Monday, January 21, 2008


Fear, is one of the most fundamental and primary emotions that all conscious beings possess. It is the basis for the evolutionary fight or flight response that is triggered in times of extreme stress and when we are back into a corner. It is the emotion that has been hardwired into our minds and our very biology. It is quite possibly the most powerful and dominant emotion that we possess, most of our actions are done out of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of inability to survive, fear of stability and so on. Fear pushes us to act out in anger, in ignorance and in pure desperation. It can be argued that fear is the foundation of all other "negative" emotions or even the positive ones. When a person steals, they steal for a few reasons including desire to possess, possibly survival (food) or to thrill. Each of those reasons can be reduced to a foundation of fear. Desire to possess is fundamentally about fear of inadequacy either in monetary/material possessions or in social status. Survival is self-explanatory, no food=death and fear of death is the most base emotion. Thrill is the fear of normalcy, fear that one does not really experience happiness or excitement unless acting in such a manner.

Fear, I think is an amazing thing, quite possibly the most positive emotion we have because every time we are caught in its iron like grip we have the opportunity to fight it and conquer it. It is an opportunity for us to judge our own mettle. Do we give in or do we stand and fight, overcome our fear and push forward. There is a saying by Ambrose Redmoon:

"Courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that there is something more important than fear"

Fear gives us an opportunity to display and know our own courage. Fear has the ability to overpower our minds and our reasoning but we have the ability to try and resist that, it is in using that ability we can conquer fear. As the statement above says, we will always have fear but it is finding something that supercedes and shines a light over fear. For some people that thing is God, others is the love of their life, others its principles or even self-enlightenment. Fear should never hold us back and control our actions, Fear should impel us towards venturing into the unknown and opening up new horizons for ourselves. Every time we conquer one fear we open up a part of ourselves that has been hidden or ignored and for that we gain strength and wisdom. Life cannot be lived fully if fear looms over our heads and controls us. Far too often we use fear as an excuse not to live fully, maybe it be prior experiences which have hurt us and left us fearful of pain or the fear that maybe the risk we take will leave us with nothing or severely limited. Fundamentally, we have the power to conquer and channel the fear into something powerful to fuel us. Find that greater thing than fear and know that to be you, then fear is nothing more than a hurdle to jump rather than a mountain to climb.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Of late I have been really missing India. I used to go every couple years and spend months there, it was usually in the summer when the weather was hot and humid. The summer months would be spent with me sitting in a pool of my own sweat while I was assaulted by dozens of tiny blood sucking insects, and no I don't mean lawyers, I am referring to mosquitoes. On top of that I would usually get sick for a week or so because I love/loved street food. See in India, the best food you can eat is the food made on the street by small time vendors. The food was simply the best food you can eat anywhere. Who can resist the taste of food cooked in the finest bacteria infested water, mixed with human sweat and dirt from the street. I personally believe that those ingredients add the je ne sais quoi to the taste. Once you have the street food, you will constantly crave it like a good addict craves crack. It is simply put some of the most amazing food one can eat.

I would constantly be traveling in the summer while in India, usually on family temple tours. We would spend about 10-20 days going from city to city visiting vast, ancient and extravagent temples, usually of the Vishnu persuasion. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from those trips. There is something wonderous about being able to see the top of a temple towering over large and densely populated trees, as if it is an divine establishment in the midst of lush greenery. Some of these temples were built into the top of a mountainside where we would trek up the mountain then have to enter into small crevices to finally get into the sanctum sanctorum. Then as you enter into the sanctum, it is usually a very solemn and dark place lit by only lights of a lamp that are placed to highlight the deity, who is adorned with the finest clothes and jewelery that money can buy. The light from the lamps reflects off the gold and diamonds that drape the deity and adds an inherent glow, highlighting the sacredness of the location and the deity. Some of these temples are becoming more and more like tourist attractions but a few of them truly inspire and pervade you with pure spirituality and a sense of communion with the unknown. A sense of oneness with nature and the universe would also accompany you, especially in the peaks of the Himalayas, with the flowing Ganga or Yamuna, where great beings found communion with all that was, is and will be, but my experiences there are another post and a later part of my life.

