Sunday, August 12, 2018

None of the religions are scientific, and they don't have to be.

I find it very interesting when various religions try to claim how they are the most scientific ones among all other religions. It is very amazing that such an old institution like religion feels compelled to demonstrate that they also possess some or all characteristics of a much younger academic discipline like science. I am not saying that science didn't exist when religion originated as a personal and social wellness product for human civilization, but science was not an organized and well-defined discipline back then as it is today. Scientific facts and phenomena exist whether we know about them or not. But this fight among all religions to claim how scientific they are demonstrates how science has become a more reliable discipline than anything else, so reliable that even ancient institutions like organized religion feel the compulsion of demonstrating a commonality with science.

The compulsion to prove how scientific they are is not limited to any particular religion. If you look at any major religion in the world today, you can find various articles, books, blog posts, and even research papers published in some scientific journals where they claim how various scientific facts or phenomena were already explained in their religious scriptures. There seems to be competition among all religions to show who is more scientific, whereas none of them can pass the rigorous test of producing verifiable data to prove their religious claims. I always thought that most religions can stand on their own without demonstrating any association with science or claiming how scientific they are. Religion satisfies a unique need of a human mind, it puts an end to your questions about the unknown by convincing you that there is some supreme power who controls everything and hence you don't have to worry, just try your best to follow the path recommended by whatever scripture is prescribed by that particular religion and you will be fine. This answer is supposed to put an end to all the anxiety about the unknown to all people who are willing to accept the existence of any such power. On the contrary, science is an endless pursuit of knowledge. It is a never-ending journey, science not only searches for solutions to existing problems, but it also searches for new problems, the quest to find answers to existing problems and new problems from existing answers is an endless voyage. There is no book in science which can claim that it has all the answers to all human problems because that's not what science is supposed to do. Science doesn't hesitate to accept that it doesn't know answers to many questions, but hardly any religion has the courage to accept this and this is one of the major differences between science and religion, and as long as religions don't gather the courage to accept this simple fact they cannot claim themselves scientific. 

So far, I have not come across any scientific discipline claiming that they are the most religious, I don't think they ever felt the need of claiming any association with any religion to demonstrate their validity and relevance. But somehow religion feels insecure because of the popularity and rapid spread of the scientific knowledge, they can't stop this, so it is better for them to claim an association with it. I personally feel it is an unnecessary tactic. As I mentioned, religion satisfies a unique need of a very large number of humans on this planet, this need is going to remain as long as people fear the unknown and don't accept the role of randomness in our lives. It is tough not to worry about the unknown because as a human we are innately curious and want definite answers to our questions, no matter how illogical that answer is, we want an answer and religion does a very good job in providing answers to these type of questions. Need for religion is going to remain no matter how much science progresses as there will be always something which we don't know. Fear for the unknown is not easy to overcome. It is also true that many of the religious scriptures do mention some scientific facts, but this is not enough to validate their claim to be scientific. Even some fiction books contain elements of scientific facts, but that doesn't mean those stories are scientific. Presence of verifiable data is one of the important requirements of any scientific experiment and religion doesn't believe in presenting any such data. None of the current religions are scientific, they don't have to be and they don't have to claim that they are.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Is there a democracy in your family?

Democracy is the most desirable social and political structure which most of the world prefers as their way of social and political governance. I agree that it's not a perfect system, but there is nothing better than the system of democracy, it is the most perfect system among all which we can consider. We all (or most of us) love to live in a democratic society, a society where we are free to express our views, free to dissent with powerful people and organizations no matter who we are. We value our democratic rights and expect our governments and society to provide a proper environment to practice those rights, wherever we feel disagreement we raise our dissenting voice without any fear, this is the ideal picture of any vibrant and working democracy. The topic of today's blog is about democracy at home, is there democratic environment in your family where dissent and disagreement are encouraged, or there is a dictatorship where elders or a particular elder takes all the decisions for every member of the family?

