The Toughest Job in the World

DSC_0494Happy Mothers Day to all the wonderful moms doing the toughest job in the world. But especially to the three moms in my life. Three women who keep me on the straight and narrow. Three women who have loved and stood by me even when I was least deserving of their love and support. For seeing in me what I failed to see in myself and standing by my side offering support when I went through some turbulent times in my own head. In the throes of a deep and debilitating depression from which I scarcely believed I would emerge in one piece. It would be an understatement of colossal proportions to say I wouldn’t have come through but for them. They have unique personalities but there’s one thing the three of them have in common. You mess with their children only at your own peril. They will never make excuses for their children’s poor behavior or less than ideal character traits that sometimes show up in the most inopportune of times. But they are the rocks of Gibraltar that will stand by their children at all times. Proud but hesitant to take credit for their achievements and always ready to take more than their share of undeserved blame when their children don’t act or behave like they taught them to, wondering whether they could have done something better in raising them.  Their children squeeze every ounce of patience they have. They bend but never break. They love in a way such as only a mother can. Unconditionally. Even when you’ve been a horse’s ass. Every other kind of love, in my opinion, has a limit, a threshold beyond which isn’t possible to give more. A (or I should say this) father’s love does too, although I hope to never see that threshold or limit.

My mother is the kindest, gentlest person I have ever known in my life. If there was ever such a thing as an angel that walked this earth, it has to be Chitra. Pardon the hyperbole but she is my mother, I am biased and that is how I feel about her. I was not an easy kid to raise, by any standards. I have disappointed her numerous times but she refuses to see anything but the best in me. I haven’t exactly been the son of the decade or the year even but I promise to strive every day, to be worthy of the upbringing she gave me. Despite the challenges she faced as a woman in a deeply patriarchal and conservative society.

My sister is the only other person alive outside of my own self that is like our dad, The two of us together make quite the Hariharan. That a person with barely above average intelligence who never worked really hard at anything in life can have everything that a man could hope to have in life; a nice house, a nice car, a respectable job and a loving family is, in large part due to the example she set and the path she treaded before me. A path I could follow in. The firstborn of firstborns she set the standard for achievement in our family. It is hard to grow up the younger sibling of an overachieving woman such as her but I would have it no other way. She is, outside my parents the one most responsible for me having moved to the United States and making something useful of myself. She has encouraged my flights of fancy to be a writer, athlete, singer, photographer and a few other things I fail to remember right about now. I have never met a person that has such an incredible sense of good and bad. Of right and wrong.
She wears her emotions on her sleeve (not unlike me) but one thing she is not is insincere. In anything she does. But make no mistake, she will call my bullshit out every time. Like the one time I had taken to introducing myself as “Lucky” to Americans and Westerners because my name is a mouthful and I was embarrassed by it. For one, if you’re going to name me after a character in a Hindu epic why not first place Ram? Why second (or even third place behind the ever faithful Bharat) Lakshman for cryin’ out loud? The guy that got tricked into letting Ravana abduct Sita. Plus some others named Lakshman spell their names which means some people address me as Laxman in writing, which makes for an unseemly Laxative-man. Back to that one time, she waited until the third person departed and went, in a way only she and I talk to each other: “Abey, yeh Lucky kya hai?” Which loosely translates to “The f*** is this Lucky business?” In other words, never ever forget where you came from.

There are times that she has needed me in the past few years when I, caught up in my own turbulence wasn’t there for her and was frankly, a grade A ass**** in the truest sense of the word. Or like my favorite television writer says “an unwiped ass”. I have not sensed one ounce of resentment from her. I cannot fix anything from the past but I do promise to be the brother that you have deserved all along.

