Saturday, June 20, 2015

ANIMAL FARM: A Liberal Review

Abraham Maslow's pyramidal representation of the possibilities a human being is capable of in a self-actualized model of living came to my mind as I observed the events in the story of the Animal Farm and its animals. Strangely, the concept of self-actualization is not precisely associated with George Orwell's Animal Farm. Animal Farm is a political allegory. It unveils and analyzes the impacts of an authoritarian society. The characters in this book include both the subjects and subjugators. Nowhere in this book self-actualization becomes a discussion. This the exactly the why behind the reference to this significant stream of psycho-philosophical outlook named self-actualization. It is not the presence of individual growth of the characters that become our point of observation but its absence. If the farm animals represent the Russian proletariat as popular criticism asserts in various reading of the text, something is seriously wrong with such a model.

The only undeniable opportunity the farm animals receive is 'denial'. Denial of consciousness is the worst of it all. And how can we assert a denial of consciousness is only limited to the era of communism in Russia, or to communism itself? When a television news broadcast promulgates a story that in itself is a sheer manipulation of what had originally taken place, aren't they denying the right of the common man to be conscious about the original event? Disinformation is one of the major sources for information in our time. Call it postmodern cultural reality. Everyone goes through loads of disinformation or bullshit on a daily basis. From schools to government offices, from homes to multinational corporations, we have learnt to lie and worst, to live with lies.
Image Courtesy: www.abaenglish.com

Grand ideals stir rebellion in a farm land called Manor Farm. The farm is owned by the human being called Mr. Jones. He is a man with no fundamental values other than drinking and shirking. One day a boar named Major has a dream. He shares the dream with all other animals in the farm. During the gathering that was convened in the barn Major shares his insights about an ideal society in which every animal is equal and free. Major remembers, almost miraculously, a song that he had heard a young child. The song is titled The Beasts of England and it full of optimism and revolutionary ideas for animal freedom.

I started reading Animal Farm with a prejudice that I incurred through my academic career as a teacher of English Literature. I mean, the allegory stuff. The matter of solidified criticism in the book is the communist totalitarianism in Europe. However, this view received a serious self-analysis as I reached Chapter-3. I realized that George Orwell has created a marvel of literary art with his animals that ran a farm in England. The animals spoke English too, and like many other instances like hoisting a flag or singing an anthem, it didn't feel odd. The "fairy tale" model has worked immensely for Mr. Orwell. A Fairy Story is the subtitle of Animal Farm,and aptly so. This subtitle not just gives a space for philosophical discussions, but it also renders to the story technical perfection. How efficiently George Orwell represented human realities using animals is the key factor any student of writing might find fascinating and useful in this book. 
Animal Farm allegorizes many cultural stereotypes and not just political systems. A novella in size, Animal Farmmade George Orwell popular. George Orwell had written books such as Burmese Days (1934), Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), The Road to Wigen Pier (1937) and Coming Up for Air, before Animal Farm. Orwell's life changed, as a writer, with the publication of Animal Farm. Another book that followed asserted his popularity. This book was titled Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Animal Farmends with the shattering of hopes and irredeemable desperation. The leaders of the revolution, drained of all the ideological zeal appear to be profit mongering megalomaniacs. They become "too practical", to use a terminology from popular culture. Animal Farmends with an apt scene that exemplifies this.
"The creatures from outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

This scene narrates a confusion. No confusion, however, can be felt as a reader. It's crystal clear that the leadership of the animals have compromised. They no longer resemble the folk that started it all through the Rebellion. Yes, a rebellion with a capital R.
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Three philosophical quantum moments mark the body of the Animal Farmwith transcendental wisdom. I am not sure if Orwell had any intention to tell a story that was oriented in higher consciousness and the awareness of the Source. These three philosophical quantum moments help us tune into an unforgettable wavelength of higher consciousness through the story of animals that play human roles. These three quantum moments appear as follows: 1. Rebellion 2. The seven commandments 3. Banquet with humans.

