December 27, 2012

Democracy is not hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is defined as thinking or doing what one does not truly intend but as surrender to the deviousness of the mind. When ingrained in us, we act this way as mere subconscious behavior. Thus, hypocrisy is considered one of the most derogatory aspects of our being. It indicates certain deceptiveness in our behavior that thrusts society into collective negative behavior and seals a stalemate on any hopes of progress towards the social harmony democracy hopes for.

Democracy is about consultation and this cannot happen effectively in the context of negative emotions and ambiguity of agreements that will militate against good decisions becoming mainstream and sustainable. When the very people who agree to a policy today bunks it the next day, it bodes dark to the progress of this consultative process. And needless to say, the public merely becomes onlookers or mere spectators in a battle that is fought on the political stage. Hypocrisy kills the confidence in those that lead us or even estranges friends and partners that make for the effervescent confluence of our social relationships.

Getting away from hypocrisy requires an internal reflection. A reflective eye into our inner selves will show us from where these dark thoughts arise. And what are the causes behind the causes. Inevitably we will be confronted with the realization that all our hypocrisy is due to the jealousy we harbor within us; and surely there will be reasons why that jealousy resides in us as it does – that too can be clarified with further reflection. And reflection requires dedicated time away from the traffic and noise of the mind we are so used to sustaining in this modern world of electronic gadgetry and instant connectivity (with our friends but not with our soul). We seek to hide the whisperings of the ego to be in the limelight by the outward manifestation of doing what it tells us to do – not what our true self would like us to do. So in effect we are just responding to the callings of our ego which is not our true self. Always having to please the onlooker rather than our inner selves, we live our lives in a charade of sorts. This has to be so because the ego doesn't want to annihilate itself by society rallying against it. So it is better to seem to be conformist even though what flows in our true mind is just the opposite. This negativity thus makes us quickly agree – especially when authoritative and powerful sources coax our indulgence, in time of action however, do nothing to help, or do the opposite.

We read in our holy Book, the ignominy of hypocrisy and yet we fall prey to its callings orchestrated by the ego. Prayer and social service can help us reverse such devious callings. If done consistently, it can become a habit over time, and surely our ego's voice will be thus incrementally muffled and the voice of our true self will ultimately emerge to shine through our ethereal self. Parents, we can all attempt to build a new society by encouraging our children towards truthfulness and non-hypocritical behavior by example --- by us being so ourselves; “being the change we hope to see”.  

December 21, 2012

Smoking rots the brain

It’s official! “Beware, smoking ‘rots’ the brain by damaging memory, learning and reasoning” according to a new study from King’s College, London. In brain tests and analysis of health and lifestyle data of group of middle agers, found that smoking affects the brain negatively even more than high blood pressure and obesity. People need to be aware that lifestyle could damage the mind as well as the body. Changing such behaviors for the better is a necessity for keeping our cognitive functioning at a premium.

My jibe alluding to Lord Bernard Shaw’s definition of a cigarette being “a long cylindrical object with a fire at one end and a fool at the other” drew some flack from my friends and readers, but perhaps this may provide additional gist to the fact that smoking truly damages our cognitive capacity. That means we need to not be fooled by the persuasive adverts on smoking that draw drones of young people to believe that smoking is chic and socially exciting. But what we don’t know is what it is doing to our body – both our lungs, organs and now they say our brain functioning too. Is this worth the social style we want to project, when we know now beyond a shadow of doubt that smoking will only get you huge health bills to pay when you get past middle age? To young people today, this age may seem far away, but surely the day will come and then we cannot lament for the opportunities that were. And for women, that goes for having its effects for the babies you will have too. How much of a sacrifice is that to make for the momentary ego flashes we want to sustain? 

December 17, 2012

Consultation is difficult but necessary

Accommodating other points of view is the essence of democracy. After all, consultation which is the tool of democracy can best generate its fruits when we accommodate myriad points of view. Just as there are many types of people in this world – even beyond color and creed – there are infinite view points on any give subject. And as if that is not enough, these views and opinions are dynamic too. Someone’s opinions today may not be the same tomorrow. That is the nature of us human beings. Therefore, democracy, as an idea for governance provides that space for listening to other points of view, even though the final decision may have to be categorical. And the art of decision making is about how deftly we accommodate a confluence of these myriad views – the best of such results is called consensus. The general process by which we arrive at this kind of decision is persuasion, and it comes about through the use of tools such as negotiation and accommodation. In the world of politics this coming to consensus is often termed as “deals” which give such decisions a derogatory ring. And many a time this maybe so because the so called win-win situations arrived at seem biased towards the benefits of  the parties that are negotiating rather than for the public for whom this decision was needed in the first place. Hapless public in our so called democratic systems languish from one voting day to the next lamenting the wrong decisions they have sided – and are so deceived over and over again. It is not difficult to understand why; because we are ignorant of the purpose of democracy!

A way out of this conundrum for us the public is for us to be aware of the consequences of political decisions (what the government calls policies). All too often we are easily swayed by the glitter of the moment, or at best only the very immediate future, of what is offered to us and seen as an immediate personal benefit, and want to grab it while it is available for we feel that soon it might be gone or that someone else might have it if we don’t act fast enough. Our minds are not used to reflecting on consequences of such decisions to the larger society because our primeval instinct is about getting what we can quickly – the survival instinct – and this hasn’t still left us, or put another way, we have not been able to get out of its clutches. The role of civilization is for us to move from that level of self-serving survival mode to another that moves us closer to our real selves – that of our essence as spiritual beings as we go through our just this temporary human experience. When we can begin to think that way, we can begin to see ourselves in every other person and thus view humanity as one whole unbounded entity, rather than fragmented beings each with our own selfish ends. Unfortunately, these types of ephemeral pleasures that the world of form offers us are what we continue to grope at, and this behavior never subsides because the material society, in its market logic, continues to expose us to such enticement, and we keep lapping this up being blissfully ignorant -- even deciding to be willfully ignorant because the moment of experiencing pleasure is so engaging and thrilling.

Our Maldivian public deserves to be given the awareness for us to become the reflective polity that will drive a mature democracy. So far in these past five years or so little has been done to make the Maldivian public become better stewards of democracy. Rather we have been made more ignorant of becoming it. The overt rifts, fights, and deals all the way – have exemplified this inaction by the party machinery and the independent commissions that are supposed to do this for us. Perhaps this ignorance is just what serves best the divisive politics that is rampant in our midst now – all in the name of democracy! 

December 11, 2012

There is no free lunch!

Many people have asked me about how not to be angry. Being mortals we cannot stop this emotion of anger completely. But with effort and awareness we can make some headway. Believe me we can, if we only try. 

The issue at the bottom of all anger is our ego dominating our being. Now it is not easy just to subdue the ego, because most of us are its prisoner even without realizing it. But if we can be aware that this ego is our false self pretending to be our real self and coaxing us to be better than the other person, we can beat it. However, when we cannot be aware that this formless entity of ‘conscience’ that is within us is a manipulator just attempting with all its guile to keep us separate from others, we fall into its  trap, imagining that what it calls for is what life is supposed to be.

Life is about social harmony. Even the most die hard critics of individualism would agree that ultimately we would like a caring, sharing and loving community. Those who deny this must be totally incarcerated by the ego. Given that this harmony is the objective of humanity, each one of us must contribute to this expression of love if we want our community or humanity is to be infused with love. Some will say this is a just a dream; how can it ever be! Yes, it can be as long as we want it to be -- remember the power of intention? -- perhaps, in the trappings of our ego, we believe we cannot be. But there is a silver lining; each one of us has control over ourselves to be what we want to be even if we cannot change the whole of society; if only we can be brave enough to look the other way to what the ego is beckoning us to do.

