Friday, January 19, 2018

Annihilation of Caste by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Though not much might be in common between these two men and their principal works, I found these two books and the men who wrote them greatly admirable. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a crusader against the caste system in India, a man born in the lowest caste and attained the highest educational degrees despite being denied opportunities to learn, he is a symbol to so many Indians and yet quite sadly still looked down upon by upper caste India. Niccolo Machiavelli, who held public office in turbulent times in Italy, was forced out of office due to a change of regime but spent his days in exile writing The Prince in th hope of gaining favour with the new regime and getting his position back. Both were great thinkers, visionaries, way ahead of their time and quite sadly both men died disappointed and bitter. Ambedkar was never able to see the caste system set aside and Machiavelli never got his position back and Italy was as divided as ever.

Annihilation of Case:

What replies to give to these questions is a matter which I must leave to the Mandal. The Mandal knows best the reasons which led it to travel to Bombay to select a president, to fix upon a man so repugnant to the Hindus, and to descend so low in the scale as to select an Antyaja - an untouchable - to address an audience of the Savarnas. As for myself, you will allow me to say that I have accepted the invitation much against my will, and also against the will of many of my fellow untouchables. I know that the Hindus are sick of me. I know that I am not a persona grata [=someone welcome] with them. Knowing all this, I have deliberately kept myself away from them. I have no desire to inflict myself
upon them. I have been giving expression to my views from my own platform. This has already caused a great deal of heart-burning and irritation.

One of the starting paragraphs, it begins strongly. He was to deliver an address in Lahore for a society that was campaigning for social equity. He asks the question – why did they choose him? An untouchable. By choosing him, they have violated the Hindu doctrine that an untouchable should not lecture to upper castes no matter how learned he be. The Hindus are disgusted with him for trying to break up their religion while as he will argue later, it is their own disgraceful caste system that is responsible for doing so.

The prince:

Desiring therefore to present myself with some proof of my devotion towards you, I have found that the possession I value above all is the knowledge of the actions of great men. This knowledge has been acquired by long experience in contemporary affairs, and a continual study of history. I have reflected on this long and carefully, and I now send you these reflections presented in a small volume.

Machiavelli writes to the new ruler of the Medici family as he presents this work to him. All he knows is politics and it is this wisdom he offers. A blueprint for how a ruler should behave. But over the years, it is has become a must read for almost anyone in a position of leadership.

Annihilation of caste:
Under the rule of the Peshwas in the Maratha country, the untouchable was not allowed to use the public streets if a Hindu was coming along, lest he should pollute the Hindu by his shadow. The untouchable was required to have a black thread either on his wrist or around his neck, as a sign or a mark to prevent the Hindus from getting themselves polluted by his touch by mistake. In Poona, the capital of the Peshwa, the untouchable was required to carry, strung from his waist, a broom to sweep away from behind himself the dust he trod on, lest a Hindu walking on the same dust should be polluted. In Poona, the untouchable was required to carry an earthen pot hung around his neck wherever he went - for holding his spit, lest his spit falling on the earth should pollute a Hindu who might unknowingly happen to tread on it.

A sample of the atrocities faced by the low castes at the hands of the upper castes. Recent events show these events have still lingered. During the reign of the Peshwas, the atrocities against the untouchables was horrific. When the Peshwas fought against the British, the untouchables fought against the Peshwas allying themselves with the British. The battle in which the Peshwas lost is celebrated by the Dalit community while it still rankles the upper caste Hindus who consider the entire event anti-national. Do the upper castes stop to think why the untouchables aided the British? After suffering atrocities at the hands of the rulers, do you seriously expect them to show loyalty? To the Dalit community, this battle shows free will and emancipation. Something that Dr. Ambedkar would have been proud of as he was a rebel at heart.

The Prince:
The prince who holds a country differing in language, customs and law ought to make himself the head and defender of his less powerful neighbours. He should weaken the more powerful amongst them, taking care that no foreigner as powerful as himself shall, by any accident, get established there. It will always happen that some powerful foreigner will be invited in by those who are unhappy with the prince, either through excess of ambition or through fear. The Romans were brought into Greece by the Aetolians, and in every other country where they established themselves, they were brought in by the local people. The usual course of affairs is that, as soon as a powerful foreigner enters a country, all the subject states are drawn to him, moved by the hatred which they feel against the existing prince. So the foreigner does not to have any trouble winning them over to himself, for all of them quickly support the state which he has acquired there. He has only to take care that they do not get hold of too much power and too much authority. Then with his own forces, and with their cooperation, he can easily keep down the more powerful of them, so as to remain entirely master in the country. If this business is not properly managed, he will soon lose what he has acquired, and while he does hold it he will have endless difficulties and troubles.

Machiavelli talks about conquest, about how to divide and rule and how those who have been ruled resent their rulers. In general, as anyone seeks to increase influence, it might always be beneficial to look for grievances held by people whom he wishes to influence. The grievances will naturally cause them to gravitate towards their new saviour as long as he projects himself as one. On the other hand, beware of those that offer their sympathies and claim to solve your problems for they only wish to use you for their own ends.

Annihilation of caste:
It is a pity that Caste even today has its defenders. The defences are many. It is defended on the ground that the Caste System is but another name for division of labour; and if division of labour is a necessary feature of every civilized society, then it is argued that there is nothing wrong in the Caste System. Now the first thing that is to be urged against this view is that the Caste System is not merely a division of labour. It is also a division of labourers. Civilized society undoubtedly needs division of labour. But in no civilized society is division of labour accompanied by this unnatural division of labourers into watertight compartments. The Caste System is not merely a division of labourers which is quite different from division of labour - it is a hierarchy in which the divisions of labourers are graded one above the other. In no other country is the division of labour accompanied by this gradation of labourers.
There are many occupations in India which, on account of the fact that they are regarded as degraded by the Hindus, provoke those who are engaged in them to aversion. There is a constant desire to evade and escape from such occupations, which arises solely because of the blighting effect which they produce upon those who follow them, owing to the slight and stigma cast upon them by the Hindu religion. What efficiency can there be in a system under which neither men's hearts nor their minds are in their work? As an economic organization Caste is therefore a harmful institution, inasmuch as it involves the subordination of man's natural powers and inclinations to the exigencies of social rules.

