Tuesday, October 29, 2013

If Time is of the Essence

If time is of the essence
And now is all we get
Then why can we not sit
And simply talk a bit

That poem from Josh Magnuson, my dear friend, is one that comes back to me over and over in my mind as a worthy question in life to be addressed to many people in life. Maybe the only poem I've actually memorized. I don't know if he ever published it or even actually wrote it down since he scratched it out somewhere back in the 80's. So, thought I'd pen it here at least once for the public. 

Here's another one of his I do know was published. I have a hand-written version in a letter written in August, 1989 re-written as I have it before me. I assume Josh won't mind me republishing it here. It's a bit darker perhaps, but I like it, and others recognized the power behind it also.


These figures in a bottle trying to hold my hand
"Come dance and sing and play with us
in a far-off wonderland."

But "No" I say with every breath
that issues from my mind
"The world is filled with short, sweet pleasure
of the most elusive kind.

So go and bother someone else
with your troublesome disguise
And leave me here alone
to seek solace from the skies."

Upon my speech they went away 
And not a word did speak.
But in the night, when my bed surrounds me
I wonder where they sneak

For life and all its drudgery
Are too easily undone
By a warm and easy atmosphere
And these figures in my rum.

*No, I'm not an alcoholic. I just see the different avenues of escaping from the "malaise" or "self as a vacuous hole" horrors.

Just thought I'd share a few treasures from my life from days gone by. Thanks, Josh. And a happy upcoming birthday.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

India Programmers in America

Working in the IT and Call Center worlds for the last 18 years I've worked with many people from India. It's been hard to sort out the subtle differences I've encountered. Partly because, being American I've been taught it's impolite to see differences. Americans tend to confuse equality with sameness.

In the corporate world it is almost taboo to even acknowledge cultural and ethnic differences, but obviously they exist and it's not immoral to try and understand differences. A friend put it to me this way paving the freedom for me to discuss the topic, "It's not racist to try to understand a culture." I've had many higher level college classes in Cultural Anthropology and World History so this should be self-evident. But somehow in the business world there is an unspoken rule of silence concerning even the most basic observations.

A good movie I saw awhile back addresses some of these differences in a light-hearted and funny manner. I'd recommend watching it to anyone involved in the multi-culture business world of today

Saying all that as an introduction, I'd like to note one key difference I find between Americans and Indians and hopefully more later.

Hierarchy Versus Flatness

Indians Assume Social Hierarchy.

There is an age-enduring almost biological basis for respect for hierarchies. It's very prevalent in the animal world and probably deeply embedded in human constructs too. Indian culture, from what little I know, has historically been a deep caste system with several distinct classes. This is understood by all Indians but Americans generally can't even conceive of it. With India's clash into the modern world, particularly through the modern influx of the Information Sciences to this sub-continent, this fundamental cultural bias clashes subtly but deeply with American egalitarianism. In itself, it has both a positive and a negative side.

Americans Assume Social Flatness.

The basis and cultural history that America prides itself in is equality of all men. It is written into our fundamental documents and has proven itself out historically to the point of a civil war between its own states to eliminate the long bane of slavery dominant in all civilizations from the beginning of time. "All Men Are Created Equal" is a rallying cry that goes deep to the heart of the American mythos. So deep, that Americas tend to be self-negating to the point of overcompensation with guilt and shame if even a hint of non-equality is shown. This is the emotional root power behind the PC movement and in fact creates a self-effacing downplaying of anything resembling the upper class. This self-degradation is a mystery to Indians. It is not a mystery to Europeans, who tend to jump on the anti-America bandwagon that Americans paradoxically support and encourage. Like the deep social hierarchical mindset, this cultural bias on its own also has both a negative and a positive side.

It is when these two cultural assumptions are not explicit or understood is when communications sometimes fail. This is only the most obvious of variations between these cultures. The more interesting ones are much more subtle and worth studying for discussion.

(note* this view was written in collaboration with an Indian friend of mine with good insights from living also in America. Thanks Padmaja.)

Who would you be if not you?

Alexander the Great --the great conqueror of the world, once told Diogenes -- a street-living philosopher who lived in a barrel surrounded by dogs, that if Alexander he had to be somebody besides himself, he would choose to be Diogenes.

Alexander the Great offered to fulfill any request Diogenes might ask of him. 
And Diogenes asked him to simply step aside from blocking his sunshine. 

If I had to be another person, it would might be Keith Richards, Winston Churchill, or Ayn Rand. The greatest of these being Ayn Rand of whom I think was possibly one of the most creative thinkers since Leonardo De Vinci.

Actually, I too think it would be most desirable to have been Diogenes the Cynic. I fear we may be much alike.


(Full version of the Diogenes and Alexander the Great encounter.)