The Rebellion with a capital R serves the distinct purpose of establishing the harmony with an awareness that comes to Major through a dream-experience. Remember that this book is nothing else but animals pretending to run a world of humans. Plus, it's an allegory. This means, once we succeed in seeing through the maze of meaning in Animal Farm these concepts and nuggets of awareness can be assimilated into our personal lives too. This, I believe is the great historical value of Animal Farm. One receives the visionary idea about a political system that is going nowhere, but to the doom of its inhabitants, and at the same time can see through the meaning, the essence of human spiritual experience. Animal Farm, in this regard, is a deeply spiritual book. The best example for this experience is the scene of Major giving the lecture to the animals in the barn about an ideal society. The society resembles Thomas Moore's Utopia and Carl Marx's socialist state. However, the spiritual side of the book tells us to look into this scene and see why all those inhabitants find Major's concept of ideal society inviting. A harmony is at play here.

The animals of the farm find themselves aligned with Promised Land that until then only existed in Major’s head. In Animal Farm, this Promised Land seems to be within the territory of Manor Farm. Only they have to bring it into life through their active participation. By giving the animals an anthem, Major extols the role of imagining a society where all animals are equal. Major has clearly attained a glance at his higher consciousness. It is from there he receives the dream as well as the anthem song, which he himself affirms to be lost in the chaos of childhood memories. Major represents any individual deriving his or her knowledge from one’s conscience. And conscience, as Dr. Viktor E Frankl points out connects our physical self with higher self. The farm animals feel the resonance with their needs and the dreams shared by Major.
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The Seven Commandments are written on the wall of the barn where Major first spoke of the dream of a society sustained in equality. This happens after the Rebellion. The Rebellion is a decisive moment that acts like a bridge between a dream and its manifestation into reality. As a result, the excited animals of the farm rename the farm as Animal Farm and assemble under the seven commandments.

First commandment reads: “Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.” Engraved in the first commandment is the commitment the animals make towards building their new society—destroying humans. At one point, the animals start addressing the way of life they dream for themselves as “animalism”. Battling humans is the central treatise of animalism.

Gradually, these set of maxims undergo subtle changes. Although the rest of the farm animals notice the change, they are unable to place their finger on the problem. As the time passes, the seven commandments that served as the semiotic map in preserving the ideal society dreamed by Major, the boar, undergoes manipulation and abandonment. The pigs appear as the ruling class, with Napoleon, a boar as their head. The pinnacle of manipulation appears as the seventh commandment that originally read: “All animals are equal,” is transfigured into “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This scene evidently portrays the death of a realm imagined and attempted by the animals. Animals in this book are not merely animals; they are allegorical figures. This brings the thematic significance of seven commandments and the equality concept closer to human experience. The idea of a grand social order based on justice and equality is pure energy waiting to burst through and manifest into physicality. The manipulation of the seven commandments is the intervention of self-centered thinking and corruption blemishing the original idea.

Eventually, the banquet with humans transforms the pigs into human-like, at least in the eyes of the observing animals. This event shuts the doors and puts the seal on the ideal notion of a society where everyone is equal. None of the animals in the farm feel aligned with the new notion that humans are better and that animals should work with them in order to progress. Napoleon announces some staggering changes in the running of the farm as well. Here is the time to unveil the spiritual lesson engraved in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
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The pure creative energy that originates from the Source of all Being appears through Major and his dream. However, in its application, the animals fail to access the levels of success they dreamed the project would bring. The result would have been different if the animals had remained truly aligned throughout with the Divine creative energy that creates thoughts and manifests itself through dreams. In other words, instead of letting the Diving creative energy taking control of them, the ruling class of the animal farm takes control of the destiny of the farm animals. Perhaps, the ideal society was just a dream. But one is not sure. Each moment, every one of us covets to take hold of our own ideal worlds. The truth is no one can have it until we let our higher self resonates with the Source energy, call it god, Krishna, or Allah. Only our complete resonance with that energy can let the creation happen with the dreams we had manifested into the physical reality.   
  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

SALMAN RUSHDIE AND THE HUNTED COWBOY: Why is it important to run in our time?


If you could read Salman Rushdie’s latest book Joseph Anton stripped off the subtitle autobiography, you may very likely find the story of a hunted man. Certainly, something draws us towards the plight of the hunted. Perhaps, every one of us might have been in situations that are little different, at some point in time. Or we fear, sometimes, we might be forced to live in the shoes of those who live in constant fear from the hunters. I came across Louis L’Amour through a deliberate accident. I like to think of that event as a pleasant treasure that the Book Universe had in store for me. I had never heard of him before. Never had I had the chance to read a western thriller novel. Of course, I knew about Zane Grey and others and knew what the genre has in store for the readers. Call it prejudice or awareness, if you will. That does not change the reality, tough. Anyway, this coincidence altered by the unexpected turn of events. The first book I read of L’Amour was about a hunted man who denies himself the plight of being hunted and becomes the hunter himself.