First question people might ask, why we need to have democracy in our homes? Why kids who are minor and non-earning members of the family need to have the power to oppose or challenge decisions taken by the earning members or elders of the family? The answer is very simple, for the same reason why everyone needs to have a right to express their views in a society, to have a safe and welcoming environment. I agree that it's very easy to run the family when one person has all the decision making power and others just follow it without asking any question, but then it will be easier to run a country like that, no opposition and no dissent, just one voice for all. Do we want to live in such a country where someone else speaks for us all the time?

Allowing people to express their views does create some chaos and one needs to spend a lot of time in discussions and debates, but this process also makes everyone understand each other's needs and viewpoints. The democratic environment encourages the exchange of ideas and sometimes this leads to a polarized environment, but if the process of discussion continues eventually people learn how to agree to disagree. This also teaches each member of the family to speak up and stand for their and other's rights. We should not expect that schools will teach the value of dissent and disagreement to our kids, it is our responsibility also as parents to teach them the meaning and value of dissent. Democratic families result in a vibrant democratic society, where there can be disagreements but at the same time, there is a collective decision making and space for alternative opinion. 

Please encourage kids and all other members of the family to share their views and ideas, this will not only make them feel at home but also make them feel a valuable member of the family. This will not only increase understanding of each other but also increase happiness and remove the feeling of fear and suppression. Give it a try and let me know your experience with this. After all, a democratic family is also a happy family.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Do Indians really love Cricket?

Cricket is considered as the most popular sport in India. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is one of the richest sports organizations in the world, international cricket players command a huge fan following in India. Even the International Cricket Council (ICC) has to be very careful while dealing with matters related with India and take every precaution not to hurt BCCI, such is the power and dominance of BCCI, this is all due to the immense popularity of cricket which generates a huge amount of revenue compared to any other cricket playing nation in the world. Indian Premier League (IPL) is an immensely successful venture of BCCI where all international cricket stars want to play not just for money but also for the popularity and fan following they get by playing in this tournament. So, one might think that the question do Indians really love cricket is a meaningless question because whatever I wrote so far clearly indicate that Indians are crazy about cricket. In media also there is a strong perception that Indians love cricket. I pondered over this question for quite some time and I realized that Indians ONLY love a certain type of cricket, not all type of cricket. Their love for this game is very very selective. I myself did not realize the selective nature of this love until I thought about this issue and I am also a cricket lover. 

If we look at other sport loving countries like the USA where sports like basketball and baseball are very popular, the distinguishing feature is that they have a fan following at every level of that game. College or university teams have a huge fan following, their games also attract a large number of fans. NFL (National Football League) is very popular but college football is also popular. But in India college or school or even state level cricket has no fan following. People don't even know when and where their university teams play their games, what are inter-university tournaments, how many times their university won any such championships. State level games also suffer from poor attendance even when star players play for their respective states. My observation is that Indians like to watch ONLY certain type of cricket. They love watching international cricket matches in which India is involved, all ICC world cups, and T20 tournaments with international stars, rest of the cricket they just don't care. This is a very unique and interesting pattern, this can also be the reason for India's inability to produce international level sportspersons in other sports in spite of having so much of raw talent. A certain type of cricket get a very disproportionate attention and revenue in India, this phenomena has resulted in overall poor sports culture. A social culture where apart from cricket sports is not considered as a viable career option. Even cricket gained this status very recently after the success of IPL which opened doors for many local players and helped them to earn a decent living. As long as this selective passion for cricket continues India would struggle to produce quality sports talent in other sports due to lack of sports culture. Fans of any sport need to support that sport at every level so that there is a recognition at every level which can help to build a sustainable sports culture which can help all sports not just the popular ones, and until this happens India's unique love affair with cricket will continue but it will not be recognized as a sports-loving nation.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Monday, July 9, 2018

When abuse becomes the norm of discourse, there is no discourse

When abuse becomes the norm of discourse, then there is no discourse. This is the tragedy of most of the discussion happening over the internet or on news channels. There are arguments, fights, trolling, bullying, but hardly any constructive discussion. Most political or discussions on sensitive social topics are always very passionate, one side normally tries to rip through other side's arguments, but even while doing this passionately people tried not to abuse each other, not to insult or humiliate on a personal level. However, today it seems the intent of every discussion is to humiliate the opponent on a personal level, to demonstrate the contempt for opponent views in whatever way one can. People are willing to use fake news, manipulated data, fabricated images, and whatever they can to prove that their opponent is wrong. Abuse in many forms is becoming a norm and in this process, the level of discourse is at all time low.

