Solitary Morning Walk / Fr. Dr. K. M. George

victory

Solitary Morning Walk. Covid Times – 1
Life’s Victory over Death and Decay

This morning I made a snap of this fragile creeper celebrating the delight of life over the dead and decaying trunk of a once mighty tree. We may not all know the name of this humble plant. What we think for sure is that it is a weed and that it is of no use to human beings.! You may weed it out, but not its glorious testimony to life.

(kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam, 27 April 2020)

rhythhm

Solitary Morning Walk – 2
Rhythm

I casually noticed this ivy plant on the outer wall of a villa’s compound this morning. One may instinctively feel a certain melody and rhythm in the pattern of its natural growth. It seems all nature including our bodies is endowed with that quality, visibly or invisibly. But we seem to prefer jarring notes.This little plant seems to invite the passersby to attune themselves to the rhythm of life.

(Kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam, 29 April 2020)

thottavdy

Solitary Morning Walk – 3
Touch Me Not

For children in tropical regions “Thottavadi” or Touch – me – not (Mimosa Pudica) appears to be an amusingly quizzical plant. As soon as you try to touch it, the plant “locks down”. When you move away it unfolds. One of the most sensitive plants, Thottavadi seems to smell the human touch, more often than not, as an attempt to crush and shred, to pluck and kill. Hence the lock-down! But the shy plant shows up joyfully to light and air, mist and music. All plants and animals have this sensitivity in varying degrees. While we humans are the least sensitive, our microworld cousins like bacteria and viruses seem to be extremely sensitive even to infinitesimally small variations in temperature, and other cosmic forces.May be one reason for the novel corona outbreak. Let us respect their modesty and deep sensitivity to the environment.

(Kmg, Solitary morning walk, Kovidakam, Devalokam, 30 April 2020)

mulbery

Solitary Morning Walk – 4
Memory

When we want to give a gift to someone it would be good to include seeds and saplings. Some recipients would plant them, and later when they take flowers or fruits from them they would remember you in gratitude and love. A little boy from Idukki gifted me some seeds , and two years ago he himself planted a mulberry tree in my courtyard. This morning I gathered the first fruits as you see in the picture, and blessed the boy in silence without his knowing it. When all plants and trees become gifts (indeed, they are ) our human psychological memory of gratitude and the biological memory of the various species of plants weave into each other and go back to millions of years as one single life. Let me dare to coin a new word for this joyful experience – Symbiomnesis, memory of life together.

(Kmg, Kottayam, കോവിദകം, 30 April 2020)

chena

Solitary Morning Walk – 5
The Unfolding Green Umbrella

Sometime back I buried a piece of Chena (elephant yam, ചേന ) in my backyard, and forgot all about it and its location. Suddenly to my surprise two weeks ago a powerful cone-shaped shoot broke the ground and emerged in full vigour. My memory was restored. It seemed plants and animals never forget their original location while we human beings can move out and forget our roots. The architectural beauty of this young plant is remarkable. In fact, every plant and tree has its particular architecture. Let me call it arbitecture (from Latin arbor=tree). Developing a fine sensitivity to the infinite shades of arbi-tectural diversity can be very enriching.

(Solitary walk, Corona times, kmg, കോവിദകം, Devalokam, Kottayam. 2 May 2020)

dancing-girl

Solitary Morning Walk – 6

Can you see in this simple orchid flower a dancing girl offering a gift to you? There is dance in every speck of the universe from quarks to quasars. There is amazing insight in the concept of the cosmic dance as represented, for instance, by Nataraja, the Lord of dance. The more we are able to feel the vibrations of the incessant cosmic dance the better we understand our universe.

(Solitary Walk, Kmg, കോവിദകം, Devalokam, Kottayam, 6 may 2020)

the-fall

Solitary Morning Walk – 7
The Fall and Rise of…

Historians usually describe the “Rise and Fall” (in that order) of Civilisations. We may, however, reverse the order and say the “Fall and Rise”.. This may be more true to nature. In the picture taken early this morning in our pond the fresh young flower rises radiantly while the older one lies flat and exhausted. Without any special care the _ampel_ in the pond brings out a series of flowers in some seasons. Every time a flower falls a new one immediately rises up.The chain of life is never broken. Every morning when you get up with a heavy heart because of the Covid spread and death of people dear to you, the water lily greets you and tells you, holding up hope, that the chain of life will never be broken. In Nature there is rise after every fall.

