Posted in Extempore, Movies

August Rush | Ancient Wisdom in a Modern Musical

As an epitome of modern day storytelling, August Rush returns a very important ingredient to the recipe of life – an ingredient long lost since the dawn of enlightenment – Mystery. And the medium it chooses to return this old family member is – Music.

For as is rightly said, Music comes only second to expressing the inexpressible, after silence. The inexpressible, the Mystery, which lingers in all our hearts and binds 7 billion of us, together, as humans, as living beings!

Depite the modern medium of Music, the inherent message of this love story remains as old as the legends it is inspired by. It seems to be almost certainly based on the ancient tale of the Princess and the Frog, where Love conquers everything – Prestige, Royalty, Penury, Beauty – everything.

Let me explain a bit here.

Like in the fairy tale, there are four characters in this love story too. There is a King, his daughter the Princess, a Prince cursed into a Frog and the Witch who curses the Prince.

In order to truly grasp the parallels between the stories separated largely in time and space, we need to understand the symbolism behind each of the characters involved.

The King of the fairy tale is essentially symbolic of the Masculine forces of Nature that organises, structures and identifies with his creations to be his own. He is the King of his creation. In the story, Lyla’s father, the King, is proud of his creation, that is Lyla herself. He is proud of her musical talents and wishes to see her prosper and gather fame as an artist. So much so that when she expresses a desire to love a poor man of a lowly rank, he tries to withold her from returning to him. In the fairy tale, it is the Pride of Beauty in the Princess that separates her from the Prince. Here it is the Pride of Lyla’s father in his Prestige that forces him to turn blind to their shared love for Music.

The Witch of the Grimms’ tale is symbolic of the wild and chaotic powers of Mother Nature, the Feminine, that time and again proves the King wrong. She reminds him that it is she who has the power to take away everything that he builds out of her world in the blink of an eye. All of the King’s kingdoms and structures can be reduced to dust in a single day or even a single moment if she wishes to. And as and when his Pride rises, she will crumble his Pride down to dust. Now in Lyla’s story, the Witch is played by a very interesting character of Robin Williams. He is the nomad and a musician of the wild nights. He lives in a dark shed at night with his little army of kids working for him. He wanders by the night playing out his Mysterious Music. He too abhors the Pride of institutions that pretend to teach music and believes that true Music lies in the wilderness out there. (Just as the Witch abhors the Pride of Kings who refuse to accept the true power out there.)

Now, the Princess is the feminine side of the King. The tiny drop of white in the black half of the Yin-Yang. She is the Wild Nature decorated in Gold and Silver. She is born into the structured and orderly world of her Royal father but in her heart she still feels the call to wilderness. But she is forced to keep it sublime. Out of this tension within her arises one of the most beautiful human virtues – Grace. Music becomes her medium to Gracefully release this tension in the world.

In the fairy tale, the Prince is cursed into becoming a Frog till a Princess takes his hand in marriage. In this story our Prince is turned into a Frog by Poverty instead. He is a poor man, much poorer than what Lyla’s father would approve of. (Robin Williams’ character shares this trait of Penury with the Frog Prince.) He is a rebel hearted rock musician which is the diagonal opposite of Lyla’s classical Cello talents. He is the masculine version of the wild feminine. The drop of black in the white half of the Yin-Yang.

And then there is common aspect of Time between the two stories. By which I mean, with Time, the representations of Yin-Yang tend to decay and the new pairs begin to gain virtue. In the Grimms’ legend, both the Princess’ Pride in her Royalty as well as the arrogance of the Witch who cursed the Proud Prince, are eventually mellowed down. The Princess kisses the Frog, thus accepting him as her Beloved despite his foul looks. The curse of the Witch is broken and the Frog turns into a Prince once again.

Similarly, in this story, the Pride of Lyla’s father is shattered to pieces when his daughter breaks the bounds of morality and bears the child of a man of such lowly ranks. And the Pride of the wild, rebellious character of Robin Williams’ is shattered when that very same child goes on to shock the institutions Williams opposed, as a child prodigy – an anomaly in their system, a rebel who speaks the same language but words very different kind of music. A Mysterious Music. A Music of another world.

