Saturday, October 31

A question and answer ....

In April of 1992, a young man named Christopher Johnson McCandless hitchhiked to Alaska and entered the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. Four months later, he was found dead. This story of a homeless drifter who was a rebel in social sense, was celeberated by a motion picture and a book (Into the Wild). Two months ago, I had an opportunity to view ‘Into the Wild’. That movie has not stopped talking to me yet.

The story of Christopher raised too many question in me. I often wondered what lead people to choose a special way of life. I believe that it is a ‘calling’ that lead everyone to have a distinct manner of living. In a religious context, I can call it a ‘vocation’. There are wealth creators whose methods of operation marvel me. Can I mimic their successes? No... Should I mimic them? No! During my early professional life, it was Mother Theresa who attracted me. I remember wishing to become an ambulance driver in her missions for the old and the poor. However, that never happened!

Since 5 years, I am fascinated by solitude, contemplation and nature. I survey my thoughts and wonder if my attraction to them is superficial or real. One of the famous western contemporary writers who has explored the mystery of solitude and contemplative living is an American Christian monk by name Thomas Merton. I often gain lots of wisdom from his documentations, and observations.

Rev. Merton speaks thus in his book 'New Seeds of Contemplation', “Contemplation is also the response to a call : a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is , and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. It is deep resonance in the inmost center of our spirit in which our very life losses its separate voice and re-sounds with the majesty and the mercy of the Hidden and Living One. He answers Himself in us and this answer is divine life, divine creativity, making all things new. We ourselves become His echo and His answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question, and in awakening us to contemplation He answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer.”

I want to keep the above quote deep in my heart.

Tuesday, October 20

A little market talk...

One of the craziest conundrums in the Stock market is our inability to know which scripts to buy or which scripts to sell or which scripts to keep for good. The frenzy in this is very evident when the market is going north. I have seen many people wasting their time, money and health dabbling around stocks. All of them are drifters in a wild wind. They are carried away by what others ‘recommend’ and do not actively form an opinion on their own.

The scope and the products of every business is analysed by different people in a different manner. That is why market works. Hence, forming an opinion can be tricky. I closely watch and listen to see how some of my friends navigate their path in the wild world of stocks. Generally, formation of an opinion is easy when a personal ‘life experience’ is a harbinger. When what we are looking at is not our ‘life experience’ then, we begin to search for the more information on the company at different locations using a hundred different methods. I have also seen that some of my friends are quantitative while others are qualitative. However, conclusions can be strikingly bright, though they have come to an opinion without a direct ‘life experience’ of their own.
I remember a friend of mine, an English Professor and an expert in his subject, phoning me up and telling me about the prospects of purchasing a few stocks of Exide (Exide an electric cell manufacturer). “Did you look into their results?” I asked. “Yes” he said, “I not only looked into their three-year results but also searched a dozen cars to find out if those cars were running with Exide under their bonnets!” I was surprised at his answer. My friend wanted a ‘life experience’ before plunging into Exide. However, this type of approach is not always possible. So, another friend of mine works only with trading charts and technical analysis.

One of the most interesting and thought provoking market statements that I heard recently was from the legendary investor Jim Rogers. Talking about his methodology, he spells out two truths: Stick to what you know and trust your own judgement. Well, these two statements looks like old hats fit for any application. However, there is lot of wisdom in it. Specialists in stock markets come out daily with their ‘buy-sell’ recommendations. Without reasoning at individual level, people rush into such recommendations. And, often it is true that they do achieve positive results. Nevertheless, how they will navigate further in their investments? “Will they wait to hear Specialists talk again on their favourite stocks and to take further call on the markets?” asks Jim Rogers. Often, those who follow ‘buy-sell’ calls of Specialists will lose their ability to create their own portfolio based on their own judgement. Soon, they become victims of the very people they believe in and are left with loads of scripts they cannot navigate further.

Like nature, Stock markets too never divulge there secrets to anyone fully. There are also occasional surprises. That is the real fun of it! And life keeps going....

Monday, October 19

...from dust to dust.

Death can be accidental, suicidal or natural. In all its form, death is something most difficult to comprehend. Today I met a father whose son had committed suicide yesterday. Sitting beside him, I kept my ears open all the while. The father was trying to explain to me as to why his son chose to die. I just shook my head as if I understood it all. Leaving that house, I wondered at the enigmatic nature of birth, life and death.