This is possible when we can stop doing what I term the most pervasive of our social habits – that of comparing ourselves to others. This pervasive social habit --again perpetuated by the ego because it wants you (and by that ‘it’) to be better than the other person -- is the root of our jealousy. This jealousy makes us do inhuman things. When we can’t get what we want by legal means, we use the illegal or even criminal means to achieve it and feel good about it because the ego has been satisfied. We identify so much with our ego that we are totally unaware of its tricks.

And unfortunately, even from childhood we are taught to compare – as if that is the best we can do for our children. Parents compare children with other children, at the workplace, bosses compare worker with worker, and even give awards to those who are better (who might not be better actually), teachers compare one student with the other by voicing directly, or indirectly by our archaic grading systems, and in life there on, this goes on pervasive. Parents think that by comparing they can make their child feel some shame and goad them to work harder to be like the other. Believe me parents! This is the most destructive thing you can do to your children. There are many ways to talk to your children without that young mind being affected by the feelings of disdain and rejection. Unfortunately, we do just the opposite – that of raising the specter of resentment in the young mind and plant the seeds of jealousy that manifests in many ways. Bullying, teasing, stealing, ganging-up on others, and so on – all this anti-social behavior that we see in grade school are the sprouting shoots of the seeds we as parents and society have planted – there is no denying. This behavior moves into adulthood in the form of social delinquency, theft and crime, and a life of dishonesty and deception. Mercifully, some may wake up from this through events of harsh and poignant realities that befall them in their adult life, but others go on ignorant that the ego is their real enemy within.

Our social unrest and this behest to be better than the other person, and the conflict it perpetuates is the result of the examples in our past that have formed our present psyche – the ego. But with awareness, we can change this. With an aggressive attempt of becoming aware of these competing forces within our mind, we can overcome this divisiveness. There is hope, but each one of us must make the attempt. There is no free lunch ever!

December 3, 2012


With the advent of democracy in Maldives, we seem to have become a very angry society. There is increased anger on the streets in the form of violence, anger at home in the form of arguments, anger on TV as debates that seem like fights, and anger among friends and lovers in the form of estrangement just because of party allegiance. All this I see as an internal resistance that we harbor against anything that challenges our set beliefs and our obstinacy to sticking with our own views. Such behavior does not come out of wisdom but out of foolishness. Just imagine, when everyone is with this mindset, what we get is a stubborn nation.

The world of our essence doesn’t work that way. Take for example our local breadfruit tree for all its strength and steadfastness has its branches shattered or itself gets uprooted in a violent storm, whereas the slender coconut tree survives. Eastern wisdom says, be not like the oak, but like the reed to weather the storm. This is the essence of acceptance, that when practiced with wisdom will help us be tolerant and survive to be the essence of building a compassionate society. Nature is always compliant and has its solutions within itself. It is man who is obdurate and breaks up in his resistance. The examples are everywhere, if we only seek to observe these in our midst.

This is a very apt allegory to follow if we want to heal as a society. In the divided society that we are becoming, vengefulness that ensues from pent-up jealousies and resentments buffet us daily, and we hurt ourselves as these negative emotions manifest in the ambiance of society as violence, crime and fear that rip our social fabric, and inside of us as high blood pressure, vascular diseases, anxiety, diabetes and the like. We don't realize this, but for example, one of the most prominent risk factors for the increasing levels of diabetes in our societies is our increasing levels of anxiety or stress– of course, gorging on fatty and sugary foods being the other is one that is quite well understood but sadly less acted upon. Many may not be aware of this first one. We may perhaps also not know that our Maldivian society is rife with anxiety and stress, but we are. The daily niggling feelings of discontentment, fear of theft and burglary, lack of public safety, the unkempt physical environment, and the congested streets that make for precarious walking and disgruntled driving are just some examples that drive our anxiety.

Anxiety may also be visible in the increased rate of smoking in our society -- perhaps we are the biggest smokers in south Asia. This too is a folly that can be beaten only when we can beat our ego. As a past smoker I should know. We burn our lungs for the glory of the ‘style and show’ these “killers in packets” engender. By the way, for those of you who may not know, Bernard Shaw’s definition of a cigarette is reflective of this folly. He described it as a white long cylindrical object with a fire at one end, and a fool at the other. True, we are constantly fooled by the commercials and the phony propaganda of the tobacco industry that boosts our ego on the one hand of being sophisticated and suave, and our policy makers, the drooling over the momentary benefits of the windfall we get from tobacco sales in our nation that can be used for nefarious ends on the other.

Our laws are stymied by this folly and fraud, for if we truly comprehend the extent of tobacco related illnesses on our society, a rationally thinking public leader would not think of shooting himself in the foot by not agreeing to pass such good and healthy legislation. For example, the Frame work Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a world accepted piece of global legislation is still finding reticence to its ratification in our country in its full stipulation. A watered down version may have been passed, yet its enforcement looms as a nightmare. How shortsighted can we be? Either that or we have elected leaders that don't care about the welfare of our Maldivian people. Tobacco is just one example of legislature the passing of which in its original form will make for a better society. There are more that needs to be looked at with a more objective frame of mind. But of course, given our democratic rights, many will say that truth is in the mind of the beholder.

So, what has this got to do with letting go? Perhaps it means that any solutions to reduce these civic concerns, we the public must let go the struggle to confront, and bear with the social monstrosity we have created. This does not mean we just give in, but it means that we cannot fight with the present moment. A wiser approach would be to introspect and ask ourselves, where we had gone wrong; be brave to survive in the storm of events and intend to vote wisely another day. If we reflect and are willing to search deep within ourselves, we will find the source from which the poison flows --- our ego propelled decisions that make us take selfish routes on national welfare; how we elect our leaders and fill our public governance portfolios. Only when we take the care and effort to exercise our rights for collective benefits can we call our process true democracy in action. Otherwise, it is just "old wine in new bottles". The Maldivian society cannot afford to prolong a charade. Another pool of voters will mature into suffrage in the next five years -- minds without the acculturation into human goodness that will form an added mass that needs to be persuaded will only make our task of nation-building ever more daunting. Take some moments to be silent without being angry and then God will allow solutions to flow into our minds.

November 26, 2012

The worth of things

What is something worth? Some say it’s about how much it costs to purchase in monetary terms. Yes, the more expensive something is, the more valuable it is, seems to be the prevailing belief. So what about things you can’t value?  A cute response maybe to say that it’s something priceless. Priceless things are so expensive (and so valuable in this kind of calculus) that most of us cannot afford these. A case of sour grapes perhaps, for, we still may yearn for things beyond the depth of our wallets. In the present day and age, most of the things we yearn for in our lives seem to be measured in dollars and cents.

But beyond the absolute monetary figures, the worth of something is also a reflection of our minds. For example, something I feel is very expensive may seem cheap to someone richer than I am. But his valuing of that something also depends on how one sees the value of one’s money. A miserly rich person may harbor similar reticence as I do, even though this person maybe way richer than I am.

On the contrary, even a poor person may not feel shy of buying the latest mobile phone or motor cycle. It depends on the sense of utility of the object to that buyer. An expensive meal may not be something a poor student may frequent on a daily basis, but if an opportunity for a desired date arises, that “expensive” meal or restaurant may suddenly seem plausible on his scale of utility preference.