Its been almost fifteen years since we married and it has not been perfect. Far from it rather, most of it being my fault. It was the summer of 2001 when I first saw the woman who would, for some inexplicable reason not only think I was good looking but fall for my personality. And I fell for her. Hard. Anyone that has spent half a minute with her knows that she is impossible to not like or fall in love with. To say that I am the exact opposite and not the easiest of people to live with would be another colossal understatement. Indeed, she could have had her pick of successful men to choose from. But she chose me. A man graduating with a Masters degree at the age of twenty five with no great prospects on the horizon for landing a halfway decent job. When I did land a job I made a measly twenty five thousand dollars a year but she still picked me. Over all the other doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, would be executives that would have lined up for her. She picked me and that is one of the proudest of my “achievements” in life. I’ve always said, only half jokingly, that if she had a do-over I wouldn’t be so lucky. But me? I would again, have it no other way. She has stood by me through thick and thin, through the calm and the turbulent, through the best of times and through the worst.
There is no one else I’d rather grow old with. She grinned and bore it when other women would, condescendingly ask her why she didn’t go back to work immediately after the boys were born. As if it were some kind of a contract. Women who would have their mothers from India as free day care for six months. Women who would have the mother in law come and relieve said mothers so their visits overlapped for a few days. You know, so their rhythm to go to work and make the extra eighty (or how many ever) thousand dollars a year isn’t disturbed. She is raising her own children at times as a single mother for all intents and purposes when I am out traveling for days at a time. I apologize if the previous sentence sounds and comes across as resentful. It does only because I resented it. Every. Single. Time. When we as a couple never told anyone anything about how they should raise their children or live their lives. Ever. Because how one raises their children is a deeply personal thing. What good character traits our boys have are all hers, all the defects mine. To her the only thing I can say is, quoting James Garfield as he wrote to his wife Lucretia:
” I hope when you,….balance up the whole of my wayward self, you will still find, after many proper and heavy deductions are made, a small balance left on which you can base some respect and affection.”

To these three incredible mothers in my life. I am truly honored to call myself your  son,  brother and husband.

Thank you.
Lakshman Hariharan
05/12/2018, Prosper, TX.

The Times They Are a Changin’

So go the lyrics of a Dylan classic. I started this post at three in the morning at SeaTac airport with three hours to kill before my connection. Just a forewarning that the quality and coherence of thoughts put down may be more suspect than is even usual for me. I wanted to write this as a follow up to the previous post where I presented my case that left is indeed right. As in, if one takes a position left of center on a social issue one will likely end up on the right side of history.

I had a conversation with a gentleman a few years ago that I remember still quite clearly. I mentioned how among the pantheon of great American presidents I admire Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR. The gentleman I had this conversation with was a conservative, so naturally — or a wrong presumption on my part to assume so I suppose — he said he agreed that Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln were men to be admired but FDR not so much. What with the New Deal and Social Security and all. Which got me thinking about how, in their time and age, these men were likely derided, even ridiculed for some of their views. For example, I have heard several people argue with me about how Lincoln was the person most responsible for the Civil War and how I’ve bought into the popular myth about the Civil War being about slavery and the eventual abolishment of the inhuman practice. To illustrate my point better, consider, for example, Barack Obama. I realize there are many who would take umbrage at the mere mention of the forty fourth president in the same context as the first, third and the sixteenth, but hear me out for a minute. I heard innumerable times how, when there are so many important things to do, Obama was concerned about, for example, gay rights. But here’s the rub. There are always more important things to do. They said the same thing about ol’ Abe Lincoln in the mid nineteenth century. That there were so may important things to do, and this man here was worried about abolishing slavery. A view, if held openly today, would result in the person holding that view being held in near universal contempt, and deservedly so.

Adams, Jefferson and the rest were the men of the Enlightenment which made them extraordinary men for not just their time but for several ages. But for all their greatness, the first and third presidents are guilty of pawning off to the next generation a practice in society that fundamentally challenged one of the founding principles of the republic that “all men are created equal”, much as it ate at their conscience. America’s Original Sin if you will. If they had tried to address it however, they would have, in their own time been thought of as too radical.
Words like expert and scholar are bandied about so casually these days and are so overused that they’re almost cringe worthy. So far be it from me to claim any expertise on American history, but I’ve read enough of it and the men that formed a part of the founding to know this much. Washington was accused of being a dictator. The man who set the precedent for the two term presidency. Adams was an unabashed elitist and egomaniac. Adams, who was jovially nicknamed “His Rotundity” by one of his peers for the highfalutin titles he kept coming up with which the president was to be addressed.  “His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of the Rights of the Same.” was one such, before Washington put his foot down and settled on the simple, elegant and no less awe inspiring Mr President”.  Jefferson after all, was responsible in introducing realpolitik to the nascent republic, aided in no small measure by his opposition to the anglophile Hamilton. The Francophile Jefferson some would say. Lincoln of course was the “black republican”.

I guess all this is a long winded way of saying that the reverence we hold for our forefathers and their prescience would have been misplaced in their own time. I also tend to stay away from hearkening back to the good ol’ times. Because the good ol’ times were good for a select few. Not so much for the rest of what would have been us at the time. Sure there was a time when travelers on airplanes were treated to luxury but air travel was then only accessible to a select few. The democratization of the technology and mode of transport means that it is accessible to people of lesser means but not at the same comfort level and luxury. But the rich have to differentiate themselves somehow. So they came up with first class, which is fine by me. Sure the good ol’ times were simpler and kids could play outdoors without constant adult supervision but they were more likely to be run over by cars too. That’s probably not a good example, but the reader gets the point.