With an increased access to information and data, theoretically our discussions should become more fact-based and data-driven, we should be using the more relevant information to enlighten each other with all sides of any given issue or topic. But practically exactly the reverse is happening in most of the cases. People are creating, using, and succumbing to more false information, the internet has become a fertile ground to spread rumors and create tension anywhere in the world. Technology is making discussions more superficial and argumentative rather than more deep and enlightening. This is not the fault of the technology itself, it is just a medium which is bound to produce the results based on the way users use it. It's up to users to make the best use of technology for the benefit of their surroundings. Similar to any scientific discovery technology can be used or misused, it can enrich any discussion or it can make it utterly useless. Assertiveness, aggressive advocacy, or even an aggressive attack on opponent's views can be very effective tools to be used in any discourse, but abusing opponents just for having a different view than ours is not one of those tools. When abuse becomes the norm of any discourse, then there is no discourse, there is just abuse. Abuse can be either from one side or both the sides, it really doesn't matter. Therefore, each side has the responsibility to maintain civility and dignity of discourse if they desire to produce any positive outcome from any discussion. I hope people realize the difference between being aggressive and being abusive. I hope dignity and aggressiveness of civil discourse are maintained without being abusive so that we can keep on resolving most complex issues via the way to discussion and don't shut one of the most useful and effective avenues available for us to resolve our issues.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

You cannot become good at something by not doing it

Many of us harbor fear for many things in our personal and professional lives. Some of us fear about public speaking, some about writing, some about expressing their opinions because they think they can't be articulate their opinions properly or people will laugh at them, some fear about taking initiative, we can add many things to make this list more comprehensive but I think you got my point. Many of these fears are due to our failures when we tried some of those things for the first time; maybe our first presentation was disaster, maybe when you tried to express your opinion people didn't understand it as there was no clarity, maybe some of us  think that we cannot write, the list can go on and on. The problem with such fears is that we try our best to avoid doing the things which we think we are not good at. In spite of knowing that we might need those skills to progress professionally and personally, we try to avoid taking any steps to master those skills due to our fear. We somehow feel that one fine day suddenly we are going to get better and overcome those hurdles or somehow we can avoid them altogether and navigate our path smoothly, but this rarely happens. We face many situations where we face situations, where we need to speak in front of public or we are told to express our ideas. Such instances solidify our fears as we don't perform any better than our previous attempts as we never tried to fix that problem. The only way to overcome our fears is to practice the skills which we lack or need to improve. There is no way to master anything without practicing it, we need to do the things regularly which we need to master. Regular practice is not necessary only in sports but in each and every skill which you want to master.

I suggest one approach to overcome such fears: make a list of things which you want to learn or improve, prioritize that list as per your need or preference, and then start acting on one item at a time. It is not advisable to start working on each and every item from the list at the same time unless you have enough stamina and time to devote for each of them. Choose the platform and community where you are most comfortable, this is very important as you will need a very encouraging atmosphere. The journey of personal development is not easy, it requires a hard push as well as a cushion of support. If you have some other responsibilities, like work or study also, it is advisable to practice that skill with that group at your own comfort level. The journey should be fun and challenging at the same time. It should not be burdensome and affect other parts of your life negatively. Of course, this approach will require an honest effort and sincere commitment from your side, it will test your patience as there will be many challenges and failures, but remember persistence helps and there are no shortcuts to achieve amazing things. If you want to improve on something start working on it, this is the only way to improve. You cannot become good at something by not doing it, all the very best.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Try to improve your standard of life and your standard of living will automatically improve

We often talk about improving the standard of living. There are many things which contribute towards improving our standard of living: a big and beautiful home to live, a luxury car to commute, expensive wardrobe, the latest technology gadgets, comfortable footwear, perfumes, deodorants, makeup, latest fashion stuff, and many other things. Most of us also have an illusion that improving our standard of living also improves our quality of life, but is this really true? Do we really get better life with more physical or material comfort?

