Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘mythology

This myth that mystify: East vs. West?  Even Better, South vs. North

Depending on the context, depending on the outcome, choose your paradigm.

 Both paradigms ( only one life or cyclical lives) are human constructions. They are cultural creations, not natural phenomena.

To understand the business of mythology and what a Chief Belief Officer is supposed to do, you have to hear a story of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god who is the scribe of storytellers, and his brother, the athletic warlord of the gods, Kartikeya.

The two brothers one day decided to go on a race, three times around the world. Kartikeya leapt on his peacock and flew around the continents and the mountains and the oceans. He went around once, he went around twice, he went around thrice.

But his brother, Ganesha, simply walked around his parents once, twice, thrice, and said, “I won.” “How come?” said Kartikeya. And Ganesha said, “You went around ‘the world.’ I went around ‘my world.'” What matters more?

Devdutt Pattanaik looks at business and modern life through the lens of mythology.
When he was Chief Belief Officer, he helped managers harness the power of myth to understand their employees, their companies and their customers.

He’s working to create a Retail Religion, to build deep, lasting ties between customers and brands.

ted.com|By Devdutt Pattanaik

01:21 If you understand the difference between ‘the world’ and ‘my world,’ you understand the difference between logos and mythos.

‘The world’ is objective, logical, universal, factual, scientific. ‘My world’ is subjective. It’s emotional. It’s personal. It’s perceptions, thoughts, feelings, dreams. It is the belief system that we carry. It’s the myth that we live in.

 ‘The world’ tells us how the world functions, how the sun rises, how we are born.

‘My world’ tells us why the sun rises, why we were born. Every culture is trying to understand itself: Why do we exist?” And every culture comes up with its own understanding of life, its own customized version of mythology.

Culture is a reaction to nature, and this understanding of our ancestors is transmitted generation from generation in the form of stories, symbols and rituals, which are always indifferent to rationality.

 when you study it, you realize that different people of the world have a different understanding of the world. Different people see things differently — different viewpoints.

There is my world and there is your world, and my world is always better than your world, because my world, you see, is rational and yours is superstition. Yours is faith. Yours is illogical. This is the root of the clash of civilizations.

It took place, once, in 326 B.C. on the banks of a river called the Indus, now in Pakistan. This river lends itself to India’s name. India. Indus.

Alexander, a young Macedonian, met there what he called a “gymnosophist,” which means “the naked, wise man.” We don’t know who he was. Perhaps he was a Jain monk, like Bahubali over here, the Gomateshwara Bahubali whose image is not far from Mysore. Or perhaps he was just a yogi who was sitting on a rock, staring at the sky and the sun and the moon.

Alexander asked, “What are you doing?” and the gymnosophist answered, “I’m experiencing nothingness.” Then the gymnosophist asked, “What are you doing?” and Alexander said, “I am conquering the world.”

And they both laughed. Each one thought that the other was a fool. The gymnosophist said, “Why is he conquering the world? It’s pointless.” And Alexander thought, “Why is he sitting around, doing nothing? What a waste of a life.”

To understand this difference in viewpoints, we have to understand the subjective truth of Alexander — his myth, and the mythology that constructed it. Alexander’s mother, his parents, his teacher Aristotle told him the story of Homer’s “Iliad.” They told him of a great hero called Achilles, who, when he participated in battle, victory was assured, but when he withdrew from the battle, defeat was inevitable. “Achilles was a man who could shape history, a man of destiny, and this is what you should be, Alexander.” That’s what he heard.

 “What should you not be? You should not be Sisyphus, who rolls a rock up a mountain all day only to find the boulder rolled down at night. Don’t live a life which is monotonous, mediocre, meaningless. Be spectacular! — like the Greek heroes, like Jason, who went across the sea with the Argonauts and fetched the Golden Fleece.

Be spectacular like Theseus, who entered the labyrinth and killed the bull-headed Minotaur. When you play in a race, win! — because when you win, the exhilaration of victory is the closest you will come to the ambrosia of the gods.”

 the Greeks believed you live only once, and when you die, you have to cross the River Styx. And if you have lived an extraordinary life, you will be welcomed to Elysium, or what the French call “Champs-Élysées” — (Laughter) — the heaven of the heroes.

