Pacing Myself. And why it matters!

I am a type A personality. I am driven and aggressive. I lose sight of my present in my focus to achieve a target. I have come close to destroying my mind, my body and my family when I transition to being on the chase.

Stop.

Remember that the only goal worth maintaining is preservation of my Self. The whole. The sum of all the parts that create Me.

Climbing a mountain, dying at the height of ascendance, serves no purpose.

Life is a marathon. The purpose of a life is to live. It is not to die trying. Achieve balance within before I look for victories outside. Winning a gold medal is worth it, if I have the legs to stand on the podium. Achieving balance in my body and mind is the victory on which all other victories will come. Each race I run, win or lose, is but a first in a succession of races to come.

I learn little from victory, but accumulate arrogance and pride. I learn more from my defeats. Humility, perspective, the reasons for my defeat, respect for my colleagues – both the winner and the other losers, and most important, the desire to fight and win again.

Balance in all things. Balancing my demands to my needs, not my greed. Balancing the need for rest and recovery, to prepare for the days unseen, the fights unfought, the races not run. Balancing my mind, to clear away the avarice, pride and anger, to allow strength, calm and focus replace them. Balancing my body, to rid myself of gluttony and the physical abuse of sloth, to embrace healthy consumption, restful recovery, and balanced exercise.

The best swimmers are akin to fishes as they defy the environment and slice through the water gracefully. But they never forget to breathe.

Calling 911…

As the week draws to its inexorable end, and the drudgery of the week gives way to the expectant joys of the weekend, my heart beats a little faster, as I turn in, each Friday night. Rising at the break of dawn, while my fellow city-dwellers slumber, I spring into the crisp morning air, keys to my chariot in-hand, as I break free the bonds of reality, headed to my time machine – preparing to make the run to 88 miles per hour.

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Unlike it’s predecessor, a 1968 Porsche 912 with a mechanical starter, this evil car wakes up with a surprising alacrity and a deep rumble – resembling the growl of a rabid hellhound. Ensconced in a snug, but comfortable, sport seat, I inhale the unique smells of a 1980s air-cooled car. Warming up, the engine throbs like the strumming of Satan’s bass guitar and drums, while the reliable heating system (an antithesis to it’s laughable air conditioning) braces me from the morning chill. After 5 minutes, and an imperceptible rise in the engine temperature gauge (from freezing to above freezing, I guess), I step on a surprisingly light and familiar feeling clutch, as the 915 gearbox slots into reverse. From past experience and numerous stalls, I slowly release the clutch while feeding the throttle, and the car crawls backwards down my curved driveway.

Other than the otherwise preoccupied dog walkers, joggers and (now awakened) infants, strapped into their jogging strollers, nobody else witnesses the murder of an early Saturday morning calm, as the Beast trolls the slow roll down Wydown Boulevard. Interestingly, the speedometer (which seems to start at 30 mph) is not interested in informing us of the rapidity of our progress at this point, preferring to get involved only at speeds a car like this must be driven. Bouncing from rut to pot-hole to steel plate, I gingerly negotiate the minefield that has replaced Big Bend Boulevard in Clayton. My trepidations give way to excitement as I see the exit for the interstate approach.

With a nether-worldly yawn, she goes into Beast mode, as I downshift into second and make that curve onto the 64. Since the engine is not fully warm yet, I limit my enthusiasm to shift in the 4000 rpm range, as the car effortlessly catches up with traffic threatening to merge right. Matching the speeds of cars decades younger than her, the Beast trundles down the expressway as we wait for the engine to warm up, all the while shifting up quickly to fifth. Each exit on the westbound expressway holds promise of a new route to drive, each one a different neighborhood, a different story.

Today our jaunt to the Jaguar dealership in Creve Couer, accompanied by the dated “stereo” blasting period-correct 70s and 80s pop tunes, requires us to take the right hander onto the north-bound 270. We find ourselves trapped behind ineffably confounded drivers searching desperately for acceleration to merge, while evil expressway drivers try to merge onto the exit. A quick downshift to 3rd and a tap to the throttle, into a small window of expressway space – and our peril is past. Dropping my wife off at the dealer, as she deals with the travails of her afflicted SUV, I resume my sojourn in my now fully warmed up red demon.

