concepts, Indians are free to worship a God of their own choice. Apart from a Divine Entity, Indians are free to choose a living entity or even a physical entity for an act of Worship and Devotion. The ideas or concepts of Karma, Fate/Destiny, Satya (Truth), Dharma ( Right Conduct), Samsara, Mukti, Moksha(Liberation) are not attached to any particular God. The ideas of Karma and Fate/Destiny do not demand absolute Faith in a particular God. The idea of Karma describes the activities of an individual and its consequences upon the individual. God is not involved in this idea. The idea of Fate/Destiny involves an unknown Supernatural Power or Agency and the Strategy used by this Agency. God does not contrive or conspire to cause an unfortunate event. In the epic poem of Ramayana,Prince Rama and Princess Seetha being reincarnations of Vishnu and Lakshmi, had arrived upon planet Earth for their earthly existence without any Credit Balance of Karma and the mechanisms of Karma were not responsible for unfortunate incidents in their lives. They had behaved and acted like ordinary mortals and hence we should not be surprised by Princess Seetha’s remarks about any misdeed She may have committed in Her prior life as an explanation for the sufferings She had endured. The entire Story was set into motion by a Divine Strategy and the principal players were not directly aware of that Strategy which would unfold in their lives with direct physical consequences. Ordinary mortals would be better off by contemplating upon their misdeeds and seek redemption and obtain protection from the Energy/Power/Force of Mercy, Grace, and Compassion described as ‘KRUPA’.
The idea of Karma helps us to accept a sense of personal responsibility for any action that we perform, shapes our attitudes, controls our behavior, and strengthens our character.
Please also view the related blog post titled ‘East and West – The Idea of Forgiveness’
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.