Monday, March 26, 2012

And the stars warned me what was at work this week ....

Okay, it was all there in the astro readings that I was likely to be misunderstood this week and there is no doubt that happened.

I have so often thought of the phrase, 'divided by a common language' when having conversations with people from other countries and cultures and never more so than when communication is via the internet where we do not have recourse to all the senses to help us decipher language and neither do we have, in the main, personal knowledge of the individual which helps us to assess more accurately that which was said.

But one of the good things about the internet is that it encourages communication, despite the mistakes, misunderstandings and mishandling of words which are offered. At the end of the day one of the Four Agreements, a wonderful little book by Don Miguel Ruiz - 'do not take anything personally' returns to mind once more as good advice. People so often take things personally, or read into general comments, something personal which then offends.

I found myself in a discussion about India with an American of Indian descent. She says she is American and yet it is clear, sees herself as Indian and took my comments about India to be a personal insult. I suspect that what happened is that she has grown up in the US which remains in very many ways a racist culture, where people tend to live and marry within their own group, far more so than in many other developed nations. The racism is albeit subtle and hidden but prevalent all the same and her visceral response to what I said is, I suspect, sourced in her own anger and woundedness.

Not that I am going to attempt to 'go there,' but it is  a truth for me anyway that powerful reactions are always sourced in our own Self, our own experience, our own wounds and too easily projected onto the perceived 'source' of the pain. And I have seen enough of Indian culture to know that assimilation is something generally avoided.  I know the Chinese do the same sort of thing - the 'separation' from the wider community being sourced both in a sense of one's own superiority and also in a fear of rejection by the greater society.

It is not particular to any group or any religion but is a common factor in minority groups of all kinds; some more so than others and some more so in some cultures than in others.  I think there is greater acceptance and assimilation both in Britain and Australia than there is in the US - but that is of course just my perception.  Religion makes it all much worse. Hinduism, or Jainism, like Judaism  is strongly opposed to 'marrying out' and while of course there are exceptions to the rule, the pressure is so great that more often than not when emigrants marry, they do so within their own community, thereby continuing the isolation and often, the sense of victimhood and 'otherness' which permeates the culture.

I used to say when I lived there that India was at its best: in a photo, on television, at night or in a book. Those who have links to India, whether through birth or parents or grandparents have the ability to indulge in an India of their choice; all expatriates do this to lesser and greater degrees.

Anyone who feels a strong connection to somewhere else, for whatever reason, is likely to be less than rational about its reality. The Irish diaspora for instance did great harm to Ireland because of their fantasies, funding and supporting the violence which traumatised that country; as do the followers of Judaism in their support of the country founded in the name of their religion, Israel and the Indian diaspora is, I am sure, no different.

In many ways it is a reminder that 'dual nationality' is a disasterous concept, whether the 'nationality' be literal or metaphorical. How easy it is to sit safely in some other country and fantasise about the one which has been 'left behind.' But then it has always been harder for people to lose their dreams than their realities.

Am I unfair on India? Hmmm, possibly, but I am also realistic and believe in calling a 'spade a spade.' Having lived around the world I still see Indian culture as the most cruelly misogynistic and racist of any I have experienced. The misogyny and racism are entrenched in the religion for Hinduism teaches both that being born a woman means you were evil in your last life and the blacker your skin means you were evil in your last life.

Is it a reminder to 'not say' some things? I don't think so. There is a reality to India and there is a fantasy and never the twain shall meet. I suspect for many people, Indians and visitors alike, the only way to survive the horrors is to wallow in the fantasy; seeing with clear, sure eyes in places like India is painful if not traumatic.

I remember thinking when I lived there that of course I could do the 'spiritual thing' which so many people did and look upon the ghastly misery and injustice around me as 'their karma or the life they had chosen - which is the Indian Hindu view - or see within the horrors, the humanity and spirituality of all; perceive beauty in children picking through rotting waste; child beggars with suppurating wounds kept open by their pimps and parents to encourage the givers to part with more money out of pity; women sitting grief-stricken with a girl child in their arms as their husband and his family chastise them for their failing....

Horror is not particular to India but I have seen far more of them on that continent than in Africa and Africa does horror extremely well itself. The difference is that in Africa the horrors arise more out of war than anything whereas in India they are entrenched, if not enshrined in the culture and the religion.

But at the end of the day we all see the world through our own eyes and perception is all. Our discussion went like this:

In response to a comment I made about my time in India I got:

Your comments about India made me feel like I must respond. I was born and raised in Chicago, and consider myself American, but I love India and consider it a vital part of my heritage and identity. I felt sad reading your mostly negative comments about India. To me, it is an amazing place, full of spiritual treasures. Have you visited any of the holy places in India? They are so spiritually charged after centuries of deep meditative practices. They are profound gifts to humanity, these holy places, I can slip into meditation effortlessly there, just like discarding a skin, and entering into another more vibrant reality. Some of my favorite places in India are Tarakeshwar, Vrindaban, Rishikesh, Aarti at Haridwar, Arunachalam (Ramana Maharshi’s ashram), so many of the temples in Tiruchappalli. There are so many places that I still want to go to. I am so grateful to the spiritual practitioners who have created these energy fields for us to heal and forge a deeper connection to our inner teacher.

    What I love about Indian culture:

    1) family is the first priority

    2) simplicity of life, "Live simply so that others may simply live." Gandhi

    3) the embrace of yoga/meditation in a certain segment of the population, spirituality as the foundation of life, creating reverence in daily life, embracing the divinity in all beings

    4) respect for the elderly

    5) acceptance of aging and death

    6) the rich, spiritual, cultural traditions of music, dance, art, literature philosophy

    7) the honesty, rawness of life there


    What I don't like about Indian culture

    1) fatalism

    2) caste, racism

    3) sexism, submissive role of women, women being valued only for their beauty and how they serve their families, subject to patriarchy

    4) corrupt politics, corrupt police, lazy bureacracy, disorganization

    5) comfort with oppression and extreme poverty, the cheapness of life there


    When I was in India three years ago, one of the swamis I knew passed away. We went to view his body and it was nothing like the sanitized version of events I had ever seen in America. His body was on some blocks of ice, and the ice was melting and there was a trail of blood flowing in the melting ice. It was shocking to me, to see his non-chemically treated body for view with his blood flowing. So different than the viewings I had witnessed in America. We went to his cremation and heard a pop, when his skull exploded from the pressure. Everything is more raw and visceral in India. It challenges you, makes you wake up from the dream, and decide what you want to do with your life.