I don't think there is any doubt that standard of living has increased in many parts of the world. Increased food production, access to education, and economic prosperity have contributed towards increasing standard of living across the social class all over the world. But, this improvement in the standard of living doesn't seem to translate directly to an improved standard of life. I understand that the answer to this question is not that straightforward. I am sure many of us will pause and think to answer a question about how much physical comfort have really contributed towards improving our standard of life. Are we so focused on improving our standard of living that we do not even bother to think about improving our standard of life? If this is the case, then it is time for us to take a pause and try to think about ways to improve our standard of life.

Material things definitely contribute to improving the standard of living and this can many times translate into improving the standard of life. More healthy and comfortable life could be a very desirable objective to achieve, but it seems we are going in the exact reverse direction. More and more physical comfort is somehow bringing more and more dissatisfaction. The problem is not more physical comfort, but our inability to deal with changing cultural and social surroundings. Our civilization is going through a radical shift in the way we communicate and interact with each other. Technology has become an integral part of our lives. For many of us, our day starts in front of a screen and ends in front of it. Our phones and computers are no more just gadgets but they are more like a trusted companion with whom we spent most of the time when we are awake. Definitely, technology has broadened our horizons, we get a lot more information than our brain can process or digest, we can interact with a lot more people than we could have in absence of all technological help. This all should have brought us together and bridged the gap, made us more social and less divisive, but it seems we are getting more isolated and more polarized. It seems with all the progress in each and every field our life is getting more messed up rather than getting peaceful.

Our standard of life is getting deteriorated and increase in suicide rates is a warning signal for us. The truth is that we all are in a much better situation to help each other in every possible way, we can offer each other emotional support without the need of being in physical proximity of each other, technology allows us to do that, but this will happen only if we are willing to extend a helping hand to each other. We have the capability to improve each other's standard of life by helping each other to overcome our personal problems, but somehow we are failing to do that. Probably, we could not figure out whether we are using the technology or technology is using us.

Improving our standard of life was not supposed to be such a hard task, humans are master of it, this is how we climbed up the ladder and control the world. But all this progress doesn't mean we should lose our simplicity.  We need to keep things simple, enjoy simple things in life. We should pay equal attention to people around us as much as we pay attention to the virtual world. We must realize that emotional well being or comfort is as important as physical comfort. We must learn to enjoy our work and our free time equally. Try to give best and enjoy the journey, not to worry too much about the destination. Give it a shot, try to improve your standard of life and see that your standard of living will automatically go up.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The art of happiness

A disclaimer first, this post has nothing to do with the book "The Art Of Happiness" written by Dalai Lama, I have not read the book, but only came to know about it when I was searching if anyone has already used this title and no surprise that Mr. Dalai Lama has already written a book about it. The post is about my own experiences and struggles, it has nothing to do with the above-mentioned book.

If we look at the history of human civilization, the level and type of stress change generation by generation. We improved our physical comforts a lot because of progress in technological aspects of our lives. Our generation has more access to travel, education, clean water, food, information, medicines, and many other things compared to our previous generations. However, our generation also has more complicated psychological problems. We also have two parallel worlds now: the real world and a virtual world in which we live simultaneously. In spite of all this progress in the physical world, why are we struggling to keep up the same speed in the psychological or mental world? Why suicide rates are going up? Why are we not happy and more connected with each other and help each other in moments of need and desperation? Questions are many, and each individual need to search an answer for himself or herself, the matter of the fact is, we humans are extremely complex organisms and hence our problems are complex and their solutions are going to differ from person to person.

