Archive for June, 2014

A Speck of Dust!

The earth is a tiny speck of dust in the vast universe

The earth is a tiny speck of dust in the vast universe!

A recent visit to the City Planetarium brings back a lot of memories. My favorite childhood destination, I have some of my best memories under the virtual cold and dark star-studded sky. I always felt I have so much to learn from the universe. While not much has changed over the years, in the way the narrator speaks or the dome looks … what changed was my realizations, my perspective on the universe, which in all its glory, has still given me a message… This time, a much stronger one!

I sit there mesmerized, looking at the vastness of the man-made heaven, while parading my eyes across the sky in all its magnificence! Mankind has been fascinated with the heavens since the earliest times. I wonder if there’s truly a place beyond time and space in which the past, present, and future exist wholly as one… and hit with the realization that everything is infinitely possible!

As the narrator takes us to that part we call the “Solar system”, and shows us where we stand in the universe, it did take a few seconds to fix my eye on that dot with great astonishment. That’s there. That’s home…. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

As Carl Sagan said, “The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” – They are all there!

The earth is just a tiny speck of dust in the vast universe. Man is a tiny speck of dust on earth, almost nothing, maybe a millionth tinier dust in the universe. Despite being just a tiny speck of atom, man never stops boasting! I wondered why we behave, act and think as though we are the center of the universe?

It may be humbling a thought to consider that man is actually nothing but a dust with a life of breath in it. But with just a tiny achievement, with just little riches and possessions, with only a car or a mansion, or a business, man thinks he is already God, acts and behaves with an overweening pride! Forgetting the stark reality and fact, that with just one snap of time, one accident or one illness or disease, everything will be nothing and he returns to dust where he once came from, I think for a while!

I doubt how many of us (including me) will think  – to live and breath fresh air every day is a cause of gratitude by itself. For life is very fragile and totally unpredictable. I am here today, I am gone tomorrow. And all that I have done will just be a mere book at the most, a tiny little book piled under the billions of books in the archive of books throughout time. And soon will be forgotten by the next generation. This tiny little fact is a reminder to bow down before the Creator in deep humility, acknowledging the truth that we live because of that Creator.

My thoughts are shaken by my six year old son, my companion to the planetarium this time. “Look there mummy, that’s Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system.” he points at the big round planet. I come back to the stark world of reality, which in itself is a mere illusion, albeit a very persistent one! The thought makes me smile – Is it some sort of awakening, I wonder!

Death By Numbers

Famous philosopher Plato said, “A good decision is based on knowledge, not numbers.” Well, either Plato was not superstitious, or he wasn’t a fan of Numerology. But cultures across the milllennia have been unable to ignore the power of numbers, especially the unlucky ones.

The power of numbers

The power of numbers

For example, the recent death in a road accident of India’s new Cabinet Minister Gopinath Munde was all over the news. But there was another story doing the rounds. That the number 3 (he died on June 3, 2014) had proved unlucky for him as it had for his other family members – his brother-in-law Pramod Mahajan, who died on 3 May 2006 and Pramod’s brother Pravin Mahajan, who died on 3 March 2010.

Was it a sheer coincidence or is there really something unlucky about some numbers? Or are some numbers lucky for some and unlucky for others? Do numbers really hold so much power within them? No wonder, the world of Numerology – dealing with numbers and more numbers – has such a huge following among the celebs, who shell out money to get lucky numbers on their cars, mobiles, homes, and even names!!

Name it superstition or belief, the “unlucky” aspect of certain numbers are part of many cultures around the world. But number 13 seems to out-number all other numbers when it comes to being unlucky. On the flip side, the number is actually considered lucky by some fortunate ones born on the 13th of the month. The number 13 has been considered unlucky, especially in Christian faith, since it had proved unlucky for Jesus, because the apostle who betrayed him – Judas – had sat at the 13th place on the table at the famous Last Supper. There’s 13 and then, there’s Friday the 13th – an even more dreaded date…

Again, in Christianity, the number 666 evokes fear – fear of the Devil, no less. Remember the Omen movies? Now, there is even a word for it: Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia – see if you can pronounce it, if not spell it! In The Bible’s Book of Revelation, John the Apostle refers to 666 as “the number of the beast.” The “beast” refers to the Anti-Christ, or the Devil. Evil, in short.

An unusual number scares the hell out of Chinese people. The Chinese, who set a lot of score by symbolism, fear the number 4 because the pronunciation of the Chinese word for the number four – shi – sounds a whole lot similar to the Chinese word for death. Just as American skyscrapers miss the 13th floor, many Chinese buildings too skip the fourth floor…

Similar to the bad sound-effect of the number 4 in Chinese, the number 9 is feared in Japan because the Japanese world for nine – ku – sounds similar to the Japanese word for torture and suffering.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th

We heard of Friday the 13th, but the Italians are superstitious about Friday the 17th, because rearranging the Roman numeral for 17 – “XVII” – can create the word “VIXI”, which is Latin for “My life is over…” No wonder, these Roman digits were often found on tombstones…in modern times, French carmaker Renault sold its model R17 in Italy as R177 because of this phobia..

The 39 Steps was a movie that sent chills down the spine. Well, the number also gets a bad rap in Afghanistan. For the Afghans, the number 39 translates into morda-gow, which literally means “dead cow” but is also a well-known slang for a pimp – or a procurer of prostitutes. Therein lies the revulsion.

Indians fear the planet Saturn more than any other. Because when Saturn is in full flow, he is a very tough planet to deal with. Though Saturn only seems to be doing his job of teaching a lesson as per a person’s karma, it’s another thing for a person to enjoy learning that lesson! So, Indians run away from number 8, the number of Saturn, be it on their car plates or their apartment numbers..

The Japanese have a phobia for another number: no. 42. Once again, it’s the sound of the number that has echoes of the word “shini” or being done to death!

I’ll conclude this blog with number 3 – the same number that proved so unlucky for our Minister yesterday. In The Philippines, they avoid building or taking stairs in multiples of three, because 3 spells death. “Oro, plata, mata” is what they say! The Vietnamese will never take pictures of three people, so if you’re a family of three, you just need to add a pet to the photo! They go so far as to think that such a photo spells doom for the person posing in the centre!

Despite a variety of lucky and unlucky numbers in nearly every culture in the world whether numbers really have an impact on our destiny, is for you to decide…and act!

(Inputs from Speakingtree blog)