Thus, the two opposing forces of Lyla’s father and Robin Williams, the egoistic masculine and arrogant feminine; give way to the love-child of Lyla and her unnamed Frog Prince of Rock, the empathetic forms of masculine and feminine. The family is reunited and it is the Music that unites them. The mysterious Music that spreads Love and somehow harmonizes even the eternally opposed forces in Nature.

And that, I believe, is the gift of this wonderful musical to the modern world and its storytellers. Re-igniting an old fire of wisdom that says Love alone triumphs the differences, the diagonal opposites, the Yin and the Yang and also every other kind of differences that we face in the world today.

 

Posted in Extempore, Movies

Bombay 70 | The Hundred Year Old Shaikh of India

This is the story coming from the heart of India where the Real Change is occurring as we speak. It is Change the ancient country was long due for. It is the Change in line with its ancient past from where comes a forgotten lore of the 100 Year Old Knife.

Once upon a time, in the land of India, lived a barber. He ran the family business of running a barber shop in the area. He wished for his son to continue the family legacy and become the next barber chief. So he would tell the son everyday how he used an 100 year old knife to do his job. The son would be amazed at how the shining piece of metal lasted for a hundred years!

He would ask, ‘Dad, but the blade looks very shiny! How does it continue to look so new?’
The barber would reply, ‘That is because I changed it last year.’
The son would then ask, ‘But even the handle looks new and shiny as the blade.”
The barber would reply, ‘That is because I changed the handle two years ago.’
Confused, the son asks, ‘So the blade is new and so is the handle. Then how is it the same knife that your great grandfather used? How is it 100 year old?’
A knowing smile replied back, ‘My dear son, the day you understand how, you will be fit to earn it from me.’

What the barber is trying to teach his son is the nature of any object or person. It si called in ancient Indian texts as chiti. It is the nature of the object, the characteristic of the object that is irrespective of its physical features.It is the thing that remains the same in that 100 Year Old Knife that remains the same even after every part of the knife has been replaced, multiple times. The replacements of the physical are necessary in order for the knife to remain functional, in order for the chiti to remain the same.

Here we learn that when the physical aspects of any object, person or even organisation begins to rust and rot – it needs to undergo a change. The change is not of the chiti but of the blade and the handle. People often mistake the change for a loss of this chiti and deem the necessary physical adaptation as immoral. But it is in fact unavoidable if the chiti has to survive.

And what is the chiti of the knife? It is to do its job. Cut. If it rusts or rots or is stored away to prevent it from wearing out – it automatically loses its chiti – the job it was originally intended for. That is what is immoral.

This si the precise nature of Change that my country is undergoing at present. And at the heart of this Change sits Internet. The new face of the Democratic Dream. Equality for all. Freedom of speech and expression. Irrespective of any bias of any kind that is any number of years old.

This story is one of the many unfolding on the face of my country and one of the few being heard. It is the story of a boy rising up against the world he has inherited. He is refusing to be limited by the matchbox house and the matchbox minds he has inherited from his older generation. He is defying the standard expectations of his caste, creed, colour and other such physical rusting and rotting. He is daring to Change in order to Live.

The chiti continues. The bold heart, fearless eyes and a humble head held high are still right here. But instead of instead of standing up to wage a war over petty- physical-rotting-differences, he is standing up to declare his written-word-rebellion for Change.

Here is Naezy – the 100 Year Old Shaikh of India.

Posted in Extempore, Originals

Google Search – Greatest Gift of Science to Storytelling

The past few months of intensive studying about stories and storytelling led me to understand one thing very clear. Story is a community in itself. It belongs to a group of people and a group of people belong to it. That makes storytelling a religion in itself. The modern day and yet the eternal religion. The individual yet the global religion.

Humans are wired for stories. One of the greatest virtue of the human race is memory which remains at the center of storytelling. Memories make stories. And stories make us who we are. Science says that if the brain of a certain individual human body A is replaced by that of a dead human body B, then it is no longer B who is dead. It is A. Because the body of A with the brain of B is still the human B. With different physical features, yes, but it is the same person A because these physicalities run the same way they would be run by A. So memories are who we really are. And memories are stored in us in the form of stories, by default.

