Tuesday, February 28, 2006

To say that the human situation is complex is superfluous, because it would be understating the obvious. It is fascinating that from the remove of time and space, the chaos of its contradictions and convulsions seem serene in their inconsequence and insignificance, even eventlessness. What staggers one is not the balance of stupendous harmony that one finds at that point of understanding, transcending this apparent miasma of disorder, but the tortuous process itself of getting there, finding oneself alone, unable to share the final answer to all quests, at the peril of not being understood, or worse, being viciously misunderstood.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Some years ago I designed and photographed a brochure for the Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Corporation, about Tamil Nadu bronze sculptures. I have posted pictures of the brochure on my website, as part of a larger group of Tamil Nadu bronzes.

The first page of the brochure includes a verse by the Tamil Saint Thirumular. I have always loved its dynamism:
When Siva dances his cosmic dance of knowledgebliss,
The Vedas dance, the Agamas dance, music and dance dances.
The lustrous universe dances, all the living beings dance, the entire world dances,
The primordial sound in which began all life dances.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

On Not Wanting to be Born, and being Exasperated and Unforgiving for Not Having Died or Killed Myself Early in Life



This picture was taken from a room in Calcutta, at the place where my mother’s head rested while I was being delivered. It shows the roof of a Jewish dharamsala, a charitable lodge for travellers. I tell people that all human newborns cry at birth because they have lost the security and sounds of the womb, the environment of amniotic fluid. They are suddenly exposed to countless images and never-heard sounds in that millisecond after coming out.

I did not cry for that reason: I cried because I did not want to be born. And all my life I have not changed this view. It is so expansive that whenever I am asked about my nationality I tell people that I am an alien from an unknown planetary system, from an unknown part of the cosmos.
If there were a glossary of words with which to describe the absolutes that are the only absolutes in what we call our universe, undoubtedly the first word to qualify would be the word ‘Absolute’ itself. It is the first among absolutes. The word ‘Universe’ is not an absolute, because the universe is not absolute. The second word would be ‘Change’, which is an absolute, because, one way or another, everything in this or any other universe is continuously changing, continuously inconstant. (more later)

Friday, February 24, 2006

I was asked during a discussion: Which came first, logic or philosophy? It took me awhile before I could reason out a reply: philosophy had to come first, because it derived essentially from wisdom, much of which could be devoid of logic. Therefore, logic must have developed later, as man became wiser and more philosophical. Subsequently, among the tools that philosophy, as a speciality; and wisdom, as common sense; came to use, one was logic. Not only does human life not derive strength, succour, or stability only from logic, in fact, it can wholly do without it. On the other hand, logic is the first tool which can figure out this and other complexities of life.
The Roman thinker and military strategist Vegetius advised the Emperor, "Si vis pacem, para bellum" -- If you want peace, prepare for war.

This is, of course, a paradox. Having spent 60 years of my life studying human nature and his civilisation, 2500 years later I have added one line for that axiom, to reread as,

If you want peace, prepare for war; but, mind you, if you prepare for war, you are most likely to wage it.
I am disappointed in all my children and grandchildren; though as a matter of principal, I have none who are actually my own. I have often wondered: if I really had my own children and so on, would I have been exultant, proud, or even more ravaged than I am. Would they have made a difference for the better, or worse, to my life? Most people who know me feel that children would have given me an anchor. Having mulled a great deal over the subject, I have come to believe that not only would they have failed to help me to find meaning, but actually, would have enhanced my rejection of life; in the process, I would have made a mess of their lives, in not being able to cope with the burden of their existence. I would not have forgiven myself for bringing creatures into a world which I myself could not accept or comprehend.

The following is from "Another Man Called Gandhi", by Janaki Venkataraman:
Precocious Ramesh as a child (10 or 11) was very disturbed one day and waited for his father to come home so that he could confront him. When he arrived and saw his son restless, he gently asked, “Any problem?” Ramesh replied, “Yes, a big one. I would like to know if I have any responsibility in the process of my conception and eventual birth..”

His father patiently replied, “You ought to know very well that you couldn’t have been consulted.” “So,” Ramesh said, “I am a product of your caring, your physicality, convention, social obligation, need for perpetuation of clan, security, sex, whatever, and not of my own volition, right?” His father replied, “Absolutely. But what is the point you are trying to make?” Ramesh replied, “What is baffling me is, ethically and morally, what is one’s debt to one’s parents, from whom his or her existence emerges without his or her will? And my inescapable answer is, unfortunately, none.”

His father pondered and said “Yes, you are right, you owe us nothing, but now that you have established this, what would you do? How would you plan your life?”

Ramesh said, “Well, if I don’t die or kill myself, at least I will not bring a child of my own.” Then his father laughed and felt that he had the clinching argument. He said, “How do you know your child also would ask you such a question?” But Ramesh had a reply for that, too. He quickly chortled, “If my child were not to ask me such a question, nothing lost in having such a stupid child. On the other hand, if I were to be asked such a question, I am a coward; I would not have the courage to bear the burden of somebody else’s existence when I find my own already unbearable.”