And I replied:

    I spent more than four years living in India and I feel that living there is quite different to visiting. I observed, I read, I researched and I pondered and what I found was that while there may well be a tradition of spirituality that Indian culture is more religious than spiritual. I studied Hinduism and Buddhism when I was there and found, as in all religions, spiritual gems hidden amongst a great deal of misogyny and prejudice.

    It was the scale of cruelty I observed which perhaps outweighed the glimpses of the spiritual. We had a lot of Indian friends and I got to know many of them, the women anyway, quite intimately. Intimately enough to know that Indians are as cruel to each other within family as anyone else and possibly more so because of the entrenched beliefs in the inferiority if not evil of women.
    I read a great deal of Indian history, fiction, contemporary cultural studies and if anything was overwhelming it was that India is a place which allows, if not encourages, people to create their own sense of what they think India is - as opposed to how it really is. I was full of admiration however for the openness and honesty of the Indian press which never shirked from publishing the raw and often brutal truth of India and Indian culture.

    I was interested in your comments about what you love about India and would say this - in my country family is also the first priority and Indians like to believe that they care more about family when in fact what they do is consider family comes first in terms of the needs of any others. I was also often told that the fact that extended generations live together is a sign that they care more. It wasn't and it isn't. They live together because they have no choice. In the First World people have a choice and many people choose to live independently: however, in my experience in Australia of friends and family, it is common for family to choose to keep parents at home if they can even with their being a choice.

    As to simplicity of life - my experience in India was the same as my experience in Africa - they want what we want. They live simply because they have no choice.

    I do believe yoga is one of the best things to come out of India along with Ayurvedic medicine but my experience of Indians - across the castes and the classes - was that there was ritual and religion and rules but not necessarily respect for the reverence of life. If there were such respect they would not and could not treat servants and animals as they do; nor discriminate as they do against women and lower castes. I found greater respect for life in the First World than I have ever found in either India or Africa.

As to respect for the elderly, I got to know too many Indian women too well to believe this is a reality. Indians treat the elderly as badly as anyone in private.

I would agree with you on acceptance of aging and death but this is also a part of the teaching in Hindusim and Jainism (I knew a lot of Jains) - and again, it also fits with a culture that in the main has very little choice about anything. Women most of all. Indian families remain patriarchal and all power rests with the man who is head of the family - it always seemed to me this was a waste of intelligence and ability but it was the way it was and is even amongst some of the most educated and most travelled.

And yes India has rich spiritual traditions of music, dance, art and literature just like other nations.  Sadly however the great bulk of Indians remain illiterate and poor and have no access to it. And interestingly it was in fact the British who 'gave' much of this tradition back to ordinary Indians through translations of Sanskrit. It was also the British who 'saved' much of India's archeological history and added to it.

And while I found life raw in India I would not say it is 'honest' - no more so than any other Third World country where poverty is endemic. I think what I found hard too was that India is not a poor country - it is a wealthy country - with a great deal of poor people. Millions living on the streets and India has a space programme, a nuclear weapons programme and an ever-growing military. I stepped over enough corpses and past enough lepers to question the priorities and the spirituality of India -

    Yes, I visited temples but I also went to orphanages - the red light areas - the slums and I saw how people with education, money and intelligence treated those they considered beneath them.

    I think why it shocked me more than most is that it was my first experience of the Third World - and I came from one of the most egalitarian countries in the world. I was surrounded by so much human misery it was almost overwhelming -

    India certainly taught me things but I don't think it woke me up to anything other than the capacity of human beings for inhumanity to each other and the capacity for human beings to live in indescribable filth. Far worse than Africa. We lived in Bombay but I travelled in India as well and could only wish it clean and just.

    Beyond the horrors I was fond of it - it was one of my homes - but it saddened me and still does to see how most Indians live and in all truth, that reality far outweighs any spirituality at least to my mind. It was however one of the most interesting and insightful experiences of my life and all I could think was that if Indians ever woke up there would be revolution. No-one should have to be born, live and die on the street as so many do in that country where most of the world's gold is stacked away underneath millions of beds.
We all perceive in our own way and our reality is ours to choose. You have cultural links which are important to you and which are important but I don't think it does India or Indians any favours to not see the reality of so much of life for so many. I am a great defender of the underdog and perhaps that is why India pressed my 'justice' button so hard.
    And my experience of Americans, Canadians, Europeans and the British is that family comes first in the sense of caring and support as much as it does in any culture. The difference is in those cultures people get to choose and in the Indias and Africas they have no choice.
    And I do think it makes an enormous difference to live in a country for years as opposed to visiting. We always said that anyone with a 'ticket in their pocket' could make of India whatever they wanted for however long they were there. And I suspect that applies to all First Worlders in the Third World.

And in reply:

"If you look for the bad in people, you will surely find it."

I acknowledged the negative parts of Indian culture that you mentioned in my original post. I am not blind to India's flaws, and also want to help remediate them. I do not think it does any service to anyone to deny what is beautiful and great in the world (and in India). Just because gold is mixed with dirt, doesn't make it any less gold. I feel that it is vitally important to seek and appreciate what is beautiful and that gives you strength, resilience and courage to work to address the suffering in the world. Just because you are angry about something doesn't mean you have to negate everything that is beautiful about it. Everything in this world has light and shadow, including you and me.

So I responded:

I could not agree more that we see what we expect to see but my awareness of that reality was with me before I went to India and I was very conscious during the time that I lived there of the importance of maintaining balance.

    I did not go to India looking for bad. My natural instinct is always to look for the best in people and situations.  By the time I went to live there we had had some very dear Indian friends for quite some years (and still have them) and I always approach things with an open mind. It was the daily confrontation of the reality which made it very, very difficult to find 'gold' although I have no doubt that as with any culture, of course there is gold to be found.

    I also believe and have for some time, 'that which we condemn in others is that which we deny in ourselves' and so I used my experience in India (as I use all experiences) to gain deeper and greater understanding of myself.

