Monday, November 19, 2007

A Humble Attempt At Free Verse


It’s been quite sometime that I’ve found that this mortal coil I’m tied to
has become rather burdensome.
It’s not that suddenly the load has become unbearable;
nor because its multiplying cares have conspired to overwhelm.
It’s not even because of the countless frustrations it has spawned daily.

Why then the wanton indifference,
the lackadaisical and dreary outlook to the unfolding reality that slowly rolls in each day ?
Culled from a veritable storehouse of life experiences, the answer is readily unraveled.
The uncanny realization that earthly life is bereft of meaning,
so fleeting and so vaporous in its content.

Finding that nothing of life induces inspiration to pursue it with at least decent fervor.
No wonder then its trite challenges are met with tepidity and nonchalance.
Finding that the trifling values and pursuits that present-day man has clothed life with,
I look down with derision and disdain.

Harboring no ill will toward man himself
but only at the blatantly hedonistic pursuits that preoccupy his day.
A gnawing yearning for something more meaningful and profound is felt spiritually.
Things that satisfactorily fulfill my very discriminating criteria for goals worthy of pursuit.

Things that relate to the higher and noble nature of man.
Ultimate causes that address what comes after this so inscrutable existence.
And the pangs of impatience obstinately tear at my consciousness,
Making it very difficult to exhibit even feigned interest
and enthusiasm at the very mundane concerns of everyday living.

Despite the gloomy picture painted above,
the quest for meaning is doggedly pursued if only to justify continued existence.
The ultimate purposes are easily articulated with nary an iota of doubt.
To mortify and bring the material body to complete and total subjugation
by the spirit through the strict practice of A S C E T I C I S M.

This determination gives me impetus to continue with life.
It proffers the clarity of vision to see through the hazy veil
that shrouds the real purpose of man here on this earth.

That he is here only as an itinerant traveler,
preordained to begin his real life in the spirit
devoid of the constrictive trappings of the flesh.
Still, while the mind and spirit share a clear and unstinting grasp of my real goals in life,
Keeping in this frame of mind is most of the time difficult
and calamitous lapses are not uncommon,
Making it necessary to incessantly remind myself of the guiding principles
that should rule my daily living.

But life ought to be more than just an excruciating tolerance
and nonchalance of the events that shape it.
It ought to be more than just trying to survive the trip so the goal can be attained.
It is still within one’s capabilities to make life a more positive experience.

One should be able to look forward to each day with child-like anticipation,
in tandem with a driving passion to be an active and catalytic participant in it.
And not just a passive onlooker being bandied about,
satisfied with just trying to salvage the most out of a situation.

If such a possibility should exist,
I ought to dig deep into myself and my innermost resources to find out.
To enable me to look at life in a positive perspective
so that I can approach each day with promise and excitement.

The search might be made more meaningful
if I can find a kindred spirit to share my sentiments and philosophy.
Is it possible to find such a person in this lifetime,
or am I so alienated from the rest ?

In my own peculiar and quaint ways
I pursue the search for kindred soul for I still have to find one.
While everyday, I struggle and grope around trying to maintain the precarious equilibrium
that makes life bearable and livable.
At every turn and every tick of the clock,
confrontational situations stare at me,
Demanding undivided attention
and unyielding to anything less than total commitment.

Most of the time, the battles seem to weigh against me
resulting in a troubling and agonizing sense of frustration.
And as if these were not sufficient for the day’s share of troubles,
the vagaries of my sensual emotions float around the mind seeking fulfillment.

Sensuous desires, definedly moral taboos, buffet the will;
Are the learned moral values of our youth still relevant or what ?
The many familial concerns also add their share of bitter medicine
to an already water-logged soul.

Indeed, life seems not to be getting any better in terms of achieving a yeoman’s share
of those fleeting moments of seeming peace and tranquility
so that my mind can relax and savor the beautiful vistas it surveys
as it glides through the times of my life.

Death seems such a sweet and tempting alternative to extricate oneself from all this living.
but in an inexplicable, almost sadistic, way one can’t help believing
that these trials are cathartic and may indeed make for a more saintly life.

For do not all these bring out in each one of us
the same godly dignity that permeated Christ's earthly life?


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Land Of The Free

Heard or read lately of any pernicious virus/Trojan Horse/etc going crazily viral in the Web lately?