It particularly irks me to see social media memes and posts where millennials are portrayed as lazy, self obsessed, smartphone and social media addicts that can do little but Snapchat all day. Assuming Snapchat hasn’t yet been relegated to the un-cool parents and grandparents category. When in fact they are the smartest generation in a long line of smart generations with ideas that will change and in some cases with their embracement of  sustainable living concepts, save the planet we call home.
I guess my point is, and there is one indeed, if you were wondering, is that the good ol’ times weren’t that great and the very people we hold up as examples from that time were considered far from examples to hold up at the time. So before I dismiss someone’s opinion, no matter how young, to keep in mind that I should think long and hard before doing so. It also reminds me that just because I am forty something years old doesn’t automatically entitle me to the younger generation’s respect.

Thank you

Lakshman Hariharan
Prosper, TX

Left is Right

Let me explain. What I really mean is that I believe if someone is left of center on a social issue, they will end up, more than likely on the right side of history. In what follows I’ll try to make the case of why I think so. On a side note, I made the title a bit catchy to capture attention, since I’ve started losing even the handful of regular readers I have. So if you happen upon this link, please read it. Perhaps I should be spending time in creating quality content than catchy titles.
Getting back on point. Driving the kids to watch a baseball game forty miles away, my best friend and I started a conversation, as is our wont. He is one of the few people I have long winded conversations about everything under the sun with. Politics, physics, biology, life, philosophy.  It also helps that we agree with each other on ninety nine out of a hundred topics.  Among other things we talked politics (surprise!).   We were discussing how the mainstream media is left leaning. Whatever the merits, fairly or unfairly, the person in the White House gets credit for things undeserved, just as he — not she, until we get progressive enough to elect a woman as president — catches flak for things that are likely undeserved. Kinda like the quarterback on a football team. For example, Barack Obama got bin Laden. Sure, he made the final call on the go no-go and it required major cojones  but did he really actually “get” Osama bin Laden?  My views on and opinion of the current occupant of the White House being irrelevant, I thought about what the media reaction would have been like if a democrat or a media darling like our previous president had been in office when the news came down about the North Korean dictator’s announcement renouncing (or suspending) his nuclear (nu-cue-lar, according to Bush Jr.) program. The media would be falling all over themselves in giving credit to the occupant in the White House. Also irrelevant is the fact that the current occupant of the White House will claim credit for bringing peace to the Korean peninsula even if the dictator doesn’t do any of what he says he will. A “fact” he would likely tout to and possible even get re-elected. That much most reasonable people can agree on I think.

So what does that have to do with left being right?
One of the laments I hear from social conservatives is that most media and comedians are left leaning or progressive or liberal, pick your word. I myself tend to lean left of center on most if not all such social issues. I want to be clear I’m not talking about fiscal conservatism, just social conservatism. Fiscal conservatism, small government, give people the means to making a living rather than handouts etc., sound appealing on the face of it. You know, the thing about giving a man a fish to eat will ensure he eats that day, but teaching him how to fish will help him eat for a lifetime. So in case there are any doubts, I am trying to make a case for why I think social conservatism is wrong, That is because when someone is left of center on an issue, they usually end up on the right side of history. That’s what I believe today. I could very well end up changing my opinion, because as F. Scott or Hemingway once said, and I’m paraphrasing and likely totally butchering the quote: “The man I am today is not the man I was yesterday.  The man I am today, I won’t be tomorrow. Because if I am then I am no man at all.”  The original quote was, I can guarantee you, much more concise and conveyed the same meaning much better with much fewer words.

When I go back and look at history (recent if you will, say sixteenth century onward) one thing becomes clear. What in that day and time appears or is deemed radically progressive or liberal  and is usually laughed at by the majority at the time, say a hundred years thence becomes the right thing to do. Recent examples that come to mind include women’s suffrage, abolition of slavery,  civil  rights, gay rights. I am very aware of the fact that some black folk abhor the equivocation of gay rights with the civil rights movement but that is a topic for another day.

