The Chariot of Fire

The indigo flight was on schedule. He was the last to board and was heading straight in my direction, with a beaming face. 

What a way to meet, twenty years and the very same date when we last met. I am Raj, he said, offering his hand.

It is indeed a small world.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. He almost looked boyish or at the most a 25 year old. Raj of my memory was in his fifties, one of those who had challenged everything one believed to be true.  1990. The workshop was coming to an end. Participants were visualizing their future. Raj, a onetime scientist with NASA stood up to share his personal vision of the future.

“I have worked for over two decades on space travel and somewhere on the way I came to have this vision of translating the logic to my physical self, convert my Self to a space vehicle and explore the universe. Do you think it feasible or is it my personal madness?”

Raj walked down the aisle to his seat.

This was the immediate trigger. Earlier the mother when they met had set off the first one. “Death is not the only way out. There is another one far more exciting. Death is a normality of our present time. In another time death will be abnormal or accidental.  But accidents are not all that accidental when we get to understand how the design works.  Only the normal can aspire to be supernormal.”

“The first step to walking with the gods is to be a true normal.   What we consider normal is a false normal.

To the true normal

Renewal

@ is much more than the symbol of our digital identity. It is the symbol of return to the tribal to create the new tribal and re-establishing our identity in the second age of real-time”

“When was the first age? “ – Ann

“Over 10, 000 years, in the original age of affluence, we lived in real time, gathering and hunting.  With settled agriculture, ownership, waiting for the harvest, hoarding and barter, linear time came to be. We lost our innocence, grew up in shame and then came the philosophers and the modern!  “

“Be like children? “

“Detox, empty, all the accumulated crap of over 10,000 years”

“You, a communist? “

“ It is a long journey. We can see the future only to the extent that we can see the past.  To create the new tribe and community we need to craft a rough cut of the prototype. Nothing is available in the recent past that gives us even a rudimentary idea of what we seek to achieve.”

One dimensional man?” – Marcuse

“May be four dimensional, we are talking about the four fold path, the view that prevailed some 2500 years back in linear time. We need to see progress, decay and emergence across time, four aspects of the process that we call progress. Most often, progress has been mistaken for decay.  Schopenhauer was 25 when he wrote “ On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. One or four is not the issue. Seeing is the issue. Both saw”.

“The return of the noble savage? “

“Not really, may be a re-cognition of our roots. If you were lucky enough to have grown up on the banks of an unpolluted river, you would know how much time it takes to catch enough fish for the day, with bare hands. The original affluent society enjoyed full employment, had very little need for sophisticated tools and lived in non- time. Everything was in the commons, the equivalent of wiki in our times.  In spite of all the progress we are once again reduced to gatherers and hunters of a different kind, for safe food, water and information that reinforces our fitness to survive. We are hooked not connected.  @ signifies our birth in real time where wiki is the benchmark for not writing something that is already there or can be accessed through a simple search. It also signifies the death of the philosopher’s world that we created with a few lighthouse people as the paradigm and the birth of the new age of affluence. “

“Do we have any remnants of the original affluent society”?

“May be in some far corners of the world where the modern is yet to encroach. Not all societies moved to settled agriculture at the same pace. The Malabar Coast, present day Kerala, was one such region where the gathering/ hunting culture prevailed till the arrival of the Portuguese.  Pushing the tribal and the fisher to the edges is as old as the spicy seduction of the Queen of Sheba by Solomon with spices from Malai.  Malabar was the first El Dorado for the trader and the seeker, companions on the road and the sea. They came from all parts of the world. It did not take much time from the arrival of the Portuguese for reverse- migration to begin which continues unabated. The Constantine church met with the Thomas Church here. The faith that survived on its own merit for a millennium and half against waves set off by Mahaveera, Buddha, Asoka and Sankara gave in to the Constantine wave. The hunter turns hunted in no time”

“You are compressing a lot of history into a few lines.”  – Shan

“History is story, even science is. When facts are stranger than fiction, fiction sells no more. Story telling becomes story killing. His story is complete when read with her story.  Hyper – text is layered and each reader has the option to branch off any time with his explorations on the pointers in different directions.  We can now gainfully compress data as against loss-less compression of data.

Philosophy is a product of affluence, rather an affliction of modernity. Mahaveera and the Buddha were princes who renounced material affluence to the spiritual. Spinoza worked hard to earn a living to philosophize. Our modern versions feed on the commons but talk in tongues alien to the commons in their journey to be crowned. They will in time be reduced to a wiki-page and when the number of hits   falls below some prefixed number will vanish into digital oblivion.

When space and time come together history gives in to the new, R, the net value between the two opposing flows. It might appear to be insignificant now but the tectonic plates have begun to shift and the process will gather force as we become free from being hooked to being connected.

“We are no longer talking about philosophy. We are talking about organised religion.” – M

” We are exploring the larger context. The priest used to be the philosopher for    the masses. The role has been usurped by the scientist for many and the philosopher for some.”

