I spent 5 glorious days unplugged from all electronic devices and totally free of any distractions…
Juxtapose this with email, television and cell phone distractions, replacing the times we used to have for contemplation, and our time is filled with some connective device or another.
Imagine the terror nowadays when one is left alone…unplugged!
Not long ago, I read that one of the growth areas of neuropsychology today, using the most advanced techniques of brain-mapping, is the study of how the Internet, cell phones and the like are transforming the way we think and the kind of persons we are becoming.
Other studies show that performance suffers when we are multitasking – as when we try to form coherent paragraphs and sustain a logical argument, while checking our emails every three minutes, or when we attempt to drive while talking on a cell phone.
University of Utah psychologist David Strayer, is convinced that attention, memory and learning ability are being dramatically affected with too much digital stimulation, and that such overstimulation ‘can take people who would be functioning okay and put them in a range where they’re not psychologically healthy’.
That the medium in which we think changes the very nature of that thought would have been no surprise to persons like me – born before computers…BBC – and initially resistant but still inept at its functioning and utilizing only basic and survival functions. For that reason, some persons of my generation viewed the recording of oral tradition as a cosmic tragedy.
Interestingly the Greeks had the same fears. A character in Plato’s Socratic dialogue ‘Phaedrus’ worries that reliance on the written word will substitute for oral transmission, creating people who receive their ‘information without proper instruction…they will be thought very knowledgeable where they are for the most part quire ignorant;…the conceit of wisdom will replace real wisdom.’
Wise men of the past also knew that for knowledge to have any impact on the recipient he needs time, free from distractions, to absorb what he has learnt. The prophets from Moses, Jesus to Mohammed spent time alone in contemplation of the revelations passed onto them by God.
But the major point about the impact of digital overload is not that we may think less well or underperform on certain tasks, but that we are becoming different types of human beings altogether. We all still know plenty of smart people. What is much, much rarer are people possessing wisdom (Wise persons were always rarer than smart ones). And those who do possess wisdom do not make themselves constantly available to the world by carrying a cell phone with them everywhere, or who write with a pen, rather than at the computer, or who still spend their days with books and not at their laptops.
Our eagerness and ability to share the most mundane details of our lives with half-strangers via Facebook or Twitter seems inversely proportional to our possession of insights or thoughts worth sharing.
Rafique Gangat – Jerusalem – 3 October 2014

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Saving South Africa from its corrupt politicians

Observing from afar – South Africa today is suffering from the culture of “the here and now,” the culture of “no planning,” the culture of “no real accountability” as characterized by, and thanks to regular exposures by the press, of a significant sector of public servants. These people have enriched themselves by scalping public funds. Call it the culture of ‘now-ism’.

Now-ism is the culture of the here and now, which places the goal of personal political survival above what is best for the country. This is a culture that allows many of our politicians to run for office with a platform-less platform, which says nothing about any major issue that is supposed to be on South Africa’s agenda.

In my opinion, and in the opinion of many I talk to, South Africa has lost its vision, direction and path, and has a leadership that feels extremely confident because it is never threatened, even when it is leading us towards the brink of diplomatic, social and economic disaster.

So let us ask ourselves: Do we believe that this is the direction in which the ruling party and politicians we have elected are taking us and are we becoming a failed state?

This fatal combination of opportunism in the service of now-ism in our country has for years been an ideal habitat for ties between capitalism and government, lack of planning and lack of vision in almost every field.

In order to make a meaningful change of course from the direction in which we’re currently heading, we must shake off the culture of opportunism in service of now-ism, to return substance, values and morals to our country, and to determine the right set of priorities to lead this country we hold so dear back to what we struggled and fought for, otherwise winning our Freedom was all in vain.

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To begin with – whatever form or degree of severity suffering takes, it can be defined as the loss of control. I believe that this is the most terrifying aspect of making the choice to stay on the train and not to dis-embark until the end of the line because loss of control and the end of the line are inextricably connected. You have nowhere to go, so hold on tight!