So when I think back to, what a hundred and fifty years ago was considered radical: abolitionism for example, isn’t that radical today is it? Sure there have been the John Browns in any struggle but the principles behind those actions were anything but radical, viewed with today’s lenses. I can make a strong case that if I were to hypothetically transport back, a hundred and fifty years in time to the antebellum period, the very people that staunchly oppose gay rights or gender rights or those that oppose even the most common sense gun control measures,  would have possibly been the very same ones opposing the abolition of slavery. I realize what I said above comes across as accusing someone of racism or bigotry and those are two of the worst things one can be accused of. That is certainly not my intent and my sincerest apologies to anyone reading this arriving at that conclusion.  It is a hypothetical argument, we can’t go back in time. Not yet anyways, but that is my view.
I do understand the slippery slope argument: If we start here, where does it end? For example, if we remove all confederate statues, where does it stop? George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave holders. Are we to take down their statues too? And rename the nation’s capital? To those making that argument I would say (and I read this part in a magazine article) that that is a false equivalence. The legacies of a Jefferson or a Washington are not defined by slavery. But a Lee or a Stonewall Jackson or a Jefferson (the other one, not my man Tommy J) Davis is defined by their support for a cause that was ultimately evil. No matter how principled and honorable the men themselves, as Lee is often revered in conservative circles. Revisionist historians’ views of what the Civil War was really about notwithstanding.

As a quote oft attributed to Abraham Lincoln or Dr. King goes: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” I say oft attributed to because Wikipedia informs me that it was a certain Theodore Parker that originally formed that quote. Wikipidea, a forum that incidentally is, according to the philosopher king Michael Scott “..the best thing ever. Anyone can write anything they want to about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.”

Lakshman Hariharan

Prosper, TX


Of Legacies and Such

One of the complaints, or criticisms rather, I received about my previous post from two of the handful of regular readers I have was that the post wasn’t deep enough or long enough. One reader specifically said that just as she was starting to enjoy the post, it ended abruptly. Which, long winded as I usually am, came as a surprise. I figured that the atypical brevity would be welcome. So in this post I attempt to probe a deeper topic, one that is of intrigue to most of us. One that hopefully isn’t highfalutin, evoking eye rolls.

While I can’t guarantee what follows is profound, given the nature of the topic it won’t lack in the verbosity department. A forewarning though. If the topic depresses you then I suggest doing what I did last time to feel better. Eat a chocolate dipped strawberry. That will put an end to all such crises. Or just give enough time for the humdrum nature of everyday life to distract you. Trust me, it will eventually.

 All of us, at some point or other in life, have to come face to face with this. This topic has  intrigued me and I must say, have been scared of, ever since I was six or seven. Since that time we buried the family dog in my grandmother’s backyard. It was then that it hit me for the first time, like a ton of bricks that Tabby (as he was named) is dead, gone forever, will soon be forgotten and everyone will go on about their usual businesses.
Of late as I try to expand the range and scope of what I read, I’ve been reading about the universe, the space time continuum and such. Which has resulted in me having thoughts around the legacy I will be leaving behind. One other possible reason for these questions is that I hit the forty year mark in 2016, which makes me forty two around the time of writing this post. Reaching forty in itself is no achievement to speak of, let alone celebrate. The astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson says that the main reason we celebrate milestones of decades is because we count in base ten. If we counted in, say hexadecimal (base sixteen) we would celebrate anniversaries of sixteen, thirty two, forty eight, sixty four years and so forth. When put like that, forty or fifty then just become insignificant numbers. Agree or disagree with the thought, it did bring to my attention how many years I realistically have left on this earth and what I want to do with those years. If I go my father’s or grandfather’s way, I have nineteen years left, because my father didn’t quite make it to sixty two. Say I beat the odds and make it to seventy five. I then have thirty three years left on this earth. Either way you skin it, if life were plotted on a graph with time on the x-axis then I’m well into the latter half of that. As I look back at my four decades thus far, a few words and phrases come to mind but none of them are flattering. Mundane, conformity, run of the mill, garden variety, mediocre, average. The reader gets the picture.

So I’ve been a bit philosophical of late. As my ten year old asked me the other day: “Why do you have to turn everything into a lecture?”

One example of said lecture that comes to mind is when my six year old, innocently and impulsively said “I will break this.” I went on a sermon about how nobody remembers or thinks highly of people that break things, and how breaking is easy but building is hard, and so forth. Which, needless to say, evoked an eyeroll from the ten year old.

I would like to, put down here, a story from an ancient text.  What follows is a verbatim reproduction of Swami Vivekanada’s views on Vedanta.

In one of the Upanishads (the Katha Upanishad), the legend of Nachiketa goes thus. The young boy went to Yama, the lord of death. The closest analogy in the Judeo Christian realm I can draw for Yama is that of the Grim Reaper. So the young boy goes to none other than Yama himself and asks: “Some say of a dead man. ‘He is gone’; others, ‘He is still living.’ You are Yama, Death. You know the truth. Do answer me.”