    I have a deep sense of justice and yes, I can see that reflected astrologically, so perhaps injustice is harder for me to ignore than it is for others. I pondered then and still do, what it was that made India impact so powerfully because I have been in many places where injustice reigns and I do have insight into that.

    I do not negate everything beautiful about India: I think what frustrated me was that there was and is so much richness that it was a pity there was so much that was quite simply wrong and ugly. And yes, I too can stand at the bottom of a pile of rotting waste and watch children picking through it and separate myself enough to see a 'spirituality' to it; but that makes it neither right nor just let alone the way the world should be.

    And the other difference I found is that it was the way in India, so often, with Indians and visitors alike, to pretend that the spiritual outweighed the suffering; that things were not as bad as they were - to deny in fact the terrible reality with which so many lived and still live. African culture on the other hand does not deny, nor pretend, nor try to counter-balance the enormous bad with a lesser amount of good and perhaps that says that African culture suits me better because it is more open, more honest and less hypocritical.

    Living from a spiritual perspective is very much a part of who I am and how I see the world and it just seemed to me that the 'spirituality' in India was an excuse for not righting wrongs, although there are, a few brave, wise, decent and determined people who fight for justice. And in truth, I could not see how a culture could be spiritual and yet live with, maintain and even encourage such injustices.

    So we really were at odds. And I do not negate all that is beautiful - I simply see it differently to you and I saw the darker side to many, not all, but many of those things you see in Indian culture which you love. If I responded passionately it is because so many of those things you cite were things Indians said to me time and again when I lived there - despite the fact that evidence to the contrary stared all of us in the face.

    So I am sorry if I have offended you. My experience is my experience but I say what I say having spent, as you would agree, a long time both living in and experiencing, the country in question. It seemed to me and still does that India suffers more and longer than it should because of the many fantasies which so many people weave about it. It is only when we face the truth that we can bring about change. There are two India's - one of reality and one of fantasy and I take the side of those who live the reality, and who will only be free when the fantasy is pushed into second place.

    And yes, everything in this world does have light and shadow and in the best of worlds there is equable balance - India's shadow is deep, dark and diminishes the light. I wish it were other.

And in response to a comment I made to another poster, talking about a daughter giving birth to a daughter where I wrote:

….you can be grateful not to be Indian where I have seen the nicest, kindest, wisest, most educated and well travelled of men, literally mourn the birth of a grand-daughter.

I received the following:
    Ros, I wanted to tell you that this comment struck me as racist. There is a difference between relating your opinions of a country in which you have lived for four years vs. telling someone "you can be grateful not to be Indian." I would hope that in this community we can conduct our communications with mutual respect and kindness. This comment is disrespectful, unkind and racist.

    I have worked in inner city Philadelphia treating children who have been abused in ways worse than you can imagine. Should I tell a middle class Indian child in a happy home that you should be glad you're not American?

To which I replied:

 I am sorry you have taken this completely out of context. Nothing I have said is racist by any definition of the term. It is a statement of fact given how women are seen in India. I made the comment I did as a reminder of how far women still have to go in so much of the world and the tragedy one sees in India, a place I know well, because of the belief in the inferiority of women. I could equally have said China but I have not lived there, I have only read about it. And I could also have said Saudi Arabia or some other fundamentalist Muslim countries but I have not lived there either.

    My personal experience is of India, hence my comment. And no, in African culture they do not grieve the birth of a daughter as many do in India, despite the fact that African culture is also highly sexist.

    Racism is when you condemn an entire people because of their race or their religion or their culture. I don't. I merely make the valid point that you are better not to be born a woman in India because of the cultural beliefs. By the way, this was something more than one of my Indian friends said to me, often as we sat in the kitchen eating dinner while the men sat in the dining room. I was often allowed to eat with the men because I was considered an exception as they could not be.

    I would also add you are better not to be born a woman in Saudi Arabia or in Africa because of cultural beliefs. To be born a woman in the First World is fortunate compared to the lot of women in the Third.

    You take the comment completely out of context. This is a racist comment: All Indians are misogynistic. This is not a racist comment: Misogyny is prevalent in Indian culture. This is a racist comment: All Americans are gun crazy. This is not a racist comment. Americans have the highest levels of gun ownership in the developed world - if not the world.

    The analogy of the abused child does not work because child abuse is not particular to any culture although it is more prevalent in the Third World. As another example it would be racist to say parents in Third World cultures do not care about their children as much as those in First world cultures. It would not be racist to say that parents in Third World cultures are often not able to provide their children with the same quality of care as many parents can in the First World because of poverty and social class.

    I would also make the point that you started this conversation in response to a small comment I made to someone else. I merely replied to your comments, which were sourced in your experience, with comments sourced in mine.

    By the way I am not the least offended, just sorry that you have taken offence from my words. I am a fairly straight talker and don't mind in the least if people make negative comments either about my country or my culture nor, as in your case, a culture or country which is a part of my ancestry. It's a good idea not to take things personally. What India is for you is valid for you and what India was for me is valid for me.

I would just add that what is seen as racist in one country or culture is not in another. My experience of the US is that there is a more heightened sense of 'political correctness' - no doubt because of the history of racial conflict - than one finds in Australia or even the UK and NZ.

    My experience of the US is that people are super-sensitive to anything they perceive as 'racism' in a way many other cultures are not.

    I think as part of an international community we have to give others the benefit of the doubt. We not only may not understand the others culture, we are limited by internet communication which does not allow the valuable insight provided by the senses - nor do we have the relationship which allows us to properly understand the person. However, that is something which does develop even here over time.

    As an example, I have absolutely no problem with the fact that my grandfather was known as Nigger Ross, because of his dark skin from a Greek father. And neither did he. He was proud of the cricket trophy given to him in the 1930's with the name Nigger Ross emblazoned across it and so am I. However, I do have some negative views of the aspects of Greek culture which my father unfortunately inherited - along with the Baptist and Jewish, and there are shreds I could tear off my own country and culture - but I won't go into them here.

    I merely make the comment to show that critical opinion of a culture, race or religion does not make one racist. And something can only be 'disrespectful, unkind or racist' if that was what was intended and it most certainly was not. As others who have 'known' me longer will attest, I am not short of an opinion and neither do I 'mince my words,' but I write only ever in an attempt to widen communication and stimulate thought.

