Britishisms and Americanisms

English English EE, American English AE, Some excerpts from “That’s not English” by Erin Moore. Hope with this, you may enjoy buying and reading this book.

QUITE
EE: quite means “rather” or “fairly”, and is subtle way of damning with faint praise. An English author receives an editorial letter from her American editor who “quite” likes her new book (Insult!) AE: quite simply means “very” and amps the adjective. No subtlety there. An American student finds it impossible to get a job in UK based on glowing recommendation letters submitted by her professors, whose highest praise is “quite intelligent and hard-working” (Shock!). An English houseguest confesses to being “quite hungry” and is served a steak of punishing size by an oblivious American friend (Horror!)

MOREISH
An adjective describing the quality of certain foods that make one want to keep eating them.English snaffle.Typical English snack sizes are smaller than Americans. Peanut butter are of size that can fit into a shoe whereas Americans are bucket sizes. American snacks may be labelled “family-size” but conveniently, the size of the family is not specified. American potato chips come with health claims: low-fat, gluten-free, no trans fats, calcium-enriched whereas in England its not so but sometimes came with small packet of slat to be added or with a claim “ready salted”

MUFTI – An Indian English word which means plainclothes, irrespective English love uniforms whereas Americans nope.English children wear uniforms from age 4 and there’s broad agreement, crossing political lines and class lines, that uniforms are a good idea improving discipline and focus and leaving class distinctions. Fewer than quarter of American schools have uniform policies. Americans are less comfortable with the idea of uniforms than the English, and when objecting to them, they often invoke the ideal of defending individual freedom and rights to expression. English always wonder given this line of thought why Americans always wear same jeans and T-shirts? Americans are in their “fanny packs” (fanny is slang for vagina in EE) whereas in AE slang fanny is vajay-jay. in EE, it’s called “bum bags”. England’s fashion to some extent is foppish and retro compared to American in certain items.

GOBSMACKED – figuratively to be flabbergasted, astounded or amazed

TRAINERS – fitness differences
Running shoes in AE is called “sneakers” and in EE is called “trainers”. Americans are joiners and appreciate the social aspects of shared workout experience and love their gyms – and not just because extreme weather and unwalkable suburbs make outside exercise difficult in many places. The English are more often head outside for their exercise. Outdoor activity is a huge part of English children whereas American schools are dropping their PE programs and cancelling recess, English schools are fanatical about games, and getting children outside in all weather. A rhyme often repeated to young children in shorts, as their knees turn blue is:
Whether the weather be fine, Or whether the weather be not
Whether the weather be cold, Or whether the weather be hot
We’ll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not

Fit or not, English love their countryside. Within minutes by car or train of any town or city, one can reach-instead of strip malls and big-box stores as far as eyen can see-unbroken stretches of walkable land – a testament to England’s devotion to county walking.

SORRY
A dozen inflections of the word sorry exists in EE and only one of them really means sorry! Here are just a few of the many moods and meanings these two syllables convey:
”Sorry!” (I steeped on your foot)
”Sorry.” (You stepped on my foot)
”Sorry?” (I didn’t;t catch want you said)
”SOrry.” (You are an idiot)
”SORRy.” (Get out of my way)
”SorRY.” (The nerve of some people)
”I’m sorry but….” (Actually I’m not at all)
”Sorry….” (I can;t help you)

TOILET
It’s rare that a word like “scunner” crosses nationalities, but we have a winner in “toilet”. It is generally, though by no means universally, unloved on both sides of the moist, moist Atlantic. (another most hated word is moist – due its connotations to body fluids, etc.) Americans use bathroom in homes and restrooms in public. British have their own loo and lavatory.

CHEERS
The English have a reputation for being passive-aggressive because they seem not to be saying what they mean—at least, not with words. In English culture, an anodyne word like sorry takes on shades of meaning that someone from outside will not be able to discern with any degree of sophistication, especially if he is from a culture that is more comfortable with confrontation, or one that condones a wider range of small talk among strangers. The English use sorry to protest, to ask you to repeat yourself, to soothe, and to smooth over social awkwardness as much as – if not more than – they use it to apologize. But most of the time, their object is pointlessness of a particularly English kind, to wit: politeness as refusal.
English courtesy often takes the form of what Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson have called “negative politeness”—which depends on keeping a respectful distance from others and not imposing on them. Its opposite, positive politeness, is inclusive and assumes others’ desire for our approval. Only the Japanese—masters of negative politeness—have anything even approaching the English sorry reflex. No wonder visiting Americans are so often caught off guard.
Although Americans and the English have different drinking customs and habits, cheers has been used as a toast in both countries for nearly a century. It comes from the Old French chiere, meaning face. Cheer later came to mean an expression or mood, and later a good mood, In England by the mid-1970s, cheers had become a colloquial synonym for thanks. Cheers has been used that way by the English ever since, and is a remarkably flexible word, It is, for one thing, a great class leveler:

Practically everyone gays it, and it is appropriate to say to anyone (with the possible exception of the queen, and yet the younger royals surely use it).Where does this leave cheers? Perhaps because of visits to England, or the influence of English novels, television, journalism, Americans have begun to adopt the “thanks/good-bye” meaning of late. As one American said, “I enjoy hearing [cheers] instead of the worn out ‘later’ or ‘see ya later.’ Like it or not,the Yanks and the Brits are cousins, and that’s that. Cheers!” Need less to say, not everyone shares his enthusiasm.

An English banker living in New York groused, “I’m getting sick of my clients saying cheers to me. Americans say cheers like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, with too much enthusiasm. It  must be delivered laconically.” Delivery does counts The English say “Chis” out of the sides of their mouths when they mean thank you or good-bye. Americans do not pickup on this, and say cheers the same—toothily, hitting the r a bit hard and implying an exclamation point—whether they mean it as a toast or a casual good-bye. Some Americans are just as irritated by their compatriots’ appropriation of cheers.

BESPOKE
The word bespoke is virtually unknown in America, which is astonishing because you would think that the American advertising industry would love to get its grubby mitts on a classy word like that. But just because the word is seldom heard and the typical American man wears mostly khakis or jeans and sneakers doesn’t mean America lacks the concept. “Having it your way” is considered a birthright by Americans, who bring a curatorial zeal to almost everything they do.

Clothing may not be bespoke in America, but want to know what is? Sandwiches. No one behind the deli counter will raise an eyebrow as you order to your eleven exacting specifications. Then, they will make it, fast, with no eye-rolling. Did I mention this is also cheap? When I went back to America, after a long absence, I was a little miffed when my roast (NOT honey roast) turkey, Swiss cheese, spicy mustard, light mayo, pickles, tomatoes, no lettuce, on whole wheat had gone up to $6.50. However, when it arrived it was not only a work of art, but a truly intimidating size.

The shops in England that offer the most choice today are actually borrowing the word bespoke from Savile Row: bespoke cakes, bespoke sandwiches, bespoke coffees. Everything is spoken for now. The dumbing down of the concept of bespoke in its native country would make Mr. Collins, haberdasher, of the USA, want to stick a needle in his eye. It may sound a bit silly, but it represents a level of choice that is actually new for England.

FORTNIGHT
Americans and the English have very similar attitudes toward time. Both cultures value punctuality and hard work and live by the clock. They share a sense of time as a resource that can be saved, spent, or wasted, though perhaps only an American would express the opinion, in earnest, that “time is money.” They do have subtly different ways of expressing the passage of time, but these are never sources of lasting confusion. The English write their dates starting with the day first, followed by the month and then the year. Americans start with the month. The English use a twenty-four-hour clock, in which 4:30 P.M. is expressed as “16.30” whenever precision is called for, such as scheduling (pronounced sheduling) meetings or talking about train or flight times. With the exception of their military, Americans go by a twelve-hour clock. Americans say “four thirty” or “half past four.” The English do, too, but they also might say “half four.”

The English have a special word, fort- night, that means two weeks. Americans just say two weeks. TWO weeks—one bloody fortnight—is the amount of time the English are appalled to hear that Americans “only” have for holiday (vacation) each year. This is perhaps the one point of true divergence when it comes to English and American attitudes toward time. The English get—and take—at least twenty days of vacation, plus public holidays (called bank holidays), amounting to a full month of paid vacation each year. Twenty days is the minimum allowed under European Union rules, and England is surrounded by countries where people take even more vacation than the English do. The French get about nine weeks, and even the Germans have eight, which does not seem like something Angela Merkel would have signed off on. Paid vacation is therefore seen as a human right, not a privilege, and the English feel fully entitled to take advantage of it.

