2 August 2021

Famous artists

In the afternoon, we went to the village art gallery for the opening of a new exhibition. All the artists came and spoke. Since one of the artists is the husband of a friend of D's, we invited them home afterwards. They were accompanied by friends from Sweden, DF, an Israeli musician emigré and his Swedish wife, GSF, an artist. This couple became quite famous when, in 2004, they created an artwork that so angered the Israeli ambassador that he personally demolished it at a public event. That became a major diplomatic incident: the ambassador was summoned by the Swedish foreign ministry to explain his action. The couple's moment of fame came at a price: they were targeted by a hate campaign by right wing Jews and had to be given a bodyguard for several months.

More recently, following the Mavi Marmara affair, the couple took part in several symbolic attempts by activists to break the siege on Gaza by sailing across the sea to Gaza; naturally on each attempt, they were intercepted by the Israeli navy. As a result of these incidents, Israel abrogated the man's citizenship, which must be quite rare in the case of a Jewish Israeli. He has currently been granted special permission on humanitarian grounds, to visit his aging mother. He himself is in his seventies. He says that he left Israel almost 50 years ago, just a few days before the outbreak of the October war of 1973 - a fortunate decision, as it turned out, since in his army reserve unit, 80% of the men were killed. Just before leaving, he also paid a call on one of our neighbours, whom he had known, but not not seen for half a century - a happy reunion.


All my life I have advocated for communities, both in theory and in practice. First of all, a community can provide a framework and a safety net. Every spiritual movement in the world has advocated for community. In Buddhism, “Sangha” is regarded as one of the “three jewels”, along with dharma and Buddha. And, if one wants to achieve any goal or purpose in life, a small community is key. Margaret Mead is usually quoted whenever communities are discussed: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” M. Scott Peck, a US psychologist, also argued that communities are an excellent remedy for the alienation that is the cause of so many ills in modern society. Quite true.

But it is also no secret that communities are hard. Every community I have ever known has been mired in, or marred by, petty internal conflicts. These seem to be a constant. Now, or for several years, I have been at a stage when those minuses have seemed to outweigh the plusses. I haven't really processed or come to terms with this.

Perhaps there comes a time in life when the need for the safe framework provided by community grows less important. In parallel, the aims that one can achieve only in companionship with others, also diminish in importance. I no longer feel that I have any agenda. I have no goal to alter public opinion, reform society, turn people on to anything. I'm not going to advance human evolution or make the world a better place. All those famous people and public figures we know with a life-long mission are truly impressive. But I have always been shaped by the Hindu concept of ashramas; according to which the various periods in life have their own distinct purpose. Nowadays, I feel myself admiring those Taoist hermits who feel that they have no particular purpose, no goal to accomplish, no path to follow, no doctrine to advance, nothing at all. They are free. And they are also free of the need for community.


For similar reasons, I totally dismiss the concept of legacy. Presidents always worry about their legacy and ordinary humans always seem to want to be remembered for something. I'm surrounded by people for whom it is very important that their achievements will be acknowledged. They want to leave their mark, and for it to be recorded in stone. I know this quite well because my work consists of snapping pictures, writing articles, keeping protocols, maintaining archives, and mounting plaques. And if people don't want to be recorded in or on these, it is usually due to some opposite reason, such as that mentioning them could harm their future career, wound their pride, or bring people to pester them. The actor Richard Gere once visited our community, but only on condition that we didn't take a single photo of him.

According to Vedanta, the wish to leave our legacy is a symptom of our desire for immortality.(1.) If we haven't done famous deeds, we can at least take comfort in seeing our likeness in our offspring.

Well personally, I don't want my good deeds to be recorded (any more than my bad deeds). Like the criminals who ask Google for the right to be forgotten, I will be quite happy not to leave a trace. "One who excels in traveling leaves no wheel ruts," says the Tao, and I love the wistful words of Omar Khayyam/Edward Fitzgerald: “I came like water, and like wind I go.” We are here for a time, we pass on; others come in our stead. It's fine.

(1) Vedanta says that reality can be described by the triple aspects of sat (being), chit (consciouousness) and ananda (bliss), and that each of these are infinite in scope. We secretly desire this infinity ourselves, by wishing to extend these three qualities in our own life. We wish to extend being, by being remembered or through our children, wish to extend consciousness by learning and amassing knowledge, and wish to extend bliss by accumulating possessions that we believe will make us more happy.


Israel to offer Pfizer Covid booster shots to people over 60 | Israel | The Guardian

The World Health Organization said earlier this month that there is not enough evidence to show that a third dose is needed.
The agency’s officials have appealed for wealthier countries to share vaccines with poorer nations that have yet to immunise their people, instead of using them as boosters. Israel itself has come under criticism for not sharing more of its vaccines with the Palestinians.

I think I will not get a third dose at this time.

Shashi Tharoor asks Om Birla to take action over officials 'skipping' IT panel meet on Pegasus - The Print

The meeting could not take place as the BJP members of the panel did not sign the attendance register, even though they were present in the meeting room, leading to a lack of quorum.

Ruling parties, like Maharajas, do what they want.

News, and what makes it relevant

What really matters is often not what are the top stories that are being reported in the top journals of the times that we all read. It always makes sense to look at what is being under-reported, because this often becomes the main story of tomorrow. Our minds tend to flock together and we have a collective blindness to matters that other people have not begun to think about.

There is also the question of what matters to me as an individual. It is comforting to be of a mind with everybody and care about matters that our friends and neighbours care about. Women who had no prior interest in sports often become interested because their husbands are avid followers of a certain football team. People become attracted to a certain conspiracy theory because they know others who are firmly convinced of it. Imagine that all my friends are convinced that the 9-11 attacks were an internal job engineered by the US government. Fascinating, but I don't happen to live in the US, and it makes little actual difference to me; added to which, there's nothing I can do about it.

I personally get wrapped up in many issues that shouldn't concern me. Thirty years ago I used to write letters for Amnesty International, but that isn't something I am doing today. I am not a social media influencer, and it makes very little personal difference to me that, for example, the Indian ruling party is spying on the Indian opposition parties and Indian political activists. So why does it concern me? I suppose that in this particular case, I can find some reasons. I have a certain passion for India that I can't well explain. Also, the hacking tools that were used originated in Israel. Many young people in my village get drawn into hi-tech, and I worry that some of them might be attracted, due to the high salaries that are being offered, by industries like spyware, which engage in immoral practices.