Ambedkar addresses the practical problem of caste - it is inefficient as division of labour because the labour is forced. The caste you are born in defines the work you do, no question of talent, aptitude or desire. It is forced, and change is discouraged if not outrightly prohibited.

The prince:
Whenever those states which have been acquired have been accustomed to live under their own laws and in freedom, there are three courses for those who wish to hold them. The first is to ruin them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a regular payment from the state, and establishing within it a governing group which will keep it friendly to you. Because such a government, being created by the prince, knows that it cannot stand without his friendship and interest, it tries hard to support him. Therefore he who would keep a city accustomed to freedom will hold it more easily by the means of its own citizens than in any other way.

Seems like a superficial paragraph, but on repeatedly reading it, a powerful message emerges. Independence is hard to conquer. Once someone or a group of people are independent, to govern them can be tricky. The first option is to destroy them. A barbaric option and makes you wonder how long you can keep up with destruction. The second, to live among them and gradually gain their trust and obedience. The last is to let them be and extract a tax in return for safety. How rarely does this happen! Almost always, the conqueror tries to dismantle without wanting to destroy as destruction will be expensive but not knowing that the opposition to dismantling will be just as strenuous. A true leader will gain popularity by being on the ground, giving the people their freedom and working for their betterment. You hear this in ‘corporate talk’ so often. Employees do well when they are appreciated, compensated, mentored, etc. Does this ever happen? Almost never, as the cost involved in such leadership is high, and rarely is there a true leader who will accept the costs.

Annihilation of caste:
As a matter of fact [the] Caste system came into being long after the different races of India had commingled in blood and culture. To hold that distinctions of castes are really distinctions of race, and to treat different castes as though they were so many different races, is a gross perversion of facts. What racial affinity is there between the Brahmin of the Punjab and the Brahmin of Madras? What racial affinity is there between the untouchable of Bengal and the untouchable of Madras? What racial difference is there between the Brahmin of the Punjab and the Chamar of the Punjab? What racial difference is there between the Brahmin of Madras and the Pariah of Madras? The Brahmin of the Punjab is racially of the same stock as the Chamar of the Punjab, and the Brahmin of Madras is of the same race as the Pariah of Madras.

A tree should be judged by the fruits it yields. If Caste is eugenic, what sort of a race of men should it have produced? Physically speaking the Hindus are a C3 people. They are a race of Pygmies and dwarfs, stunted in stature and wanting in stamina. It is a nation 9/10ths of which is declared to be unfit for military service. This shows that the Caste System does not embody the eugenics of modern scientists. It is a social system which embodies the arrogance and selfishness of a perverse section of the Hindus who were superior enough in social status to set it in fashion, and who had the authority to force it on their inferiors.

Ambedkar tears up the use of caste to prevent inter-marrying between castes. It has been proven that all human beings are of one species irrespective of race, caste, creed and any other division that we humans were conceited enough to imagine. And with this so called glorious caste system, what has been achieved?

The prince:
Those who by brave deeds become princes, like these men, acquire principality with difficulty, but they keep it with ease. The difficulties they have in acquiring it rise in part from the new rules and methods which they are forced to introduce to establish their government and its security. And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more dangerous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. This because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and not very active defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of those against it, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the doubts of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are against it have the opportunity to attack, they do it with great energy, while the others defend without commitment, in such a way that the prince is threatened along with them.

Want to make enemies? Try and change something. So then how to bring about this change? And this is where Ambedkar comes in. To achieve political reformation, it is necessary to bring about social and religious reformation. The only way to remove doubt is to bring about a divine aspect to it. Almost like religious reverse-engineering. Religion was conceived to control and subjugate people. Can it now be used to brainwash them for your own purposes? Why not is the question Machiavelli and Ambedkar both ask.

Annihilation of caste:
The first and foremost thing that must be recognized is that Hindu Society is a myth. The name Hindu is itself a foreign name. It was given by the Mohammedans to the natives for the purpose of distinguishing themselves [from them]. It does not occur in any Sanskrit work prior to the Mohammedan invasion. They did not feel the necessity of a common name, because they had no conception of their having constituted a community. Hindu Society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes. Each caste is conscious of its existence. Its survival is the be-all and end-all of its existence. Castes do not even form a federation. A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes, except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot. On all other occasions each caste endeavours to segregate itself and to distinguish itself from other castes.

Ambedkar talks about how caste has kept Hindus and therefore India from being united. India has fallen to many an enemy for the simple reason, they were never really united. Hindus are a collection of castes with the castes having utmost importance. Kingdoms were collections of caste with little allegiance to one another. No wonder, there was never a united India.

The prince:
Those who solely by good fortune become princes from being private citizens have little trouble in rising, but have much trouble in staying at the top. They do not have any difficulties on the way up, because they fly, but they have many when they reach the top. Such are those to whom some state is given either for money or by the favour of him who gives it. This happened to many in Greece, in the cities of Ionia and of the Hellespont, where princes were made by Darius, in order that they might hold the cities both for his security and his glory. Similar to those were those leaders who, by bribery of the soldiers, from being citizens came to empire. Such stand simply upon the favour and the fortune of him who has given them the position - two most inconstant and unstable things. Neither have they the knowledge required for the position, because, unless they are men of great worth and ability, it is not reasonable to expect that they should know how to command having always lived in a private condition. In addition, they cannot hold their position, because they do not have forces which they can keep friendly and faithful.

Machiavelli talks about the perils in new leadership or those who are made leaders hastily. Leadership is the result of great ability, wisdom and continuous effort. If you wish to lead, be prepared to invest. At the same time, the reverse view - who should you accept as a leader? Someone who has been placed at the position or someone who you judge to be fit to lead? Is that person of remarkable ability or is he just someone’s choice? Throughout our lives we are told to accept a number of people as leaders who have little ability to govern themselves let alone others. Maybe it is time we change.