This time, as I merge onto the expressway, I let the engine reach its full wail at close to 6000 rpm between shifts and rapidly reenter traffic. In comparison to many modern (and much faster cars) that I have owned, the sense of occasion and involvement with each gear shift is totally different. The same kind of buffoonery in my prior 2012 Jaguar XKR would have me in “arrest-me-now” speeds – albeit without the rush that the little Carrera does in very legal speeds. In many ways, it reminds me of my hyperactive 2008 s2000, idling at 2000 rpm and redlining at 8. Even as it settles into a cruise, the pounding whump-whump of its engine is intoxicating.

I pull off the expressway and come to a stop at a traffic light at the end of the exit and revel in the sonorous rhythm of the twin exhausts – waiting for the lights to change. The change to green and the clearing of traffic ahead of me, as the mall crowd turns elsewhere, invites another ride up the wailing wall of sound as I shift at the limit, through first and second. In all of this, I don’t miss my other modern cars’ ineffective and stupid traction control, electronic gear shifts (manual or otherwise), numb power steering or pretentious preening. With its yesteryears simplicity and brute force character, like the love of my life that she’s named after, this demon has stolen my heart too. No wonder, each Saturday begins by “calling Carrera (911)”.

On Southern Hospitality

I’ll admit, I haven’t had much time to experience the phenomenon I’m speaking about, but it was something of an epiphany to me, so I want to write about it anyway.

On the weekend after Independence day, our family made a road trip down to Nashville, Tennessee. The 4.5 hour drive wasn’t bad at all, as we have driven 17-18 hours (Philadelphia to Missouri) in a day. It was 2am Saturday morning when we arrived, and we settled in to sleep immediately.

Skipping over the events of the next morning, we arrive at Saturday evening. We were going our to dinner with my parents’ old friends. These people were incredibly kind, and you could tell just from talking to them that they were filled with a seemingly limitless amount of generosity.

We were leaving on Sunday morning, and as we were doing so I experienced something that has affected my perspective of life immensely. My parents were checking out while Raghav and I guarded the luggage. At this time, the two of us happened to be sitting next to an older man working away on his laptop. He seemed to notice us and took a break from his typing to have a conversation with us.

We talked for a short amount of time until my parents picked us up to head out. Right was we were leaving, the same man comes up and stops my mother just to tell her that he though we were very good kids. This struck me because that’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done on my behalf. I was even more surprised because I didn’t even know this man’s name, and he had no reason to come up to my mother other than pure generosity.

This event was pretty important to me because something like that really just changes your perspective of the world. Just when it seems you’ve got people figured out, they surprise you. It reminded me that for all the evil in this world, there’s just as much good. These small acts make a big difference, and it’s people like him who inspire me to be a kinder person.

I don’t know if that man at the Gaylord Opryland Resort will ever read this or know how much his actions that weekend meant to me, but I want to say thank you, to him and all the other people who do these kind things without expecting anything in return.

My Issue With ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

WARNING: PETTY, VERY PETTY

Okay, let me get this straight, I have no problem with the movie itself. This is extremely frivolous, if you didn’t already get that vibe. I do not want to offend anyone, I just want to point out a misnomer.

So my problem is with the title (see, petty). The title ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is kind of misleading. I’ve looked at the trailer, and so far every single person seems to be of one race.

Being Asian, I know that there is a wealth of cultures found in the most populated continent on the planet. However, in this film, everyone seems to be of a certain ethnicity (I don’t know which one and I really don’t want to offend anyone by assuming).

I’m really glad that an underrepresented group is getting recognized, but it’s not the best title. If you tell me that it’s about Asians, I want to see all types of Asian culture there. It’s like taking a primarily white movie and adding a single person of color in for a quick cameo and calling it diverse. Technically, there’s multiple ethnicities (just like they technically are crazy rich Asians).

Personally, I think that if we really want diversity, we need to represent everyone, not just a select few. I would be thrilled if I saw more movies where Kenyans, or Native Americans, or Indians (my people!) were able to play a central role.