Image Courtesy: Google
William Tell Sackett is scouting for a trail to reach the Mogollon Rim. His aim is to establish a ranch and raise a family there. He dreams of peaceful times and happiness. In this dream, he finds joy and contentment. He is not alone in this journey. His beautiful wife Ange accompanies Tell Sackett. In this journey that curiously symbolizes man’s journey into his promised land, humanity’s journey toward the paradise they had lost, Tell Sackett faces a challenge no man can easily come out from. The challenge is called death.  

Toward the end of the summer of 2015, I was searching through Amazon’s online shopping site to see if any discount sales existed during this period. That was when I bumped upon Louis L’Amour’s book The Sackett Brand. The first reason I stopped on the book was the price. It cost only Rs 165. Then it was the cover. The cover of The Sackett Brand showed three cowboys observing the onlooker from a bar’s counter. No other cover image could have captured the spirit of the book so efficiently. And I loved them cowboys for their attitude—men who lived their lives carrying less for professional growth perhaps, and more for freedom and dignity. Thus, The Sackett Brand fell into my summer reading list.

The Sackett Brand is a serious book. It’s witty while being serious. Short and witty sentences make The Sackett Brand a stylish western thriller.

My short research revealed that L’Amour’s storytelling is so unique that he was able to command the mind and body of the reader through the pages of his books. Readers still feel that magic after twenty-seven years of his death. His narrative skills arrest the reader and takes him away from his daily reality. The reader is taken away into a world of adventure, love, motivation, action, and revenge. I found myself speaking, living and fighting for survival along with the protagonist in a wild west territory while I was immersed in the reading of the book.

Tell Sackett had two things to do to survive; one— to find who his enemies are, two— to hunt them. But he was a lone man. How could fight against forty tough gunslingers running across the country in search of him?
Image Courtesy: Louis-LAmour

Louis L’Amour wrote 89 novels, 14 short-story collections, and two full-length works of nonfiction in his lifetime. He was born in 22 March 1908. He passed from this dimension into the other on 10 June 1988. This gives us, his fans to celebrate his 27th death anniversary this year. Although he primarily wrote western novels, also known as frontier stories, his books such as The Haunted Mesa is classified as science fiction. Many of his books became movies in Hollywood.

His full name is Louis Dearborn LaMoore. He was a boxer and had legendary number of victories in the ring. Perhaps, this real-time experience is the true inspiration behind many of the action scenes in the book. “The Sacketts” is a series that features adventures and exploits of the members of a large family called The Sacketts.

Towards the end of The Sackett brand, Tell Sackett deeply desires that he had company. Now he was a lonely man fighting forty others. It was natural that the man wished for someone to stand by him, to watch his back, although Tell Sackett alone was enough to handle the forty rowdies. Gradually, the news of a hunted man near the Mogollan Rim catches wind. The lonely man was a Sackett. Many others find it a bit uncomfortable, for it is their family name. What had happened to the man that carries their family name?

In a matter of days, the Sacketts all round up from every part of the southwest region.

Now they hunt.   
    
Spoiler Alert: Louis L’Amour owns a biography that his books might envy. You can read it here: Louis L’Amour Website       

Thursday, June 4, 2015

CUT DOWN TREES AND FORGET ABOUT NATURE

Nature has a way of doing away with its problems. Man has looked at these ways with extreme disapproval, calling it disaster, natural calamity, etc.  

It's been the way in English language, or perhaps most of the languages in the world, to address the totality of humanness as 'human nature'. We often say, it's my nature or it's natural for me to do this or that. Are we justifying ourselves using this term, as if being in harmony with our true nature is somehow rewarding? 

What is Nature?  

Is it what we see outside? Or is it the real stuff that is inside of us? Is Nature a dictating force, like school teachers, parents or governments 

Tomorrow (June 5) is World Environment Day (WED). It seems, as an observer, when I contemplate, that this day is purely celebrated for asserting our awareness that we, humans are somehow superior to Nature. Why else would we even consider a day to commemorate it, to freshen up its memory in our minds?  

