Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Clocks Within: For us They Tick

In an uncertain life, time is the only certainty. Every tick of the clock represents an opportunity fulfilled or lost; or a risk faced or overcome. In an ideal lifespan, the heart ideally beats marginally faster than the seconds through which a clock ticks. There thus seems to be a correlation of destiny between the beat of life and the tick of a clock; if at all, the higher beat of the heart signifies the opportunity for the human being to accelerate development over time. Yet, we do not seem to realize the existence of the clocks within us that shape us into what we are. If we understand the nature of the clocks that tick in us probably we would be nearer to what we could be. As we grow in life, we desire everything to happen in a predictable clockwork precision to our advantage and are often perplexed and anguished as to why things happen in an unpredictable volatile manner to our disadvantage. The outcome of life is a function of several factors that are within us and several other external factors that impact us. We should obviously seek to manage the internal factors rather than worry about factors beyond our control. Understanding the clocks that tick within us is necessary to have our lives chime to peace and harmony; rather than to advantage or disadvantage.

There exist five clocks in a human being that attain a level of development, maturity and even atrophy as one grows in age. These are: biological clock, intellectual clock, emotional clock, economic clock and philosophical clock. Each of the clocks guides the human body, mind, heart, ego and the self. The first three are clearly physiological, and part genetic and part cultivated while the balance two are cultivated with a major diversity of purpose. The first three clocks enable our performance in the world while the economic clock determines the ego state and the philosophical clock influences the spiritual state. Reflecting on the teachings of the great Hindu sage Adi Shankaracharya (born 788 CE), the body, the mind or even the heart do not singly or collectively define the self, and much less the ego or spiritual state. Brahman or the self, according to Adi Shankara or the various great Hindu scriptures represents the ultimate, universal, non-divisible and non-quantifiable soul. The author of this blog post makes no pretence whatsoever that he has any explanation or learning he could offer beyond what is in the scriptures, and their various scholastic interpretations. On the other hand, the author through this blog post seeks to develop a simple paradigm that relates the march of time to the clocks that lie within us, and often tick so weakly that we do not notice them or so strongly that we are overwhelmed by them.

Multiple operating systems

The human body that drives the mechanics, the mind or the brain that together with the heart drives all its workings — memory, perception, reason, the stew of hormones that results in our emotions — constitutes our human system . It is, in other words, the “hardware” of human existence. The human ego is what governs the human hardware — the “software” of human existence, our very own “operating system,” unique to each of us. The human spirit is the “electricity” or the “energy” that animates us. Together, these form infinite personalities of physiological and psychological combinations that set apart each of the billions of human beings that exist in the universe. Mercifully, however, there exist broad bands of personality types that are shaped by centuries of human evolution into acceptable yet differentiated personalities. For each, however, the evolution into a personality type that both shapes the aspirations and drives the achievements as well as the overages and shortfalls is both a happenstance determined at the birth or a quest that continues all through the life.

In order to develop a paradigm with which we the humans can understand, reflect on and manage this complex process, this blog post proposes the Paradigm of the Five Clocks that all of us need to be aware of. Each of the clocks which reflects each facet of the holistic human system comprising the body, mind, heart, ego and spirit is also hypothesized to have three levels of development. For example, biological ability could be driven by genesis, wellness and regeneration. Intellectual competence could be characterized by awareness, mastery and creativity. Emotional sensitivity could be reflected in three varying levels of neutrality, mutuality, and empathy. Economic drive could be individualistic, organizational or social. Philosophical approach could be fatalistic, introspective or spiritualistic. The chimes of the five clocks could dominate each personality in different proportions while each of the clocks could have varying capabilities or profiles. We can consider our clocks to interact in potentially infinite combinations to determine how unique and influential or how common and influenced each of us is in the universe. But, for human development such a complex network is not a relevant model, either for theoretical appreciation or practical application.

Do clocks have their time?

If the paradigm is interpreted in terms of ancient theology one may say that each of the clocks has its time and also its professional relevance. It is considered that a strong emphasis on the biology in the baby and growth years automatically leads to the development of a healthy body, mind and heart while there is time and need in the later years for a better awareness of one’s ego and a transition to philosophical maturity. It is also considered that persons engaged in different professions must be encouraged to focus on that aspect of the five developmental forces that is relevant for the profession in an overwhelming manner. Possibly, this paradigm was relevant in ages when life had been community-centric and taken as if ordained by birth. In today’s globalized world which knows no borders and in the competitive arena where multiple faculties are required to sustain and grow, an ability to think and develop in a holistic manner becomes relevant. This need is enhanced all the more by the inverted food pyramid, sedentary life style, and materialistic living that characterize contemporary times.

The well-evolved and well-placed human being of the day needs each of the clocks in an equal measure to develop into a holistic being who can enjoy the uncertainty of life with a reasonable amount of certainty. The only variation would be the level that characterizes each of the clocks. The ideal prescription is to have each of the five clocks work in us, and for us, in equal measure even as we try to attain the highest level of evolution in each of the facets. As one parents one’s children or as the family members influence each other, the overriding emphasis must be on the equal influence of the five clocks. The way a traditional Hindu family brought up its children and shaped itself over the centuries in India in a meta-physical mix of a healthy and happy joint family system did indeed support such an equal and balanced development. The components of this living comprised balanced natural diet, its richness compensated by hard work, providing the requisite biological strength, community living which enabled mental strength and emotional sensitivity, joint family system which provided economic strength and continuous religious activities including elderly counsels, celebrations and festivities which brought about philosophical maturity.