Yama replies: “Boy do not ask of me this answer.”

But Nachiketa persists.

Yama again replies: “The enjoyment of all the gods, even these I offer you. Do not insist upon your query.” But Nachiketa was firm as a rock.

Then the god of death said: “My boy, you have declined, for the third time, wealth, power, long life, fame, family. You are brave enough to ask the highest truth. I will teach you. There are two ways: one of truth, one of enjoyment. You have chosen the former.

Now note here the conditions of imparting the truth. First purity — that a boy, a pure, unclouded soul, asking the secret of the universe. Second that he must take truth for truth’s sake.

My interpretation of it is that since most of us mortals aren’t capable of seeking truth for truth’s sake, we must die in order to find the ultimate truth. And what child, however prodigious, can seek truth? So it stands to reason, according to my interpretation of the above story is that most of us who do not possess the intellect to pose such questions while a child and pure, and do not possess the purity when we are grown up, we have to be dead to learn the ultimate truth. It is a lay person’s interpretation of one interpretation of the original text, so make what you will of it.

When I was younger I thought If I were to die and the world were to simultaneously end, then I don’t have a problem. I’m not missing anything because there is nothing else to miss. The world has also ended. As I grew older I realized how incredibly selfish that notion was. Thinking in terms of legacies and such it makes for a less selfish more holistic view. Or so I think.
If you made it thus far, thank you for reading.

Lakshman Hariharan
Nashville, TN

Overused words, choose wisely
If I were to die and the world were to end..
Older the philosophy the deeper and more complex
Children, what we leave behind
Humdrum life takes over or a chocolate covered strawberry..
Eulogies and embellishment.

Bullhorn or Bumper Sticker?

Mark Twain apparently had this lament about Alexander Graham Bell’s invention:”The human voice carries entirely too far as it is.”

He is also said to have, in the same vein continued that “If Bell had invented a muffler or a gag he would have done a real service.”

What then would he have made of social media and Facebook specifically? Surely I can’t be the first person to have wondered whether Facebook is a giant bumper sticker or a giant bullhorn. Or both? Speaking of bumper stickers, over the past few days, I’ve seen several bumper stickers on trucks that said, in no particular order:

“Nobody Cares About Your Protests.”
“This is a straight car.”
“Welcome to America. Now Speak English”

So lets set aside what my political leanings are or aren’t. Or my views on social conservatism (or liberalism). Those are moot. However, a couple of things do come to mind.

a. Do I really need to know that you’re a homophobe? Or does the whole world need to, for that matter? Or do the ones unfortunate to be stuck behind you in traffic?

b. Surely someone cares about the protests? I mean not one person? That has to be a factually incorrect statement.

To be fair I should add some liberal ones too I suppose. But I can only think of a funny one that said:

“Tree hugging dirt worshipper.”

This only confirms what psychologists call confirmation bias, perhaps and I just fail to take note of the ones I agree with even if they have some kind of divisive or hateful message. Plus some would say the same about this blog or platform I realize. Hate is too strong a word as the cliché goes but in this case it gets it pretty close I think.

A short one this, as I really have too much going on in life, for a change and have other things that are top of my list.
As always, thank you for indulging me and reading.

Lakshman Hariharan
Prosper, TX.

Books I started But Could Not Finish

I was going to title this post “Books Most People Start But Don’t Finish.” Then I realized that sweeping generalizations of this nature are best not made. So I narrowed the scope down, just a tad. I consider myself quite resilient when it comes to books. I’ve plowed through some even if I could only grasp a little or if they failed to hold my full attention. These are books I started, or have wanted to read but couldn’t. In case it comes across otherwise, I want to clarify something: Most of these are classics or spiritual guides that have inspired millions if not billions and it is my intellectual ability, or lack of it rather, that has prevented me from comprehending them. Many of these books exist in their original form in a language I do not speak, read or understand so the best English approximation will have to do. I hope to, at some future day when I am older and hopefully wiser to come back and revisit them. So without further ado….and drum-roll please….