Maybe not. Maybe because the devilish sprites in the virtual world have simmered down, or simply grew up and matured.

But still, it is best to be protected from them 24/7. Like those inscrutable jihadist/ terrorists, who knows when they will see fit to strike again?

It is easy to imagine why we could let our guards down. Most of the tools and measures we need to give us some sense of security still cost more than a pretty penny.

Take anti-virus software for example. True, companies like Comcast offer free anti-virus protection (McAfee) to their subscribers, but it still costs more than a pretty penny connecting to Comcast’s broadband Internet. Have you asked lately how much to get the latest of Norton’s anti-virus?

But for those desirous of owning their own free-standing anti-virus software, but one that could be had for FREE, that is still a reality. AVG Free offers one ample protection and has been popular with many users. Home users can download the software free and can use it in as many PCs at home that they have.

And there are still loads of free software out there for different purposes, with many of them being “open source” software.

Even the seemingly unchallenged but dearly-priced Microsoft Office suite has a rival that can be had for free – The Star Office. And this is not a new kid on the block. I still have on file the version that came in about 5 floppy disks which I downloaded for free many years ago. The proprietary owner, Sun Microsystems, had this available many, many years ago, and it has undergone countless revisions and/or enhancements. Now you can even get this as part of the Google Pack – as a free bonus. And guess what, it is not only compatible with Microsoft Office, it can do most anything MS Office can do, and more. It is open-source.

And there are many more freebies, as multi-media software, media players, and image editing software.

There is Picasa which comes with the Google Pack, one of many photo-editing software out there.

There is Audacity if one is into recording and editing sounds. And it works across many different platforms – Windows, Mac, Linux, etc. Much like the commercial software, this can record live audio and convert tapes into different formats like from .wav files to mp3s.

And if you want to try a media player other than Windows Media Player or QuickTime or Real, you may want to try another open-source, VideoLAN.

It seems there is a glut of freeware and shareware out there to satisfy the most discriminating computer users.

One just needs to be selective and cautious about the credibility and reliability of each one. Fortunately the web itself does provide the information necessary to learn about these free software.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Daring Fear

Fear and audacity two more emergency passions that elicit irresistible movement in man’s sense appetites.

A fortnight ago, a physically fragile member of our extended family approached us with great emotional rigor about her strong body-shaking fears, essentially fears from bodily harm. Without anything as much as a fully-revealed justifiable reason, other than the result of a little rough physical contact two prior days ago, she expressed unmitigated fear for somebody close to her – her own husband.

But the mere initial exposure of such fear coming from such a fragile individual galvanized the rest of the family, including us the parents, into quick action to mitigate the situation. The husband was immediately called into the carpet, admonished and asked to pack his things and move out of their house, leaving wife and two kids behind for what was planned as an appropriate cooling-off period.

Not given the opportunity to air his side, the husband after some weak resistance meekly acceded, unable to go against the collective wrath of hovering siblings and parents. Reassured and justified, everybody else sighed and felt peace and serenity were temporarily restored, with the long night ending with the wife and kids lovingly escorted to their car for the one block away trip home. With fears allayed and serenity reigning, good sound sleep that night was sweet reward.

But as the intervening days would reveal the strong fears expressed by the wife were slowly unraveled to be unfounded or may have been from the get-go faked to generate compassion and sympathy. An effective ploy to drive husband out of the house and to enjoy full exclusive use and control of their nice house. For a day later, the husband was served a restraining order and a case of assault and battery to boot.

An ideal scenario fit for a screenwriter’s dream of the classic tragedy stirred and driven by vengeance and subterfuge. Having done what she did, she not only drove the husband out of the house, out of his family especially from a kid he has very deep connections with, but also, into the ground.

But that is not the main story.

The storyline is about fear.

And fear dons many caricatures in human life, too. Everybody fears death but since it seems so remote and distant, nobody really worries about that kind of fear. Or any fear that is in the future. But a fear around the corner is something else. It can easily engender body shaking and unbalanced thinking, and sleepless and listless nights, too.

Fear comes also in unrecognizable boxes. A man can fear working or is repulsed by the idea of work, or maybe even “allergic” to it. But we know that kind of fear comes in the package of laziness. We only know too well that man fears disgrace before his fellow men. If it is present disgrace, we call that fear, shame. And if for some foreseeable future, we say shamefacedness.