Stories. The constellations of the brightest stars of  our memory-sky. Just like the infinite black sky holding infinite number of stars, we also have a series of infinite moments we have lived that become memories. Every breath that we have breathed is oxidation, burning of our fuel, like the stars burning far away in the night sky. But it is only the stars that are the closest and the brightest that we see. They define our memory demographics and thus our individual stories.

One of the oldest traditions of storytelling says that in every grain of sand there is to be found a whole universe. Science interprets it for you that the complexities of natural worlds do not diminish with our zooming in. The galaxies, stars, solar systems, each planet, each continent, each community, each human brain – are all placed in reducing order of physical size but equal in the breadth of their complexity.

So I guess it is safe to say that each human brain is complex enough to have a night sky of its own. And thus we have our own biases for the stars that are closer to us or brighter in general. They make the constellations of our skies, defining what the world means to us. That also makes me wonder that we each definitely have our unique and yet very very very limited view of the universe. The memories (stars) that make up the constellations of our night sky, are infinitesimal compared to the universal pool of memories (universe, as a whole). At any given point of time the whole universe (literally) is open for us to look at. But we are essentially limited by our physical limitations  – size of eyes to capture distance, size of brain to capture number.

We live in our limited shells of biases and beliefs in things that we hear, touch, taste, smell and even see. While the truth is what we see is not even comparable to a drop in the ocean of all there is to see and know. The Dark Parts of our night sky (gaps in our memory and experience) are in reality filled with other worlds and stars and fire and gas. We are just not able to see them.

And it is in moments of catching a glimpse of something different from our night skies, from the memories that we have made, from the experiences that we have lived – of another world, another planet’s night sky, another person’s story from across the globe that we come closer to realizing who we really are. The truth of ourselves. How tiny we are. How infinitesimal we are. How, nevertheless, a part of the Whole Game we are. How we are all sands with universes packed inside ourselves.

Here is a glimpse of one of the greatest gifts of science and technology to the world of storytelling – Google Search. It has single handedly brought the global culture of sharing stories to be just an appropriate sentence and a click away. A click away can lie a world entirely, devastatingly, hauntingly different from yours. A click away, can also lie, a world that is a lot like yours.

Love is out there. Search on.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Extempore

When I Told My Mother Why I Love Words – Magic Moments with Mother

My mother just came down and sat next to me, discussing a situation.

She told me about how my dad was upset with something my brother had done. I asked her what happened.

So, my brother and his wife were going to have guests this week. It is his birthday week and so my sister in law has planned for a party on his birthday and invited her mother over. Her mother lives 1500km away and so she asked my brother to book tickets for her.

Which he did and which is what upset my father apparently. This is so because my brother himself travels in tickets cheaper than the ones he bought for his mother in law.

So my father thinks he shouldn’t have booked these more expensive ones for his mother in law. Despite the fact that she was visiting his son, at his place, for his birthday, going to help his son and his daughter with household chores for almost a month!

The main problem was not that the tickets were expensive. The problem was that they were for his mother in law. After all, it was the wife’s mother and it was a mother, not even the father. (My sister in law’s father passed away when she was four years old.)

So my mom simply deluded the above things with a simple sentence that said, that my father is going to talk to my brother about the situation. And ask him to be more manly and responsible with his money.

I was just reading a wonderful paragraph from the latest Brainpickings weekly newsletter. It was about LOVE and how we TEACH OUR KIDS TO LOVE without even knowing it.

(And it was also about how the most profoundly deep human condition was reduced to a shallow waters of instant gratification, post the World War II.)

It was a musician named Leonard Bernstein that was being spoken about. He happened to have some of the most beautiful ideas about reinstating that lost understanding of love in a whole post war generation which was ready for world annihilation any minute, which was impatient and anxious – the two greatest enemies of LOVE.

I read out a paragraph to her. It said

We destroy our children’s songs of existence by giving them inhibitions, teaching them to be cynical, manipulative, and all the rest of it… You become hardened, but you can find that playfulness again. We’ve got to find a way to get music and kids together, as well as to teach teachers how to discover their own love of learning. Then the infectious process begins.