But these are not the stories that the gymnosophist heard. He heard a very different story. He heard of a man called Bharat, after whom India is called Bhārata. Bharat also conquered the world. And then he went to the top-most peak of the greatest mountain of the center of the world called Meru. And he wanted to hoist his flag to say, I was here first.”

when he reached the mountain peak, he found the peak covered with countless flags of world-conquerors before him, each one claiming “‘I was here first’ … that’s what I thought until I came here.” And suddenly, in this canvas of infinity, Bharat felt insignificant. This was the mythology of the gymnosophist.

Bharat had heroes, like Ram — Raghupati Ram and Krishna, Govinda Hari. But they were not two characters on two different adventures. They were two lifetimes of the same hero.

When the Ramayana ends the Mahabharata begins. When Ram dies, Krishna is born. When Krishna dies, eventually he will be back as Ram.

the Indians also had a river that separates the land of the living from the land of the dead. But you don’t cross it once. You go to and fro endlessly. It was called the Vaitarani. You go again and again and again.

nothing lasts forever in India, not even death. And so, you have these grand rituals where great images of mother goddesses are built and worshiped for 10 days … And what do you do at the end of 10 days? You dunk it in the river. Because it has to end. And next year, she will come back.

What goes around always comes around, and this rule applies not just to man, but also the gods. Even the gods have to come back again and again and again as Ram, as Krishna. Not only do they live infinite lives, but the same life is lived infinite times till you get to the point of it all. “Groundhog Day.” (Laughter)

Two different mythologies. Which is right? Two different mythologies, two different ways of looking at the world.

One linear, one cyclical. One believes this is the one and only life. The other believes this is one of many lives.

the denominator of Alexander’s life was one. So, the value of his life was the sum total of his achievements. The denominator of the gymnosophist’s life was infinity. So, no matter what he did, it was always zero. And I believe it is this mythological paradigm that inspired Indian mathematicians to discover the number zero. Who knows?

that brings us to the mythology of business.

If Alexander’s belief influenced his behavior, if the gymnosophist’s belief influences his behavior, then it was bound to influence the business they were in. You see, what is business but the result of how the market behaves and how the organization behaves?

And if you look at cultures around the world, all you have to do is understand the mythology and you will see how they behave and how they do business.

Take a look. If you live only once, in one-life cultures around the world, you will see an obsession with binary logic, absolute truth, standardization, absoluteness, linear patterns in design.

But if you look at cultures which have cyclical and based on infinite lives, you will see a comfort with fuzzy logic, with opinion, with contextual thinking, with everything is relative, sort of mostly. (Laughter)

You look at art. Look at the ballerina, how linear she is in her performance. And then look at the Indian classical dancer, the Kuchipudi dancer, the Bharatanatyam dancer, curvaceous. (Laughter)

And then look at business. Standard business model: vision, mission, values, processes. Sounds very much like the journey through the wilderness to the promised land, with the commandments held by the leader. And if you comply, you will go to heaven.

in India there is no “the” promised land. There are many promised lands, depending on your station in society, depending on your stage of life. You see, businesses are not run as institutions, by the idiosyncrasies of individuals. It’s always about taste. It’s always about my taste.

Indian music, for example, does not have the concept of harmony. There is no orchestra conductor. There is one performer standing there, and everybody follows. And you can never replicate that performance twice. It is not about documentation and contract. It’s about conversation and faith. It’s not about compliance. It’s about setting, getting the job done, by bending or breaking the rules — just look at your Indian people around here, you’ll see them smile; they know what it is. (Laughter) And then look at people who have done business in India, you’ll see the exasperation on their faces.

this is what India is today. The ground reality is based on a cyclical world view. So, it’s rapidly changing, highly diverse, chaotic, ambiguous, unpredictable. And people are okay with it. And then globalization is taking place. The demands of modern institutional thinking is coming in. Which is rooted in one-life culture. And a clash is going to take place, like on the banks of the Indus. It is bound to happen.

I have personally experienced it. I’m trained as a medical doctor. I did not want to study surgery. Don’t ask me why. I love mythology too much. I wanted to learn mythology. But there is nowhere you can study. So, I had to teach it to myself. And mythology does not pay, well, until now.