Annihilation of caste:
The Hindus criticise the Mohammedans for having spread their religion by the use of the sword. They also ridicule Christianity on the score of the Inquisition. But really speaking, who is better and more worthy of our respect - the Mohammedans and Christians who attempted to thrust down the throats of unwilling persons what they regarded as necessary for their salvation, or the Hindu who would not spread the light, who would endeavour to keep others in darkness, who would not consent to share his intellectual and social inheritance with those who are ready and willing to make it a part of their own make-up? I have no hesitation in saying that if the Mohammedan has been cruel, the Hindu has been mean; and meanness is worse than cruelty.

What is worse - meanness or cruelty? Cruelty is a tool to achieve an end, meanness is the end itself. Meanness has no objective except causing suffering. And when we look around at all the structures around us, I ask the same question - is there an end or it just sheer whim and fancy, meanness?

The prince:
Hence, in seizing a state, the attacker ought to examine closely all those injuries which are necessary, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily. Thus by not continually upsetting the people, he will be able to make them feel more secure, and win them over by benefits. He who does otherwise, either from reluctance or evil advice, is always forced to keep the knife in his hand. He cannot rely on his subjects, and they cannot attach themselves to him, because of the continued and repeated wrongs. Injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less. Benefits ought to be given little by little, so that their flavour may last longer.

The need for a ruler to be cruel. When cruelty is unavoidable, restrict to the absolutely necessary and perform it in one stroke. Conversely, when accepting cruelty, examine if it was necessary and quick. Sheer malice that manifests itself repeatedly is a sign that rebellion may be necessary.

Annihilation of caste:
Would a Hindu acknowledge and follow the leadership of a great and good man? The case of a Mahatma apart, the answer must be that he will follow a leader if he is a man of his caste. A Brahmin will follow a leader only if he is a Brahmin, a Kayastha if he is a Kayastha, and so on. The capacity to appreciate merits in a man, apart from his caste, does not exist in a Hindu. There is appreciation of virtue, but only when the man is a fellow caste-man. The whole morality is as bad as tribal morality. My caste-man, right or wrong; my caste-man, good or bad. It is not a case of standing by virtue or not standing by vice. It is a case of standing by, or not standing by, the caste. Have not Hindus committed treason against their country in the interests of their caste?

The reason why India has been divided through the ages - caste divided Hindus and keeps them separate.

The prince:
Therefore, one who becomes a prince through the favour of the people ought to keep them friendly. He can easily do this because they only ask not to be oppressed by him. But one who, without the support of the people, becomes a prince by the favour of the nobles, ought, above everything, to seek to win the people over to himself. He may easily do this if he takes them under his protection. Because men, when they receive good from him of whom they were expecting evil, are bound more closely to their protector. Thus the people quickly become more devoted to him than if he had been raised to the principality through their support. The prince can win their support in many ways, but as these vary according to the circumstances one cannot give fixed rules and so I omit them. But, I repeat, it is necessary for a prince to have the people friendly, otherwise he has no security in difficult times.

One who becomes a prince through the favour of the people - sounds almost like democracy. People vote hoping for a change but knowing deep down in their hearts that nothing will change. The new politicians will be as corrupt as the previous. But when the people receive even just a little good and maybe not even good but just some good public relations messages, they are taken aback. Shows the important that the image of a leader is and how important it is for a leader to invest the time and effort to cultivate this brand image.

Annihilation of caste:
I would not be surprised if some of you have grown weary listening to this tiresome tale of the sad effects which caste has produced. There is nothing new in it. I will therefore turn to the constructive side of the problem. What is your ideal society if you do not want caste, is a question that is bound to be asked of you. If you ask me, my ideal would be a society based on Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. And why not?
What objection can there be to Fraternity? I cannot imagine any. An ideal society should be mobile, should be full of channels for conveying a change taking place in one part to other parts. In an ideal society there should be many interests consciously communicated and shared. There should be varied and free points of contact with other modes of association. In other words there must be social endosmosis. This is fraternity, which is only another name for democracy. Democracy is not merely a form of government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards one's fellow men.
Any objection to Liberty? Few object to liberty in the sense of a right to free movement, in the sense of a right to life and limb. There is no objection to liberty in the sense of a right to property, tools, and materials, as being necessary for earning a living, to keep the body in a due state of health. Why not allow a person the liberty to benefit from an effective and competent use of a person's powers? The supporters of Caste who would allow liberty in the sense of a right to life, limb, and property, would not readily consent to liberty in this sense, inasmuch as it involves liberty to choose one's profession.
Any objection to equality? This has obviously been the most contentious part of the slogan of the French Revolution. The objections to equality may be sound, and one may have to admit that all men are not equal. But what of that? Equality may be a fiction, but nonetheless one must accept it as the governing principle. A man's power is dependent upon (1) physical heredity; (2) social inheritance or endowment in the form of parental care, education, accumulation of scientific knowledge, everything which enables him to be more efficient than the savage; and finally, (3) on his own efforts. In all these three respects men are undoubtedly unequal. But the question is, shall we treat them as unequal because they are unequal? This is a question which the opponents of equality must answer.

The prince:
A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline. This is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only supports those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. It is often seen that when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states, and the first cause of losing it is to neglect this art. What enables a prince to acquire a state is to be master of the art. Francesco Sforza, through studying war, rose from being a private citizen to become Duke of Milan, and his sons through avoiding the hardships and troubles of arms, fell from being dukes to become private citizens. For among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised. This is one of those dangers which a prince ought to guard against. There is a big difference between being armed and being unarmed, and it is not reasonable that an armed person should willingly obey an unarmed person. An unarmed man will not be secure among armed servants, because by being unarmed he will be suspicious of them and they will despise him. So, it is not possible for them to work well together. Therefore a prince who does not understand the art of war, over and above the other disadvantages already mentioned, cannot be respected by his soldiers, nor can he rely on them. He ought never, therefore, to have this subject of war out of his thoughts, and in peace he should devote himself more to its exercise than in times of war.

