24 November 2014

The best place to hide something is ...

Right in front of our noses :) This is how life works when it comes to hiding happiness. It is not that we always fail to recognize it for what it is. Heck, at times we are even grateful - sincerely at that - for what we have. But eventually, we move on in search of greener pastures, a better me, a better them, a different overall. We refuse to believe that the solution to life's puzzle could be this straightforward, the answer to our questions as simple, and that which we have been seeking with endless restlessness this obvious. The mind continues to crave complexity and that which is obvious remains comfortably hidden and inconspicuous from our questing gaze. 

I love stories. Stories that speak of Truth, which bring us closer to who we are, and help us see things the way they are. In this vain I started a book yesterday - Beggar king and the secret of happiness. This is the story of a storyteller, who happens to lose his voice, and his journey from self-defeat to discovering something within that is unconquerable, not defeat-able. Along the way, through trials and inquisitiveness, he author stumbles upon the meaning of life. His quest, like a wise ancient map, is there for any who may be drawn by such an impulse. 

His story reminds me of days and associations in my own life, which I have found to be most profound, which I cherish most deeply. They are all, invariably, rooted in coming upon the truth of my life at that instance and in my taking the courage to stand next to it unabashed. 

Truth offers us many lies so we are not afraid in approaching her. Such is a sum of our lives. Those days are special when we show the courage to show up next to our Truth. The truth of a sense of vulnerability and discontentment in face of outer calm; sitting next to our frustration and anger in abeyance of a false outer acceptance; holding hands of the strong inner desire to relate to another, letting the surrogate support of "I am not really emotional" drop away. 

I found this little book delightful in its rendering of insightful stories that inspire, make us smile, laugh, may be even tear up a little. But above all, it is about coming upon Truth, our Truth. For there is nothing more frightening or more healing than the light of the truth, especially when we have, as we all have, become accustomed to the diluted filtered streaks of Truth pouring through the thick heavy curtains of the lies we tell ourselves, of the lies we believe of what others tell us about ourselves, just so we can keep up the outward appearances of "having it all together". 

May we all embrace Light.

09 November 2014

The Commercialized Citizen

“Almost half of American states have taken steps to legalize cannabis. The federal government should follow”, reads the opening line of an article in the Nov 8th,2014 issue of The Economist. The article comes in light of the latest polls where more states have chosen to allow for free trade in cannabis. Alaska and Oregon chose to expand cannabis use beyond medical to recreational purposes, just like Washington and Colorado already have. Florida came very close to legalizing cannabis.
Cannabis is used to manage pain in medical situations as well as for recreational purposes. It is purported to be less harmful that some other drugs such as cocaine, heroine, etc but is quite harmful nonetheless leading to disorders such as psychosis, panic attacks, hallucinations, depression, aggressiveness. Even in short term use the drug impairs judgement,  memory, and learning. Mental disorders associated with marijuana use have their own category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association. These include Cannabis Intoxication (consisting of impaired motor coordination, anxiety, impaired judgment, sensation of slowed time, social withdrawal, and often includes perceptual disturbances; Cannabis Intoxication Delirium (memory deficit, disorientation); Cannabis Induced Psychotic Disorder, Delusions; Cannabis Induced Psychotic Disorder, Hallucinations; and Cannabis Induced Anxiety Disorder.
What is prompting such a rush to legalize this harmful drug? From the users’s point of view this is yet another mad rush toward nirvana – finding that next silver bullet that will dull the pain of loneliness, hardship, and the alienated face that  life can present from time to time. It would be a great escape from needing to face up to reality.
On the seller side, the interest in cannabis business is quite an obvious one. The overall weed business is already around $40B by some estimates and expected to be much larger (closer to $100B/year) if fully legalized [The Economist].
The Government, expected (by some) to watch out for the society’s greater good have much to gain (or lose, by not legalizing) as well. Colorado, where cannabis was legalized in Jan 2014, already raked in $1B this year alone. Given the significant budget shortfalls faced by most of the US states, this would be a lucrative option (as is gambling to many states).
Some cannabis legalization advocates argue a reduction in criminal activity from drug legalization. Perhaps we would also be safer if we legalized cocaine, heroine, people trafficking, prostitution, child pornography, and ivory trading? This argument fails to recognize that these acts were deemed illegal not because of who carried them out (“criminals”) but because of what they meant for the overall well being our society.  Criminals become “criminals” not because they are so born but because they blindly pursue their personal gains in severe conflict to the overall social well being. Legalizing what has been rightly illegal does not reduce crime, it legitimizes it.
What is the future of a society in which the buyers, the sellers, the regulators all collude in trading a false sense of freedom? The buyer buys an escape from reality, while the sellers and regulators happily forgo social responsibility in view of commercial gains.
Several months ago, a friend, unhappy with some cultural aspects of the US, wondered aloud how life was probably better in other countries and asked for my opinion on the same. Being an immigrant to the US and having lived and worked in many different continents across the globe, her question forced me to really think through my experiences. “In my experience, US is by far the best country to live in terms of economic opportunity and personal freedom. Here, more than anywhere else, one can choose to build a great life or to wither away into nothingness, unnoticed. Where this country is failing, however, and in a dangerously risky way, is that it has chosen to put its commercial interests ahead of its citizens’ welfare”, I reflected.
In such a world, a wakeful citizen of individual responsibility can come to rescue of the individual and of the society. Alas, it is not an easily cultivated virtue or mental habit. Nonetheless, it exists, is available, and is much needed in face of today’s increasingly conscience-free commercialization.