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez — (Original Spanish). Two hundred pages in I just could not. I hope to understand the Magic Realism concept some day. I didn’t know the genre was called Magic Realism until a wise woman told me it was called thus.
  2. Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. — Just about everyone in high school was carrying a copy, or so it felt. So I picked up a copy, barely made it past ten pages if I recall correctly. I do however, recall a character named Howard Roark. Poor choice of reading material for a teenager who hadn’t read a “real” book until he was seventeen. Probably a good time to revisit to try and understand the libertarians and their point(s) of view. Because  concepts like fiscal conservatism and libertarianism, on the face of it appear quite sound and appealing. But the devil is in the details.
  3. The Bhagavad Gita ( Original Sanskrit) , — This one I really hope I can come back and revisit. It has been an inspiration and life guide for some of the best and brightest minds that have ever walked the earth. Plus I could sure use some spiritual guidance.
  4. The New Testament — See #3
  5. The Quran  (Original Arabic I presume) — See #4. And last I checked Islam had close to two billion adherents, so I’d like to know what the book that is the foundation of this religion says.
  6. The Dhammapada  (Original Pali) — Gautama Buddha. ‘Nuff said.
  7. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (Original Greek) — Saw a version written for pre-teens at the local library the other day. That should be a good starting point.
  8. Ulysses by James Joyce — Have not yet mustered enough courage to try and borrow it from the library, much less start reading it.
  9. Capital in the Twenty First Century by Thomas Piketty (Original French). — Reading a review like this one by someone with the intellect to understand it will have to do for now.
  10. Das Kapital by Karl Marx (Original German) — File it under the same category as #8.
  11. Mein Kampf by Author Needs No Introduction — Much for the same reasons others that picked up this book did, to try and understand what went on in that maniac’s mind, but the incoherent rambling was too much to make it past the first few pages.
  12. All of Them — W. Shakespeare — No, literally all of them. I do have a guide to reading Shakespeare that runs to about 300 pages. That would be a good starting point.

Random thought of the week: About using the phrase “Without further ado. Breaking the first of George Orwell’s six cardinal rules of writing: : Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Here’s the full list in case anyone’s interested.

1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

As always thank you for reading.

Lakshman Hariharan

Ten seemingly random thoughts strewn together

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
…..Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
…When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

— Bob Dylan, Masters of War

1. Sridevi died. Count mine among the millions of hearts left broken in the aftermath. Some of my first thoughts though? “I hope the toxicology report comes out clean.” Like it matters, to the legacy she left behind. Or anything else for that matter.

2. It is no fun waking up every morning to some news about the opioid epidemic.

3. Drugs have ravaged minority communities in the inner cities for as long as I can remember. Society’s solution then was to lock up as many offenders as possible. The consequence was an incarcerated population, of mostly young black men, that exceeds half that of Scotland. Or Norway. Or Finland. Or two thirds that of Wales. Or take your pick of any country with a population of two and a half million.

4. Since the problem is ravaging the white ‘burbs it is now a public health issue, as it should always have been . I read this in an op-ed piece in the failing New York Times and and could not agree more.

5. The hypocrisy aside, I am glad that it is being recognized as one now, so something can be done that actually works. The War on Drugs sure as hell didn’t. Not only did it not work, it exacerbated the problem. I won’t even start on the problems we exported to Central America as a result of our War on Drugs. For those interested, A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America by Pulitzer winner Oscar Martinez is a quick and poignant read.

6. I was once told by a boss. “Don’t just bring me problems. Bring potential solutions too.” In that spirit, I think at the very least a debate on safe zones for addicts to shoot up should be a consideration. A Hamsterdam if you will, for the fans of the show The Wire, with access to clean needles and Naloxone, to help prevent deaths from accidental overdoses .

7. Driving around town with your ten year old is not the perfect time to find out that another shooting is being reported in some other part of the country.

8. His reaction? “Another one?” That is twenty school shootings this year.” A statistic admittedly unverified by me.

9. He further added: “Trump is standing there making a speech about trying to do something.” What do you mean “try”  ? DO something bro.

10. He’s taken to saying “bro” a lot these days. His brother, his dad, his best friend, some random stranger that cuts him off in the grocery store aisle. Everyone’s bro.

11. Bro! must be the new Dude! The word seems quite in vogue with ten year olds. Well, with the one that lives in our house anyways.

12. My answer to his question, or rather his concern?
“I don’t know kid. I’ve stopped counting. Its now up to your generation to try and fix it. Ours and the ones before sure as hell couldn’t.”
Nice way to pawn off the issue to the younger generation. I regretted the give up attitude as soon as I said the words.

13. My six year old is awesome. He has a heart the size of the Grand Canyon and is already, at six years old, much better with kids than I am at forty two. Must have got it from his mom.

