From Hurried Habitability to Heightened Habitability
By Dr.Shashi K. Pande.
Position paper presented at the First National Symposium on Habitability LA May 11-14 1970
Ideas languish under the pomp of their own idolatry. A legend from ancient India celebrates this truth thus-
A king in his youth lost his much beloved queen, and was bereft with grief. He decided to build an august mausoleum to preserve the memory of his departed wife. For years, the best engineers and architects of the land toiled to build a monument of his desires, but the king was dissatisfied. The sequence of mausoleum building and its rejection by the king was repeated several times, even as the king grew older and more impatient. Finally enraged, the king summoned the master of builders of the entire world who took umpteen years to build a yet greater, more gigantic edifice. This time, the king showed some appreciation and interest. But as he walked through the halls and corridors of the mausoleum, he kept muttering to himself that there was something wrong, something unbecoming about it. At last, as he was nervously pacing through the corridors on the seventh floor, he looked down to the base of the quadrangle, and saw structure occupying its center. He looked puzzled, not recognizing it, and upon enquiring was told that this was the tomb of his Queen, where her body lay at rest. He shouted in exultation, “Now, I know what is wrong with this mausoleum. Remove this tomb, and this mausoleum will be perfect”.
In civilizations thus, there often exists a curious, self-defeating relationship between the institutional juggernauts that humans assiduously fashion, and the devitalized ideas and sentiments which these organized human efforts eventually come to house. This paper is a search for indwelling essenceof habitability, of its authenticity and ideals, in the current and contemplated modes of living. The perspective of the paper is determined by the author’s bicultural life-contingencies, as well as by his clinical experience as a psychiatrist. What follows then is a highly subjective glimpse of two modes of habitability: the Indian and Western. (1)
Considerations of habitability, comprising indeed life in its entirety, settle down, in my estimate, to three broad aspects: the subject, the environment and their refulgent relationship forged on the anvil of time. The sequence will be reversed for the discussion: first we will consider the inner profile of the individual-environment relationship, and then some aspects of the environment and the individual.
Habitability in the final instance is only what the experiencing of our environment feels and means to us; its essence contingent on how we process the environmentthrough experience. Otherwise habitability is an empty shell, and the environment is merely that “inverted Bowl we call the Sky, where under crawling coop’ t we live and die (1). The texture, the intimacy, and the integration of the contact between the inner reality, the subject and the outer reality, the environment, predicate the quality of life. The rest is, I am afraid, technology and plumbing.
Time, not the mathematical sidereal time, but the inwardly experienced time, which in Spenglerian sense is identified with “destiny” and “the personal” and takes into account its individual and cultural unevenness, hovers over the marriage between life and environment- which is what habitability is- and determines not only its finiteness, but its experiential depth. The silk of experience is woven only over the loom of time.
The individual’s relationship with time is largely shaped by values derived from his culture. Civilizations differ in their orientation toward time, and impart a specific time-perspective to their members, which largely determines the pattern and the rate of their interaction with the environment. Life perspective is thus rooted in time-perspective.
Civilizations, of India and the West stand in marked contrast in their view of time, and perhaps as a consequence have inherited different universes of inner experience, and have striven towards altogether divergent aims of habitability.
The Indian mind related with time in two differing styles. First, throu0gh counteless symbols and timeless myths, whose living presence can be felt in its everyday life, it expanded the notion of time into such astronomical proportions that time lost any real meaning. In a fantastic cosmology in which time revolves in gigantic cycles the consciousness of time was all but effectively annihilated. Priestly (3) has called this the Indian Time Trick. The idea of cyclic time was of course not unique to India but, as Priestly says, “the Indians methodized and elaborated it on a terrifying scale”. (3) India’s other attitude to time, as noted by Hass, is “her trenchant evaluation of the individual and is fate as the only historical reality. “What reality there is in this world resides in the individual, not as a link and member of the historical process, but in his as such. (5, p.46-47)
This ahistorical style of relating to time is part of that overview of life, uniformly displayed in the Indian tradition, which prefers in general what Collingwood has called “the infinite thinking of philosophy”.