So our sense of the worth of something is all in the mind. Whether it is for a good or bad cause, the outcomes relate to the intention stemming from the mind and moment. Whatever the mind decides, the body tends to pursue. So, to change our attitudes towards life’s hedonistic callings, we need to change our mindset. The mindset has to be changed through a withstanding of the strength of that stimulation. This not something new, you would say; everybody knows that! Yes, the big question is how do we resist giving into these temptations? And many of us may even then go on to say, there’s nothing wrong with some fun, we know when it’s the limit. Perhaps that is just the issue. Most of us are carried away beyond the limit and that is when the seeming freedom to do what we want becomes an imprisonment, an addiction. Enticement is the process of being persuaded. The strength of the stimulus determines how effectively we are persuaded. But please realize that the strength of that stimulus is not material although the object of our desire is material. This movement of being enticed is dependant on our mental disposition – awareness or ignorance to the vagaries of consequences – cost and benefits for the moment and for the longer term. This is the place of awareness, and we all need to be aware.

Establishing this ethos of awareness in ourselves will require mind training which means an active striving towards changing our behaviors by being aware of how our emotions tick – a realization that the ego’s callings is towards selfishness, and that the calling of our soul is towards service to society. How can we stimulate ourselves towards a direction of doing common good rather than pursue selfish acts? For most of us, the stimulus package in life towards doing what’s good is just not enticing enough. Rather, the path towards selfish desires is so much more attractive, but surely spells the demise of what we call community. The divisive nature that defines selfish existence is contradictory to social bonding and the nurturing of community. Thus social governance has always been a balancing act between these two competing forces within our bodies.  

As surely as oil cannot mix with water, selfishness and love cannot exist together without conflict. But sadly, such division is what we are doing to our society. What is the worth of leaving such a divided and conflict ridden society for our children? And our blaming each other for the ills we manifest in our society or harbor within us will do us no good. If we want to save our selves as a nation, the path has to be unrelenting efforts towards social harmony! We need to count our days by how much service we do to others, rather than how much we accumulate for ourselves. 

November 21, 2012

Showing off

Showing off is the bigger part of ownership. The enticement of this world is its offer of its material wealth. At least, this is what has come of age in the post industrial revolution world. It has been a continuing process of wealth accumulation using the human trait of greed as that fueling this growth.

My discussion yesterday with a friend brought me to a realization that wealth itself is not what we truly crave for. It’s only a symbol of a higher desire we have -- that of expanding our ego. Our ego is that "havaa-nafs" as we call in Maldives and is accumulated in our inner subconscious over years of nurturing -  within ourselves as the identity we grow up to be, and as a community, as the confluence of our collective consciousness that label us as either a greedy and corrupt society or a sharing and compassionate one. It all depends on our individual levels of these emotions that we grow up with which ultimately transforms into a societal psyche or archetype.

So all this greed arising from our ego makes us accumulate all the external paraphernalia that are the symbols of wealth. The latest model of car, TV, mobile phone, computer, the up-market house, the expanding bank account all are the symbols of this desire for the ego to project the expansion it desires always. But mind you, having these is not enough, for the ego to really thrive, these have to be noticed by others. If another person doesn't say how nice your new mobile phone is and shows the craved admiration, you are not happy or if no one admires your new house you feel flat, because wealth by itself has no meaning to the ego if it’s not admired by others. Just imagine, how would you like to own all the wealth on this earth if you were the only one left on it? It is the elevation of this ego that makes for our worldly happiness, but unfortunately, such happiness is very short-lived, for tomorrow something else will occupy the headlines, and we would be running after that. The ego cannot survive without winning and being in the limelight.

How to get out of this mess? The way is to give the ego less attention and that means being aware of the ego’s whisperings as soon as these arise in the mind. Whenever a selfish desire arises, just being aware that this is the ego’s craft will put up an initial barrier and give us a chance to observe this feeling without reacting to it. Making a habit of this will help us beat the ego into submission. So, a lack of attention to the ego will deflate it and make it cower in its diminishing significance. We must realize that our relentless craving and groping for material wealth is in fact a competition that the ego sustains against our real self -- our soul which we call the 'nafs' that doesn't have this incessant craving for anything material that is manifest in this world of form. The 'nafs' is in fact our little voice of conscience that is often snuffed out by this selfish ego that we harbor within ourselves. Which one we should let win is for us to decide, and that will determine the path in life we decide to take -- one of selfishness or one of grace. God has given that decision to us, by also giving us the faculty to discern -- how to think of right and wrong through our skills of discernment.

So do we want to choose the ‘nafs’ over the ‘hawaa-nafs’, or vice versa?  The choice is ours! 

November 20, 2012

Timeless quality of time

On my daily walk routine I see many situations that trigger my mind into what I convey through this blog. Today I saw a mother taking her little boy, perhaps 5-6 year old, for a walk in the adjoining park beside our house. The little kid was cavorting along in his own delight, but what I noticed also was that the mother was walking meters behind absolutely engrossed in conversation on her phone, all attention totally focused on the chatter rather than the child. For the half an hour or so she was there, she did not let go the phone for a moment, except to pat the kid on the head whenever he moved by her periodically on his meandering frolic along the grass and on the walk path. What I gathered from this spectacle is perhaps not an isolated event in consideration of most of us who go about in our effort of spending quality time with our children. We hear a lot about the neglect of children by our protracted absence from home and family as a result of work or leisure habits, and the effect it has on the psychological make up of our children. Many of us hear and accept the idea of quality time as an increasing necessity, but fail to act on this acceptance in any meaningful way. 

Quality time is about connecting. Quality time spent with our children is one of the most potent solutions at our disposal as parents to have the budding links that nature has endowed in us to build our psychological make-up connected so that we grow as balanced human beings fully resilient and ready for the adult world. This kind of self confidence is built through nurturing these connections in childhood. And a society is built up by the confluence of such adjusted individuals. Values, mores and acculturation are learned during this bonding process, translating ultimately into what is known as love – sharing without expecting. This is true maturity that brooks no puerile callings of the ego. Thus, our emotional make up is patently built on how well we have made true bonding happen.

For a child growing up, the responsibility for nurturing this is on parents. In the case I describe here, the mother who was on the phone may have had a mistaken notion of quality time. For her, the time she stayed with the kid seemed enough for having done her motherly duty – that of spending time with her child. But it would not be effective, unless the communication between them happened; interacting as if her child was the only thing that mattered for that moment and not the voice on the other end of the line should have been the condition here. Such is the process of bonding and it does not happen passively. I am sure there must be many such examples that will demonstrate our mediocre efforts towards child care, doing just enough, expecting that we have done our duty. We’ve all been children once upon a time, and perhaps some of us never really grow up (mentally) either. That must have some bearing on how we had experienced our childhoods. So with that knowledge and awareness of hindsight, let’s make new efforts to nurture a more caring nation of Maldivians for the future. We all need this feeling of being wanted and appreciated, and loved ultimately.

So let me say that quality time is not a measure of the chronological time we spend with our loved ones, but the timelessness we make these precious moments out to be. Yes, it would be good to get out to the park or to the beach with our kids but can we keep our phone switched off for that moment?  

November 16, 2012

Please defuse the time-bomb

The periodic environmental damages of the physical nature are not the only concerns plaguing our nation; perhaps more daunting are those lurking in our social environment threatening to become chronic.

