Thursday, March 03, 2005

Oracles of the cyberspace...

In ancient Greece the Oracles foretold the future. Nowadays anyone can do that... your future is just a few clicks away.

A friend forwarded me an email today which had "Just for fun" as its subject. The contents of the email can be found by clicking on this link and try to look for a long list of animals (like dog, moneky etc. )

It tells you what "animal" you are depending on your birth date. It turns out that I am indeed a DOG (As I have believed for a long time). I need to get my wardrobe all trendy (as per the predictions) otherwise I will get depressed ...everything else looks fine. BTW all the other people (or animals) on the list are nice too. No snakes or lizards in this list (nothing against snakes; they are actually pretty decent animals). Which goes well I guess....with the belief that every person in this world is "good" at the core....

On this site you will get a perpetual supply of emails like these to forward. IT also has a convenient link to do so without having to copy and paste the useless stuff into your email window.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could find everything about ourselves or our life...or our future by looking at the stars, or the palm of our hand (or foot in some cases) or the lines on our forehead...or cards we draw from a tarot deck....or may be the wrinkles on our face might have something to do with our future (other than being the cue to check how that retirement account is doing)

B*** S***....

Wouldn't in be great if we could change to someone else....live a fairytale...in a fantasy land...HOGWASH....

If life and future was fully predictable (as Pascal thought it would be if he knew the position and velocity of each and every molecule in the world and had a super-duper computer)....I wouldn't want to be alive. If everything that is going to happen was known...life would be a sorry tale of expected events. It would be like watching a rerun of a bad movie.

If I don't want to be myself or am not satisfied with myself....I will probably not be satisfied being someone else too. Nature (or GOD or whoever you believe in) has given us the power for improvement....its called "will power" and "imagination". If you can "imagine" to be better and have the "will" to be better....you can work and actually "BE" a better person.

PaaNinI (The great SaMskrita VyAkaraNkAra..or Grammarian) was told by a fortune teller that he would never be a learned person because he doesnt have the right lines on the palm of his hand. He asked the "jyotiShI" (fortune teller) where the line would be....and then etched that line on his palm with a knife....and asked the jyotiShI, "Will I become a 'learned person' now?". PaaNinI ALSO made a great and invaluable contribution to Sanskrit grammar (there is a great tale about his death too...but that for later).

Everyone can write his/her own future on the palm of his/her hand....THEMSELVES

Such emails (EVEN if they are FOR FUN) tend to propagate the idea that future can be gauged by the movement of stars. It is a waste of the tremendous power of the internet. The internet was supposed to increase the direct exchange of "valuable" ideas between people. It has done that to some extent. But I feel that most of the times we exchange "CRAP" like these emails about "know your personality or horoscope".

There are other emails like these... where you have to send "Ganesh Vandana" (an ode to lord Ganesh)... to TEN OTHER PEOPLE so that you will get "everything you wish for"....or the emails where you have to send some cutesie poetry about "how you care for your friends" by forwarding that email to "your true friends". One such email promised my "everything I wish for" if I forwarded it to ten people and if I didn't "the opposite" will happen. What if I didn't forward it and wished "not to get anything"....will I get "Everything" (the opposite of nothing)??

Its like Thoreau said (and I am not quoting literally from Walden...but the gist is the same anyway).... "We may build a telegraph line between Maine and Texas....but what if Maine has nothing of significance to communicate with Texas?". (In his times telegraph was hi-tech communication). Turns out that Maine might have some important things to communicate with Texas (like choice of presidential candidate)....but the core lesson still applies....

People may be connected directly by the internet....but people may not necessarily have anything of significance to communicate with each other...and hence we see this traffic of "horoscope emails" and "ganesh vandana emails" and "cutsie letter to true friend" emails. I guess one reason is that it doesn't cost much money (and time) to send this stuff. It's just another kind of SPAM really....only it doesnt offer me a free iPOD or a flatscreen TV.

A character in a novel "Asami Asami" by P. L. Deshpande (a genius Marathi novelist, musician, actor....and much much more) says..."our forefathers spent their lives predicting everone else's future (as fortune tellers or astrologers) instead of worrying about improving their own future]".

Every Indian newspaper (both in print and online) has a horoscope section. Every new year there is a big section in all the magazines by some "imminent astrologer" about "the year ahead". No wedding (or any other events) happen without consulting the astrologer. In general there is a great tendency to follow any "guru" who promises quick fix englightment. Instant "nirvana" (and not the kind where you smoke weed) is more popular than fast food in India.

People have got to stop trying to figure out what is going to happen in their future and start spending more time on meaningful work (which might actually improve the odds of a better future). Astrologers, fortunetellers, new age gurus and (by a little stretch of logic) religious fanatics thrive and get a following because people are inherently afraid of the future and afraid of change. The quick fix solutions that these people provide (do this pooja, forward an email, follow the scripture) provide an escape... a simple and easy solution which is totally useless and ineffective.

The "unpredictability" or life is a great source of fear and mystery....but it is also the most vital ingredient. Without it life wouldn't be life. It is something that everyone must learn to live with...in fact not just live with...but celebrate.

"Cheers !"

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1 comment:

Valdi said...

Hey, I was going to write a little spiel about how I came to be reading your blog but I don't think you'd care :) I just wanted to say that I like what you wrote in your blog, I have similar views and it's always nice to know there are people out there who haven't been sucked into leading the life the tv tells them to. Keep up the good work.

Valdi