posted by RY Deshpande on Thu 29 Nov 2007 08:18 PM PST Permanent Link
In pursuance of this goalless voyage we have come far, but have landed up with agnosticism, dilettantism and cynicism in our approach to things. We have knowledge of all kinds but we are not sure of the conclusions we derive from it. We have loads of information available at finger-touch, ready to turn our minds into god’s own. And we equip our young ones with ‘job-oriented’ education. After all, the population is on the rise, and a growing population is a growing ‘market’. In our enthusiasm for production we are so much enamoured of computer, which far surpasses human working in its quantitative aspects, that we do not hesitate to ascribe Intelligence to it or even characteristics of human personality. A quantum leap of quantity is taken by us as a sign of quality. We do not understand or we ignore the darker side of applied science which likes to denigrate all human and spiritual values and, if possible, to eliminate them.
Our enjoyment of life is a morbid haste and an attempt to extract from it as much pleasure as we could squeeze out. We do not enjoy life as the ancients did, with the joy of life on the open face. Today we do not just want to enjoy but we want to know that we are enjoying.
In our attempt to draw pleasure from life we have to rely on external gadgets to constantly stimulate us. TV is there to bombard us with the very latest news or whatever other form of excitement we ‘need’ at the moment. If outside home, we carry music in our mobile, so that not a single dull moment passes, if we have some free time. Even while jogging or working out, music has to be there to help us make effort.
In creating music we take recourse to technical ingenuity rather than creativity. Our music is no more fine, subtle or soothing. It has to be loud enough to impinge upon our nerves. Its rhythm has to be crude and primitive so that it can enter our physical system easily. We have no patience for subtle and intricate rhythms or for finer musical vibrations, which can give us an inward touch.
In literature we have reached the acme of depravity. We are prepared to sink to any extent to express the ‘reality’, and whatever is realistic, must be suitable for expressing. Whatever is sublime is either bombastic or pretentious. This is our motto. We cannot read a prize-winning book and be inwardly happy. “No, no; how can you be that? The reality being what it is you cannot be truly happy; but you have one way out. You can have ‘fun’ instead. You may seek pleasure as much as you like.”
In poetry lack of meaning and rhythm have become necessities. And metre? Oh, we do not want to bind ourselves down to a metre! After all, we have to be spontaneous in poetry, we want to express whatever comes up; and if the subconscious muddle is the first thing to rise, we must express it without hesitation and without the intervention of metre. This is how ‘free-verse’ is born. Fidelity to metre would make the poetry rhythmic and subtle. We do not want that; and no, no idealism please! Our delight is in the turbidity of composition, a vagueness and a lack of direction. To the modernist mentality a Wordsworth or a Tagore is terribly out of date, an anathema.
In our paintings we are not satisfied with expressing one motive at a time. We would like to have intermingling of tints, light dying away into obscurity and shades that blur the contours. We want to have an impression of many motives at the same time and that too not in a harmonious manner. We need a certain tortuousness and tangledness in the movement.
If ever we think of ultimate things we find and conclude that Truth is merely relative; there is no absolute truth. And if there is, nobody has ever realized it. Hence there is no purpose in life. ‘You may seek,’ we contend, ‘but you will only move from uncertainty to uncertainty. So why bother? Plan your life intelligently and enjoy it to the fullest. The business of looking for purpose is a waste of time.’
We do not believe in inborn greatness. All so-called great people were either clever and hard-working or it was something in their genes that gave them qualities and made them famous. There is nothing ‘divine’ in greatness as old-fashioned men believe. Besides, if we look carefully enough into the details of their lives we will find ample defects of character. If we can’t find them easily, we are prepared to undertake painstaking research to find the sensational details. No, all are human animals, after all.
Ours is an age of hunger, hunger for power, for enjoyment, and no doubt also for knowledge. But we would like to pursue, by and large, a knowledge that would help multiply the objects of hunger. If some of us do not know enough about the available means of enjoyment, the Advertising Industry is there not only to inform but impinge upon our senses with sufficient cunning and finesse the importance and worthiness of the object of enjoyment no one can afford to miss. If you don’t have the need, no problem, we will implant the need in you.
About sexual matters we are open-minded. Almost no relation is barred between two consenting adults. Gone are the days of looking upon sex as something that should take place under sanction of the time-honoured institution of marriage, so as to keep it in moderation. But who wants to curb one’s freedom? Everything is permissible, so go ahead, of course you have to ‘take care’, otherwise you will land up in trouble. But, in any case, do not suppress natural instincts; otherwise you will have psychological problems!
‘What, do you mean to say that we are not deep enough? We have not thought about life? What nonsense! What are we doing yoga for? Haven’t we learnt yoga from a world-renowned Guru with a million disciples? We are regularly practising asanas and pranayama and sometimes do even the japa of ‘OM’. This practice has increased our efficiency, vigour and productivity considerably and enhanced our business prospects. Who then can say that we are not practising spirituality?’
Now, all this is not a moral issue, not at all. The global society’s attitude is not immoral, necessarily. This is an issue of Outwardness vs. Inwardness. To quote Katha Upanishad:
The self-born has set the doors of the body to face otwards, therefore the soul of a man gazes outward and not at the Self within—
parānchi khāni vyatŗņtsvayambhūstasmātparānga paśyati nāntarātman.
The doors of our consciousness are turned outwards and hence we have lost the inner security, inner happiness and inner fullness of life. This is not to say that outward progress is to be despised. We can progress outwardly also, improve environment, conquer space, contain diseases— actually in a far better way—if we, as a collectivity, regain the inner touch.
The poet of yesteryear, TS Eliot, wrote these three soulful lines:
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
Perhaps we may add as a sequel:
Where is the living we have lost in consumption?