Seems unfortunate but this leads to the never ending cycle of war. The need for safety leads to militarization and once there is a military, it can’t be sustained without war. But then again like Machiavelli says, only a fool will be secure being unarmed in the presence of armed men.

Annihilation of caste:
Whether or not the relationship of guardian and ward was the real underlying conception on which Chaturvarnya was based, there is no doubt that in practice the relation was that of master and servants. The three classes, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas, although not very happy in their mutual relationship, managed to work by compromise. The Brahmin flattered the Kshatriya, and both let the Vaishya live in order to be able to live upon him. But the three agreed to beat down the Shudra. He was not allowed to acquire wealth, lest he should be independent of the three [higher] Varnas. He was prohibited from acquiring knowledge, lest he should keep a steady vigil regarding his interests. He was prohibited from bearing arms, lest he should have the means to rebel against their authority. That this is how the Shudras were treated by the Tryavarnikas is evidenced by the Laws of Manu. There is no code of laws more infamous regarding social rights than the Laws of Manu. Any instance from anywhere of social injustice must pale before it.

Ambedkar talks about how the caste system has been used to systematically beat down the untouchables. It was almost like a conspiracy, how the three upper castes joined hands to deny all rights to the lowest caste. By doing so, they eliminated a quarter of public spending, blocked out a quarter of all jobs and increased the cumulative wealth of the upper castes.

The prince:
Related to this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person it is much safer to be feared than loved, when only one is possible. The reason for this is that in general men are ungrateful, inconstant, false, cowardly, and greedy. As long as you succeed, they are yours entirely - they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, when the need is far distant. But when the need approaches, they turn against you. A prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other ways of protecting himself, will be ruined. Friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon. Men are less worried about offending one who is loved than one who is feared. Love is preserved by the link of gratefulness which, owing to the weak nature of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a fear of punishment which never fails.
Nevertheless a prince ought to encourage fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred. He can carry on very well being feared while he is not hated, which will always be as long as he keeps away from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women. But when it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of someone, he must do it with proper justification and for obvious reasons. But above all things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance. Besides, it is always easy to create reasons for taking away property. Anyone who has once begun to live by robbery will always find reasons for seizing what belongs to others. But reasons for taking life, on the other hand, are more difficult to find and are hard to keep justifying. But when a prince is with his army, and has hundreds of soldiers under his command, then it is necessary for him to not worry about having a reputation for cruelty, because without it he will not keep his army united or disposed to do its duties.

As long as their property and their honour are not touched, men are usually content. This is the essence of the above paragraphs. Cruelty is necessary to instill fear as long as cruelty though sheer whim does not result in hatred. Now the reverse, how do you deal with cruelty that is inflicted to inspire hatred?

Annihilation of caste:
Caste may be bad. Caste may lead to conduct so gross as to be called man's inhumanity to man. All the same, it must be recognized that the Hindus observe Caste not because they are inhuman or wrong-headed. They observe Caste because they are deeply religious. People are not wrong in observing Caste. In my view, what is wrong is their religion, which has inculcated this notion of Caste. If this is correct, then obviously the enemy you must grapple with is not the people who observe Caste, but the Shastras which teach them this religion of Caste. Criticising and ridiculing people for not inter-dining or inter-marrying, or occasionally holding inter-caste dinners and celebrating inter-caste marriages, is a futile method of achieving the desired end. The real remedy is to destroy the belief in the sanctity of the Shastras.
It is no use seeking refuge in quibbles. It is no use telling people that the Shastras do not say what they are believed to say, if they are grammatically read or logically interpreted. What matters is how the Shastras have been understood by the people. You must take the stand that Buddha took. You must take the stand which Guru Nanak took. You must not only discard the Shastras, you must deny their authority, as did Buddha and Nanak. You must have courage to tell the Hindus that what is wrong with them is their religion - the religion which has produced in them this notion of the sacredness of Caste. Will you show that courage?

The prince:

Although lately some hope may have been shown by one, which made us think he was chosen by God to save us, nevertheless it was afterwards seen that fortune rejected him. So Italy, left as without life, waits for someone to heal her wounds and to put an end to the destruction and exploitation of Lombardy, to the cheating and taxing of the kingdom and of Tuscany and to clean those running sores. It is seen how she begs God to send someone who shall deliver her from these wrongs and oppressions. It is seen also that she is ready and willing to follow a flag, if only someone will raise it.
This opportunity, therefore, ought not to be allowed to pass for letting Italy at last see her liberator appear. Nor can one express the love with which he would be received in all those parts of Italy which have suffered so much from these foreign attacks, with what thirst for revenge, with what strong faith, with what devotion, with what tears. What door would be closed to him? Who would refuse obedience to him? What envy would hinder him? What Italian would refuse him to honour him? To all of us this present situation is unbearable. Let, therefore, your great family take up this task with that courage and hope with which all just causes are undertaken, so that under its flag our native country may be made great again, and under your command that saying of Petrarch will be shown to be true:
Virtue against fury shall advance the fight
And in the battle soon shall put to flight
For the old Roman courage is not dead
And still burns in the Italians' hearts.