SMART
Americans have an ambivalent relationship with the word smart. Listen to the way they use it, and you might question whether they think being smart is really such a good thing after all:
“I’ve had it with your smart-ass comments.”
“No one likes a smart aleck.”
“Don’t get smart with me! ”
In America, it’s perfectly fine to be a show-off if you are a talented athlete, or musician, or entrepreneur, but it’s not cool to be too intellectual. The brightest kids in school are rarely the most liked or popular, and this can last into adulthood if they don’t figure out where braininess is welcome and where it isn’t. No one wants smart people lording it over them. It’s why people who go to top universities won’t mention them by name in mixed company. “I went to college in Boston” is code for “I went to Harvard, but please like me anyway.” Americans don’t like elitism—and they associate intellectualism with elitism. This has been one of Barack Obama’s recurring challenges as president. His critics look for every opportunity to prove he is, as The New York Times reported, “a Harvard-educated millionaire elitist who is sure that he knows best and thinks that those who disagree just aren’t in their right minds. Never mind that Mr. Obama was raised in less exalted circumstances by a single mother who needed food stamps.

In England, like America, playing up your intelligence is just plain bad manners—not because it’s uncool to be bright, or because it’s considered elitist, but because it’s showing off, and as Sarah Lyell asserts in her book, A Field Guide to the British, “boasting … makes you seem aggressive, ambitious, self-regarding, puffed up—verging on American. The evils of those things are ingrained in them at school, where they are discouraged from saying they are better than anyone else, even when they are.” Even Oscar Wilde, one of the biggest show-offs the British Isles ever produced, knew this. He made valiant attempts at self-deprecation, but never really carried it off, once saying, “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”

DUDE
Americans think that all English people sound posh, and they won’t let the English forget it. Those who spend a lot of time in America, especially British expats, aren’t thrilled about the constant compliments they get about their accents, and some find them intrusive. There are more than sixty-six thousand members of a Facebook page called “I hate the way Americans think us English people all speak dead posh.” (Dead can be used in English English to mean “completely,” as it is here.) In England, accent is a strong indicator of one’s place in the class hierarchy. Many people grow up feeling self-conscious of what their accents reveal about them, whether they are posh or not, and compliments can make them feel a bit uncomfortable.

The English are constantly exposed to a variety of American accents and vocabulary through television and movies. Americans’ less-enunciated accents, and tendency to speak louder than the English are used to, make them sound brash, confident, and a little sloppy. American slang contributes to this impression, cutting across socioeconomic and gender lines far more than English slang, which is stratified. For example, to the English middle and upper classes, something they like will be “brilliant,” and if they agree with something you say, they may do so by saying -Quite.” A working-class person from London or Essex, seeking agreement, will use the question tag “innit” at the end of a sentence, in the same way an American might say “amlright?” It is harder to tell Americans’ social class from the words they use, and as a result Americans of all classes can sound similarly unrefined. There is no word that typifies this phenomenon more thoroughly than dude. Dude is a word that—no matter how often they are exposed to it—the English will not adopt. It is one of the most American-sounding words there is. And the story of dude is also the story of how American slang can become universal and classless in a way that is hard to imagine happening in England. Ironically, this aggressively casual word that, in today’s American English, might refer to a person of either sex.

PROPER
This definition, while not entirely unknown, is not the primary one in America. If an American hears “a proper cup of tea,” he is apt to picture a pinkie-lifting exercise in etiquette— not the strong and hot brew this phrase calls to the English mind. All the most common American uses of the word proper are about conforming to convention, being respectable and appropriate, formal and sedate. When Americans call something proper they are thinking refined, virtuous, boring. Being proper means likely having to pretend to be something one isn’t. Being genuine, or “real,” is far more desirable in American society than being proper. What Americans might not realize is that when the English say proper, genuine and real is precisely what they mean.

SCRAPPY
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can get you into real trouble. Whether you mean to insult or compliment, you’d better first make sure that the word you choose means what you think it means. For example, if something is cozy and comfortable in England it might be called homely. In America, homely means ugly. In England, a muppet is a foolish or incompetent person. In America, a muppet is a character from the beloved TV show by Jim Henson. Someone (or something) described as scrappy in England is untidy or poorly organized, whereas in America, someone who is scrappy is determined to win or achieve something, often in spite of mitigating circumstances. In America, scrappy is a compliment that carries the connotation of the underdog.

PULL
Imagine for a moment you are learning English as a foreign language. What would you make of words and phrases like pull, snog, pick up, make out, and screw? Do these sound like events in the World’s Strongest Man competition? Lesser-known Olympic sports? Things that might happen at a Monster Truck Rally? (SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! BE THERE! BE THERE’. BE THERE!) Courtship slang in English is anything but dignified. Of course, there are words in English for perfectly innocent activities, like retrieving golf balls from practice ranges, that are just as strange. Does ball shagging sound like something it ought to be legal to pay a young boy to do? Pull, snog, and shag are the English synonyms for pick up, make out, and screw. 

Advertisements

Zen Stories that caught my Attention

As I was reading “Zen masters of China”, it started off with Bodhidharma and traced most of the lineages that taught Zen Buddhism with little but piercing stories full of wisdom. Two stories that caught my attention, copied here:

CAOSHAN BENJI
During his time with Dongshan, Caoshan received the “Five Ranks,”and these became the basis of his own teaching. The work he did in passing on this tradition eventually resulted in the establishment of the largest of contemporary Zen traditions, the Caodong school. Its name is taken from the “mountain” names of these two masters. In Japanese, where the teachers’ names are Sozan Honjaku [Caoshanl and Tozan Ryokai [Dongshan], the school is known as Soto. Caoshan composed the following commentary on the five ranks: “The absolute is not necessarily void. The relative is not necessarily actual. There is neither turning towards nor turning away. When mental activity dies down and both the material world and emptiness are forgotten, there is no concealment. The whole is revealed. This is the relative within the absolute. Mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers. No names; nothing can be compared. This is the absolute within the relative. Clean and naked, bare and free, the face in full majesty. Throughout heaven and earth, the only honored one. This is coming from the absolute. The ear does not enter sound. Sound does not block the ear. The moment you go within, there have never been any fixed names in the world. This is arriving in the middle. No mind, no objects; no phenomena, no principle. It has always been beyond name or description, beyond absolute and relative, beyond essence and appearance. This is unity attained.”

GUIZONG ZHICHANG
The governor of Jiangzhou Province once visited another disciple of Mazu, Guizong Zhichang, in order to discuss a passage he had found in one of the Buddhist sutras regarding Mount Kunlun (Mount Sumeru, the mythical peak at the center of the world). “It’s said in the sutra,” the governor said, “that there’s a poppy seed within Mount Kunlun, and that within that poppy seed is Mount Kunlun. Now I can understand how there could be a poppy seed within the mountain, but it’s nonsense to suggest a poppy seed could contain a mountain!” Guizong said, “Governor, I’m told that you’re a well-read man.” “I believe I am,” the governor admitted. “I’ve been told you’ve read as many as ten thousand books.” “That’s very likely true.” “But your head is no bigger than a coconut, how could it possibly contain the contents of ten thousand books?” The governor had no reply.

Wolfgang von Goethe

I had the opportunity to be with Goethe through his creative and turbulent times from the translation by David Dollenmayer of Rudiger Safranski’s Goethe: Life as Work of Art. A great read about the literary genius of Germany and to know how he was inspired and lived life to its fullest. From his anointed beginnings with rich imaginative story telling in his childhood, his mother’s unconditional love till her end, his flair of artistic and creative genius which we were inborn and spontaneous portraits the life of a great poet, scientist, administrator and story-teller.

His maiden flight to fame happened by capitalizing his depression which he warded off by intensively writing the famous novel – Wilhelm Meister. It became as best seller of his yester years.  Being  a drop out of Leipzig and unconsummated love affair with Gretchen didn’t deter the young Goethe and he moved on to Strasbourg where he made it for his Lawyer degree and returned to Frankfurt but to pursue his literary passion. by chance of providence moved to Weimar at the invitation of young duchy Carl August to be his companion, court poet and administrator. He wrote numerous poems, novella, elegies, essays and a scientific treatise on colors of light – which describes color’s affect on eyes and how it perceives it – a more physiological investigation rather a scientific postulation. His big inspiration and breaking of Weimar boredom and inner clash got sorted when he rushed to Italy on artistic sight seeing trip on a long leave from his official duties. A man of prodigious literary output culminated in the celebrated classic Faust – an epic battle between good and evil. One should not miss his autobiography – Poetry and Truth and writings on Italian Journeys. Goethe had an active court, family and literary life during which following interacted – Anna Amelia (Carl August’s Mother), Katharina Elisabeth (his mother), Christiane Vulupius (his wife), August (his son), Otillie (his daughter in law), Schiller, Schopenhauer, Hegel, Charlotte von Stein (his distant lover and mail-mate), Zelter (final year friend), etc.

