Tuesday, 27 August 2019

No twitter

Strange: No twitter of birds this morning. I did not hear any birds twitter this morning.  Strained hard to hear any during meditation, but heard none!  Must have taken off for the bank holiday today! 

The past couple of days have tried to focus my attention on the lovely chirping of birds during meditation.  Found that very calming and melodious too.  A sort of serenity that gently envelopes you without feeling the weight of anything.  Any description of it only adds insult to it!  

Monday, 26 August 2019

With joy

One of the best things a life without heavy (or any!) responsibilities is that there is no strict timetable one has to follow.  I can spend any amount of time for anything I deem fit without worrying if I'll be late for another task.  I realized this while visiting Fr Dan at the hospital the last couple of times in the past week.  He really missed the confreres from his community; but given the state of affairs, it was difficult for them.  Those who can move, have their hands full and hence cannot spend much time with him at the hospital.  Those who are free, cannot move - literally!  They are more or less like him, with the only difference being, they are confined to the bed or the crutches, but at home! 

While with Fr Dan I had nothing else to worry about.  I realized that's the best I could do.  Just being with him when he is lonely and weak.  Also the best I could for others.  I cannot share their workload but can certainly do this bit of being present for one among them.  However, I was with Fr Dan, more as a kind of in appreciation and gratitude for his kindness towards me in the confessional over the past couple of years.  He has been the one I've been to most for my confessions since I came to this place.  He has offered me his support and guidance whenever I approached him and now when he needs some support and I'm able to, why not! With joy! 

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Far from...

Most of the saints I've come heard of ended up far from where they actually started.  Not just by birth but their very ministry or adult life itself took them places. 

In our contemporary times, this does not seem much of an achievement.  Given that we travel all the time and are hardly in one place all our life, it is easy to think that every one moves all around. Not always.  In bygone days when travel was necessitated only by urgency or desperation, and means of travel were hardly a luxury, leave alone the cost and danger involved.  Most people, never moved away from their place of birth.  There wasn't anywhere they really needed to go to.

Today people move from place to place either for study or work or family needs.  As a religious have been through so many places.  And each place being a home.  Not just as tourists visiting some new place.  People ask me if it is difficult to pick up one's bags and leave for good, only to repeat the process every couple of years.  Not really.  I think it is the whole attitude of 'being at home' that actually matters.  It is not the place as such but if every place one goes to becomes a home (or is made a home) then moving around does not uproot one.  In that sense, I certainly am far from where I started, but certainly not lost or away. Am at home! 

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Under the fig tree?

Today is the feast of St Bartholomew...

The gospel of the day, from John's first chapter, reads...
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him." Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

I always thought that there was something not right with this passage. When Jesus says to Bartholomew that he saw him under the fig tree, the latter responds, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."  What and where is the connection between the two statements. Most probably the authors missed out a portion of the conversation here.  Or that's what I thought.  Only today did I come to know that the phrase 'under the fig tree' in Jewish tradition meant someone was a scripture scholar, or atleast someone very interested and immersed in studying the Torah or Pentateuch. That explains Bartholomew's profession of faith to Jesus.  And it has nothing to do with the fig tree!  

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Beheading of St Lawrence

Yesterday was the feast of St Lawrence.  Deacon and Martyr.  My connection with this saint goes way back.  The parish from which my parents hail, from Mangalore, is the famous shrine of St Lawrence.  That's where my parents were baptised, grew up, and later got married.  My brother's middle name is Lawrence.  Even he and my sister-in-law were married at St Lawrence's.  Papa is a great devotee of St Lawrence - and perhaps, that's the greatest connection I can think of. 

And of course, there is that unforgettable incident of the cricket ball 'beheading' St Lawrence! My brother and I were so shaken by this accident! We managed, with Mum's help to stick back the head and place him back on the family altar.  That evening when Papa returned home and, as usual, went up to the altar to pray, he did not notice anything unusual.  The three of us however, breathed only after he finished his prayer!  We never told him of that incident! 