    I only ever condemn the act, not the individual and certainly not the race, creed or sex. I hope I have clarified my position. I am sincerely sorry you are upset but this was never my intention and it is not something I can fix; it was not meant personally and if you choose to take it so then there is nothing I can do about it, however much I may wish there were.

And in response:

This is a racist comment: All Indians are misogynistic. This is not a racist comment: Misogyny is prevalent in Indian culture.

Ros, can you not understand that by saying the below you are implying all Indian men are misogynistic:

“And I can only think, after being reminded of India in my conversation with Kani that you can be grateful not to be Indian where I have seen the nicest, kindest, wisest, most educated and well travelled of men, literally mourn the birth of a grand-daughter.”

If that were the case, why would my father, husband, and uncles absolutely dote on my beautiful daughters? Why would I, my mother, and many of my aunts be doctors and between us have helped thousands of people? Not all Indians are misogynistic. There are many feminists and activists among us.

What also bothers me, Ros, is your lack of humility. You think by living four years in a country, you can say things like “you can be grateful not to be Indian.” India has existed for 5000 years and has 1.22 billion people, there are huge regional diversities. It is absurd to claim such authority after living there for only four years. 

Saying misogyny is prevalent in Indian culture does not imply all Indian men are misogynistic. It states that misogyny is prevalent in the culture. Which it is.

I can say misogyny is prevalent in Christianity, which it is, or Judaism, or Hinduism, or Islam and even Buddhism, but that does not imply that all Christian (Jewish, etc.) men are misogynistic. Apart from which the presence of misogyny in a culture or a religion applies to women as well as men.

I really do think we are at cross-purposes here no doubt for many reasons but I shall try to explain to you what I was saying:

you can be grateful not to be Indian - this comment was made in the context of the posts I had made in regard to my experience of India - the post about daughters represented a 'connection' with those posts...

where I have seen the nicest, kindest, wisest, most educated and well travelled of men, literally mourn the birth of a grand-daughter.” ...This comment represents actual experiences I had and the emphais here is on nice, kind, wise, educated, travelled men (a dear friend actually) who literally mourned when his grand-daughters were born.

This shocked me and yet, at the same time, in observing his reaction I could only feel deep compassion for his plight and his suffering and question the religion and the culture which prevented most men and women (of course there are always exceptions) from rejoicing in the birth of a child, regardless of its sex.

You said: If that were the case, why would my father, husband, and uncles absolutely dote on my beautiful daughters?

Because the 'case' you perceive was not the case I made. I would make the point that you are American and I am presuming your husband is American and possibly also your father and uncles and I was and have been talking always about my experience of India.

You are also 'running with a ball' which was never thrown. Grieving the birth of a daughter does not actually prevent Indian men LIVING IN INDIA FROM enjoying and doting on daughters and grand-daughters; it simply means that they do not have the joy at the moment of birth which most others have.

I never said all Indians are misogynistic. I said misogyny is prevalent in the culture and the religions - Hinduism, Jainism and Islam being the main ones - actually it is also prevalent in the Parsees, and Christianity is the same - and it is. Of course there are feminists and activists and I knew quite a few when I lived there and admired them greatly.

I would say that you keep using the word 'us' when what I have been talking about is my experience of India and you have already said you are American. I am not talking about YOU as someone who has Indian ancestry but who is not Indian but who is American, I am talking about my experience of INDIAN CULTURE IN INDIA. I would like to make that very clear. A lot of your misunderstanding seems sourced in you making the general - personal.

I don't know what you mean by a lack of humility. I made comments sourced in my experience; I am not sure which bit is meant to be humble or in fact what humility or humble means to you.

as to the comment which seems to upset you - let me put it this way - first of all you have to assess it in context! The comment was made in regard to the plight of women which in India remains one of the worst in the world. Few Indian women - that is Indian women living in India - would deny this.

India may well has existed for 5,000 years but so what. Egypt has existed for longer and so too has China - it doesn't mean anything. China also has 1.2billion people - again, so what? The state of women in China is also bad with females aborted or killed at birth as in India - I am not sure what point you seek to make.

And I claim no authority to speak on the matter except as I made very clear at the outset - I lived there for more than four years and I travelled and I researched and I read and I observed. Of course there are regional diversities - more between the south and the north than anything and of course places like Assam are not really Indian and should not be Indian but should be Burmese but then India was in fact created by the British who cobbled together dozens of small kingdoms when they took control of the country. But that is a historical digression and not the point here.
No, I am not an authority on India but I probably know more about it than many.

I could equally ask the source of your opinions and whether they are drawn from living in India for as many years.

And in reply:

Ros to clarify several of the points I made earlier:
1)      India is a very diverse country with a long history and an enormous population. It is impossible to make broad generalizations about India. For example, Kerala is a southern Indian state with a matrilineal system (e.g., land ownership passes from mother to daughter), women have more rights than men there, Kerala’s literacy rate is 94%.
2)      Your making such broad generalizations about India after living there only four years is absurd. I don’t think any of us are qualified to make such broad generalizations about India.
3)      My grandfathers, fathers, uncles, cousins were born and raised in India and they were very happy to have daughters and love my daughters. They educated their daughters as physicians, engineers, computer programmers, teachers, etc.
4)      To say that “you can be grateful not to be Indian,” is unkind and disrespectful. Do you hear the difference in tone between:
You can be grateful not to be Indian
I have sympathy for the misogyny Indian women face.

You are the moderator of this group. I would think part of your responsibility is to be welcoming to any person who wishes to participate. How do you think a potential Indian, Saudi-Arabian or Muslim member would feel after reading your recent posts? Do you think this would be a place they would feel comfortable sharing their poetry when it is clear the moderator feels their background is so inferior?

You asked what I meant by humility. I mean not to make arrogant claims about your cultural superiority, to claim other cultures are inferior, not to presume more than you know.
I mean to be kind, to be considerate, to choose your words carefully.
My profession rests on the premise that words can heal. You are very gifted with words, Ros. I hope you will choose healing words versus shaming ones.

I think we can agree to disagree on this one. I made general comments about Indians living in India based on my personal experience and extensive reading. You took those comments to apply to all Indians and all those with Indian ancestry living anywhere in the world including yourself; in other words you took what I said out of context.

