Saturday, January 21, 2017

Venting on postmodernism etc

Message posted in church WhatsApp group


Good morning every one.
I went this morning to speak in a youth camp (Japfuphiki Chokri Khriesarü-ü krotho) which went horribly wrong. Spoke in Tenyidie to over 1000 campers without microphone. Nothing can go worse than that. I had a blackout at the start from dehydration and langauge black-outs in between.

I had a conversation with Dr. Cho-o after the program which got me thinking when I went home. During lunch, I kept thinking and my wife thought that something is wrong. So, I typed what I thought and sent to Dr. Cho-o and that is what I want to share here as a way of venting out on an imperfect morning.

Postmodernism rightly diagnoses the problem of modern Enlightenment. It problematizes the confidence and undermines the arrogance of the Enlightenment (that we can do without God and determine our own destiny). But postmodernism as we have found is only useful in so far as to give a right diagnosis of its preceding ideology. It has only led to confusion and does not have any meaning or roadmap (It is against having any of such things). But postmodernism has not explained the basic human condition. Humans have a need for meaning and reason to wake up in the morning. Humans just know in their bones that some things are right and some are absolutely wrong. Postmodernism is incapable to address such things (your truth is your truth, my truth is my truth). What we need is not a return to the modern idea of human self-mastery (through Reason with capital R and so on). What an opportunity it is in this time of void when post-modernism has failed us ( although we still suffer from hangovers of both modernism and postmodernism) for Christians. We can present the Christian narrative of the human story and say, 'doesn't this explain human nature, and the state our world is in?' And we humbly share from the Word the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is not only good for individuals but good news for our world

Thursday, January 19, 2017

On ULB election with WR wrt Article 371A

In the midst of hot debate about Urban Local Bodies election with Women Reservation in Nagaland and its connection or lack of connection with Article 371A of Indian Constitution, I wrote the following for a WhatsApp group:

I don't always agree with my father. I have heated arguments with him but at the end of the day, I love him. I still think I am right and he thinks he is right, but we love each other. He has his experiences and I have my experiences. I want to convince him and he wants to convince me to believe him. We both cannot force each other, but I have learned to live with the tension, and stay united with him. After all, he is my dad. Learning to live with that tension is what I would call 'maturity'.

Tati is a one stringed musical instrument. I would want it to remain one-stringed. But to build a music career in this time and age, I would want my son to take up a six-stringed instrument rather than a one stringed. I would do what I can to preserve the one stringed tati and would totally disagree if someone tries to add one more string to it. But to build a music career in this generation, I cannot simply bank on a feeling of nostalgia about the tati.

The following analogy was not posted in the group. But it says the same thing more or less:

There are so-called 'uncontacted' tribes in the Amazon rain forest. Perhaps they are keeping alive their rich tradition and culture.  Good for them. But at the end of the day, is that where you want to go back to? If you think culture is static and should be preserved as such, you may strip off your clothes and run to your native village. I wish that those tribals are true to themselves and hold on to what they have. But I would also wish that they are 'contacted'. Why should you keep looking back to Eden? Look ahead, behold the city of New Jerusalem!



Monday, January 16, 2017

Attitude towards money



A message for my church  WhatsApp group


CBCC’s and our church’s year theme ‘Righteous Living’ is proper and timely. It is something that each of us can relate to because we all are in need of righteous living for ourselves, for our church and society. In this, we are all somewhere along the road and none of us have arrived. The way things are in our lives and in our society, we are in need of righteous living more than any other thing. 

One of the major benchmarks of how righteous or unrighteous our lives are is measured by our attitude towards money. And if we get this right, we will get a lot of other things right. There are other things but this attitude towards money will be a very important checkpoint. Sexual immorality, alcoholism, and drug addiction are easy to condemn while greed is often a weak spot for many Christians. This is where things can become so confusing that we can come to think that the love of money is actually a Christian virtue, that someone who lives extravagantly is a blessed man, or that spirituality guarantees material prosperity.  

The ‘love’ of money is the problem and not money per se. So, we can say that our attitude towards money is more important than the quantity of money as such. One can have little but burn with desire. One is overtly corrupted and the other is not, but both may be made of the same material. The later may look less corrupted just for lack of opportunity to corrupt. And ‘how’ one makes money is as important as how much money one has. The means is as important as the end. Christianity asks, ‘Is the means to this money righteous or unrighteous?’ The real test of this is, ‘When no one was watching, did you follow procedure?’ What about living lavishly if the money is earned by fair means? I can think of no better biblical principle than the command to love our neighbor. Practically it will depend on the context. For example, if I live in a famine-stricken society but throw parties every night for my own family and relatives only, it will be very difficult to say that I love my neighbor.  

Not only in making, even in giving money, Christianity is particular that we give with the right attitude. It is crazy to think of giving with our left hand without letting our right hand know about it. How is that humanly possible when both hands are connected to the same brain? Jesus knew it is not possible but he must have used that example for its shock value. In giving, Christians are asked to be like secret agents who do good yet stay away from public recognition! That is the attitude demanded while giving.

Now, when we give to church we give to God. We have given it and don’t own anymore. It was never ours anyway if we acknowledge that God is the maker and giver of all things. We would hope that the church will make the best use of it. But we have given to God and not to Tithe Collector, Pastor or Church Committee. Each one is accountable. We can discuss how best we can utilize our resources for God’s kingdom. But we are not shareholders in the church because of our financial contribution. Giving to the church is not a financial investment, a club membership fee for voting rights, or a bargaining chip. Giving in the church is an act of worship. We simply bring an offering to the altar and worship. 

What will it be like in practice to give with one hand and not let the other know? What kind of lifestyle should we live by which we can say that we love our less privileged neighbour? In our church life, what are the ways in which we can promote and cultivate right attitude towards money among members? If we get the money factor right, we will get a lot of other things right in our road to righteous living, and church is a good place to start.

On tribute bands and cover songs

We have tribute bands who sound and dress like the originals. And there are those people who sing cover version of hit songs of old and new. 

Tribute bands and cover songs can be quite popular. We had in Nagaland a couple of years ago, someone who looked just like and sounded like Bon Jovi. There are some Asians who sing hit songs and have millions of views in youtube. There are people who can sing like the superstars, or even better that one person can imitate multiple stars or multiple types of music. 

But in the end, I think, 'why can't these super-talented people launch something of their own?' Yes, many of them will not become as big as the stars, not for lack of talent but for opportunities. But why should one become popular and continue to live so by way of imitating someone? They may make it big or they may not; but if they try to launch their own music career, they will have lived authentically, originally.

I don't mean that no one should sing cover songs or pay tribute. But unless you are a comic character, an artist who is popular by way of imitating another artist, I would say, to him 'why don't you get a life?'

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We need to preach people out of the church

We need to preach people out of the church.

What?

 Yes, we need to preach them out of the church. 

Why? Isn’t the church for all people including sinners and broken people?

Yes it is.

Then why should we preach people out of the church?

Because people have become too comfortable in the church! The worst of crooks have become so at home in the church, and it seems to be OK. It is not OK. If the church welcomes and accommodates sin in the church and ends there without speaking against it or trying to transform sinners, we have got it utterly and terribly wrong. 

We need no more flattery or false sense of well being. We need to hear in the church words which speak right to our sin and make us turn in our seats. We want to become uncomfortable, as if the church furniture is so bad. We want the words to prick our bottoms, heart, conscience, and soul so that we cannot just continue to go on without doing something about it.

We need to make it clear that no one can buy his way into the Kingdom of God. We need to make it clear that eternal favor cannot be earned by being so busy in church (to the point where it started to seem as if the church is their second home or it belongs to them). We need to make it clear that God cannot be bribed with money or time. We need to make it clear that the volume of one’s prayer is not directly proportional to the amount of one’s righteousness. We need to make it clear that social status is not directly related to heavenly status. We need to make it clear that one cannot play give-and-take with God on tithing and the remaining 90% of one’s income, or monetary donation and God’s blessing. We need to make it clear that the biblical teachings cannot be manipulated as per convenience but are absolute and non-negotiable.

Preaching people out of the church has been done and can be done again. Tony Campolo in one of his talks spoke of how he did it in a church. He preached and preached hard and people slowly started to turn away. After he preached the people down to size, they started coming again. But this time, it was different. They came to hear the word of truth however hard it is to digest. And the church grew from there.

We need to stop looking at the attendance, the ‘who-is-who’, or the church budget. It is alright if the church can barely manage the staff salary and there is no more left for church ‘development’.  If we continue as we are reasoning this and that saying someone will feel bad, the church projects will be affected and so on, our church will continue to be a hypocritical community. 