Such was what I read in the Asia Foundation sponsored and MIPSTAR carried out situational assessment of gangs in Male, and was regretfully saddened by the status described; as many as thirty street gangs taking charge of strategic locations in Male as they ply their trade of drugs, violence and fear. This obviously reflects a dire consequence of something phenomenally unsatisfactory happening on our one square mile called Male; an unequivocal breakdown of governance in our city. The verbatims that jump out of the text bring remorse -- of the fact that families and leaders don't seem to care for the plight of these children who grow up with neglect and in the ambience of violence and drugs that is the order of their day. Fifteen year olds pushing drugs and others not much older perpetrating crimes that even seasoned criminals would wince to perform. Of course such heinous actions can only come from young people under the influence of drugs. The report talks about other influences too. 

I am aware that Journey is doing its diligent part to rehabilitate some of these youth through their counseling and guidance and assisting several users to go on methadone. However this effort seems just a drop in the bucket so to say in comparison with the issue at hand. While commending such NGO effort to invest their little bit, what we do at the moment is merely ‘giving an aspirin for the headache’ which is just a symptom of a much bigger underlying time-bomb of an issue. And the real issue is just left to fester. Of course it’s a win-win for those who use and for those who push. But the real loser is the Maldivian nation. I say nation because if we are to move as a community of people with a common vision, we lose that opportunity as other competing interests -- majority of these being financial, makes for a nation that cannot have a common agenda. Our nation is blissfully struggling in a multiparty democracy, the essence of the word perhaps 90 percent of our population does not still fathom, and the knowledge of this no one seems to want to impart to the polity either.

Our parties, and political leadership, the ‘gangs in Male’ survey says, are in fact abetting the perpetuation of these gangs. Therefore, asking the question whether our leaders are for or against the people is a valid one. In this God given opportunity to build a more compassionate and inclusive society in our country we seem to be seeing just the opposite. A plutocracy that is keeping the people in the yoke of material subservience and demonstrating abundantly that it is not a moral guiding philosophy that moves the party agenda, but that the cement that keeps the party together is greed, and fear. And the gang allegiance makes the latter easily possible. 

November 15, 2012

Another New Year; Another new Beginning

Dear Friends, 
Let me wish you a very happy Islamic New Year. In this 1434th year, may Almighty Allah's Bountiful Blessings continue to be upon each one of us His creations. May Maldives see a wonderful year ahead and begin a process of healing that will pervade every nook and corner of our country. Life is short, and in this brief episode we should not but give the best we can to our fellow brothers and sisters, rather than take. If we stop to reflect even for a little while, our reflection would reveal that the anger we have in our society does not have to be so. But then, only we ourselves can ultimately be the salve and solution.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's  ' Psalm of Life' depicts the path to an inspiring mindset. Those who were in school with me in Trinity College, Kandy, Sri Lanka,  would remember this from our Grade 6 English class:

TELL me not, in mournful numbers, 
  Life is but an empty dream!— 
For the soul is dead that slumbers, 
  And things are not what they seem. 
Life is real! Life is earnest!         
  And the grave is not its goal; 
Dust thou art, to dust returnest, 
  Was not spoken of the soul. 
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, 
  Is our destined end or way;  
But to act, that each to-morrow 
  Find us farther than to-day. 
Art is long, and Time is fleeting, 
  And our hearts, though stout and brave, 
Still, like muffled drums, are beating  
  Funeral marches to the grave. 
In the world's broad field of battle, 
  In the bivouac of Life, 
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! 
  Be a hero in the strife!  
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant! 
  Let the dead Past bury its dead! 
Act,—act in the living Present! 
  Heart within, and God o'erhead! 
Lives of great men all remind us
  We can make our lives sublime, 
And, departing, leave behind us 
  Footprints on the sands of time; 
Footprints, that perhaps another, 
  Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, 
  Seeing, shall take heart again. 
Let us, then, be up and doing, 
  With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing,  
  Learn to labor and to wait.

November 14, 2012


My conversation with a friend stumbled on the topic of governance which ultimately is about the relationship of the governed with the governor. There are only just two ways to make a person submit to the will of another -- by force or by persuasion. The choice of which approach to take is with the decision makers and the consequence of their action is also theirs; there is no getting away from consequences. Which action is better for the governed depends on the spiritual make-up of the perpetrator of the decision. The doer’s compassion, patience, perseverance and the status of the ego all play their part.
While democracies have their power base planted in the will of its people, its practice however often falls into the foibles of our primeval attitudes. More than often times when we have power over others there is the sense of urgency that pushes us to get things done as we wish. And human nature being the bigger part selfishness, its manifestations such as arrogance and hubris wants things done inflexibly and with urgency. This aspect of urgency appears to give the perpetrator power over another. It confirms this edict of power we have over the other by not being bothered to take the time to hear another point of view. This urgency thus makes us force issues and dictate their outcome with scant regard to the fact that by doing so we put the subordinate in bondage and that is just the opposite of freedom.

But then, when the role of the governor gets reversed to being one of the governed, the remorse and the agony of such a situation is quickly realized. I guess this is what is meant by “power blinds”, for when we possess this moment of authority, impermanence of the moment is never the resident thought. It is as if the moment will extend forever. This is sometime called delusion also -- a mental condition that removes one from the reality of a situation. When we were children many of us read the story of the emperor and his new clothes.
It is thus incumbent on us to realize that the table will turn always in a democracy. And the balance of nature is such that nothing is permanent. Today gives way to tomorrow, our bodies age, our clothes and our toys go out of fashion, everything has a determined life – a time to depart, and so on. Our governance of a nation is also subject to such vagaries of this life of form.

The more sustainable way to govern would be through consultation and persuasion; respecting other points of view and coming to compromises that don’t bank of winner taking all. This is what our good Book teaches us about governance too and is, by the way, the guiding tenet of our People’s Majlis in Maldives. How it lives this is the test of its capability to uphold the noble trust we have given it to be our –the people’s -- truthful representative in crafting the laws that we as a nation would live by. That is the compact we make when we drop our vote in the box. So, the better path to govern is that path of persuasion and guidance such that change is invoked from within each of us by realizing the folly of our dream in a world of impermanence and the artificial nature of change when governance is enforced. Sustained harmony and wellbeing will be our second nature when we choose that noble path of “shura”. A true sense of brotherhood will prevail. But sadly, separation, selfishness, greed and envy seem to be the visible flares that illuminate our chosen path of competitiveness, pleasure and urgent gratification demands. Can we break out of this mould that keeps us trapped?

October 31, 2012

Fear is the key!

Continuing from my recent blog “Darkness keeps fear intact”, let's look at fear being the prime disrupter of society. When we are free from fear life’s blessings can be truly enjoyed - freedom will prevail and creative endeavors can be attempted. Fear keeps us bound, for fear has a source that that keeps us transfixed into a situation that we feel we are helpless to breach; a situation that straps us into state of learned helplessness in regard to fear because the majority of the fears we harbor in our lives is not material, but imagined -- those buried deep within us in our psyche. How many times do we have to confront physical (material) fears such as a natural disaster, a motor vehicle accident, a tree falling over us, or have to confront a lion or a snake in our living environment? Of course, there are many such of the latter in human form we may encounter and that vicarious fear lingers even in regard to these human manifestations.