My broad generalisations as you refer to them are acknowledged fact about Hinduism in general and Indian culture (In India) in particular. Yes, I know about Kerala and the matrilineal situation - the South historically was matrilineal - and yes, owing to the influence of Christianity (which also proves my point about Hinduism - there is a high literaracy rate.

I think anyone who lives anywhere is entitled to an opinion particularly when that opinion is substantiated in fact by people who live there. If you have not researched the situation of women in India perhaps you might do so.

There is nothing surprising about the men in your family welcoming daughters - there is no doubt some Indian men and women do - but the majority do not. That is also a reality.

As to my comment, which you repeat out of context again, in regard to 'fortune' or lack of it where one is born - I made the point the same thing could be said about many Muslim countries and about China but my experience was India, hence my reference was to India. 'I have sympathy for the misogyny Indian women face' did not fit the comment I made, in the context it was made and is not another version of what I did say - you having printed here a truncated version of it.

And I am not the moderator of this group - no-one is. I am simply, for the sake of convenience an administrator - nuts and bolts. We are a group of people who gather together to share writing and thoughts and there is no moderator and I don't think anyone would want to see one.

How do I think potential Indian, Muslim or Saudi Arabians would feel reading my posts? Absolutely fine if they are aware of the reality of the limitations women face in their religions and cultures as I suspect any woman appearing here would be - because it signifies she has both the wealth and the time and the language skills, therefore an education, to participate. I know my friends in India would not have a problem with anything I said given that they would say similar things themselves.

And I believe if you go back through what I said and read it carefully you will not find the word inferior and nor will you find it termed with culture. What I said was, that the lot of women in India is amongst the worst in the world given the levels of misogyny and sexism in the culture and the religion.

And I have never stated cultural superiority for my country so once again, you are misquoting. Although there is no doubt cultures which welcome babies of either sex would be considered more enlightened by me and by you. My words may have triggered a sense of shame but they are not shaming words - they are words of truth, unfortunately as anyone who lives in India or who researches it knows. I look forward to the day it changes.

As an American with Indian ancestry you have taken it upon yourself to defend India, a country in which you do not live and probably have never lived while others who are members and who do live in India have made no comment. That is your choice and I repeat yet again, I am sorry that you have taken offence but it was never meant and you clearly have neither understood nor taken in context what I did say.

Let's agree to disagree. However, in regard to India, given your passion I am sure there is much you can do to help. You might start by reading Disappearing Daughters: The Tragedy of Female Foeticide, by Gita Aravamudan. There is no doubt the women of India need all the help they can get.... which was the core point I was trying to make. 

Friday, March 23, 2012


I tend to take a lot of things seriously, and I know I take too many things too seriously too much of the time but the angels, helpers, guides who hover around me often lead me where I need to be.

Today it was to a book of which I had not heard but do plan to read, called Pronoia is the antidote for Paranoia and it had me laughing heartily.

Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, Revised and Expanded: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings [Paperback]

Rob Brezsny (Author)

PRONOIA (or Pronoea) was an Okeanid nymph of Mount Parnassos in Phokis (central Greece). She was the wife of the Titan Prometheus and, as her name suggests, the goddess of foresight. Prometheus' wife was also named Hesione and Asia.

Pronoia was closely identified with the goddess Athena who, according to several ancient writers, was worshipped as Athena Pronoia at Delphoi. As an Okeanid she also resembles Athena's mother Metis.

Athena has always been a favourite of mine, sitting as she does, by the side of my Virgo Sun, with Saturn on the other side - how perfect paranoia and pronoia - why did I not know that?

There is so much misery in the world, there really is and we do need an antidote to it. laughter is the best antidote of all and yet within the humour there is such truth in Brezsny's book - spiritual truth which we forget even in the instant that we remember.

And in that synchronicitous way of things it followed upon a long conversation with someone who is convinced there is a plot to control the world; something I have studied and read about for some years and something which, given the nature of human beings and the nature of this material world and our spiritual reality, I simply do not and cannot believe.

But there are many people who are convinced the world is 'going to hell in a basket,' ignoring, or perhaps remaining ignorant of the facts of history which clearly show that at this point in time more people live with greater freedom and a better quality of life than have ever done before! That is a fact. But misery and fear and foreboding remain a constant.

How hard it is for us to hold to the best of things and the beauty of this world and this life; even in the depths of the darkest parts of it.

I have printed out some excerpts which I intend to read daily to counter the constant instants of forgetting which sucks the joy from life and I doubt that Brezsny would mind me sharing them - I have bought his book after all.

And it is with laughter and a lightheartedness that I share - responding to his cause celebre, that we need to remember that life is a wonderful adventure, created for us and created by us.

DEFINITION: Pronoia is the antidote for paranoia. It's the understanding that the universe is fundamentally friendly. It's a mode of training your senses and intellect so you're able to perceive the fact that life always gives you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

OBJECTIVE OF PRONOIA: To explore the secrets of becoming a wildly disciplined, fiercely tender, ironically sincere, scrupulously curious, aggressively sensitive, blasphemously reverent, lyrically logical, lustfully compassionate Master of Rowdy Bliss.

HYPOTHESES: Evil is boring. Cynicism is idiotic. Fear is a bad habit. Despair is lazy. Joy is fascinating. Love is an act of heroic genius. Pleasure is your birthright. Receptivity is a superpower.

PROCEDURE: Act as if the universe is a prodigious miracle created for your amusement and illumination. Assume that secret helpers are working behind the scenes to assist you in turning into the gorgeous masterpiece you were born to be. Join the conspiracy to shower all of creation with blessings.

GUIDING QUESTION: "The secret of life," said sculptor Henry Moore to poet Donald Hall, "is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is -- it must be something you cannot possibly do." What is that task for you?

UNDIGNIFIED MEDITATIONS TO KEEP YOU HONEST: Brag about what you can't do and don't have. Confess profound secrets to people who aren't particularly interested. Pray for the success of your enemies while you're making love. Change your name every day for a thousand days.

MYTHIC ROLE MODELS: Prometheus and Pronoia. In Greek mythology, Pronoia was the consort of Prometheus, the divine rebel who pilfered a glowing coal from his fellow gods so that he could slip the gift of fire to humans.

