Thursday, 27 November 2014

The future of god

Deepak Chopra has done it again. A prolific author and a spiritual rock star, he had written another book to add to his famed literacy. It is simply but audaciously entitled The Future of God and the back flip burb declared this words, "What has God done for you lately?" Sounds like that Janet Jackson's me-centered song, "What have you done for me lately?" is definitely interesting to contemplate the future of god. It is like an ant trying to contemplate the future
 of man or a lump of clay asking the potter about his plan for tomorrow - to borrow an analogy. And asking what has god done for you lately somehow seems like turning the tables around where the creation becomes the creator and vice versa. It is a role reversal of the most bewildering sort. Talk about a cosmic genie.

Chopra actually does not endorse any specific religion. He is the all-embracing guru of our time. He is the postmodern renaissance man. Towards the end of the book, Chopra wrote this, “When you are free, silent, at peace, and completely self-aware, you inhabit the transcendent world. Labels applied to such people are Buddha, Christ, mahatma, swami, yogi, the enlightened, the awakened.”

In fact, Chopra likened this god to a cosmic Houdini and he reminded the reader that “God will escape every kind of box, including all the ones we depend upon the most: time, space, feeling, ideas, and concepts. Hence the mystery.” Yet, at the last page of the book, he confidently listed out “Ten Ideas That Give God a Future.” You can read the list as stated in the insert here as a summary. It seems like he has taken this god out of the traditional box and snugly fitted him into a personal box marked “Chopra’s universe”. Mystery unraveled?

In my 
view, his book seems to advocate bringing the divine hermit within us out into the public light. He encourages us to see god in a new-improved version. For a lack of apt terminology, he borrow the technical term of God 1.0 and God 2.0. God 1.0 is based on our needs. It is our projection of god premised upon satisfying our needs for security, protection, family and communities. At this point, he wrote, “How, then, should we re-create God?” Here is where God 2.0 comes in.

Now mind you, Chopra is not talking about the god of the West or the East or the fundamentalists. These different views of God are primitive and muddled, even self-serving. He has a different idea of god altogether. Here is where Chopra truly shine in grandiloquence as he offered his own upgraded definition: “In order to have a future, God must fulfill the promises made in his name throughout history. Instead of being a projection, God 2.0 is the reverse. He is the reality from which existence springs. As you journey inward, everyday life becomes suffused with divine qualities like love, forgiveness, and compassion. These are experiences in yourself as a reality. God 2.0 does much more – he is the interface between you and infinite consciousness.

In deftness of pomposity, he wrote about making the connection with this God 2.0 in three stages. The first connection is when you become centered as god experience dawns Then, the deeper connection comes when higher consciousness becomes real and this god experience transforms you. Finally, at the last stage, he calls it the total connection where “you merge with your source” and “God is revealed as pure consciousness, the essence of who you are.” At this last stage, he uncovers the god he had kept in his personal box with this catchphrase: “Your true self is God.” Mystery truly solved?

Alas, there is actually nothing new here. It is similar to the tale of the emperor's new clothes with his royal nudity still in full public glare save that the king is now ever more media-hording.

Personally, I can imagine the future of god no different from the future of man. And we know morbidly where we are all heading towards if we push our fragile ecosystem over the existential cliff compliment of our insatiable lust and greed. If that should happen, I guess there
 goes Chopra's god too. It is both a massacre of us and our public-shy deity. It is like a Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) leading to mass genocide and deicide.

So I guess every time we die and are duly cremated, a part of god also dies with us (to be revived to join the cosmic consciousness?). And if Jesus is to salvation what the Cross is to sin, that is, to be crucified to self, then Chopra's god is to us what we are to ourselves, that is, god and us are invariably interchangeable and

Of course, we are all created in his image, but there is a difference with that and saying that "our true self is God" if we follow a certain course of action and meditation as recommended in the book. In other words, god and us do not have a separate reality. It is so well mixed that we literally lose ourselves in his nature. We are essentially him and he is essentially us.

