Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Integrating Global Education on Nature and Environmental Ethics into English Language Teaching

 
S. Senthil Kumar
Assistant Professor of English
Narayanaguru College of Engineering


Introduction

People’s unrest in Syria, Egypt, and the Middle East indicate that we live in critical times. Our world faces serious global issues of terrorism, ethnic conflicts, social inequality, global warming, economic slowdown, etc. The Occupy Wall Street movement is evidence enough to prove that people around the world are becoming less and less tolerant towards injustice of any kind. Anna Hazare’s movement for a strong Lokpal Bill caught the attention of the entire nation and the message is loud and clear: we are living in a global village and no one is immune to these global issues. There is a need to empower learners with the knowledge, skills, and commitment required to solve global issues. Global education can transform learners into empowered global citizens. Global education is defined as “education which promotes the knowledge, attitudes and skills relevant to living responsibly in a multicultural, interdependent world” (Fisher and Hicks, 8). Another definition states that “global education consists of efforts to bring about changes in the content, methods, and social context of education in order to better prepare students for citizenship in a global age” (Kniep, 15).

Importance of Global Environmental Ethics

In tune to what is happening around the world, it is imperative that we develop the discipline of global environmental ethics and create awareness on how to treat the nonhuman world and embed a biocentric or ecocentric moral sensibility. In so doing we should also try to find answer for the question whether Earth is turning out to be a hostile world for nonhuman animals and whether we are becoming more and more anthropocentric. According to Wikipedia, anthropocentrism describes the tendency for human beings to regard themselves as the central and most significant entities in the universe, or the assessment of reality through an exclusively human perspective. The superiority of the Human Self has no doubt put the human race in the path of progress. But is it not prudent now to check our own methods and curb our selfish instincts to progress at the cost of environment. What we fail to understand or may be selectively ignore is that Earth is also home to nonhuman animals and there is a strong need to protect the ecosystems for the human race to survive. We should not forget that all this started with survival in mind and there was a peaceful coexistence then. Now man exhibits complete dominance and utter disregard to bio-diversity. If we don’t mend our ways now, we should prepare ourselves to go through another evolutionary cycle for the humankind to reemerge in a different form in Planet Earth or may be in some other planet as fantasized by many fiction writers. It is not my objective to be pessimistic or archaic, but we should understand that environmentalists are not fiction writers and they mean what they say.

Role of English Language Teacher in Environmental Messaging

My attempt here is to define and analyze the role of the English language teacher and the English language curriculum in environmental messaging. It is often assumed that the science of climate change, global warming and other environment issues speaks for itself. The attempt was therefore to publish good science and scientific data on these threatening issues and it was expected to lead to a collective consciousness demanding action on climate warming. Now it is realized that it was a failed attempt. One main problem was the failure to connect with people on a personal level. Thinking about the environment is not just about climate or wild nature; it is about human nature, human experience, the intersection of nature and culture, how we interact with one another, etc. These are things squarely in the domain of the social sciences and humanities. In order for society to connect with contemporary environmental issues, it is critical that there is a comprehensive approach developed with the support of all those in the domain of humanities. The language teacher, I believe, should play a key role in connecting with the younger population and effectively engage them in thinking about all environment related issues and also motivate them to critically think about solutions and mechanisms that could alleviate the problems in hand.

The English Language Teacher and English Language Curriculum have a role to play in realizing the objectives for environmental education. Creating awareness is not just about presenting all facts and figures; it requires motivational awareness to sow the seeds of the ecological issues in the minds of the younger generation. The primary aim of incorporating environmental education into the English classroom is, to raise students’ awareness of global environmental crises. Knowledge of environmental protection is at the core of environmental education and should be done with any age group (be it at the nursery, primary, secondary, higher secondary or higher education levels), with any linguistic rules and language specifics like vocabulary, grammatical rules, syntax, semantics and discourse of the target language. Thus, teaching English as a second or foreign language can emphasize the language skills and environmental issues in order to raise awareness about global issues like environmental degradation. Teachers of English should facilitate thorough dissemination of knowledge on global environmental issues. Also, today there is evident lack of social and environmental values. It is our responsibility to build collectively shared beliefs, ideology and values related to environment. From the environmentalist point of view in particular, the last objective, participation, is the most important one, as all the other objectives come to nothing if people do not translate their awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills and evaluative ability into action.

Conclusion

During the last hundred years, our society has moved away from natural learning environments and natural learning methods to classrooms. The following poem, “The Tables Turned”, written by William Wordsworth in the year 1798 perfectly echoes the need of the hour:

UP! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun, above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.
Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless--
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

These lines answer those people who question the role of English language teachers in environmental education. English teachers have to explore the fields of bio-diversity, environmental sustainability, global warming, energy conservation, etc. and also read literature based on these topics. We can find our own innovative ways of integrating environment specific literature into our teaching-learning process. We will soon discover a new excitement in our classes and a new mission in our teaching. This also enables us to approach global issues and world topics more confidently, and can draw from a wider variety of teaching activities, techniques, and resources for our content-based classes. To enhance student learning further, we have to make classroom experiences more productive and also create opportunities for students to devote more of their time outside the classroom to educationally purposeful activities. The result is greater student motivation, increased global awareness, and enhanced language learning.

References

Apple, Michael W., and Linda Christian-Smith, eds. The Politics of the Textbook. London: Routledge, 1991.

Cates, K.A. Teaching for a better world: Global issues and language education in Japan. in Osler, A. and H. Starkey, eds. Citizenship and Language Learning: International Perspectives. UK: Trentham, 2005.

Fairclough, Norman, ed. Critical Language Awareness. London: Longman, 1992.

Fisher, S., and D. Hicks. World Studies 8–13. New York: Oliver & Boyd, 1985.

Jacobs, G.M., and K.A. Cates. Global education in second language teaching. KATA, 1999.

Kniep, W. Next Steps in Global Education. New York: American Forum for Global Education, 1987.

Rivers, W. Speaking in many tongues: Essays in Foreign Language Teaching. 2nd ed. Rowley, MA: Newbury House, 1976.

Tang, Y.C. The Preliminary Study for Incorporating Environmental Education into English Curriculum and Teaching. Dahan: Dahan Institute of Technology, 2009.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Examination Tips

TIPS FOR WRITING EXAMINATION



1. Take all necessary stationery (pens and pencils, rubber/whitener, color sketches, drawing box, permitted calculator, etc.). TO BORROW INSIDE THE EXAM HALL IS CRIME.

2. Write your Register Number neatly and in the specific format required. Avoid a situation where you have to make corrections after writing.

3. Use color sketches to underline important points and subheadings. Underline only if you are sure what you have written is right.

4. Read all the instructions and guidelines carefully and make sure you understand what you have to do. Many students overlook this and end up in trouble.

5. Read all the questions and choose those which you wish to answer.

6. Make sure you read the question completely and fully understand what the examiner wants before you allocate your time and begin answering the question.

7. The length of your answer should not exceed the prescribed limit.

8. Don’t’ ever forget to put the question number.

9. Mark the end of an answer by neatly drawing a line.

10. Use tables/charts/pictures to your answer wherever required.

11. Time Management: Plan to manage your time properly so that you have adequate time to answer all the questions. Allot specific time to each question and make sure you stick to your timing.

12. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Just cross the mistake part out and keep going. Don’t scratch all over the mistake and bring it to the notice of the examiner. So long as your writing is legible, making mistakes is okay.

13. Never leave a question unanswered. Write down anything you know that is related to the question. It gives you the opportunity of scoring a few marks and even good marks if you are lucky.

14. Take a watch with you and give yourself appropriate time to construct a plan, write and have a final read through the answer paper.

15. Stay until the end: Don’t leave until the examiner throws you out! Use all the time you are given.

PS: More than anything else you have to practise your writing methodology in all daily tests and also the Internal/Series Tests so that it becomes a habit.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

LANGUAGE ACQUISITION AIDED BY MULTIMEDIA


INTRODUCTION

"Language is species-specific. It is a unique human trait, shared by cultures so diverse and by individuals physically and mentally so unlike one another." - Dwight Bollinger

Language is a complex system with many subsystems like the system of sound (phonology), word (morphology), structure (syntax), and meaning (semantics). Language learning involves learning all the subsystems of the language and it includes various language acquisition theories like statistical learning theories, chunking theories, relational frame theory, and other traditional theories. Apart from these, modern terminology include Computer-Aided Language Learning (CALL), Computer-Enhanced Language Learning, Technology-Enhanced Language Learning (TELL), and Multimedia-Aided Language Acquisition, which involves integration of text, graphics, sound, animation, video, etc.

TRADITIONAL METHODS OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

Effective learning of a language means effective learning of all the subsystems, for which one should acquire for language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. There are primarily three different methods for language acquisition:

• Grammar Translation Method
• Direct Method
• Communicative Method.

Grammar Translation Method is the oldest method, in which the classes were taught in native language, the rules of grammar and the list of exceptions were memorized, and sentences in English and the mother tongue were compared and contrasted side by side. This method was not effective as the necessary skills were not taught in order. This method started with reading and not listening as it has to be.

The principle behind Direct Method is that English is learnt in the same way as the mother tongue is learnt. Webster's New Internation Dictionary says, "Direct method is a method of teaching a foreign language, especially a modern language, through conversation, discussion, and reading in the language itself." In this method, listening and speaking are focussed and reading and writing are neglected or postponed to a later stage.

In Communicative Method, the emphasis is on communication and it is a leaner-centered method. Here the teacher is viewed as a facilitator rather than a figure of absolute authority. The importance of listening comprehension is emphasized. Also in this method errors are seen as a necessary result of language learning. The written language skill and the spoken language skills are given equal importance.

MODERN METHODS OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

Today, there is a very rapid growth in the traditional forms of language teaching, largely, due to the arrival of the personal computer and the Internet. There is a demand for literate people to become skilled in the new forms related to the use of a variety of online tools - blogs, social networking sites, video and audio sharing tools and so on. The impact of these internet-related media is different from that of the earlier mass media revolution when film and radio became widespread. These media were powerful, but were largely in the hands of a small number of people with the mass of the population being a passive audience. The new multimedia technology actively involves the users in responding and creating material. Traditionalist educators argue that the long standing media form of text has and will continue to be the foundation of learning. Others argue that the new multimedia-aided language teaching is displacing the old methods of teaching. The truth lies somewhere in between the two modes of thinking. Multimedia-aided language acquisition should complement the traditional methods of language acquisition.

WHAT IS MULTIMEDIA?

Multimedia is media and content that utilizes a combination of different content forms. It includes a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, and interactivity content forms. Multimedia is usually recorded and played, displayed or accessed by information content processing devices, such as computerized and electronic devices, but can also be part of a live performance. Multimedia can be broadly divided into linear and non-linear categories. Linear content progresses without any navigation control for the viewer such as a cinema presentation. Non-linear content offers user interactivity to control progress as used with a computer game or used in self-paced computer-based training. Multimedia presentations can be live or recorded.

MULTIMEDIA-AIDED LANGUAGE TEACHING

Language teaching through mass media has long been part of the language learning system. Film study has also been a school subject in many schools for some time using relatively expensive and complicated equipment to make film or video. Rapid development in the field of computers and multimedia means that there is an increase in the number of people who not only use multimedia content but also create content in the form of web logs or blogs or multimedia podcasts. The line between mass media and personally authored media is becoming more and more blurred if not obliterated. Content creators or developers on the web already have audiences larger than major newspapers and TV channels. The sudden emergence of multimedia and the success behind the websites such as YouTube illustrates the need to learn these new forms of literacy. Children learn much of their mass media literacy, as recipients, quite intuitively from film, television and radio. However, until recently, few have had the opportunity to experience being multimedia authors. Now, with relatively cheap digital cameras, free software and access to powerful multimedia computers, there is both the opportunity and the need, for quite young students to become authors as well as consumers.

In recent years, use of the World Wide Web for delivery of language learning materials has been expanding rapidly. There is a plethora of websites for language teaching and learning that incorporate the multimedia capabilities of the web and present information in the form of visuals and audio in addition to text. The unique attributes of networked multimedia environments, such as instant access to a wealth of primary information on the World Wide Web, the capabilities of synchronous and asynchronous communication and collaborative work, and the use of multiple modes and nonlinear forms of presenting information, make this medium a strong candidate for use in language learning and acquisition. Many language instructors believe that the use of Web represents a paradigm shift in how languages are taught and learned.

CURRENT TRENDS IN MULTIMEDIA

'Inanimate Alice', a multimedia episodic digital fiction, tells the story of Alice, growing up in the early years of the 21st century. Written and directed by writer Kate Pullinger and digital artist Chris Joseph, this series of multimedia, interactive episodes uses a combination of text, sound, images, and games as Alice takes us on a journey through her life from the age of eight through to her twenties. Alice becomes a games animator; not just any animator, but a creator of characters for the most successful games company in the world.

'Flight Paths' is a networked novel, created on and through the internet, open to contributions from anyone, anywhere. Created and curated by Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph, 'Flight Paths' uses stories, texts, videos, photos, sounds, and animations to tell the story of Yacub, the man who fell from the sky, and Harriet, the woman who witnesses his fall. It's a tale of refugees and migrants, consumers and cities, the desperate journey of one man and the bored isolation of one woman.

CONCLUSION

For language teachers, there is a great urgency to look beyond traditional forms of print media to prepare students for their careers and this would require active participation in the new literacies of the digital age. Indeed, the concept of literacy, as Alvermann and Hagood point out, is ‘on the verge of reinventing itself’. Although traditionally defined as the ability to read and write, an understanding of what it means to be literate needs to be extended. Multimedia-aided language acquisition has its well-founded place in the language teaching process. This article is only an attempt to throw light on the sunrise sector of multimedia and its potential as an aid in language acquisition.

Monday, August 9, 2010

NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION


INTRODUCTION

"Learning is acquired by reading books,
But the much more necessary learning,
The knowledge of the world, is only to be
Acquired by reading men, and studying all the various editions of them."
                             - (Letters to His Son: Lord Chesterfield)

Nonverbal communication is anything other than words that communicates a message. In other words, nonverbal communication is word-less communication received through the medium of gestures, signs, body movements, facial expressions, tone of voice, colour, time, space, style of writing, and choice of words.

Charlie Chaplin and many other silent movie actors were the pioneers of nonverbal communication skills, as this was the only means of communication available on the screen. When talking films became popular, non-verbal aspects of acting were given less emphasis. Many silent movie actors faded into obscurity and only those with good verbal and nonverbal skills survived. The most influential work on nonverbal communication was Charles Darwin's The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, published in 1872, but this work tended to be read mainly by academics. However, it spawned the modern studies of facial expressions and body language, and many of Darwin's ideas and observations have since been validated by researchers around the world. Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer researcher of body language in the 1950s, found that the total impact of a message is about 7% verbal and 38% vocal and 55% non-verbal.

"It's how you looked when you said it, not what you actually said."
                 - (The Definitive Book of Body Language: Allan Pease and Barbara Pease, p. 9)

Professor Ray Birdwhistell pioneered the original study of nonverbal communication — what he termed 'kinesics'. He made some similar estimates of the amount of nonverbal communication that takes place between humans. He estimated that the average person actually speaks words for a total of about ten or eleven minutes a day and that the average sentence takes only about 2.5 seconds. Professor Birdwhistell also estimated we can make and recognise around 250000 facial expressions. He also found that the verbal component of a face-to-face conversation is less than 35% and that over 65% of communication is done nonverbally. Sigmund Freud, an Austrian psychiatrist, once noted that while a patient was verbally expressing happiness with her marriage, she was unconsciously slipping her wedding ring on and off her finger. Freud was aware of this unconscious gesture and was not surprised when marriage problems began to surface. All these researchers generally agree that the verbal channel of communication is used primarily for conveying information, while the nonverbal channel expresses true feelings more accurately than the spoken or written language because it is instinctive in nature. Nonverbal communication is less deliberate and conscious as most expressions and gestures are mostly unconsciously expressed. It complements verbal communication and makes it more effective. On scientific analysis, it is found that nonverbal communication speaks much louder than words.

"A cry of agony is powerful than a tale of woe."
                  - (Business Communication: M K Sehgal and Vandana Khetarpal, p. 63)

NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION IN INDIAN EPICS

In Ramayana, which is one of the twin epics of ancient India, there are many instances of nonverbal communication, out of which one from Sundara Kanda can be analysed, where Hanuma comes to Lanka and sees Seetha. Seetha does not know anything about Hanuma. When Hanuma proclaims himself to be the messenger of Rama, Seetha wants to confirm. She asks Hanuma to describe the various characteristics of Rama and Lakshmana. Hanuma describes in detail to Seetha the appearance and qualities of Rama and Lakshmana. Hanuma also gives an account of how friendship developed between Rama and Sugreeva, the Lord of monkeys. He narrates his own life-story from the time he was born till his role as a minister of Sugreeva. Even after the narration, which runs to many lines, Seetha has a lingering doubt in her mind. Hanuma then gives Seetha the signet ring given by Rama in order to strengthen her confidence and now after seeing the ring Seetha feels very happy and praises Hanuma for his arrival to Lanka after having crossed the sea. In this episode, it is implied that sometimes nonverbal indicators play a significant role in communication.

In Mahabharata too, there are many illustrations of nonverbal communication. For example, one day Karna and Dhuriyodhana's wife play a board game and after playing for a while the lady wants to run away without finishing the game, Karna totally engrossed in the game tries to catch her by grabbing her pallu and the pearl strings gets ripped and roll on the floor. Karna realises the gravity of the situation and gets flustered, as Dhuriyodhana enters the room, sees the picture. What does Dhuriyodhana do next? He starts collecting the pearls from the floor and asks them to continue with the game. It is a touching scene and more than words Dhuriyodhana's behaviour communicates a lot about his character and his trust.

CLASSIFICATION OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION

Nonverbal communication can be classified into the following categories:
• Kinesics
• Proxemics
• Chronemics
• Paralanguage
• Semiotics

KINESICS5
'Kinesics' literally means 'body movements'. We can define kinesics as the study of the body's physical movements. In other words, it is the way the body communicates without words that is through various movements of its parts. Body language is an important factor in the process of communication, especially in face-to-face communication, as here the message is communicated by a number of factors like facial expressions, eye movements and gestures. You communicate just by being. By nodding your head, blinking your eyes, shrugging your shoulders, waving your hands, and making other such physical movements, you send messages to others. Watzlawick's statement applies especially to kinesics as we have defined it. When we study body language, we are looking at symbols of meaning that the body's physical movements are communicating. We are searching for attitudes, perceived status relationships, moods, deception, warmth, needs for interaction, and the like as body symbols and activities express them. Outward body movements reflect true inner conditions of meaning.

A number of body movements have come to be identified as a substitute for verbal expressions.

Nodding the head up and down - "Yes" or "I agree"
Patting the adjacent seat - "Sit beside me"
Pounding fist on a table - "I'm angry"
Yawning - "I'm bored" or "I'm not interested"
Cupping hand behind ear - "I can't hear you"
Clapping hands - "I approve"
Placing forefinger on lips - "Be silent"
Circling the first finger parallel to the side of the head - "That person's crazy"
Forefinger held high above an athlete's head - "Number 1"
Forming the first and second finger in the shape of a "V" - "Victory"

Positive Gestures

Eye contact
Weight on both feet
Relax your shoulders
Use open double hand gestures with your palms showing
Be pleasant

Negative Gestures

Scratching head
Biting nails
Crossed arms or legs
Drumming fingers
Covering the mouth with hand while speaking

PROXEMICS
American anthropologist Edward T. Hall was one of the pioneers in the study of man's spatial needs and in the early 1960s he coined the word 'proxemics', from 'proximity' or nearness. His research into this field led to new understanding about our relationships with each other. Every country has its own territory staked out by clearly defined boundaries and sometimes protected by armed guards. Within each country there are usually smaller territories in the form of states and counties. Within these are even smaller territories called cities and towns, within which are suburbs, containing many streets that, in themselves, represent a closed territory to those who live there. In the theatre, it's an armrest where we do silent battle with strangers who try to claim it. As a sitting passenger in a bus when the bus gets crowded more and more, we tend to lose territorial ground. So we feel enraged and get frustrated. Another example, when we walk briskly another unknown person catches up and walks along parallely. How long will this continue? Most likely for a few seconds. After that one or the other would quicken up the pace and leave the other behind. Here again a person claims the space around him as if it is an extension of his body. Each person has his own personal territory, which includes the area that exists around his possessions, such as his home, which is bounded by fences, the inside of his motor vehicle, his own bedroom or personal chair.

CHRONEMICS
Chronemics or use of time is also an important non-verbal method of communication. Time conveys a message. Time speaks. It is a mode of interpersonal communication. It is an important factor which is precious. In these days of busy living, in business and social relations, time can be saved, wasted, given and taken. Punctuality or delay speaks pleasant or unpleasant feelings and attitudes. Tardiness is considered as an insult in some cultures. Time is very valuable in group activities in any organization. In certain circumstances, arriving at an appointed place on or before time communicate something. A telephone call at 1 AM or 2 AM communicates urgency or emergency.

PARALANGUAGE
Paralanguage is defined as a type of nonverbal communication that includes articulation, pronunciation, rate, pitch, volume, pauses, and other vocal qualities. While verbal communication consists of the 'what' of the content, paralanguage involves the 'how' of a speaker's voice or the way in which he speaks. The voices of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, our Central Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, our own chief minister Kalaignar and our former chief minister MGR are all unique and by assiduously modulating their tone and effectively using diction they all succeeded and the uniqueness in the quality of their voice has given them an identity.

SEMIOTICS
From time immemorial, man has been using signs and symbols mutually understood between at least two persons, and more usually among people belonging to a group, tribe or trade. These signs, symbols, signals and indicators have generally been of two types - visual and audio signals. That is why we have a Chinese proverb, "a picture is worth a thousand words". Paintings, murals and engravings found on the walls of ancient caves, temples and other buildings have a lot of communicative value. Today, posters, pictures, drawings, cartoons, caricatures, statues, etc. are used as tools for symbolic communication. Traffic signal lights and ambulance light act as effective tools for communication. The national flag is also a symbolic representation. Audio signals are also part of the communication system in many ways. There are various kinds of alarm signals, including fire alarms, ambulance alarms, bell ringing, etc.

SUMMARY
In sum, to become an effective communicator, one needs be sensitive to the nonverbal aspects of communication. The effectiveness of a communicator can be improved by observing and analyzing both the physical environment of communication and the body language, appearance, gestures, vocal cues, eye contact, etc. This article is only a cursory exposure to the world of nonverbal communication.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Come out of "Tunnel" Vision and Develop "Funnel" Vision

I read an article in The Times of India (Janina Gomes, March 8, 2010) which inspired me and motivated me. Reading it again and again gives Positive Affirmation and Reinforcement.
Connect To The Universe By Just Doing Your Part

"Whatever we do, we must do the best we can. We could excel in our chosen profession or the work we do at home by using our full potential. There is something about a good book, play, article, or home that puts us in touch with the most creative paths of life that lead to the divine. To strive to excel does not mean doing things perfectly. What we achieve in life could be full of imperfections but still be excellent. Excellence comes from exercising responsibility and being accountable.

Take a closer look at the plants in your garden or in your balcony. They are excellent just by being the way they are. We may not make it to the celebrity charts and be recognised as being among those who have made it to the popularity charts; that definition of success is too narrow. But, there is something about what we do with full effort that brings us closer to the origins of our life.

There must be some reason why God made us imperfect. If not, we would never have made the effort to be better human beings. We would not have been expected to be kind and compassionate. We would never have tried to empathise with others. We would not have developed the depth and the understanding that makes us good human beings.

We see the potter at the wheel, creating a world of harmony and balance, the weaver creating patterns and designs that are beautiful. We invent the machines and technologies that help us make useful products for daily living. We marvel at the strong structures built by the mason, the attractiveness and compelling quality of places of worship that bring us closer to the divine.

We grow in sync with the unfolding universe. On the larger canvas of life we are all part of the composite picture. Like the strings of an instrument that create music, we play in unison, creating the many divine melodies that resonate throughout the universe. We have been given tools with which to work so we can co-create with God.

We need not be ever discouraged that we do not make it to the popularity charts or become among the richest or most famous. Many are those silent and dedicated souls who work behind the scenes. They create all around them worlds of excellence out of a sense of responsibility and solidarity with the rest of the human family. We must give of ourselves and the world will open its arms to us. To work with purpose and spirit is to connect with the divine. Sometimes the work someone else does may be left incomplete for us to complete. At other times there is a sense of work being finished, by someone who has seen through something to its very end.

There is no hierarchy in work. The manual and the intellectual are both equally important; dignity of labour is important. Be sure that in the divine plan, the bricklayer and the carpenter are as important as the academic and the professional.

Listen to the call of the spirit within you. What you do in life is all a part of the divine symphony being created by your work. Make full use of all the opportunities that unfold before you. Work then as if you are part of a divine orchestra. Your work is connected with the universe and all forms of life around. Sing the song of creation and do your part."

Our vision of life is sometimes so narrow and we are stuck in preconceived thoughts and notions. We develop a psychological "Tunnel" Vision whereby our peripheral vision is restricted and we fail to see beyond the narrow confines of our social outlook. We shall practice "Funnel" Vision which would help us to incorporate varied perspectives and make us feel connected to the rest of the world.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

E-mail Etiquette

We are living in a knowledge era where there is no restriction to sending or receiving information. Information sharing is one very important aspect of the Internet revolution. We sometimes feel compelled to share information or sometimes we are naturally tempted to share. Anyway, knowledge sharing has become a trend and many e-mail messages that are forwarded to our inboxes are aimed at either motivating or knowledge sharing. We sometimes feel it compulsive not to stop the forward chain. This compulsive urge has to be curbed I believe. The authenticity of the forwarded message has to be verified before we decide to forward an e-mail message. These days this responsibility is overlooked if not ignored and the sender sometimes show utter disregard for the sensibilities of the receiver. For example, very recently I received a forward message about “blood letting” therapy at the time of a stroke episode. The e-mail message was worded convincing enough that I felt I should forward it to as many friends as possible as it could be a very vital piece of information. But out of curiosity, I googled about it to know more. After reading about such a therapy in authentic sites, I came to the conclusion that this e-mail message need not necessarily be forwarded as this therapy does not have any medical approval and it may misguide the readers. It is always the discretion of the reader of the message to approve or disapprove of the value/truthfulness of the message, but I strongly feel that it is also the responsibility of those who forward such messages to understand, examine, and then click the forward button. Etiquette sometimes differs from place to place and society to society, but if at all e-mail etiquette has a role to play in personality development, I think this approach/attitude towards forward messages has to be cultured and followed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The World is Too Much with Us


BEGINNING OF THE END:

Since the days when God came down to the Garden of Eden and had a cup of tea with Adam and Eve, the world has undergone a breathtaking roller coaster ride. In a sense, tasting the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge by Adam and Eve marked the beginning of the end. Then, survival was the first order of business for primitive man. To understand and comprehend the unpredictability of nature was a great challenge for him. At those times of desperation, the discovery of fire provided a much needed breakthrough. From the discovery of fire to the invention of microwave oven, from the invention of “zero” to the sequencing of human genome, from industrial revolution to the cyber revolution, from the days of Graham Bell to the launch of 4G WiMax, from William Shakespeare to Harry Potter, from the days of gramophone to the modern days of iPod, from the discovery of atom to the discovery of atom bomb, people’s approach to life and living has witnessed a sea change. Nothing is constant in this world except change and to keep pace with the change is a challenging proposition. Man is consumed by this ever-changing world and it is becoming too much of an ask to stay focussed and understand the basic purpose of human existence.

WHERE ARE WE HEADED TO?

“A teenage girl got electrocuted after dropping her laptop into the bath as she was twittering in the tub. Police believed Maria Barbu, 17, had tried to plug in her laptop with her wet hands after the battery died during a long session on the social networking site Twitter. She was found dead by her parents with the laptop lying next to her." This news story is one example of the deadly impact of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. and the addictive behavior pattern of our younger generation.

Another such news story - Abraham Biggs, 19, told users on a bodybuilding website that he would kill himself on a particular night and invited his online pals to watch the live video. As many as 1,500 signed on to see the desperate act, with some urging him to hurry up, apparently believing it a hoax. The teenager used the 'lifecasting' website Justin.tv, which is designed to let users share their everyday lives and stream or broadcast live footage. Websites such as Justin.tv and Ustream.tv make it possible for anyone with a computer, a webcam, a microphone and an Internet connection to lifecast to a global audience. Lifecasting is a continual broadcast of events in a person's life through the medium of the Internet.

The younger generation is taking a lot of pride to have thousands of friends in their Facebook profiles. However, the theory of Dunbar’s number stated that the part of the brain responsible for conscious thought and language, known as neocortex, can only manage a social circle of about 150 friends. According to the research conducted by Dunbar, people of social networking sites maintain the same inner circle of around 150. People say that social networking sites help to stay connected with friends. Researches suggest that there is a change in the behavior pattern of modern youth who sometimes conveniently ignore the next door friend to spend time with his/her electronic friends. The impact created by iPod is also a phenomenon in itself. Listening to music individually reduces the urge to be part of shared musical experience. This may again lead to a more individualistic based society where the individual is either moving within oneself or moving away from the “realtime” society.

No one is denying the fact that development in the field of science and technology has gone a long way in serving the human society. We can draw parallel lines between evolution of mankind and the development of science and technology. Science can be defined as a continuous effort to discover newer knowledge based on the existing knowledge and to develop better understanding of nature in all its variety through disciplined research and experimentation under controlled conditions. Scientific technology has no doubt been instrumental in shaping up the biological, sociological, psychological, economic, and even the genetic evolutionary growth path of the Homo sapiens.

TO MARK A NEW BEGINNING:

Somewhere down the line science and scientific methods are misdirected to take the wrong lane and the focus I am afraid has shifted from understanding of nature to manipulation of nature and natural resources. It is prudent only to say that scientific development has tampered with the serene balance of nature. There is an argument that says that this is the predestined path of evolution and man could have done nothing to change the course of evolutionary history. If that is the case, it should also be painfully accepted that this predestined path will take us nearer to a time when our earth would look like an electronic graveyard. Only till we get good water to drink, food to eat, and oxygen-rich air to breath we will be able to live on earth. Actual social relationships are slowly being replaced by electronic social networking friends. But can electronic water-drinking quench our thirst? Can our computers breathe out oxygen like our plants and trees do? We need not be engineers or scientists to get the answers for these questions. Our individual conscience is willingly or unwillingly forcing us to shrug off our individual responsibility. By doing that we are trying to distance ourselves from the cosmos without realizing that we are all cosmically interconnected. The sooner we realize this interconnectedness the better it is to prolong the inevitable. What is inevitable is left to you to think and realize.