(Solitary Walk, Kmg, കോവിദകം,, Devalokam, Kottayam, 9 May 2020)

ripples

Solitary Morning Walk – 8
Ripples

One of the childhood delights for many of us was to watch the gentle ripples in ponds and and still waters. Sometimes a little fish leaps or we children throw pebbles to create concentric circles of waves that move out and expand one after the other. My picture shows two such ripple rings at the Kodoor river near Devalokam. The amazing thing is that these waves from two different sources do not clash and cancel each other as we usually expect. Instead they glide through each other and expand in a smooth non-conflictual way. The bigger one doesn’t swallow the smaller one either. We humans are however trained to think in terms of conflict and contrast as “natural”. But nature doesn’t seem to follow that logic. Alternate ways are possible from international politics to inter personal relations (For those inclined to philosophy it may be intetersting to recall the old idea of ‘Coincidence of Opposites’ (Nicolas of Cusa) or the Advaitic principle of _Ekam sat_ viprah bahuda vadanti_ – Truth is one, spoken of differently by the learned, or certain modern notions of quantum entanglement).

(Solitary Walk, kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam, Kottayam, 11 may 2020)

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Solitary Morning Walk – 9
The Grass and the Flute

Just grass! But what a grace and dignity! Born on the margins of a street and beside a gutter it could grow to maturity thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown for humans. Otherwise it would have been long crushed by some vehicle or pedestrians. Zooming the picture we see the wealth of seeds it carries for generations to come. Counted as a useless weed and a nuisance for garden lovers this plant has well known cousins like bamboo and reeds. They provide the material for the celebrated murali, the flute, to shepherds and musicians everywhere, even to Lord Krishna. Jesus always looked at this grass of the field most affectionately, and exclaimed how well God took care of it. Already we can listen to the melody of the flute in the grace and elegance of this fleeting grass.

(Solitary Walk, kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam, Kottayam, 12 May 2020)

net

Solitary Morning Walk – 10
The Net

Again this morning by the river Kodoor.

Under the bridge connecting Devalokam and Kollad village two men seem to be unravelling their fishing net. Set against the blinding light of the rising sun they are seen only as silhouettes.

Their net is almost invisible. Suppose we don’t see any net at all, we would take them as actors in a shadow play, somewhat like in the Cave allegory of Plato. We cannot then make out any sense of their strange gesticulations. They would be mere shadows of which the Archetypes or real original models are in another world in the Platonic sense.

In our case the fishing net helps to provide meaning. . Even if it is only barely visible it actually connects the body- movements of the two men and makes some sense to us. We humans can hardly survive for long without physical proximity and connectivity. Deprived of that the world reality becomes for us an absurd shadow play.

In this time of disconnecting Covidemic we make a huge effort to unravel the connectingnet of meaning, psychologically and spiritually. Mother Nature can be of immense help to us in this regard.

(Kmg, കോവിദകം, Devalokam PO, Kottayam, 13 May 2029)

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Solitary Morning Walk – 11
The Hole

It rained heavily last night and refreshed all vegetation languishing in the summer heat. Taking a stroll in the morning freshness I found on my path a fallen _aalila_, leaf of the Indian peepal tree, also called the bodhi tree. (Ficus religiosa). The leaf had a conspicuous hole, a sign of old age and death. After all a hole is nothing but just empty space. An absence! But one could also look through it and see the vast sky and the ages past. See Gautma seated under that legendary bodhi tree receiving the enlightened awareness, to become the Buddha 2500 years ago. The presence!

Just when I held up the leaf with one hand to take this picture with the other, a _thumpi_ (dragon fly) appeared from nowhere and perched on it. A total surprise! Zooming the image one can see the delicately transparent wings of the _thumpi_, our cherished childhood friend, embrace the fallen leaf. Offering its affectionate homage to a an old leafy friend??

(Kovidakam, Devalokam P.O., Kottayam. 15 May 2020)

droplect

Solitary Morning Walk – 12
The Droplet

With the generous rainfall this summer my very young_ambazham_ (Indian Hog Plum) is breaking forth into hilarious blossoms.The savoury ambazhanga pickle already whets my appetite by anticipation! While greeting the plant in the clear early morning after nightlong showers, I noticed a droplet of water suspended in plain air between two bunches of buds. On close scrutiny it became clear that the droplet was attached to a very fine, almost imperceptible thread of a cobweb. Soon the webmaster appeared from behind the bouquets. Obviously he hadn’t caught any insect due to rain.His net got twisted and spoiled . He looked hungry. The only thing trapped on the net was a beautiful droplet of rainwater. Did I say beautiful? He may not agree with my sense of beauty.When I am terribly hungry and craving for food you offer me a rose flower and want me to say it’s beautiful.?…

Despite all, he posed for my picture with “equanimity. He seemed to have the detached air of an ancient wiseman who had learned to survive many a disaster. The rain will go away.
The net will be reconstructed. The food will come by…

