Out of all the places in the world, this is where I grew up. Fontana to be exact. The Original 909 (yes, my business card still has my 909 phone number and I get a few chuckles from people in the know). It’s home. No matter how far I go, I will always come back, and I think it will feel more normal than anywhere else I live. It’s interesting, because living in an actual foreign country, you realize what it means to be a foreigner, a perpetual outsider. I think people like moving to big cities, like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, DC, in order to get away, get a fresh start, to start over. But do millions of foreigners migrating to a city make being a “foreigner” the new “local”? I don’t have a good answer, but I know it’s a question that a lot of smart people, are trying to understand. But as for me, there’s something incredibly special coming back to the people you grew up with, who know where you took root, to be understood in a way many people can’t even begin to fathom.
It’s funny, no matter how far I went, the people I grew up with out here were..are…always with me, and continue to be some of my best friends, and some of the smartest people I know. More than 10 years later, I still go back to them for life advice, insights, talking about the future, pretty much anything, I know I can count on them for sound feedback, and in a pinch, I know that they would be at my side, no questions asked. It’s such a rare quality, and yes, I found that out here in the I.E. I don’t know how many people can say they found that…anywhere really.
I suppose I was thinking about it because nowadays, my circles usually involve the upper echelons of society, the intellectual elite, the intelligentsia. Both in India and the US. And it feels so strange. In India, I can see this gaping hole between conversations that happen at the higher levels and what happens to the “average Indian”, mostly because I feel like a third party (who by no means is an expert but at least I know there is something going on there). But coming home, I see the same things happening in the US too. Which is probably why it is usually hard for me to participate in conferences (both in India and the US), or why I generally detest them. I just feel so..inadequate, and unable to intelligently talk about a situation which, for the most part, apparently I grew up in? Which still confuses me to no end, because I don’t really know what America I grew up in, but all I know it was different from a lot of people but not as bad as people think? I don’t know. But mostly, I just sit there and wonder how these people are so confidently talking about things which… I don’t know how to even begin to understand and breakdown? Is it the third party objectivity that allows them to do this? Arrogance? Ignorance? All of the above?
I don’t know. I suppose it’s one of those things that you file away, hopefully using the years to add on to, and to one day have a good answer.
2 thoughts on “I Call The Inland Empire Home”
I really appreciate your honest expression lately, brave Anu. You deserve a proper response. Your love is very idealistic, and good, and beautiful. It is the opposite of cynical. The self-discipline and purity in your heart are necessary but not sufficient conditions for these feelings. You’re certainly influenced by your parents’ values, but I recognize that no one told you to be this way, it’s just how you are. I assume it can be painful, but with righteousness you continue. This is not common: you are indeed breaking the rules. For example, I’ve gone on two dinner dates this year and the ladies were so cynical, it depressed me: there was no point in even speaking to them again. They did not know the meaning of mutual dependence. Too many people I meet are all smiles and good deeds on the outside, but personally they can offer very little love and friendship. They are selfish, and they are conditioned by modern philosophy to reject dependence out of hand – I can only serve make them angry. Discipline, purity, truthfulness and other ideals are difficult and painful to attain. Virtue is not unheard of: I have a few good friends, with the courage and independence to pursue clear, honest thinking. In fact I meet a few nice people every year.
I think you’re doing a good thing. As a rough definition, to be good is to work hard to add as much as possible to the happiness of others (including animals). But we know that performing good deeds does not help one to become a good person. How could it? By what mechanism would good deeds improve my character? I can propose a mechanism by which good deeds would damage my character. I can find counterexamples in increasingly selfish or jealous people who do great things. So deeds are neutral – you don’t better yourself through good deeds. You better yourself with honesty, and study, and clear thinking. If you better yourself, your actions will be better as well. The mechanism by which a better self leads to better deeds, is obvious. I think your goodness helps to explain the good work you’ve done so far.
If there is something I can ask of you, it’s a little more sympathy. I am very critical of people: you said critical things on here. It takes genuine sympathy to balance this out, or else we’ve failed. People are a product of their environment – we may not seek their association but we must be kind to them, and feel kindness. If you make someone angry a kind action is to go away.
I saw your book list: I don’t know how you will get through it. I insist, that from a few ideals and principles that can be written on a page, explained in a few hundred pages, and contemplated forever – one can derive the good things in any book. So I have a few favorites. The random musings of the people on your list are probably correct where they can easily be derived from basic principles, and mistaken when someone proceeds from a false assumption. Greek and Hindu classics are a source of these very correct and generalized principles. If you read the classics with a mind to understand what, for example, Plato is talking about, with clear thinking and virtues that most people don’t possess, you can understand exactly what he meant. You may find it more applicable than the theories from ‘scholars’. The understanding of physics itself derives from very few principles (like symmetry leading to conserved quantities), that could be listed on a page (some of these would appear absurd or crazy). Experiments, and theories that explain experiments, expand this in to lots of equations and mathematics. Engineers can sometimes expand this into technology. If you wish to, and that’s all I’m saying, if you wish to study the principles themselves, then you’re acting like the theoretical physicist who wants to know everything. (Re)discovering a principle from scratch… is a job for sages, not people engaged in profiteering.
Apologies, for my misjudgments, and for offense I may cause due to ignorance. If you were in California I’d be pleased to meet you. Cheers! ~Suneet
Thank you for the compliments,and you definitely bring up some good points I have to think more about!