Annihilation of caste:
What is this Hindu Religion? Is it a set of principles, or is it a code of rules? Now the Hindu Religion, as contained in the Vedas and the Smritis, is nothing but a mass of sacrificial, social, political, and sanitary rules and regulations, all mixed up. What is called Religion by the Hindus is nothing but a multitude of commands and prohibitions. Religion, in the sense of spiritual principles, truly universal, applicable to all races, to all countries, to all times, is not to be found in them; and if it is, it does not form the governing part of a Hindu's life. That for a Hindu, Dharma means commands and prohibitions, is clear from the way the word Dharma is used in the Vedas and the Smritis and understood by the commentators. The word Dharma as used in the Vedas in most cases means religious ordinances or rites. Even Jaimini in his Purva-Mimamsa defines Dharma as "a desirable goal or result that is indicated by injunctive (Vedic) passages."
To put it in plain language, what the Hindus call Religion is really Law, or at best legalized class-ethics. Frankly, I refuse to call this code of ordinances as Religion. The first evil of such a code of ordinances, misrepresented to the people as Religion, is that it tends to deprive moral life of freedom and spontaneity, and to reduce it (for the conscientious, at any rate) to a more or less anxious and servile conformity to externally imposed rules. Under it, there is no loyalty to ideals; there is only conformity to commands.
I have to confess that this address has become too lengthy. Whether this fault is compensated to any extent by breadth or depth is a matter for you to judge. All I claim is to have told you candidly my views. I have little to recommend them but some study and a deep concern in your destiny. If you will allow me to say it, these views are the views of a man who has been no tool of power, no flatterer of greatness. They come from one, almost the whole of whose public exertion has been one continuous struggle for liberty for the poor and for the oppressed, and whose only reward has been a continuous shower of calumny and abuse from national journals and national leaders, for no other reason except that I refuse to join with them in performing the miracle - I will not say trick - of liberating the oppressed with the gold of the tyrant, and raising the poor with the cash of the rich.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

God of Small Things, Handmaid's Tale and Brave New World

Been a while since I posted. Been reading on and off and have not been capturing quotes with the same frequency as most of my readings have been when I travel.

Over the past month, I read three books - God of Small Things by Arundatti Roy, Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. All of them brilliantly written and fairly depressing but then again I prefer depressing books as they force you to think. Handmaid's Tale and Brave New World share the context of a dystopian future but somehow I felt God of Small Things seem to have a similar approach to life.

In the God of Small Things, the story gradually unravels on the rather tragic adventures of twins Estha and Rahel and with their cousin Sophie. I guess that is where the title comes from - how a seemingly harmless childish adventure goes horribly wrong and destroys an entire family. But more that this adventure, Arundatti Roy captures the social problems of the time which is what probably launched her career as a social activist later. One of the rather tragic characters in the book Velutha is an untouchable who quite sadly dies in police custody. The book shows how Velutha has extraordinary skills as a child that later ended up with him being a skilled carpenter and machinist. But he still coudn't keep himself away from campaigning for social justice which causes an intermittent disappearance from the village and later a possible involvement with the communist agitation. Roy shows how Velutha's father is completely brainwashed in his servitude towards the upper castes as he sits in wait to kill Velutha for dishonoring the family when all that Velutha has done is fall in love with the daughter of the family that employed Velutha and his father. The family conspires to have Velutha killed through police action and further uses the children Estha and Rahel - well Estha is the one who performs the formal identification that condemns Velutha. It is ironical that Estha in his adult life stops talking almost as a sign of disgust as to what his tongue has achieved. Rahel on the other hand abandons the family but can't get herself to walk away when she hears how her brother is.

Handmade's Tale and Brave New World have stark similarities with many other books like 1984. A future following war and catastrophe where an absolute dictatorship makes a particular form of submission mandatory. In the Handmade's Tale, the main character is a young woman who has been trained to procreate. Her sole purpose is to be a surrogate to a privileged military family where the wife can no longer bear children. In the Brave New World, the main characters are a dysfunctional privileged citizen and a "savage" from the untamed part of the world where the major part of the planet has been converted into a "civilized" society where humans are artificially created and bred to perpetuate a class society. Babies are born with special techniques to ensure that those intended for inferior duties are deliberately cloned through a egg-splitting technique and further these embryos are provided with limited oxygen and nutrients to result in a stunted brain. The babies are then cultivated through propaganda to accept this new world and further everyone is supplied with drugs as adults to ensure that any pain they feel is numbed.

In the Hamdmade's Tale, the main character has lived a past life as a free citizen, a wife and a mother only to see all that vanish as the dictatorship takes over. Her generation is considered the problem generation needing special training as they still hold on to memories of a free past. The hope of the dictatorship is that subsequent generations that know of no free world will be easier to manage. She views every aspect of her captive life with irony and contrasts it with her free life before.

In the Brave New World, the main character is a privileged member of  society but however lacks the physical features of most of his equals for some unknown reason. This leads to rumours about his birth and he becomes skeptical of this perfect drug-induced world as he refuses the drugs prescribed to all adults and blasphemes about freedom and loneliness. He manages a trip to a "savage" reservation where the rules of the perfect society do not apply and they still follow the ways of the old world - family, religion. He brings back a "savage" to the his world who is unable to adapt and is provided with his own solitary abode in the end.

Somehow I felt Arundatti Roy's book is fairly dystopian as it shows the divisions in modern society and how disastrous they can be. Handmade's Tale and Brave New World have a common theme but reading these three books in close succession was fairly disturbing but thought provoking.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Dry White Season by Andre Brink

 A fantastic book by an author I have never read before. I was trying to find authors similar to J.M. Coetzee and Andre Brink showed up. The book is set in apartheid Africa and describes the injustice of the times.

In that silence, behind the events of the afternoon and the uncommitted light of the sun, lay the memory of Gordon, small and maimed in his coffin in the cool bare room, his grey claws folded on his narrow chest. The rest seemed interchangeable, transferable, unessential: but that remained. And, with it, the aching awareness of something stirred into sluggish but ineluctable motion.

From a very early age one accepts, or believes or it told, that certain things exist in a certain manner. For example: that society is based on order, on reason, on justice. And that, whenever anything goes wrong, one can appeal to an innate decency, or commonsense, or a notion of legality in people to rectify the error and offer redress. Then, without warning you discover that what you accepted as premises and basic conditions - what you had no choice to accept if you wanted to survive at all - simply does not exist. Where you expected something solid there turns out to be just nothing.

Everything one used to take for granted, with so much certainty that one never bothered to enquire about it, now turns out to be an illusion. Your certainties are proven lies. And what happens if you start probing? Must you learn a wholly new language first?