TOP-SECRET ALLIES: Sacred janitors, benevolent pranksters, apathy debunkers, lyrical logicians, ethical outlaws, aspiring masters of curiosity, homeless millionaires, humble megalomaniacs, hedonistic midwives, lunatic saints, sly optimists, mystical scientists, dissident bodhisattvas, macho feminists, and socialist libertarians who possess inside information about the big bang.

DAILY PRACTICE: Push hard to get better, become smarter, grow your devotion to the truth, fuel your commitment to beauty, refine your emotional intelligence, hone your dreams, negotiate with your shadow, cure your ignorance, shed your pettiness, heighten your drive to look for the best in people, and soften your heart -- even as you always accept yourself for exactly who you are with all of your so-called imperfections.

POSSIBLE REWARDS: You will be able to claim the rewards promised you at the beginning of time -- not just any old beauty, wisdom, goodness, love, freedom, and justice, but rather: exhilarating beauty that incites you to be true to yourself; crazy wisdom that immunizes you against the temptation to believe your ideals are ultimate truths; outrageous goodness that inspires you to experiment with irrepressible empathy; generous freedom that keeps you alert for opportunities to share your wealth; insurrectionary love that endlessly transforms you; and a lust for justice that's leavened with a knack for comedy, keeping you honest as you work humbly to liberate everyone in the world from ignorance and suffering.

USAGE NOTE: We employ the adjectival form "pronoiac" rather than "pronoid." That way, it rhymes with "aphrodisiac" and resonates with "paradisiacal" instead of being conditioned by "paranoid."

DISCLAIMER: Material in this book may be too intense and controversial for some readers. It contains graphic scenes of peace, love, joy, passion, reverence, splendor, and understanding. You will not find any references to harsh, buzzing fluorescent lights in a cheap hotel room where a heroin dealer plots to get revenge against the authorities at his old high school by releasing sarin gas into the teachers' lounge. There are no reports of Nazi skinheads obsessed with re-creating the 14th-century Tartars' war strategy of catapulting plague-ridden corpses into an enemy's citadel.

Completely absent from these pages are any stories about a psychotic CEO of a Fortune 500 company who has intentionally disfigured his face to help him elude the CIA, which wants to arrest him for the treasonous sale of his company's nanotech weapons technology to the Chinese. You should therefore proceed with caution if you are a jaded hipster who is suspicious of feeling healthy and happy. Ask yourself: "Am I ready to stop equating cynicism with insight? Do I dare take the risk that exposing myself to uplifting entertainment might dull my intelligence?" If you doubt your ability to handle relaxing breakthroughs, you should stop reading now.

Mirabilia Report
(Mirabilia n. events that inspire wonder, marvelous phenomena, small miracles, beguiling ephemera, inexplicable joys, changes that inspire quiet awe, eccentric enchantments, unplanned jubilations, sudden deliverance from boring evils; from the Latin mirabilia, "marvels.")

* The National Center for Atmospheric Research reports that the average cloud is the same weight as 100 elephants.

* The seeds of some trees are so tightly compacted within their protective covering that only the intense heat of a forest fire can free them, allowing them to sprout.

* Thirty-eight percent of North America is wilderness.

* Anthropologists say that in every culture in history, children have played the game hide and seek.

* With every dawn, when first light penetrates the sea, many seahorse colonies perform a dance to the sun.

* A seven-year-old Minnesota boy received patent number 6,368,227 for a new method of swinging on a swing.

* As it thrusts itself into our Milky Way Galaxy, the dwarf galaxy Sagittarius is unraveling, releasing a thick stream of dark matter that is flowing right through the Earth.

* A chemist in Australia finally succeeded in mixing oil and water.

* Except among birds and land mammals, the females of most species are bigger than the males.

* The South African version of TV's Sesame Street has an AIDS-positive Muppet named Kami.

* The sky not only isn't falling--it's rising. The top of the troposphere, the atmosphere's lowest layer, is slowly ascending.

* To make a pound of honey, bees have to gather nectar from about two million flowers. To produce a single pound of the spice saffron, humans have to handpick and process 80,000 flowers. In delivering the single survivor necessary to fertilize an ovum, a man releases 500 million sperm.

* Some Christians really do love their enemies, as Jesus recommended.

* Kind people are more likely than mean people to yawn when someone near them does.

* There are always so many fragments of spider legs floating in the air that you are constantly inhaling them wherever you go.

* "The average river requires a million years to move a grain of sand 100 miles," says science writer James Trefil.

* Because half of the world's vanilla crop is grown in Madagascar, the whole island smells like vanilla ice cream.

* Your body contains so much iron that you could make a spike out of it, and that spike would be strong enough to hold you up.

* In his book *The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead,* physicist Frank J. Tipler offers what he says is scientific proof that every human being who has ever lived will be resurrected from the dead at the end of time.

* In the Ukraine you can buy Fat in Chocolate, a food with a layer of dark chocolate covering a chunk of pork fat.

* Robust singing skill is correlated with a strong immune system in songbirds. Male birds with the most extensive repertoire of tunes also have the largest spleens, a key measure of immune system health.

* Bali has 80,000 temples.

* Romanian physicists created gaseous globes of plasma that grew, reproduced, and communicated with each other, thereby fulfilling the definition for life.

* In an apparent attempt to raise their volume above the prevailing human din, some nightingales in big cities have learned to unleash 95-decibel songs, matching the loudness of a chainsaw.

* There is a statistically significant probability of world-class athletes and military leaders being born when Mars is rising in the sky.

* Some piranhas are vegetarians.

* In the pueblos of New Mexico, bricks still measure 33 by 15 by 10 centimeters, proportions that almost exactly match those of the bricks used to build Egypt's Temple of Hatshepsut 3,500 years ago.

* Childbirth is often joyful even though it's painful.

* In hopes of calming flustered lawbreakers, Japanese cops have substituted the sound of church bells for sirens on police cars.

* Scientists believe they'll be able to figure out why cancer cells are virtually immortal, and then apply the secret to keeping normal cells alive much longer, thereby dramatically expanding the human life span.

* Clown fish can alter their gender as their social status rises.

* When she is born, a baby girl has all the ova she will ever have.

* Bluebirds cannot see the color blue.

* Gregorian chants can cure dyslexia.

* Bob Hope donated half a million jokes to the Library of Congress.

