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1657Re: How I learned to appreciate America

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  • kamalakanta47
    Nov 3, 2003
      Thank you, Suren. I am honored to have met a noble soul like you. I
      remember, too, that in the first five games we played, you beat me
      with the score of 3.5 to 1.5. When I told Sri Chinmoy, he asked,
      "What, have you become an old man?" This, of course, inspired me to
      play harder, and we had some memorable games, including our epic
      battle at Aspiration-Ground, which ended in a draw, and then, I guess
      to console me, Sri Chinmoy had us arm-wrestle, and I finally won
      something!- By the way, start doing weights, because if I cannot beat
      you at chess next time we meet, this old man will challenge you to
      arm-wrestle again!- Kamalakanta

      --- In Sri_Chinmoy_Inspiration@yahoogroups.com, icysuren
      <no_reply@y...> wrote:
      > Ah, Kamalakanta!
      > I did not include this in the story, since I was trying to keep it to a
      > minimum, but I always remember the first time we met. We
      > were all having a meal at Goose Pond Park, when Snatak
      > introduced me to this brilliant chess-player (mistakenly thinking
      > that Databir was the best chess-players of the centres, apart
      > from myself, I had considered myself a unique case - after all,
      > chess and spirituality, does it go together?!), which was the
      > spark of a lifelong friendship.
      > This memory remains firmly embedded in my mind and when I
      > review it I see it as though through a golden filter in my mind's
      > eye. Sri Chinmoy recently referred to his ashram days as the
      > "golden days". These were my golden days.
      >
      > Cold is picking up, mainly through the advent of the merciless
      > wind, all you can do is stay indoors more (wish I was still in
      > Australia - or Indonesia, for that matter).
      >
      > Suren
      >
      > --- In Sri_Chinmoy_Inspiration@yahoogroups.com,
      > kamalakanta47 <no_reply@y...> wrote:
      > > Hi, Suren, I liked your story! How important it is to see the good
      > in
      > > others. If more people did this, the world would be a better
      > place! It
      > > is a positive quest of the heart, instead of the negative talk of
      > the
      > > mind! We need to see the best in ourselves and in others. Only
      > then
      > > will we make progress. - Kamalakanta
      > >
      > >
      > > --- In Sri_Chinmoy_Inspiration@yahoogroups.com, icysuren
      > > <no_reply@y...> wrote:
      > > > The story which I am about to tell, really depicts an odyssey
      > of
      > > > the soul, which my conscious self was, for the most part,
      > > > unaware of at the time.
      > > > Warning: This is not the short version. But for your
      > convenience,
      > > > and since the story stretches over many years (well, most of
      > my
      > > > life, really), I have broken it down into 6 Chapters. It may be a
      > > > good idea to read it in installments.
      > > >
      > > > Chapter 1
      > > > I grew up slightly prejudiced or even disdainful for American
      > > > society and culture. This is not uncommon in Iceland, but
      > > > people here tend to be either heavily pro-American or heavily
      > > > anti-American. As with all prejudices, the root of the problem
      > lies
      > > > in seeing only the faults, but it was only 20 years later that I
      > > > realized this.
      > > >
      > > > Chapter 2: My disastrous first visit to New York.
      > > > Being somewhat prejudiced, even at an early age, my
      > excitement
      > > > of coming to New York for the first time and seeing Sri
      > Chinmoy
      > > > (but he had already come to Iceland earlier that year), was
      > > > somewhat mixed with trepidation and apprehension. Also,
      > this
      > > > was in 1988 when I was only 10, and was only the second
      > time I
      > > > went abroad.
      > > > And the trip didn't get off to a good start, really. I sat next to
      > > this
      > > > loud-mouth American kid, who was a mixture of amusement
      > and
      > > > tiredness to behold. Then the plain had to circle for an hour
      > in
      > > > the air before landing, only to wait for half an hour before
      > being
      > > > allowed to drive up to the airport. It is no small wonder that
      > my
      > > > stomach made a physical protest to this torture. I'll say no
      > more
      > > > on that subject.
      > > > But the worst was yet to come. As soon as I stepped out of
      > the
      > > > airport I felt as though I had walked into a wall of heat,
      > humidity,
      > > > noise, foul smell and agitation. This was in August, and a
      > wet
      > > > day had been followed by a hot day. I was later to learn that
      > this
      > > > is not the best combination.
      > > > Anyway, we get to Queens and settle in and the first couple of
      > > > days pass uneventfully. I got to see Sri Chinmoy and
      > participate
      > > > in the functions (although I must confess I spent a great deal
      > of
      > > > these functions either playing with the other kids or playing
      > > > chess with Databir - but I got joy in my own way).
      > > > We stayed at the attic above the stores on Parsons
      > Boulevard.