…For as of now, sinners are so comfy and snoring in our pews!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Obsession of being on time

 I am at the passport office Dimapur and came here too soon. The gate is still closed and I am parked outside waiting. I realized that I have this window period to blog.

Arriving early has been a problem for me. I do get late when there are external factors like unusually heavy traffic, or waiting for other people. But in a given normal circumstance, I am usually ahead of schedule. I think I learned this from my aunty who is a little extreme in this front.
In Pfutsero, when we were going to travel by bus or taxi, she would get up so early, prepare tea, and wake up everyone. We would go to the station with a torch light and wait there in the middle of the town, with no sign of life. Then some people will start coming.

The habit had set in so that when I am going to travel early the next day, I couldn’t sleep fearing that I might miss the bus/taxi.

So, today have appointment at passport seva kandra at 9:15 am. I set my alarm at 5: 00 am and started from Kohima at 5:30 am, fearing if I will suffer from tyre puncture or meet army convoy on the way. I reached the office before 8: 00 am. I went back towards town to a plant nursery and bought 3 maple saplings and came back, always looking at the time. I reached at 9:00 am. It is now 9:46 and blood suckers haven’t still come and opened the gate.    

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Celebrate others’ success

'I planted the seed, Apollos watered it…'

There are people who cannot stand the success of other people. Some have the mentality ‘If I cannot have it, I won’t let him have it either’. More subtly people spread lies or burn inside.

But can’t we celebrate when other people succeed? Without religion, people may do it when they realize that there is space for everyone. If we do not focus on others but do our own thing, we also can do well.

But having the mind of Christ is where we find that we can truly rejoice when other people succeed. If we planted the seed but do not get to enjoy the fruit and someone else do, the part that we played in planting the seed has immense value in the Kingdom of God. If someone succeeds at something good, it glorifies God, and it doesn’t matter if we were not a part of the success. We can join in the celebration.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Blogging again

Do you write these days? People ask. 

I say No. 

Why? You should write, they advice. 


I have no answer. But I have these reasons in mind. One. I became a father. Two. I have no internet in my laptop. Three. Gardening.

Then, my wife suggested that I should pick up writing again. And that got me thinking. I thought that she should be more considerate as she knows my routine, but I felt that she pushed me. It was a good push. 

My 2nd book project has been in cold storage. When my 1st book was released in Nov 2014, I said I will write another one, this time a proper book and not a collection of newspaper articles and talks transcripts. 

I took up a hobby which I didn’t have the space for. Gardening. It is rewarding to the body and mind and I don’t have any thought of stopping it. 
Bougainvillea cuttings of June 2015, blooming in March 2016

When I look back at the days when I used to write regularly, I was not freer then. I wrote in between tight schedules. When I was writing for the newspaper and there was deadline, I was struggling for a topic hours before the deadline. 

Marriage and parenthood surely have a part in making me feel and act old. So, when my accomplice in marriage and parenthood said that I should write again, I took notice. And that is why, I am going to blog regularly again and see where it takes me.
    

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bougainvillea

My fascination for bougainvillea is as old as my marriage, which is nearly 2 years old. I was able to make my wife fall for it too and we have been collecting as many varieties/colors as we can. This specimen is one of the prettiest, that it has multiple colours in one plant.

What we have come to understand about growing Bougainvillea is that it is easy to propagate (cuttings around June), low maintenance, loves sun, cannot tolerate freezing temperature, and doesn't like wet feet.

It can be grown in the ground or in pots, and is suitable for Bonsai. It can be grown for fencings, hung from pots in balconies, or as arch for gates.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Intellectuals arise



American cultural critic Chris Hedges said, “Cultures that endure carve out a protected space for those who question and challenge national myths. Artist, writers, poets, activists, philosophers, dancers, musicians, actors, directors and renegades must be tolerated if a culture is to be pulled back from disaster.” When Belarusian writer and journalist Svetlana Alexievich won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature, she started her Nobel Lecture at the Stockolm City Hall with the words: “I do not stand alone at this podium…there are voices around me, hundreds of voices.” Likewise, intellectuals in every society carry the voices of the people. Our own Naga writer, Easterine Kire who won The Hindu Literary Prize 2015 in her acceptance speech said, ‘This is not my book, but our book, because of the number that embrace it’. 

