Components of a Civilization that are more than a way of life

The environment we live in today is saturated with so many elements, that it has become difficult to think of human civilization without these. And yet, the presence of these implies that “civilization” is more than a way of life; it is the comfort that we all have become used to living in.

But this picture has an anomaly. The absence of green, the presence of garbage, the absence of enough oxygen, the presence of a rush hour, all of these seem somehow unnatural. Of course technology has advanced leaps and bounds. And we live in a world connected with wires and satellites.

But all of this comes at a price. The quick depletion of our natural resources, the labor of our fellow humans; these seemingly infinite things are finite. And we are only now realizing that we may have unknowingly put ourselves between the hammer and the anvil.

It is at times like these that history can rescue us. The ancient people were, to use a Hindi word, “doordarshi” or visionaries. They understood that their actions had repercussions. And to this end, they tried their best to treat their environments reverently.

There are countless examples of how people, especially before the industrial revolution, believed not in ‘exclusivity’ but in ‘inclusiveness.’ Their homes, their lifestyles, etc were all a reflection of this belief. This is evident in architecture, food, medicine, and culture that has been given to us through the ages.

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The Promise of Large Retail Sales- Webrooming

You wish to buy new boots; you have been looking for a good design sometime now. You trawl various online marketplaces, looking for options, prices and ideas. You select a few popular brands; add them to your wish list on many of your favorite websites. You narrow down you list to three possible choices.

Now you are sure that you will buy one of the three pairs this weekend. Why weekend? Because that is when you can go to the mall of course! You can go to your favorite shop, try out a few other pairs just for fun, and finally get that coveted pair of boots too! And the trip to the mall means checking out all the new stuff, in person and even splurging a little more than you initially intended. All in all, a good day, then.

If you have done this, you will be pleased to know, you are not alone. There are many who check out products online, but end up buying at brick and mortar stores. The marketers have a new buzz word for what you are doing. They call it ‘webrooming.’

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Toasting the New Year…

Today is the last day of 2014. You might even end up reading this in 2015. The New Year is literally, round the corner. And it will roll in with great fanfare, all over the world.

This is one night that everyone on the planet chooses to party away without reservations. There will be the usual – great food, great conversations, lots of cheer, and of course- lots to drink. It is universally accepted that the best way to celebrate, and especially the coming of the New Year, is by toasting it.

Worldwide consumption of alcohol circa 2010 (WHO report) was equal to 6.2 liters of pure alcohol consumed per person aged 15 years or older, which translates into 13.5 grams of pure alcohol per day. As a rule, high-income countries have the highest alcohol per capita consumption and the highest prevalence of heavy episodic drinking among drinkers.

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AI- Seeing the Future!

We have heard this word many a times. Sci-fi movies are always quoting AI as if it’s a household word. Artificial Intelligence has interested scientists and enthusiasts for a long time now. Ever since mankind developed the computer, the ides of AI has taken root.

It would not be farfetched to assume that in a few decades artificial intelligence will be a large part of our lives. It already plays a significant role even today- just look at Siri or Cortana for example. These words are very familiar because we can ask them various questions and they probably answer them accurately.

Whenever we hear the words AI, our curiosity is piqued. So what’s all the fuss about? Artificial intelligence (AI) is the human-like intelligence exhibited by machines or software. . The AI field is interdisciplinary, in which a number of sciences and professions converge, including computer science, psychology, linguistics, philosophy and neuroscience, as well as other specialized fields such as artificial psychology.

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Birds of a Feather…

In ancient India, when temples or mosques had to be built, people would come together and donate resources or services for the Lord. This tradition is seen in many cultures. In fact, crowds have come together even today to build temples in India.

The famous ‘Akshardham,’ the temples dedicated to Lord Swaminarayan in Delhi (India) and Ahmedabad (India) is a prime example. People contributed in various ways to lay the foundations of these vast monuments.