However, what I am talking about here are the fears we have nurtured over the course of our lives that hide in our sub-conscious, and those that arise into our consciousness whenever we are challenged in life in whatever way, or are used by despots and other bad guys in our system when they wish to desecrate our God-given rights or want us kept in the bind. Our ignorance of the source of this fear, or even when we discover this, the fact that most times we don’t want to confront these, keep us snared. Why is this? It is because our ego whispers to us that our self concept will be lost if we try to meddle. And so we let the ego have its way, and we continue to be kept its prisoner.

So this fear has to be confronted if we are to get out of this mental prison. Once we know the content of the fear we can grapple with it practically or we might find that this was actually nothing to fear after all. Fear arises out of a seeming state of dependence on something (an object, a person, a benefit or such thing that the ego desires so desperately – objects that we are attached to; those items or aspects of our lives we think we cannot live without!). Our ego makes us believe that if we lose these objects of our attachment, we will become nothing of any importance. So the ego, through it inherent guile, keeps us tempted in this state of self importance and experience of a false-paradise, using our fear as the opening to its tantalizations; this is the prison of pleasure, and helplessness. In our hedonism, we may in fact revel in this ‘bliss’ because our minds are so bound-up in a time-warp, do not seek to move beyond this world of pretense that we have deemed as our one and only reality. We fear our parents, our bosses, our wives, husbands, our friends, and even our servants (in our meager households or in lofty political posts); in this present time of affluence and materialism, such intense dependence prevails, for many of us in this present generation, having been nurtured by doting parents in the lap of indolence, have lost our ability to perform even the most mundane of life chores in our households and need servants to do these for us. Such is the dependence that fuels our fear.

Actually if we really reflect on the sources and content of our fears, at least 90 percent will fall in this category of mental fears that we have conjured up within ourselves – figments of our imagination, that bear no practical truth. Some call these fears insecurities. And so, if we can discover the flimsiness of these fears, such a big part of our worries in our lives will quickly vanish. The 10 percent that is left over can be tackled wisely and practically. So, imagine how much of energy within ourselves we can liberate through this awareness, and how we can use this in the service to mankind; to enable our nations and communities and our families to bring the harmony we so wish for, yet are unable to because we are all so mired in our fears and insecurities. Democracy can enter only when fear makes the exit! 

October 29, 2012

Nature abhors a vacuum

Nature does not allow a vacuum be, something will always fill it. Like a straw pulling in the liquid from your soda pop or the wind rushing in to take the place of low pressure created by the rising heat waves from a warmed up earth to cause our daily environmental variances, we may say nature abhors a vacuum. While this relates to the physical environment, we may liken this to our mental and spiritual environment too. An idle mind is the potential vacuum there. And we can be sure idle minds cannot remain idle for long as some ambient idea or fashion will soon occupy it. This is the gist of my focus with the soda pop and the weather being just the allegory.

An idle mind is the devil’s playground” goes an old saying. This means that if you have no particular goal in mind, you can be easily distracted. And mind you, old sayings have a lot of wisdom in them!

Our societies are brimming with ideas, fashions and philosophies, and these days they are closer to us than they have ever been; thanks to the information age. A lot of this is brewing around us in society’s cauldron of thoughts waiting for us to drink from. We have choice and we become responsible to that which we make; and there are very few second chances to fall back on. The idle mind is thus quickly filled up by what is sold best to us. The TV channels, the third place talk, the gossip, the written media, social networks all rally around us in a dizzying milieu vying for our attention. The unawares mind will be filled up in no time with the most forward and enticing, but perhaps not what’s best for you.

We need to be aware of this fact for us to be able to parry the undesirables that would rush in to mar our personality, most often easily overpowering the ones that would improve it. If nothing positive is out there to attract us, then the ugly ones will grab us! And not unexpectedly, our heads seem to turn faster towards those that are merely pleasurable and of short term benefit, rather than those potentially joyous but assuredly more lasting. And that is unfortunate, for, at the community level, such negativity accumulates and become the status quo of collective wisdom by which the next generation grows up. The sad thing is that unlike a physical captivity that we can break out of or runaway from, the mental formations that occupy the vacuum of our mind is so much harder to run away from; the tentacles dig deeper and the ego is so much harder to fight; as if with each accumulated negativity, its army gets ever larger. No guns or war planes can shoot this down to liberate the soul. Our Maldivian society needs to halt the decline we observe in the scarcity of social conscience and inspirational values that can compete with the pleasurable and exciting that now gets the lion share of our social market space.

My refrain as always is to call for creating social harmony in Maldives and for this we need to prevent these mental formations from taking permanent occupation our minds. Let's become seriously aware of these insidious processes; to realize the folly of such short-sightedness and not be swayed by the hedonism of today. The youth of today need to be aware that such attractants are not liberators, but those that will put you into permanent fetters. And to parents I would say, please bring your wisdom to bear and push for a worthy future for your children. Youth of Maldives, this is your nation of tomorrow that the earlier generations have merely borrowed from you. Don’t let us plunder it. Please keep us accountable. Unfortunately, you can't do so without you yourselves first assuming that accountability. 

October 26, 2012

Eid Mubarak!

Dear Rukkuri readers, Today is reason again to connect with each other and rejoice the blessing of life that we enjoy. Today's occasion of our Hajj has its own significance of sacrifice in Islam and the uncompromising submission we make to the will of Almighty Allah. Our lives too are a sacrifice we make to the power of good winning over the bad. May Allah's boundless Blessings be on you all. My prayers as always, is for Him to provide for a Maldives imbued with an abandon of social harmony and a very bright future. Eid Mubarak to one and all!

October 23, 2012

Darkness keeps fear intact

"Being kept in the dark" is a common phrase we are all familiar with. Darkness is a metaphor for ignorance or not knowing what's there or beyond it. And inherently there is fear when we don't know; when there is darkness shrouding our path. Therefore, fear and darkness are related because fear is the consequence of darkness, because darkness is the vista of the unknown. A child learns to be afraid of the dark only when it becomes aware of the hidden dangers lurking in the dark. This may be real or imagined, given that the child experiences or does not experience the content of the darkness. If nurtured into believing it contained scary stuff, then the seed of fear is planted, whereas if the content of the darkness is shown as not intimidating – just the absence of light – then the child grows not to fear. Or even when there is intimidating or scary content in the darkness, if we are made to deftly anticipate and harness this content, fear is diminished or vanishes.

This metaphor has great bearing in the sphere of our adult life to mould us into what we are as individuals and communities. Keeping people in darkness is to keep people in fear. And the easiest way to do this was to keep people in ignorance – away from learning and knowing. Fortunately, public education in the modern era has turned the tide. In many societies in the days gone by, including ours, education was a privilege of the few; the well to do. This was a way of keeping people in fear through sustained ignorance (darkness of the mind), for those with fear are easier to govern and so it was a powerful instrument of social control, and used assiduously by autocrats of the past. It kept society segmented and divided such that it became a way of life, accepted and live with over centuries. The age of enlightenment through education has shaped to dispel this darkness, liberating the mind out of its bind, and shattering the social demarcations that held people separate, towards an integrated whole; hopefully towards a realization that we are all God’s creation and not different from each other. It was our own doing that kept us apart.

