Book Reviews - Revelations
by Life Positive
MATRIX AND MATRIX RELOADED
what defines humans?
Starring Keanu Reaves and Lawrence Fishbourne
Distributed by Warner Bros
Larry and Andy Wachowski, the brothers who have made the neo-cult films, Matrix (1999) and Matrix Reloaded (2003), have turned out a science-fiction thriller based on the computer program with a dash of kung-fu fights. There is nothing original about the storyline of the two films. The idea of the matrix is itself confusing.
The matrix is the program of the tyrants who want to control human beings. But those who want to fight the tyranny are also part of a computer program. This point is never clarified. And the fight is essentially one between two programs.
The only defence that the Wachowskis can make is that one of the programs is meant to preserve and enhance the powers of human beings. Not a great argument, but it is enough of a peg to hang the story. What thrills viewers in both the movies are the breathtaking fight sequences and special effects. Yet, the filmmakers seemed to be grappling with some important ideas here, no matter that the story is told through the clichéd form of a classic Hollywood thriller—a fight between the good and the bad guys.
The good guys are romantic, have sentiments and stand up for fairness and justice. They are vulnerable, but they are bound to win in the end. The bad guys are too efficient, too precise and too ruthless. Apparently invulnerable, they are bound to lose. As a matter of fact, the compulsion of the storyline is that they have to be shown to be losing.
Why then are these two films so important that they are taken so seriously? That these sci-fi films talk religion and mythology. In Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reaves) is the saviour of humanity. And Morpheus (Larry Fishbourne) tells Neo about how the mind is infinitely superior to any computer program.
Interestingly, the colony of human beings which is being defended against the matrix is named Zion, a term with rich Biblical connotations. And people throng to Neo as though he were a Jesus-like figure.
The underlying religious theme of the good guys vs bad guys is the problem of evil, which haunts western Christianity in a much more acute way than it does other religions, even Judaism and Islam.
It can be argued that western Christianity’s concept of evil and the need to resist it continuously makes western history not a mere chronicle but a moral battle.
There is much hypocrisy in the rhetoric because you usually identify your enemy as evil. But it does not make enough sense when you have to fight the evil within you, which is more important for those on the path to spiritual evolution.
It is at the metaphysical level that the idea of matrix as an evil force loses some of its sublimity, and it proves unsatisfying to those who are looking for a deeper truth.
So, the claims on behalf of the Matrix films as being philosophical statements do not seem to make sense when looked at critically. Sec
Kabir by Abida
Presented by Gulzar
Sadhu kahavat kathin hai,
lamba ped khajoor,
Chadhhe to chaakhe prem ras,
Gire to chakna choor
You don’t want to say anything. The force of Kabir’s powerful words engulfs you such that his meaning, his philosophy take total control. And when it is Begum Abida Parveen’s rendition of the soulful poetry of the saint-poet, it becomes ecstasy.Love becomes more than as we know it. It derives fervent dimensions and becomes a mood you don’t want to get rid of. Even the most passionate claims of affection turn meaningless.
The music makes perfect listening for a day in the rains, leading the listener into the intensity of emotions, pacing heart beats and taking the mind to a level of extreme energy and emotional understanding. Abida’s voice that personifies the energy of Sufi music and contemporises the meaning of Kabir’s words makes the album Kabir by Abida a treat for the soul. As Gulzar introduces and explains each piece of poetry, the showers of great music turn torrential. It becomes an experience to relish and rejoice in.
Ye to ghar hai prem ka, khala
ka ghar naahin
Sis utare bhuyen dhare tab
baithe ghar mahin
It’s like an initiation into the dialect and culture of the Sufi fakirs that the modern diva Abida renders with unmistakable sentiment and buoyancy. A blend of Muslim and Hindu spirituality, the poetry takes a
ROMANCING THE ORDINARY
By Sarah Ban Breathnach
A miraclecalled life
If you are a woman and have not yet made your acquaintance with Sarah Ban Breathnach, waste no more time. Bring her home immediately and surrender to her message of whole-hearted embrace of the world and its myriad joys. What makes Breathnach so refreshing is that she vests Spirit exactly where it should be, in the details of our lives: making up beds, driving our kids to work, cooking, cleaning, dressing up.
Her infectious zest for life made her first book, Simple Abundance, a deserved bestseller.
