Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Michael J. Fox versus Rush Limbaugh

This topic angers me because I'm at a loss why people would even listen to Rush Limbaugh about something in which has no knowledge. It is clear when you watch the video of Michael J. Fox that he is not acting and he does not have control over his movements. People like him and Christopher Reeve have been fighting to find a way to cure these genetic problems for years. Its sad that we need to have some entertainer who develops the problem and then uses their influence and star power to fight for the cause. Whats sad isn't that they fight for a noble cause but that we as a society have a blind eye to it until such a person comes along.

It still fascinates me that ignorant people like Rush Limbaugh, Kurt Warner, Jim Caviezel and so on can come and stand against an issue that has the potential to save the lives of millions of people and relieve the pain and suffering of potential billions. The idiocy is that somehow these people think that stem cells are potential human beings therefore the stem cells should be protected from being cloned and used to make other cells. The reason that stem cells are considered to be potential human beings by scientifically ignorant and conservatives (somehow these two groups end up being the same group) is that they have the potential to become any human cell and the way they are extracted requires that an embroyo be destroyed. I previously discussed stem cells and so I won't rehash that entire discussion.

The Stem Cell debate is intricately tied into the Abortion debate, because basically the same argument that has been used for abortion has been used for stem cells. Essentially, what we have is policy makers and legislators, who have no foundation in modern science and thought. When we have the big decisions makers and we give airtime and weight to any joe moron with a opinion, we end up with a society that is more controlled by marketing and propoganda than actual evidence and research. I blame faith for this problem, faith which cannot be scrutinized without angry rebukes and criticism from those who possess such faith. The notion that God hates abortion but favors a war on terrorism, is ludicrious. How can religion in any objective manner provide us a basis to judge when life begins? or which lives matter?

Maybe this is a tangent from the topic at hand but I think it is connected. Let me try and explain my thought process. The metaphysical notion of God and God's relationship to His creation sets the framework of how we view ourselves and our relationship to the rest of creation. God made all the animals then made man, who is considered to be separate from all the rest of the creation. Man is not an animal but something entirely different as such we must have different rules apply to us. We have total dominion and mastery over all the creatures of the earth, hence we can kill this planet, its non-human inhabitants without any fear of reprisal. That might explain why we have conservatives who refuse to accept the reality of global warming, mass extinction of animal and plant species in the world and draining of the world's natural resources. We can experiment on mice who possess a fully functioning nervous system and thereby pain but we have opposition to using stem cells which don't possess any nervous system or any method of feeling sensations, in fact the idea of feelings or sensation cannot even apply to it. These stem cells can eventually lead to a cure for many of the diseases that plague us. There are millions of people on this planet who suffer from paralysis, children with multiple sclerosis, our elders who have alzhemirs, others with parkinsons and so many more disorders, which all can be eventually hopefully addressed by stem cell research. Thoughts? Comments?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hindu Mythology: Raama Part 1

One of the most powerful ancient methods of disseminating morals and knowledge was through the art of myth telling. The cultures of the ancient world used this uniquely human aspect to attempt to explain the world and the drama of human existence. Most people in the modern world know a few of the ancient myths such as the Hellenic myths: Illiad and the Odyessey. People also know the Teutonic myths of Thor, Odin and Loki. The least known myths are the myths of South America, Africa and ancient Sumeria and Persia. My particular area of expertise is Indian and Persian Mythology. So given that, I want to try and discuss a few of the characters that have been highlighted in Indian mythology beginning with Raama, of the Ramayana epic.

Raamayana means the Journey of Raama. There are numerous versions of the Ramayana but the original version is known as Valmiki's Ramayana, named after the first poet in India, Valmiki. Indian mythology has a unique feature in that the author of the epic also is a character in the epic, which also occurred in the Mahabharata with Veda Vyasa. Raama ("he who causes joy") was the first son of the monarch Dasaratha ("He who controls ten chariots"). He was born due to the intervention of the Gods. Dasaratha could not have children on his own so he performed a yagna or sacrifice in which he recieved divine nectar which he split up between his three wives. Raama was the oldest and first born. In later times, Raama became identified as the full avatar or manifestation of the Supreme Being, Vishnu. In Valmiki Ramayana, Raama was considered human but only in a few places was his divinity hinted at.

Raama was considered to be the perfect man, husband, father, king and son. I personally think this was the later thinkers imposed on the epic and character. Valmiki, I think, was trying to show that there cannot be a perfect human being that will appease all people. The crux of the entire Ramayana laid in the simple fact that each of the characters had to pick which duties they held to be superior. Dasaratha when he exiled Raama picked his duty as a husband and king over that of a father due to the promise he made to his third wife Kaikeyi. Raama, when he abandoned Sita in the forest during her pregnancy chose his duty as King over his duty as husband.