(Kmg, കോവിദകം, Devalokam PO, Kottayam. 19 May 2020)

IMG-20200521-WA0013

Solitary Morning Walk – 13
The Question

The Koval creeper plant (Ivy gourd) in my backyard adjacent to the kitchen is given all care and support. A good pandal is erected for it to spread, blossom and bear fruit comfortably Normally most of the tender branches happily comply with this traditional arrangement . But some mavericks among them, like the one in the attached picture I took this morning , just refuse the comfort zone and stretch out beyond the roof level to the unknown, to the vast sky and the far away sun. In plain air they form themselves into question marks (?) in the reverse , and apparently not getting any answer to their question , make a circle, the symbol of eternity, that has neither beginning nor end. The ancient Greeks would have called them eccentric philosophers. This might sound ridiculous to us. Can simple, fragile, and dependent plants ever be philosophers and raise metaphysical questions??

I must confess that the regular branches of the Koval provide very good green fruits for my vegetarian cooking, while these strange guys are very unpredictable and of not much use. However, I continue to be deeply puzzled by their untiring aspiration, against all odds, to reach the Unreachable….l

{Kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam PO, Kottayam. 21 May 2920}

venda

Solitary Morning Walk – 14
The Feast

During the regular morning round I was greeted by the very first flower on my new Venda plant (Lady’s finger) in the backyard. Proud to be the first visitor I stooped down to see her lovely face at close quarters. To my surprise there was already a tiny visitor from Lilliput, my brother of ancient days, as you see in the picture. While I was anticipating the final fruit, the vendakkai, that is to emerge over a week or so to enrich my table, my little ant-ique brother had already his fill of honey and was about to leave.

As a human being I had tagged only one purpose to the Venda I planted and nurtured, namely an abundant yield of vendakka I could consume. All else was just rubbish for me. On the contrary Nature has an enormous range of complex connections and considerations almost totally unknown to me. Long before it brings out the “final“ fruit for my “use”, it prepares a Great Table for millions of microorganisms and insects where they hold mysterious communion and intimate dialogues about the web of Life in all profundity.

They come from East and West, North and South to sit at the Table. May be because of my aggressively large body and voracious consumption I am not privy to that Cosmic Council. If I change my attitude, I may stand a chance, they say. I should also be light and soft enough to be able to sit and move on the petal of a flower like my little friend!

What a challenge for us humans with large and weighty heads ! It seems we will have to rewrite all laws of gravity, cognition and perception in order to be able to join that amazing party…

(Kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam PO, Kottayam, 23 May, 2020)

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Solitary Morning Walk – 15
The Hermit

The morning walk took me to the riverbank at the break of the dawn. In twilight’s semi darkness one could see the silhouette of a human figure crouched in a country boat. The water was still. The figure didn’t move, nor did the boat, nor anything else in the surroundings. After watching this mystical scene for a while, I walked on. Returning to the same spot one hour later, I found the same scenario except that there was a little more light to take a picture (attached).

The man seated in the country boat with a fishing net seemed to be meditating like a crane on one leg. Obviously he was not in any action. One can find such brooding, immobile fishing persons, particularly anglers, in many parts of the world. Fishing may be only a pretext for them. They lock themselves down in lonely spots by rivers and lakes and spend hours in isolation and silence. Are they escaping from something? From the noise and bustle of urban life? From the meaningless monotony of daily chores? From the suffocation of an unhappy family life? Or just to be there in deep contemplation in nature’s lap like the hermits of old?

The fish seem to respect such detached anglers with fishing lines attached to their hands. No fish takes a bite. And the angler appears to be least concerned

(Kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam PO, Kottayam, 28 May 2020)

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Solitary Morning Walk – 16
The Balm

Children who grew up in tropical Kerala’s countryside might nostalgically remember a very soothing natural eye balm. As you see in the picture, very cool and balmy drops are formed on tips of the tender roots of ordinary grass that creeps on rustic stone walls. The growing edge, slightly oily, of the exposed roots collect dew drops at night and convert them to a balm. In the mornings some of us children would go out to pick the tiny roots in order to anoint our eyes with the cool drops. Some children who are too sensitive to pluck the little roots would bow down, bring their eyes close to the grass and get them anointed . Imagine the starry eyes of the cute little ones being gently stroked by the tender, refreshing grass roots soaked in balmy drops of dew. It was glorious!“This intimate touch with nature brightens up not only our outer eyes, but also the inner ones. These sparkling dew drops are formed in the misty silence of deep and dark nights. The humble grass roots know how to befriend them in equal silence. To be anointed by them is to be initiated into still deeper layers of reality.