 When  we celebrate Mother's Day or Valentine's Day, do we actually think about "preserving" or "protecting" those people in our lives? Perhaps yes, but in a way that is not the same as we think about nature. Here is a fascinating quote that may help you open the doors of your mind towards a new possibility. This quote is attributed to Albert Einstein. “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space." In Einstein's words , our existence is inclusive of Nature not exclusive. And from these words one can also surmise that the term Nature is often misinterpreted as the environment of the earth alone, the planet we inhabit. Einstein makes it clear that our existence owes to the whole universe itself. In other words, it would not be inappropriate to include the whole universe into the sense of 'nature', a totality.  

I would like to share with you a piece of poetry that arrested my thoughts and took them to a new level of clarity.               
 "Because the lovely little flower is free 
Down to its root, and, in that freedom, bold; 
And so the grandeur of the Forest-tree 
Comes not by casting in a formal mould, 
But from its own divine vitality."  
["A Poet! He Hath Put his Heart to School"__William Wordsworth] 

William_Wordsworth
William Wordsworth has a unique way of using Nature as a metaphor and a theme. With an ease specific to his poetic genius, Wordsworth sends these lines to our consciousness to remind us again and again, even after centuries of his demise, that Nature has an order of its own. Like human beings and our innate desire to be free and independent to execute our choices, Nature too has a Divine mission to unfold its true glory in a way that is uncontrolled and not formal. 

It is in that freedom that Nature redeems its own existence, and not in human interference.  However, an idea such as 'protecting environment' instantly pulls back any attempt to free Nature from cultural intervention. What else can we call these "concerns" over degradation of nature other that "cultural intervention" 

It is a fact that human interaction is only helping the imbalance of nature, if such it can be called. We all know what I mean by "It". We live in a world conditioned to believe that earthquakes, snow-melts and Tsunamis occur due to environmental degradation and atmospheric pollution. Cutting trees for example, we teach in schools, had caused severe damage to our ecosystem. We have no shortage of words to explain these things, this awful situation.  

It.  

It will come and get us, one day, we teach our classes.   

How many of us really think if those trees we plant on each WED are really useful to Nature or to those beings dwelling in it? After all, we all are part of Nature. Remember that quote by Einstein? So the real question is, how many trees we plant each year are not harmful for the environment of a specific locale? For example, in Kerala, during the 90s, planting acacia was a trendy term. Government funding was initiated to execute this 'revolutionary idea'. It was a nice feeling; the government was planting acacia trees all over the place, wherever trees could be planted. Roadsides, school-grounds, and other open spaces were preferred. No one knows who, someone gave the orders.  

Now, people complain that groundwater levels have gone down. Wells dry. Here in Kerala, folks resort, for the most part, wells for their drinking water. Is acacia responsible for the drying up of wells and the dry weather? Some people say, yes, it is. However, the scientific community, the little that is left here, hasn't undertaken any serious effort to study the impacts of specific species of trees in different localities. Rubber trees, for example, boosted up Kerala's economy. But they also dried up the ground water, and left the ecosystem close to their plantation area dryer 

It is layman's knowledge that if we left a place for a considerable period of time without any human activity, the area would be possessed by nature, in its various true forms. That need not be trees alone. A bunch of small brushes would do. One does not need to be a scientist or expert to know this. Human interference, in whatever way our culture dictates, like planting trees and building ecosystems or parks, is not needed for this process. 

Nature has a way to go around obstacles "from its own divine vitality." This divinity is what seems to be missing when we deal with nature. It is overlooked, most of the time. This happens because we are so damn sure of what we know and what we could do about it. Humanity's greatest achievement is the ability to use words to record the past. Humanity's greatest failures is to forget the past. We live with this paradox each day. Generations come here, on this planet and live their lives, knowing they will one day forget to look at something our ancestors were so clear about. What was clear is now forgotten. What we should forget, is exactly what we remember and execute each time. We must forget about helping Nature make a comeback. Just give it time and space. It will comeback. On its own. Nature only needs some time. The concept of comeback itself is irrelevant when we look at Nature inclusive of humans. We are the most powerful species on the earth, and due to that very reason, so is Nature.  

It's time to cut down those trees we planted simply to show off what was fashionable or political correctness. It's time to just let Nature be. 
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