In the story, Raama abandons his pregnant wife Sita in the forest near the ashram of Valmiki because his subjects thought that Sita was impure because she was held captive of the Rakshasha King Ravana. Hindu thought at that time was that the King is both the civil, political, military and moral leader of the people. The king is to be a moral individual who sets the model for the rest of society. As Raama was king, he decided that he should be beyond reproach by his subjects that he left her in the forest. This is one of the few issues that I have always had with Raama, instead of changing the incorrect values of his people, he succumbed to them. Maybe this was the moral of the story because finally at the end of the story, after Raama realizes his mistake and tries to take back Sita, she rebukes him and returns back into the earth from whence she came.

Valmiki, I believe was trying to show that the choices we make are based on our priorities and sometimes our priorities conflict and during those times we might make the wrong choices. The Raama of Valmiki was a very conflicted individual, not in the emotional sense but in the sense that he had so many values he was trying to uphold all at once. He was a king, prince, man of his word, honest, a son who held his parent's decisions as paramount and so on. Valmiki's point was that there is no such thing as a perfect person, we can strive for that perfection but more often than not we will fail. In my next post, i'll try and delineate the qualities of Raama and show how he is an extremely complex character, who still has a lot to teach us about being human.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Big 27

So, I recently turned 27 or as they say in india, I'm running 28 (since in india they count your birthday from the day of your conception). Its rather funny because I think I'm supposed to feel different but I really don't, unless you consider that I'm graying a bit more and losing brain cells, hey as long as my hair doesn't fall out, i'm good to go. The one thing that birthdays do is to make you think about the past and with the lens towards the future. In that vein, I've been thinking about my life, where I've been, where I am and where I would like to go.

Life has been described as a book or a journey or a game. Its a book because what you have done is much like what has been recorded into a page, it cannot be changed (i'm guessing this metaphor was created before the invention of the eraser or white out). My life has been a rather interesting ride. I'd say I've experienced a lot more than many people and it is this ride that made me into the person I am now, good or bad thats for others to judge. I don't want to get into specifics because I'd rather people ask about it than me blog about it. My views on the world have changed drastically from high school and college. Maybe I've become more cynical but I think I've become more realistic. My idealism hasn't abated any because I still fundamentally believe in the potential of humanity to rise above selfishness.

The world we live in isn't ideal, its full of hatred, bigotry, anger, ignorance and selfishness. The depravity of the human condition really knows no bounds but neither does the splendor and goodness. Sometimes, just seeing that one kid in the street with nothing but is still content and happy with a beaming smile is enough to make you hope that maybe that kid will be the one who opens our eyes to part of us that connects us to everything else. The values our society pays to money and status is sometimes absurd. Seeing the amount of respect and attention we give to people like Paris Hilton or Donald Trump or other such people is sometimes borderline obscene when the teachers, thinkers, police, doctors, social workers and other such people are paid so poorly yet provide so much for our world.

As cheesy as it might be the line from batman begins really strikes a chord "It is not who you are underneath but what you do that defines you". A good person in my mind is the person who tries to help those that they barely know or maybe those they don't like. Helping people you care about as nice as it is isn't something that should be lauded but should be something we expect from each other. Ya, i've blogged about a part of this before but such thoughts do continue to linger.

So whats all this have to do with my age? I think I'm trying to find more ways to do more but I want to do things big. I want to do work in India help eradicate caste and ill treatment of women. I want to help improve health standards and medical problems. AIDS education, free medicine for the poor and education. I'm Indian and American, I want to find a way to live in both worlds and impact both worlds but its a thin line to find and even thinner line to walk. I guess my real birthday wish is that every year I'll be able to something more for people than I did the year before. Even though I'm not religious and question a lot of faith, I do believe that Dharma sustains uses and protects those who fight for it. Dharma is a living by principles of compassion, justice, honor, truth, dignity and knowledge. Those who stand and fight for these things are never alone and will always find support. Fight for what is right and don't back down even though the rest of the world might stand against you. Justice is never easy but is necessary. Compassion isn't a just a goal but a means, sometimes compassion does mean punishment but never hatred or anger. As long as you are honest with yourself you are honest with others, when you show dignity for others you reaffirm the dignity of yourself. Anyways, I have a bit more thoughts but not right now. Hopefully some of this makes sense. As always leave comments or suggestions.