Our children in online-schooling , with bleary eyes locked down to digital screens, desperately need this refreshing stroke of nature. Will we ever care to keep the atmosphere free from all pollution so that our kids will still find some balmy drops at the “grass roots level” in all purity and freshness.?.

(Kovidakam, Devalokam PO, Kottayam, 1 June2020)

the-fall-01

Solitary Walk-17

To be or not to be

* Yesterday, the Earth Day, when I visited this flower by the river Kodoor (see the picture) she was a bud. Having sensed the dirty and cluttered surroundings she appeared to be wavering whether to unfold or not. Yet this morning I found her in all glory. Yes, she decided to open up, TO BE.

Thank you dear friend. Your decision to rise above the water and spread out your petals cleared the fog in my own mind. It buttressed my inclination TO BE amidst all ugliness and uncertainty floating around in this dark covidosphere .

One is naturally reminded of our beloved poet Ayyappa Panicker’s poem Kanikonna (Golden shower tree): Enikkavathille pookkathirikkan ..(Oh, I cannot but blossom..).

This is the inherent surge of life – To Be rather than not to be. Philosophers (like Heidegger) have always wondered: why there is something rather than nothing . Physicists would say that for every particle there is an antiparticle, but in the sum total of particles in the universe the former exceeds the latter, they say.

PS. Recently together with some young volunteers we hired a country boat and twice cleaned a long stretch of the Kodoor along the beautifully tiled walkway, and collected a huge pile of empty bottles of alcohol, mineral water, Ayurvedic concoctions and what not. Still our dear river continues to receive both holy and unholy offerings from all sides- some float, some sink.. Quiet flows the Kodoor!

(Kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam PO, Kottayam, 6 June 2020).

copy

Solitary Walk-18

THE COPY

An early morning view across the river Kodoor. Belying the monsoon forecast the sky is exceptionally clear. Patches of white clouds over the blue sky along with trees on the banks below are faithfully reflected in the water.

Reflections have always been an enigma. The reflected image can sometimes be an exact copy of the original object, and we find it hard to differentiate.Turn the attached picture upside down, and it doesn’t make any difference. We could be puzzled as to which is which.

The best minds in ancient Greece and India pondered over the elusive image and its relationship with the original. For them, the world and all that it represents including us human beings belong to the category of reflected image. It’s an appearance (pratibhasa) -fleeting, illusory, deceptive, a maya vision. They are tantalisingly real, but painfully unreal. Philosophers had come up with sophisticated theories to explain the connection between the copy and the original. Plotinus, the great Neo-Platonist philosopher was asked by an artist to sit for a portrait. But he flatly refused saying that a picture would be the copy of the copy of the original, and so worthless.

But for us lesser mortals the reflections are enchantingly beautiful and worthy. How much we jostle and vie with each other to get into a photo image!!

The reflected image can take countless shapes of varying tones, textures and patterns depending on the play of light over reflecting surfaces like unsteady water. Impressionist artists made good use of such transient phenomena. Our usual sense of beauty and most of our aesthetics are derived from such reflected images and their enchantments. The enigma is that without the reflected shadow the original is much less charming. You may horizontally delete half of the attached picture, ie, the reflected part, and see what happens to your sense of beauty. ..

So let’s keep the original and the shadow together for the time being.. Until we acquire a radically different sense of beauty.

(Kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam PO, 13 June 2020)

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Solitary Walk – 19

Black is Beautiful

In Kerala’s countryside we could once easily spot a delightful wild variety of Mussaenda plant. It’s first leaves are all dark green, then come white leaves, and finally the cute red flowers inside the white (My picture here shows a different variety).
Standing around the plant we children chanted in unison:

Amma karumpi,
Makalu velumpi,
Makalude makaloru
Sundarikkotha.

(അമ്മ കറുമ്പി
മകളു വെളുമ്പി
മകളുടെ മകളൊരു
സുന്ദരിക്കോത)

Roughly translated it reads:

Mother dark, 
daughter fair, 
daughter’s daughter damsel fairest. 😊

We learned it from our mothers and grand mothers. Sometimes we would wield a stick and strike down the wild plant leaf by leaf while singing it rhythmically. This was in imitation of some of our teachers who beat us for some reason or no reason. We were unknowingly projecting our anger onto the poor plant. (I wonder if modern man’s brutality to nature is some kind of infantile Adam’s anger against God who expelled him from paradise. Let’s ask Herr Doktor Freud !)

