Saturday, December 16, 2017

The liberating nothingness

Ah, the vastness of our history! The immensity of our journey from the Big Bang that brought our universe into being 13.8 billion years ago to our planet, formed about 4.5 billion years ago as part of stars and galaxies that resulted from a cosmological cooling after our universe burst forth to claim its space in the void. It is all our story even though as homo sapiens, we have been here for a mere 200,000 years, having first emerged in East Africa. We were in the making from the very start, products of the mysterious timeless, spaceless nothingness before the Bang.

Paradoxically you feel free when you realise how infinitesimally small we are as individuals and societies in the infinity of the cosmos and its history. We lose that arrogant, blinding sense of self; and with the dawning of individual irrelevance, all imperfections, personal and environmental, recede, leaving room for the unburdened mind to expand into a vastness like the universe that emerged from a point of “singularity’’ which itself came from the nothingness to which the cosmos could return, expanding now at an accelerated rate.

You flower into a largeness capable of containing it all, the concept, the immensity, the constancy of change. It no longer unnerves that all you see before you and which you know exists will also vanish like the dinosaurs and the grass they trampled. Secure in your vastness, fleetingness is irrelevant, indeed non-existent. For you are free from the entrapment of the material world with its bewildering contradictions, fading beauty and its lack of anything terribly profound. Then with smiling equanimity, you can ask: what’s this all about? Why all the fuss? Everything eventually comes to nought. You know then that life is just a game that traps you in a darkness of attachment which is the source of all pain and the spirit’s suffocation but which will endure to your last breadth unless you recognise the journey, the eternity from whence you came and which you really are. You must become capable of embracing the void.

No education is complete without an internalisation of our reality. Without a sense of our origin, there is no connectivity with our inner vastness and we shrink with the limited ideas which have stunted our understanding and inflicted so much destruction.

Humans try to make the best of their existence and fall short in varying degrees. People have dreams but neither education, time nor circumstances allow them to fulfil all or even any. As society, the perfect model has so far eluded us, for totalitarianism suffocates individual creativity, capitalism generates both wealth and inequalities and social democracies eventually become complacent and lose the competitive edge. The only certainty seems to be destruction of ourselves and nature.

So after all that evolution, we are now in the “thirsty century’’ which promises wars over water as populations increase, global warming intensifies and competing demands by cities, industry and agriculture make the earth increasingly dry. Fourteen years ago, 200 scientists identified water shortage as one of the two most worrying problems for the world. But we have done nothing about it. Egypt has already threatened force to protect access to the Nile which also runs through Ethiopia and Sudan. The Ganges is being increasingly depleted, heightening tension between India and Bangladesh. The Yellow River, critical for China’s agriculture, ran dry in its lower reaches in 1997. In the Middle East competition for River Jordan water was “a major cause’’ of the 1967 war; and Syria and Iraq accuse Turkey of diminishing their water supply as it constructs dams along the Euphrates and Tigris. Mexico City, once “the lush land of lakes’’ is today sinking because of the water being extracted from beneath its foundations. And the epitome of absurdity, a metaphor for man’s insanity is the Aral Sea, in Central Asia, once the world’s fourth largest inland seas, turned into a “toxic desert’’ by Soviet stupidity that diverted its two feeding rivers to grow cotton in the desert!

And of course there is war. After 20 centuries and more of killing fields, our appetite for senseless killing remains and war continues today in the Middle East, Africa and now Europe whilst the stage is being set for greater global conflict as new alliances emerge involving Russia, China, Iran and countries in Latin America as portended on Vladimir Putin’s recent visit there.

Quo Vadis, humanity? Only the nothingness liberates you from the continuing madness.