The idea behind all this, though, is constantly being reinvented in so many words. Today, we call it ‘crowdfunding.’ These days we see and hear this word a lot: crowdfunding. It is easily explained. Crowdfunding is the collection of finance to sustain an initiative from a large pool of backers—the “crowd”—usually made online by means of a web platform.

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Leap of Faith…

To ‘believe’ or not to ‘believe’- that is the question when it comes to God. Our reality has become so very miraculous these days; that believing in God takes a backseat. We think we can do everything by ourselves.

Does God really exist, though?

This is a very popular question that religions all over the world claim to have an answer to. Most people believe in a higher force that is the basis of all creation. Different religions have given this force various names. But they all agree that it is God.

The eternal soul which is nothing and nowhere, because it is in everyone and everywhere at once- that is God, it seems. In today’s world, we see miracles happen every day, thanks to our advances in science and technology.

The idea of God, it seems, brings out the best in us. But many of us think with single minded focus on God. We want God to solve our problems, give us everything we require and so we give offerings and other things that we think will please God. We are God fearing people. We ascribe qualities to God that we are ourselves guilty of possessing. Do we abstain from doing something morally wrong because we think it will be a curse on humanity? Or because we fear God’s retribution?

Let us examine the concept of God- We are all, as a believer would say, God’s creations. But, when we see a fellow human being, do we see his or her creator in the creation? Not really… We just see the person, the outer shell, the body, and we also judge accordingly. We say that God created everyone as equals- and yet we live in a society that regularly discriminates between people based on gender, color, class, and so many other parameters.

There are many instances in the history of our world where we have passed off discrimination as God’s wish. But if God is the creator, the father or mother, would he or she truly divide us based on various things that make us unique?

In fact, there is a very interesting anecdote about the existence of God and Albert Einstein’s reply when asked about evil in God’s world.

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Virtual Friendship – A Reality Check…

With social media becoming the new “friendship test tool,” it is becoming prudent to ask whether friendship is even a real relation any more…

The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.”

Friendship is valued highly because it is one of those relations that we choose to make. But today the choice is, more often than not, virtual. We are just a click away from forming a friendship, mostly, online.

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In the Pursuit of Happiness

You are what you believe, they say. Perception is everything. Happiness is, of course, a part of this perception.

There are many ways of describing happiness. Religious scholars will tell you that happiness relies on the Gods and may be a result of past karmas. Spiritualists believe that happiness is peace of mind. Others may claim that happiness is a result of materialistic pleasures. Doctors and scientists will claim that happiness is a part of hormonal functions. Happiness is a very subjective feeling, though.

We attach happiness with everything in our life. In fact, to some people, life is only a search for that elusive feeling. Be it job satisfaction, love or friendship, we look for that one moment of happiness. In today’s world, finding happiness is becoming more and more difficult. Maybe that is why we have terms like ‘happiness quotient.’

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An Unconscious Transition

When Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo, remarked at the Aspen Ideas Festival, that women can’t have it all, it turned heads, and minds. For a person of her position to actually quote those words, it set many thinking.

It is a matter of international and psychological debate whether anyone can actually ‘have it all.’ But we are not talking about that. What we are more interested in is the fact that she believes that women can’t.

We have been trained through centuries of conditioning to believe that each person is set in certain roles in society. When the suffragettes started their movement to be able to vote and participate in legislature- a milestone in modern society, the popular roles were shifting, evolving.

Everything evolves with time they say. But before the suffragettes came along, the oracles at Delphi (most certainly women) were revered as priestesses. The Ancient Egyptians followed famous Queens like Nefertiti who were pivotal in changing the course of history. Indian history is riddled with stories of famous women who lead and bled for land and love.

Most notably, on the other end of the spectrum, in the popular TV series Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen is to have famously quoted, “Valar Morghulis- All Men Must Die; but we are not men.” It seems men, too are not free from this condemnation.

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