It has begun. A pure, elemental motion: something happened - I reacted - something opposed me. A vast, clumsy, shapeless thing has stirred. Is that the reason of my dazed state? Let's try to be reasonable, objective: am I not totally helpless, in fact irrelevant, in a movement so vast and intricate? Isn't the mere thought of an individual trying to intervene preposterous?

But who are "my people" today? To whom do I owe my loyalty? There must someone, something. Or is one totally alone on that bare veld beside the name of a non-existent station?

What happened before that drought has never been particularly vivid or significant to me: that was where I first discovered myself and the world. And it seems to me I'm finding myself on the edge of yet another dry white season, perhaps worse than the one I knew as a child.

Eras like those of Pericles or the Medici lay in the fact that a whole society, in fact a whole civilization, seemed to be moving in the same gear and in the same direction. In such an era there is almost no need to make your own decisions: your society does it for you and you find yourself in complete harmony with it. On the other hand there are times like ours, when history hasn't settled on a firm new course yet. then every man is on his own. Each has to find his own definitions, and each man's freedom threatens that of all the others. What is the result? Terrorism. And I'm not referring only to the actions of the trained terrorist but also those of an organized state whose institutions endanger one's essential humanity.

There are only two kinds of madness one should guard against. One is the belief that we can do everything. The other is the belief that we can do nothing.

When one person unexpectedly finds himself on the edge of another - don't you think that's the most dangerous thing that could happen to anyone?

On the other hand: what can I do but what I have done? I cannot choose not to intervene: that would be a denial and a mockery not only of everything I believe in, but of the hope that compassion may survive among men.

At the very most we are like two strangers meeting in the white wintry veld and sitting down together for a while to smoke a pipe before proceeding on their separate ways.

In the beginning there is turmoil. Then it subsides, leaving a silence: but it is a silence of confusion and incomprehension, not true stillness but an inability to hear properly, a turbulent silence.

The disturbing truth is that even as I prepare to finish it off I know that he will ot let go of me again. I cannot grasp him: neither can I rid myself of him. There is no absolution from the guilt of having tried. I am left with a sense of hopelessness. In my efforts to do justice to him, I may have achieved the opposite. We belong to different dimensions: one man lived, another wrote; one looked forward, the other back; he was there, and I am here. Perhaps all one can really hope for, all I am entitled to, is no more than this to write it down. To report what I know. So that it will not be possible for any man ever to say again:
I knew nothing about it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Slave by Isaac Bashevis Singer

This amazing book by an author I regret never having read before, has a similar feel to Orhan Pamuk's books. The struggle with faith, of believing but not knowing whether belief lead to anything. Set in Poland in the seventeenth century at a time when war and massacres were routine, the book is a beautiful story about a man who becomes a slave but even after achieving freedom, realizes he can never be free again. He continues to believe but his belief is shaken by all that he sees around him.

Ceaselessly he prayed for death; he had even contemplated self-destruction. But now that mood had passed, and he had become inured to living among strangers, distant from his home, doing hard labour. It was difficult to believe in God's mercy when murderers buried children alive.

In Jacob's case the normal order of things had been reversed. It was God who spoke in simplest language while evil overflowed with learned quotations. How long did one live in this world? How long was one young? Was it worth while to destroy this existence and the one that would follow for a few moments of pleasure?

Yesterday everything had been bright; now it was gray. Distances had shrunk; the skies had collapsed like the canvas of a tent; the tangible had lost substance. If so much could vanish from the physical eye, how much more could elude the spirit.

The explanation he had given that free will could not exist without evil nor mercy without sorrow now sounded too pat, indeed almost blasphemous. Did the Creator require the assistance of Cossacks to reveal his nature? Was this a sufficient cause to bury infants alive? Even if these souls rose to the most splendid mansion and were given the finest rewards, would that cancel out the agony and horror? Through forgetfulness, he had also been guilty of murder.

But Jacob had no peace. Everywhere he heard people asserting things that their eyes denied. Piety was the cloak for envy and avarice. They had learned nothing from their ordeal; rather suffering had pushed them lower.

But he realized with astonishment, what was so new for him was stale for everyone else. As for the Almighty, He maintained his usual silence. Jacob saw that must follow God's example, seal his lips, and forget the fool within, with his fruitless questions.

As a boy he pitied the watchman in the cemetery whose life had been passed near the cleansing house, but now the whole of Poland had become one vast cemetery. The people around him accommodated themselves to this, but he found it impossible to come to terms with. The best he could do was stop thinking and desiring. He was determined to question no longer. How could one conceivably justify the torments of another?

One day seated alone in the study house, Jacob said to God, "I have no doubt that you are the Almighty and that whatever you do is for the best, but it is impossible for me to obey the commandment, Thou Shalt Love Thy God. No, I cannot, Father, not in this life."

Yes, the day Jacob had left Josefov for the village where he had been a slave for five years, he had picked up a burden which became heavier with the passage of time. His years of enforced slavery had been succeeded by a slavery that would last as long as he lived.

Jacob's body died, but he was already so busy greeting those who had come back to meet him that he did not look back. His dark cabin with his rags and refuse was left behind on the ship. The voyagers would clean it out, those who must still continue to journey on the stormy seas. He, Jacob, had arrived.

Monday, December 9, 2013

In the heart of the country by J.M. Coetzee

This book seems a bit similar to "The life and times of Michael K" as it looks at a human isolated and how in that isolation, connection to the land, with the natives and even with the concept of God take a very different meaning. Like all of Coetzee's works, a fantastic read.

All my life I have been left lying about, forgotten, dusty, like an old shoe, or when I have been used, used as a tool, to bring the house to order, to regiment the servants. But I have quite another sense of myself, glimmering tentatively somewhere in my inner darkness: myself as a sheath, as a matrix, as protectrix of a vacant inner space.

I must not fall asleep in the middle of my life. Out of the blackness that surrounds me I must pluck the incident after incident after incident whose little explosions keep me going. For the other kind of story, the weave of reminiscence in the dozing space of the mind, can never be mine. My life is not past, my art cannot be the art of memory.