Now, in the man or woman who suddenly finds himself faced with formidable evil that appears with such great magnitude, his/her fear translates to amazement. Or if the danger is very sudden, imminent and unexpected, man’s fear may be expressed in stupor or paralysis, occasioned by the crippling inability to do anything. However if the dangers or misfortune perceived are petty, man’s fear may be expressed as simply anxiety.

But why does man fear and why does the idea of fear in others brings on great emotional reactions on those around the fearful person?

You see the most primal cause of fear, believe it or not, is the love for good. A man or woman may fear some person or thing because that person or thing may be threatening the good in his/her life – the good health, the good peace and calm of family life, the good safety of body and mind, etc.

Another basic cause of fear is man’s perception and/or conviction that he is unable to cope with the dangers facing him. The inability to resolve issues is a very strong motivator for fear.

Thus, feeding on fears or exploiting the emotions of fear is a much effective ploy to influence other people’s actions and emotions. Especially if the parties involved are loved family members.

The most recent example narrated above adds another notch. – on the aged timber post of life’s many great lessons.

Graphics credits here, here, and here.

The Many Faces Of Anger

Anger wears many faces, and in many of its ugly manifestations, it conjures viral images of evil, vile, malicious, and destructive. But it isn’t always so. That man possesses it as part of his nature immediately speaks to us of the noble good that it may be harnessed for.

As one of the irascible passions of man, or more popularly referred to as emergency passions, it stands unique in a couple of instances.

First, as one of the emergency passions, it partakes of and addresses good that is very difficult to obtain, but more realistically, of evil that is difficult to avoid. Thus, anger is immediately called upon when man is abruptly confronted with evil that is difficult to surmount. Thus, in an emergency situation. Remember Dante’s treatise on the hierarchy of Hell? The lowest rung reserved to those who cannot acquit themselves from sins that are most easy to avoid?

And unlike the rest of the passions of man, anger has no contrary. It has no opposite. It stands solitary, lonely, and most unique.

Many theologians opine that an added quality to it is that it is a mixed passion. It is concerned with both good and evil.

A man or woman therefore who strikes with extreme measures against a known enemy who seeks to destroy him, his family, and loved ones, is said to be using the motive force of anger for good. To help preserve his life and that of his loved ones. Survival after all is primal in man. On the other hand, the aggressor similarly moved by anger becomes your unholy incarnation of evil as manifested in this world. An instrument for evil most sinister.

In any manifestation anger has a two-fold purpose. Firstly, it is used to seek vengeance. For the good-hearted it is resorted to right a wrong, and for the dark-hearted to wreak havoc and destruction. The former feels good and justified with his act, but in this world we inhabit, the latter also in most instances feel the loathsome satisfaction for having done the evil deed. The unworldly satisfaction of seeing pain and suffering in the faces and lives of those inflicted upon.

Funny that the virtue of justice is also factored in the manifestation of anger. We express anger because we desire justice for the wrong done us. Thus we try to carefully weigh the damage done against the vengeance sought. Except that for the dark-hearted, the expression of anger is to extract vengeance simply out of hate, or for some falsely-perceived good to be derived from it. A case of our hard-wired free will blindsided by an erroneous conception of good.

Secondly, anger then takes on a likely partner, hate, the passion opposite to love. Except that the good-hearted “hates” the evil that was done, and the dark-hearted simply hates.

We know of a multitude of instances in life that can cause anger. But as always, it involves real injury, or fanciful or perceived injury. And that injury becomes the dark symbol for contempt and hate for the person or thing causing it.

And in an uncanny twist anger also brings on the simple passion of pleasure. The good-hearted feels pleasure and contentment having received recompense for the wrongdoing. And the dark-hearted could also feel the unhealthy and sick pleasure of knowing the injury done.

In summary, anger is such a complex passion. Armed and moved by it, men become strong and energetic in seeking justice. But in the process, anger can also impair one’s abilities to weigh things prudently and impartially, thus resulting in taking actions of vengeance that are way out of proportion to the injury perceived or suffered.

And as one of life’s lessons, we have learned that frequently we are predisposed to extract vengeance way beyond what the injury merits.

The case of the hammer being used to swat a fly.

What is the just means for those so wrongly trampled upon?