A few excerpts that I think others may like from Goethe’s life from the above book:

On Goethe’s aesthetic expression:
Goethe opposes the principle of imitation of nature with the principle of creative expression. But since the principle of imitation applies not just to concrete natural objects but also to the traditional forms of representation that one should emulate as well, the critique of imitation has a double significance: art needs to be liberated both from conventional forms and from dull realism. With his Götz as well as his nature and love poetry, Goethe was attempting exactly that. Whoever ties art to the imitation of nature assumes the goodness and beauty of nature, Goethe claims, and quotes Sulzer, who says of nature that it touches us “through pleasant impressions.” Goethe answers, Are not raging storms, floods, rains of fire, subterranean infernos, and death in all the elements just as true testimonies to its eternal life as glorious sun- rises over ripening vineyards and perfumed orange groves? Goethe denies that beauty in nature only needs to be imitated, and in the fervor of his polemical dismissal adopts the extreme counter- position: beauty must be forcibly wrested from a cruel nature. Far from following the example of nature, art must resist it. He advances an entirely novel thought: art is precisely the counterforce, it arises from the individual’s struggle to maintain himself against the destructive force of the whole. From this vantage point, he ventures a daring look at the culture of the future. Humanity, he writes, is in the act of closing itself off in a cultural palace behind walls of glass. A century later, Dostoevsky would define modernism in exactly the same way.* The young Goethe anticipates him en passant and also suggests Dostoevsky’s conclusion that the glass palace, the artificial world that has been wrested from nature, becomes a site of complacency. The powerful assertion of self against nature morphs into luxurious relaxation. Decadence threatens. Man, Goethe writes, gradually becomes softer and softer. How was such decadence to be avoided? The reviewer can answer even that. Since art and culture owe their existence to the resistance to nature, one should ally oneself with this resistive power and not simply take it for granted. One should pay attention to the difficulties artists have to overcome and the power that allows them to do so. That is how the creative impulse is fortified—nature pays it tribute. Yet the artistic power of anti-nature that is here invoked is, in the final analysis, itself nature, and the young Goethe knows that too. What else could it be? There is a kind of natural impulse to oppose what seems complete and finished in nature. Or, according to the traditional formulation, “natura naturans,” creative nature, opposes natura naturata,” incarnate nature. In another review, Goethe defines this power of natural anti-nature as genius. It is our firm belief that genius does not imitate nature, but rather itself creates, like nature. His early aesthetic is concentrated in this sentence. There is one more review that deserves to be quoted at length. Goethe wrote it after he had already moved to Wetzlar. He used a review of a trivial, conventional love story to describe a pair of lovers who would truly deserve to be depicted:

O Genius of our Fatherland, let a young man flourish soon who, full of youthful strength and high spirits, would be first the best companion for his circle . to whom the of friends, choose the best games, sing the happiest little songs . best dancer would joyfully give her hand … let him find a girl worthy of him! When more sacred feelings lead him from the bustle of society into solitude, let him discover a girl on his pilgrimage whose soul is all goodness and whose form all gracefulness, who has had the good fortune to develop in a quiet family circle of active, domestic love. Who is the favorite, friend, and support of her mother and the second mother of her home, whose always affectionate soul irresistibly wins every heart for her, from whom poets and wise men would willingly learn and take delight in her native virtue, prosperity, and grace.—And if she feels in hours of solitary peace that with all the love she broadcasts she is still missing something, a heart that is as young and warm as she and would yearn with her for more distant, more hidden joys. Firmly yoked to his invigorating company, she would strive toward all the golden prospects, eternal togetherness, lasting union, eternally entwining love. Let the two of them find each other. At the first approach they will sense, darkly and powerfully, what an epitome of bliss each is taking hold of in the other. They will never leave each other…. Truth will be in his songs and living beauty, not colorful soap-bubble ideals like those floating about in hundreds of German songs.

But do such girls exist? Can there be such youths? The reviewer has good reason to think that such a girl and boy really do exist, for he himself is the boy and the girl is Lotte Buff, and what happens between them takes place half in Wetzlar and half in a dream.

His poetic erotica – Roman Elegies:
He was able to connect his lovemaking with his memories of romance in Rome. Having read Catullus, Tibullus, and Propertius, he realized that he could ennoble the subject by deploying forms and motifs from Roman antiquity. Throughout 1789 his friends received bulletins about erotics or entertainments in the style of the ancients. He continued to work on them until the spring of 1790. On April 3 he wrote to Herder, I believe my elegies are finished; there is almost no trace of this vein in me anymore. And no wonder, since at the time he was in Venice, far from Christiane. The “Roman Elegies” were finished, but Goethe had no intention yet of publishing them. Herder advised against it, as did the duke, who was certainly no prude. He feared there would be talk, and it would be better to avoid trouble. Such things were only for the cognoscenti, not the general public. The “Roman Elegies” were not published until four years later, at the urging of Schiller, who was looking for something engaging for his cultural journal Die Horen. Goethe sent a version that deleted two of the elegies, and they were finally published in 1796. The elegies tell the story of a little love affair with a beautiful widow. They begin with Goethe ironically making fun of his own assiduous appetite for cultural enrichment: Tell me, oh stones, and speak to me, lofty palazzos! / Streets too, utter a word! Genius, not yet astir? /.. . / Certainly you are a world, oh Rome, but unless there be love, / Then were the world not a world, Rome then would not be Rome. Not until his Roman lover joins him in bed does Rome come alive. First, however, her vigilant mother must be propitiated with generous gifts: Mother and daughter enjoy their guest from the northern lands / And the barbarian rules Romans, body and soul. The third elegy is devoted to the theme of the unexpected. It is beautiful when things go quickly—not the lovemaking itself, but the preliminaries: Do not, Beloved, regret that you surrendered so quickly. / Know that I think nothing low, think nothing mean of you. Christiane is discernible behind the portrait of the beloved, especially in the description of her hair: Once she appeared to me, a nut-brown maiden. Her hair / Fell, a cascade rich and dark over her brow and down. / Shorter locks made ringlets round her delicate neck. / Waves of unbraided hair fell from crown to shoulders. And then the famous fifth elegy. Goethe’s contemporaries were surely asking themselves if the subject of the poem was a fictitious Roman lover or the very real Christiane. The question remains unanswered. 

All the night long, however, it’s Amor who keeps me busy.
       If I only learn half, lam doubly amused and
Do I not learn, after all, by tracing the lovely breasts’
      Forms, by running my hand down the beautiful hips?
Only then do I grasp the marble aright, I think and compare,
      See with a feeling eye, feel with a seeing hand.
If my beloved steals a few hours from my day, she
      Gives me hours of the night—compensation enough!
Kissing is not our sole occupation. We talk and reason,
      And if she falls asleep, I lie awake with my thoughts.
Many’s the time I’ve lain in her arms and made poems,
       Counting hexameter’s feet, fingers quietly tapping them
Out on her sleeping back.

Answering Schopenhauer:
Flowing from the pen of the young philosopher: “I know with absolute certainty that I have provided the first true theory of color, the first in the entire history of science. Recall that Goethe thought the Theory of Color was the work with which he had gained superiority over many others, that made him feel like a Napoleon of the intellectual empire. And now an unknown philosopher still in his twenties claims to be the one who first elevates this work to the level of a theory and also—the height of impertinence!— claims that to do so was a minor matter. Goethe had been working on the Theory of Color for half his life and this young philosopher had the gall to write, “Except for a few weeks, I too always treated it as a minor matter, and carry around in my head theories entirely different from that of color.” Goethe’s reply is remarkable in its amiable equanimity and sovereign irony. Alluding to Schopenhauer’s philosophical subjectivism, he writes, Whoever is himself inclined to construct the world out of the subject will not dismiss the observation that the subject, in its appearance, is always only an individual, and therefore needs a certain amount of truth and error to maintain its singularity. There is nothing, however, that divides humans more than the fact that the portions of those two ingredients are mixed according to various proportions. Schopenhauer was unwilling to accept that, with this sentence, Goethe’s judgment of the entire matter had been pronounced and nothing more was to be said. But what did Schopenhauer expect? Did he think Goethe would write him and say, Yes, you have elevated my scattered observations into a genuine theory. It is astonishing, young man, the way you’ve managed to crown my life’s work in just a few weeks. I shall hasten to make your work—which for the first time allows the full sun to shine upon my work—available to the public? Perhaps Schopenhauer really did hope for some such reply. At least’ he hoped that his treatise on colors would receive the blessing Of hi ersatz father. Goethe did not accept the proffered role. But he respect this pupil even though he was too eager to appear as the teacher.

Challenges of Love: Elective Affinities:
How free is love? How much natural compulsion does it involve? These are the challenging questions the novel sets out to answer. Goethe explained his title in the advertisement released by the publisher: It seems that the author’s continued exploration of physical nature caused him to choose this strange title. He would like it noted that in natural history one often makes use of ethical similes in order to bring closer something far removed from the circle of human knowledge; and so, in this story of a moral crisis, he was pleased to restore a chemical simile to its spiritual origin. What does it mean in this case when a chemical simile is restored to its spiritual origin? The chemical elements that form new bonds have no choice in the matter. And yet it looks as if they do. When humans form new bonds, they choose to do so. But does it only look that way in their case too? That would then be the origin of the simile. Both times—in the chemistry of the elements and in the chemistry of human interactions—there is necessity and what at most appears to be freedom, freedom as a simile, not as reality. The novel’s figures themselves discuss this problem. Charlotte protests against absorbing the human world into the natural realm. But after all, man is so many levels above those elements, and if in this case he was somewhat generous with the lovely words “choice” and “elective affinities,” he would do well to look inside himself and reflect on the value of such expressions on this occasion. For Charlotte, to reflect on their value means to reserve the expression “choice” for the human sphere and remove it from the realm of nature. But that is not what Goethe thinks. He says in a letter that he wants to show how traces of murky, passionate necessity are constantly infiltrating the realm of cheerful freedom and rationality and can be completely extinguished only by a higher hand, and in this life perhaps not at all. The novel is set up as an experiment to examine the relative power of freedom and necessity in erotic interaction. It begins with a mature couple, bound together by a gentle love and living a with- drawn and protected life in their manor house and garden, free of all obligations and in a situation that allows—but also constrains—them to find satisfaction in themselves and each other. The story begins at the moment that this previously idyllic, closed world is opened up.