This provokes in me this often heard philosophical conundrum: If no one is around to hear the sound a twig makes when it falls from a
tree, is there a sound? So, with a little tweak, if there is no conscious being like us around (or even ever existed), is there a god in the first place? 

The answer to this question is temptingly obvious because if god lives in all of us and all it takes is for us to "lure" him out so that we can finally experience true transcendent reality and have an unsurpassed peace of mind, what if an accidental worldwide nuclear holocaust tomorrow brings this world to a complete
 end? No mankind means no god-kind? What will become of god then?

Or, if this world is mysteriously converted to atheism with not even one soul believing in the supernatural, what then becomes of Chopra's god? Is he put out of commission or duly decommissioned? Is he then taken out of circulation?

Of course I can hear Chopra's rebuttal that god has to exist first before we could exist because he is the first uncaused cause of everything and is everything. It is basically a chicken-and-egg thingy except 
that in this tweaked version, the chicken "god" has to come first before eggheads like us can exist. Well, in my view, this applies to the Biblical and sovereign God because His existence is clearly independent of ours. But, according to the way Chopra had defined his God 2.0, does it apply equally? And if we were to ignore him, dismiss and renounce him, what will Chopra's god do to get a little attention thrown his way? Will he send a rainbow or a flood or appear in a burning bush to shock and awe us?  If no one believes in him, will he retire into a cosmic geriatric ward tucked somewhere in the 
godforsaken universe and dunk Oreo biscuits in a cup of milo for eternity? So many cheeky questions and so few serious answers

I guess in Chopra's universe, the future of god depends on the future of men. Their existence is mutually dependent and self-reinforcing. And if god has done nothing for us lately, then is it time for those who are still harboring him to evict him out and start scouting for a more proactive divine tenant? God 3.0 or God 6.1 maybe?

In the end, Chopra's god makes me uncomfortable. It is a god that is too dependent on us. It 
blurs the line between us and him. We also run the risk of elevating ourselves on the pretense that we are bringing this god out of us. And I guess the greatest discomfiture for me is that Chopra's god is no more than the god we have created in our own image. But what we tell ourselves is really the other way round to perpetuate the delusion.

And in creating him in our image, we naturally want him to grant us all our wishes. And trust me, the self-serving list here is endless because this new-improved god
 somehow shares a common trait with us, that is, he too has a voracious appetite to feed. And I have this feeling that since the interest of Chopra's god is so aligned with mine, I will not be surprised when I die and go to heaven to find that the one seated on the divine throne is none other than my cosmic doppelganger cheerily inviting me into eternal rest. Cheerz.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

I do care about what others think.