History points to people who fight for survival. I love reading such stories. I hate films and stories that personify suicidal plots. Stories with suicidal plots leave within me a negative vacuum that questions the very human spirit of survival.

One of the most profound writings to come out of the Second World War concentration camps is that of Dr.Viktor Frankl’s. His book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is a classic bestseller that has had tremendous impact on post-war humanity. While in concentration camps, Frankl used to ask his fellow prisoners, “Why do you not commit suicide?” He was surprised at the answers he got: in one life there is love for one’s children to tie to; in another life, a talent to be used; in a third, perhaps only lingering memories worth preserving. Dr. Frankl believed that to weave these slender threads of a broken life into firm pattern of meaning and responsibility is the object of ‘existential analysis’ (a theory he developed). He believed that every life, however broken, shattered or poor, is worth preserving.

Each suicide is a constant reminder to the living about the fragility of life and our responsibility to take care. God is the author of life. And, life is intangible. We are only users of what God has wonderfully authored. Shatter it once...misuse it once and the intangible life might all be gone forever...'from dust to dust'.
Photo: On the way to Roopkund (Himalayas)

Monday, October 12

Praying Our Life...

A beauty of prayer is that it can happen anywhere, anytime. Not only we commune with God in the quietness of a Chapel but also in our own room, in the midst of life’s activities. Office cubicle, supermarket line, railway ticketing counter, a laundry or our bed can become the little altars of our communication with God. And, what can be the content of those communications? I know that it can be our individual talents, dreams and varied relationship with our environment. I never knew that prayer could be so much more in my life until I began to relate my environment as an opportunity to connect with God. I think, it takes a little time and effort to reach such a stage in prayer life. Nevertheless, once we reach there, the trivial communications with the Master is spontaneous.

Someone said, ‘Prayer is to touch our life and life is to touch our prayer’. I think about that quote too often. My lived experience is the largest playground where communications with the divine evolve. One important aspect of this is that I must be aware of the ongoing moments and lived out acts. So, it is most essential to be aware of our days, aware of the people we meet, aware of the words spoken and shared...aware of God’s presence everywhere. Thus, as time rolls on, our ability of attune to the Spirit of God improves.
One big fact about life is that we never know what commonplace part of our life may become receptive to God’s presence. That is the beauty and excitement of everyday living!


Sunday, October 4

The Tide and the Wave

“As I look at my own history of experiencing prayer, I find a constant movement of high and low tides, numerous ups and downs, mountains and valleys, emptying and filling, and always some brief resting phases. There have been periods when all I could do was allow struggle and sorrow onto my barren shore, lean on God in faith, and try to be true to my daily spiritual practice. In the mid
st of those long periods of spiritual drought, fleeting joy surprised me in the beauty of nature… and the kindness of people.”
…. Joyce Rupp’s writings in 'Prayer'

The tidal pattern of prayer is one of the most mysterious experiences of anyone who knows it. Looking at the tides, we all understand the cyclic nature of it: it comes deep into the shores and then it goes away. I love to visit…revisit the rocks and sands that the tides have left wet and clean. And then, in the sun it dries up only to be revisited by tides again. I ask the anglers and look for the time of the rising tides and the falling tides. They know it better than anyone on the shores does.

We have many prayer-lessons in the tides and waves. If we were to close our eyes and just listen to the sound of the waves beating the shores, we hear a rhythm in it. We hear the splash of water on the rocks or the shores. Then we hear the sound of the water retracting. Then there is a little rest, a beautiful lull, a momentary stillness when another wave is forming at a distance. It is this lull that breaks the noise and gives a moment of stillness to the waves. This is the alternating element in the wave story.

Our prayer life too needs lulls and brakes. Else, it would be too noisy … it would be a map without direction. Imagine a shore without tides and waves…How poor it will be!
Away from the beach and the waves, in the centre of our work… in the core of our living, there will always be moments of distractions and noises that make our prayer experience mundane and dull. We got to take them as little lulls in the life of a wave. Without these distractions and noises, we many well live life in superficiality. God is near to us in all these momentary lulls. We can slow down a bit in these lulls and just remain strong to meet the wave that is soon to come.