How should a mother be and slip quietly:
Goethe did not immediately inform his mother of his marriage to Christiane or of the birth of his son. She first heard about both events from others. And yet she bore her son no grudges, and when she called Christiane his “bedmate,” she by no means meant it disparagingly. She regularly sent large packages of presents to her grandson and adhered to a principle she once described to Charlotte von Stein: “I like people very much … never get preachy with anyone —always try to find their good side—leave their bad side to Him who created man and knows best how to file down their sharp corners.” She took an active interest in Goethe’s literary works, read and commented on them, and proudly gave them as presents to her Frankfurt friends. She also kept him up to date on the Frankfurters’ opinions of their celebrity son, and since she was out in society and often attended the theater, there was much to tell. In one of her last letters, she calls the first volumes of the Cotta edition of the complete works “heartwarming” and praises in particular the ballads “The Bride of Corinth” and “The God and the Bayadere.” She always liked his erotic works best and was not one to take exception to the “Roman Elegies.” In her last letter, shortly before she died, she put in a good word for August: they shouldn’t “plague” him with demands to write letters to her. Young people had other things on their minds, so please, no “thumbscrews” for her sake! Goethe had the exact circumstances of her death described to him. Katharina Elisabeth had proved to be as plucky and witty at the end as she had been all her life. The coffin maker had appeared at her bedside to take measurements, and she expressed her regret that had already been arranged and he had made the trip for nothing. She slipped away quietly soon thereafter.

Final thoughts – are they repeatable in every epoch?
The unassailable conviction formulated in a letter to Zelter:

Young people are much too easily excited and then swept away in the maelstrom of the times; wealth and speed are what the world admires and every- one strives for; railroads, express letters, steamships, and every possible facility of communication—that’s what matters to the educated world: to outdo and out- learn one another and thereby remain stuck in mediocrity.

As so often in the late letters, this is followed by defiant self-assertion: Let us cling as much as possible to the attitudes with which we grew up; perhaps with a few remaining others, we shall be the last of an epoch that will not soon return. 

If you’re not a genius, perhaps this is how you should be?
Karl Friedrich Zelter, recipient of this famous and oft-quoted letter and, as we have seen, Goethe’s best friend after Schiller’s death, was a marvel of vitality. He had learned bricklaying from the ground up and led one of the most successful construction companies in Berlin. He was the head of a large family, well-to-do and influential in the city, robust and decisive in his person, and possessed of native Berlin wit and common sense. Intelligent, straightforward to the point of earthiness, a good judge of men, and not easily intimidated, he could also be tender and sensitive. He liked difficult mathematical problems and appreciated emotional subtlety in works of art. He also loved music, which, as was his habit, he learned from the ground up, studying composition with the court composer Karl Friedrich Christian Fasch, Frederick the Great’s music teacher. In the summer, he set off on foot at three in the morning for his lesson with Fasch in Potsdam, so that he could be back at his construction site in Berlin by noon. By the 1790s Zelter was known for his lieder and choral compositions, and it is not surprising that spiteful tongues (the Schlegels for instance) made jokes about the bricklaying composer. But envious jibes from starveling intellectuals slid off Zelter’s broad back. In 1791, he played a Substantial role in founding the Singakademie in Berlin; it soon became the leading bourgeois music organization in Germany and a model for the numerous song circles and men’s choruses then springing up. Zelter did much to help make nineteenth-century Germany a nation of singers. He was ten years younger than Goethe and at first admired the poet from afar. He set several of Goethe’s poems to music, and the poet praised the results: if my poems have given rise to your melodies, then I can certainly say that your melodies have awakened me to many a song. Zelter’s admiration grew into respectful cordiality, and the two became very close, Goethe desiring the intimacy as much as Zelter. They soon corresponded with increasing trust, sharing the joys and sorrows of their daily lives, and in the last twenty years of his life, there was no one in whom Goethe confided so unreservedly. Any trace of patronizing disappeared entirely, and frequently it was Zelter who acted as Goethe’s adviser and helper. Zelter’s varied experience had enriched him; he retained an innate curiosity, had a ready enthusiasm, and was always eager to learn. He was no genius, but did everything with solid workmanship—as the head of his household, as a builder, composer, organizer of musical events, and for a time as a member of city government. Zelter was a man after Goethe’s own heart: multitalented, always active, yet calm and collected. While correspondence with other friends often slowed or stopped altogether, the exchange of letters with Zelter only grew more frequent, and Goethe could not get enough of it.

Zhuangzi, Basic Writings

Daoism’s essence is to understand the way and abiding in unity and the mode is elucidated in a number of Chinese classics and one such is Zhuangzi. Author Zhuang Zhou uses humor, anecdote, parable, non sequitur and nonsense to explain the points of the way by jolting the reader from ordinary logic. It is good read and the translation by Burton Watson is excellent to bring the richness of this age old text. Some excerpts that I feel I want to file for future reference:

Intro
The central theme of the Zhuangzi may be summed up in a single word: freedom. Essentially, all the philosophers of ancient China addressed themselves to the same problem: how is man to live in a world dominated by chaos, suffering, and absurdity? Nearly all of them answered with some concrete plan of action designed to reform the individual, to reform society, and eventually to free the world from its ills. The proposals put forward by the Confucians, the Mohists, and the Legalists, to name some of the principal schools of philosophy, are all different, but all are based upon the same kind of common-sense approach to the problem, and all seek for concrete social, political, and ethical re- forms to solve it. Zhuangzi’s answer, however, the answer of one branch of the Daoist school, is radically different from these, and is grounded upon a wholly different type of thinking. It is the answer of a mystic, and in attempting to describe it here in clear and concrete language, I shall undoubtedly be doing violence to its essentially mystic and indescribable nature. Zhuangzi’s answer to the question is: free yourself from the world.  What does he mean by this? he tells the story of a man named Nanrong Zhu who went to visit the Daoist sage Laozi in hopes of finding some solution to his worries. When he appeared, Laozi promptly inquired, “Why did you come with all this crowd of people?” The man whirled around in astonishment to see if there was someone standing behind him. Needless to say, there was not; the “crowd of people” that he came with was the baggage of old ideas, the conventional concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, life and death, that he lugged about with him wherever he went. It is this baggage of conventional values that man must first of all discard before he can be free. Zhuangzi saw the same human sufferings that Confucius, Mozi, and Mencius saw. He saw the man-made ills of war, poverty, and injustice. He saw the natural ills of disease and death. But he believed that they were ills only because man recognized them as such. If man would once forsake his habit of labeling things good or bad, desirable or undesirable, then the man-made ills, which are the product of man’s purposeful and value-ridden actions, would disappear and the natural ills that remain would no longer be seen as ills, but as an inevitable part of the course of life. Thus, in Zhuangzi’s eyes, man is the author of his own suffering and bondage, and all his fears spring from the web of values created by himself alone. Zhuangzi sums up this whole diseased, fear-struck condition of mankind in the macabre metaphor of the leper woman who, “when she gives birth to a child in the deep of the night, rushes to fetch a torch and examine it, trembling with terror lest it look like herself’.

Secret of Caring for Life
Your life has a limit but knowledge has none. If you use what is limited to pursue what has no limit, you will be in danger. If you understand this and still strive for knowledge, you will be in danger for certain! If you do good, stay away from fame. If you do evil, stay away from punishments. Follow the middle; go by what is constant, and you can stay in one piece, keep yourself alive, look after your parents, and live out your years.
Do you know what it is that destroys virtue, and where wisdom comes from? Virtue is destroyed by fame, and wisdom comes out of wrangling. Fame is something to beat people down with, and wisdom is a device for wrangling. Both are evil weapons—not the sort of thing to bring you success. Though your virtue may be great and your good faith unassailable, if you do not understand men’s spirits, though your fame may be wide and you do not strive with others, if you do not understand men’s minds, but instead appear before a tyrant and force him to listen to sermons on benevolence and righteousness, measures and standards—this is simply using other men’s bad points to parade your own excellence. You will be called a plaguer of others. He who plagues others will be plagued in turn. You will probably be plagued by this man. “And suppose he is the kind who actually delights in worthy men and hates the unworthy—then why does he need you to try to make him any different? You had best keep your advice to yourself! Kings and dukes always lord it over others and fight to win the argument. You will find your eyes growing dazed, your color changing, your mouth working to invent excuses, your attitude becoming more and more humble, until in your mind you end by supporting him. This is to pile fire on fire, to add water to water, and is called ‘increasing the excessive.