This is the life of a family who cares about what others think about them. The male protagonist is Doug and the female is Carol. They are both obsessed with the opinions of others. It is important to them. It is what they live for. They hang onto every word. That is the air they breathe. This obsession really took flight after their marriage. In fact, they met due to peer pressure. Friends in church told them they were made for each other like Adam and Eve.
They flowed with their view and tied the knot after 4 months of courtship.
It was a record whirlwind romance for them. They just felt right. The wedding came and went like clockwork. They did little since most of the organization and coordination were done by friends and relatives. Even their honeymoon to Bali was influenced by friends. After 9 months, the inevitable happened.
 Doug and Carol had only one child. He is a boy and he grew up fast. Their marriage was not made in heaven but was built upon the opinions of many. Everybody had a say in how Doug and Carol should live their life. It was a democracy of near chaos at times.
Even the decision to have one child was arrived at on the insistence of the majority. For this reason, they constantly live with the morbid fear that they would not live up to the expectations of others. Sleepless nights were common because
 they were afraid of what others might think of them. They sacrificed privacy, autonomy and contentment for public affirmation and acceptance. They cannot imagine living in a world where they cannot please everybody.
It is said that those who live in a glass house should not cast the first stone. For Doug and Carol and their only son, they indeed lived in a glass house for full 
public viewing and judgment. And they were charitable masons who offered stones to the people to throw should they live below their collective expectation.
Over the years, a few stones had been cast their way when their son did not get the best nationwide grades for "O" and "A" levels. In fact, he scored a disappointing  third in the entire school and a fortieth place nationwide. But the disappointment was already sealed because not all expectations of society were fulfilled. His best was never the best for them
 and by extension, his parents.
So their son lived his youth to regret everything he did. Even his admission to the U was marred by a personal score of second class upper that was just not good enough obviously. If a double first was a tad too much, at least a first class would be the minimum - so clamored the collective expectations.
Doug and Carol were in fact heartbroken. They were visibly crestfallen when they attended his convocation. Their son simply had not lived up to their
 expectations, which was based on the expectations of others. That day, they did not celebrate. They went home straight and had an early night. Carol was in tears and Doug kept to himself for three weeks. He did not speak to his son; not even a word of encouragement. If anything, his son was a marginal failure to them.
Then there were the career of Doug and Carol. It is said that much was given and much was expected. They were like the biblical stewards who had invested everything they had for 
a return that everybody could be proud or envious of. But life unexpectedly was not smooth for them. No doubt both Doug and Carol climbed up the career ladder without much hiccups. But they did not meet up to expectations.
Doug retired as a vice-president of a medium size trading firm and Carol retired as the head of department of a well known junior college. Both of them had been given awards and accolades for lifetime's business and educational achievements. They
 lived comfortably and had more than enough for themselves and their son and their son's children.  Yet, they felt that they had missed the mark set by society at large. They agonized over lost opportunities and hoped bitterly that they could have done better, gone further, achieved more, and been more recognized.
They even blame their lack of focus and effort for being a marginal failure like their son. They piled up decades-long regrets into giant mental heaps and never enjoyed a night of peace and
 contentment. Even their prayers towards the end of their life were to ask for forgiveness for not being exemplary stewards and living up to expectations.
All in all, they felt like they had buried their talent in the ground to gather moss and earthworms. At their cremation - they died 4 months' apart - their son gave largely the same eulogy. It went something like this:
"Dad (and mom) lived his life for others. He aimed to never disappoint those who expected
 him to not disappoint them. My dad had little expectation of himself if not for the expectations others had on him. He strove to be the best he could be by the standards of the best of the best in society. Alas, he did not make it. His death is a testament of how he had fallen short. He had sadly missed the mark. There were some victories of course. But they were small consolatory victories. The big ones…he had missed them all. 

Before he died, he told me to not live the way he did, that is, to consistently fail to live up to 
the expectations of others. I suspect that he also felt that I was a failure too...though marginally. This he had dutifully kept to himself. But his disappointments were obvious to me. It was unhidden in his glum look, his tolerant smile, his choleric mutters, his dispirited words of encouragement, and his weary countenance. 

If the apple did not fall far from the family tree of disappointment, then I am afraid that I am going to end up like him. As the longest running CEO of a multinational
 pharmaceutical company, which has won worldwide acclaim, I don't think I measure up too. There are still lingering eyes of disapproval at the board and the world at large. 

So, goodbye dad (and mom). I will miss you very much. I hope I have not disappointed you too much and driven you to your graves in the most subtle and unintended ways. I guess our collective hopes now rest with our descendants. Let's hope they will take up where we had failed and do us proud. Rest in peace dad 
(and mom). God knows that that was the one state of mind that had remained beyond your reach in your living years. 

Thank you for coming my beloved guests. I hope the service tonight lives up to your expectations. Good night." Cheerz.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

I love my son.

When my son came to me recently and told me that he did not do that well for his PSLE, I was sorely disappointed. I became morose and angry. I regressed into a fetal position and experienced a retardation back to those puberty-fighting days of wanton petulance. In other words, I acted like a child, spoilt and weepy.