I had to take up a job. And I worked in the pharma industry. And I worked in the healthcare industry. And I worked as a marketing guy, and a sales guy, and a knowledge guy, and a content guy, and a training guy. I even was a business consultant, doing strategies and tactics. And I would see the exasperation between my American and European colleagues, when they were dealing with India.

 Example: Please tell us the process to invoice hospitals. Step A. Step B. Step C. Mostly. (Laughter) How do you parameterize “mostly”? How do you put it in a nice little software? You can’t.

I would give my viewpoints to people. But nobody was interested in listening to it, you see, until I met Kishore Biyani of the Future group. he has established the largest retail chain, called Big Bazaar.

And there are more than 200 formats, across 50 cities and towns of India. And he was dealing with diverse and dynamic markets. And he knew very intuitively, that best practices, developed in Japan and China and Europe and America will not work in India. He knew that institutional thinking doesn’t work in India. Individual thinking does. He had an intuitive understanding of the mythic structure of India.

14:33 So, he had asked me to be the Chief Belief Officer, and said, “All I want to do is align belief.” Sounds so simple. But belief is not measurable. You can’t measure it. You can’t manage it. So, how do you construct belief? How do you enhance the sensitivity of people to Indian-ness. Even if you are Indian, it is not very explicit, it is not very obvious.

I tried to work on the standard model of culture, which is, develop stories, symbols and rituals. And I will share one of the rituals with you.  it is based on the Hindu ritual of Darshan.

Hindus don’t have the concept of commandments. So, there is nothing right or wrong in what you do in life. So, you’re not really sure how you stand in front of God. when you go to the temple, all you seek is an audience with God. You want to see God. And you want God to see you, and hence the gods have very large eyes, large unblinking eyes, sometimes made of silver, so they look at you.

Because you don’t know whether you’re right or wrong, and so all you seek is divine empathy. “Just know where I came from, why I did the Jugaad.” (Laughter) “Why did I do the setting, why I don’t care for the processes. Just understand me, please.”

based on this, we created a ritual for leaders. After a leader completes his training and is about to take over the store, we blindfold him, we surround him with the stakeholders, the customer, his family, his team, his boss. You read out his KRA, his KPI, you give him the keys, and then you remove the blindfold.

And invariably, you see a tear, because the penny has dropped. He realizes that to succeed, he does not have to be a “professional,” he does not have to cut out his emotions, he has to include all these people in his world to succeed, to make them happy, to make the boss happy, to make everyone happy.

The customer is happy, because the customer is God.

That sensitivity is what we need. Once this belief enters, behavior will happen, business will happen. And it has. So, then we come back to Alexander and to the gymnosophist. And everybody asks me, “Which is the better way, this way or that way?”

And it’s a very dangerous question, because it leads you to the path of fundamentalism and violence. So, I will not answer the question. What I will give you is an Indian answer, the Indian head-shake.

17:09 Depending on the context, depending on the outcome, choose your paradigm.

 both paradigms are human constructions. They are cultural creations, not natural phenomena.

And so the next time you meet someone, a stranger, one request: Understand that you live in the subjective truth, and so does he. Understand it. And when you understand it you will discover something spectacular. You will discover that within infinite myths lies the eternal truth. Who sees it all? Varuna has but a thousand eyes. Indra, a hundred. You and I, only two. Thank you. Namaste.

Advertisements

The priest, the warrior, and the peasant; (August 22, 2009)

Another alternative title could be more realistic and comprehensive such as “Elder, male, and female” but it is not catchy enough.

George Dumezil, a French researcher who can speak over 20 languages, says “The first 10 languages are the hardest to learn; the remaining languages come pretty easy because it is the same routine and same thing”.

George Dumezil wrote the trilogy “Myth and Epic” that describes the mythologies in Ireland, Iceland, Scandinavia, Germany, Roman, Greek, Ossetia (Caucasus region), and then links all these mythologies to their hierarchical transmission from the Indian Mahabharata and Bhagavat mythology.

Dumezil calls this unifying mythology “The Indo-European mythology” and end up with a summary that this mythology is based on 3 fundamentals the Priesthood, Warrior, and Peasant classes with their respective Gods.

After over 40 years of detailed research to reach this common sense conclusion is a monstrous let down.