Listening and learning

The fundamental foundation of the paradigm is the recognition of the importance of the five clocks, each of which signifies the body, mind, heart, ego and self or spirit. That each is important, equally and equitably, is a lesson that can be learnt with benefit at any stage of life. However, it would require probably more than a professional mentor or guide; it would require a holistic Guru, again not merely a philosopher or religious teacher. The new age Gurus, be it Sri Sri Sri Ravi Shankar or Jaggi Vasudev, are probably contributing a lot to redirect and re-stabilize the society and help individuals discover the balance in life. The concept of clocks, as we all know, is that not only they draw attention but over time make people be ready to accept their chimes and alarms. The concept of clocks is also relevant in that the focus on seconds and minutes makes us all realize the importance of time. Smaller unitization of our life minimizes the risk of waste and maximizes the opportunity of learning.
Life offers us the opportunity to constantly learn new things.

This is one of the most ignored aspects of life in today’s world of focused learning and quick returns. The foundations of good learning are openness, observation, absorption, adaptation and application. Learning is thus a living process and not merely a school or college based transaction, where effort is rewarded first by marks and later by a job. Learning is also a stretch process. As each of the levels for each of the five clocks demonstrates there is an increasingly challenging task involved in upgrading oneself to the next higher level of capability, and competence. At the very basic level one can take life as is given or as it comes. One may attribute wellbeing to genetics, peg intellect at awareness level, be neutral on emotion, follow the dominant ethic of the society and in the overall be fatalistic on life and living. By stretch, however, most people can move to the next stage of wellness in biology, mastery in intellect, mutuality in emotion, sufficiency in economics and philosophical introspection. Being at this mid-tier itself makes a human being highly successful and reasonably iconic to guide and lead himself or herself, and others, on the right path.

The complete and perfect person

In Sanskrit, the mother language of India, and in many Indian languages there is a concept of ‘paripoornatha’. The concept of perfection in English somewhat comes close to that, although to describe a person who has attained paripoornatha, we would need to describe him or her as a complete and perfect person, and still fall short. Semantics apart, a person who listens to all the five clocks respectfully and follows their tic diligently and, in addition, super-stretches himself or herself to operate in the third highest level in each case would qualify to be the complete and perfect person. This means that the person should be yogic in life capable of regenerating the body components (except, of course, to the extent that one can humanly, as no one is immortal), creating new bodies of knowledge (except to the extent that not all knowledge can only be innovative), having high emotional sensitivity (except to the extent that one cannot be solely unilateral in empathy), achieving economic surplus (except to the extent that no one can aggrandize all wealth to oneself) and almost in a state of spiritualistic nirvana, of doing selfless duty (except to the extent that the familial needs also require to be fulfilled first, even going by the scriptures).

Super-stretch is easily possible if it is taken up as a way of life from the childhood. Not to despair, it should be feasible to target super-stretch at any stage of life. It requires, as mentioned earlier, the right guru to guide and effective time management. Focus on stress-free lifestyle and balanced diet would place the person on the right wellness path while choice of appropriate executive education programs would sharpen the intellect. Regeneration is entirely possible; else how does the body regain its earlier form even after a surgery? Similarly, brain can wire itself progressively to higher levels of complexity and intellectual attainment. Listening to the heart could provide the needed emotional quotient. Far more things are achieved through collaboration and empathy than with control and command. Resolving to be economically self-sufficient on an ethical basis, despite the hurdles and temptations, would reinforce the ego state while earning to share would enhance the stature as a responsible social citizen. Understanding the unavoidable nature of highs and lows in life would provide the requisite equanimity to appreciate the larger purpose in life. There could be several paths to re-clock oneself in this manner but doubtless, an enabling ecosystem and a partnering guru would make the journey of super-stretch truly fulfilling in a holistic sense.

Complete perfection and competitive/comparative advantage

Authoring this as a post in the blog dedicated to strategy and management, the author would like to position the paradigm of five clocks as a concept that goes beyond human or social development and contributing directly to firm level competitive advantage and nation level comparative advantage. Improved health levels boost productivity at firm level and reduce healthcare costs at national level. Enhanced competencies lead to sharper development and manufacturing edge at firm level and position India as an inventive country. Greater empathetic management would lead to greater harmony and synergy both at entity and nation levels. Economic capabilities enhance gross savings, gross domestic capital formation and gross national product. Spiritual strength helps the corporate, political and administrative leaders overcome crises in a resolute manner, be the leaders of destiny and enhance the image of the country in a world-leading manner.

The above, in turn, would require the Indian central and state governments to expand public and private healthcare services and upgrade educational infrastructure substantially. Administrators, human resource experts and corporate leaders would need to demonstrate the power of empathy through social responsibility initiatives. Leaders need to focus on generation of wealth for public good. Sage leaders and senior citizens need to bring out their wisdom from closed family circles into larger social forums. In essence, India, while integrating the strengths and benefits of modern development, must also travel back in time to its hoary past when it was in the forefront of ayurveda , astrology and mathematics,” sadbhavana” (noble thoughts), selfless service, wealth creation and sublime philosophy for the right clocks to tick and be heard by the current generation again. The congruence of a great past, a promising present and an exciting future is possible. For example, on this day of October 2, 2011, the 143rd birth anniversary of the great son of India, Mahatma Gandhi, his teachings, highly relevant even the vastly changed times, signify the fusion of the past, present and future for greater societal good.

Posted by Dr CB Rao on October 2, 2011

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