Our society like any other society is going through a transition which is anything but a smooth ride. We see failed institutions and weak leadership which are causing political and social regression in our State. Most of us are now frustrated and infuriated with the plight of our state. But times such as these demand more than our response of anger and frustration. In the midst of the mess we are in, one is tempted to ask the question, ‘Where are our intellectuals?’ In every society, the intellectuals are leaders and agents of change. They guide public opinion and enlighten members of the society about their rights and duties. But if intellectuals, a society’s conscience shapers and keepers, do not forward, how can real change take place?

It will be unfair to assume that our intellectuals today do nothing to address our societies’ problems or anxieties. But their engagement with the prevailing issues is still far from adequate. We are bombarded daily with conflicting ideologies which cannot be ignored or wished away. We need guidance to sort out the truth from the lie. We are in need of stronger ideas to counter or prevail over the false ones. Our society is long driven by norms and values which have become redundant, learning everything by rote and following the crowd without questioning or challenging the status quo. We are in need of change and transformation driven by enduring intellectual roots, firm principles and a clear vision. 

There is a need to create an open space where people realize that they have the freedom and power of the democratic spaces and institutions to talk and discuss about issues which matter. The intellectuals have to take the lead in preparing that viable space so that through it, all may participate and thereby come to a realization of what is happening in the society and what we need to do about it. On every issue that is confronting our society, we allow emotions to overtake reasoned debate. Public outcry and protest tend to get twisted along communal lines making it impossible for sober discussions. Simplistic linear thinking that allows no other view to co-exist and putting authoritative stamp on any issue are marks of an intolerant and regressive society. I believe that a society should create an environment where competing views can exist, where disagreements are addressed or resolved through reasoned debate. The intellectuals among us need to guide us towards that direction.

Thinking beyond a ‘stable government job’

The other word for a government job is ‘security’ because of which many seek for it. Times are changing; the old pension scheme is gone and it is being said that firing from government job for non-performance may become more common in the future. Some people speculate that government jobs in the future won’t be ‘regular’ anymore and every job will be ‘contractual’. In extreme cases (although not rare in Nagaland), government job means that one can get pay without work. I had a neighbor who I always see throughout the year. After several years, I came to know that he is a colleague in the same department posted in his village. When you travel to the small towns in the sub divisions, you see government offices being locked for most part of the year.

Search for government job plays a huge role in our electoral politics. We vote for candidates so that they can give us government jobs. When elected, the assistants (chamchas) of the elected representatives hunt in the departments for every vacancy, and even where there is no vacancy, somehow the candidates get adjusted with the help of a note from the minister’s writing pad. When government jobs are advertised, before the interviews are conducted candidates are already chosen. Therefore, the best people don’t get selected in several cases. The State is run with many people who are neither suited nor trained for the job.

The craze for government jobs cannot be totally explained by the security and the less workload. It is also because there is less employment opportunity, be it in primary sector (e.g. agriculture), industrial sector or services sector. It is said that economies progress from primary to industrial to services sectors. Although the Indian economy is still largely agriculture based, we have been moving from primary sector to services sector almost bypassing the industrial sector phase. In Nagaland, people move from villages to towns in search of a better life. But there are not much industries, enterprises, or companies for employment besides the government sector. After leaving behind the paddy fields in the villages, people move to towns in search of government jobs. 

But once employed in the government sector, the inside story may not be as bright as it seems. Although there is room for innovations, the job profiles are usually more routine and less exciting. So, job satisfaction quotient may not score very high in the government sector. Due to procedures, file movement and works can be very slow. There is always that element of disappointment from disinterested and insincere colleagues or corrupt bosses which can be demoralizing and de-motivating. For the adventurous and the free-spirited person, the operational guidelines and monotonous daily routines can become quite boring. For people who are talented in something else but caught in the wrong job, the purpose and meaning of life comes into question. So, although government sector is a crucial force to run our economy, push our society forward, and offer livelihood to many families, there is much more to life and ways to put food on the table than getting a government job.

With the increased interconnectedness of our world, the gate to the job market and means of livelihood has been swung wide open. In primary sector, we can think of producing from the good land that our dear Lord has blessed us with. It can be agriculture like our forefathers but with all the help from our modern world. It can be setting up our own small industrial or business unit, a conglomeration, or collaboration with bigger ones. It can be in the service sector, tapping the local human resources, and thereby not only earning our living but offering a source of livelihood to someone. Broadening our minds to the possibilities beyond a ‘stable government job’ can free us to live out how we were truly meant to live and fulfill our life’s purpose.