However, the vestiges of our past cannot be done away with that easily. Remnants still linger and even with increased awareness harnessed from education, mindsets take generations to re-frame and rewire. And sadly, but surely, such delays in our ecological realities are capitalized on by those who govern us, to keep us in control. The controlling instinct too is a primeval one linked to our evolutionary ecology and so for our spiritual evolution to happen, we must learn to detach ourselves from the past vestiges and be inspired to espouse our common human heritage. Even with this idea called democracy, the essence of which talks to the primacy of all human beings being equal under God’s Law, we falter -- falling back on our ecological reality that tugs at our ego strings. We see this in all walks of life, in offices, businesses, in community governance and also in leading nations.

Withholding information or being kept in ignorance of procedures or terms of engagement are tools that governors use to keep themselves apart from the governed. And so keeping people in ignorance is the key tool that keeps up this distance which the culture of governing has come to espouse as one of its most powerful strategies to keep this gulf intact. Education has in modern times forced to bridge this gap somewhat, and democracy when practiced within its essential principles of consultation, tolerance, inclusiveness and responsibility, can allay this fear that keeps us from being the masters of ourselves. It will take leaders of another caliber - immune to the vestiges of the past to make the delight of democracy emerge. Otherwise life will continue to be "old wine in new bottles" so to say.

October 17, 2012

Self-Belief can move mountains

 One of the greatest powers of an individual is that of self-belief. Self belief comes from the confidence that one has within oneself. What it means is that through the complete awareness that one has within oneself of the ability to do anything, one is able to achieve objectives unimaginable otherwise. To what end one would use such harnessed power of self-belief is up to the individual and that is where the notion of choice comes in.

Whether used for good or bad, the universe will show the consequences - nothing that one does goes "unnoticed". Everything is accounted for and the law of cause and effect sets the table right ultimately. But my point in this discussion is not about how one uses this power for good or bad - I would personally advocate for the good of course – and that is up to the individual, but to convey to parents the need to nurture their children in self confidence and self-belief to use this power discovered within themselves to build a better society for tomorrow.

Generating self confidence in a child is not an easy thing when many of us parents are ourselves full of insecurities in the first place, and one may argue also that these stem from the insecurities of our parents and our grandparents; this delving into the past can be in fact bottomless. And so, to embark on doing something about it, we have to break this chain of causation and begin our attempts today. And so, today's parents must realize that the chain can only be broken if we do some selfless deeds we call sacrifice - to making our children not be subjected to the abuse and neglect that make them insecure. Difficult as this might sound – and as they say, “no pain, no gain”, we will need to re-evaluate our use of parental leisure; to go with friends and haunt restaurants, resorts, coffee shops or give no respite to business engagements which present no end at the expense of quality time with family. Be immersed in the daily routine of our nine to five office responsibilities, while a foreign aya takes care of the baby, or attempt to glean the benefits of after office overtime that eat away into daily free time with family, or give weekends to business engagements. All these take away time that could be used to build family relationships that will ultimately be the thing that we will yearn for as we grow in age.

Soon our children will have grown up and then we are upset or can’t understand why our children don’t love us after all what we have done for them (by the showering of designer toys, clothes, shoes and other material glitter). Nature does not wait for us to wake up, and unless we are tuned to its timings of human growth and evolution, we miss the boat. That moment in our life of nurturing the young minds to be bonded with us as parents would then be gone. No amount of lament will bring back those moments. Such torments in our heart would manifest in us later as health issues such as depression, vascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and such others when we least need these, and then have to be spending our hard earned savings on taking care of ourselves in the midst of children who have no love for us.

There is no better gift we can give to our children than love; no video game, or mobile phone or lavish birthday party can give them that value of selfless love. In fact these material delights of the moment wane as fast as they come and children are left with the same insecurities that made the parent give this stuff to the child in the first place; it is only the neighborhood merchant that benefits by our folly as we ring up his cash counter with the expenses we make to buy such gadgetry for our children to allay our guilt of their neglect, or our competitiveness with our neighbor or associate, just to be one up on them. By doing so, we continue to perpetuate our insecurities through our children. 

Love and attention and kind words are all they need to have in this formative period of their lives. Their self confidence is built on helping them discover their latent capacities. Parents have a role in helping them discover these by searching out the leaning of their passions - their element. But this delving into the recesses of these young minds cannot happen without engaging with them, discussing with them their problems and making them feel you are always there for them. And giving them the encouragement on work well done, not necessarily for them to do what we think are good for them but encourage them along the path that would liberate them from the bondage of inadequacy. But all this requires time with them, and engaging with them.

Liberated and self confident children don't do bad things. On the contrary it is those who are insecure and not sure of themselves that contribute to disharmony in family, community and society. They are in fact rebelling against the hold we have on them and demonstrating their desire to be noticed -- a state of attention seeking so to say. As a parent, to wait for later will be too late to harness the positive forces that are working within that young self called our child. In our Maldivian context, we had let go the noble edicts of life we used to hold onto in the past and let that situation prevail for too long as the glitter of materialism kept us blind Рthinking that wealth will make us a better nation. But that thinking is pass̩ now even as the developed countries are witnessing where human life is not revered, but wealth is.

Our actions for building a better society has to begin now. Building loving and nurturing environments in schools and in homes are the hallmarks of steps we can take immediately to build a safer and joyous society of Maldivians for tomorrow. Let's put materialism on the back burner for now, and put the agenda of social upliftment on the front ones. Parents of today, please believe me, this step will be much better for us in the long run. I give you this in writing, so if you think you cannot believe me, please keep this blog preserved for the next twenty years!

October 11, 2012

The power of good intention

In Maldives nowadays, we seldom have the space or hear voices for moderation. We are all so divided as a community. We find no TV programs or social forums by independently thinking people; sadly airtime is for political voices. Where have all these middle-of-the-path people gone? It’s the party political voices that seem to occupy all the social space -- office, family and the third-place time is all occupied by divided voices. So much so that, the moment a political party attempts now, even in sincerity, to advocate the goodness of a loving society, there is no trust to mindfully listen. No one seems to trust the other person - even within the same party!

How can we reduce this selfishness and bring in some love? Our NGOs, our middle of the path hopes for advocating social upliftment, are also money seeking entities. Actually, NGOs must be built on service to society, not with the objective of seeking a livelihood. Noble intentions are what drive the NGO cause and make them successful. There has to be something that we attempt to give to society. Not always seek to take. This positive mental alignment has a great bearing on what makes a good life happen -- that makes the universe tick and make what you wish for happen. We have heard of the law of attraction. It says that the universe cooperates with us to give us what we intend. Sadly this works for bad intentions also. That is why we have sad things happening to us as families, communities and as nations. Perhaps the confluence of negative thoughts, avarice, greed, hate and resentment magnify our national intention and manifest as the chaos we witness daily.

The only way out of this is to generate enough good intentions that can neutralize this wave of negative emotions that have pervaded our midst. How do we do this? The simple answer is that we need to build our relationships based on love and sharing rather than on fear, envy, and competition, and that can happen only if we can lose our ego. That intention must be like a skin that sticks to us. Have ourselves be constantly reminded of our role of goodness to our society and seek to see ourselves in others. But to get to this level of sublime thinking, we must make that categorical decision to move out of the chaos, and experience dedicated moments of silence, aloneness and prayer. We have to use our five moments in the day to get on that mat and think of our Creator and implore of Him to strengthen the conviction of this intention.

Then, when many individual sincere (Ihsaantheri) intentions coalesce into a mass movement of spiritual awakening, things will begin to improve. In a nation that is 100 percent Muslim and our Constitution based on the noble edicts of Islamic jurisprudence, there cannot be any holding back if only we take that step of steadfast intention. That power to ask is within us. May Allah bless us all and lift us out of this torrid dream of selfishness and help us build a loving society for our coming generations!  