Essentially, then, the Indian cosmic treadmill of the timeless Absolute melts “the ineluctable and rock like fact of time”. (7, p.366) into liquid, living present. The Indian thus lives in a permanent present; his country’s “contemporary antiquity” has been noted by several observers. Erik Erikson, with his sure and shrewd clinical sense, writes:
“Indians, I believe, live in more centuries at the same time than most other peoples; and every Indian, be he ever so well educated and pragmatic, lives also in a feminine space time that is deep inside a HERE and in the very centre of a NOW, not so much an observer of a continuum of means and ends but a participant in a flux marked by the intensity of confluence (8,p 43.)
The practical psychological consequences of this, at the same time acute and diffuse awareness of the present are many. However, of immediate relevance, in the context of this paper, is the possibility of experiential enrichment that such a present- oriented encounter with experience suggests. It invites a more immediate and inclusive consciousness of events as they occur, and greater awareness of, to use Whitehead’s terminology, “actual occasions”……….. the final real things of which the world is made up” ( 9,p.37), rendering these moments, events, and occasions perhaps more authentic. Rather than shaping events, putting them to “use”, and squeezing out their maximum possibilities for the future, out of, as it were, an automatic necessity, they are taken for what they are, relatively speaking of course, and are absorbed, assimilated, and realized. A different order of experience, its harmony and ease, a perhaps truer interpretation of the subject with his environment, is thus established.
The confrontation of this view of time and experience, however, with the corresponding Western attitude is almost comic. Heidegger, entrenched in the Faustian world view, characterized an inauthentic man thus (as described by Barrett (7, p.362): “The inauthentic individual…….. Cowering before his own possibilities, lets time slip away and experiences it only as a passive flow of his being……… (and before it) the individual stands impotent in its flow it sweeps the individual away with it.”
The comparison of Western and Eastern time concepts consists, at the risk of simplification, of a comparison between an acute time-consciousness and a diffuse timelessness. Western man with his special interest in the physical phenomena has externalized time; he has abstracted it and at the same time hypostatized it, and developed it into a precise reliable instrument, essential to science and industry. Yet this highly developed concept of time has become our companion in the daily life, and it profoundly moulds our experiences, mundane and sublime alike.
The Western concept of time is essentially a linear, directional one. The idea of progress, conceived along this linear time-sequence, and capped by the numinous Judeo-Christian vision of the millennium has energized the Faustian will, and yet enslaved it; its intensity and earnestness are truly unfathomable to the non-Westerner. A nisus toward the millennium, of which the “superheated” Western industrial states as well as the communistic societies are the interim heirs, has given that glow and glory, those triumphs and trophies, to the Western civilization which make the idea of secular progress irresistible to the Westerner and the non-Western alike.
An ever present futuristic life-orientation, a penchant for change, a superior evaluation of man’s prowess in the universe bestowing on him a sense of urgency and mission, the Calvinistic need for activity and the will to work-each interrelated with the other and embedded in the overall leitmotif of secular, linear progress, beckoned by the City of God-create conditions where consciousness, instead of nestling with the nascent present lifts its gaze skyward, in wonder and awe, towards things yet to come, mythical oceans of heavens yet to be crossed, challenges yet to be posed: all this to titrate, measure and reassure the greatness of man. Thus, in the Western concept, Man carries the burden and the necessity of delivering, as it were, the Creation itself.
Surely, this ‘secular’ life-orientation with its eyes riveted to the horizon is as other-worldly, and even as fanatical, in its metaphysical reality, as the ecclesiastical view, which it was to have succeeded, and improved upon.
At an individual level, in the West, man’s allotted acre of time is carefully cultivated and treasured. It is a unique opportunity to be utilized and to be filled to the utmost with engagements, events and endeavours, in order to capture the richest share of life. Indeed, there is a yearning to cover, albeit superficially, the waterfront of experiences and sensations. Time, which delivers these experiences, is saved and scheduled, and choices are carefully made between the alternative uses of time. When George Bernard Shaw was informed that a certain athlete had set a world record by running a race in a tenth of a second less than the former champion, he asked: “What will the new champion do with the time he has saved?” A Malay prince, while attending Edward VII’s coronation in 1902, saw London for the first time; he remarked to his escort that he now understood for the first time why Europeans value time.
“In this country each day is so packed with living that if a man misses so much as a quarter of an hour, never again will he catch up with the minutes which have escaped him. With us life saunters: here it gallops as though it were pursued by devils” (10,p.234) Fortunate was the prince that he observed only the Edwardian age, which moved- it now seems- with the leisurely pace of a glacier, and that he was spared the sight of our jet age.
Whereas an Indian will spend, for instance, a great deal of time in shaving, bathing, and dressing each day, almost enjoying the “process”, the goal- and end-oriented Westernerwould first consider whether it is worthwhile to waste so much time on so useless an activity. The Western man schedules his entire life span, and often, in fact schedules himself right out of it. He plans his leisure, his hobbies; he budgets his income, he invests, insures, provides for his retirement and his family, and even in many cases arranges his burial plot and the distribution of his ‘estate’. And, in all this regimentation, structuring and mastery of his external fate, he forgets himself. Anxiously he keeps his appointment with clock time, but he annuls his tryst with destiny.
To speak of the possibilities of leisure in current, advanced technological states is not to understand the nature of contemporary society. Leisure is not a function of inventing time-saving devices: it is a habit of mind; it is the art of the “relaxed will”, to use E.M.Forster’s excellent phrase (11, p.9).
In the constructive harnessing of time lies also the power of time, well recognised by the pragmatic West. The efficient utilization of time and the sheer capacity to do more is conducive to “winning”. In the tempo of the race for time lies the quest for temporal power; in its heat, and blind rush and ambition, lies the danger of igniting the self and the world.
Returning to the theme of the legend, in the West in the burly-burly of conquest over nature, and in the obsessive fashioning of a multi-splendored, aseptic, geodesic dome over “Man and His Universe” man’s relationship to the environment in a deeper sense was glossed over; on the other hand, in India, as she mused under the arch of time, the septic environment was allowed to swallow and sap her existence and vitality. Whereas the West plunged skyward like a meteor, breaking its connections with the soil and nature, India clung, like an ostrich, to the sands of time.
The sad truth is: neither India nor the West have thus far have been able balance satisfactorily, simultaneously the twin worlds of spirit and matter, of inner beatitude and outward strength, and both appear to be in that peculiar algebraic posture where the pluses of each civilization, if added to the minuses, would equalize scores with each other. The genius of one appears to be precisely the deepest shadow within the soul of the other.
As we stand ready, paradoxically, either to reduce the world to ashes or to build castles on the cosmic sand, it appears to be our manifest destiny to show a genuine openness to mutual influence. (12, 13) of respective worldviews. In the words of Tagore, “Let us have a deepassociation” (14, p.200)
After thus considering perception of time, and its bearing on enriching habitability through a more intimate contact between the individual and his environment, I should next liketo consider environment itself- not in its physical aspect, where Western civilization has indeed brought about miraculous changes, but in its human dimension.
Today, when one hears the odious term “people pollution” bandied about, it is distinctly unfashionable, I fully realize, to develop- here in this symposium- my second point: a suggestion I propose by way of an “antidote” to the forces of anonymity and rootlessness already rampant in contemporary society. The perniciousness of these trends is likely to increase in future habitations of man, whether they are in space, under the earth, below the ocean, or on the Himalayan roof of the world.
More serious than “de-spiritualization of nature” although perhaps related to it, is the fact of unavailability ofnon-superficial human relationships, and dis-involvementwith the significant others in modern urban life. Food and shelter are admittedly basic, but so are relationships and the universe of sentiments that they involve. A society is surely courting danger when it creates conditions where quite often the only way to experience enduring, healing, and satisfying relationships, for a substantial number of its population, is through ‘purchase of friendship (15) from the ever-expanding industry of psychotherapy, and all manner of psychological counselling.