* Bees perform a valuable service for the flowers from which they steal.
* "Leafing through Forbes or Fortune [magazine]s is like reading the operating manual of a strangely sanctimonious pirate ship," wrote Adam Gopnik in *The New Yorker.*

* Revlon makes 177 different shades of lipstick.

* Your tongue is the strongest muscle in your body.

* The most frequently shoplifted book in America is the Bible.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

 Oil on canvas - Green Fields, 2012, Roslyn Ross.

The difference between killing babies in the womb or out of it!

The latest controversy comes in response to an article published by a medical journal in regard to the difference between killing babies in the womb because they are damaged, and killing them after they are born, because they are damaged. As a purely logical argument, and the one that is made, there is no difference.

Now, of course there is and this is where ethics come in but the article also highlights the way that society has ignored the reality of abortion; pretending it is no more than procedure where life is not relevant. But life is relevant, both in the womb and out of it.

The anti-abortion crusaders are up in arms of course but it seems to me this is a wonderful opportunity to actually look at what abortion is and be honest with ourselves about what we do. There is a middle ground between the positions of 'it is no more than procedure with a bundle of cells and blood killed' to 'life is sacred from the time the ovum is fertilised and it is murder' and that is where we need to get.

In essence the position argued was:

A medical journal has called for the acceptance of ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn baby), causing outrage among pro-life campaigners and raising an array of ethical questions.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Alberto Giubilini from the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva from Melbourne University argue that foetuses and newborns “do not have the same moral status as actual persons".

The authors say that killing a newborn baby should be “permissible in all cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled". They add that “the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant".

The ‘After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’ paper argues that the act wouldn’t be classed as euthanasia because the best interest of the foetus or newborn being killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated.

The authors state that after-birth abortion should be made legal and it should be permitted on the same grounds as abortion. They added that it wouldn’t be the same as infanticide

Perspective is important when assessing such things. This is one article by a couple of researchers which most people would reject. The article and the people involved have no power; they merely make a logical case that if you are prepared to abort 'damaged' babies before birth then why not abort them after birth?

This is a position sourced in the materialistic mindset of modern science and modern medicine (albeit a position which is beginning to change in the latter owing to greater understanding of the mind/body connection) where the human being is no more than machine, or to paraphrase one term: 'a bag full of hormones and chemicals.'

Of course we are much more than that and such articles highlight how ridiculous it is to extrapolate from such a materialistic position.  While it is not an argument that most people would accept, for all sorts of reasons, it is an opportunity for people to sensibly discuss the issue of abortion and allowing 'damaged' babies to die.

The fact is doctors do and have always allowed damaged babies to die. Few people today however, would consider as they did in decades past, that Down's Syndrome children are so damaged they should not or could not live. There is a point where life is not viable - that point may have changed over the years but there still remains a point where a decision has to be made for some babies (and for some children and adults) where medical treatment is stopped.

What is different is that medicine now intrudes into the womb in order to facilitate what it believes is the production of the 'perfect' baby and society has been encouraged to believe that this is possible - or something which can be controlled.

The irony here also is that as modern medicine encourages the death of babies deemed to be 'damaged' while they are in the womb, it is instrumental in producing 'damaged' babies who will grow into disabled children, through saving extremely premature babies. This is a topic which people should address and discuss. Most parents and probably most people would say it is acceptable to abort a damaged baby but not fine to allow a pre-term baby which will have ongoing disabilities, to die. There is a contradiction if not hypocrisy to that which the article highlights.
If this extreme position does anything it makes people think about and talk about the sanctity of life. Well, it could, if it were not hijacked in a propaganda war against abortion. As an ethical question it is important. Modern medicine has become cavalier in its approach to life, or that which could be described as the sanctity of life and if there is a target in this debate it should be modern medicine, not the right of a woman to control her own body.

The materialistic mindset of science-based medicine has created a lack of respect for life where ethics give way to greed and making money matters more than the sanctity of life. A procedure like IVF has become big business, where babies are produced with numerous 'parents' - created from donated, sperm, egg, womb and then handed over to parents who might be a man and a woman with some or no biological connection, or two men, or two women or one man or one woman - and barely a voice is raised in protest. Well, except perhaps in the case of same-sex parents but that reflects religious dogma rather than the rights of the child involved.

One can only ask if those who protest abortion also protest the unwanted foetuses killed in the womb as part of the IVF process to ensure a greater chance that one or two viable babies will survive. An ethical question to be asked is what trauma do these surviving babies experience, aware as they are, of the murder of one, two, or three siblings by their sides?
And, given what we know about the traumas of adoptees who desperately want contact with or knowledge of their biological parents, these babies are likely to have significant psychological problems searching for the truth of who they are. Science and medicine have been instrumental in creating babies who are likely to grow into wounded if not damaged adults.

So the issue raised here is one involving both the sanctity and the quality of life and the system of modern medicine which so betrays the principles on which it claims to be founded. The article takes an extreme position which highlights that hypocrisy.The fact is that we 'kill' through omission, both babies and adults alike and while one would wish for a world where abortion is used minimally, the fact is we will never have a world without abortion and neither we should. Neither should anyone other than the pregnant woman have a right to tell her what to do with her body.

But, what is needed is honest discussion and acceptance of the fact that abortion - or allowing to die after birth - is taking life; is sacrificing. And that sacrifice of life needs to be recognised and honoured. The Japanese have one of the highest rates of abortion in the world, but they also have a social attitude which recognises and accepts it as a killing of the child, a sacrifice, for a 'greater' purpose and they have rituals and ceremonies to honour that lost life.

Interestingly, while links have been made between abortion (and miscarriage) and breast cancer - the breasts symbolic of mothering and abortion or miscarriage representing a lost child for which one needs to grieve - the Japanese with the highest rates of abortion have the lowest rates of breast cancer. But then they have done their grieving. They have admitted to themselves and to society what they have done.

 We have yet to reach that place in the West. Anyone who remembers the horrors of a world where abortion was illegal would never wish such a place again. The fact is no society can ever stop a woman ending her pregnancy if that is what she wants. But what a society can do and needs to do is to work to ensure that the 'act' itself is seen for what it is and not one brushed aside as mere procedure. Neither should the act be judged as right or wrong for unless you 'walk in someone else's shoes' you have no idea why they do what they do. Few women have an abortion lightly and those who may think they do so, will carry with them emotional and psychological scars.