      > > > I'm sure that many of the boys remember this place, although
      > I'm
      > > > not so sure how fondly you may remember it. The attic was
      > > > certainly a fun place that afforded the chance to get to know
      > many
      > > > brothers from all over the world, and it was ideally located,
      > but as
      > > > regards certain basic facilities, it was somewhat less than
      > > > optimal.
      > > > It was in the attic that I awoke one night, completely delirious
      > and
      > > > with fear running like quicksilver through my veins. I am told
      > that
      > > > I sat up and started to pray frantically that night, but try as I
      > > might,
      > > > I really cannot remember much what happened. I certainly
      > had
      > > > fever and later it transpired that I had the chicken-pocks -
      > which I
      > > > had, no doubt, contracted on that fateful airplane.
      > > > Again, I cannot remember exactly how this happened, but
      > after I
      > > > had been diagnosed with chicken-pocks and after the fever
      > had
      > > > subsided, it was decided that the attic was no longer a
      > suitable
      > > > place for me (or for all the others who could possibly get
      > > > infected) and I was moved to Srotaswini's garage. For some
      > > > reason I have much fonder memories of the garage than the
      > > > attic. Pujarini and Suballabha would of course come every
      > day,
      > > > and sometimes they would bring other centre members
      > along
      > > > and we would play cards and have fun. In short, it was an
      > idyllic
      > > > place for a highly competitive, pale, indoors 10-year old.
      > > > The rest of the trip passed mostly uneventfully, although the
      > > > homecoming was a bit of a problem, since I still had the
      > > > pock-marks on my face. Pujarini was a bit afraid that I
      > wouldn't
      > > > be allowed out of the country, so she and Srotaswini tried to
      > do a
      > > > make-over. Although they managed to powder my face
      > green, it
      > > > didn't really hide the pock-marks, but maybe some higher
      > power
      > > > was looking after us, or maybe the customs officers just
      > wanted
      > > > to get this little Martian out of the country, since I got back
      > home
      > > > without trouble.
      > > >
      > > > Chapter 3:
      > > > For the next few years I was, for the most part, unwilling to go
      > > > back to New York, because during my disastrous first visit I
      > had
      > > > managed to grow a certain dislike for the place. A dislike for
      > the
      > > > noise, smell and the agitation which I sensed in the people.
      > > > Everything was great as long as we stayed in
      > Aspiration-Ground
      > > > or at PS 86, but as soon as we came out of there it was
      > horrible
      > > > and painful. Nevertheless, I was always happy that I had
      > come
      > > > to New York once my parents had forced me!
      > > >
      > > > Chapter 4:
      > > > As the years passed, and as I started to come more and
      > more
      > > > frequently, I started to find appreciative qualities in New York.
      > > > What I always needed was something that told me that New
      > York
      > > > could be appreciated, and that came one night many years
      > ago,
      > > > when someone gave that following talk by Sri Chinmoy as
      > > > prasad:
      > > >
      > > > "My New York
      > > >
      > > >
      > > >
      > > > I admire New York. My eyes are enamoured of her soul's
      > > > dynamic beauty. My New York is always astir and bustling.
      > Also,
      > > > is she marching in gigantic strides. Success emerges
      > before
      > > > her very eyes.
      > > > The dawn breaks each day feeling New York's heart
      > consumed
      > > > with new zeal. She hates to be absorbed in a fog of fruitless
      > > > brooding and empty inactivity. Moreover, she wants to be free,
      > > > eternally free. Never within her four corners will she tolerate
      > the
      > > > air of captivity. If it is part of her nature to express herself
      > > boldly, I =
      > > >
      > > > cannot blame her. To me, first of all she deserves this acme
      > of
      > > > self-confidence. And secondly, God wants New York to be
      > what
      > > > she is.
      > > > My New York has courage. My New York has confidence. The
      > > > problems of anxiety and uncertainty may cover the length and
      > > > breadth of the world, but my New York is an exception. Her
      > > > youthful certainty is my heart's delight.
      > > > When I think of my India, it seems that she has endless time.
      > If
      > > > she does not avail herself of an opportunity today, it will
      > return to
      > > > her tomorrow. But when I think of my New York, it seems that
      > she
      > > > is facing a unique opportunity at every moment. If she loses a
      > > > golden opportunity today, it will never return. New York knows
      > > > how to seize. She knows how to struggle. She knows how to
      > > > push forward. She knows how to exert herself, consciously
      > and
      > > > dynamically. Old blunders fail to plague her. Empty of fear is
      > her
      > > > heart, which ever grows into the fulfilment of her promising
      > > > future. Blessed is she.
      > > > My New York is not a challenge. She is not a competition.
      > She is
      > > > not a running race. She is not a victory. What then is she?
      > She is
      > > > a great Promise, wherein grows and flowers the infinite
      > > > Unknown."
      > > >
      > > > "God wants New York to be what she is," says Sri Chinmoy in
      > > > this talk, and after I read it, I started to appreciate New York
      > for
      > > > what she is.