Da! This classification of society is common to all cultures and civilizations and going pretty strong nowadays. (The main Gods in all civilizations were of Justice, War, and Fecundity. The all-encompassing unifying God was barely worshiped by the people because not symbolizing their trade or class).

The Romans had the (Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus). The Scandinavian counties had Odinn reigning over the Val-Holl of (Porr, Mimir, and Odrerir) and  Ases was their unifying God. The Germans had Wotan reigning over their Walhalla.  In the Near East mythology we had (Shamsh, Baal, and Ashtarout); El or Allah in the Arab Peninsula was their unifying God.  In the Nile civilization we had Amon (Sun), Osiris, and Isis.

The major let down is this conventional direction of researchers of thinking top down or hierarchically.  Well, after the Scandinavian got their mythology from Ossetia that got their mythology from Northern India, then from whom did the Indian receive their mythology?  If there are any written records that go many thousands of years in antiquity (not probable) we might discover that mythology transmission is no longer hierarchical but cyclical.

Adopting the easy hierarchical line of reasoning is basically wrong. It is the wrong logic to consider: simply because it stick to the conventional that the King/Priesthood classes are the transmitters of culture and civilization. The Priesthood class is mainly the conservative maintainer of the status quo and barely the transmitter of much anything.

A more realistic and promising line of reasoning is to consider that it is the warrior classes that transmitted rituals, myths, and customs.

It is the soldiers and sub officers who were in direct and daily contact with the conquered people: they are the ones who interrogated prisoners, facilitated trade and communication, and learned by osmosis the new culture and civilization of the subjugated people.  The soldiers and sub officers returned to their hometowns and villages and disseminated their story telling testimonies and accounts of their war period.

The dissemination was quick because most soldiers were mercenaries from the neighboring countries to the powerful Kingdom. Once the war was over, the soldiers were disbanded to return mainly to their families and spread the news of alternative rituals, myths, customs, and techniques of the conquered culture.

Since frequent communication of central government of Empires with their neighboring vassal countries was not sustained, it stands to reason that the peasant classes managed to occasionally change their traditions before the government realized the changes.

When central government is strong then either of two possibilities was activated:

1.  If the mercenary warriors sided with the peasants then the King/Priesthood was defeated and the newer traditions and mythologies took roots.

2.  If the King/Priesthood vanquished then many varieties of sects and cults mushroomed in the neighboring kingdom.

Empires come and go, but the tank sources for mercenaries were constant.

These warriors came from mountain chain regions and high plateaus or desert regions.  In “Indo-European civilization” the mercenaries flocked from the Turkish Anatole Plateau and its extension in the Caucasus of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Ossetia, Chechnya, Albania, and Romania.  The people were known as Cherkessk, Kurd, Tatar, Parthian, Scythe, and so on.  The other sources of mercenaries came from Central Asia such as Turkmenistan, Kirghizia, Tajikistan, and Mongolia.

The main central EMPIRE was Persia that extended many times from coastal Turkey to all of Afghanistan and part of Pakistan.

Babylon and later Assyria empires were counties of current Iran that moved the Capitals to their provinces as central power weakened in Persia. The same is true for the Hittite Empire in Anatolia that expanded to Egypt and signed the first recorded peace treaty with Egypt after the battle of Caddish. The Hittite aided the Greek by all means to defeat the Empire of Troy: Troy was a major handicap to extending to the coast and building a navy.

The urban centers in plains, rich with major water resources and large river,s hires mercenaries to defend or expand empires. The Near East region was constituted of City-States) that hired mercenaries for the war effort to defend the cities. A City-State was the center for Priesthood/learning class and peasant/skilled artisans class (the bread basket).  Empires that could not maintain autochthonous soldiers as majority of their armies vanished in no times.

When studying civilizations and their continuity we should never dismiss the main factor: climate.

There are the cold, mild, and hot weather civilizations. Within these 3 categories there are the plain and mountain region people. Talking about “indo-European” languages or civilizations is stretching the imagination a tad too far and forcing issues.

It is not with the antiques written records of the elite class that civilizations and dissemination of culture can be described and comprehended, but with archeological finds of daily living, rituals, and customs within homogeneous climatic regions.

Note 1: I had the topic from “Smell of the Time” (Odeur du temps) by Jean d’Ormesson who published three articles on George Dumezil. I didn’t read “Myth and Epic” and hope that d’Ormesson did.

