Kids Corner


The Glass House:
Letters From Espanola







Sometimes people tell me how much they enjoy my writing. Honestly, it always comes as a bit of a surprise - the reaction that people have.

Don't get me wrong. I have applied myself to learning the craft of writing. Thousands of hours have gone into it. But still, the way the written word can create bonds of intimacy between people who have never met astonishes me.

Lately, I have been musing as to why that is. People who have a kind of talent in one area of their lives may often feel deficient in others. Personally, I struggle a lot with everyday social interactions. As long as I know the social landscape and have clarity about where I fit into that landscape, I can relax. But it can sometimes take me a while to figure that out.

I think that is why I have poured so much time into becoming a writer in this life. Because I have an inherent shyness that makes some types of communication difficult. The written word gives me a space where I can think about what I want to say, why I want to say it, and craft the message so it hopefully will have the impact that I would like it to have.

When I examine my relationship with the everyday social reality that surrounds me, the image that comes to mind is a big glass house. The glass house is very roomy, very comfortable. And I live inside it, capable of seeing everything that goes on around me. Yet, the glass is incredibly thick. Unbreakable, actually.

And it creates a barrier to me getting out. I can see the swirl of life, of simple human communication and interactions, but cannot really participate. Only when people break away from that maelstrom of activity, and take time to sit outside my glass house and speak to me - that is when I can connect. Otherwise, I can watch it all but some invisible barrier blocks me from diving in.

Maybe some of you can relate to this image of the glass house. Are we shy? Introverted? Or maybe it is just a natural instinct to be incredibly careful and protective of oneself? That whirlwind of human society rests on the skill of communication.

I value words so much, it bothers me seeing words misused. Lying bothers me. Deception bothers me. Deliberate manipulation bothers me. Through speech, you can elevate a person, bring peace, grace and harmony to a situation.

But if a person has that attitude, that perspective, where do they fit in, socially? They really do not fit in anywhere.

I think about Nanak, the great Guru. And what a social misfit he was as a child. So misunderstood. He could not participate in the social reality that surrounded him. Traditional and historic attitudes about women confounded him. The caste system seemed simply ridiculous. Pundits and Mullahs showed their hypocrisy.

Guru Nanak would not speak the way others spoke. He would not agree to the social structure that he was born into. And in time, through the power of his meditative mind, he penetrated into the Cosmos to find a brand new song. To say what had never been said before. To speak in a way that could forge an entirely new social reality.

‘There is no Hindu. There is no Muslim‘.

Can you believe he said that at a time when there were ONLY Hindus and Muslims? People thought he had gone mad. They believed demons had taken possession of him.

But those words had so much power, we still repeat them five centuries later.

Sometimes, I think if Guru Nanak were walking among us in human form today, he would say, "There is no Sikh, either."

Words have so much power. They can make or break a relationship, a community, a nation. How we speak gives rise to how we live. Our life forms itself around our communication. But do we study communication? Study how we, ourselves, communicate?

What would happen, how might life be different, if we measured and considered every single word we spoke, or wrote, against the standard, "Will this serve, heal, inspire, or benefit others if I speak or write this?"

I think our modern form of politics would not survive.

I do not mean to criticize the social reality that exists. I know that it exists for a reason. Still, that shyness is there for me. I live in my glass house, watching it all, unsure of how to take part, crafting my little essays in the hopes that they can create the type of connection that I personally long for.

The heart-to-heart connection.

And how naively and innocently I wish all of us who call ourselves human would never communicate any other way. Most of what we say and speak in our lives will be forgotten.

But the Gurus left us this beautiful example. That when a human communicates from the Spirit of Love, they have a chance that those words will continue on, past their own earthly lives. Guru Nanak had an epiphany about life. He wrote a lot of songs to express that epiphany. All of us who relate to those songs call ourselves his Sikhs. His students. We are connected to each other because we have a love of those words. Words that build an intimacy between ourselves, the Guru and each other.

I think Guru Nanak had his own glass house that he lived in, at the beginning. His own sense of social isolation because his Spirit could not integrate with the world around him. But somewhere along the way, he became so free that not only could he interact with the various complexities of his social times, he actually managed to alter the flow of human interaction and communication.

He changed the trajectory of time and space itself.

Student of the word. Master of the word. Leaving the most sacred words behind to show us the path to a new life.

February 2, 2016

Conversation about this article

1: Ari Singh (Sofia, Bulgaria), February 02, 2016, 2:17 PM.

In His shabads, Guru Nanak says that a a man who is immersed in God is God-like. As He was immersed in God, He feared neither the Hindus nor the ruling Muslims. And unlike Mohammed, founder of Islam (who was often fleeing from his enemies, or Jesus Christ who was unable to defend himself when he was tortured) Guru Nanak was clearly enlightened with great spiritual power and therefore he could step on the toes of the mullahs without any fear!

2: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), February 03, 2016, 8:54 AM.

Guru Nanak changed the existing approach to life. His philosophy is "Sikhism" which exists today and will exist for ever. Philosophy begins when one learns to doubt the cherished beliefs of existing life. The Hindu anti-feminism and caste system produced dogmatism which went against universal truths. Freedom of thought and respect for Truth, whatever it may be, are the living signs of Sikhism.

3: Nawab Singh Heer (New York, USA), February 04, 2016, 8:33 AM.

Ek Ong Kaar ji: Guru Nanak's and Buddha's philosophy sends us two messages. One, when we live as individuals, we live in concrete houses and get depressed at times; when we live in Ik Ongkaar, then we live in bliss. Second,if we shed craving and aversion we can live constantly in bliss. Ek Ong Kaar lives in the middle path; great Guru will bless you with breaking down walls of the glass house too. If we introspect that we are pure souls, why must the soul be shy,or afraid or introvert. In your pure sense you are just beautiful. We all love and adore your writings. Your glass house is beautiful. God bless.

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Letters From Espanola"

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