October 8, 2012

Don’t forget the citizen of tomorrow

When I ask parents why they accompany their children to the school gate they mention that Male is not safe to send them alone. This is logically so for the small child may lose its way or be distracted, or even be injured by passing vehicles or motorcycles that throng our Male streets. But when parents have to accompany even just about teenage kids to the school gate clearly says that the Male environment is toxic. No parent would like to take that chance of their child being led astray. But there seems to be another angle to this too a friend tells me, for even in the other islands – our Raajjethere, this is becoming a common sight. Is it because parents fear their child might be in an accident? Or some bad person will lure them away? Our Island culture unfortunately is a replica of our Male culture, and behaviors tend to be passed on. But perhaps not so quickly, and thus my other reason why parents accompany children to school is to carry their heavy bags. But of course they don’t have to be that heavy if the school can organize the classroom learning process in a different way. But the real issue I ferret out is that parents don’t want to burden their children. Some parents even go to the extent of displeased retort to indicate that ‘they work so hard to make life for their children easy’. Does this observation seem too far fetched? Perhaps many parents do this in the sincerity of their love for their children. Sometimes, love can be blind. Life’s experiences show however that a child’s character is developed with the presence of some hardships in their lives. Parents in their mistaken notion of love for the child may be overdoing their doting on their young children. Certainly in the island that I saw this happen was not because of the fear of road traffic accidents or bad people stalking minors. I am wont to think that these are mistaken views of confused parents who do this to show they care. But who is there to show a better way? The Male culture is the vogue and the islands follow. And Male follows that modernization model of the West. Ultimately, materialism pervades our societies without us even being aware of how materialism insidiously takes the humanity away from us humans.   

Given such scenarios in our midst, we have ourselves become the manifestations of our mental insecurities -- thinking that our mimicking of global culture will make us modern. This is a fast track to our social destruction. Our sense of balance is lost and soon we are in alien territory where we have to follow those who will dictate terms to us. In our oblivion to the mesmerizing we are subject to, we are in fact in a drunken state, not knowing right from wrong for the glitter has dazzled us too much. Thus, aren't we the ones that create the insecurity that necessitates us to want our children to be safe. So we buy motor cycles and cars to ferry them to school to show our love for them but at home we don't do half of what we should do to make our children’s minds secure. We don't spend quality time with our kids or eat with them at mealtimes. We give out excuses that we have to earn our living so that our children can eat? Is it really that for which you are earning or is it just to get rich that is the paradigm our leaders’ lure. In the process, we continue to fill our streets with cars that make us feel important and rich, while our children feel neglected and join the street gangs that give them that security and the sense of belonging which their homes couldn’t give.  

Why do we not encourage our children to get into the marketplace of work? Idle minds will always find something to do, and it may not be what parents would want. But unvigilant parents will have tears to shed. Why do we say that as an excuse that we work so hard to make life easy for our children? Parents! Please be aware! Children of good character are not built on a comfortable life but a life of difficulties and hardship. Putting a child to situations of learning lessons (in test of hardship) doesn’t diminish our love for them. In fact, when done in good intention, is an expression of love. Rich parents should not forfeit the goodness of a tomorrow based on your egos. Your tears in old age will be too difficult to bear when you will have brought up children who will not care about you when you are old. Young parents may not know this as you struggle through the stress of each day. But that twilight day will inevitably come. Let's learn from these experiences of what is happening around you. How many old parents are left neglected? Otherwise there is no reason for the government to give a 2000 rupee old age allowance to them if there were loving children to care for them. It would in fact be a shame on a loving child to accept this money on account of government charity. In a democracy, the Government is merely recycling our own financial contributions back to us. Let's wake up to our world of democracy. Nobody is giving us charity – as in times of the kings and despots. Now we get back what we give. Democracy is an edict that calls on us as nation to strengthen our independent resolve to stand on our own feet. Democracy is about nurturing responsibility and a responsible future is built on breeding and nurturing responsible children - the citizens of tomorrow. Parents please wake up! 

October 3, 2012

Loss of a candle adds to the darkness

My heartfelt condolences to Dr Afraashim's family! A brightly burning candle is lost! The second of October will be marked as yet another dark day in the history of Maldives when we observe the innocence of our nation whither away as mindless and inhuman actions become ever more common. Wise minds help to build a resilient nation, and without the human experience of social and intellectual interaction and communication, such wisdom cannot flower and resilience cannot emerge --we cease to be a nation worth its salt; some people call these "failed states". Failed even before we have begun? Is this the vote of confidence we give to democracy? I cry for our nation today yet again as we see lives being lost -- lives that can make a difference in our society for the intellectual and moral contributions they can make. Devoid of the presence of such inputs, national development through mere accumulation of material wealth will be but like a line drawn on water --fleeting and transient --lost in a moment.
I pray we learn from these instances, to wake up and reflect on the heinousness of such actions that bring sustained sorrow and bereavement to whole families and communities. Our hope for a harmonious nation lies in the degree of our tolerance. Our Islam teaches us about tolerance and surrender. Do we want to let go of that wonderful hand-hold we have? Perhaps we may never know its wonder until we hit rock-bottom and have no life line left. Then it maybe too late. I would implore our leaders to take decisive action to pull us out of this shameful pit we are in as a nation.

September 18, 2012

Serving to lead

This title seems like an oxymoron. One could retort to indicate that these are two different categories of behavior. There are the leaders and then there are the followers. It seems only too logical, and in our daily lives we see little to indicate that leaders are servers, rather they seem the served.

My daughter's school has a motto that exhorts "come to learn, leave to serve" which reminds of service being the goal of learning.  And my own school had one that said "look to the end" telling of the need to be focused in life's endeavors -- focus that opens doors to one's wishes. Yes, several of our learning institutions tell us of the value of service to society and being focused in our work. However, unfortunately, many such institutions may not quite adequately follow up with the values that go to build the character need to live such morality. The real world that we come out to, unless we are thoroughly imbued with the virtues of these values by the time we graduate, influences us quite easily to flow with the tide of our materialistic ethic that is sweeping our world.

We are born to be leaders actually - each one of us. We were meant to pursue purpose and be steadfast in our pursuit of physical survival.  And to do so required us to be always on the look-out for innovative ways to survive – to be a leader in taking care of every action in our lives. From birth to independent physical existence, we are nurtured to be so. We plan and implement our lives to survive everyday and week and month and so on. Our alertness is a God-given gift to make us natural leaders by the time we step out of the cave. Overtime however, we have, through our settling into communities and organizations, have given over this function to selected or elected leaders and have spawned our systems of bureaucracy – a chain of authority and power structures that have us mired.  We discover that what we have created to serve us has turned on us to subvert us. Take any organization or nation and we see this picture emerging. We have relinquished our God given power to guide and chart our lives to someone else – in the guise of whatever label. Consequently we have become resigned to others taking decisions for us and dictating our lives and we seem to be even enjoying the fact that we are bestowed with that comfort of not having to take any decisions, do anything by ourselves and be just taken care of. And this expectation has now become a right that we demand of our leaders, but which unfortunately, the deluded minds of most leaders would not easily give into – the result being our unending conflicts with public officials.