If I went to India during winter, most of my days would be spent going to music concerts all day because that is the season of the Chennai Music Festival, where all the best carnatic musicians in the country and world come together and perform concerts every day. Its a time of immersing myself into a world that I rarely get to fully enjoy and a culture that only exists for me on my ipod. There is nothing quiet like being at a concert when you can actually observe the musician making music on the spot as they get lost in the moment. India in the winter is also India without the mosquito invasion and the sultry humidity of the sub-continent.

India, at any time is one of the most amazing places on this planet because it is living contradiction, it is the ancient and modern world converging into the same place. You will see a brand new mercedes hybrid racing down the street along side a man riding a bullock cart with wheels that are about the fall off. A high paid industrialist will be eating alongside an Vedic priest who still lives in the mentality of 3000 years ago. Democracy meets Dharma, Capitalism and Karma converge. Superman posters will be all over the city while statutes and idols of Hanuman are found on every street corner and tower over neighborhoods. India is where my soul resides and I miss it dearly.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Surrogate Motherhood

Before reading my diatribe or even discussion of the issue please read this article:

There are couple main issues here. First the broadest issue, what is the relationship between you and your body. One might say that you are your body but using a grammatical argument I can assert that the mere fact that we can say "my body" implies a fundamental difference between I and body, the body is relegated to possession of the I, much like we can say "my car". The subject, I, has possessory control over the object, body. Now, an argument to counter this that grammatical arguments aren't arguments of reality but of practicality and cultural milieu. While there is some merit to that, given that some languages do not have the concept of mine that English and most languages have. I don't want to delve into that argument but just want to say that lets assume a possessory interest between you and your body. If there is a possessory interest then next logical question is what level of interest do you have in regards to your body, meaning is it absolute or conditional.

Absolute interest means just what it states, the individual has total control over what they can or cannot do with their body much in the same vein as they have total control over what they can do with their car. If I want to destroy my car then I can do it and no one can stop me. Now, if the interest is conditional then how much control does one have over their body? The answer is that for nearly every state in this world, the individual does not possess absolute interest in their body. The governments regulate what we can do to ourselves and what we cannot. The United States has outlawed most drugs while in Amsterdam some drugs are allowed. In many countries, attempted suicide is a crime and for those who are wondering why suicide isn't considered a crime, send me your address and I will come and hit you upside your head. If you complete a suicide, YOU ARE DEAD. The government asserts some interest in your body. Whether they should be able to or not is another question, a question I will delve into at some point because it depends entirely on your view of the body and also the role and origins of government/statehood.

Now, how does all this apply to surrogate motherhood. Surrogate motherhood is about two key issues. First, does a woman have an possessory interest in her reproductive organs. Second, can that possessory interest be used for monetary gain? The answer to the first question is yes but in most of the world it seems to be absolute interest. A woman can do what she wants with her reproductive organs and if that is the case then it follows that she can loan or rent out those organs. If a man can donate his sperm to a sperm bank for money and a woman can donate her eggs then why can't a woman rent her uterus out? Consider manual labor such as construction work, is that not using of ones limbs directly for money? How about test subjects in medical trials, don't they use their bodies as grounds for determining if a drug works properly? It is theoritically speaking almost the same thing.