Notes 2:  The nomadic desert Jewish tribes could not invent but one God “Yahwa”; Jehovah ended up to be their warrior God. When the Jews of Moses got in contact with the Canaanites in Palestine, Yahwa was set aside during peaceful period to be resurrected during war period and his statues and temples moved closer to God Baal in order for the Jews to be hired as mercenaries.

Poetry for the newer generations: A suggestion (November 6, 2008)

I am no poet by any stretch of the imagination from a professional perspective.

Actually, I never made the least effort to learn the techniques or the nomenclature of poem writing. Whatever that I might have learned in poetry resemble writing prose without knowing what prose means.

Thus, my suggestion is plain candid; it is very probable that the long history of poets and poem writing has generated schools that suggested the same idea, or close, without me comprehending the premises of the schools.

My idea is a scream, to be able to read a poem that is comprehensible enough to form at least an idea of the subject matter, to form a beginning of some sense in the emotions.

In yesteryear, schools taught Latin, Greek and mythologies of various civilizations.  If this is the case in some schools, then this article is not intended for their graduates, at least the brightest of them.  Are you not tired of reading notes for every verse that are longer than the whole poem?

My suggestion is that poets stop throwing around symbols, symbolic meanings, and mythological names, but to do their due diligence or homework explaining, in poetical verses, the story behind each name and symbol.

Maybe new imagery would be created, new interpretations would be offered that are not conforming to the traditional understanding, or for the poet’s benefit, readers would catch a glimpse of his philosophy on the mysteries of life, the Universe, beauty, freedom, liberty, human rights, and a long series of abstract concepts.

Mythologies were, long time ago, based on reality and constituted classes of philosophies in every civilization; and knowing the stories behind each of the mythological characters would enrich greatly the education of the bland newer generations.

This cultural process would be enhanced if the stories are written in genuine poetical verses that can be memorized as songs that honor the spirit of human kind through time immemorial.

In a previous essay on “Omar Khayyam and Hafiz” https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/11/03/persian-poets/ I had this flash, a conjecture, of how the  process of writing poetry begins to take flesh and bones and which is as follow:

1. once a poet start writing then abstract notions replaces gradually real life constraints and inadequacies and

2. when the poet realizes that he is indeed talking in abstraction then he explodes and soars into incomprehensible symbolism and mythological meanings originated in the antiquities; the sort of odes that hard neck poets appreciate.

And what are the interests of the general public in all that?

Just leave it to the specialists to explain the meaning and beauty of the imagery and symbolism.

I don’t think that my conjecture is devoid of evidences.

Take any poet and you realize that his early poems and the last ones are fraught with abstractions.

In between, a few poets volunteer to express their true feeling of their limitations, confusion, and inadequacy; well, the verses and words are clear and unambiguous enough to feel that their emotions are real and genuine.

Why these poets had to revert to abstraction later on?  Is it because criticisms based on intimate feeling and experiences become very touchy to continue in that vein?  Most probably, in their old age, poets are terribly hurt of their degeneracy and degradation and are humiliated to share with others their conditions.

In every language the same imagery and selected “poetic” words recurs indefinitely.  You finally realize that one good poem is representative of the spirit and poetical aspiration of a whole civilization; you read one poem in one style then you feel that you read them all.  Then you are glad that you can read several languages so that you may compare the richness in imagery.

The genuine poets are those that can create new imagery that reflect the state of their deeper emotions and feelings.

The Japanese poet Basho (1664-94) wrote:

“Write your poem in a single breath

As you are felling a tree

As the Samurai rushes toward his tough adversary

As you slice a water melon with a sharp knife

As you crunch into a juicy fruit

All the verses are but a vast mockery

Don’t try to walk the pathways of the wise

Discover what the wise person was seeking

Let me summarize my suggestion:

Poets and writers:

Write about your own feelings in a single breath. The editing has its own time, pace, and process: As long as you have the strength Not to alter the initial impulses that drove you to write breathlessly.

If this is very hard, then at least do your due diligence to explain the stories behind the symbolism in clear and poetic verses that sing to our soul, the way the language in your own culture sings to your soul.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2019
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,345,910 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 690 other followers

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: