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Wheel of Life

We run in countless spinning circles. Living for money, loving for company, performing for a raise, stealing for an opportunity, and dying for approval. We are hungry to fill an ever deepening void. We seem to be what Charles Darwin warned us to be – just highly evolved animals from lowly origins. Animals who wear suites to impress and drive Bentleys so others can obsess, but then we turn and defend our share by reassuring ourselves that people are merely envious by nature, but we fail to see our own selfish intention. I am guilty of such illusions, but I fear they are imprinted on my inherited genetics.

I am a hamster in someone’s cage, and to preoccupy myself I run in circles everyday. I’m not going to lie, I believe I’m getting ahead. This may sound crazy coming from a hamster, but I am arrogant as well. I am going somewhere far with a worthy cause. I do understand that this is a small cage with no escape, but I continue to run and collect “respect” on my wheel.

Its commonsense that nothing shall go when my time is up, but what is the use to sit and sulk so I continue to run on my wheel. As I run in circles, I forget about the cage and my looming predicament. My imagination comes alive and in some distant world, I have respect and wealth. Some “spiritual” hamsters call my dreams Maya, but it’s my only escape from this cage, so I continue to run after fame. Somehow I believe when I get there everything will be okay, but then I recall spinning on a wheel in place.

Running is draining and I know it will soon end, but whats the hurry to get ahead. I begin to slow down, and then I remember my situation at hand. I am a prisoner bound by evolution to a screwed up system. Although I understand that there will never be an end, I find satisfaction in running ahead. My dreams are back.

As humans bound to this dimension of reality, we must understand that the daily duties we perform are done to preoccupy our minds and quinch our thirst for the time being. The endless running and dying for wealth, fortune, and fame is not an option for alternatives are not offered in a cage. We are but hamsters fed to entertain.

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George Clason published, The Richest Man in Babylon, in 1926 to enlighten Americans with telling parables from the ancient city of Babylon. Surprisingly, the basic principles of gaining and maintaing wealth are the same today as they were in the lustrous city of Babylon many centuries ago before the birth of Christ. The acquisition of gold has tantalized man since the beginning of civilization for it has brought respect, honor, pleasure, safety, and security to many who have sought it. Even today, everyone must work to make a living. Each individual makes his share to spend, save, or invest. Making money is a means to survive in society, and it has been such since the beginning of cooperative society. Work is symbolized with the $ symbol, whether we like it or not.

In the book, Arkad, the richest man in babylon, explains his desire for wealth:

In my youth I looked about me and saw all the good things there were to bring happiness and contentment. And I realized that wealth increased the potency of all these. Wealth is a power. With wealth many things are possible. One may ornament the home with the richest of furnishings. One may sail the distant seas. One may feast on the delicacies of far lands. One may even build mighty temples for the Gods.

And, when I realized all this, I decided to myself that I would claim my share of the good things of life. I would not be one of those who stand from afar off, and enviously watching others enjoy. I would not be content to clothe myself in the cheapest raiment that looked respectable. I would be satisfied with the lot of a poor man. On the contrary, I would make myself a guest at the banquet of good things.”

If we all must work to make a living, why not work hard and smart. There is nothing wrong with hard work where the fruit of our labor is wealth. Arkad makes a great point by saying that he would not settle for less than what he was capable of. Every human being is capable and has the potential to do many great things with the infinite energy of passion, desire, and purpose. Money is an ends to a mean which makes life easier to lead without the clout of living bill to bill.

As being a Sikh, I am taught from religion and commonsense that money will not bring eternal satisfaction, contentment, happiness, or peace. It is but a trap of falsehood in the overall illusion of Maya, and I do agree with this point. However, Guru Nanak strongly believed that a spiritual life should not be led in isolation. It is important for a person to raise and care for family while working for an honest and truthful living. Hard work has never be denied nor looked down upon in Sikhism as long as the individual remains free of greed, attachment, or ego. Humility is the main ingredient to success in all aspects of life.

Socially, culturally, and mentally money plays a large role in the ease of life. It does not make life free of struggle, but a surplus of money makes it more bearable; many doors and opportunities swing open to the whims of wealth. Hence, it is in the interest of wise men to learn the fundamental laws of gold. Those who receive money without guidance or wisdom lose it quickly, because the source is not renewing. Wealth comes from an ongoing stream of funds from income, investment, and interest.

Arkad had five vital gold (wealth) laws :

The First Law of Gold – Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will save not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.

( One tenth or more of one’s income should be set aside for investment. A budget should be instated to constantly keep one dollar out of every ten for investments to ensure future security and wealth. It is extremely important to skip out on some of life’s appealing lures, in order to ensure a future of wealth gain. Discipline is the difference between a fat purse or a lean one.)

The Second Law of Gold – Gold laboreth diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying even as the flocks of the field.

(The money saved must be working for you. It must become your working slave through investment. The principle will begin to multiply in sound investments giving rise to new generations of wealth who will also work with you to make more. Do not divert this wealth for spending until the money has become an army working for you. Each dollar created is one more dollar working to create more through effective measures. The stream must be large and fast enough to feed itself.)

The Third Law of Gold – Gold clingeth to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.

(Invest with the advice of those who are successful and honorable. Trust is a shaky word, but let their checkbook do the talking for the man. An experienced man in any field will be the one to seek during times of investment. His advice is free and worth much money and future safety.)

The Fourth Law of Gold – Gold slippeth away from the man who invests it in bussinesses or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep.

(Do not invest in some area where you have no experience or prior knowledge, because loss will be your lesson. Stick with what you have learned and studied through experience. A man who studies the body for ten years, a doctor, should not invest blindly into making a new restaurant chain unless he is also a chief.)

The Fifth Law of Gold – Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who followeth the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers who trust it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

(Amazing returns and unbelievable profits are fit for disaster. Something that sounds to good to be true is probably just that too good to be true. Let the Madoff scandal during this year be a reminder not to fall for the stairs. Be safe and keep your money bound to consistency and security. Safer margins for growth are much healthier in the long run than blind faith in huge profits. Huge risk = HUGE LOSS or miraculous luck.)

Be smart with money, and let it work for you. Patience is the key along with the right eye to see opportunity when it comes knocking on the door. If you save that one tenth you might just have the capital it takes to take advantage of the lifetime opportunity when it comes.

Let ninety percent of your income be the chips unto which to enjoy and cherish the goods of life, and let the remaining ten percent go to work for the future wealth for yourself and the family. Make yourself a guest to the grand banquet of life, and enjoy all their is to offer by playing smart and wise with wealth or else be left watching others enviously. For myself, I am not the type to watch.

A Grim Economic Outlook

The economy in America is worsening, and it seems like everything that could have gone wrong is going wrong. I am not an economist nor do I have much experience in the field, but whatever knowledge I do have is obvious and conclusive. I understand that the economy is a vastly complex and intricate system, so I will try to touch on the surface of how I view the economy with my limited knowledge in hand, and the way it is affecting most Americans today. I innately approach the issue with my own bias and a cynical view of government, particularly the Bush administration. However, it is vital to understand that both Democrats and Republicans are the wealthiest men and women in the country, and it is no surprise that the elitist politicians are immune to the turbulent economy. The economy becomes a hot button issue on the campaign trail, and patching up economic problems with temporary bandages happens so often under the intense watch of lobbyists. The government is now run by the rich for the rich. Do not get me wrong though, because I believe in keeping America as capitalistic as possible, because I truly believe that less government is more government. Although I believe this to be true, it is unfair to lie and deceive the American people with monopolies, cartels, price gauging, high gas prices, credit crunch, home foreclosures, Social Security, healthcare, taxes, regulation, unions, outsourcing, and the decline of the US dollar. The harbingers of disaster are here, and the forecast ahead looks grim and dreary.

America is addicted to gasoline, and the addiction makes America especially vulnerable and dependent on dangerous suppliers like the Saudis in the Middle East. The world is growing at a phenomenal pace, and the universe is no longer revolving around the United States of America. Europe, India, and China are the biggest consumers of gasoline and in developing countries the need for gas is growing exponentially with each passing year. Strained relations in the Middle East and raging wars against Islamic nations have cast a dark shadow in our fragile links to oil rich countries. Sanctions against dangerous countries like Iran become impossible due to other strong countries dependent on Iranian oil production, and this begins to create suspicious alliances connecting countries like Russia, China, and Iran. With oil being a finite resource and the demand only growing, war in the coming years over oil rich nations may become a cause for another world war. Gasoline is used as energy in every single aspect of American life and consumerism. As goes the gas price, so goes the price of just about everything else. Today I am paying four dollars and twenty cents a gallon for my car, and four dollars and seventy cents for one loaf of buttermilk bread. If this is not insanity what is it. Fortunately, the head of our government is run by oil company investors like Bush and Cheney and I am sure that the record high profits by oil companies is not hurting them. This is a scary thought indeed. Gas directly hikes up the bottom line of all companies and is then passed down to the consumer in the form of higher prices. Gasoline consumption also ruffles the feathers of green house gases and the effect on the environment in terms of global warming.

I am not sure if global warming is a reality in its entirety, but there is no question that pollution has damaged the environment beyond repair, and greenhouse gases are to blame when fossil fuels are burned. The environmental burden of industry transitions straight into intensive regulation limiting and raising the cost production of companies, and this too trickles down to the consumer. Any company that must produce a large quantity at low prices frets over the proposition of any regulation or union empowerment. When the government pushes regulation, capitalism collides with intervention. In addition to regulation, unions force companies to pay high wages, prepare safer conditions, and cater to profit stripping demands by the workforce. Regulation plus unionization leads to a harsh atmosphere of minimal profit thus propelling the longevity of outsourcing. Outsourcing allows American companies to move their low skill manual labor to developing nations where unions and regulation are nonexistent. Bigger profits become the stimulant for leaving America to more fertile grounds for cheaper production. Are unions and environmental regulations to blame for outsourcing? The simple answer is yes, but there needs to be more incentives for American companies to keep America a producing nation, and not a dependent one. The world becomes a dangerous place when everything we buy reads, “Made in China.” It is fatal to think that the brain will reside in America, and the operation in other countries. Not being a self-sufficient and independent country makes imports the pumping heart of our country’s economy as exports no longer create a superpower presence in the world. The only solution to once again reclaim America’s powerful production lies in the innovative advancement of technology and alternative fuel.

Ethanol is the new alternate fuel bandwagon which many want to get on to make a quick buck on hype, but the crux of the problem lies in its inefficiency and the impossibility to change the infrastructure to make it work. It still does not hold the golden ticket to salvation, because it would take millions of acres to supply the country’s demand, and that would turn the crop from food to fuel. In the face of a world food shortage that could mean higher food prices and more unavailability of food on the global scale. In countries where food becomes a problem and rationing occurs, food can easily become the log of revolution and the flames that ensue the cause for mass chaos. There is little doubt in my mind that the oil special interest groups are poking holes in the alternative fuel debate for their own benefit, and that stains the glass of objectivity and future change quite a bit. This is where the government needs to utilize its grand power to pour money into research and development, because this task may be too risky for private companies to fund.

The collapse of the housing market bubble has also lead to a decline in consumer consumption and confidence. Government seems to regulate where it causes harm, and oversees regulation where it may help. The home and credit markets were a huge oversight on the government’s part as sub prime loans were being handed out to everyone just for a profit although many were not in a position to sustain the home. Then when the equity on their homes dissolved with the collapse of the housing market, so did the bank’s need to reclaim their money in bad investments. Now home foreclosures are skyrocketing and people are losing their homes left and right, so what does the government do to help the people? The answer is simple, they bail out big Wall Street companies like Bear Stearns and let the people scamper into rental and foreclosure. A government for the rich by the rich indeed. People who speculated or bought a house although they could not afford it are to blame, but so is the government for allowing this to blindly happen.

The future for the new generation also looks meek as we will continually pour our money into a sinking social security scam, and not even receive a cent. Retirement is now becoming a distant dream, because for many it will never even exist. Those who procrastinate and prolong keeping a private savings account for retirement will repent as they will find themselves working into their seventies and beyond. The economy is becoming less and less humane and individually supportive as globalization is creating a fast paced epidemic, and liquid cash goes astray in numerous credit lines and frays. Taxes continue to keep chipping away more and more by every year, because the government cannot keep a lid on its enormous spending and eventual waste. I believe that the fair tax should be enacted to keep a level playing field, so corporate and illegal loophole can be curbed with a blanket sales tax excluding necessities like food and clothing. People must pay a higher price for gas, groceries, retirement, taxes, mortgages, and now healthcare can also take all of one’s work away in an instant. For an uninsured person in America, one heart attack or car accident can get so expensive that it can cause one to lose everything.

The most important issue affecting the future health care delivery in the United States of America is the large number of uninsured individuals who put themselves and their families in harms way. The high cost of American healthcare has left many helpless individuals vulnerable to big corporate insurance and pharmaceutical companies who accumulate enormous profits through inflated costs. This uninsured dilemma prevents over forty million American citizens from receiving regular check-ups and preventive treatments, leaving millions at risk of developing many complications that could have been prevented. Families are forced to pay huge mounds of bills at the expense of their family member being uninsured. This problem is increasing with the passing of every year and will surely pose a problem in my future medical practice in the United States of America. Healthcare should be affordable and accessible for all, and those who cannot manage to afford it should be helped by the government and the more fortunate. Until the uninsured obstruction is patched up the United States healthcare system will remain broken and insensitive to the needs and wants of the people who rightfully strive for a healthier life. No one should be denied the right of health and happiness. It should not be a political or economic issue, but a humane one.

On a global level America has even dropped in status with the dollar plummeting in its rate of exchange. The European and Canadian currencies have soared above our own, illustrating just another example of how America is slowly losing its shimmer of supremacy in the world today. The dollar losing its value also has a direct affiliation with higher gasoline prices as well as soaring consumer goods prices. We are indeed in a sticky economic time, and the swells of a bad tide are steadily rising toward the shore, and when some economic analysts use terminology like recession or depression it often angers me. On CNN Special Investigation Unit, an economic analyst made a good point by saying that a recession is when your neighbor loses his or her home, and a depression is when you lose your own home. The terminology may be hazy, but the truth is far more powerful that America is indeed venturing down the wrong path, but I am reassured with the innovative and resourceful American attitude. Every country has its ups and downs, but it is vital to acknowledge them and move forward as quickly as possible with permanent and sustaining solutions.

My buddy, Spenser, and I were watching the movie, Untraceable, at about midnight last night. He had already seen the movie, and told me to pay-per-view it. Towards the beginning of the movie, he hinted at some clues that I would have missed if it were not for him so keenly highlighting them. I was entranced in the movie, reality melted away. My fears were real, my anxiety visible, and my frustration evident with the suspenseful plot. For example, the feeling one gets when the main character walks into a fatal situation they could have easily escaped if not for an innovative script writer.

As the protagonist walked up to her car with the killer obviously in it. I cussed at the actor saying, “that bitch deserves to die,” but inside I felt scared, worried, and anxious at what was to come. Then a thought hit me. It was sort of like life itself, when looking in retrospect, some decisions just seem plain stupid; however, the consequences are real. I turned to look at my buddy laying on the couch behind me – he was asleep. Things never changed.

I had known Spenser since the third grade when I had first moved to the little old town in California’s central valley. More than seventy-thousand people now, but I always saw it as a quiet little town. He was the popular one in the class for he was rich, good looking, and had everything any little kid ever wanted. His father was a well-known business man in town, and he had an intimidating quality about him. He owned a few restaurants, and had just remodeled a gorgeous contemporary home. Spenser’s mother was a very generous, homely mother, who put the world at his finger tips. The all American family I suppose. On the other hand, here I was a little insecure Indian boy in the third grade catapulted into a whole new environment where everything was so foreign and new. New kids, new town, new people, new lifestyles. I had always liked stability and routine. Our friendship began on a long rocky start in Ms. Wilsey’s third grade class.

He avoided me, and I him. He bragged about all he had, and I had nothing to brag about. My parents had always tried to give me everything and then some more. When I would tell my friends about the new Pokemon card I got in my booster pack, Spenser would interject and say he had five of the same kind. Everyone would flutter to him, and I would stand there embezzled of my two minutes of fame. I was used to being the blessed kid in class especially after living in Madera, a low income town in the lower part of the valley. My father, a physician, had just started his own practice when we decided to move. We rented a small house in an okay neighborhood which was practically missing a backyard if it were not for the three feet of grass separating the back sliding door from the fence. It was going to be our house until we found a home suitable in town.

I would wake up in the morning and walk in front of our little house in the morning for the bus to come alongside my mother, and there he would be looking out of the window – happy. Yeah I knew I had nothing and back then, to be honest, I really did not mind, but he just had so much. Inside I wanted to have more in life like cooler friends, nice cars, a big house, a pet dog, and a lifestyle worthy of envy. Yet who was I to change my own destiny. Until that day came, if it ever did, I would enjoy a mediocre life just like the rest, and the green Ford Windstar van overwhelmed by the mile meter.

Then within a few months of saving and looking around, we bought our first house in a nicer part of town, the Peacock Estates area. It was not a mansion from Beverly Hills by any means, but it was one of the bigger houses in town. A little over three thousand square feet and a roomy two story layout, but a tad bit too dark. It was huge at first. I now had my own room, and a backyard that captured my imagine. It reminded me of a scene straight out of the Jurassic Park. A jungle landscape neatly kept with ferns, maple trees, and beautiful ground-cover. We were finally living life the way it should be lived from a small child’s perspective. My dads’ friends’ houses were still much larger and fancier, but for us it was a great enough change. Life began to change as money beckoned on our door as my father’s practice began picking up. Friends were easier to woo, and anything I wanted was in my grasp. People began to notice me at school. I was fitting in.

My sister, Simran, and I buckled up our bikes the day after moving in and headed toward the end of the cul-de-sac when out of nowhere Spenser showed up with his older cousin Jessica. He looked at me, surprised, and then I knew that we were going to be friends for years to come, and many stories would since be minted in our minds. We soon became very close friends and we often joked to Spenser himself about adopting him for he had become part of our family. He lived at our house. We did mischievous things to piss of the neighbors, got into loads of trouble, lit things on fire, and always found new adventures in the different seasons of the year. So many stories and tales unfolded and always Spenser was there – a great friend. Our bond grew thick threw Elementary and into Junior high. High School came and cliques were born, but we still managed to keep our friendship afloat.

During my Junior year in High School we finally completed our dream home in an acre lot, surrounded by ten acres of luscious almond trees. The house was a dream come true started from paper to foundation. It was gorgeous at about nine thousand square feet with a pool, tennis court, prayer room, two gates, three dogs, an exercise room, game room, office, and so much more. I had money now, and people knew it. I was changed not only by the money but also by the new image it brought, and I soon forgot about the old. Memories seemed strange and foreign; my thoughts then seemed like someone else’s.

As I lay last night at the age of eighteen, I turned to look at Spenser sleeping on the couch behind me in the moon lit playroom, and the memories came flooding back. That guy next to me encompassed so many memories that I have had in my life. It felt like a time machine laying there so old, so many new worries, college on the horizon, new born insecurities, woman, and all. Back then we were so free, but now so much had changed. He was different – older, mature, and independent. I lay there thinking about how much life had given me, and many thing that I would have never have even expected nor imagined. I had been through some tough ups and downs in my life prior, but now life had reached a golden age where peace and prosperity had hit my family with overwhelming force, and I was thankful for everything, but I also missed so much.

I missed the simplicity and innocence of growing up without worry and leading a life of mischief without severe consequences. A life given to childhood. Not heeding many responsibilities, and dreaming of futures unshackled by the scathing blunt of reality. I was free, and now as each year passes I change. I am beginning to see black and white, habits are beginning to harden, relationships are becoming more fragile, egos are overcoming character, and my life is now a resume to persuade others. Do not get me wrong I am still young and happy, but compared to the openness and confidence I had then – I am missing a lot today.

Another thing that scared me while I lay on the couch that night was the depth by which I remembered such simple memories. Perhaps, things I would have never found worth remembering as I was doing them so many years ago. They brought smiles, grins, and frowns to my face in that dark room as I lay there staring at the ceiling fan flying by in circles just as my life seemed to be going. Life was speeding forth in what seemed to be a pre-planned circle, but the precision and predictability of life is much more bleak for it can change for the best or the worst in a instant. I knew the chance of a bolt flying of the fan was close to none, but I was not so sure about life. What scared me most were the memories that were beginning to get damaged by the strain of time for they were beginning to fade to darkness. I wanted to keep them. I wanted to live some moments as a child undisturbed again. I never wanted to grow up as a child, but now it was not an option. My reality of being eighteen was no blind shot into the future imagining what life would be as I graduated sixth grade, it was now my reality. Time did not wait for me to grow up.

I sat there thinking about the inevitable future of me being twenty-five, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy. I should add a big “if” in front of all those dreadful numbers, because life is just an “if” surrounded by a “l” and an “e.” I knew I would be different and in the future, I would wish to have my youth back again. I would wish to think back to when I was eighteen, and then wonder how could I have been so free, unrestricted, dumb, stupid, optimistic, negative, and so on. How could life be so good? Would I be a good father? Would I achieve my goals when I grew up to become a successful physician with money growing on trees? A beautiful wife with little boys well rounded and pre-accepted to institutions like Yale and Harvard. Would I leave behind a legacy? Would some event take my life in my early years? Would some devastating circumstance hinder my mental stability and rob me of who I thought I am? So many variables decide my fate and future, but I find my trust in putting my destiny in the hands of He who makes it all happen, God. In his mercy I trust.

My future is unknown and that is the part that frightens me the most. For my past has become a sheer breeze in my mind that blows every so often to rekindle frozen moments in time. However, one day my reality will be my future sitting back, and looking at a fading past I call my present.

I am here, and I am now. Tomorrow this man who is typing these keys will be dead forever, and only resurrected by the powerful whims of the past. When I try to resurrect and recall the man who is typing these very keys in the future, I will never be able to fully recreate the thoughts, emotions, and present feelings that were once here as I wrote this story. I will become a stranger to myself for every second that passes a new conscious is born, and another memory is murdered to the depths of the mind. Some will breeze back many years from now, and others will never be retrieved nor recalled. Hence, the death of a mortal is forever a cycle of life.

The past is just a horribly sketched fantasy, and the future a grimmer reality projected by the mind as accurate as the script of a movie. Live in the present for that is the only time you are really you.

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