Guns ‘n Roses

                “Every person is a compound of animality, humanity, and divinity.”

– Swami Vivekananda.

                And according to Vedanta principles, our goal should be to reach divinity through humanity while discarding the animalist tendencies. This was the dominant thought that pervaded my mind as I looked at the events of the past month unfolding around us. You might have thoughts on similar lines as you read.


                Hardly had the Aurora shooting victims been put to rest when came another news of the Sikh Gurudwara shootings at Wisconsin earlier this month  – grim reminders of the violent world that we live in, an assault on our sensibilities and belief in humanity. At the same time, they have rekindled the Gun Control debate in the USA.

                Gun politics in USA has a long and complex history that you can read about here. The Gun Rights advocates are spearheaded by the NRA (National Rifle Association), while Gun Control activism is not that strong. An interesting fact that I came across is this: Ranked by total filings to lobby Congress, Gun Rights lobbying exceeded Gun Control lobbying by approximately 3:1, while in dollar terms the former spends more than 30 times the latter. So no doubt, they are so powerful! On top of that, Gun laws vary from state to state. So while in Maryland you can not carry handguns unless you are on your own property or place of business or have a special permit;, just a few miles down in neighboring Virginia you can carry a handgun legally without a permit if you just follow some regulations.

                In a nutshell,  as opposed to the rest of the world, keeping guns is seen as a right by a large number of Americans. And this right is guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. So unless there is an amendment to this Amendment or at the very least a different interpretation of it, I don’t see any way how the streets can be cleansed off guns. While the Republican party has historically championed Gun Rights, I don’t believe US President Obama will touch the issue of Gun Control in an election-year. And so the stalemate will continue and human beings will continue to be butchered. Sad, but true.

Guns and Roses


                It is relatively easier to talk about the Roses of our times, ain’t it? I was thinking of 2 significant achievements of the USA as a country in the same month as of the shootings mentioned above.

                The Olympics come once in 4 years and test the limits of human bodies and capabilities in sports – one of the few times when all the countries come together and compete at the same time. At that level, it probably requires disciplining of the mind and spirit as much as of the body! And once again, the US team finished at the top with a haul of 104 medals (including 46 gold). I have often thought – what does it take for a country to keep producing champions, year after year? Analyzing all the factors in details would probably take a separate blog post, but a few are just crystal-clear: having a Sports-culture in the society at large, keeping Sports a priority, pouring millions into identifying young talents and nurturing them with scholarships/good infrastructure/technology/coaches – all of these help!

                The above were for a nation as a whole. What about an individual player? What does it take to reach the pinnacle of glory on the highest platform and that too to be counted as the most decorated Olympian of all times? Michael Phelps started swimming at the age of 7 partly in order to let the excess energy as a result of ADHD out. When he was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), his mom must have undergone similar stress as any other mom. (By the way, Phelps is a local hero here in Maryland.)

Phelps, Curiosity

                But it is to the credit of the system that his talent was spotted and nurtured – a system where there is no siphoning of dollars, where money is used where it is intended to, where there’s no room for petty politics, where merit is recognized early enough. On Phelps’ part, I would imagine that long hours of practice, single-minded dedication, a lot of support from coaches and family and a little bit of luck, of course, went into the making of a champion and retaining the top slot year after year.

               On Aug 6th, 2012, the US-based NASA lab made history – the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) created by it successfully landed Curiosity on planet Mars. Mars is a planet that has been mentioned even in many ancients myths around the world. We earthlings seem to have been always curious about this planet, especially with respect to whether life has been ever possible there. But the exploration of Mars has been fraught with lots of failures. So it was a well-deserved culmination of years of hard work and efforts of toiling scientists when the rover landed with great precision on Gale crater.         

               And that brings us to the statement made by the great seer quoted at the beginning of this post. All of us have negative qualities of hatred, jealousy, greed, egotism, anger to varying degrees. But why not at least try to suppress these animalist tendencies within us and move towards the best of what humanity has to offer? It could be trying to achieve excellence in your favorite sports or conquering the final frontiers of space as mentioned above. Or it could be as simple as making a meal for your sick neighbour; it could be trying to be a good caregiver to the elderly or orphans; it could be any good thing that you have ever wanted to do in your life!  The possibilities are endless. Our world could do with a little more love, a little more patience and a little more understanding from all of us for each other.

Photo credits: by Mr. smashy on flickr by Peggy Greb, U.S. Department of Agriculture     by NASA/JPL-Caltech