F.M. Forester (16), describing India of half a century ago, spoke graphically of it as a place where the friend of a friend is a reality. It is precisely this world of personal relationships which and industrial society, in cold logic, tears asunder. The present generation seems to have inherited a world which has lost the art of relating. One sees a decay and erosion of that which makes human beings truly human: a capacity to love- lover, not at all in its romantic, but in its harder, granite sense, in its endurablity, tolerance and “in spite of” conception. There is something disjunctive, decementing, and fragile about our present setup that asks for an enquiry, and a deeper readjustment.
In the agricultural phase of economic history, the family received special protection and the extended family was particularly suited for its aims (17). Under the impact of the industrial revolution larger kinship patterns dissolved, the nuclear family remained but increasingly so in mere name, leading Durkheim to coin the word anomie, at the turn of the century, to accurately describe the destruction of relational bonds of a modern individual within his relevant ‘social atom’.
We have gone beyond the age of industrial revolution, and are now at its autumnal, menopausal stage, when leaving an active biological youth behind, psychological issues dominate the consciousness. Needs are no longer economic for the ‘advanced’ societies, but psychological and emotional as well as moral.
The new emergent societies in USSR, China and Israel, have experimented with forms of collective living. Depending upon the setting, economic productivity, equality, or dignity of labour is emphasized in these new units of group living.
Amidst the lotus-eating super civilization of California, the hippie movement has intuitively sought and trafficked with forms of communal living-not for the sake of economic productivity, or dignity of labour, or value of equality, but almost solely for the sake of relating with one another, albeit at times in bizarre and erratic ways, but interestingly, in a non-Calvinistic framework. Again, the cult of marathon encounter groups, and the general vogue these days of group experiences of all kinds, point to the generally felt need of learning to live with one another, and of ‘requiring each other’. (9). The Hippie experiment is an exercise in living together and perhaps acting-out together; the encounter experience is a more deliberate, self-conscious, psychotherapeutic exercise in action where fellow-alienated souls indulge in an effervescent psychic bubble-bath and ‘feel out’ one another’s existence- alas over a weekend !
These movements represent, symbolically at least, a counter thrust of the modern temper, against ego-alienating atomistic trends of the age. They suggest a groping toward a more syncretic human experience. But, in the interest of the long term health and wholesomeness of a society, the question must be posed: can relating be really meaningful if it is a transient or irresponsible or contrived or merely contractual; if it is state organized; it it is merely economically inspired?.
With a sense of deep humility, but aware of the presumptuousness that the proposal involves, therefore more accurately with arrogant humility, I should like to make a specific suggestion in the setting of this symposium regarding future patterns of habitability, and even as I realize that this is perhaps a foolish dream of mine, product of fertile Indian imagination.
I sincerely feel that a rejuvenation of a modified extended family system would offer several advantages in the context of the current social situation. This term is broadly used here and it implies living together of the “available” and the needy members of a family. This might include aged parents, single adult son or daughter, unmarried aunt, uncle, nephew and so forth. It does not necessarily involve joint living arrangements of grown up brothers and their families.The advantages are:
1. Restoring of the role of natural relationships in contemporary society where they are increasingly usurped by “professional” and “expert” relationships.
2.De-emphasis on efficiency as an aim in itself, and a realization that wholesomeness of an organic society is, in the long run, the more efficient organization.
3. Movement of the life toward a more genuinely emotive plane, developed in the natural habitat of family, to correct the bias of a cerebral approach to life and an overly objective “matter of fact way treating things… Commodities and men (18 p.96). The Western world can certainly do with a dash of sentiment and subjectivity.
4. Rehabilitation of the aged within the family where they belong, rather than in the euphemistic settings of “golden age clubs”, “senior citizen forums” and the like.
