Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The koward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!"
                     oscar wilde , the ballad of reading gaol

When was the last that I thought of you...I know not...but am I the one who goes alone on this path...and should I but care only a little for the souls that follow or those as march ahead?

Mode C is a way of life, perhaps my way of life: C for Cool, C for Cold, C for Chaos, C for Calvin. Ultimately, all of it boils down to the way you look at things. Are they not how they are but just how they appear?? No...and yes...Almost all the seriously critical fundamental concepts of life...aren't they just the bogies under Calvin's bed that he is afraid of? Miss Wormwood, Susie, Mom and Dad, and of course above all, Hobbes...aren't they all merely the means that he uses to attack these bogies?

Reflecting on 'living the Calvin way', I have started to believe that life and our reaction to it can only be explained by a number of Calvin and Hobbes strips combined together. The philosophy, as I like to call it, is to know that you are not alone. It is not just my perspective alone that is going to help me fight my bogies. I will be able to inch towards the Calvin way only when I perceive the other perspectives on my way.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005
Fable in a fable

You are sitting in the middle of a magnificent, lush, green garden. This garden is filled with the most spectacular flowers you have ever seen. The environment is supremely tranquil and silent. Savour the sensual delights of this garden and feel as if you have all the time in the world to enjoy this natural oasis. As you look around you see that in the center of this magical garden stands a towering, red lighthouse, six stories high. Suddenly, the silence of the garden is disturbed by a creaking sound as the door at the base of the lighthouse opens. Out stumbles a nine-foot-tall, nine-hundred-pound Japanese sumo wrestler who casually wanders into the center of the garden.

It gets better. The Japanese sumo wrestler is naked! Well, actually he is not totally naked. He has a pink wire cable covering his private parts.

As this sumo wrestler starts to move around the garden, he finds a shiny gold stopwatch which someone had left behind many years earlier. He slips it on, and falls to the ground with an enormous thud. The sumo wrestler is rendered unconscious and lies there, silent and still. Just when you think he has taken his last breath, the wrestler awakens, perhaps stirred by the fragrance of some fresh yellow roses blooming nearby. Energized, the wrestler jumps swiftly to his feet and intuitively looks to his left. He is startled at what he sees. Through the bushes at the very edge of the garden, he observes a long winding path covered by millions of sparkling diamonds. Something seems to instruct the wrestler to take the path, and to his credit, he does. This path leads him down the road of everlasting joy and eternal bliss.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

I have never been one of those who are easily impressed by the self-improvement or the get-rich-soon books. In fact, it has always been the reverse and I have made no bones about laughing at those who read such books, believing them to have just too much spare time at hand or mentally challenged. I always wondered that if the authors really knew techniques such as these, why were they still writing books, of all things. I had picked up this book, one of the latest and more popular self-improvement books (in fact, I was not really sure if it was that when I laid my hands on it) only because of the first reason I mentioned, that is having quite some time on hand.

Having gone through the book in two seatings, however, I realized that the succinct manner in which the book is written and the effective way in which it conveys its message is something that can not be found so easily in any other book of the same class. The fable above is the only thing that the book talks about. It uses this amazingly simple and unbelievably absurd fable to give a list of principles that will help improve the quality of life. Robin Sharma is no sage and he does not tell us something that none of us least the Indians know most of what he is speaking of and have actually employed most of the principles mentioned in the book as a part of their routine lives.

However, it is clear and apparently obvious that the book is not meant for India or Indians. Robin Sharma, in a seemingly calculated move, makes sure that even the protagonist is the typical workaholic American with dollars to spare for the eastern new age fads...Yoga, Gurus, and books like these. Julian Mantle, a hot shot lawyer gets burnt with his work filled life and after a heart attack that rings the warning bells for him, he sells off all his possessions (including a Ferrari and thus the name) and goes for an odyssey to the east.

After roaming about much of India, he finds peace and enlightenment through the teachings of the sages of the Sivana who live in isolation in the deep reaches of the Himalayas. Having committed to spreading the wisdom that he has gained, Julian comes back to America and pays a visit to his one time colleague and junior lawyer who was pretty close to him during his materialistic days. As Julian gives this discourse and pours out his heart and knowledge to his newly-found pupil, the readers of the book travel along with the two on this odyssey to a supposedly tension free life that promises nothing short of the elixir of everlasting youth.

Unlike other such books where after a decent beginning, much of the rest would have been lost in some disconnected rambling, the best part of this book is the way it connects the ideas spread across the entire (200 pages long) book through the fable above. As Julian tells John, his pupil, the secrets of life, he tells him that each element of the fable above represents one of the factors that need to be considered if a sattvic life is to be experienced. While the garden is compared to the mind, the lighthouse represents the purpose of life. Similarly, the sumo wrestler represents kaizen for self improvement and even the wire cable he wears represents the will power of human beings.

The book goes on to describe not just the ideas as represented by the elements of the fable but even gives some practical techniques to implement the ideas. The summary at the end of the chapters, mentioning the fable element, the virtue, and the techniques to achieve that virtue is another effective tool used by the author to tie his strings.

I am not sure how helpful the book is going to be in improving anyone's life (though some of the ideas are really common sense and do seem to be helpful). The important thing, nevertheless, is that the book brings together many of the things we already know but have no time to think about in cohesion. Even more importantly, all this is done in style and the use of the fable within a fable is a master stroke that is earning Robin Sharma the millions he rightly deserves (well, perhaps he does not deserve millions for telling us what we already know but that is what he is getting, fortunately or unfortunately).

Posted at 11:23 pm by Nitai

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