Friday, February 27, 2015

3 Things Could Destroy Humanity

Stephen Hawking's new thinking that 3 Things Could Destroy Humanity


                                                                                     Stephen Hawking 






Stephen Hawking may be most famous for his work on black holes and gravitational singularities, but the world-renowned physicist has also become known for his outspoken ideas about things that could destroy human civilization.

Hawking suffers from a motor neuron disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which left him paralyzed and unable to speak without a voice synthesizer. But that hasn't stopped the University of Cambridge professor from making proclamations about the wide range of dangers humanity faces — including ourselves.


Here are a few things Hawking has said could bring about the demise of human civilization. [End of the World? Top Doomsday Fears]

Artificial intelligence

Hawking is part of a small but growing group of scientists who have expressed concerns about "strong" artificial intelligence (AI) — intelligence that could equal or exceed that of a human.

"The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race," Hawking told the BBC in December 2014. The statement was in response to a question about a new AI voice-synthesizing system that Hawking has been using.

Hawking's warnings echo those of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, who has called AI humanity's "biggest existential threat." Last month, Hawking, Musk and dozens of other scientific bigwigs signed an open letterdescribing the risks, as well as the benefits, of AI.

"Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls," the scientists wrote in the letter, which was published online Jan. 11 by the Future of Life Institute, a volunteer organization that aims to mitigate existential threats to humanity.

But many AI researchers say humanity is nowhere near being able to develop strong AI.

"We are decades away from any technology we need to worry about," Demis Hassabis, an artificial intelligence researcher at Google DeepMind, told reporters this week at a news conference about a new AI program he developed that can teach itself to play computer 

games

. Still, "It's good to start the conversation now," he added.

Human aggression

If our machines don't kill us, we might kill ourselves. Hawking now believes that human aggression might destroy civilization.

The physicist was giving a tour of the London Science Museum to Adaeze Uyanwah, a 24-year-old teacher from California who won a contest from VisitLondon.com. When Uyanwah asked, "What human shortcomings would you most like to alter?" Hawking responded:

"The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all," The Independent reported.

For example,a major nuclear war would likely end civilization, and could wipe out the human race, Hawking added. When asked which human quality he would most like to magnify, Hawking chose empathy, because "it brings us together in a peaceful, loving state."

Hawking thinks space exploration will be important to ensuring the survival of humanity. "I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be space, and that it represents an important life insurance for our future survival, as it could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonizing other planets," Cambridge Newsreported.

Alien life

But Hawking had made ominous warnings even before these recent ones. Back in 2010, Hawking said that, if intelligent alien life exists, itmay not be that friendly toward humans.

"If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans," Hawking said during an episode of "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking," a show hosted by the Discovery Channel, reported The Times, a U.K.-based newspaper.

Advanced alien civilizations might become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach, Hawking said. "If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?"



From the threat of nefarious AI, to advanced aliens, to hostile humans, Hawking's outlook for humanity is looking pretty grim.
read original article from:

http://www.livescience.com/49952-stephen-hawking-warnings-to-humanity.html 

3 Things Could Destroy Humanity

Stephen Hawking's new thinking that 3 Things Could Destroy Humanity


                                                                                     Stephen Hawking 






Stephen Hawking may be most famous for his work on black holes and gravitational singularities, but the world-renowned physicist has also become known for his outspoken ideas about things that could destroy human civilization.

Hawking suffers from a motor neuron disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which left him paralyzed and unable to speak without a voice synthesizer. But that hasn't stopped the University of Cambridge professor from making proclamations about the wide range of dangers humanity faces — including ourselves.


Here are a few things Hawking has said could bring about the demise of human civilization. [End of the World? Top Doomsday Fears]

Artificial intelligence

Hawking is part of a small but growing group of scientists who have expressed concerns about "strong" artificial intelligence (AI) — intelligence that could equal or exceed that of a human.

"The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race," Hawking told the BBC in December 2014. The statement was in response to a question about a new AI voice-synthesizing system that Hawking has been using.

Hawking's warnings echo those of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, who has called AI humanity's "biggest existential threat." Last month, Hawking, Musk and dozens of other scientific bigwigs signed an open letterdescribing the risks, as well as the benefits, of AI.

"Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls," the scientists wrote in the letter, which was published online Jan. 11 by the Future of Life Institute, a volunteer organization that aims to mitigate existential threats to humanity.

But many AI researchers say humanity is nowhere near being able to develop strong AI.

"We are decades away from any technology we need to worry about," Demis Hassabis, an artificial intelligence researcher at Google DeepMind, told reporters this week at a news conference about a new AI program he developed that can teach itself to play computer 

games

. Still, "It's good to start the conversation now," he added.

Human aggression

If our machines don't kill us, we might kill ourselves. Hawking now believes that human aggression might destroy civilization.

The physicist was giving a tour of the London Science Museum to Adaeze Uyanwah, a 24-year-old teacher from California who won a contest from VisitLondon.com. When Uyanwah asked, "What human shortcomings would you most like to alter?" Hawking responded:

"The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all," The Independent reported.

For example,a major nuclear war would likely end civilization, and could wipe out the human race, Hawking added. When asked which human quality he would most like to magnify, Hawking chose empathy, because "it brings us together in a peaceful, loving state."

Hawking thinks space exploration will be important to ensuring the survival of humanity. "I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be space, and that it represents an important life insurance for our future survival, as it could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonizing other planets," Cambridge Newsreported.

Alien life

But Hawking had made ominous warnings even before these recent ones. Back in 2010, Hawking said that, if intelligent alien life exists, itmay not be that friendly toward humans.

"If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans," Hawking said during an episode of "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking," a show hosted by the Discovery Channel, reported The Times, a U.K.-based newspaper.

Advanced alien civilizations might become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach, Hawking said. "If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?"



From the threat of nefarious AI, to advanced aliens, to hostile humans, Hawking's outlook for humanity is looking pretty grim.
read original article from:

http://www.livescience.com/49952-stephen-hawking-warnings-to-humanity.html 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

How to build your SELF CONFIDENCE




Building Self confidence in 10 super ways 



1. Dress Sharp

Although clothes don’t make the man, they certainly affect the way he feels about himself. No one is more conscious of your physical appearance than you are. When you don’t look good, it changes the way you carry yourself and interact with other people. Use this to your advantage by taking care of your personal appearance. In most cases, significant improvements can be made by bathing and shaving frequently, wearing clean clothes, and being cognizant of the latest styles.

This doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot on clothes. One great rule to follow is “spend twice as much, buy half as much”. Rather than buying a bunch of cheap clothes, buy half as many select, high quality items. In long run this decreases spending because expensive clothes wear out less easily and stay in style longer than cheap clothes. Buying less also helps reduce the clutter in your closet.

2. Walk Faster

One of the easiest ways to tell how a person feels about herself is to examine her walk. Is it slow? tired? painful? Or is it energetic and purposeful? People with confidence walk quickly. They have places to go, people to see, and important work to do. Even if you aren’t in a hurry, you can increase your self confidence by putting some pep in your step. Walking 25% faster will make to you look and feel more important.

3. Good Posture

Similarly, the way a person carries herself tells a story. People with slumped shoulders and lethargic movements display a lack of self confidence. They aren’t enthusiastic about what they’re doing and they don’t consider themselves important. By practicing good posture, you’ll automatically feel more confident. Stand up straight, keep your head up, and make eye contact. You’ll make a positive impression on others and instantly feel more alert and empowered.

4. Personal Commercial

One of the best ways to build confidence is listening to a 

motivational

speech. Unfortunately, opportunities to listen to a great speaker are few and far between. You can fill this need by creating a personal commercial. Write a 30-60 second speech that highlights your strengths and goals. Then recite it in front of the mirror aloud (or inside your head if you prefer) whenever you need a confidence boost.

5. Gratitude

When you focus too much on what you want, the mind creates reasons why you can’t have it. This leads you to dwell on your weaknesses. The best way to avoid this is consciously focusing on gratitude. Set aside time each day to mentally list everything you have to be grateful for. Recall your past successes, unique skills, loving relationships, and positive momentum. You’ll be amazed how much you have going for you and motivated to take that next step towards success.

6. Compliment other people

When we think negatively about ourselves, we often project that feeling on to others in the form of insults and 

gossip

. To break this cycle of negativity, get in the habit of praising other people. Refuse to engage in backstabbing gossip and make an effort to compliment those around you. In the process, you’ll become well liked and build self confidence. By looking for the best in others, you indirectly bring out the best in yourself.

7. Sit in the front row

In schools, offices, and public assemblies around the world, people constantly strive to sit at the back of the room. Most people prefer the back because they’re afraid of being noticed. This reflects a lack of self confidence. By deciding to sit in the front row, you can get over this irrational fear and build your self confidence. You’ll also be more visible to the important people talking from the front of the room.

8. Speak up

During group discussions many people never speak up because they’re afraid that people will judge them for saying something stupid. This fear isn’t really justified. Generally, people are much more accepting than we imagine. In fact most people are dealing with the exact same fears. By making an effort to speak up at least once in every group discussion, you’ll become a better public speaker, more confident in your own thoughts, and recognized as a leader by your peers.

9. Work out

Along the same lines as personal appearance, physical fitness has a huge effect on self confidence. If you’re out of shape, you’ll feel insecure, unattractive, and less energetic. By working out, you improve your physical appearance, energize yourself, and accomplish something positive. Having the discipline to work out not only makes you feel better, it creates positive momentum that you can build on the rest of the day.

10. Focus on contribution

Too often we get caught up in our own desires. We focus too much on ourselves and not enough on the needs of other people. If you stop thinking about yourself and concentrate on the contribution you’re making to the rest of the world, you won’t worry as much about you own flaws. This will increase self confidence and allow you to contribute with maximum efficiency. The more you contribute to the world the more you’ll be rewarded with personal success and recognition.







How to build your SELF CONFIDENCE




Building Self confidence in 10 super ways 



1. Dress Sharp

Although clothes don’t make the man, they certainly affect the way he feels about himself. No one is more conscious of your physical appearance than you are. When you don’t look good, it changes the way you carry yourself and interact with other people. Use this to your advantage by taking care of your personal appearance. In most cases, significant improvements can be made by bathing and shaving frequently, wearing clean clothes, and being cognizant of the latest styles.

This doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot on clothes. One great rule to follow is “spend twice as much, buy half as much”. Rather than buying a bunch of cheap clothes, buy half as many select, high quality items. In long run this decreases spending because expensive clothes wear out less easily and stay in style longer than cheap clothes. Buying less also helps reduce the clutter in your closet.

2. Walk Faster

One of the easiest ways to tell how a person feels about herself is to examine her walk. Is it slow? tired? painful? Or is it energetic and purposeful? People with confidence walk quickly. They have places to go, people to see, and important work to do. Even if you aren’t in a hurry, you can increase your self confidence by putting some pep in your step. Walking 25% faster will make to you look and feel more important.

3. Good Posture

Similarly, the way a person carries herself tells a story. People with slumped shoulders and lethargic movements display a lack of self confidence. They aren’t enthusiastic about what they’re doing and they don’t consider themselves important. By practicing good posture, you’ll automatically feel more confident. Stand up straight, keep your head up, and make eye contact. You’ll make a positive impression on others and instantly feel more alert and empowered.

4. Personal Commercial

One of the best ways to build confidence is listening to a 

motivational

speech. Unfortunately, opportunities to listen to a great speaker are few and far between. You can fill this need by creating a personal commercial. Write a 30-60 second speech that highlights your strengths and goals. Then recite it in front of the mirror aloud (or inside your head if you prefer) whenever you need a confidence boost.

5. Gratitude

When you focus too much on what you want, the mind creates reasons why you can’t have it. This leads you to dwell on your weaknesses. The best way to avoid this is consciously focusing on gratitude. Set aside time each day to mentally list everything you have to be grateful for. Recall your past successes, unique skills, loving relationships, and positive momentum. You’ll be amazed how much you have going for you and motivated to take that next step towards success.

6. Compliment other people

When we think negatively about ourselves, we often project that feeling on to others in the form of insults and 

gossip

. To break this cycle of negativity, get in the habit of praising other people. Refuse to engage in backstabbing gossip and make an effort to compliment those around you. In the process, you’ll become well liked and build self confidence. By looking for the best in others, you indirectly bring out the best in yourself.

7. Sit in the front row

In schools, offices, and public assemblies around the world, people constantly strive to sit at the back of the room. Most people prefer the back because they’re afraid of being noticed. This reflects a lack of self confidence. By deciding to sit in the front row, you can get over this irrational fear and build your self confidence. You’ll also be more visible to the important people talking from the front of the room.

8. Speak up

During group discussions many people never speak up because they’re afraid that people will judge them for saying something stupid. This fear isn’t really justified. Generally, people are much more accepting than we imagine. In fact most people are dealing with the exact same fears. By making an effort to speak up at least once in every group discussion, you’ll become a better public speaker, more confident in your own thoughts, and recognized as a leader by your peers.

9. Work out

Along the same lines as personal appearance, physical fitness has a huge effect on self confidence. If you’re out of shape, you’ll feel insecure, unattractive, and less energetic. By working out, you improve your physical appearance, energize yourself, and accomplish something positive. Having the discipline to work out not only makes you feel better, it creates positive momentum that you can build on the rest of the day.

10. Focus on contribution

Too often we get caught up in our own desires. We focus too much on ourselves and not enough on the needs of other people. If you stop thinking about yourself and concentrate on the contribution you’re making to the rest of the world, you won’t worry as much about you own flaws. This will increase self confidence and allow you to contribute with maximum efficiency. The more you contribute to the world the more you’ll be rewarded with personal success and recognition.







Thursday, February 19, 2015

Protect the forest

Protect the forest



This photograph taken on February 24, 2014 during an aerial survey mission by Greenpeace in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's Borneo Island, shows cleared trees to make way for a palm oil plantation in a Borneo forest (AFP Photo/Bay Ismoyo)

Indonesia's ancient forests, a cradle of biodiversity and a buffer against climate change, have shrunk much faster than thought, scientists said. Between 2000 and 2012, Indonesia lost around 6.02 million hectares (14.4 million acres or 23,250 square miles) of primary forest, an area almost the size of Sri Lanka, they reported.

Primary or ancient forests are distinguished from managed forests, which are plantations of trees grown for timber and pulp. The researchers found that primary forest loss accelerated during the period under review, reaching an annual 840,000 hectares by 2012 -- nearly twice the deforestation rate of Brazil, which was 460,000 hectares in the same year."Indonesia's forests contain high floral and faunal biodiversity, including 10 percent of the world's plants, 12 percent of the world's mammals, 16 percent of the world's reptile-amphibians and 17 percent of the world's bird species," said the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Extensive clearing of Indonesian primary forest cover directly results in habitat loss and associated plant and animal extinctions." Deforestation is also a blow to the fight against climate change, as ancient trees store more carbon emissions from the atmosphere than new ones do, and for a longer period, thus mitigating global warming. The research, led by geographer Belinda Margono of the University of Maryland, looked at long-term satellite images.

During 2000-2012, total forest cover in Indonesia retreated by 15.79 million hectares, of which 6.02 million, or 38 percent, was primary forest, the investigation found.

Distinguishing between primary and managed forest is vital in the campaign to preserve biodiversity and combat climate change, the paper said."It is critically important to know the context of forest disturbance, whether of a high-biomass natural forest or a short-cycle plantation," it said. "Similarly, the clearing of natural forest has very different implications on the maintenance of biodiversity richness."

                                                            "It noted that in 2010, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) put Indonesia's overall forest loss at 310,000 hectares per year from 2000-2005, and 690,000 hectares annually from 2005-2010. Indonesia itself, in a report to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2009, estimated forest loss of 1.1 million hectares annually from 2000-2005."

Margono's study found the biggest losers were lowland and wetland forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan, where trees are typically chopped down by loggers for use in farming. In other islands or island groups -- Papua, Sulawesi, Maluku, Java and Bali and Nusa Tenggara -- primary forest cover fell back only slightly or remained stable from 2000-2012.


Protect the forest

Protect the forest



This photograph taken on February 24, 2014 during an aerial survey mission by Greenpeace in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's Borneo Island, shows cleared trees to make way for a palm oil plantation in a Borneo forest (AFP Photo/Bay Ismoyo)

Indonesia's ancient forests, a cradle of biodiversity and a buffer against climate change, have shrunk much faster than thought, scientists said. Between 2000 and 2012, Indonesia lost around 6.02 million hectares (14.4 million acres or 23,250 square miles) of primary forest, an area almost the size of Sri Lanka, they reported.

Primary or ancient forests are distinguished from managed forests, which are plantations of trees grown for timber and pulp. The researchers found that primary forest loss accelerated during the period under review, reaching an annual 840,000 hectares by 2012 -- nearly twice the deforestation rate of Brazil, which was 460,000 hectares in the same year."Indonesia's forests contain high floral and faunal biodiversity, including 10 percent of the world's plants, 12 percent of the world's mammals, 16 percent of the world's reptile-amphibians and 17 percent of the world's bird species," said the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Extensive clearing of Indonesian primary forest cover directly results in habitat loss and associated plant and animal extinctions." Deforestation is also a blow to the fight against climate change, as ancient trees store more carbon emissions from the atmosphere than new ones do, and for a longer period, thus mitigating global warming. The research, led by geographer Belinda Margono of the University of Maryland, looked at long-term satellite images.

During 2000-2012, total forest cover in Indonesia retreated by 15.79 million hectares, of which 6.02 million, or 38 percent, was primary forest, the investigation found.

Distinguishing between primary and managed forest is vital in the campaign to preserve biodiversity and combat climate change, the paper said."It is critically important to know the context of forest disturbance, whether of a high-biomass natural forest or a short-cycle plantation," it said. "Similarly, the clearing of natural forest has very different implications on the maintenance of biodiversity richness."

                                                            "It noted that in 2010, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) put Indonesia's overall forest loss at 310,000 hectares per year from 2000-2005, and 690,000 hectares annually from 2005-2010. Indonesia itself, in a report to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2009, estimated forest loss of 1.1 million hectares annually from 2000-2005."

Margono's study found the biggest losers were lowland and wetland forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan, where trees are typically chopped down by loggers for use in farming. In other islands or island groups -- Papua, Sulawesi, Maluku, Java and Bali and Nusa Tenggara -- primary forest cover fell back only slightly or remained stable from 2000-2012.


Free Software Foundation?



Where do we stand 30 years after the founding of the Free Software Foundation?

There is a growing concern about government surveillance. At the same time, those of us who live and breathe technology do so because it provides us with a service and freedom to share our lives with others.

There is a tacit assumption that once we leave the store, the device we have in our pocket, backpack, or desk is ours. We buy a computer, a tablet, a smartphone, and we use applications and apps without even thinking about who really owns the tools and whether we truly own any of it. You purchase a device, yet you are not free to modify it or the software on it in any way. It begs the question of who really owns the device and the software?


The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a nonprofit with a worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom and defend the rights of all free software users. FSF proudly promotes the idea of free software—not "free" as in "free beer," but "free" as in "free to modify the code, share the code, and distribute it freely."


As the FSF describes on its about page, "The free software movement is one of the most successful social movements to arise from computing culture, driven by a worldwide community of ethical programmers dedicated to the cause of freedom and sharing."


I had a chance to interview John Sullivan, Executive Director of FSF, and what he said was both refreshing and thought provoking. The Foundation sponsors theGNU project, which maintains an entire operating system licensed as free software.



Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved in the free software movement, and why do you continue your involvement?


I started working with the FSF in 2003 after earning an MFA in writing and poetics. It was a natural fit! My first contributions as an employee were in documentation, merchandising, and fundraising, but the roots of my involvement go back to early days of running a dial-up BBS on my Commodore 64 (and later IBM PC). That was my first experience with online communities, the sharing of programs, the frustration of programs that couldn't be shared, and the power of collaboration. I got into GNU/Linux and Emacs in the 90s, when Windows "upgrades" rendered my PC useless, and I decided I wanted off that treadmill for good.


I stay involved because I think it's one of the most important social movements in existence, and it needs help—a lot of help. As more and more of the world's social, cultural, economic, and political interactions are mediated by technology, control over the technology becomes incredibly important for the exercise of any basic individual freedoms. I love the people I meet in this work, and the enormity of the challenge.
What tips do you have for others who want to be involved in the free software movement?


The Free Software Foundation is a great place to start. We have volunteer opportunities in documentation, translation, coding, design, conference organizing, advocacy writing, and much more.
Where do you see the things moving in the near term?


This year is the FSF's 30th anniversary. We've come a long way, but in the near term there are several areas where we need to step it up. Mobile and wearable computing are currently terrifying for user freedom. iOS is the epitome of everything we need to avoid to have a free society: a single gatekeeper who claims it is illegal for you to even install software they don't approve on your own device.


Fortunately, more people are using Android than iOS, but between hardware drivers and applications, they are still primarily using proprietary software or software that just interfaces with a service over which they have no control. Future versions of Android can also be made proprietary at any moment, and that's frightening. We need our mobile, embedded, and wearable operating systems to be copyleft so that no one can ever take them away when the wind changes.


We need to stop the backsliding that's happening with laptop hardware too. Companies like Intel are building separate chips into their machines running proprietary software that provides remote access to the computer. Instead, they should be working with us and projects like Libreboot and Coreboot to have support for a fully free, secure, stack.


We also need to spearhead a transition to decentralized, encrypted replacements for services like Facebook, Google Translate, Flickr, iCloud, etc. If the software you are using to do your work is running on some company's machine, then you don't have the ability to inspect it or modify it. Time and time again, this leads to abuses like privacy violations by both governments and individuals. We need projects like MediaGoblin, GNU social, pump.io, GNUnet, GPG, Tor, and Tahoe-LAFS to succeed.

Do you have any long-term goals for the free software movement?

Yes. We want all users to be able to do anything they want to do on any computer using exclusively free software. Proprietary software should not exist. To achieve this, we need the movement to be much more diverse than it is so far, and to be as effective at messaging and communication as it has been at software development.
How can we continue to support you and/or get involved with FSF?

In addition to the volunteer opportunities I mentioned, we are funded overwhelmingly by individuals. Over 80% of our funding last year came from individuals, with only the remaining part coming from corporations and other organizations. This distinguishes us significantly from most organizations involved in this space. Joining as a member at member.fsf.org is a great way to get involved. We're going to be working on some ways this year to help our members get to know each other and build a stronger community of free software activists.

Of course, we would also welcome more resources from employers. That can come from matching their employees' individual donations through our corporate patron program, or from making donations to match the hours their employees volunteer for the FSF and GNU. I'm happy to talk with anyone interested atjohns@fsf.org.

If you're a programmer, any time you write free software, you're helping the free software movement. Thank you! This is especially true if you release your software under a copyleft license like the GPL. Using GPLv3 is best, because when you do that, you are helping protect free software and its users from patents and DRM.

What will you be talking about at SCALE 13x?

Where do we stand after 30 years of the FSF? I'll be talking about why free software is an important social movement for everyone, not just programmers. Even people who don't write code need to care about the freedom to see the source and modify the code. Those conditions are what enable other people to create software that serves all of our freedom and interests.


The alternative is ubiquitous surveillance and a kind of totalitarianism. Thepotential to modify software, much like the right to vote, is a powerful check on misuse of technology, even if you don't exercise that freedom yourself. How do we inspire more people to care, and to fight for freedoms they don't directly use?

This article is part of the Speaker Interview Series for SCALE13X. The Southern California Linux Expo brings together Linux and open source users, developers, companies, and enthusiasts.

Free Software Foundation?



Where do we stand 30 years after the founding of the Free Software Foundation?

There is a growing concern about government surveillance. At the same time, those of us who live and breathe technology do so because it provides us with a service and freedom to share our lives with others.

There is a tacit assumption that once we leave the store, the device we have in our pocket, backpack, or desk is ours. We buy a computer, a tablet, a smartphone, and we use applications and apps without even thinking about who really owns the tools and whether we truly own any of it. You purchase a device, yet you are not free to modify it or the software on it in any way. It begs the question of who really owns the device and the software?


The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a nonprofit with a worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom and defend the rights of all free software users. FSF proudly promotes the idea of free software—not "free" as in "free beer," but "free" as in "free to modify the code, share the code, and distribute it freely."


As the FSF describes on its about page, "The free software movement is one of the most successful social movements to arise from computing culture, driven by a worldwide community of ethical programmers dedicated to the cause of freedom and sharing."


I had a chance to interview John Sullivan, Executive Director of FSF, and what he said was both refreshing and thought provoking. The Foundation sponsors theGNU project, which maintains an entire operating system licensed as free software.



Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved in the free software movement, and why do you continue your involvement?


I started working with the FSF in 2003 after earning an MFA in writing and poetics. It was a natural fit! My first contributions as an employee were in documentation, merchandising, and fundraising, but the roots of my involvement go back to early days of running a dial-up BBS on my Commodore 64 (and later IBM PC). That was my first experience with online communities, the sharing of programs, the frustration of programs that couldn't be shared, and the power of collaboration. I got into GNU/Linux and Emacs in the 90s, when Windows "upgrades" rendered my PC useless, and I decided I wanted off that treadmill for good.


I stay involved because I think it's one of the most important social movements in existence, and it needs help—a lot of help. As more and more of the world's social, cultural, economic, and political interactions are mediated by technology, control over the technology becomes incredibly important for the exercise of any basic individual freedoms. I love the people I meet in this work, and the enormity of the challenge.
What tips do you have for others who want to be involved in the free software movement?


The Free Software Foundation is a great place to start. We have volunteer opportunities in documentation, translation, coding, design, conference organizing, advocacy writing, and much more.
Where do you see the things moving in the near term?


This year is the FSF's 30th anniversary. We've come a long way, but in the near term there are several areas where we need to step it up. Mobile and wearable computing are currently terrifying for user freedom. iOS is the epitome of everything we need to avoid to have a free society: a single gatekeeper who claims it is illegal for you to even install software they don't approve on your own device.


Fortunately, more people are using Android than iOS, but between hardware drivers and applications, they are still primarily using proprietary software or software that just interfaces with a service over which they have no control. Future versions of Android can also be made proprietary at any moment, and that's frightening. We need our mobile, embedded, and wearable operating systems to be copyleft so that no one can ever take them away when the wind changes.


We need to stop the backsliding that's happening with laptop hardware too. Companies like Intel are building separate chips into their machines running proprietary software that provides remote access to the computer. Instead, they should be working with us and projects like Libreboot and Coreboot to have support for a fully free, secure, stack.


We also need to spearhead a transition to decentralized, encrypted replacements for services like Facebook, Google Translate, Flickr, iCloud, etc. If the software you are using to do your work is running on some company's machine, then you don't have the ability to inspect it or modify it. Time and time again, this leads to abuses like privacy violations by both governments and individuals. We need projects like MediaGoblin, GNU social, pump.io, GNUnet, GPG, Tor, and Tahoe-LAFS to succeed.

Do you have any long-term goals for the free software movement?

Yes. We want all users to be able to do anything they want to do on any computer using exclusively free software. Proprietary software should not exist. To achieve this, we need the movement to be much more diverse than it is so far, and to be as effective at messaging and communication as it has been at software development.
How can we continue to support you and/or get involved with FSF?

In addition to the volunteer opportunities I mentioned, we are funded overwhelmingly by individuals. Over 80% of our funding last year came from individuals, with only the remaining part coming from corporations and other organizations. This distinguishes us significantly from most organizations involved in this space. Joining as a member at member.fsf.org is a great way to get involved. We're going to be working on some ways this year to help our members get to know each other and build a stronger community of free software activists.

Of course, we would also welcome more resources from employers. That can come from matching their employees' individual donations through our corporate patron program, or from making donations to match the hours their employees volunteer for the FSF and GNU. I'm happy to talk with anyone interested atjohns@fsf.org.

If you're a programmer, any time you write free software, you're helping the free software movement. Thank you! This is especially true if you release your software under a copyleft license like the GPL. Using GPLv3 is best, because when you do that, you are helping protect free software and its users from patents and DRM.

What will you be talking about at SCALE 13x?

Where do we stand after 30 years of the FSF? I'll be talking about why free software is an important social movement for everyone, not just programmers. Even people who don't write code need to care about the freedom to see the source and modify the code. Those conditions are what enable other people to create software that serves all of our freedom and interests.


The alternative is ubiquitous surveillance and a kind of totalitarianism. Thepotential to modify software, much like the right to vote, is a powerful check on misuse of technology, even if you don't exercise that freedom yourself. How do we inspire more people to care, and to fight for freedoms they don't directly use?

This article is part of the Speaker Interview Series for SCALE13X. The Southern California Linux Expo brings together Linux and open source users, developers, companies, and enthusiasts.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Becoming a good Translator

Becoming a good Translator

If you translate into a foreign language, your style will be non-native. If you translate into your own language, you'll miss the point of the original... You can't win.
In fact, most good translators I know have not followed the same path as she did and many of those who have are not good translators at all; the path she followed is not the only possible one. There is no single path to becoming a good translator, there is not even a safe path that will guarantee that those who tread it will become good translators. Some trails are better than others, some are less steep, less arduous, less hazardous, some may be more appropriate to individual tastes. But there are many routes, not just a single one.

Worse still, none of those roads will take us to the very top, to that exalted situation of being a complete translator, for there is no such a thing. No matter what route we follow, every translator suffers from what I call "systemic defects": shortcomings inherently related to the particular path that this individual followed to become a translator. Perhaps, I should delve deeper into this matter taking my own situation as a starting point.I was born in Brazil, my first language is Portuguese and my English was acquired in high school. I have spent less than thirty days in English-speaking countries. That gives me a definite edge in translating from Portuguese into English. As a matter of fact, I find translating from English a little terrifying.

Native Stylus vs. Native Style

This is what I call the stylus edge. I found the stylus vs. style thing so cute I could not resist using it here. If you see it used somewhere else, please, remember that this is my creation, or at least I think it is. But let me explain what I mean by native stylus.
Long ago, during the LP-era, I read an item claiming that the most valuable piece of equipment one could buy for one's stereo was a stylus. Stylus, as you'll remember, is what everybody called a needle. The guy proceeded to explain that most people spent a fortune on speakers, amps, pre-amps and God knows what else, but went Uncle Scrooge when purchasing a stylus. This was an error, the guy said, because the stylus picks up the sound and if it does not do a good job of it, there is nothing the rest of the system can do to improve the sound.

Yes, indeed. My style is not native—but my stylus is. Because Portuguese is my native language and I have always lived in Brazil, I can easily pick up and understand half-hidden shades of meaning and cultural allusions that would go unnoticed if I were not a native speaker.
Not that I can always explain it well in English: that is the privilege of the native speaker, the guy who's got the native style.

The Advantages of Transplants

Alas, had I lived abroad, my English would be a lot better. Or might be, because a lot of people live abroad for ages and never learn the language, as everybody knows.

People who have lived abroad claim they make the best translators because they are native speakers of Portuguese and speak English like a native. Their detractors claim their Portuguese starts getting funny long before the improvement in their English begins to show and that she speaks like a native actually means she speaks as only a foreigner will.

Both sides are right to some extent (meaning both are wrong most of the time). The fact is that no matter where you live, your day still has twenty-four hours and the more contact you have with English, the less contact you have with Portuguese. As we say down here, you cannot whistle and chew sugar cane at the same time. But I can think of several types of jobs better entrusted to a transplanted translator than left in the hands of a stay-at-homer.
Not All Translators are Brazilian, Can You Believe That?

Of course, we do not have a monopoly on translating from Portuguese—or into Portuguese, for that matter. Lots of Americans are doing it these days. Many of them even do Portuguese as a "second" to Spanish.

Americans translating from Portuguese into English have better styles than styluses (this is becoming too obvious and quite boring, but I must go on and on) and must work on the decoding side of translation with the same gusto I work on the encoding side. A translation into English by an incompetent foreigner is a laughable string of nonsense. This is a good thing because the very absurdity of it all will tell the reader the translation cannot be trusted. So it is no security risk.
A translation into English done by a native speaker whose style is OK but who lacks stylus is a lot more dangerous. Because the translation looks OK and reads like decent, honest English, the reader who has no access to or does not understand the original is misled into believing it is correct. This type of translation is what the French call the belles infidèles, the unfaithful beauties: beautiful text that fails to reproduce the meaning of the original.

Les Belles Infidèles

The term refers to a certain type of translation popular in the nineteenth century, that made excellent reading in French but did not reflect the original for several reasons, including the fact that the translator often was not entirely conversant in the original language.Unfaithful beauties are not restricted to translations into English. Plenty of them are done from English into Portuguese by Brazilians who believe a few lessons in English or a short stay in the U.S. attending high school under an exchange program entitles them to translate anything.

Are you a professional?

Some of my clients do not object to the fact I am Brazilian (I became a crack stylus salesperson), but would rather have the stuff translated by a lawyer or an accountant, under the belief only a "professional" can handle "technical stuff."

As if translators were not professionals!

It is often difficult to explain to them that translating is a profession and that a good lawyer does not necessarily a good translator make. Some lawyers are excellent translators, certainly, but most are not. Same goes for accountants, doctors, cockroach-breeders and members of other equally worthy professions, trades and calls.

As a matter of fact, being a "professional" (meaning lawyer, accountant, etc., not "professional translator") may be an asset but often it is a liability. Those "professionals" produced some of the worst translations I have seen, for many of them find it impossible to resist the temptation to make an improvement here and another there. This type of person can be truly difficult as a reviser. A client once made several changes in one of my translations (into Portuguese, for a change) on the grounds that the entity he represented held a different position on the matter and could not publish that rubbish under its name. It took me more than an hour of heated discussion to convince the man that the text did not purport to convey the opinion of the Brazilian entity. The very purpose of having it translated was to inform the Brazilian public what the foreign professional thought. In the end my, translation was published unchanged, without the benefit of reviser-imposed improvements. I am very good at stamping my foot.

Surprisingly, this denial of translation as a profession also occurs among translators themselves. My brethren often accept the dictum that translations of poetry are best left to poets. Sorry, pals, but I cannot agree. Some poets may be very good translators, no doubt, in the same manner some poets cook well, play admirably on the sackbut or can perform any number of wonderful feats.But that should not be taken to mean that all poets are good translators or that only poets can translate. Many simply write original poetry, good or otherwise, and publish it as translations or transmogrifications of someone else's work. If you do not believe me, just have the their so-called translations translated back into the original language by a competent translator who does not know the text purports to be a translation, if I make myself clear. Then, compare the original with the back-translation. Any similarity will be mere coincidence.

Those people remind me of Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), a great Austrian violinist who used to play encores by Pugnani (1731-1798). When a critic asked a few awkward questions, Mr. Kreisler, always the diplomatic Viennese, claimed that the bonbons had been composed by himself, in the manner of Pugnani. That did not improve the musical quality of the pieces but helped pinpoint responsibilities.

Degrees and all that

The old guard (pace Cambronne) never took a degree in translating because there were none to be taken during our salad days. And as old guards are wont to do, we did not surrender to the hordes of degree-bearers that colleges and universities have been pouring into the market of late.

Don't take me wrong. I am all in favor of college training for translators and have had the honor to address student audiences in at least ten different colleges. If I were young and wanted to become a translator, I would certainly enroll in one of those colleges (not any of them, though) and dutifully work for a degree. Some respected members of the Old Guard, however, affirm the best way to spoil a talent for translation is to put its holder through a college course in translating. I do not agree. When Pixinguinha (please, do not pronounce it pi-ksin-gwin-ha, it is pee-sheen-gheeng-ya—or nearly so) entered the Rio Conservatoire everybody said he would never compose anything of value again. They were wrong and so is anyone who says school is bad for you. But some facts are true: translation courses range from excellent to horrible, not to say plain evil, and not all graduates are nearly as competent as they believe they are. And, as all new graduates, they need a bit of experience to become good professionals.

On the other hand, not all of those who have learned by holding their several noses very close to the grind wheel are as competent as they would like you to believe they are. The guy who claims he (more probably "she," for most translators are women) has been a translator for thirty years may in fact have been a mistranslate for all that time.

In Conclusion

If you translate into a foreign language, your style will be non-native. If you translate into your own language, you'll miss the point of the original. If you live abroad, your native language will get a bit rusty, and you'll never write the foreign language like a real native does. If you are a translator, you'll fail to grasp the fine technical points of the original or to convey them to the reader using the appropriate language. If you are a non-translator you should be doing your thing, not translating, because you do not know how to translate. If you do not have a degree, you lack the necessary theoretical foundation. If you have a degree, you lack the necessary practice.

Becoming a good Translator

Becoming a good Translator

If you translate into a foreign language, your style will be non-native. If you translate into your own language, you'll miss the point of the original... You can't win.
In fact, most good translators I know have not followed the same path as she did and many of those who have are not good translators at all; the path she followed is not the only possible one. There is no single path to becoming a good translator, there is not even a safe path that will guarantee that those who tread it will become good translators. Some trails are better than others, some are less steep, less arduous, less hazardous, some may be more appropriate to individual tastes. But there are many routes, not just a single one.

Worse still, none of those roads will take us to the very top, to that exalted situation of being a complete translator, for there is no such a thing. No matter what route we follow, every translator suffers from what I call "systemic defects": shortcomings inherently related to the particular path that this individual followed to become a translator. Perhaps, I should delve deeper into this matter taking my own situation as a starting point.I was born in Brazil, my first language is Portuguese and my English was acquired in high school. I have spent less than thirty days in English-speaking countries. That gives me a definite edge in translating from Portuguese into English. As a matter of fact, I find translating from English a little terrifying.

Native Stylus vs. Native Style

This is what I call the stylus edge. I found the stylus vs. style thing so cute I could not resist using it here. If you see it used somewhere else, please, remember that this is my creation, or at least I think it is. But let me explain what I mean by native stylus.
Long ago, during the LP-era, I read an item claiming that the most valuable piece of equipment one could buy for one's stereo was a stylus. Stylus, as you'll remember, is what everybody called a needle. The guy proceeded to explain that most people spent a fortune on speakers, amps, pre-amps and God knows what else, but went Uncle Scrooge when purchasing a stylus. This was an error, the guy said, because the stylus picks up the sound and if it does not do a good job of it, there is nothing the rest of the system can do to improve the sound.

Yes, indeed. My style is not native—but my stylus is. Because Portuguese is my native language and I have always lived in Brazil, I can easily pick up and understand half-hidden shades of meaning and cultural allusions that would go unnoticed if I were not a native speaker.
Not that I can always explain it well in English: that is the privilege of the native speaker, the guy who's got the native style.

The Advantages of Transplants

Alas, had I lived abroad, my English would be a lot better. Or might be, because a lot of people live abroad for ages and never learn the language, as everybody knows.

People who have lived abroad claim they make the best translators because they are native speakers of Portuguese and speak English like a native. Their detractors claim their Portuguese starts getting funny long before the improvement in their English begins to show and that she speaks like a native actually means she speaks as only a foreigner will.

Both sides are right to some extent (meaning both are wrong most of the time). The fact is that no matter where you live, your day still has twenty-four hours and the more contact you have with English, the less contact you have with Portuguese. As we say down here, you cannot whistle and chew sugar cane at the same time. But I can think of several types of jobs better entrusted to a transplanted translator than left in the hands of a stay-at-homer.
Not All Translators are Brazilian, Can You Believe That?

Of course, we do not have a monopoly on translating from Portuguese—or into Portuguese, for that matter. Lots of Americans are doing it these days. Many of them even do Portuguese as a "second" to Spanish.

Americans translating from Portuguese into English have better styles than styluses (this is becoming too obvious and quite boring, but I must go on and on) and must work on the decoding side of translation with the same gusto I work on the encoding side. A translation into English by an incompetent foreigner is a laughable string of nonsense. This is a good thing because the very absurdity of it all will tell the reader the translation cannot be trusted. So it is no security risk.
A translation into English done by a native speaker whose style is OK but who lacks stylus is a lot more dangerous. Because the translation looks OK and reads like decent, honest English, the reader who has no access to or does not understand the original is misled into believing it is correct. This type of translation is what the French call the belles infidèles, the unfaithful beauties: beautiful text that fails to reproduce the meaning of the original.

Les Belles Infidèles

The term refers to a certain type of translation popular in the nineteenth century, that made excellent reading in French but did not reflect the original for several reasons, including the fact that the translator often was not entirely conversant in the original language.Unfaithful beauties are not restricted to translations into English. Plenty of them are done from English into Portuguese by Brazilians who believe a few lessons in English or a short stay in the U.S. attending high school under an exchange program entitles them to translate anything.

Are you a professional?

Some of my clients do not object to the fact I am Brazilian (I became a crack stylus salesperson), but would rather have the stuff translated by a lawyer or an accountant, under the belief only a "professional" can handle "technical stuff."

As if translators were not professionals!

It is often difficult to explain to them that translating is a profession and that a good lawyer does not necessarily a good translator make. Some lawyers are excellent translators, certainly, but most are not. Same goes for accountants, doctors, cockroach-breeders and members of other equally worthy professions, trades and calls.

As a matter of fact, being a "professional" (meaning lawyer, accountant, etc., not "professional translator") may be an asset but often it is a liability. Those "professionals" produced some of the worst translations I have seen, for many of them find it impossible to resist the temptation to make an improvement here and another there. This type of person can be truly difficult as a reviser. A client once made several changes in one of my translations (into Portuguese, for a change) on the grounds that the entity he represented held a different position on the matter and could not publish that rubbish under its name. It took me more than an hour of heated discussion to convince the man that the text did not purport to convey the opinion of the Brazilian entity. The very purpose of having it translated was to inform the Brazilian public what the foreign professional thought. In the end my, translation was published unchanged, without the benefit of reviser-imposed improvements. I am very good at stamping my foot.

Surprisingly, this denial of translation as a profession also occurs among translators themselves. My brethren often accept the dictum that translations of poetry are best left to poets. Sorry, pals, but I cannot agree. Some poets may be very good translators, no doubt, in the same manner some poets cook well, play admirably on the sackbut or can perform any number of wonderful feats.But that should not be taken to mean that all poets are good translators or that only poets can translate. Many simply write original poetry, good or otherwise, and publish it as translations or transmogrifications of someone else's work. If you do not believe me, just have the their so-called translations translated back into the original language by a competent translator who does not know the text purports to be a translation, if I make myself clear. Then, compare the original with the back-translation. Any similarity will be mere coincidence.

Those people remind me of Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), a great Austrian violinist who used to play encores by Pugnani (1731-1798). When a critic asked a few awkward questions, Mr. Kreisler, always the diplomatic Viennese, claimed that the bonbons had been composed by himself, in the manner of Pugnani. That did not improve the musical quality of the pieces but helped pinpoint responsibilities.

Degrees and all that

The old guard (pace Cambronne) never took a degree in translating because there were none to be taken during our salad days. And as old guards are wont to do, we did not surrender to the hordes of degree-bearers that colleges and universities have been pouring into the market of late.

Don't take me wrong. I am all in favor of college training for translators and have had the honor to address student audiences in at least ten different colleges. If I were young and wanted to become a translator, I would certainly enroll in one of those colleges (not any of them, though) and dutifully work for a degree. Some respected members of the Old Guard, however, affirm the best way to spoil a talent for translation is to put its holder through a college course in translating. I do not agree. When Pixinguinha (please, do not pronounce it pi-ksin-gwin-ha, it is pee-sheen-gheeng-ya—or nearly so) entered the Rio Conservatoire everybody said he would never compose anything of value again. They were wrong and so is anyone who says school is bad for you. But some facts are true: translation courses range from excellent to horrible, not to say plain evil, and not all graduates are nearly as competent as they believe they are. And, as all new graduates, they need a bit of experience to become good professionals.

On the other hand, not all of those who have learned by holding their several noses very close to the grind wheel are as competent as they would like you to believe they are. The guy who claims he (more probably "she," for most translators are women) has been a translator for thirty years may in fact have been a mistranslate for all that time.

In Conclusion

If you translate into a foreign language, your style will be non-native. If you translate into your own language, you'll miss the point of the original. If you live abroad, your native language will get a bit rusty, and you'll never write the foreign language like a real native does. If you are a translator, you'll fail to grasp the fine technical points of the original or to convey them to the reader using the appropriate language. If you are a non-translator you should be doing your thing, not translating, because you do not know how to translate. If you do not have a degree, you lack the necessary theoretical foundation. If you have a degree, you lack the necessary practice.

Monday, February 16, 2015

"MAHASHIVARATHRI" the hindu religious day


THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MAHASHIVARATHRI




In the Indian culture, at one time, there used to be 365 festivals in a year. In other words, they just needed an excuse to celebrate everyday of the year. These 365 festivals were ascribed to different reasons, and for different purposes of life. There were to celebrate various historical events, victories, or certain situations in life like harvesting, planting, and reaping. For every situation there was a festival. But Mahashivarathri is of a different significance.


"Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the ′Tandava′. It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati Ma. On this day Shiva devotees observe fast and offer fruits, flowers and bel leaves on Shiva Linga"


The fourteenth day of every lunar month or the day before the new moon is known as Shivarathri. Among all the twelve Shivarathris that occur in a calendar year, Mahashivarathri, the one that occurs in February-March is of the most spiritual significance. On this night, the northern hemisphere of the planet is positioned in such a way that there is a natural upsurge of energy in a human being. This is a day when nature is pushing one towards one’s spiritual peak. It is to make use of this, that in this tradition, we establish a certain festival which is night-long. One of the fundamentals of this night-long festival is to ensure that – to allow this natural upsurge of energies to find their way – you remain with your spine vertical – you stay awake.

Mahashivarathri is very significant for people who are on the spiritual path. It is also very significant for people who are in family situations, and also for the ambitious in the world. People who live in family situations observe Mahashivarathri as Shiva’s wedding anniversary. Those with worldly ambitions see that day as the day Shiva conquered all his enemies.


But, for the ascetics, it is the day he became one with Mount Kailash. He became like a mountain – absolutely still. In the yogic tradition, Shiva is not worshipped as a God, but considered as the Adi Guru, the first Guru from whom the knowledge originated. After many millennia in meditation, one day he became absolutely still. That day is Mahashivarathri. All movement in him stopped and he became utterly still, so ascetics see Mahashivarathri as the night of stillness.

Legends apart, why this day and night are held in such importance in the yogic traditions is because of the possibilities it presents to a spiritual seeker. Modern science has gone through many phases and arrived at a point today where they are out to prove to you that everything that you know as life, everything that you know as matter and existence, everything that you know as the cosmos and galaxies, is just one energy which manifests itself in millions of ways.


This scientific fact is an experiential reality in every yogi. The word “yogi” means one who has realized the oneness of the Existence. When I say “yoga,” I am not referring to any one particular practice or system. All longing to know the unbounded, all longing to know the oneness in the Existence is yoga. The night of Mahashivarathri offers a person an opportunity to experience this.

International MahaShivaratri Fair

The Mandi festival or fair is particularly famous as this special fair transforms the town of Mandi into a venue of grand celebration, where all Gods and Goddesses of the Mandi district, said to number more than 200, assemble, starting on the day of Shivaratri. The town of Mandi, located on the banks of the Beas River, is popularly known as the "Cathedral of Temples" and is one of the oldest towns of Himachal Pradesh, with about 81 temples of different Gods and Goddesses in its periphery. There are several legends linked to the celebration of Shivaratri. The festival is centered around the protector deity of Mandi "Mado Rai" (Lord Vishnu) and Lord Shiva of the Bhootnath temple in Mandi. This festival is celebrated with great fervor in Mandi and it is common to see many foreign tourists throng to this region, especially to partake in the Maha Shivaratri celebrations in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh.

Shivarathri, is the darkest day of the month. Celebrating Shivarathri on a monthly basis, and the particular day, Mahashivarathri, almost seems like celebration of darkness. Any logical mind would resist darkness and naturally opt for light. But the word “Shiva” literally means “that which is not.” “That which is,” is existence and creation. “That which is not” is Shiva. “That which is not” means, if you open your eyes and look around, if your vision is for small things, you will see lots of creation. If your vision is really looking for big things, you will see the biggest presence in the existence is a vast emptiness. A few spots which we call galaxies are generally much noticed, but the vast emptiness that holds them does not come into everybody’s notice. This vastness, this unbounded emptiness, is what is referred to as Shiva. Today, modern science also proves that everything comes from nothing and goes back to nothing. It is in this context that Shiva, the vast emptiness or nothingness, is referred to as the great lord, or Mahadeva.


Every religion, every culture on this planet has always been talking about the omnipresent, all-pervading nature of the divine. If we look at it, the only thing that can be truly all-pervading, the only thing that can be everywhere is darkness, nothingness, or emptiness. Generally, when people are seeking well being, we talk of the divine as light. When people are no longer seeking well being, when they are looking beyond their life in terms of dissolving, if the object of their worship and their sadhana is dissolution, then we always refer to the divine as darkness.

Light is a brief happening in your mind. Light is not eternal, it is always a limited possibility because it happens and it ends. The greatest source of light that we know on this planet is the sun. Even the sun’s light, you could stop it with your hand and leave a shadow of darkness behind. 


But darkness is all-enveloping, everywhere. The immature minds in the world have always described darkness as the devil. But when you describe the divine as all-pervading, you are obviously referring to the divine as darkness, because only darkness is all-pervading. It is everywhere. It does not need any support from anything. Light always comes from a source that is burning itself out. It has a beginning and an end. It is always from a limited source. Darkness has no source. It is a source unto itself. It is all-pervading, everywhere, omnipresent. So when we say Shiva, it is this vast emptiness of existence. It is in the lap of this vast emptiness that all creation has happened. It is that lap of emptiness that we refer to as the Shiva.

In Indian culture, all the ancient prayers were not about saving yourself, protecting yourself or doing better in life. All the ancient prayers have always been “Oh lord, destroy me so that I can become like yourself.


So when we say Shivarathri, which is the darkest night of the month, it is an opportunity for one to dissolve their limitedness, to experience the unboundedness of the source of creation which is the seed in every human being. Mahashivarathri is an opportunity and a possibility to bring yourself to that experience of the vast emptiness within every human being, which is the source of all creation.


On the one hand, Shiva is known as the destroyer. On the other, he is known as the most compassionate. He is also known to be the greatest of the givers. The yogic lore is rife with many stories about Shiva’s compassion. The ways of expression of his compassion have been incredible and astonishing at the same time. So Mahashivarathri is a special night for receiving too.


It is our wish and blessing that you must not pass this night without knowing at least a moment of the vastness of this emptiness that we call as Shiva. Let this night not just be a night of wakefulness, let this night be a night of awakening for you