5. A curb on juvenile delinquency by offering possibilities of involvement, a multiplicity of relationships, sentiments of family pride, honour and solidarity and hierarchy of family –universe.
6. Addition of an ‘emotional security system’ to bolster the fortunately already available economic social security system.
7.Restoration to the pre-eminent position of honour the institution of family in the modern age, where even the nuclear family becomes increasingly denucleated and dismembered, and whose grown up children behave (as a Japanese colleague of mine wryly remarked) more like alumni of a school rather than members of a homogenous family.
8. A general softening of the tough exterior of a frontier-blazing ‘man without roots, the motherless man, the womanless man’ (19, p.299)
9. Regulation of conduct and personal behaviour by the naturally available system of ‘checks and balances’ and by consensual validation, through several concurrent personal relationships, all rich in the sense of personal involvement.
Disadvantages of the extended family system in the highly mobile industrial societies are all too apparent to need reiteration here, but the trends towards collective living and therapeutic group experiments seem to indicate incentives and pressures in the direction. However, two obvious factors working against this data need a word of comment.
One misgiving may be in multiplication of emotional conflicts in such settings, even as it seems clear that a choice in the other direction leads to apathy, boredom and alienation which, by promoting acting out on a grand scale through drugs, sex, violence, in turn leads to different order and magnitude of conflicts. However, the more serious question is: should discard be shunned to such an extent that one would rather discard relationships? Family conflicts are admittedly disquieting, but it is precisely through having conflicts, within the ambience of personal involvement, that one learns to modulate them and develop a sense of confidence, tolerance, and a sensitive regard for the needs and feelings of others, Family conflicts involve real people, rather than their more symbolic abstract representatives (as commonly, in the alienated world) and are events of some emotional intensity. Without family events, be they positive or negative, cooperative or conflictual, life moves toward nihility and progressively loses contact with “things real”
The other misgiving is more unreal, and is perhaps an expression of a cultural bias. The invitation to experimentation in a joint family system has a connotation of “going back in time” which, to the modern mind, is a fate worse than death. Who can tilt at the windmills o Time and Progress, which happen to be among the holiest of the holy cows of his consciousness? Surely, this attitude is as phobic as the one that denies all possibilities for future.
To sum up, if I were asked (in the vein of a similar question that Max Mueller asked of himself) from what institutions of the East, the future models of habitability in the West, could draw that correctives which is more wanted, in which it deeply lacks to overemphasis of reason, and to house the lonely and austere Western spirit of freedom in the flesh of human bondage, I should point to the institution of extended family. One has to return to turn nowhere else to learnt that the richest meaning to life is given by the deepest family ties, that a sense of continuity of existence comes only through the magic of children and their children, and that a perfect man is only he, as Manusmriti declares, who is utterly united with his wife and his offspring. To the Asian way of thinking, family is the only legitimate school of relationships, whose term spans a lifetime, whose medium of instruction is love, whose mantra is tolerance, and where conduct, not dogma, is taught.
Finally, there remains only limited time-bowing thus to the majesty of time- to cast a passing glance at one aspect of the individual, in this triaxial consideration of individual, his environment and the encounter between the two.
A Great Society of our vision (since more seems to be around, East or West), even if its gentler style of living permitted experiencing of the experience, and even as it offered possibilities of intimacy within the sphere of family relationships, would still flounder if it failed to strive toward being a Good Society.
Western society, particularly the American, has displayed a great sense of responsibility, as well as compassion, in organizing its life for the greatest good of the largest number. Insufficiently recognized, however, is the fact that the development of a good society does not only depend on working of good institutions, just laws, “higher” education. A good society perhaps rests, in the final emphasis, the higher economic law of demand and supply of good individuals, the availability of models of ideal behaviour to the literally strewn, as it were, like leaves, in the interstices of its institutions be they political, religious, educational, economic or pertaining to the family.