In the world of Men
I want to tell you something else I’ve learned. In all human relations, if two parties are living close to each other, they may form a bond through personal trust. But if they are far apart, they must use words to communicate their loyalty, and words must be transmitted by someone. To transmit words that are either pleasing to both parties or infuriating to both parties is one of the most difficult things in the world. 1%ere both parties are pleased, there must be some exaggeration of the good points; and where both parties are angered, there must be some exaggeration of the bad points. Anything that smacks of exaggeration is irresponsible. Where there is irresponsibility, no one will trust what is said, and when that happens, the man who is transmitting the words will be in danger. Therefore the aphorism says, ‘Transmit the established facts; do not transmit words of exaggeration.’ If you do that, you will probably come out all right. “When men get together to pit their strength in games of skill, they start off in a light and friendly mood, but usually end up in a dark and angry one, and if they go on too long they start resorting to various underhanded tricks.When men meet at some ceremony to drink, they start off in an orderly manner, but usually end up in disorder, and if they go on too long they start indulging in various irregular amusements. It is the same with all things. What starts out being sincere usually ends up being deceitful. What was simple in the beginning acquires monstrous proportions in the end. “Words are like wind and waves; actions are a matter of gain and loss. Wind and waves are easily moved; questions of gain and loss easily lead to danger. Hence anger arises from no other cause than clever words and one-sided speeches. When animals face death, they do not care what cries they make; their breath comes in gasps and a wild fierceness is born in their hearts. [Men, too,] if you press them too hard, are bound to answer you with ill-natured hearts, though they do not know why they do so. If they themselves do not understand why they behave like this, then who knows where it will end?  -Therefore the aphorism says, ‘Do not deviate from your orders: do not press for completion.’ To go beyond the limit is excess; to deviate from orders or press for completion is a dangerous thing. A good completion takes a long time; a bad completion cannot be changed later. Can you afford to be careless? -Just co along things and let your mind move freely. Re- sign yourself to what cannot be avoided and nourish what is within you—this is best. IN hat more do you have to do to fulfill our mission? Nothing is as good as orders (obeying fate—that’s how difficult it is!

The Sign of Virtue Complete
Confucius said, “Life, death, preservation, loss, failure, success, poverty, riches, worthiness, unworthiness, slander, fame, hunger, thirst, cold, heat—these are the alternations of the world, the workings of fate. Day and night they change place be- fore us and wisdom cannot spy out their source. Therefore, they should not be enough to destroy your harmony; they should not be allowed to enter the storehouse of spirit. If you can harmonize and delight in them, master them and never be at a loss for joy, if you can do this day and night without break and make it be spring with everything, mingling with all and creating the moment within your own mind—this is what I call being whole in power.” “What do you mean when you say his virtue takes no form?” “Among level things, water at rest is the most perfect, and therefore it can serve as a standard. It guards what is inside and shows no movement outside. Virtue is the establishment of perfect harmony. Though virtue takes no form, things cannot break away from it.”

Autumn Floods
Once, when Zhuangzi was fishing in the Pu River, the king of Chu sent two officials to go and announce to him: “I would like to trouble you with the administration of my realm.” Zhuangzi held on to the fishing pole and, without turning his head, said, “I have heard that there is a sacred tortoise in Chu that has been dead for three thousand years. The king keeps it wrapped in cloth and boxed, and stores it in the ancestral tem- ple. Now would this tortoise rather be dead and have its bones left behind and honored? Or would it rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud?” “It would rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud,” said the two officials. Zhuangzi said, “Go away! I’ll drag my tail in the mud!”

Supreme Happiness
What ordinary people do and what they find happiness in—I don’t know whether such happiness is in the end really happiness or not. I look at what ordinary people find happiness in, what they all make a mad dash for, racing around as though they couldn’t stop—they all say they’re happy with it. I’m not happy with it and I’m not unhappy with it. In the end is there really happiness or isn’t there? I take inaction to be true happiness, but ordinary people think it is a bitter thing. I say: the highest happiness has no happiness’ the highest praise has no praise. The world can’t decide what is right and what is wrong. And yet inaction can decide this. The highest happiness, keeping alive—only inaction gets you close to this! Let me try putting it this way. The inaction of Heaven is its purity, the inaction of earth is its peace. So the two inactions combine and all things are transformed and brought to birth.
Wonderfully, mysteriously, there is no place they come out of. Mysteriously, wonderfully, they have no sign. Each thing minds its business and all grow up out of inaction. So I say, Heaven and earth do nothing and there is nothing that is not done. Among men, who can get hold of this inaction? Zhuangzi’s wife died, when Huizi went to convey his condolences, he found Zhuangzi sitting with his legs sprawled out, pounding on a tub and singing, “You lived with her, she brought up your children and grew old,” said Huizi “It should be enough simply not to weep at her death. But pounding on a tub and singing—this is going coo far, isn’t it?” Zhuangzi  said, “You’re wrong, When she first died, do you think I didn’t grieve like anyone else? But I looked back to her beginning and the time before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, but the time before she had a body. Not only the time before she had a body, but the time before she had a spirit. In the midst of wonder and mystery a change took place she had a spirit, Another change and she had a body, Another change and she was born. Now there’s been and she’s (lead, Il’s just like the progression of four seasons, spring, summer, fall winter. Now she’s going to lie peacefully in a vast room. If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don’t understand anything about fate So I stopped.”

Mastering Life
He who has mastered the true nature of life does not labor over what life cannot do. He who has mastered the true nature of fate does not labor over what knowledge cannot change. He who wants to nourish his body must first of all turn to things. And yet it is possible to have more than enough things and for the body still to go unnourished. He who has life must first of all see to it that it does not leave the body. And yet it is possible for life never to leave the body and still fail to be preserved. The coming of life cannot be fended off, its departure cannot be stopped. How pitiful the men of the world, who think that simply nourishing the body is enough to preserve life! Then why is what the world does worth doing? It may not be worth doing, and yet it cannot be left undone—this is unavoidable. He who wants to avoid doing anything for his body had best abandon the world. By abandoning the world, he can be without entanglements. Being without entanglements, he can be upright and calm. Being upright and calm, he can be born again with others. Being born again, he can come close [to the Way]. But why is abandoning the affairs of the world worthwhile, and why is forgetting life worthwhile? If you abandon the affairs of the world, your body will be without toil. If you forget life, your vitality will be unimpaired. With your body complete and your vitality made whole again, you may become one with Heaven. Heaven and earth are the father and mother of the ten thousand things. They join to become a body; they part to be- come a beginning. When the body and vitality are without flaw, this is called being able to shift. Vitality added to vitality, you re- turn to become the Helper of Heaven.
Woodworker Qing carved a piece of wood and made a bell stand, and when it was finished, everyone who saw it marveled, for it seemed to be the work of gods or spirits. When the marquis of Lu saw it, he asked, “N%at art is it you have?” Qing replied, “I am only a craftsman—how would I have any art? There is one thing, however. When I am going to make a bell stand, I never let it wear out my energy. I always fast in order to still my mind. When I have fasted for three days, I no longer have any thought of congratulations or rewards, of titles or stipends. When I have fasted for five days, I no longer have any thought of praise or blame, of skill or clumsiness. And when I have fasted for seven days, I am so still that I forget I have four limbs and a form and body. By that time, the ruler and his court no longer exist for me. My skill is concentrated and all outside distractions fade away. After that, I go into the mountain forest and examine the Heavenly nature of the trees. If I find one of superlative form, and I can see a bell stand there, I put my hand to the job of carving; if not, I let it go. This way I am simply matching up ‘Heaven’ with ‘Heaven.’  That’s probably the reason that people wonder if the results were not made by spirits.”

Idleness to Subtle yet Profound Thougths

Yoshida Kenko or Kaneyoshi was a Japanese monk of 12th century (1283 – 1352 AD) to seek seclusion and isolation from city life to pen this classic poems under ‘Essays in Idleness’ which is a celebrated classic in Japanese Literature, along with The Pillow Book and Hojoki. This reminds me of the musings by an equally creative French philosopher Michel de Montaigne who wrote on similar genre. Writing without a topic in mind and not methodically but write about random topics that entertain, inform, cajole, interest the author (posthumously the readers) during his lifetime which may capture practices, customs, incidents, popularities and teachings of their time. There’s always timeless advices to heed and benefit from reading this genre.

Excerpts from translation to prose which excited and piqued me and which may be beneficial to those want to get a gist and glimpse of this sage’s writings. The full book is available @ http://djm.cc/library/The_Miscellany_of_a_Japanese_Priest_Gusa_Porter.pdf. I find the Penguin Classics – Kenko and Chome – Essays in Idleness and Hojoki, Translated by Meredith McKinney – a better translation than the online one.