Think outside the Planet

anchor

Think outside the box is a cliché that we hear too often. There must be a deeper reason for the persistence of the phrase

At some level it stands for thinking beyond the planet

As virtual space expands we are less stuck with the material. I don’t have to move my physical mass to go to the bank or to buy and sell my shares or to be in real-time touch with my friend in the valley.  Gravity is less of a constraint and achieving take off velocity demands less of an effort – in virtual space.

We are stuck with the material – physical, positioned in the physical world. The perfect sheet of rubber transformed into a foot-ball has no rubber at its centre.

What appears to be normal from this position, is the false normal

“Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth.”  Archimedes saw the problem with our position. In nearly 2500 years we are still stuck with the problem. .  

To move the earth, we need to re-position ourselves outside the earth, to a position external to the physical. We are much more than our physical selves.

We see the true normal from this position, similar to the astronauts looking at the planet from space.  True progress involves a return to the center. @ is the symbol of this return and the new journey.

Taking Position

PP'

We understand reality through the tools we use. The compass is replaced by the GPS. We may not care how it works but we take it for granted that it shows us our position and whether we are on course or not. If we were to develop a GPS for the journey to our true normal- potential- the first step would be to fix our position as the GPS does in our journeys in space.

What we see depends on where we stand, the position. P’ is the position arrived at by the GPS and P is the position external to the physical realm.  P shows us the true normal and P’ the perceived normal. P is in real-time, P’ in linear time.  P is invariant and P’ is variant in time and space.  The directions cover virtual and physical space.  P’ has a time horizon of around 75 years, current life expectancy in Kerala and most developed countries, whereas P has eternity as the time scale.

What is it to be human?

“I think the light house people have always liked to use language not understood by the commons. It’s just that now there are many more claimants to the crown spouting Guru sounding stuff which ties in with the term I have co-opted “veneration of the personality”. – Shan

“Your stuff doesn’t make any sense to me’ – Dreamcatcher

“We still worship the dead. The veneration of the living and the dead are two sides of the same coin. The adult of the species is yet to be born. Our lighthouse people speak to the commons not the academics. As for making sense, this is a long term project which might make sense eventually. They say that tolerance to ambiguity is essential to making sense. ” – JM

Since 1990 we have been confronting people with the question, what is to be human, in our work towards arriving at a common position in the contexts of  teams and organizations.  A Google search throws up not one but 29 answers in the first link that comes up on top of about 1,530,000,000 results (0.40 seconds).   Simple questions are the most difficult to answer. None of the answers reduce our uncertainty. They only add to it.

Does more information really help?

Among those 29 answers, this one is central to this dialogue.

“The symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal, inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative), separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making, goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order), and rotten with perfection” – Kenneth Burke.

He lived to be 96, for us a measure of his personal intelligence grid.

Burke’s terministic screen’ is “a set of symbols that becomes a kind of screen or grid of intelligibility through which the world makes sense to us.”   We named it ‘the matrix’ in our v.1 discussions.  For Burke, reality is a clutter of symbols (1966). Things remain the same or even worse in the post-internet age.  The clutter has only amplified. We hope you have looked up the wiki link. If we are separated from the natural by instruments of our own making, we could as well make instruments that bring us back to the natural too.

“Have we have been evolving in our human-ness in the last 10,000 years, since our gathering – hunting days? “

“In some aspects, most times we regressed. We need to put this in perspective as we go along. Taking a common invariant position is the first step”

“Cut the crap, what is THE answer?” – Ann

“We are the only species which can continually improve. We are learning engines with the potential to continually improve on our previous best performance”

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Freewill or Freewheel?

Continued from Part 1. Freewill and the Immortality Quotient

The Shift

Religion owes its origin to immortality. I will always be with you till the end, said Christ. For ‘Peters’ the managers, institutional and personal self-interest take precedence over the conceptual and the visionary. Dependence is the fuel for survival of the pyramids.  Hierarchic religion will be the first casualty of empowerment!

How do you select a facilitator, Guru or even your physician, the consultant?

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. There are no Buddhas any more.

Mintzberg says, “Coach our selves”.  Gurus die very young.

If the emperor claims to be the emperor, he is no emperor.

We are in transition to the age of the common Buddha. If you are in doubt, check it up at the corner shop.

Let us bury the dead. Shun the angels of death not the devils of life. Is she healthy physically, mentally, spiritually? Does she believe in community and dialogue?  Is she an adult on the path to immortality? Does she see the adult in you, even if it is a dormant one? What is her IQ, immortality quotient, commitment to the long term?

In 1990, Tara was attending the beginners program in yoga.  The centre was part of a large international network. She was carried away by the ‘presence’ of the facilitator and at the end of the sessions wanted to remain in touch with him. In the twenty sessions that they worked together with around twenty participants he had never shared his name or any other details. She was curious and once the question popped out of her.

“How old are you?’

“I am ageless”

“May I know your name?”

“What is in a name”?

This was all the one to one conversation that she had. She continues to practice yoga. She returned to the centre more than once in search of the guru who had set her on her yogic path. He had left the center and they could not help her to trace him.  But memories and the learning remain.  His words to the group still echoes in her.