[My mother is a typical upper middle class wife of a Government officer who was brought up in an orthodox lower middle class family but happened to marry an engineer who became an officer. So now she has to bridge the worlds of her childhood and adulthood. One of the strength bearing trusses of this bridge, that she and many other women like her, bridge is that of English. They belong to a society where English is a symbol of being forward, educated and classy. They themselves have grown up learning in regional languages. So I decided to explain it out to her.]

I began from the phrase, songs of existence. I told her the world Universe roots itself in Uni-single Verse-song. It was so because the whole existence was supposed to be seen like a single song of which we were all a part – and not just a part, a contributing part. Musicians in the grand recording hall of the Song of Eternity. This made the individual songs that we contributed, the Songs of Existence – proofs of our being.

So when we teach our kids to be cynical, manipulative and the rest of it – we are hardening them. We stifle the music inside them. We disable them from playing that music, that song of their existence.

This was the first time I ever brought out something I was reading with LOVE to the woman who taught me how to LOVE. I was finding words to what she wanted to tell about the situation with my brother and my father.

She came to sit next to me telling about what was wrong withmy father’s disapproval. And how he was using his position to manipulate his son, teaching him to manipulate. Manipulate him into carrying forward the patriarchal and inhuman values he was living till now.

I gave her words to understand what exactly was wrong about it all. After all this was the gift of the World of Words where we can share existences with people who have long died or live in far away lands where the sun sets as our sun rises. This is how we know, we are all sharing this existence, these songs within us!

 

Posted in Extempore

How Studying Galaxies Teaches Us That We Are Never Present!

We are never present. We never see the present. We are always looking at something that was in the past. Because in the act of seeing, there is always a loss of time.

This simple awareness of the lacking in our human consciousness can be witnessed in the study of the cosmos. Every grand imagery we have of the solar system or the galaxy or the galaxies beyond – is a view that occurred millions of years ago. It is never in the moment.

judyschmidt_cygx-crop-original-original
Cyg X, a star-forming region in Cygnus. (source

There it is so because the act of seeing requires for us to receive light. And such greater are the distances, that light itself takes years and years to reach us. The moment of occurrence has already passed. But we come to witness it only in retrospection.

Oh, what a tragic thought. We are never in the present, not even on the earth. We are always seeing the past, thinking about the past, reacting to the past. The act of seeing, thinking, reacting itself takes up time that we miss out on the present.

It is one of the greatest and subtlest losses we incur nearly every moment of everyday.

Oh, just think about the possibilities of seeing the present. The possibility of looking at gases and dust assembling, coalescing to give birth to a star. A star that would brn for years and years. It would shine and give life. But in the moment, we could witness its birth, its inception.

judyschmidt_cygx_ring-crop-original-original
The weird and powerful star G79.29+0.46, surrounded by shells of expanding gas. Estimated occurrence, about 4000 light years. (source)

It would require us to not see the even though. For the simple reason that the act of seeing, takes time. And this time is only time lost. When we are trying to see we are losing time. We cannot try to see. Then how do we live in the present?

By being aware? Bearing witness to the present as it is happening? Not when it is gone in the past, not when it is about to occur – but right now. Right now, with all its nuances, leaving nothing seen, yet everything, unseen.

It is one of the most satisfying experiences to witness an occurence in the present. To see a process unfolding, a cocoon breaking to release a butterfly, a river changing courses over decades, a child growing from a two inch egg. To not see the butterfly after it is a butterfly but as it is transforming. To not see a river after decades without realising any change in its position. To not see a grown baby come out of a mother but see it transform. 

It is this witnessing the transformation that is the root of all satisfaction. A detached observance of what many men have called Flow of Life, Deep Play, Interconnectedness, Universally Stable Chaos.

 

 

Posted in Extempore

Twelve Years A Slave

A black man was born free but abducted to be a slave – inhumanely, illegally.

The man was redeemed from the wrath of slavery, rescued after a long period of wait for the one white man who truly understood the truth of right and wrong.  Continue reading “Twelve Years A Slave”