14. Nothing substantial will happen in my lifetime around gun control. At least not at the federal level. There’s that give up attitude again.  I believe the best chance was in the winter of 2012 when an Elementary school with five and six year old (mostly upper middle class, white) kids got shot up, resulting in twenty dead kids. If that didn’t spur the collective conscience of this nation into action, I don’t know what else will. Because, as many minority community leaders in the inner cities will also attest to, gun violence has ravaged those communities forever. Which is probably why seventy percent of African Americans support gun control and an equal percentage of whites oppose it. White flight is always an option I suppose, but there ain’t no such thing as a black flight. And agree or disagree with him, love him or hate him, especially about sweeping generalizations as this one, the comedian Bill Maher put it well when he said “Democrats love guns too. They just don’t love them as much as Republicans.”

15. I hope I’m wrong.

16. It is sad, in a nation that was, in the words of a great man “conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”, to see some lives deemed more valuable than others.

17. Happy Getting Shitfaced in the Name of the Irish day. I hope Zeke Elliott doesn’t get drunk, go honk some ol’ gal’s boobs and get suspended costing the Cowboys dearly.

18. Sorry, I lied. Evidently I had more than just ten thoughts

As always, if you’ve read this far, thank you.

Lakshman Hariharan
Prosper, TX.

Talking Big Bang With My Ten Year Old.

Let me say right at the outset: If you’re thinking the title is a bit too grandiose, consider the original title I had. It was “Before The Big Bang”. I have made a rather concerted effort to come up with something less pretentious. I do, however admit that I haven’t succeeded fully. Constant revisions of the post, as is my wont, will hopefully yield something less grandiose.
Surprisingly, or rather unsurprisingly perhaps, some of the best, most profound conversations I have always seem to be with my boys aged ten and six. A phenomenon observed by many, if not most, or all parents no doubt. This could be because children are unencumbered by the baggage, opinions and “knowledge” if you will, that life experiences burden adults with. Also quite possibly because the questions are simple yet profound and the explanations have to be simple and non convoluted. Not for them E equals mc squared or relativity or the complexity of time as a fourth dimension and wormholes. This conversation  happened with my ten year old as a by product of me asking him to, at the very least, read five pages a day of  Cosmos by Carl Sagan. He kept at it for three days and hasn’t returned since, but that is a conversation for another day and time.
On a side note, I have of late discovered the writings of Carl Sagan; Pale Blue Dot, Cosmos, and A Demon Haunted World specifically. For those curious about the vast universe and all the wonders it has to offer Pale Blue Dot is a highly recommended read. It can, at times be disheartening to find out how little we actually know and how ephemeral our short few decades on this earth can be. The author put it best when he wrote “It has been said that Astronomy is a humbling and character building exercise.” Truer words have rarely been spoken.

Returning to the topic I want to discuss, my ten year old asked me a simple question:

OK, before the Big Bang everything was a tiny dot you say. But you also say there was no time and no space before the Big Bang. So where exactly did that tiny little dot exist?

I tried explaining to him that the very words “where” and “when” assume the existence of time and space, but the explanation was as unconvincing to me as it was to him. The fact that I couldn’t explain that in a reasonable manner is rather unsurprising. What is also unsurprising is that a ten year old was seeking an answer to this question. A question that most if not all of us humans have for centuries asked. One that some of the brightest minds that have ever walked this Earth  have for centuries tried to answer. Then I came across the writings of Swami Vivekananda, who writes thus:

“Science is said to have proved that the sum total of cosmic energy is always the same. Then, if there was a time that nothing existed, where was all this manifested energy? Some say it was in a potential form in God. In that case God is sometimes potential and sometimes kinetic., which would make Him mutable. Everything mutable is a compound, and every compound must undergo that change which is called destruction. So God would die — which is absurd. Therefore there never was a time when there was no creation.”

Now, it would be an understatement of cosmic proportions (using the word cosmic to stay with the topic at hand) to say that I have neither the intellectual heft nor the brilliant logical mind that Swami Vivekananda had to claim with such certitude that creation has always existed. In which case my question then becomes: What is creation? It is not time, space, matter (organic or inorganic) or anything else we can touch or feel apparently. That too is a question for another day and time.

My views and opinions  on the existence of God as they are today are irrelevant but I can make peace with the explanation provided by Swami Vivekananda. For now. It begins to scratch the surface. It is quite likely, if this piece of writing  even survives a few years in some remote corner of the internet I will read it and be amused, if not be downright embarrassed by my own naivete and lack of profundity.

Now my challenge becomes how to put this in a succinct and simple way to try and scratch the surface of this question posed by my ten year old.
As always, if you have made it thus far, thank you for reading.