To give a contrasting “cross –habitability” glimpse, Bradford Smith in the Portrait of India” observes,”……. While we give our allegiance to the institutions-church, service club, party, union-they (the Indians) reserve theirs for individuals.” (20. P.188). Again, “Indians regard the inner feelings, the emotional involvement, as the real thing. If they find that, they do not look too much for outer manifestations such as works. They think of religion in its personal, individual significance where we tend to value it in its institutional forms……..”(20, p.129). And yet again, “While we tend to look upon social service as the road to personal maturity and satisfaction, an Indian will say that he must first perfect and self-discipline himself before he can undertake any worthy social service (20, p.189).
This theme of self-perfection, of course, does invite some hypocrisy in the personal and social behaviour, which many Indians indeed show. However, it also invites an idealistic view of life, and a striving for its realization on a more immediate, individual level. It is axiomatic to the practical Hindu concept of life, as I understand it, that a quest for self-perfection is a necessary condition to achieve “heightened” habitability. The celebration of the aesthetic –experiential dimension in life cannot lie outside a moral, responsible stance toward it, if the former is not to be confused with merely a senseless search for a sensate bent in life. It is from within the orbit of a responsible family life, the humdrum of his daily existence, the joys and sorrows of his destiny, seated squarely, lotus-postured, within the cool “majesty of the moral law” (21, p.89) that the Hindu is traditionally expected to cull his experiences, fulfilling his duty, “in that state of life to which one happens to be called. (21, p.89).
Haas has pointed out that the Western man had to put his confidence in institutions, throughout history, since the institutions are the equivalent of conceptual thought, ‘thatWestern form of objective reason’ (5, p.88). To this I shouldlike to add that since institutions offer possibilities of engaging in projects, plans, and programs of which one hears a great deal in the West, they are the natural culminating points of Western man’s proclivity toward action, and thus the institutions absorb cataracts of his outward flowing energy.
Haas goes on to argue that in the West institutionsdistract attention from man himself and in the long run, degrade him to ‘the state of an unfree and irresponsible being’ (5. P 89) Here, it is perhaps appropriate to recall that during the recent police strike in Montreal, Canada, its otherwise decorous and “civilized “citizenry, having lost its external symbol of restraint, lost also its internal restrains (22).
In his institutions, the Western man has externalized his ideals, having himself stepped aside to an extent. He refuses to make moral judgments (12), he draws no individual norms for others, he lives and lets live. If in his society there is injustice, there are good laws; if there is neglect there is welfare; if there are unwed mothers, there are homes and adoption agencies. The Great Society thus endeavours to be a Good Society relying on a mammoth chess game between Good Institutions reducing the individual largely to the status of a passive participant of institutional beneficence rather than his being a decisive doer of moral deeds.
While the Western tradition conferred inordinate accolade to reason in man, and to his prestige in the physicaluniverse, it chose to invest little faith in his moral perfectibility and spiritual exaltation- indeed, has continued to view this with suspicion and disbelief, even alarm. The lower the sights of the conceptual models of man and his functioning, the greater their creditability and acceptance. Is it merely and accidental turn in history that it is Freud and Marx who have become custodians of modern consciousness, rather than, for instance, Jung or Gandhi?. The latter seem vaguely related to the unnatural , unrealistic, unattainable world of the spirit, the supra-rational and the ideal, while the former have the convincing ring of the ‘realistic’ and the natural. One can only lament with Santayana:
There is only one world, the natural world, and only one truth about it. But his world has a spiritual life in it, which looks not to another world but to the beauty and perfection that this world suggests, approaches, and misses.