Graphics Credit

Thursday, November 01, 2007

To Blog Or Not To Blog

There is a curious exchange of ideas in the blogosphere on how any gifted blogger or would-be blogger should assess or weigh the decision on whether to blog or not, or to continue blogging if already engaged in it. And since this is making the rounds among the econbloggers, one can expect that monetary values and/or considerations will factor into the equation.

Thus after scanning through a representative slice of the blog entries on the subject, including ardently poring through the many insightful and thoughtful comments, one expectedly harvested a net-ful of Economics jargon.

Thus one is reminded of opportunity costs, comparative advantage, loss leader, market power, economic cost and benefit, and the like.

Of course, there are also thrown in the more mundane factors such as ego-gratification, vanity, fame, fortune, and even narcissism.

But nevertheless, the above could very well aptly apply to the entire blogosphere, inclusively defined as those maintaining blogs and all the regular commentators latching on to the different blogs, representing both "the choir" and " the designated hitters". The former drawn approvingly like moths to the authors' partisan views or particular bents and the latter are those drawn to do intellectual combat with their own adversarial views. And as we well know these populate and typify the wordy comments sections of the different heavy-traffic blogs.

So the question to be answered by the blogger and his ever-faithful cadre is whether they will be able to deal with and satisfy the criteria espoused by our renowned economists. And maybe in the process, add in also learning what motivates them to blog picking from the more mundane factors.

Let us start with opportunity costs. To the uninitiated, any decision that involves making a choice between two or more options carries an opportunity cost. If one spends time and effort blogging, what are one giving up and what are their values? If blogging where the blogger gets paid nada involves giving up gainful employment, then what one could get in gainful employment becomes the opportunity costs incurred in blogging. Unless other factors are ushered in.

For example, noted economist, Prof. Mankiw, considers blogging a personal hobby, thus we assume he gets some kind of personal gratification and/or amusement out of doing it, at the very least. Definitely, non-monetary and because he uses Blogger, his blogging's cost is essentially limited to the time expended. Lucky him! Other less renowned probably do so as crass expression of their narcissism, or vanity. One feels that uneasy sense browsing through some of the innumerable blogs and their rich trove of commentaries. Let me tell you about what I could find browsing through the blogs and comments in some blogs domiciled in the old homeland. A number of commenters especially are with little trace of subtlety engaged in attempting to outdo, outwit, outsmart, out spit or just simply outword each other.

Now, I particularly like the next one, comparative advantage - the hallmark and basis for international trade, as we were taught in school. But in this instance the comparative advantage dynamic applies this way. Aside from blogging, what other type work can you do well where you can derive better and more benefits? For an economist, is it going to full-time teaching, doing valuable research work, or writing in professional journals?

Especially in the category of political blogs, many of the popular and erudite bloggers are never at a loss for words and ideas addressing the myriad of political problems confronting the government and its officials. And many of them are only too eager to gratuitously slam the government and its officials for taking actions contrary to what they have exposed or proposed. Now, therefore, shouldn't those bloggers be or at least attempting to be part of government and thus work for its betterment? And that area would definitely be where overall society could gain some comparative advantage. And not just for our dear bloggers to continue to inhabit the world of verbiage which is what blogging essentially is.

And there are a good number of all-knowing bloggers that one could recommend for public office with its attendant rigors such as the difficult task of convincing the electorate of their electability. Would they take the challenge? Are they daring enough to disembark from their lofty perches and commune with the dirt and grime that characterize public service? Espousing ideas without the concomitant responsibility to act on them is weighed in as a much easier, less stressful, less risky, and ultimately maybe more ego-enhancing alternative

What about loss leader? Actually it is a marketing term, which is a pricing strategy of selling something below cost in an effort to promote another more profitable item. In blogging it applies this way. Blogging is undertaken not simply for the sake of blogging, but as a step toward something else. It could be used as a stepping stone toward getting a cushy job with mainstream media, or for showing one's skill set to prospective employers much like submitting one's resume’ to possible employers. Or because one hopes to promote books or any published work through the blog. Many have done this.

Maybe the world may come out a little better if more bloggers and addicted commenters made similar assessments of their present preoccupations.

When all is said and done anyway, the wise words of Thomas a' Kempis still ring true above the din:

"Verily, when the day of judgment comes, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done, nor how learnedly we have spoken, but again what we have done."

To read more about the discussion, turn to:
Dani Rodrik