Lakshman Hariharan
Prosper, TX

Evolution As Explained to a Six Year Old

Every once in a while as I am driving the kids around town for soccer or music lessons or whatnot I have conversations with them which I find to be incredibly insightful. We (my wife and I) have noticed however, that either boy will indulge in serious or semi-serious conversation only when one of them is in the car with either of us. For some reason, any of the following other permutations appear to upset the balance:
Both parents in the car with one or both kids,  one parent with both kids in the car, both kids with both parents in the car.
The latter two are self explanatory because nine times out of ten when both of them are in the car with either or both parents World War III is just about a few minutes from breaking out. However miraculously, we somehow manage to make it to our final destination every time and Armageddon  gets postponed for a few more hours.
This particular conversation I had with my six year old took quite a curious turn. Please keep in mind that these are just my opinions and they are as simplistic as can be made while explaining complex concepts like Evolution by Natural Selection, the primordial soup, and concepts like sexual selection etc.  I am aware that not everyone who reads this will agree with my views which are facts, some of them.  I also understand that not everyone will agree with my choices on how to explain such complex concepts to children. I respectfully urge those of you disagreeing with my point of view to please not miss the forest for the trees.
So the conversation went thus:
Nana (rhymes with La-La) means Dad in our native language, not to be confused with the American Nana for grandma.
Six Year Old (SYO): Nana some people in my school say that God created us. That’s not true right?

Me: Well, yes.

SYO: We are just one kind of animal correct, mammals?

Me: Yes, that is correct.

SYO: So how did we get created?

Me: Do you know what Evolution is?


Me: Ok, do you know what a cell is?


Me: Every living being, and by that I mean, plants, animals, BoBo, Mamma, you, I, we are all made of these tiny building blocks called cells. Just like you use Lego blocks to build your set.
When you put cells together in a certain way, we get a plant. I mean when Nature — not you as in you and I — puts together cells in a certain way, we get plants. When Nature puts them together in another way, we get BoBo. Still another way, we get you. Still another way we get Nana. Understood?

SYO:  Yes but how did we get made?

Me: Ok, so a long time ago and by long time ago I mean a really long time ago, like when the earth was very young. 4.5 billion years ago. A billion is…

SYO: I know, 10 with 8 zeroes.

Me: Yes. So the scientists estimate the earth to be 4.5 billion years old and the sun to be 10 billion years old. Humans as we know ourselves today have only been around for 10 thousand years.
I understand my numbers here may be off, by several tens of thousands of years.

SYO: So before George Washington?

Me: Oh yes. George Washington was only 200 years ago. We are talking thousands of years.
Ok, so remember I told you about cells? When the earth was really young there were animals or organisms as they are called, that were only made of one cell. They evolved into organisms with multiple cells, which evolved into fish, which then evolved into amphibians. Do you know what amphibians are?


Me: Amphibians are animals that can live on both water and land; like turtles and frogs. We are humans we cannot live in water just like fish cannot live on land. So we evolved from fish to animals that lived on land to monkeys. From monkeys to apes. You know what the difference between a monkey and an ape is?

SYO: Yes, monkeys have tails. Apes don’t.

Me: Yes, that is correct. That’s how we came about.

SYO: So how many apes made us? A million thousand?

Me: No evolution doesn’t work like that, and million thousand, though technically correct, is not a number. What you really mean is billions. Apes make or create other apes. Humans create other humans.

Following is where I try to explain Evolution by Natural Selection the best I could.

Since we evolved from monkeys, we still have  a tail bone but no tail. Because Nature figured out that we don’t need a tail. Remind me to show you where your tail bone is when we get home. Its right above your booty-butt.
This last sentence elicited not quite a laugh but somewhat of a chuckle. This kid is hard to make laugh, he’s the funny one in the family.

So millions of years from now humans probably won’t even look like humans do today.
For example, Nana has a beard correct?

SYO: Yes.

Yes: A long time ago, beards on a male human were considered attractive to female humans. Nature made sure that all male humans could have beards.

Me: But what does Nana do to his beard all the time?

SYO: Shave it?

Me: Yes, because beards today are more nuisance than attraction, most men shave it off. Which means that millions of years from now male humans may not have beards. Which means male humans may not look like what male humans look like now.
This was an admittedly poor way to explain sexual selection. If any readers that have made it thus far have other ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments. This also led into a small segue on him correcting me that Nana doesn’t always shave his beard, he sometimes grows it.

Me: That in a nutshell is evolution kid. You get it?

SYO: Yes?

Right about this time we reached our destination (his best friend’s house) and he could barely let the car come to a full stop before unbuckling his seat belt, flinging the car door open and jumping out. Evolution and such thoughts were about as far from his mind as the sun is from the earth.

If you’ve read thus far thank you for reading and indulging me.

Lakshman Hariharan
Prosper, TX