I think the issue that is most argued is that surrogate motherhood allows for society to view the human body and specifically a woman's body as merely an object, which many argue would dehumanize and allow people to disrespect and abuse women. This, I think would only occur when society begins to treat the act of surrogate motherhood in a mechanical fashion, not if we treat it as a way to help both infertile couples and woman who are poor. There is another argument that this is taking advantage of the poor woman and using her poverty to one's own advantage. The same can be said of any sort of labor, one of the main reasons that people get jobs is to make money so that they aren't poor and can live or survive. It is part of the human condition in this day and age. If the woman who decides to become a surrogate mother and does so because she needs money, what is wrong with that? We assume that people make rational decisions in regards to any other job so why don't we do that in this regard? I think a reason is that we are still paternalistic in regards to poor woman. There is a sense that poor women are less able to make these huge decisions which I believe is wrong. In fact these women are doing the opposite they are making rational decisions to help and further their lives and the lives of their families. They view surrogate motherhood as a job that lasts 9 months but which will keep help their families for the next 10 plus years.

People might also argue that infertile couples should adopt instead of trying to go the path of surrogacy but I think that ignores the fact that one of the goals of human existence is to perpetuate one's own genes. Adoption is something that lofty and I think something people should do but its not the only alternative to actually having children of your own. Surrogacy can and should be an option if that is something that one really desires. Nor should it have any moral indignation attached to it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ring in the New Year, Welcome to 2008

So this is my first post in a while and of 2008, sadly I only had blogged once in 2007 and I know I keep saying I will try be more regular in my blogging but I haven't been able to. I don't believe in resolutions so I won't be making one now, lets just say I'll make a good faith effort to be more consistent.

Now with that out of the way, lets get on to the topic of the day. I've had a few things on my mind of late, primarily the role that honesty, consistency and character play in today's society. Of these words can be reduced down to the simple idea of honor. By honor I am referring to the idea of personal integrity and strength of character. A person for whom their word is their bond and who would rather make the hard and more often than not right choice over the easy and more personally beneficial choice. I've been finding it harder and harder to meet people who possess those qualities, especially in New York.

We tend to place more value, as a society and people, on the end goal and notions of success than we do on character. Honesty is a core value that needs to be foster and ingrained more into people. Honesty in word and action. The foundation of honesty towards others is to first to be honest with oneself as the root of dishonesty is delusion of both yourself and the person you are dishonest with. In order to be more honest, it would require deep introspection and analyzing of yourself, to see who you really are to discover your desires, wants, goals, strengths, issues, weakness and flaws. Honesty requires that you face all of these things and determine what if anything you wish to do about them. The hardest part is to confront your flaws and come to terms with them, either as something you need help to overcome or something you need to fight against. Raging within each of us is a desire to ignore our flaws because to confront them would mean to stare our own inadequacies in the eye and see the darkness that dwells in us. Each of us has that darkness in us, some more than others.

Too often people don't want to stare into that abyss because it is scary and depressing, it can force us to drop whatever notions of self we held before and demolish our self-conceptions. This confrontation is not a one time action but a consistent and conscious decision on our part to keep doing so because every time you keep confronting yourself, you shine a little more light and gain a stronger and rooted center. I believe this will force you to be more honest with yourself and paves the way for you to be more honest with others.

Once you are honest with yourself, the harder quality to possess is strength of character or the will to act. Knowledge without action is useless and honesty without the will to change or improve is only subjectively good. What do you do after you know confront yourself? Do you just take comfort in that knowledge and continue on? or do you delve deep and try to develop yourself and turn those flaws and issues into something that builds your character? Take the statement in Batman Begins "its not who you are underneath but what you do that defines you", as corny and cliched as it may sound it rings with sound of truth. It is our actions that define us, not necessarily what we think inside our minds. I maybe the most honest person with myself but if I don't give others the same level of respect, then fundamentally I can't call myself a truly honest or good person. Honesty and respect go hand in hand, to be honest with someone is show them respect as a being who is worthy of you. There is a saying in hindu thought "satyam vada dharmam chara" Speak the truth and act righteously. To remain true and honest to yourself and others even in the face of adversity and fear is truly courage and strength of character, that is how one should be defined. A person should be idolized not necessarily for money, skills, abilities or possessions but on their character. How do they deal with adversity and what happens to their values and truth when it is put to task? Just something to ponder about. Any thoughts?