Ravi Zacharias travels around the world motivating students and leaders

Ravi Zacharias is a Chennai-born Christian apologist based in Atlanta (U.S.), but his sphere of influence extends beyond the community. A man with evident oratorical skills and an understanding of current affairs, he is consulted by political leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere. He has addressed the Parliament in Peru, military officers at the Lenin Military Academy and the Center for Geopolitical Strategy in Moscow.

He is also popular for his guest lectures at premium campuses around the world — including Harvard, Princeton and Oxford Universities, where he speaks to packed auditoriums. In addition, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) — which he founded in 1986 — sensitises students in various parts of the world to the issues of ethics.

Ravi was in Chennai recently to commemorate RZIM's 25th anniversary. In a celebration organised at Hotel Hilton, singer-actor Andrea Jeremiah teamed up with pianist-composer-arranger Stephen Devassy to give a soul-stirring musical performance.

The music was followed by a talk by Ravi on “the inexorable march of time” and a rapidly changing world. In characteristic style, he drew upon literature, arts, and cherry-picked anecdotes from his life to illustrate his message.

While discussing the pain he underwent on the day his eldest daughter Sarah left home for college, he launched into a recital of “Sunrise, Sunset” from ‘The Fiddler On The Roof': “Is this the little girl I carried?/ Is this the little boy at play?/ I don't remember growing older/ When did they?... Swiftly flow the days/ Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers/ Blossoming even as we gaze.”

In an interview that followed, he persisted with the topic of change. He believes the reading habit has given way to a mindless addiction and to technological gadgets that peddle entertainment. These symbols of the modern world inhibit the ability to imbibe complex ideas. “This generation can't engage in abstract thinking,” says Ravi and adds that this prevents a person from growing to his full human potential. “Television has been the single greatest shaper of emptiness.” One of the reasons Ravi refuses offers to appear on television.

Among qualities he wants children to possess is an interest in other cultures and people that are distinctly different from them. Ravi is famous for striking up conversations with waiters, cab drivers and other strangers. The art of understanding the world lies in being a listener. “An expenditure of words without income of ideas will lead to intellectual bankruptcy,” he says.

He, however, cautions against dangerous ideas. He cites the example of how Nietzsche's concept of the Superman influenced Hitler profoundly and adversely impacted the course of world history. Ravi concludes with a piece of advice — that knowledge should be filtered by wise judgment.

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Arts, Entertainment & EventsMay 14, 2012