Only of late did I come to know that St Lawrence is the patron saint of comedians and cooks.  The latter I understand, given that he died being grilled - literally!  The former attribution took time for me to connect.  Comedians??  Well, only after a while it hit me, that even that is associated with his martyrdom, being roasted on fire!  It is said, that while being grilled, he said to his executioners, "This side is done. Now turn me over!"  Am not sure, how humorously did his tormentors take that, but for one to be so 'cool' when on fire and at the point of certain death, one indeed has to have lots of courage.  However, am not sure if he was that humorous during his life as well.  Would have been, I guess.  Only, haven't found any evidence for it yet! 

Saturday, 10 August 2019


This needs to be recorded, not so much for chronicling a particular point in history, but as a signpost for the future... rather, a fuller living of each moment:

Then there were these words of wisdom from another source:
What I am driving at is that you need to explore new horizons constantly, whether as part of the thesis or beyond it. Each will influence the other! Even in your readings for the PhD, what are the ideas that have caught your attention? If there are, let them lead you into unchartered territories!
...  Do not put blocks to yourself. I would say, there is nothing to discern here, except being solicitous about completing what you have started. I suggest what my doctor told me: eat well, sleep well, relax… and enjoy what you are doing.
And of course, the gentle reminder, about faith!

Thanks and prayers for all those who have been close to me in these uncertain moments of my journey! 

Coffee in India

The one to introduce India to coffee was a Muslim named Bababuden.  Very many considered him to be a saint.  He came from Mocha bringing with him a handful of seeds, and settled himself on the slopes of a mountain range in Kadur district, Mysore State.  This range was later named after him, and anyone can see his tomb even today if he will undertake a short trip from Chickmagalur  The origin of coffee, thus is saintly.  It was not an empire-builder or a buccaneer who brought coffee to India, but a saint, one who knew what was good for humanity. (p. 44)
[Narayan, R.K. (1990) A Story-teller's World New Delhi: Penguin Books.]

Friday, 9 August 2019

All the right words...

Mind your language

Wittgenstein, language and transcendence...

Speaking of Wittgenstein, language and transcendence...
The fact that we might even be tempted to suppose we can do that bespeaks a deeply human longing to step outside our own skins. We can feel trapped by our bodily, time-bound existence. There’s a kind of religious impulse that seeks liberation from these limits: it seeks to transcend our finite selves and make contact with the infinite. Wittgenstein’s religious impulse pushes us in the opposite direction: he doesn’t try to satisfy our aspiration for transcendence but to wean us from that aspiration altogether. The liberation he offers isn’t liberation from our bounded selves but for our bounded selves.
Metaphysical speculations, for Wittgenstein, are like gears that have slipped free from the mechanism of language and are spinning wildly out of control. Wittgenstein the engineer wants to get the mechanism running smoothly. And this is precisely where the spiritual insight resides: our aim, properly understood, isn’t transcendence but a fully invested immanence. In this respect, he offers a peculiarly technical approach to an aspiration that finds expression in mystics from Meister Eckhart to the Zen patriarchs: not to ascend to a state of perfection but to recognise that where you are, already, in this moment, is all the perfection you need. 
Found at Aeon

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Does or Is

We find it reasonable and easy to answer certain direct questions about things we see around us.  But the same ease and rationale fails us when we ascend further to the domain of persons and non-material realities. 
Why does this biscuit exist?
Why does this bulb exist?
Why does this car exist?
Why does this building exist?
Why does this office exist?
Why do I exist?
Why does the world exist?
Why does anything exist at all?
Note the increasing difficulty in answering the above set of questions. Why so?

The more distanced and uninvolved we stay, the easier to answer.  The more intimate and involved we get, the more difficult it gets to answer.

Gets us back to 'know thyself'.  Same with language. 

Perhaps we have been answering the wrong question all along: instead of answering what it IS we have been answering what it DOES.  We have been answering 'what does language do?' rather than 'What IS language?'.  We have equated DOES and IS.

Perhaps we don't have an access point beyond 'does'.  To answer, 'is' we need to get out of language.  (Do we?) And there is no 'getting out of language'.
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