Unfortunately too, as our case is now, in our complacency we have even lost the capacity to discern good leaders from the bad. And so in our jaded indolence and selfish greed let those who promise to us the world in their campaign rhetoric have their way and we allow them to be elected. When the proverbial milk is spilt there is little room to cry. We get the leaders we deserve. And unless we become aware of what characterizes good leaders, history will continue to repeat itself. Our God given resilience to search out the good in our lives must be re-invoked and we seek to be leaders ourselves --- not be satisfied in being just followers. In democratic governance particularly, we the people are the leaders and the elected our servants. We must exercise this right of ours with the wisdom of a good leader which is founded on responsibility and accountability. We must be alive to the fact that we have freedom with the caveat of responsibility and not just freedom to do as we like. Ultimately, the true test of good leadership is one’s ability to serve, and the features that define a good leader are:  being established in higher values, able to communicate a vision effectively, be endowed with impeccable character that is above reproach, being dedicated to the welfare of the served, and being one not driven by self-interest.

May Maldives get such leaders! 

September 12, 2012

Be a participant in life!

It is said that true joy in life is derived from being a participant rather than being just a spectator. We were created for participating in the process of life. Working for our living, creating the progress we are charting, growing our food crops, searching out the bounties in our hunting to keep us alive or keep us safe all require creativity that keeps our brain cells bristling. This was what nature intended. We were meant to be participants in the process of life. That which would keep us imbued with the desire to know and search for the meaning and purpose of our lives.

But with modernization, we are losing this inherent creative strength given by Providence and becoming mere spectators. What I mean here is that we are just onlookers without us being involved in the life we create. For example, the expanding proportion of time we spend watching television at home and movies in cinemas, chat on the phone or internet, or drive around in our cars or motor cycles for pleasure, and also including many others we can recount, is time used not in participating in life but in being mere spectators in life. No doubt, given our definition of development in our present moment of civilization, this is what makes sense to us, and the pleasure we derive from these experiences adds to our defined value quotient of our lives. This paradigm of modernization says that it is all about increasing the pleasures in our comfort and ease of living.

However, it’s good to be aware that such pleasure is only short-lived. We soon get tired of each new gadget and yearn for something different – that is the nature of pleasure. While we look forward each season for new gadgets or variations of the gadgets of the last season to sustain our pleasures (without which life would seem flat to us – and the television reminds us so in each of its commercials), the true beneficiaries of sustained joy would be the creators of these devices because they chose to be participants in life and not just spectators. Their engagement in the process of creativity gave them the discovery that was their joy, not the thought of dividends from a patent or royalties from the marketplace.  That is just what I want to convey. Creators don’t have selfishness in their minds, for insightfulness comes to minds that have space for it – those devoid of selfish thoughts. But spectatorship is driven by selfishness, because the objective here is always to derive pleasure from what is served to us – in what we may call a passive process. If we choose to be creators of our destiny, then we too will begin to see the silver linings of joy in our lives.

How can we change again to be creators? Our ancestors were creators because they had no idle time. They had to be vigilant every moment just to survive the dangers of our elements. Thus, their creativity was kept alive. Today, the story is totally different. While we do not want the primitive life of uncertainty, the certainly of our life cannot be taken for granted either – who knows when a “tsunami” in our lives may strike! We can, while enjoying the pleasures of our modernization, continue to engage the resources of our natural gift to be creative. And move from being indulgent – living for pleasure alone – to do something that will give us a more cogent connection with our being, through doing things that are creative. Learning a new language or attempt learning to play a musical instrument, write stories and poetry, make films, learn to cook local or international cuisine, experiment with trying out the skills of other professions, or begin painting are some of the things, not jut limited to these, we can begin to try. How much richer our society will then be! Even at the spiritual level, we can move to being participants rather than mere spectators. Our prayer, meditation, good thoughts or deeds is the vehicle, but being just a passenger may not be that useful as being the driver who is the true participant who will benefit from the true windfall. We need to move from the ritualizing to realizing. 

These are ways of participating in life. If you care to begin this process of engagement, you may find joy from these that you never thought was possible. Each of us in our childhood must have heard our parents say, “don’t waste your time, do something useful!” This is the calling of Providence for us all to be engaged in being a participant in life. That is where true joy resides. Indulging in just the pleasures will leave you feeling empty, and a fateful day will inevitably dawn on each one of us when we look back and say, what have I done with my life?

September 10, 2012

Health is wealth

 In life we always have a choice. So choosing health or ill health is also our choice. I still remember very clearly that day in May 1979 when the World Health Day’s slogan was “Smoking or Health, the Choice is Your’s!” Several of my friends and I, chose that day to quit. Today, I know that choosing to quit that day was a decision I made also to look at health as wealth. Being in the midst of my job to assist our countries become healthy, and with the racing years that fly by, I realize more and more that this is unquestionably so. Most of us in the modern era think wealth is that golden or “green stuff” that is the basis of our purchasing power. And increasingly we are all caught up in this mirage of a belief that the amassing of these piles of wealth outside of our bodies is our purpose in life. We live to earn rather than earn to live.

Just as important however is the wealth that we build inside of ourselves. Not measured in rufiyaas, dollars, euros, or gold bullions, this wealth is measured in disability-less life years and spiritual wellbeing.  We build this wealth not with borrowings from banks which put us into debt and deficit and keep us eternally jittery in the tantalizing hopes of dividends that is at the mercy of the market, but from the abounding wealth reserve of the universe that is given to us with no collateral, yet with full trust and with the total assuredness of dividends beyond our wildest dreams. Some people call this an investment for wellbeing, or spirituality, rather than indulgence.

Moving towards this spiritual investment requires a drastic change in mindset – an awareness of the transient nature of our being – that we are mortals whose physical structure will indeed degrade as time takes its toll. Try as we may with creams, injectables, visits to the beautician and trichologist, or interventions of the cosmetic surgeon, we cannot keep the effects of this ageing at bay. The inexorable event of our transfer to the other side will finally happen. Being mindful of this fleeting nature of our external beauty, and the eventuality of our life course, can lead us to take care of our bodies with respect that this phenomenal structure deserves -- not because our attractive outside will provide the means to the pleasure of this moment, but because the health of our body will lead to the joy of the hereafter. Our purpose of disability-less life years has to be for investing in the bounty of the hereafter and not for harvesting the hedonism of today, for that will never satiate us – but like a drug, will keep us wanting ever more, and thus be disappointing ultimately.  Behaviors such as the indulgence of modern living bring destruction to our body because the very nature of these excesses is insalubrious. Eating and drinking excessively, and spending stressful days in deals and schemes, and late nights exploits cannot make one healthy. But the environment that engenders material wealth is such, and the pleasures that are the object of this external wealth is found in such settings, and so, seeking pleasures necessitates one to be in the lap of such indulgence.

In contrast, preventive behavior that nurtures our body is the investment that will build our internal wealth that can be used to derive that joy that is the essence of our inner self. In contrast is the wealth we amass outside of our body that fuels the path to the pleasure we seek that is the essence of our ego. 

While pleasure may be expensive to buy, joy is inexpensive, and maybe that is why we do not seek it so single-mindedly as we do pleasure, because we define better by what is more expensive. But, yes, simple (cheap) nutritious food, healthy mental attitude (low cost spiritual reflection and prayer) and regular exercise (cheap interventions such as regular walking or riding the bicycle) can keep the wealth of our body always accumulating. Youth will change to adulthood and then to old age – a universal inevitability. To wait for later would be folly, for by then too much physical degradation has happened. Waking up now to these inevitabilities of the future is urgent.