Can it be that the theme of original sin and the Fall of Man is written indelibly, and written large, on the palimpsest of Western consciousness, and that with each successive age, it gets rewritten in the contemporary idiom of the new age? The modern Western man appears uneasy of his moral identity, and carrying through the centuries the guilt, born of the destiny of perdition, demurs from looking directly at the “ecstasy of the white radiance of the Spirit”
“Enlightened” by valueless notions of science, psychoanalytic ‘revelations’ of the Id-origins of moral judgments, and an assortment of anthropological observations of ‘non-developed’ societies, seemingly suggesting that no fundamental universal verities exist for mankind, we have discarded moral values as “deadweight’s of the dark ages ofhistory” (23.,p.174). With a knowing, precocious, school-boyish pride in our storehouse of knowledge-a motley of puerile partial perspectives on man-we seem to have grown increasingly deaf to the promptings of conscience, except in its aspects relating to work, and we have moved into more sophisticated parlours where the antihero replaces the hero, and where the New Morality mocks in derision the time-honoured values. Righteously refusing to own the label of sinner, this dour inheritance of an existential illegitimacy of birth, and freeing himself from the howling fear of hellfire and brimstone the contemporary Western man has attacked hisfierce and formidable Judeo-Christian conscience and, by rationalizing and psychologizing it, he has sought to extricate it from its religious and primeval context. As a god self-slain on his own altar, to recall the lines of Swinburne (24), morals today through their own excesses stand impeached, the surest calumny of our times being to label someone a moralist. Is all this not a self-fulfilling prophesy of that view of man which denied him any possibilities of moral redemption, and therefore of moral grandeur, in this life?
In conclusion, I intend to raise a question, whose answersI do not know, but which intrigues me and troubles me, and upon whose solution depends, I fear, a great deal. Candidly stated the question is: what incentives beyond the requirements of law, do exist in the modern, secular, democratic society for the individual men and women to be good? Why should an ordinary citizen endeavour to be ideal or perfect? This is, indeed, not to say that the ordinary man is evil or sinful. Fortunately, this cannot be stated. But it is to say and ask why human goodness is not the highest aim of our society.
Jayaprakash Narayan has portrayed well this moral dilemma of our times in these word:
“Therefore the problem of human goodness is of supreme moment today. The individual asks today why he should be good. There is no God, no soul, no morality, no life hereafter, no cycle of birth and death. He is merely an organism of matter, fortuitously brought into being and destined soon to dissolve into Infinite Ocean of matter. He sees all around him evil succeed-corruption, profiteering, lying, deception, cruelty, power politics, violence. He asks naturally why he should be virtuous. Our social norms of today…. Answer back: he need not. The cleverer he is, the more gifted, the more courageously he practise the newamorality, and in the tolls of this amorality the dreams and aspirations of human-kind become warped and twisted” (23, p.175-176).
Our legendary king may have been an unwise king, but he was a sentimental king, and he had loved- and that, at least from and Eastern standpoint, is sufficient to advance his credentials as a good man. His errors we shall overlook: his striving we shall honour even as he forgot its aim.
“Fanaticism consists”, Santayana (25) has said, “in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim”
This essay is a sentimental journey, and a rhetorical plea, toward rehabilitating aims of living, and not merely of striving, as we “redouble our efforts” to construct newer palaces of habitability, and as we pierce the heavens with our concept of living.
The questions raised are:
If WE ARE TIME, at what level shall we adjust the thermostat of time, and therefore of the culture, in order to experience life more fully and bathe in its contents rather than merely count its beats.
What universe of human relationship shall we establish to drown the humming of the Machine, even as the latter may be a temporary co-pilot of our destiny?
And finally, the question of the moral will, in whose hands rests the finality of existence itself, and its utter safety and survival.
Freedom of action is a fine ideal but it must be compromised, if it implies any doubt that in certain spheres of conduct, be they personal, social or universal, we do not know what we will do, or not do. This much we owe to others, and they owe it to us, that their safety, as well as ours, physical and emotional, rests on absolutely certain grounds. That, in essence, is the concept of Ahimsa. No matter what the provocation, no matter what the expediency, no matter what the justification, but there has to be a certain line that can never be transgressed, as surely in interpersonal relationships as in international relationships. And that indeed is the definition of a good man and a good nation. All or any universes and utopias of habitability are possible, and realizable, when man ascends into this order of freedom.
1. Omar Khayyam-Fitzgerald.
2. Basham, A.L. The Wonder That Was India. Grove Press, N.Y 1954