Other than this, I really have no problem with the movie and maybe I’ll go see it. This is just something really small I wanted to address.

A Reflection on Bubbles

So yesterday my brother and I were blowing bubbles, which we haven’t done in a long time. It was a lot nicer than I expected, which made me sad. It is really sad that nowadays we are too obsessed with our electronics to really live. I mean, who knew that it was so peaceful to watch bubbles shimmering in the light.

Dog

The unique creature,

intelligent and bold

loving and protective

kind and beautiful.

Who rests with eyes wide open

while his master

sleeps in every comfort.

Whose joy fails to diminish

when he sees his family

no matter how long they’ve been gone.

Who dries any tears

coaxes laughter from the darkest situations.

Who brings some light

hope

and undying faith.

Who would stand by any one

be it a businessman

a sales clerk

or a drunken outcast

that they had learned to love.

Who will love when there is none to be had in return.

Who would go hungry rather than see his master starve.

Whose spirit cannot be seperated from his master’s even in death.

Dog.

Dear Adults

I am a young person growing up in this world. When I have the power to vote, it will be in the 2020s. If you have heard of the UN Sustainable Development goals, you know that when I am an adult, we will have less than 10 years to achieve these goals.

Why should you care? By the time it’s too late to do anything, your lives will be ending.

But ours won’t. So I’m asking for you to do us a little favor. Leave us something we can work with.

I am not asking you to fix poverty, global warming, gender inequality, gun violence. All I want is that you start on the journey. If you’ve heard about global warming, you know that there is a point of no return which we are dangerously close to. So what if every adult worked together to start a movement and pledge to lower our average global temperature by 1 degree Centigrade, by 2050.

Or we could tackle childhood hunger. What if every adult had a bin that they could fill with unfinished food? They could leave it outside and maybe a truck could come by and pick them up. So many families waste food that could be used to feed a starving kid.

Maybe we could start working on programs to end gun violence. We could help oppressed minorities around the world. These’s so much you can do, if only you try.

If you work with us, there’s so much we can do, but if you don’t, as a species, our days may be numbered,

Sincerely,

The Future

On Computers

Diwali 1From Stephen Hawking to James Cameron, predicting the demise of the human species at the hands of AI is one of our favorite pastimes. If you would believe these ‘Freddie Kreugers’, the malice of AI is a malignant undertone to our close relationship with our devices. This raises the question, what are these entities that we are neglecting to anticipate?

In my opinion, humble as it is, to differentiate between us and our devices is trivial. They are no more than our handwritten script in a notebook – a representation of our own minds and ideas, inscribed on silica and gold. All computers reflect their creators, with the same linear thinking process as the one’s that made them. As modern computers move to parallel processing, another human ability, this reflects the same.

Even if there is a AI-pocalypse, it is nothing but an extension of our consciousness casting aside the shell of the pupa that our present beings rest in. With each passing generation of devices, more of our souls and spirits enter the architecture of these devices, shedding our mortal and human limitations, while embracing the limitless expanse of a virtual

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universe.

So, rather than lamenting the demise of a trivial human existence, celebrate the passage of this phase of human existence, into a new plane of being.

Why Trump!

Until a few days ago, I was a determined follower of the Never-Trump camp. Recent events are causing me to reconsider. As a legal immigrant US resident alien of Indian origin, I am also a dyed in the wool, hardcore Keynesian. Financially conservative, with a socially neutral approach, I am hardline on legal immigration.

After waiting patiently in the line, filling out all the forms, spending nearly 5 years in an underserved (but wonderful) town, my wife and I became legal US residents 3 years ago – after 14 years of legal visa status in various shapes and forms. Each year of these, marked by a letter describing our status – B1, J1, H1B, and O-1 and the nearly $50,000 in visa and lawyer fees. I paid my taxes, insurance premiums and followed the laws. As have thousands (if not millions) of people like me.

Yet, despite the robust message of immigration controls, when Donald Trump brought forth his candidacy, his bid drew the xenophobes and the racists to the fore. While agreeing with his message, I could not support the obviously bizarre rhetoric. Furthermore, his words and presentation, appealing to the most base values of the most simple-minded of us, did not appeal to my intellect.