My learning has the reek of print, not the resonance of the full human voice telling its stories. But perhaps our teacher was not a good teacher, perhaps she slumped sullen at her table tapping the cane in the palm of her hand, brooding over insults, dreaming of escape, while her pupils picked their way through reading books and one could hear a pin drop.

And then, in the bloom of her tentative young motherhood, the woman must have died trying to give birth to a third child, died as she feared she would, afraid to deny the man his detested relentless pleasure in her, her death a hideous storm of terror, with the midwife wringing her hands about the room and recommending ipecacuanha as a last resort.

So what actually creates the sense of emptiness that we quite often feel? The fact that at no point of time were you ever the centre of another human's life? Or the lack of cherished memories while you grow up? Or a disconnect with your immediate family?

It takes generations of life in the cities to drive that nostalgia for country ways from my heart. I will never live it down, nor do I want to. I am corrupted to the the bone with the beauty of this forsaken world. If the truth be told, I never wanted to fly away with the sky-gods. My hope was always that they would descend and live with me here in paradise, making up with their ambrosial breath for all that I lost when the ghostly brown figures of the brown people I knew crept away from me in the night. I have never felt myself to be another man's creature, I have uttered my life in my own voice throughout, I have chosen at every moment my own destiny, which is to die here in the petrified garden, behind locked gates, near my father's bones, in a space echoing with hymns I could have written but did not because it was too easy.

The beauty of the world we live in takes my breath away. Similarly, one reads, the scales fall of the eyes of condemned men as they walk to the gallows or the block, and in a moment of great purity, keening with regret they must die, they yet give thanks for having lived.

This, after all, is how people smell in the country who have laboured honestly, sweating under the hot sun, cooking the food they have tilled or killed over fire they have made with their own hands. Perhaps, I tell myself, I too will smell like them if I change my ways.

Life in the desert teaches nothing if not that all things are permissible. Where this house stands in the desert there is a turbulence, a vortex, a black hole that I live in but abhor. Between four walls my rage is baffled. Reflected from planes of plaster and tile and board and wallpaper, my outpourings rain back on me, stick to me, seep back through my skin.

The love of the country, the land that nourishes us and without which none of us could live. As a city dweller all my life, I never could understand this but would like to. But then again, this life comes as a price - the isolation that creates a void and threatens to suck you into it. Would you still wish to live that life?

I cannot see a necessity behind what we are doing, any of us. We are no more than whim, one whim after another. Why can we not accept that our lives are vacant, as vacant as the desert we live in, and spend them counting sheep or washing cups with blithe hearts? I do not see why the stories of our lives have to be interesting.

I am not one of the heroes of desire, what I want is not infinite or unattainable, all I ask myself, faintly, dubiously, querulously, is whether there is not something to do with desire other than striving to possess the desired in a project which must be vain, since its end can only be the annihilation of the desired. Yet at the same time I know that nothing will fill me, because it is the first condition of life forever to desire, otherwise life would cease. It is the principle of life forever to be unfulfilled. Fulfilment does not fulfil. Only stones desire nothing. And who knows, perhaps in stones there are holes we have never discovered.

That is the origin of our feeling of solitude. I for one do not wish to be at the centre of the world, I wish only to be at home in the world as the merest beast is at home. Much, much less than all would satisfy me: to begin with, a life unmediated by words: these stones, these bushes, this sky experiences and known without question; and a quiet return to the dust. Are not all these dicta from above blind to the source of our disease, which is that we have no one to speak with, that our desires stream out of us chaotically, without aim, without response, like our words, whoever we may be, perhaps I should speak only for myself?

An extremely interesting contrast. Should you just keep living a mundane life without the desire to be ever remembered by your actions? Or is that never ending desire that at the same time threatens to leave you chasing hopes forever makes you human?

It is in order that we shall not fall victim to the assassin, that we consent to die if we ourselves turn assassin. Every man born in slavery is born for slavery. The slave loses everything in his chains, even the desire to escape from them. God loves no one, and hates no one, for God is free from passions and feels no pleasure or pain. Therefore one who loves God cannot endeavour that God should love him return; for, in desiring this, he would desire that God should not be God. God is hidden, and every religion that does not affirm that God is hidden is not true.

Desire is a question that has no answer. The feeling of solitude is a longing for a place. That place is the centre of the world, the navel of the universe. Less than all cannot satisfy man. Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained. When God accomplishes what he wishes through the wicked what he has decreed in his secret counsels, the wicked are thereby not excusable. Those whom God leaves out of his election he is also reproving, and for no other reason than that he wills to exclude them.

An interesting bit about God from Coetzee.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Plague by Albert Camus

An absolute masterpiece that I read in close succession to another masterpiece "The Stranger". Hard to understand how this genius could create stories like this.

But the plague forced inactivity on them, limiting their movements to the same dull round inside the town, and throwing them, day after day, on the illusive solace of their memories. For in their aimless walks they kept on coming back to the same streets and usually, owing to the smallness of the town, these were streets in which, in happier days, they had walked with those who now were absent.

It was undoubtedly the feeling of exile, that sensation of a void within which never left us, that irrational longing to hark back to the past or else to speed up the march of time, and those keen shafts of memory that stung like fire.

In short, we returned to our prison-house, we had nothing left us but the past, and even if some were tempted to live in the future, they had speedily to abandon the idea anyhow, as soon as could be, once they felt the wounds that the imagination inflicts on those who yield themselves to it.

At such moments the collapse of their courage, willpower, and endurance was so abrupt that they felt they could never drag themselves out of the pit of despond into which they had fallen. Therefore they forced themselves never to think about the problematic day of escape, to cease looking to the future, and always to keep, so to speak, their eyes fixed on the ground at their feet.

Thus, in a middle course between these heights and depths, they drifted through life rather than lived, the prey of aimless days and sterile memories, like wandering shadows that could have acquired substance only by consenting to root themselves in the solid earth of their distress.