Can we learn how to be happy or is it something depends entirely on our surroundings? Is being happy is a habit or an art? I think one can definitely learn how to be happy. Happiness is extremely personal and this is what people are forgetting, they are getting more into comparative happiness. I see that many people base their own happiness on how happy others are around them. They want to buy that dream house because everyone in their age group has such house, they want that car because that's a status symbol, they want to have a job with six-figure income because that's what they are being told is a successful career is. Many of these perceptions and beliefs are acquired without giving any serious thought what do we want, what are our own needs and desires which make us happy? The biggest problem is that this conditioning of mind starts so early in our lives that we don't even develop a capacity to think about our own needs and desires. This conditioning wires our mind in such a way that we knowingly or unknowingly we start walking on a path paved for us by culture, religion, media, society, or people around us. And mind it, this conditioning is very intense and organized, it's not easy to escape it.

So, how to learn the art of being happy? The basic question is, do we even know what the real happiness means? Is pursuit of personal happiness worth the effort it will take, or it is better to surrender to what our society dictates to us? Why anyone should believe whatever I am writing is the right way to think about the happiness? Actually, that's the whole point of the post, the post is not about to educate you what is happiness and how to be happy, but it is about recognizing the problems which are prohibiting us from being happy or illuding us on a fabricated path of happiness. The first step which anyone can take is to stop engaging in comparative happiness. Not everyone has to go on a vacation, not everyone needs to own a house or a car; we all are different and there is nothing wrong with it; our sex, sexual orientation, race, nationality or any otehr trait doesn't make us any better or worst, we all are unique and recongize this aspect not only about yourself but about others around you as well; education is important not from which college or university you get it; it is important to have fun while doing your job, so if you are dragging every day yourself to work then it is not the right area of work for you try something different. There are many small-small steps which we can take to take control of our own life. 

We need to enjoy the journey, struggle, efforts, preparations as much as we enjoy the destination, success, and achievements. If we focus too much on the end-product then we miss so much which is equally important and on which we spent more time than the end-result. We need to recognize that failures, fear, anxiety, depression, stress, joy, and grief all are an integral part of our lives. These emotions are bound to come we need to recognize them and be conscious of our mental hygiene. We should give equal importance to our mental hygiene as we give it to our physical hygiene. All these things will help us to learn the art of happiness. But please remember, there is no universal formula to learn this art. Everyone has to find their own way, you can only tell and decide what makes you happy or sad. You can only decide when you want to buy the house or what type of profession you want to choose, others can always help you to take this decision, but the final decision should be yours and yours only. 

Learn to spend some time with your self, try to understand your own identity and value. We get too busy in our daily struggles and get so lost in our surroundings that we don't get time to understand who we are and what we really want. If this post kindles a desire to search for your own path of happiness, then it has served its purpose. No matter how different that path is, how weird you think you are, try to be yourself, try to spread love and compassion. Imagine the world where all are happy and no matter how impossible that task looks we can at least give it a shot. Let's try to make this word a happy place, and let's start by making happy ourselves first. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

For good policies, you need good politics.

Many countries in the world struggle to accelerate development or to make sure that the benefits of development can be enjoyed by most of the population. One of the main reason for this problem is lack of good policies. All these countries are not ruled by dictators or going through civil war or something like that, many of them have well established democratic election system which seems to be working the way it should, elections happen regularly, people seem to participate in the electoral process, and elected governments seem to enjoy people's support for their policies (that's why they vote for them). India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka are some such countries where it seems no matter who is in power nothing much changes on the ground, parties win or lose but it seems country always looses in every election. Every party thinks about their own political future first. They all use their country as a tool to solidify their own political base, to win an election, to propagate a personality cult, to suppress opposition, but never to bring any important reforms, never to take some forward-looking steps which might harm politically but are good for the country's future. I was excited when current Indian government came to power and even wrote a post about their historical election victory.