It was much later, while learning about European colonial empires, slave trade, apartheid and pervasive racial discrimination that I realised how racist and colour-discriminatory our innocently chanted verse was. Some people might say the standard of beauty hidden in the chant was a white British colonial heritage. But it was here with us long before the colonial era. The white European colonial domination of the dark skinned people probably strengthened our own colour-discriminatory aesthetics. Deeply ingrained in our caste system was the grand narrative of the so-called ancient Aryan-Dravidian conflict and the dominant aesthetics of fair skinned “Aryans “ imposed on all the rest of Indians. Acting in school dramas more than half a century ago I remember how heavily they coated your face with white powder, just to be in line with the standards of the prevailing white skin aesthetics.

In our times the rallying cry Black is Beautiful arose from a deeply wounded collective consciousness of people who have been brutally discriminated against for centuries now.
The horrible killing of George Floyd, our dark-skinned African-American brother, once again reminds us how demonic a racist ideology based on skin colour can become.

(Kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam PO, Kottayam, 23 June 2020)

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Solitary Walk-20

The Other Side

Many of us probably haven’t seen the underside of an ampel leaf (water lily). This is understandable because the leaves are floating flatly on the water surface, and they always keep the same level with the water, rising or receding. We simply look at the flat leaves from above, unless you are a scuba diver who can see from below. Check the more than 200 celebrated water lily paintings by the well known French Impressionist artist Claude Monet. You hardly come across a leaf turned upside down. So I should be lucky to see this leaf by the river Kodoor display its other side. It seems the poor leaf was jammed and pushed up by some flowing objects moved by heavy monsoon rains.How remarkably beautiful is the network of nerves seen on the backside.!!

Well, the leaf has not only two sides but a third dimension as well. It’s thickness, the third, may be too thin for us to see! Of course, the leaf, like any other matter in the universe, is three-dimensional. Then it has a fourth dimension -Time, if we trust our science gurus. Then a fifth, sixth and so on. Modern String theory in Physics would postulate at least ten dimensions for the material universe. How would the world look like if we humans are able to perceive reality with all those dimensions.?!

Worldly wisdom says: Everything has got two sides, and even if you beat up your mother there will be two sides – for and against ! Spiritual wisdom suggests there are innumerable dimensions to reality-the outer and the inner, the marginal and the mainstream, the saved and the deleted , the opulent and the oppressed….It’s all inclusive, nothing is left out.
Yes, it can be disconcerting. But it would be great if we keep at least the two sides: the inside and the outside, the Akam and the Puram. Even in these two there are possibilities to delve deeper and deeper ad infinitum.

(Kmg, Kovidakvam, Devalokam PO, Kottayam, 28 June 2020)

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Solitary Walk – 21

The Arachnosophia

If we stretch our imagination a little we can say that the spider in the picture is creating a website. Not one but actually two sites!! Read www…
In fact, s/he is the original creator of the World Wide Web over a hundred million years ago. We modern humans are simply mimicking it.(The “World “is now on a small ficus tree in my front yard!)

During the last few decades the web or the network idea has increasingly been highlighted as the fundamental character of life and the universe. Book titles like physicist Fritjof Capra’s The Web of Life attract popular attention. From the simple fishing net to the intricate synaptic network of neurons in the brain and to the cosmic structures of the material and cyber universes the image of the web reigns supreme. Everybody everywhere now recites the mantra of connectivity. Still the human hands are not dexterous enough to create a simple silky spider’s web with its silvery million-year old tradition.
The spider and its web are celebrated in the Upanishads as providing a striking analogy to explain the relation between the Creator and the creation. The Upanishadic sages ( in Mundaka and Brihadaranyaka) highlighted two things:

First, the spider produces the silk threads from inside its own body, and it can also take them back at will, just as the ultimate Divine Principle can produce the manifest material universe as well as withdraw it at will.
Second, the spider can smoothly glide over its own web while all other insects and objects are caught in the net. Likewise, a detached and liberated person can comfortably move around the world while the unenlightened are constantly caught in the world-net of misery, suffering and death.
What a fantastic analogy!

Take a look at our own situation today. Our technology can produce magnificent things, but once produced it cannot retract them unlike the spider. Thus our small earth and its outer space are being littered with products from simple soft drink straws to circling satellites. Again, we cannot glide smoothly like the spider over our own products; instead we are being trapped by them. Think of all the nuclear and carbon emitting and climate changing devices we have projected forth from our brains. No way to absorb them back to our brains and bodies. We are being increasingly entangled in their fatal web. And we know where it all leads to….

Hats off to the wisdom of our ancient arachnid ancestor. No more arachnophobia but arachnosophia, Spider’s wisdom, please.

(Kmg, Kovidakam, Devalokam PO, Kottayam, July 7, 2020)