In fact, our duty in the journey of consciousness is to intentionally assist the ego in breathing its last breath on a daily basis. On the one hand, we need the ego in order to function in a body on this planet, but on the other, in this modern culture, the ego has been forced to ingest a regimen of steroids since birth. It’s inflated and sick to the core!

Let’s be real -becoming conscious means that we flush the steroids and have a serious conversation with the ego about its proper place in the human psyche. Luckily, in this constant struggle between the ego and the deeper self, we have an advantage in the form of another aspect of the psyche that we call the “neutral witness.” It is the part of us that can stand outside the ego and simply observe its incessant flailing. The neutral witness doesn’t have to do anything but simply observe the entire drama. The more time we spend in neutral witness, the easier (never easy) it becomes to allow the ego to find or flail into its proper place. Another word for this state of being is solitude – the detached kind!

Staying on the train is a full-time job and in doing so; there is little chance of maintaining business as usual. Sometimes the speed of the train feels painfully slow and at other times, one feels hurled through time and space on a bullet train. Truth is – life’s a journey to death!

Either way, whether consciously or unconsciously, all passengers on this train are in for a physical, intellectual, and spiritual journey – Only choice – accept it!

You may have boarded the train believing that you were on a journey through literal time and space, encountering the dissolution of the external landscape – Pure illusion!

In fact, when you boarded the train, you embarked on a journey in quite the opposite direction, one which Rumi describes brilliantly: 

You lack a foot to travel?
Then journey into yourself
and like a mine of rubies
receive the sunbeam’s print

Out of yourself such a journey
will lead you to yourself;
it leads to transformation
of dust into pure gold!

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“There are the times that try men’s soul”, Thomas Paine.
In times of adversity and crises, inspirational leaders bring forth hope and optimism for change, all of which Obama cleverly garnered with great success, but then he ended up pursuing an egoistic political agenda serving his funders – the Military Industrial Complex, the Bankers and Wall Street.
Moving from the U.S. to further afield, today most are no longer leaders but stage actors pretending to represent the interests of their people. They have mastered the art of exciting the emotions of their electorates to win elections but fail to act on their promises thereafter.
They perceive people in terms of numbers and votes, not as persons of value in the higher scheme of the Universe.
Most often, these leaders are disconnected from normal, everyday life; being suspicious and paranoid, they see success as something to be achieved at the cost of ruthlessness, hatred, degeneration and viciousness – all part of their inborn value system – making leadership a dreadful game of egomaniac minds, deceptions and strategic priorities.
Pause for a moment and reflect on most, if not all, leaders today!
To launch their campaigns to get elected, most of these leaders rely on consultants and strategic advisors. Once in office, these dummies cannot even distinguish between the role of a national leader and a political campaigner.
Often they lack moral and intellectual leadership as well as perceptive vision. They always seek advisory opinions instead of their own, and are incapable of change and unable to adapt to the new roles that their people have entrusted them with.
Success for them is achieved when their act and reality cannot be differentiated and on that point, their funders gloat with joy – a job well done!
André Gide – “The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity”
In a world of liars, masquerading as our leaders – our ship sailing on the stormy seas is rudderless, and we are going nowhere but down, and much sooner rather than later.
We urgently need leaders who possess integrity – telling the truth to themselves in the first instance and most importantly honesty – telling the truth to the people they entrusted with the responsibility to rule.

