Saturday, March 24, 2012

143- Monday Musings - The grand parody

143- The grand parody

This is not a new thought i have known, but certainly a new expression. Naseeruddin Shah, the celebrated and cerebral actor lamented how stars become a parody of themselves over a period of time. I hasten to add my two bits to it, the bigger the star, starker the parody.

We are a product of our failures, the cumulative effect of what all we aspired to, but could not achieve, each leaving behind a memory if not a scar. But more tragically we are a product of our successes, each leaving in us with a certitude or two, a way of doing things that worked and seducing us to believe that it is the only way things work and will continue to work. We must remember our failures, but more importantly we must remember our successes, not as events that will caress our egos, but as reminders that in a different set of circumstances, in a different context, the same recipe could well be the recipie of disaster.

A certian kind of music does not appeal any more, a certian kind of movies does not entice any more, a certian kind of language does not express anymore, a certian kind of assumptions does not hold water anymore, a certian kind of behaviour does not engage anymore, a certian way of doing things is not effective anymore, a certian kind of mental map that guided us so well in the past, may not take us the destination anymore so on and so forth. The sandunes of time are forever changing, imperceptibly and subtly, but surely.

Leaders in business have to change thier mental maps all the time. As Lawrence J Peter says, "Everyone rises to his level of incompetence" In as much as this fear haunts me and keeps me on my toes, I see it playing out around me more than what is comforting and sustainable. Leaders becoming a parody of themselves is common sight, and it goes for actors, the more successful the leader has been, the starker is the parody. Everyone is able to to see the parody, except the architect and the victim of it. 


Sunday, March 11, 2012

142 - Monday Musings - the resplendence of impurities

142 - Monday Musings - the resplendence of impurities
While gemology, a science dedicated to the pursuit of study of gems, is a vast geological field of enquiry, the aspect of it which deals with its colors caught my fancy. Of the many ways in which gems are classified as precious or semi precious, and of the many factors on which their relative appeal and price depends upon, color is an important one. This aspect of gemology can teach human beings a thing or two.

An amateur study of precious stones will tell us that in modern usage the precious stones are diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald, with all other gemstones being semi-precious. Sapphire and Ruby, two of the most popular gems are actually cousins - both are corundum’s i.e. made up of aluminum oxide, but different in the nature of impurities. The impurity chromium gives it a red hue and is called a Ruby, while an impurity of Iron or titanium will give it a blue or green or pink of purple color and it will then be called a Sapphire.
Beryl, chemically beryllium aluminum cyclosilicate is a large joint family. The same culprit chromium there gives it a green color and then its called an emerald, the impurity of iron gives it a golden color. The list is endless and the gem lovers have these impurities a lot to thank for, but what would have been a ruby or a sapphire or an emerald without its color.

An impurity or an imperfection so to speak, is the reason for the value of the stone. Take away its imperfection and it’s just a stone. Human beings treat an imperfection in a very different way. It’s something to be detested, hated, criticized, corrected, feed backed, harped endlessly to the point of being nagging and frustrating, brought up needlessly and tactlessly at most inopportune times. Should it pass our scrutiny that what appears as an imperfection may something only that we do not like, something that only we are not comfortable accepting, or something that is unacceptable to our sensibilities and not something that may be fundamentally or universally unlikable or wrong or bad? Ultimately good and bad may be nothing more than what we as individuals are comfortable with. Our own boundaries cannot and must not decide what is an imperfection in a human being, a right that we defend with passion for ourselves, but something that we may not be willing to lend to others with similar passion. 

Aggression, forthrightness, ambition, result orientation, candor, courage so on and so forth can be virtues with double edges. One man’s food can be another man’s poison, one man’s freedom fighter may be another man’s terrorist, and one man’s imperfection may actually be another man’s virtue. Who knows for better or for worse, how a person might look once you take away what to some appears as an imperfection. Take away the impurity of chromium and a ruby is just another stone. It would be wise before we judge in people what would be an impurity to our eyes, for if he were to get rid of it, he might also rid himself of his greatest strength, the one thing that might his greatest ally in the fight against mediocrity. Not all imperfections need to be eradicated in human beings - mostly it’s not possible, sometimes it’s not desired. 

While dealing with human beings, the big question to ask is, can the impurities or imperfection be valued for what it is, or what it can be, rather than what it is not or what it cannot do – ultimately that is the difference between a gemologist and a stone collector.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

141 Monday Musings – The futility of knowledge

141 Monday Musings – The futility of knowledge

Kabeer the mystic Bhakti poet was a big critic of institutionalized religion and all forms of ritualism. Of the many dimensions of ritualism that directed his ire against, one was institutionalized form of knowledge - the kind which is read or studied from books, the ones which if followed blindly, without regard to context or reason, can defeat the purpose of its pursuit. Kabeer went on to criticize the champions of such knowledge of those times in an acerbic tone, laced with disdain and sarcasm, ultimately drawing attention to the futility of such pursuit and such knowledge. Usually the metaphor of 'pandit' or 'maulvi' is used in abundance by him as a symbol of the repository or proponents of such knowledge in those times. For today’s times we can easily contextualize them to any fixed or rigid knowledge or protectors of such knowledge, who or whom refuse to adapt, learn or move on with times.

Kabeer says,
Pandit aur masalchi, dono soojhan nahi
auran ko kare chandana, aap andhere mahi
(the Pandit and the torchbearer do not understand, that they may be providing light to others, they themselves are in the dark)

Kabeer bahman ki katha, so choran ki naav
sab andhe mil baithiya, bhave tah le jaav
(Kaeer those who speak from only books are like a boat in the hand of thieves - all like blind people rowing it, it shan't reach the shore)

Padhi guni pathak bhaye, samjhaya sansaar
aapan to samjhe nahi, vritha gaya avtaar
(The teacher, who read only from books and tried to explain the mysteries of the world, did not understand those mysteries himself and wasted his life)

In today’s times, when all around us recorded knowledge reigns supreme, but that recorded knowledge has its own limitations. Wisdom, intellect, imagination and awareness are made to play second fiddle for not only children but also adults. Kabeer must be rediscovered as must be wisdom and imagination.

As my friend Pankaj Dubey often says, Knowledge is what already exists, imagination is what can be.