On Love
Nothing so distracts the human heart as sexual desire. How foolish men’s hearts are! Aroma, for instance, is a mere transient thing, yet a whiff of delightful incense from a woman’s robes will always excite a man, though he knows perfectly well that it is just a passing effect of robe-smoking. The wizard priest of Kume is said to have lost his supernatural powers when he spied the white legs of a woman as she squatted washing clothes. I can quite believe it — after all, the beautiful, plump, glowing flesh of a woman’s arm or leg is quite a different matter from some artificial allurement.

On Women
Beautiful hair on a woman will draw a man’s gaze but we can judge what manner of person she is and the nature of her sensibility even by simply hearing her speak from behind a screen. A mere unintended glimpse of a woman can distract a man’s heart; and if a woman sleeps fitfully, and is prepared to endure impossible difficulties heedless of her own well-being, it is all because her mind is on love. Yes indeed, the ways of love lies deep in us. Many are the allurements of our senses, yet we can distance ourselves from them all. But among them this one alone seems without exception to plague us all, young and old, wise and foolish. So it is that we have those tales of how a woman’s hair can snare and hold even an elephant, or how the rutting stag of autumn will always be drawn by the sound of a flute made from the wood of a woman’s shoe. We must discipline ourselves to be constantly prudent and vigilant lest we fall into this trap.

On Reading
It is a most wonderful comfort to sit alone beneath a lamp, book spread before you, and commune with someone from the past whom you have never met. As to books — those moving volumes of Wenxuan, the Wenji of Bai Juyi, the words of Laozi and Zhuangzi. There are many moving works from our own land, too, by scholars of former times.

On Boundless Ambition
What prevented the lay priest Chikurin In,838 who was a Sa-daijin, from being promoted to the rank of Prime Minister ? He simply said, ‘ It is not a prize that I wish for; I intend to stop at my present rank and entered the church. But DöIn, who was also a Sa-daijin, was so impressed with this, that he too gave up all desire of becoming Premier. They say that the dragon who has reached the heavens fears (a fall). The moon when full begins to wane ; where there has been increase there is bound to be decrease ; and in every case he who has reached the very front soon gets a set-back.

On Deceit
No human heart is quite guileless; there is some deceit In al But why should there not be the occasional person who is honest and upright? One may not be without guile oneself, but it is human nature to envy others who are wise and good. Really stupid people who come across the rare wise man, however, will hate him. ‘He turns up his nose at small gains because in his heart he hopes for bigger ones,’ they sneer. ‘It’s all a hypocritical pose, intended to impress and make a name for himself.’ Such a man scoffs so contemptuously because the other’s nature differs from his own, but this only reveals what he him- self is like — a born fool, who has no hope of transcending his own nature. Even the pretense of turning down a chance Of some small gain would be beyond him; likewise the merest imitation of wisdom. If you run about the streets pretending to be a madman, then a madman is what you are. If in pretense of being wicked you kill a man, wicked is what you are. A horse that pretends to fleetness must be counted among the fleet; a man who models himself on the saintly Emperor Shuni will indeed be among his number. Even a deceitful imitation of wisdom will place you among the wise.

On the Difficulty of an Easy Task
A man famed for his tree-climbing skills once directed another to climb a tall tree and cut branches. While the fellow was precariously balanced aloft, the tree-climber watched without a word, but when he was descending and had reached the height of the eaves the expert called co him, ‘Careful how you go! Take care coming down. ‘Why do you say that? He’s so far down now that he could leap to the ground from there,’ I said. ‘Just so,’ replied the tree-climber. ‘While he’s up there among the treacherous branches I need not say a word his fear is It’s in the easy places that mistakes will always occur’ Lowly commoner though he was, his words echoed the warnings of the sages. Apparently one of the laws of also states that if you relax after achieving a difficult kick, this is the moment when the ball will always fall to the ground.

The Accomplishments of a Gentleman
One’s education must first of all be directed to a thorough knowledge of the classics and an understanding of the teachings of the sages. Next, you should learn to write with a fine hand, even if you don’t make a specialty of it, as an aid to learning. After this, you should study the medicinal arts. Without these, you cannot look after your own health, help others or perform your filial obligations. Next, you must devote some time to archery and horse riding, skills which are listed among the Six Arts. A knowledge of the classics, the martial arts and medicine is absolutely essential, and no one who studies these can be accused of a useless life. Next is food, ‘man’s very heaven’, as the saying goes. The knowledge of how to concoct fine flavors must be deemed a fine virtue in a man. And next is fine handiwork, which is useful in all manner of ways. Aside from these, it is a matter of shame for a gentleman to cultivate too many accomplishments. Skill in the art of poetry and music is the acknowledged path of the truly refined sensibility, esteemed by ruler and subjects alike, but in our present age they have clearly grown increasingly unrealistic as a means of governing the country — just as gold, for all its glory, cannot compete with all the practical uses of iron.

The Necessities of Life
Any one wastes time in worthless pursuits must be called a fool or Obligation compels us to do many things for the sake of lord and nation, and we have little enough time left ourselves. Think of it like this: we have an inescapable need, first. to acquire food. second, clothes, and third, a place to live. These and these alone are the three great necessities of human life. To live without hunger or cold, sheltered from the elements and at peace — this is happiness. Yet we are all prey to sickness, and once ill the wretchedness of it is hard to bear, so we should add medical treatment to our list. Thus, we have four things without which a man is poor, while a man who lacks none of these is rich. It is sheer self- indulgence to pursue anything beyond these four. With these four in moderation, no one could be said to lack anything in life.

Against Leaving Property After Death
A sensible man will not die leaving valuables behind. A collection of vulgar objects looks bad, while good ones will suggest a futile attachment to worldly things. And it is even more unfortunate to leave behind a vast accumulation. There will be ugly fights over it after your death, with everyone determined to get things for himself. If you plan to leave something to a particular person, you should pass it on while you are still alive. Some things are necessary for day-to-day living, but one should have nothing else.

On Ominous Incident
When the now-deceased Tokudaiji Mlinister of the Right; r was Superintendent of Police, he was one day holding court at his central gate?’ when the ox of one of the officers, Akikane, broke loose, got into the court room, scrambled up on to the Superintendent’s seating platform and there settled down to chew its cud. “lhs was deemed a disturbingly untoward event, and everyone present declared that the beast should be taken off for Yin-Yang divination to determine the meaning.  However, when the Superintendent’s father the Minister heard of this, he declared, ‘An ox has no understanding. It has its four legs which can take it anywhere. There is no reason to impound a skinny beast that happens to have brought some lowly official here.’ He had the ox returned to its master, and changed the matting where the ox had lain. There were no ill consequences from the event. It is sometimes said that if you see something sinister and choose to treat it as normal, you will thereby avert whatever it portended.

On Married Life
The one thing a man should not have is a wife. One is impressed to hear that a certain man always lives alone, while someone who is reported to have married into this or that family, or to have taken a wife and be living together, will find himself quite looked down on. ‘He must have married that nondescript girl because he thought she was something special,’ people will say scornfully, or if she is a good woman they will think, ‘He’ll be so besotted that he treats her like his own personal Buddha. The impression is even more dreary when she runs the house well. It is depressing to watch her bear children and fuss over them, and things don’t end with his death, for then you have the shameful sight of her growing old and decrepit as a nun. No matter who the woman may be, you would grow to hate her if you lived with her and saw her day in day out, and the woman must become dissatisfied too. But if you lived separately and sometimes visited her, your feelings for each other would surely remain unchanged through the years. It keeps the relationship fresh to just drop in from time to time on impulse and spend the night.

Books that fascinated writers

Popular ‘By the Book’ feature in The New York Times enthralls readers and creates much of the anticipation to see which writers will be the subject of the feature and yearn to read them possibly to invest  their money where it lends the purest pleasure and satisfaction for reading the best. An anthology of opinions about literature and their life by authors – is all in this book titled ‘By the Book – Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review’.
The main idea is to know what others, writers themselves read to inspire and change our perspectives and kindle that exalted chat rather the forgotten watercooler chat and ultimately be informed of what possibly we can read that might interest us.  Give a chance for serendipity through this inquisitive conversation,

I’ve given a selected list of authors and the books that fascinated them, perhaps a journal to revert for good reading suggestions:

Reading List

WRITER/OTHERS Book COMMENT
David Sedaris Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
– Barbara Demick
a real eye opener
Lena Dunham The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve
elegant and superb
Drew Gilpin Faust Thinking: Fast and Slow
-Daniel Kahneman
Being Wrong
– Kathryn Schulz
my night stand book now
Advocates doubt as skill and praises error as foundation of wisdom
Elizabeth Gilbert Wolf Hall
– Hilary Mantel
dazzles and not sure how she put this magnificent one
Richard Ford A writer at War
– Vasily Grossman
Riveting and immensely humane
Ira Glass The Big Short
– Michael Lewis
scene after scene about mortgage crisis with a great climax
Junot Diaz Behind the Beautiful Forever’s
– Katherine Boo
4 years reporting on Mumbai slum garbage collectors
Michael Chabon A journey to the End of the Millennium
– A.B. Yehoshua
best book on Judaism
Jeffry Eugenides The Love of Good Woman
– Alice Munro
story telling and characterization overwhelm their attention
JK Rowling Team of Rivals
– Doris Kearns Goodwin
truly great book and put it down with glazed eyes
P.J. O’Rourke Jane Eyre
– Charlotte Bronte
The secret of happy marriage is to have a burning house fall on you
Lee Child The Lost
– Daniel Mendelsohn
a book of the decade – awful breathtaking tragic suspense
Francine Prose One Hundred Years of Solitude
– Gabriel Garcia Marquez
convinced me to drop put of Harvard
Jared Diamond The Measure of a Nation
– Friedman
compares five individual and national security: health, safety, education, democracy and equality
Sheryl Sandberg Discover Your Strengths
– Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton
Conscious Business:How to build value through Values
– Fred Kaufman
Best business books – developing talent at Facebook
Caroline Kennedy The Cistercian World: Monastic Writings of the 12th Century
self-help book recommended by author
Anna Quindlen Middlemarch
– Eliot
A perfection
Hilary Mantel Religion and Decline of Magic
– Keith Thomas
Complete works of Shakespeare
a monumental book with a living treasure in each page
Jeannette Walls Peter the Great
– Robert Massie
kicked off my obsession of Russian history
Dan Brown The Firm a great thriller must also contain at its core a thought-provoking ethical debate or moral dilemma
Curtis Sittenfeld Far from the Tree
how as a society we define disability and react to differences – tap reservoirs of patience unknown to us
Jonathan Lethem Wisdom of Insecurity
– Alan Watt
The help I need now
Richard Dawkins A.C. Grayling, Jared Diamond, Matt Ridley, Lawrence Krauss, Martin Rees, Jerry Coyne, John Brockman

Advice to Young Scientist and Avoid Boring People
– Peter Medawar & James Watson

all share honest commitment to real world truth
Malcom Gladwell Janet Malcom & Michael Lewis even while sketching a scenery, you know something wonderful and thrilling is about to happen
bringing social science and business principles is easy, doing that and telling a compelling story is next to impossible
Amy Tan Jing Ping Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase) The unexpurgated edition is instructional – it’s a book of manners for the debauched
Michael Connelly The Giving Tree
– Shel Silverstein
everybody should read before they die

What would you recommend President Obama to read?

Author Book COMMENT
David Sedaris Is there No place on Earth for Me?
-Susan Sheehan
about a young schizophrenic
Lena Dunham The Guide to getting it On something to offer for everyone
Neil Gaiman American Gods down to earth
Elizabeth Gilbert My Life
– Bill Clinton
Study guide on how win next term
Colin Powell The Best and the Brightest
– David Halberstam
People – it’s all about people and not plans that fail
Sylvia Nasar Grand Pursuit  
JK Rowling Justice
– Michael Sandel
This is for Cameroon
Dan Savage End This Depression Now
– Paul Krugman
one book he should read now
James Patterson Two Cheers for Democracy
– E.M. Forster
Bossy Pants
– Tina Fey
help him surround people who think they know everything about everything
Andrew Solomon Random Family
–Adrian Nicole
masterpiece of relentless close-up journalism – on trajectory of poverty and its corrosive compulsions

Proof that Cosmos pervades, 7 Stages and the Cyclic nature

Veiled Pulse of Time by William Bryant – this book talks about biographical cycles and times and why I picked it, is to get some insights into astrological manifestations. I was more delighted to know how various cosmic rhythms and cycles affect our bodies, time and ultimately our biography. Gist of the reading is as follows:

Human and Cosmic Breathing

It’s always recognized by ancients of the encircling dance of planets and stars to rhythmic pulse of a dynamic and meaningful cosmos. This formidable insight confirmed the earlier belief that the cosmos made humankind in its image. In other words cosmic rhythms regulate everything from passage of world ages and the ebb and flow of civilizations to the biological cycles of the individual. It is a magnificent conception – unity in diversity. The ancients were aware of numerical correspondence between breathing and cosmic cycles. Our heart beats 72 times per minute and we breathe 18 times in a minute. Let’s take a look at cosmic numbers. Do note that a star rising in a particular spot on the horizon at 6 am on 23rd Jan 1972 will not be at the same spot on 6 am, 23rd Jan 1973 and so on. The star together with the celestial sphere, appears to creep westward year after year, century after century, until nearly after 25920 years, it returns to its first position. This cycle is known to ancients as the “Sacred Year” or “Great Year”, means that the zodiac drifts one degree (or gains one day) every 72 years. Dividing the Great Year into 12, we get the “Great Months” i.e. 2160 years, known as Zodiac Epoch which coincides with rise and fall of civilizations. There are 3 aspects to note here

  1. Breathing Cycle = 18
  2. Pulse Rate = 72
  3. Precessional Rhythm = 25920
  4. Cultural Epoch = 2160

A few simple computations reveals startling correspondences between them

ABOUT Detail FACT
Breathing Given our breathing rate is 18/minute, per day will be 18*24*60 = 25,920 times / day
Life Prototypical human life span = 72 years
Heart Pulse rate = 72 beats / minute, whereas Precessional movement of vernal sun = 1 degree / 72 years
Saturn Saturn’s orbit around the sun is ~ 30 years, in a “great month” (2160 years), it’s movement around sun =
(It  is also numerically linked to human respiration, life span, the Great Month and Great Year)
72 orbits
Jupiter For every “Great Year”, Jupiter orbits sun 2160 times
  Jupiter’s cycle in hours is reasonably close to heart beats per day = 103,680
  1 year in Jupiter equals heartbeats per hour =  4320 days

As we juggle all computations around astronomical facts, we can find innumerable permutations but the fact is as we delve more into these correspondences, we unearth the connections between geometry, temple building, cosmology, astronomy, meteorology, numerology and biography (individual’s life). All these facts points to incontrovertible connection between physical cycles and cosmos and our spiritual and mental development is also linked similarly.

Study of time is crucial as linear time stars operating the moment we are born, whereas the cyclic and rhythmic time is the harmonizer, meditator and coordinator of our physical and spiritual functions, enables the eternal to live in the deep recess to grow in the passing time of mortal world getting the imprints of all experiences as we interact with the world. Rhythmic time governs positions and placement of events and not what we do and how we react. Yet each experience is a seed planted in the continuum of rhythmic time to germinate in the right season. Because we retain our past, no experience is futile, infertile, or lost. Out of sight or out of mind, our life experience continues to live within us where it is dealt with by the juices of our physic digestion and spiritual metabolism. Thus, those things left undone, the missed opportunities, errors, and misjudgments, continue to prepare future stages for their correction, completion and redemption. Likewise, our suffering and setbacks serve to release new forces in the psyche which, when the time is ripe, “lead us to fortune”. The laws of rhythm decree that all things must take their course. This all alludes law of karma, nevertheless, its understanding clears human frailty and console ourselves on missed opportunities under due diligence.

The Sacred Seven

Stage SIGNIFICANE
0 to 7: Trailing clouds of glory Too much intellectual force/abuse at the expense of progress at tender age mires the nervous system and can cause mental and physic issues during prime time. It is a sacrosanct stage best left untouched by all education except by refreshing play world of stories, games, fantasy and imitation.
7 to 14: from Light tio Shadow As there’s tremendous physical growth, feelings take hold. Puberty arises and leads to more self-identity
14 to 21: Flush of independence With the competitive demands made by education, career and family groups, the individual stands at the cusp of independence and starts to contemplate the meaning of their existence and are ready for action and relationship
21 to 28: The chase of experience I like this poetic reflection: in verbatim here:
The voice of conscience , though stronger that it was in adolescence, is often smothered by the roar of action. On the other hand, the awakening sense of social responsibility drives many a flushed knight full tilt at the dragons of injustice and hypocrisy. These radical lances, however, are seldom tempered by perspective and wisdom
28 to 35: Adjusting the course Time of disorientation, stress or even dramatic change. Marriage obeys the law of life which states that a relationship which cannot transform itself destroys itself. Sometimes a stagnant marriage produces “Stale mates” than “soul mates”
35 to 42: under self-power Time to break free from straitjackets. Crisis and misfortunes arrive to tame illusions and self-inflation left by successes. They may enter in the form of marital conflict, illness, accidents or blighted hopes / missed opportunities. This period throws light to antagonism between instincts and desires of our lower life and our ideal or higher self, a deepening perception stirs new doubts and hopes in the soul
42 to 49: under dark wood Apart from menopause and mano-pause, this period is tainted with depressions, irritability, impotence, insomnia, hypochondria but it has its goodness – a time of psychological death and rebirth. Instead of a negative look to ‘dreadful drift to grave’ combined with fear of oblivion, loss of creative hope, unwelcome invitation to senility – we should  recover sense of purpose
49 to 56: a second wind In spite of all inner wear and tear, time not to lose pessimism and move forward
56 to 63: Reaping the harvest Time to withdraw from many of the temptations and superfluities of the external world further personalizes our existence. Aging represents a process of physical decrease and spiritual increase
63 to 70: Drawing the threads This marks a certain cyclic conclusion, a release from the remorseless drive of destiny as the will’s flame begin to withdraw to interiors to prepare for the approaching expansion across great divide. These years can offer as a blessing, a grace, the opportunity to complete the tapestry of destiny and pass the contributions to those who follow

Chrono’s Cycle – 30 year Saturn Cycle

Period Book
0 to 30 : Formative Integrate and add to our uniqueness all the shaping and modulating forces of our heredity and environmental backgrounds
30 to 60 : Constructive Pursue our goals and work the inner and outer core. Gather vast amount of experiences and inject our virtues, gifts and striving into a world which, in turn, continually deepens and modifies our consciousness and self-understanding.
60 to rest : Reflective All our previous experiences are incorporated that outlives our death. Event though we appear inflexible and resistant to change, our inner content and psyche in sharp contrast to outer activity is much more contemplative and inward.