Even the past, of which they thought incessantly, had a savour only of regret. For they would have wished to add to it all that they regretted having left undone, while they might yet have done it, with the man or woman whose return they now awaited; just as in all the activities, even the relatively happy ones, of their life as prisoners they kept vainly trying to include the absent one.

The book captures the feeling of imprisonment after the quarantine being imposed on the city. The concept of time standing still with life continuing as usual in the world outside the city by coming to a standstill for those trapped inside it. Even without plague, this feeling of being trapped is something all of us feel at some point. Just that the plague forced a feeling of finality with death standing just around the corner.

According to religion, the first half of a man's life is an upgrade; the second goes downhill. On the descending days he has no claim, they may be snatched from him at any moment; thus he can do nothing with them and the best thing, precisely, is to do nothing with them. He obviously had no compunction about contradicting himself, for a few minutes later he told Tarrou that God did not exist, since otherwise there would be no need for priests.

"After all it's something that a man of your sort can understand most likely, but, since the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn't it be better for God if we refuse to believe in Him and struggle with all our might against death, without raising our eyes toward the heaven where He sits in silence."

How do you perceive God at a time like this? For an agnostic, it is just further proof that religion and faith serve no purpose. How does a believer feel? Would you examine a reason why this was inflicted upon you or a remedy that might solve it? Or as in some parts of the book, consider it to be a penance for your sins? Who would win at a time like this?

The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.

In my opinion the most power statement in the book. And so incredibly true. Almost like friendly fire – the one who shot you might be your own comrade and had no intention of doing so. But how does it matter who shot you if you have been shot?

Without memories, without hope, they lived for the moment only. Indeed, the here and now had come to mean everything to them. For there is no denying that the plague had gradually killed off in all of us the faculty not of love only but even of friendship. Naturally enough, since love asks something of the future, and nothing was left us but a series of present moments.

For, characteristically, the sound that rose toward the terraces still bathed in the last glow of daylight, now that the noises of vehicles and motors, the sole voice of cities in ordinary times, had ceased, was but one vast rumor of low voices and incessant footfalls, the drumming of innumerable soles timed to the eerie whistling of the plague in the sultry air above, the sound of a huge concourse of people marking time, a never ending, stifling drone that, gradually swelling, filled the town from end to end, and evening after evening gave its truest, mournfulest expression to the blind endurance that had ousted love from all our hearts.

"You haven't a heart!" a woman told him on one occasion. She was wrong; he had one. It saw him through his twenty-hour day, when he hourly watched men dying who were meant to live. It enabled him to start anew each morning. He had just enough heart for that, as things were now. How could that heart have sufficed for saving life?

Yes, Rieux, it's a wearying business, being plague-stricken. But it's still more wearying to refuse to be it. That's why everybody in the world today looks so tired; everyone is more or less sick of plague. But that is also why some of us, those who want to get the plague out of their systems, feel such desperate weariness, a weariness from which nothing remains to set us free except death.

And he knew, also, what the old man was thinking as his tears flowed, and he, Rieux, thought it too: that a loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one's work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Reading "Kafka on the Shore" by Murakami was probably not as much of an impact as Norwegian Wood. But for some reason, the passages seemed to strike so very close. Far too close to add my comments to the passages.

Sometimes, fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing direction. You change direction, but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.

Where does your responsibility begin here? Wiping away the nebula from your sight, you struggle to find where you really are. You're trying to find the direction of the flow, struggling to hold on to the axis of time. But you can't locate the borderline between dream and reality. Or even the boundary between what's real and what's possible. All you're sure of is that you are in a delicate position. Delicate - and dangerous. You're pulled along, a part of it, unable to pin down the principles of prophecy, or or logic. Like when a river overflows, washing over a town, all road signs have sunk beneath the waves. All you can see are the anonymous roofs of the sunken houses.

Time weighs down on you like an old ambiguous dream. You keep on moving, trying to slip through it. But even if you go to the ends of the world, you won't be able to escape it. Still you have to go there - to the edge of the world. There's something you can't do unless you get there.

I'm free, I think. I shut my eyes and think hard and deep about how free I am, but I can't really understand what it means. All I know is I am totally alone. All alone in an unfamiliar place, like some solitary explorer who's lost his compass and his map. Is that what it means to be free? I don't know, and I give up thinking about it.

So I want you to be careful. The people who build high, strong fences are the ones who survive the best. You deny that reality only at the risk of being driven into the wilderness yourself.

You don't want to be at the mercy of things outside you anymore, or thrown into confusion by things you can' t control. If there's a curse in all this, you mean to grab it by the horns and fulfill the program that's been laid out for you. Lift the burden from your shoulders and live - not caught up in someone else's schemes, but as you. That's what you want.

As long as I was alive, I was something. That was just how it was. But somewhere along the line it all changed. Living turned me into nothing. Weird ... People are born to live, right? But the longer I've lived, the more I've lost what's inside me - and ended up empty. And I bet the longer I live, the emptier, the more worthless, I'll become. Life isn't supposed to turn out like this. Isn't it possible to shift direction, to change where I'm headed?

What Chekhov was getting at was this: necessity is an independent concept. It has a different structure from logic, morals, or meaning. Its function lies entirely in the role it plays. What doesn't play a role shouldn't exist. What necessity requires does need to exist. That's what you call dramaturgy. Logic, morals, or meaning don't have anything to do with it. It's all a question of relationality.

A long time ago I abandoned someone I shouldn't have. Someone I loved more than anything else. I was afraid someday I'd lose this person. So I had to let go myself. If he was going to be stolen away from me, or I was going to lose him by accident, I decided it was better to discard him myself. Of course I felt anger that didn't fade, that was part of it. But the whole thing was a huge mistake. It was someone I should never have abandoned.

You're afraid of imagination. And even more afraid of dreams. Afraid of the responsibility that begins in dreams. But you have to sleep, and dreams are a part of sleep. When you're awake you can suppress imagination. But you can't suppress dreams.

Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads - at least that's where I imagine it - there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live for ever in your own private library.