Somewhere in the middle of the vast ocean, a lone bare rock rises above the water. Not a blade of grass grows on it, but Prometheus, the Titan, is chained to that rock. In the daytime, the sun scorches him, at night he is tormented by the cold. Every day a huge eagle flies in to peck his liver, which grows overnight, and the next morning, everything is repeated again.

Since childhood, we remember this myth about the titan, sentenced by Zeus to eternal torment because he has stolen and given the divine fire to people. In the old days, teachers explained to us the meaning of this myth quite simply: the popular consciousness of the Greeks reflected the process of taming fire by cavemen. The tamed fire gave man so many new possibilities that it can only be compared with a divine miracle.
It sounds logical. In fact, animals use various improvised tools for their purposes, build nests and lairs, and sometimes are able to even erect impressive structures, but none of them tamed the fire: such a developed intellect is not observed in the animal kingdom.
But did Prometheus have to steal the divine fire so that the caveman could just fry the mammoth steak? It seems that a couple of suitable pebbles and a piece of dry brushwood are enough for this.
I'm afraid we all share a kind of teenage sense of our superiority over our ancestors. What did they know? Born in the forest, worshiped stumps. Someone once brought a branch on fire to the camp and therefore was immediately declared a shaman, who eventually may be considered a deity.


Every morning, billions of people wake up in their beds, still on autopilot proceed to the kitchen, put a kettle on and go to work in about an hour and a half. As a rule, the route is so familiar that they can do it even blindfolded. 

If you recognize yourself in the description above, there is a reason to congratulate you: according to some psychologists, you are in a comfort zone and, if nothing changes, you will be on this path until the end of your life. True, psychologists believe that this is not very good, because he who does not risk will never drink champagne (Russian Proverb, -Ed.). And you, in their opinion, doom yourself to a life of consuming low-fat kefir. However, everyone has a chance to leave a comfortable zone and rush into the raging sea of ​​life.
However, don’t you think that Internet psychologists have completely forgotten that all men are created unequal? Coco Chanel, for example, was so afraid of comfort zone that she almost perceived her early orphanhood as luck. Otherwise, she writes in her memoirs, “she would hardly have avoided the fate of being married “and having children and dreaming of freedom all her life.”
Henry Ford tried more than one path, which, despite initial rejection, were welcomed by his business colleagues. He said that many of the entrepreneurs he knew would be much happier and healthier, if they had followed the path of comfort zone of hired managers or accountants.
But it’s not simple to be on this path! Sometimes it could be a synonym for pure, unalloyed evil, and at times is you cannot avoid it. According to military historians, the width of the Soviet, or rather, the Russian railway track played considerable role in the outcome of the Great Patriotic War. In the heat of the offensive, the Wehrmacht did not take care in time to change the tracks (The Russian ones were traditionally made wider than the European) and when they realized it, it was too late. As a result, Army Group Centre, the main striking force of the invasion, on better days received half the trains with weapons, ammunition and troops than was required for success.


Among those interested in Buddhism, there is an opinion that a true enlightened Buddhist is free from desires. This is the huge mistake. A person completely free from desires is if not a soulless corpse, then at least a poor fellow devoid of emotions and empathy and in urgent need of serious psychiatric help. Moreover, Buddhists believe that the mere contemplation of the Dalai Lama helps fulfil your desires. By the way, the current 14th Dalai Lama was given the name Lhamo Thondup at birth. Palden Lhamo is the female guardian spirit that protects us from evil forces and fulfils our desires. From my own experience, I could confirm that communication with the Dalai Lama really accelerates the fulfilment of desires.
One of my colleagues could not start a large project in the centre of Moscow. Upon learning that I was going to India for a common prayer with the Dalai Lama, he begged me to take him with me. Believe it or not, this pilgrimage was one of the most difficult for me: either it was inclement weather, or there was something wrong with the plane. Still we got there in time. However, as soon as we returned to Moscow, my colleague’s mobile rang: the high metropolitan authorities invited him to the last negotiations before agreeing on the project.
“Hold on!” the broad-minded reader would probably exclaim here. “Chatvaryaryasatyani (The Four Noble Truths, the Basic Teaching of Buddhism) clearly say that desire is the cause of suffering, which every Buddhist aims to put an end to. Even Wikipedia says so! ”


On an autumn day in 1492, one of the native inhabitants of an island in the Bahamas archipelago ran to his tribe with shocking news: the water near the horizon was seething and foaming, as if it were being cut by a giant oar apart from there was no oar! People believed the witness of an unprecedented phenomenon. The whole tribe rushed to the seashore to see the miracle.