After researching world personalities like Churchill, Nehru, Lawrence of Arabia, Christian Mutts, Kennedy, Mao, Mary Ann Evans, Marilyn Monroe, Balzac, Emerson, Darwin, Marie Curie, Johannes Kepler, Newton, Martin Luther King, most of them conform to a synchrony with some are misalignments. These are indeed tragedies – a deformed destiny. The thirty year cycles are often the most dramatic of all the cycles. This means that our thirtieth and sixtieth years, along with forty-fifth, are likely to be scored by crucial incidents or a change of pace, direction, and emphasis.

Conflict, Constriction, Release, and Breakthrough

For many souls the years between 28 and 30 are intensified by stress, turmoil (even conflict), as well as a key event. It could be described as a period of psychic compression, a constriction prior to a burst of expansion; indeed , it is rather a concentrated transition in many lives. This is where the sever and 30 year cycles are meshed as both complete their respective tasks before opening an expansive surge of creativity. For many, the span between 21 and 28 is teeming with raw experiences. Naturally, all this has to be properly absorbed and digested. There is a subtle though sometimes disconcerting change in self-awareness around 28 which interacts with the completion of the major destiny cycle at 30. The build-up of psychic pressure is released at 30 and this often results in a breakthrough into another phase of biographical genesis and fresh opportunity. Again my take is the years may shift a few years back and forth and needn’t be that accurate depending on individual’s case.

Jupiter’s Cycle

The seven regulates the cyclic patterns of our inward descent through the psychological layers of the personality, but the 12-year cycle translates this changing self-awareness into the sequential steps of our life’s work, the psyche’s expression in the world. Best described as a vocational rhythm, the 12th years mark phases of scientific, artistic, or philosophical activity, the maturing of ideas, spans of personal relationship, and even the strokes of good fortune that punctuate our path through life. These are moments when something clicks, something meets us just at the right moment, or a new idea or plan suddenly falls into place.

Leo Tolstoy and years of creativity

Period/Output Years
Childhood 23-24
Family Happiness 30-year transition
War and Peace 35-41
Anna Karenina 45-48
The Kreutzer Sonata 60-61 1/2
Resurrection 60-71 1/2

‘Fate, Freedom and Destiny’ & ‘The Seasons of Immortality’ chapters have been given an erudite thought and eloquent rendition. The gist of the 2 chapters is summarized in final thoughts as follows:
Never easily forget that everything has its share of time, its seasons of becoming, from the humble worm to civilizations and solar systems. Whenever we are impatient, we should remember that destiny decrees times of increase and times of decrease, times of action and times of assimilation. Thus, this added dimension of awareness permits us to look beyond temporarily to the “forever”

A Letter to Wealthy (Inheritor)–Modesty in Abundance

I came across this letter from GD Birla to his son and this wealthiest industrialist has been an advisor to Gandhi and had great influence on his industry policy matters. Gandhi borrowed the concept of trusteeship to promote capitalism over socialism. Gandhi gave his blessings to the abundant wealth of Birla, to his teaching on trusteeship, a concept which asserted the right of the rich to accumulate and maintain wealth as long as the wealth was used to benefit society. This is the letter Birla wrote in Marwari language to his son, reproduced in English and is appropriate for every wealthy but still applicable to every individual to do whatever he can afford for good. This is a brief yet precise life principles concisely expressed with a fatherly affection and to be referred every time and anytime in a lifetime and perhaps continues to your future times (births) having read many times.

Dear Basant,
Whatever I’m writing, you should read even when you are grown up and also at your old age. I’m writing this from experience, as to how life must be lived.
Birth as human, is a rarity and when born as human, whoever misuses the birth, it is like he lived like an animal. You have wealth, health, good social connections. If you use them for the service of mankind, as a good human being, these are successful, else they are devil’s tools.
Never use wealth on selfish ends or merry spending, as wealth may not be there always. Spend less on self, more on public welfare and for the welfare of the distressed. Wealth is a force. Possibility of injustice is likely with this force or power. Take care that no injustice is done.
Leave some good morals for your children. If they indulge in merry-making, they become sinful and spoil our business. Do not pass on wealth to such unworthy children, rather use it for public welfare or distribute among deserving poor. Do not have mental blindness or passion for such children. Boundless effort and labor has been put in by we brothers, to build the business, assuming that our children will make best use of wealth we have generated.
Never forget God. He gives good sense and intellect. Have control on sensuous impulses, else those will sink you.
Do exercise and Yoga daily. Health is our biggest wealth. Health gives deftness, accomplishment and prosperity. I have seem how unhealthy millionaires become poor and frail. Eat meals feeling as medicine. Eat for living not live for eating.

G.D, Birla

After a long hiatus, back in action with Warren Buffet

It has been an ‘annus horibilis’ of sort, well yes and no. Yes as misfortunes and setbacks are part of life and no as you’ve the resilience, character and faith to overcome them. Hence, rather than seeing every year as either horribilis or fantastic, see it as part & parcel with equanimity. It is good to be back in writing action after a long procrastination. Live Writer has gone to ‘open source’  which is the right thing in this age of freedom expression – freedom of choice for best tool out there to pen your words and thoughts elegantly and post them efficiently. I’m starting off with legendary Warren Buffet’s wisdom from ‘My Warren Buffet Bible’ by Robert L. Blocch. Being a fan of buffet style investing where I disdain constant monitoring/trading to buy a worth and leave it grow. This book accentuates that idea clearly and provides investing plus life’s wisdom too. Some snippets from those wisdom:

  1. Wall street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway
  2. A great investment opportunity occurs when a marvelous business encounters a one time huge but solvable problem
  3. Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boast, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted tp patching leaks
  4. You have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong
  5. I’ll tell you how to become rich. Close the doors. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful
  6. Only buy something you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shit down for 10 years
  7. You should invest in a business that even a fool can run, because one day a fool will
  8. There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make east things difficult
  9. I tell everybody who works for our company to do only two things to be successful. They are 1) think like an owner, and 2) tell us bad news straight away. There is no reason to worry about good news
  10. Five years from now, 10 years from now, the world everywhere will be doing better
  11. When proper temperament joins with proper intellectual framework, then you get rational behavior – so true for investing and life too
  12. Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can’t buy what is popular and do well.
  13. Remember stock market is manic-depressive
  14. The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.
  15. I insist on a lot of time being spent. almost everyday, to just sit and think. That’s very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it becuase I like this kind of life
  16. A pin lies in wait for every bubble. And when the two eventually meet, a new wave of investors learn some very old lessons

Commitments for Mind Training–Meditation & Shine

These commitments not only apply to mind training but in general to life itself:

  1. Always abide by these 3 principles: keep you commitments and vows for mind training, don’t overindulge in anything including self-image, be patient with everything and it shouldn’t be selective
  2. Remain natural, transform in your attitude: essentially transform your selfishness to be caring attitude
  3. Do not talk about the defects of others: do not tease, make fun or bring attention of others physical and mental handicaps
  4. Whatever the faults of others may be, do not contemplate them
  5. Abandon poisonous food
  6. Helping others is not based on returning favors: doing good for others must not depend on how well or badly that person has treated you in the past
  7. Do not expose the faults of others to irritate them
  8. Do not wait in ambush: do not wait for opportunity to strike back at those against whom you hold a grudge, never seek revenge.
  9. Never strike at heart, never be sadistic or cruel to others
  10. Do not put an ox’s load on a cow
  11. Do not aim to be the best: do not try to get better deal for yourself at the expense of others
  12. Do not misuse remedy – merit gained from mind training is for good purpose and not for personal gain
  13. Do not use gods for evil: do not use religious pretexts for anything evil
  14. Be like a humble servant before all
  15. Do not delight in the suffering of others

Follow a single pointed dedication to this mind training goal and merit comes on its own – perhaps the duration is not known but surely it arrives to being peace and clarity and goodness for all.