In Romancing the Ordinary, her biggest venture since, she explains the reasons for her rapturous appreciation of the senses. A portion of the ceiling fell upon her when she was at a restaurant, and she sustained a brain injury that disoriented her ability to receive sensory messages. She could not taste or smell, and her sense of sight, hearing and touch became so sensitive that she could not bear light, or sound or the touch of anything against her. Gradually, she healed and as she reclaimed each precious sense back she vowed she would never take them for granted.
Thanks to her, we don’t need to have an accident to know how blessed we are in being able to hear and see and smell and touch.
With the zeal of the reborn, she urges us to experience every last smell, taste, sight, sound and touch, and to celebrate it. This book vibrates with the smell of simmering soup, the taste of a hundred different varieties of honey, and the sound of different bird songs. She pampers us with sinful recipes and hot water bath indulgences, and rituals like Candlemas. She wheedles us to add newness to our lives and to make even the stale fresh by becoming aware of it. Most of all, she conjures us to experience the endless possibilities of life. She directs us to search for our ‘essensual self’, the essence of who we are, discovered through our sensual experiences. If that sounds vaguely sinful, rest easy. Even the Indian tradition acknowledges that there is no quarrel between matter and spirit as long as we have our priorities right. Renounce and enjoy, says the Isha Upanishad.
Romancing the Ordinary is not quite as powerful as her first book. Sad things have happened to her. She has parted from her husband and the loneliness shows. That first intoxicated romance with life that made Simple Abundance so energising is gone. Sober reality has set in with the understanding that a spirt
LOVE IS MY FORM
By R. Padmanaban
Avatar of love
The Advent is the first volume of the biographical series Love is My Form, detailing the first 25 years of Sathya Sai Baba, one of the foremost spiritual gurus of the world. The author R. Padmanaban capitalises on his experience as Baba’s personal photographer from 1985 to 1990 for an insightful exploration of his life.
Padmanaban examines the period from Baba’s birth in 1926 in the remote Andhra Pradesh village of Puttaparthi till the setting up of the sprawling ashram at Prasanthi Nilayam in 1950. These early years of Baba had many and downs. He was a student of normal intelligence, but his intense psychic abilities at times landed him in trouble. But he was a hero to his peers. His compassionate acts, precocious nature and spiritual attitude set him apart from the rest. People used to visit him round the clock. He patiently istened to them, cured diseases, offered solace and materialised fruits and vibhuti. During these years, people got an opportunity to relate to his ‘divine sport’ and learn a new way of celebrating Divine Love.
According to the author, Baba’s latent divinity did surface at times even before the well-known scorpion bite incident that triggered an overflow of extraordinary abilities. His declaration of himself as Shirdi Sai Baba’s reincarnation and his feats of miracles made a section of society oppose him. But ‘‘he refused to conform to a loveless society, for he could only conform to the source of all love, God Himself. To do this He had to be a God himself,’’ concludes the author.
The book is extensively researched an
THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS
By Jas Mand
Happy by choice
Is happiness a ‘rational understanding of life’? Is it the lack of a ‘pained body or troubled mind’? Or is it being ‘busy with the unimportant’? Because none of these definitions made sense, Jas Mand in his book The Secret of Happiness has defined happiness as a state of mind of a human being, which is manifested in a consistent attitude of contentment with one’s life in general. It is this ‘frame of mind’, so essential to happiness, that people forget.
In an entire section detailing the concept of happiness, he has separated feeling from the feelings of pleasure, bliss, suffering. And suggested the qualifications of happiness as well as suffering as positive and negative.
Supported by relevant philosophies and points of views, Jas Mand suggests that it becomes a consistent attitude or a behaviour pattern of a human being, also called one’s personality trait. Taking the middle path in the face of the conundrum of nature vs. nurture, he suggests that the key is to determine roles assigned to each in the making of one’s personality. He details the take of religion on the role of destiny and of the division among scientists on the issue. He even considers whether the ‘attitude’ that defines happiness is inherited. He concludes that happiness can be nurtured, learnt and cultivated since it is a matter of ‘choice, not destiny’.
In a chapter on secular spirituality, he differentiates it from ‘religious’ spirituality. The compassion, tolerance and forgiveness of secular spirituality is what he emphasises as against the latter that believes in ‘‘the existence of spirit or soul and its transmigration; which believes in the divine origin of scriptures, and priests and temples as guides for a journey towards God or salvation…’’
While we become slaves of our surroundings, we forget that happiness is within and that it is important to look at aspects of the ‘inside world’, which influence our attitude of happiness. Influences that we need to carefully work with—desire, attachment, greed, anger, worry, pride, loneliness and altruism.
The author finally suggests ways to cultivate and perpetuate happiness.
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