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Role models are mostly created by the media, with today’s reality TV shows leading the way.
The ‘Big Brother’ winner is the one who can survive and outperform the competition in terms of lies and backstabbing.
‘The Apprentice’ winner has to be more aggressive, more devious, cunning and willing to trample over everyone else. And the winner is judged by a multi-millionaire, who himself was cunning and ruthless enough to have made it to the top of the pile, amassing millions for his own personal benefit.
These are the role models, we are propagandised to admire and to emulate!
These are the measures of success, of sanity, of normality, we have to aspire to!
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” –Krishnamurti
In every sphere of human activity, we view highly driven individuals: not driven by a need to serve humanity, but by egocentricity and greed. And, these are the values that many world leaders, senior politicians and their corporate masters hold dear.
These values of egocentricity, aggression, competitiveness, duplicity and greed are not only confined to TV shows.
They are inextricably linked to and underpin the actions that resulted in the killing of half a million children in Iraq for geo-political gain, and which continue unabated into other parts of the world. From Congo, Libya to Syria and beyond, we witness daily the outcome of a terrifying mindset that is nurtured and encouraged by ‘a profoundly sick society’.
Too many people have become “well adjusted to the values of a profoundly sick society,” whether in the UK, USA or even the gated communities of South Africa. Humanity is being beaten down to be neurotic, vicious and to regard these traits as constituting normal, acceptable behaviour.
Thanks to the media, this is becoming engrained from an early age as comprising ‘common sense’, and those who question it are merely sneered at or ridiculed by a system that promotes a mass mindset immune to its own lies.
Corporate capitalism, consumerism, the new world order, a war on terror, neo-liberalism – call it what you will – it’s all based on the filthy lie that those in control have humanity’s interests at heart. They don’t!
By any means possible – war, murder, torture or propaganda – they seek to convince people otherwise. And all at the price of human life!

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Why do people have a remarkable ability to look reality right in the eye and yet deny it?
Do you sometimes feel as if you’re looking at one of those cube diagrams from a chapter on perception in a psychology textbook, which looked at one way, one of the sides of the cube appears to be in the foreground and the other side in the background, but when looked at another way, the foreground and background are reversed?
On some days, do you feel completely crazy, yet on other days, you feel blessedly sane but overwhelmed by all the madness around you?
How then do you maintain your sanity?
Living our lives, by the dictates of our Human Ego is exactly what brought us to this madness in the first instance.
On the other hand, we must remember that sanity means wholeness, and by ignoring the existence and needs of our soul, this wholeness shall elude us.

My contention has always been – Man in essence is a spiritual being; beyond the time and space constraints of his material being and if he can somehow be free from material needs, then he can soar to his true nature.

Man’s first and primary concern ought to be: to conquer his animal and material self – so that his true nature emerges and thereafter; to conquer his environment – resulting in the moral purity of the environment, so that all social ills are eradicated and finally; to conquer nature – meaning the development of science for the betterment of all of Humanity.
‘Cutting to the chase’ – the only thing that really matters today is whether Humanity can soar up to a higher moral level through self-reflection and be able to evolve into a more expanded state of consciousness.
If ever there was a time when that turning inward of self-reflection was of critical importance, it is now!
Because, in the moment of self-reflection, the psycho spiritual necessity for evolutionary growth overrules the biological compulsion of unreflective animal instinct….Self-reflection is a genuinely spiritual act, which is, essentially an act of being sane!

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Wonder Why?

It has always seemed strange to me – the things we admire in humans; kindness, generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feelings – the concomitants of failure in our system. Yet on the other hand, these traits we detest in humans; sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest – the traits of success in our system.
And then it makes me wonder – while we admire the qualities of the first we love the products of the second.
Something is sorely amiss in this scheme of things!
Many long hours have I spent pondering this human contradiction which generally manifests itself in persons who outwardly reflect all that we admire in humans but inwardly the very same persons pursue wealth and produce traits in keeping with the second set of negative qualities that we detest.
Accordingly, these questions have bedevilled my mind – is there a dichotomy between virtue and living in the material world and has existence become schizophrenic or is it simply a matter of human frailty?
On the other hand, when one looks at the animal kingdom – it’s all about the second set of qualities and the first set is non-existent, save for some domesticated pets who have adopted human qualities imposed on them by their keepers.
Why can’t we humans live in a holistic way – one in which we encompasses the human spirit and the soul and not one that is ‘divorced’ from the other?
Blame it on the devil, as most may won’t to do!
And in the meantime, the battle/struggle between the human spirit and soul continues….
Even though we humans are works in progress, the fact is that the work of self enlightenment is far more important than the progress, and no matter what one says, Philosophy and the perplexing questions of Being that it forever presents us with, nonetheless prepares us to confront our mortality.

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