Martin Luther King Day

On this day, dedicated to the memory the Reverend Martin Luther King and his message, I would like to recall part of his statement on the occasion of receving the Nobel Prize:

“I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. … I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!”

As a man of vision King was talking about peace and justice, morality and human dignity, and unabashedly mentioned God. He was   not commenting on the wrestling match between logic and faith,  not worshiping or deriding science, nor extolling or   pooh-poohing  religion. Rather, he was speaking in terms of hope and the human potential for the good.

Visionary leaders of his stature don’t emerge too often in history.  But we may  rejoice that such people can and do emerge in human history.

January 15, 2012

Opera Audition

Just returned from a five hour ecstatic experience of opera auditions in which thirty young contestants treated the audience to a rich variety arias with exquisite skill in the Music Hall of Iowa State University. Some of them may end up at the Met some day. The singers were all between the ages of 22 and 30. As if to show the boundarylesness of music, one of the contestants was a Tamil speaking young woman of Indic heritage.

When one is involved in a matter of service to others, enjoyment of sports, absorption in a novel,  or the experience of good food or music, one is  in an altogether different realm from the vigorous cerebral debates on issues, ideologies, philosophical matters, or doctrinal differences.

Listening to the tenors, baritones and  sopranos was as delightful to my inner being as the philosophical exchanges are eye-opening to my analytical mind.

During an intermission I asked one of the contestants who had belted out to near perfection a Mozart piece from the Zauberflöte whether she spoke German. “Not a word,” she replied, “I only sing.”

“Shame on you,” I was about to say, “You are like the charitable person who doesn’t know the evolutionary forces that drive him/her to charity for species survival reasons.” But then, I said to myself, “I know very well the libretto of this piece, in English and in German; but if I were to even try to sing it, that would be a disaster.”

This reinforced my conviction that it is more interesting, important, and meaningful (for me) to engage in certain worthwhile activities than to be endlessly arguing about their underlying sources: which may be interesting as exercises and even enriching as science, but that has little to do with the fulfillment that comes from the practice (at least for me).

January 7, 2012

Iowa (Republican) Caucus: 2012

Since the whole country, if not the whole world, has been talking about the Iowa Caucus, and I happened to be in Ames, IA, my wife and I decided to visit one of the gatherings. We went to the Bethesda Lutheran Church on 1517 Northwestern Avenue. The parking lot was over flowing. Not being from Iowa, we were  not sure if we would be even allowed to come in.  But contrary to our fears we were wecome, but we were not given a ballot slip which we didn’t want anyway.

The main hall in the church was grand and serene. The tall brick walls were lined with countless small stained glass panels. Up in the balcony behind I could see huge organ pipes.

When we entered, the hall was almost full. We got to sit not far from the front rows. After a brief announcement and the formal election of a chair and a secretary for the session, the proceedings began. But first, envelops were passed around for fund raising.

Then people were invited to make brief comments in favor of one of the several candidates on the Republican roster. One gentleman came and spoke on behalf of Newt Gingrich, saying he wouldn’t vote for anyone else even if he were paid a thousand dollars. He was upset by the negative ads against the candidate of his choice.

A young man came and spoke highly about Ron Paul who, he said,  was so different from the other candidates, and who would bring fresh ideas to Washington. How things change! The oldest candidate was favored by the youngest members of the electorate. Talk of generation gap!

A political figure from Texas, probably a senator from that state, came and appreciated the welcome he had received in Iowa, and went on to extol Perry. Not many people clapped.

There was a warm supporting statement for Mitt Romney who was described as the one with the greatest chance of defeating Obama.

One gentleman thought Senator Santorum expressed best the mood and spirit of Republicans today, he probably meant many Republicans in Iowa.

No one came forward on behalf of Michelle Brachman or John Huntsman: the right-most and the left-most of the candidates, I thought..

Then everyone marked their choice on the slip they had received. These were put it into one of several cardboard boxes with a hole that were passed around.

That was it: This group of Republicans gathered there had expressed their inclination for one candidate or another.

Thus I witnessed grass-roots democracy at work.

We returned home to get the latest news from IV  on how things were going elsewhere in the city and the state.

January 4, 2011

Adieu 2011!

Oh 2011, like every other year, you have been good for some and bad for others, terrific for some and horrible for others, enjoyable for some and painful for others. You will be remembered in history:

For the unrest in the Middle East which has been successfully dethroning its decades-old dictatorships, with the task still uncompleted.

For the huge movement in India to root out the endemic corruption in politics, government, educational institutions, and business: a project which has had thus far only partial success.

For the capitulation, capture and corpse-drowning of Osama BL, the instigator of 9/11 which has led to more than a decade of air-port screening/ He was enjoying safe sanctuary in Pakistan, unbeknownst, we are told, to the government of that nation.

For the ruthless bombardment of Momar  Kaddafi’s realm by NATO forces in the name of protecting Libyan civilians, and the final murder of Momar K.

For Iran’s continued efforts to make itself nuclear-bomb-capable, and its bold and irrepressible defiance to the West.

For frequent announcements that China is on the verge of overtaking the U.S., and also prognostications to the effect this will not happen..

For the disgrace of Dominique Strauss Kahn, the 62 year old former head of the International Monetary Fund who was paraded as a criminal in New York City because of the accusation of violent honky-panky with an African chamber maid in a posh Hotel. He escaped a 25 year prison term because the accuser seemed to be prone to habitual mendacity.

For the horrific tsunami in Fukushima (Japan) which caused a nuclear disaster of no small proportions, and for hurricanes, tornadoes in other parts of the world no less, in  the U.S., Indonesia, the Philippines, Tamil Nadu and more.

For the financial disaster in Europe, especially in Greece, Italy, and Spain.

For the ups and downs of Republican Presidential hopefuls, which included Hermann Cain who had to step out because of his extra-marital sexual adventures.

For the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, only to be succeeded by his youthful son Kim Jong Un who promises to be as sullen, sour and secluded as his dead Dad.

For reports from some physicists that some neutrinos may moving faster than light, for getting data that almost confirm the existence of the Higgs boson, and for the spotting of a very earth-like planet, some 600 ly away from us.

Like every year, you too have taken away some of the cherished members of the human family. The U. S.  lost, among others,  Peter Falk, Andy Rooney, and Steve Job.

I am sure you will be remembered for a thousand other things by billions of other people, as I will remember you for the publication of my fourteenth and fifteenth books: Reflections on the Scientific Enterprise and Indic visions in an Age of Science.

These are some highlights that to my mind on this last day of the year numbered for you.

Adieu 2011

I wish 2012 to be a year of health and happiness to all my readers in this Blog and elsewhere, and hope to hear from them comments and reciprocal greetings.

December 31, 2011