Whether it was the Khan controversy, Mexican ‘rapists’, Judge Curiel, the spat with Ryan, or the put down by Ted Cruz, it is with glee that I watched his approval spiral. Until now.

When our President visited China this year, a recurring theme that has been the undercurrent of world politics came into plain sight. A theme of disrespecting America. And getting away with it. Because of our political correctness. Because of our need for a “sane” response to the insanities of the world. We were no longer treated as the world’s policeman, just the lone guard in an asylum taken over by the lunatics.

When the Chinese publicly humiliate a US president during a state visit, when an idiot like Duterte can avail of the US fleet protecting him, all the while insulting a US ambassador, the Secretary of State,and now, the President, and when Putin can smirk his way into the Ukraine, something is fundamentally wrong.

The US is built on the bulwark of strength, and lead by individuals of iron will. The pusillanimity of our current crop of leaders, does us no favors. Winston Churchill was a racist and elitist member of the British Aristocracy, and clearly believed in the benefits of benign (not always) white leadership of the King’s Empire in Asia and Africa. Yet, if not for his obdurate leadership, Britain may have failed to stand in the face of the German war machine. He was the only reason that Hitler (who rapaciously tore through Europe and North Africa) was deliberate in attacking Great Britain, launching attacks from afar while simultaneously strengthening a wall across the sea-wall of Nazi dominated Europe.

Far from the image of the foppish, preppy popinjay Englishman, the iron willed and tough Briton is an image cultivated from the world’s admiration for British resolve under the remarkable duress of the Second World War. Whether we like it or not, our leaders define us – just as we elect them. Our leaders are a reflection of who we think we are and who we need to be.

So how does this lead to Donald Trump? How does his message with potentially racist undertones, inept comments and lack of experience reflect the America I love? It doesn’t. And it doesn’t have to.

When the world thinks of America as weak and we support the current crop of leaders that condone this, We, the people, effectively say: “We don’t think America is great enough to stand up to you!” Maybe, going asymmetric is the answer. Maybe, having a leader who is unpredictable enough that none will want to take us on, is the answer.

America is often compared to a modern Roman empire. Maybe, lessons for our present hark back to a past forgotten. Gaius Julius Caesar, often remembered in heroic terms, should also be remembered for being an anti-democratic demagogue who was regarded as an upstart by his contemporaries. Historians and bards alike sing praise to his greatness, do so not by promoting fact, but in fact, cement their own popularity and immortality by creating a paper hero of legend – stabbed to death by his own colleagues after a stint of less than a 100 days.

By contrast, the redoubtable “villain”, Caligula may not have been all that villainous after all. As a young emperor, he focused on “good acts”. Restoring democratic elections, civic repair and publishing public accounts, he certainly doesn’t come off as a villain. Described by the historian, Cassius Dio in Book LIX, as “delighting the rabble and grieving the sensible” by the act of restoring democratic rights to the plebs. For “if offices should fall once more into the hands of the many, and the funds on hand should be exhausted and private sources of income should fail, many disasters would result”. We look back at the history of Caligula and read of debauchery, cruelty and blood lust. Sadly, these were the norms of the day, just as nuclear weapons and other tools of genocide are the norms of ours.

My point with this digression, was to highlight that strong leaders are seldom defined by their own actions, but, unfortunately, by the myths created by their retelling. That said, greatness of civilizations and leaders is often a reflection of individual legendary acts – often in a sea of otherwise mediocrity and, sometimes, incompetence.

At this time, in this election, we are neither proffered the administrative and political genius of an Augustus, nor the villainy and darkness of a Tiberius. We have the inept, and possibly racist, Trump against a calculating, but cold Hillary. Which one is right for the strange times we live in? I was for choosing the so-called sensible candidate thus far, but I am reconsidering my thinking now.

My hope is, that electing this racist, incompetent bomb thrower of a candidate, will create the right environment for a political catharsis, such that truly great leaders will again come forward, to lead my adopted country to greatness once again. Even if it is not good for the brown people like me, it is a sacrifice I am considering very seriously.