Among the onlookers was a shaman of the tribe. He knew for sure that as there is no smoke without fire, so the water will not boil by itself. For a long time the shaman peered into the horizon, where the water behaved so wrongly, and little by little, he saw the sides and sails of the squadron of Christopher Columbus. He told his fellow citizens that the water was bubbling under unusually large pirogues and then everyone saw the Spaniards’ ships.
In the 19th century, commander Karl von Clausewitz realized that by using smoke as a hoax one can achieve his goals without sacrificing the lives of soldiers and officers, without forcing ones country into heavy expenses. He even claimed that using smoke and mirrors, one can achieve his goal even faster than in a bloody massacre against an armed enemy.
In the 20th century, newspapers, radio, and later television and the Internet took on the role that smoke and mirrors used to play earlier. However, the Soviet agitprop couldn’t compete with its Western colleagues. The USSR fell apart not because of economic or political problems (although they were in abundance), but because most of its citizens believed in the legend of a beautiful life in a market economy.
I recall with bitterness 1991, when we lost a huge country with great economic potential. We believed then that this was our own choice. Only a few knew that destroying a country for the sake of an economic amendment was like treating a headache with amputation.


Over the millennia of development, human civilization has established a whole body of moral principles, among which the concept of honour occupies a special place. In some cultures, losing honour is worse than dying. Being an orientalist and scholar of Japanese culture, I could tell you a lot about complicated Japanese principles and codes of honour.

But here lies a trap. The more terms we use to explain this or that concept, the more temptation to challenge it. Not so long ago by historical standards, there were people who regarded conscience as a chimera, a worthless invention and this cost humanity tens of millions of victims in two world wars.
And in everyday life, let’s be honest, it’s easier to cheat or just close ones eyes, ignore offensiveness, comforting yourself that “everyone does that” and “I’m no better than others”, which ends in succumbing to circumstances, sacrificing their honour for the sake of material well-being.
I happened to be under pressure from circumstances (and very outstanding!) when I was young. In 1988, the omnipotent State Security Committee of the USSR accused the fifth year student of MGIMO Ilyumzhinov of spying for one of the foreign intelligence services. On top of it, they tried to impute smuggling and forbidden currency transactions. At that time such accusations could well lead to the "highest measure of social protection" – execution.

 Now I may refer to that incident as a funny story: the very idea of declaring me to be either an Iranian or an Afghan spy (I had a good relationship with the son of Babrak Karmal, who had recently headed the Revolutionary Council of Afghanistan) was crazy. But at that time, I didn’t think it was amusing. Even though I knew that I was innocent and was sure that everything would be sorted out in the end, I understood that problems could not be avoided. 

If I only   had a chance! How often we hear something like that from our relatives and acquaintances! I heard it too. In this case, it is a priori assumed that the evil fate did not give the complainant – and such a good one! – a single chance, a single opportunity to prove himself, to achieve his cherished goal, to get what he wanted.
Even some popular manuals on psychology interpret chance as a “fortuitous accident”, without which, however, “it’s impossible to achieve happiness”. Well, in other words, you shall stay put and wait for a random gift of fate.
Of course, all this is complete nonsense. In such cases, I always remember the old joke about an American millionaire, who is asked how he has amassed his wealth. “Oh, well, I had a dime and bought five apples, washed them and sold them for twenty cents. With this money, I bought ten apples, washed them and sold for forty cents. ” “And then?” they asked him again. “And then my uncle died and left me a few canneries.”
It is usually assumed that this story only confirms the postulate that it is almost impossible to succeed without luck. But the question is, would a successful businessman just simply transfer the business of his life to someone whom he does not fully trust? Looks like this story is not telling us everything. However, then that’s what jokes are meant to be.
And here is an example from my own life: do you think there are many chances for a simple chess amateur, one of the millions, to head the International Chess Federation? As it turned out, there are plenty.
Yes, one may say that in 1995 I got a chance and used it. But was it really an accident? After all, that autumn I flew to Paris with a purpose to convince the venerable grandmasters to choose for the venue of the next chess Olympiad not the capital of any country, but Elista, the administrative centre of a Russian region.
This idea, in turn, came to me only because of my long-time love for chess, love to Kalmykia and my desire to open my homeland to the world. Of course, the fundamental education in one of the best diplomatic universities of the world, political experience and success in business are also essential factors. And what mattered was that I already had them all.

In my early years, I was confused by the contradiction expressed in famous Russian saying “the free belong to freedom and the saved belong to paradise”. It is some nonsense, I thought. Does it really mean that only slaves deserve a worthy future? But how then to be with freedom as one of the highest values?  

It is perhaps difficult to find a term that has so many definitions as “will”. It could be a feature of the human mind, another name for freedom, synonymous with space, and a legal act.  Perhaps few of the human properties caused so much philosophical and theological disputes from Aristotle to the present day.
"Free will", "iron will", "will power", "willy-nilly". Judging by the number of epithets and the maxims that people applied to this term, it always attracted attention. And one should note that it does not necessary have a positive connotation like in case of bad will or ill will. So, there’s a lot to talk about. 
In my early childhood, I was a very freedom-loving boy. It seems that I have already told the readers of the "Russian Pioneer" about my first and the only kindergarten’s experience that upset my parents very much. The thing is that I could stand being there for half a day only. When it was time for a nap, I thought it was silly to spend the daytime sleeping, so I got out through the window opened on the occasion of the summer and ran to the pond, to my street friends. It was there they had found me late in the evening. The next day, the head of the preschool institution declared that she could not take such a child under her responsibility. 