I have made a mistake. I should have responded differently. I should have recalled that “if I think, therefore I am,” then isn’t it no less true that “if I laugh, therefore I am?” If I could have done it all over again, I might just laugh about it. I might just look at my son and echo the words of Mark Twain, “Never let your schooling interfere with your education.” Or this, “I was born intelligent until education ruined me.”

Laughing about it may look silly and it doesn’t solve the problem. I know that. But at least, it is a good vaccine against the virus that often cause grown men of reasonable intelligence who claims to be a renaissance father to end up acting like an annoying, pig-headed jerk.

So, here is my shuffled cards of life. The deck has already been dealt before me. There will be kings of hearts, queens of clover and spades of the smallest digits. And there will also be a joker or two hiding somewhere in life’s shuffle. I have a choice. It is a choice between facing life’s challenges with a sense of humor or facing it with a constipated, diarrhea-panic look of you-are-just-not-good-enough.

I guess Samuel Beckett was right when he said, “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.” Even in the worse of times, you can squeeze out a pound of funny like popping green goo from pimples. Take baby Jesus, for example, struggling in a makeshift manger away from the mad-man Herod’s killing spree. Imagine if it were three wise women instead of three wise men who came to visit and bless him. Do you know what would happen? Well, according to one interpretation, “they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.”

Or try this Nazi joke for size. Two Jews are waiting to face a firing squad, when the news arrives that they are to be hanged instead. One turns to the other and says, “You see – they’ve run out of ammunition!” How’s that for laughing at the storm? Humor is indeed infectious. It is in fact worse than ebola. And in today’s modern technology age, some Malaysians might just call it e-boleh!

I recall one of the words of wisdom from Charlie Brown, “In the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back.” And if you have time to read the book of life, make sure you get your hands on a funny one. God knows we already have enough of melodramatic, soapy-sad tales in our world. 

One Holocaust survivor, Gizelle Cycowycz, who was also a psychologist once remarked, “We laughed under the worst circumstances.” She recalled in the Nazi-controlled barracks, she traded dirty jokes with former prostitutes. At the production line, she unabashedly giggled over funny songs and stories. It even turned a little sadistic when she laughed at the hardship around her. “We were hungry like hell, but we laughed,” she said. “It had to be a release.”

And most truly, I seriously need more of that kind of release. I am a sniff-neck, uptight and perpetually morose father. If there were ever a rectum competition to see who can shit out the most bricks per anal force and win the first prize of a truckload of star-dust sprinkled bullshit, I would have won hands down and pants down (flushed down too).

Personally, I often lose my way in a world where your worth is measured in the most superficial way. The world somehow seems to have forgotten that living is hard enough without putting unnecessary strain on one’s neurotic need to be smarter, look better, earn more, shine brighter, score higher, accumulate more, and compare endlessly. I always remind myself that I am indebted to life for just being alive and even more so to enjoy the company of loved ones and friends. And if the whole of the law is to love God and love thy neighbors and the rest is mere commentary, then I am blessed enough to have the opportunity to love my son and to have him love me back.

Isn’t that what living is truly all about? How much is that actually worth as compared to the material success that the world is desperately advocating for? Has anyone even bothered to put a price on bonding with your children, being emboldened by failures and not discouraged, enjoying what you have and not craving for what you don’t, and honoring your oath by loving your wife for a lifetime? Is there no pleasure to be derived from such pursuits that don’t cost a single cent but is infinitely worth more than anything in this world put together?

So, let me end here in humor. It Is said that children are like wet cement and whatever falls on them makes an impression. Well, if that is so, I want this to be cemented with my son: That I love him. That I love unconditionally. That the only disappointment I have is that I have not love him enough. That he is the reason why I am a father. That fatherhood is a privilege and is priceless. That love is my greatest joy. And that he is my greatest joy. Cheerz.