For good policies, you need good politics; and for good politics, you need well-functioning institutions of various branches of the government which perform their work independently. This doesn't happen in most of the countries who struggle in spite of being democratic countries for so long. I have seen this happening in India. Corruption on various levels cripples most of these countries. When I say corruption, I am not just talking about the bribe culture, I am talking about the culture of corruption. A country where not allowing a largest political party to form a government is not unusual, horse-trading to buy legislatures of other political parties to gain a majority is not considered as a wrong practice, open collusion between various branches of the government doesn't disturb people, political opponents are not only ridiculed but branded as anti-nationals, where one political party talks about eliminating their oppositions from the country. These are not signs of good politics, and no wonder India still struggles to get a government who can dare to implement good policies. As I said I was hopeful about this government that they will implement some good policies but after five years all I can see that they spent all their time in establishing their brand and winning state elections, nothing else. I am not bothered by some mistakes which happen while taking some radical steps (like demonetization), but I am surprised that government which so many resources at its hand can't figure out the possible outcomes of their actions before taking that step and take all precautionary measures. Announcing any reform is not a big deal, making sure that it gets implemented to produce its desired result is where all the skills of governance and management are required and I am still waiting to witness this in India. One such opportunity was lost in 1984, where few reforms (like telecommunications and introduction of computers) were performed, but nothing spectacular was done as far as political and social reforms are concerned, and now this is another opportunity which didn't live to its expectations. Please remember, "for good policies, you need good politics."

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

When religion of the rape victim becomes more important than her pain, there is a serious problem.

Two rape cases created a big splash on India news channels and on social media. One was rape and murder of eight-year-old girl, another was rape of 17-year-old girl by a lawmaker from the ruling party of that state. Both cases are equally horrible and condemnable. But, surprisingly on social media, there was extensive discussion about the religion of one of the victims and perpetrators of the crime. Some people accused people who were protesting about this case for their selective outrage. I wonder how these people come up with such twisted logic. There was huge outrage in India after Nirbhaya rape case, that time no one was accused of selective outrage, no one said that there are so many rapes happening in the country so why are you just protesting about this one case? But it seems just because in one of these cases rapists and the victim are from different religions this question about the religious identity of the victim and accused suddenly became relevant.

I wonder in which direction that society is moving where the religion of the rape victim becomes more important than her own and her family's suffering? In which direction that society is moving where lawyers and lawmakers participate in a protest march in favor of accused persons? There is no doubt that every accused of any crime must get a fair and transparent trial, the law should treat everyone equally. Every accused deserves a legal support and representation to defend their side. But this is not even an issue here, there are people who are trying hard to justify this heinous act. They are questioning motives of people who feel outraged by such incidents, and this should worry any society where outrage over heinous crimes depends on from which religion victim or accused come from. Reactions on social media and some debates on news channels should stir the consciousness of every Indian no matter which religion they belong or which political party they support. 

I hope polarization created due to political propaganda doesn't create an unbridgeable gap between different sections of society that they can't even come together even to protest against overtly criminal acts. When your every discussion ends up getting connected with the religion, then there is a problem. When we look for person's caste, nationality, race, or religion before showing your outrage to a crime, then there is a problem. We all are humans first, and then political supporters or religion followers. If we forget our basic human qualities of empathy and compassion towards our fellow human beings and look at everything through the prism of politics or religion then why type of people are we becoming? I think we all need to question ourselves about this and look for the answer within, maybe our conscious might help us more than these social media posts or news channel debates or statements from some senseless politicians. I request everyone reacting to this issue to see if they are reacting like a compassionate human, a responsible citizen, a blind political supporter, or a blind religious follower. In the end, the choice is always yours, and I hope humanity is still the most attractive choice for most of us.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this issue.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Six years..

It has been six years since I started writing this blog. I published my first post on 5th March, 2012, the blog has now more than 400 posts. The main aim to write a blog is to share your thoughts and not to publish something regularly. This journey was started with an intention to share my views on various social, political, and personal issues while getting feedback from readers about their own views about these things. It has been a very rewarding experience for me so far. I hope to continue it as long as possible, the frequency of posts might get reduced based on how busy I get with various other things in my life, but the blog should remain active place to share ideas in near future also. 

As I already mentioned, so far, this has been a really rewarding experience for me and I hope all blog readers also enjoyed reading the blog. Please feel free to share your thoughts, it is very important for all of us to express ourselves in whatever medium we feel comfortable with, this is how we educate each other and learn from each other.

Thanks for reading and encouraging me. I wish happy reading to all readers.