I cannot say that I began to understand the relationship between “Want” and “Must” from the first day in school. But over time, I realized that it would take much more willpower to do my homework than to put books and manuals aside and kick the ball with my friends. Does it mean that will is still not equivalent to freedom? I am free to play football instead of doing my homework (luckily the parents are at work) but I have the will to refuse it. 
It was weird, but I learned how to find a pleasure in it. This knowledge helped me when my younger brother was born, which meant more worries, or when I was busy at school with lesser time for entertainment. I had to learn to prioritize. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Solving chess problems and analysing games is perfectly possible in my mind while scrubbing the floor or running for bread. So you can combine anything. All you need is will. A bit of freedom to decide for yourself what you really need.


We all like to receive gifts: the expensive ones and not so expensive ones; brought by friends from faraway countries or made by our children at shop class. However, the donor must try hard to make sure you enjoy the gift as long as possible. Mostly, it refers to those gifts that we receive from life.  

There is a tale about a fisherman who caught a Golden Fish. The fish pleads for its life, promising any wish in return. The fisherman went mad with greed and blurted out: "Make it so that I had everything!" "All right," Fish said.  "Now you HAD everything!"   
It is believed that this tale teaches us to formulate our wishes more carefully. But is that all? I think it also tells us that the most valuable gift is useless if we are not ready to take it.  
“Vain gift, random gift, | Life, why have you been given to me?” wrote Pushkin in moment of melancholy. Scary words, if you think about it. Can there be a more priceless and perfect gift than life? But you have to admit that many of us were tormented by the same question more than once.  
Unfortunately, we are inclined to believe that fate “does not give us” what we deserve. We do not win millions in lottery, pretty girls marry others and children are not happy with their school marks.  There are too many reasons to grieve! And meanwhile we absolutely do not want to notice those gifts that fate presents to us daily and hourly.  
Perhaps it is from such a misunderstanding that we “cast pearls before swine” and "Bury our talents in the ground." Too many people idly go with the flow or, much more offensively, simply destroy the received gifts by drugs and alcohol. By the way, I saw it too many times that those people more likely than others to complain about the evil fate.


We adore the magical world of stage and screen, but how often do we remember that its hidden magic springs work in the same way in the real world?  

I became acquainted with the theatre quite early. Which, of course, was neither the Moscow Art Theatre nor Bolshoi Theatre and nor even Obraztsov Theatre. Yes, there are wonderful theatres that we liked to go to in Elista. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always possible.
Provincial boys had no computer games or the Internet in the seventies of the last century. TV had only two programmes dedicated to successes of the Soviet economy and plans of the communist party. We had to entertain ourselves our way.
Luckily, we had plenty of imagination and courage. Therefore, in addition to ‘Cossacks against robbers’ game and football tournaments between neighbouring courtyards, there appeared ideas exotic enough even for street daredevils. One of those was setting up an amateur theatre. It was to be like the real one - with decorations, costumes and props. Adults, of course, didn’t take our ideas seriously so we had to design performances ourselves. Well, you were lucky if your mother’s beloved headscarf or your grandfather’s pipe were not missed.
There was no end to our imagination on a homemade scene! We enjoyed ourselves as best as we could - up to performing Dance of Little Swans.  Artek had practically a real theatre and, of course, there were no such problems with decorations and costumes as in Elista. But that’s not the point. Another thing is important.


I will try to tell you  what  I think about people over 60 and even over 50. I think this is the best age for self-realization. This is essential feature of my family. My parents are still working. Although I cannot blame those who like to enter their old age sitting on a bench playing dominoes or chess.  

A few years ago, one of the websites published an article about literary creativity, which began with words like, "In 1997, a rising young author appeared in modern Kalmyk literature…" The “young author” turned to be nearly seventy years old. It was my father, Nikolai Dordzhinovich. Exactly at this age, he published his first book, "Ancestors. Facts. Time".
In earlier times, the nomadic Kalmyks lived in a land that was far from a land of milk and honey Therefore, everyone who lived to old age enjoyed the deserved respect. Kalmyks still have sayings like “Respect your elder brother more than the younger one".
And they still practice respect. They will always give way to the elders; give them the best food and the first cup of tea. The younger ones will never enter the conversation of the elders unless they are invited. Old men are first to say traditional dinner toasts – the yorels.
Such reverence has nothing to do with semi-religious blind worship. Kalmyks, probably, at the level of genetic memory have formed an understanding that the advice, words and deeds of their elders come as a result of their life experience. And you can't buy it; you won't get it at the university even if you have three red diplomas.

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