      > > > After I read this talk I began to differentiate between the
      > agitation
      > > > and the dynamism of New York, and, of course I appreciated
      > the
      > > > dynamism. I began to see more and more good qualities in
      > > > New York, such as self-confidence, self-reliance and
      > freedom,
      > > > but something more happened: After I read this talk, New
      > York
      > > > started to have a place in my heart, and as the years passed
      > by,
      > > > that place grew and grew.
      > > > Today, for me to come to New York, is like coming to my
      > second
      > > > home - this has already been touched upon by several of you
      > > > here at Sri Chinmoy Inspiration. Sometimes, I would simply
      > be
      > > > dying to get back to New York. If I heard a car-alarm, which
      > used
      > > > to be very rare in Iceland, I would immediately think of New
      > York,
      > > > and start pining away to get back. Once I stood behind a bus
      > > > that took off suddenly and blessed me with its foul-smelling
      > > > fumes. This made me think of New York instantly, and I was
      > > > immediately transported to the seventh heaven of delight.
      > > >
      > > > Chapter 5:
      > > > My love for New York being safely anchored in my heart,
      > started
      > > > to spread out to America in general.
      > > > It took me a while to realize this, but little by little I
      started to
      > > > appreciate America in general, the American spirit, or, let us
      > say,
      > > > the good that America has to offer, for the very qualities that I
      > > > appreciated in New York, and more. So New York was the
      > bait,
      > > > and then I was reeled in to appreciate America in general.
      > > > The dynamism as a quality that I appreciate, I have already
      > > > mentioned.
      > > > But there is a certain self-confidence, a certain "don't think,
      > just
      > > > act" mentality that I also highly appreciate in America. Also
      > the
      > > > dislike for brooding and self-criticism, expressed in idioms
      > such
      > > > as "take it in stride" I find highly appreciative.
      > > > Finally, the freedom to be yourself, the freedom to rely on your
      > > > self, so inherent in American culture completely conquered
      > me. I
      > > > believe it was this freedom that prompted Walt Whitman to
      > > > respond to Emerson's plea for a true American poet with the
      > > > simple "I am the one!" statement.
      > > > Apart from Emerson and Whitman I could also mention Emily
      > > > Dickinson, Robert Frost, Abraham Lincoln and Ambrose
      > Bierce
      > > > as people that convinced me that Americans weren't as crazy
      > as
      > > > I thought at first. They're all right, really.
      > > >
      > > > Chapter 6:
      > > > The climax, where all this quiet change of heart was brought
      > to
      > > > my attention as a real epiphany, happened at the last
      > Christmas
      > > > trip.
      > > > First of all, Himangshu and I put up a highly successful
      > Abraham
      > > > Lincoln play, in which I played Lincoln! At first I had rejected
      > the
      > > > idea, thinking that only an American (and preferably a tall
      > person)
      > > > would do justice to the part. Especially, I felt very insecure
      > and
      > > > unworthy about doing it myself. Well, that was very European
      > > > and un-American of me! But anyway, we were unsuccessful
      > in
      > > > getting an American actor for the role, and in the end I took it
      > on
      > > > (and stood on top of a suitcase for most of the play, as those
      > of
      > > > you who were there may or may not have noticed!). But then
      > this
      > > > turned out to be such a fun play, and we got such a great cast
      > > > together that all my insecurity vanished. I have been in
      > several
      > > > plays before, but this was the only play I've ever been in, that I
      > felt
      > > > totally secure before going on stage - usually I'm quite
      > literally
      > > > shaking out of stage-fright. The reason was simply that I
      > was so
      > > > happy and so proud about every part of the play, and I was so
      > > > happy with every actor in the play. This may not be the best
      > play
      > > > that I've taken part in, but it was definately the play that gave
      > me
      > > > the greatest satisfaction.
      > > > Anyway, two days later, on my last day of the trip, Sri
      > Chinmoy,
      > > > unexpectedly, started complementing me for my
      > performance.
      > > > Naturally, I was swimming in the sea of delight. However, Sri
      > > > Chinmoy had maybe an even more meaningful comment in
      > > > store for me later that night. As he was walking to his car
      > after
      > > > that function, he turned to me and, in the last glimpse that I
      > saw
      > > > of him for that trip, he said: "You have so much appreciation
      > for
      > > > America."
      > > > And suddenly this simple statement brought it all home. It is
      > > > true, I thought to myself. America has been safely anchored
      > in
      > > > my heart, I have changed, or, if I may be so bold to say, I have
      > > > been transformed. I will never be a slave to everything
      > American,
      > > > this has not changed, but my prejudice has gone and been
      > > > replaced by healthy admiration, and I'm the richer man for it.
      > > >
      > > > Phew! That was a marathon-letter!
      > > >
      > > > But it's very therapeudic, here in Reykjavík, which is now
      > about to
      > > > experience an ocean of night and seasonal depression.
      > > > All the best to everyone,
      > > >
      > > > Suren
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