“All learning is in the body. The body is the learning engine”

What is in a name?

Pied Pipers?

Zuckerberg, it sucks

The millions averaging six hours a day

It sucks, is it social?

Bill Gates and Windows

Where are the doors, open or shut?

Obama and Osama, the double or the other?

Bush and ambush, plain vanilla bush

Swartzkopf and shotskop

Friedman, hot, flat, crowded, and fried?

Hawking, hawks?

Grand design

Or Grand default?

Satyam = truth, Adarsh = the ideal

Maytas, truth reinvented the Indian way

Just two from the Indian summer of scams

Skill + Killings, spice it with Layings

Enron follows and the others join

Mc Kinsey, Donalds and WhartOn All!

Hamels hammer?

So much for the talent hunt

What a hunt?

What a war?

Overdogs or underdogs

What do the dogs see?

Outliers or mainstream

Black swans or White,

All is not well in Gladwell’s well

Where the eagles do not dare

Connect the dots, says him

Patterns, puzzles, mysteries and the misery

It is a mystic mandala

Hi Charles

It is very Handy

To be appropriately selfish

Read Will

Durant the durable

Not the perishables

The case for India

He had something of freewill

Not a free wheeler

For a taste of your own medicine

Appropriate selfishness

Stay Hungry, Stay foolish

Says the richest from the pulpit

Wow, what a Job, Connect the dots

Echoes Bansal from the land of immortals

Meluha

The empty raincoat, making sense of the future

Let us make sense of the present

The future will take care of itself

Empty drums echo best

The new Brahmins

Brahmin = Knowledge bearer, Vidyadhara

Vidya = real knowledge

Vidyadhara = one who bears knowledge

Vidya was lost on the way

Knowledge bearers became plain bearers

A country went under

History repeats on other shores

Connect the Dots, Manuel

God is with us

Will the elephant dance?

Will it?

Wont it?

We Will

Freewill and freewheel.

Community Intelligence

Freewill and the Immortality Quotient

The Shift

Ideas are like antibiotics. They lose their potency over time. Resistant/mutant versions of bacteria or virus surface and the search for more potent ones add to our ‘busy-ness’, a Pandora’s Box.  Intelligence would have been an appropriate term to discuss what we are about to. Intelligence has become intelligences like one god in the west become many in the east. There are too many shades and versions of them. We too have contributed to the babble. Community and Gender Intelligence were our favorite buzzwords in this dialogue

So what is the new coinage?  Why is it imperative?

The ‘Immortality Quotient’.

There are many reasons. First one is semantic. We  talk about change, change is the only constant etc. Change can be + or – . The + and  – might cancel each other out or what we now think + may be – in the long run.

We talk in such gross generalities that the word is killed and the talk only adds to the noise pollution. Our communication has no power. The word does not create and it is like a mantra chanted ad nauseum, without understanding the meaning of it. Had we been talking about improvement in place of change we would have been far better off.

Let us take a 2011 resolution that change is out and improvement is in?

Another one is our preoccupation with the immediate, the quarterly, playing Robin Hood and robbing peter to pay Paul, quick fixes that kill even the remote possibility of sustained or sustainable improvement. If we are driven by the logic of the market place and the best sellers, we will always be after a mirage, this format would not be necessary and no dialogue will be possible. We need a core of permanence, the center, to accumulate the pearl material. The best sellers are designed to be best sellers and the best of them are the result of some intelligent repackaging. This is what intelligence has come to.

Now that we have many an example of Skill + killings and layings, (read Enron and rest of the list) we know what the best and the most intelligent and the war for talent have come to be.

Why are we tagging immortality with freewill?

Free will is about choice whether to be an angel of death or a devil for life.  The immortality option is seldom explored because we are bogged down by the burden of normality which has nothing to do with true normality. To conform is natural yet not ‘natural’.

To be immortal is to stand the test of time. The blue ocean people are pointers in this direction. Buddha, Christ and Mohammad continue to be immortal and alive to influence our dominant world views. It is not really a clash of civilizations but a clash between mortals and immortals. With the longer life spans and the late bloomers, we are about to face challenges of relative physical immortality and eventually the problems of physical immortality.

It is better to believe in life/immortality and die a physical death due to any number of possible causes, than to believe in death and die before physical death.

Do we really believe in freewill?

We may not but we would like to.  An ounce of prevention is better than all the cures. We pretend that we have freewill because we want to live in free will while we continue to freewheel, like we pretend that we are working or adding value while we add to the semantic confusion, noise pollution and kill more trees. We don’t see evidence of anything free in the real sense of the term and it seems like the proverbial ‘eternal recurrence’.

It is a problem of what we pay attention to. We see brief manifestations of free will when we look at improvements over time and cumulatively we have many things to be put in perspective to build up a case for freewill.

It could be our 2011 resolution that we will work hard to develop a little of it.

So be it. Have a wonderful year ahead.

Ccontinued: Freewill or Freewheel