That understanding is what can come out of an article like this if people can put aside their outrage and beliefs and discuss rationally and sensibly what works best in a world where abortion and allowing babies to die will always exist, to lesser and greater degrees.

Friday, March 02, 2012

  Oil on Canvas, 2010, Kangaroo Island - Roslyn Ross

What is the difference between feelings and emotions?

I was reading a book yesterday and came across the comment: 'Feelings are not emotions.' As a statement it is pretty absolute and my instinctive response was, 'No, that is wrong.' Was that a feeling response or an emotional response? Both probably.

I then began searching for explanations of the difference between feelings and emotions and found these examples, all of which were so complicated and convoluted I found myself feeling quite emotional - and in order to feel better and regain emotional stability I thought and felt I should work through them carefully:

 Feelings' in a general sense, are what we may feel in any part of our body. These may be simple body sensations, such as hot or cold, pain, a touch or else they may be feelings associated with emotions, such as love or hate, joy or anger.

It certainly makes sense that feelings are felt, or things that we feel. We feel hot, cold, hurt - but we also feel sad, happy, angry and depressed. And there must be reason why we use the word 'feel' for those things which are beyond the purely physical.

'Emotions', on the other hand, are feelings or reactions about someone or something, and usually involving our ego. We are angry about someone, afraid of something, in love with someone. These emotions may be directly felt in the body or we may just react strongly with thoughts or verbal displays originating from our head.

Yes, we have an emotional reaction but emotional reactions are accompanied by, if not sourced in, a feeling response. We are not angry about someone - we feel angry about someone or something. And any emotion felt in the body is of course a feeling and any 'strong thought or image' in our minds is accompanied by, if not sourced in feelings.

At this stage it seems to me that feelings and emotions are different words for the same things- or at least, variations on the same theme.

This means, we may have a strong reaction without actually being aware of a feeling in the body. We may even smash something in anger without feeling the energy of the anger itself in our body. 

That is absolutely true but just because we have a strong reaction, as in, an emotional response and are not aware of a feeling in the body does not mean there is not a feeling in the body, nor that emotions and feelings are different things. All it means is that we are much better at blocking out our body than we are our mind. We can cut ourselves off from physiological feelings certainly, but they remain a reality, albeit at subconscious levels.

Emotion is more similar to conscious thought than feelings are to conscious thought. Although emotion and feeling can be described as unconscious thought, one of them is going to be more similar to conscious thought. Feelings are more like sensations, when you touch something you get a feeling.

I am not sure that makes sense. Emotion, as in strong feeling, is more similar to conscious thought than feelings are to conscious thought. I would have thought and felt that feelings in the purest sense - too hot, too cold - are very quickly, very conscious. I would also have thought and felt that emotions are more easily disguised and kept below consciousness given the capacity of people to be unaware of their rage for instance, despite their body language, tone of voice and use of words clearly demonstrating it.

These are examples from only two sources but from what I could see the attempts to define the differences between emotions and feelings ended up in the same place - nowhere. After much convoluted circling of course.

Therefore feelings are faster than emotions and thought, because when you touch something there is a slight delay before you can think of something about it (thought), or feel something deeply about it (emotion).

Again, while there are neurological delays to physical feeling, there are also neurological delays to emotional responses. And whether you touch something hot or see something traumatic the 'delay' factor is likely to apply to both. Although I wonder. With physical injury - feeling - the body often goes into immediate shock and shuts down, whereas with emotional injury, witnessing a terrible accident, it is more likely that there will be an adrenalin response to support action, particularly if someone is in need.

Emotion is therefore just unconscious thought.

Well it can be but it does not have to be. Feeling responses can also be unconscious and often are - you don't know the tea is too hot until you drink it and become immediately conscious because of an unconscious response. You can look upon your newborn child and have a powerful emotional response and there is nothing unconscious about it, with or without thought.

But enough of the circling, my head is spinning and I am feeling confused. Is confusion an emotion? Maybe! And does it matter if we cannot clearly articulate the difference between feelings and emotions? Yes, I think it does because as this book, on dreams actually, written by a psychotherapist so clearly demonstrated, the prevailing view is that feelings and emotions are not the same thing and yet no-one, that I have found anyway, can clearly articulate what the difference is. And I believe that is confusing. Unnecessarily confusing.

I have not spent much time in counselling, on the basis that I always felt they could 'fuck you up' more than you were already if you did not get the right person and getting the right person, from my experience, was not easy. But I do recall having conversations with the half a dozen I saw, for brief periods of no more than a few weeks or months at most, over a twenty year period on 'feelings' and 'emotions.' And I found it confused me more than ever.

So why is there this need to separate feelings and emotions? Or at least to try to do so? If we know they are variations on the same theme, what does it matter what we call them? Or is this attitude sourced in the materialistic mindset of modern science in which modern medicine including psychiatry and psychotherapy is sourced?  I have a feeling the answer is Yes!

If I am feeling depressed or angry, how can it help to differentiate either of those as an emotion? I know how depression feels. I know how anger feels. They have physiological, psychological and emotional qualities. Surely it makes more sense to learn to connect the dots .... as in, when I am feeling angry I don't need to decide if it is an emotion or a feeling, because it is both, but I do need to observe how it impacts my body, my mind, my reactions (emotional responses.)

And even if it is a feeling, feeling, as the 'dividers' would argue and I put my hand on something hot - the experience, while it may be largely physiological will not be solely physiological because nothing is. There will be thoughts and there will be an emotional reactive response.

It seems to me that the feeling/emotion equation has arisen from the same mindset which has so divided up the human body that we now have doctors who specialise so specially that they know all there is to know about your big toe but nothing about your foot.

We are not just a body as machine, far from it. Every single thing we do, think, are, experience as symptom or reaction or response is sourced in the physiological, psychological, emotional and I would also argue, spiritual and energetic.

Given the amount of time which can be wasted chasing the faeries of feelings or the elves of emotion it seems to me it would just be simpler to forget about finding differences where none probably exist, and focus on the fact that we are feeling/emotional beings who have feeling/emotional responses. There is a tendency today to make even the simplest of things complicated.

I think I am feeling something and that is, I am feeling emotionally exhausted thinking about the difference between feelings and emotions. I think my emotional response is that I feel it is time to think about something else!