The non-stop march forward, and backwards

Shihab Sarkar | Published: November 15, 2018 21:23:04 | Updated: November 16, 2018 20:51:26

Cave paintings at East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia, have been dated at 40,000 thousand years ago.    

The recent detection of snow-filled clouds in the sky of Mars and the discovery of prehistoric figurative cave paintings on the Indonesian island of Borneo points to two things: no age is static. To elaborate, past continues to look back into its spent times, farther than a given time in the present. At the same time, the present never stops looking beyond its graspable confines into the future. This has been the rule humans have been following since they began looking past the traditionally set borders of time. Indisputably, it was Galileo Galilee (1564-1642) who pioneered the trend of looking beyond the earth's different spheres into space. Although later persecuted by the church-dominated cliques, the 16th -17th century Italian astronomer heralded a revolution in star-gazing with his telescope. He said earth moves round the sun, not the other way round.

Another ground-breaking revelation was made by Charles Darwin, the Englishman, in the 19th century. He was the first-ever naturalist and geologist to claim that the modern human species was the result of an evolutionary process. It has continued through millions of years, beginning with the single-celled amoeba transforming through fishes, birds and animals, and eventually homo habilis, homo erectus to finally reach the stage of homo sapiens. Twentieth century scientists are quite assertive on their point that the process of human evolution has not stopped. Based on Darwin's 'theory of the origins of species' and that of evolution, naturalists have visualised radically metamorphosed creatures, in place of humans as they look today. These creatures will inhabit our planet a million years from now. Mostly in the form of invertebrate slimy creatures, they are predicted to rule the earth. Focuses on time also take man further backwards to the start of community living, roasting of hunted animals' meat, agriculture and the worshipping of an awe-inspiring unknown force. Cave paintings, however, belonged to an earlier phase. The first specimens of prehistoric cave painting of humans and animals were found in Spain and France. The recent discoveries in Indonesia reemphasises the advanced creative level the prehistoric Java man achieved 40 to 50 thousand years ago.

The human love for creativity and the arts, along with the urge to conquer others' territories, played a significant role in the growth of civilisations. In the process of the collapse of earlier civilisations, the more advanced ones came up. In spite of this advancement, humans have not stopped looking back to their roots.

The case for the Mars clouds, the dried-up marks of water-flow on the planet's surface and the other signs of 'life' eloquently speak of man's inherent trait to break the barriers, ones that keep him away from taking strides into the future. But man, by nature, is indomitable. His non-stop endeavours to discover planets with life forms in the Milky Way galaxy keep gaining momentum as decades roll by. Parallel to the search for life among the galactic planets, man now sets his eye on the exoplanets, planets which are located beyond our galaxy. Astrophysicists have already started taking heart from their discoveries of planets and their moons which are supposed to be conducive to the growth of life. At the same time, the modern man is still preoccupied with determining the time elapsed on the earth after the Big Bang.

The efforts seem to be unending. Only a couple of months back space scientists located a star, still being born after the galactic explosion, which they think would help them determine the exact age of the planet earth. NASA has sent unmanned probe missions into comets in the outer space. The sun, still the biggest star in the Milky Way galaxy, is also not spared man's scrutiny.

Man's progress and the attainment of goals previously thought impossible has never occurred on a single track. Be it the physical world or the domain of intangible and ethereal realities, the human march has continued through the ages. But the caravan has never been completely free of interventions, some virtual hurdles which emerged in the myriad forms of feuds, hostilities, famines & scourges and natural disasters. Inherently indomitable as the species is, humans have hardly been found willing to bow down before superior rivals and existential adversities. Nations have at times been made to stop advancing, when their leaders have devised fresh strategies and, on mustering enough strength and spirit, resumed their marches afresh. As part of the universal process, today's superior nations, both in the West and the East, have carved out their distinctive places in history. Yet due to being guided by an often-inscrutable rule, man never stopped looking back. The million-year past followed him without break, reminding him of the rich global heritage of which he is also a part. Thanks to being in the Orient, the treasures of reflective thoughts, inward-bent philosophies as well as the propensity to look beyond the mundane confines of life defined the area's people. The task of introspection has been different in the West.

Except a few attracted to the sub-continent-centred meditative quests, the Western philosophy had kept growing on the premises of polemics and doubt. Beginning from Socrates, Plato to Hegel, Kant, Kierkegaard to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and the rebellious Sartre, the Western philosophical corpus remained based on a different platform. It extolled the virtues of argument and discourse. Much of the Occidental thoughts remained essentially focused on human existence and one's choice of his or her preferable state of being: socially involved and thus committed, or aloof and alienated and thus joining the school of rebelliousness.

 The East, however, has undergone scores of metamorphoses. Nowadays, the thoughts, lifestyles and the exercises in scientific inventions take the Orient closer to the West. This is how history has been progressing since its early stage. The moot point is history is averse to immobility. It loves to shape and reshape itself and others including systems that rule states and territories.

These ups and downs and turning-points finally end up being focused on the universal rule -- the evolution of history. But a dilemma crops up, when humans continue to demonstrate his irresistible urge to cast a look into the future. On the other hand, to the average enlightened man, the past and the future are interdependent. In a quirky turn of events, future even exerts its influence on the past. On occasions, perspectives of the past take a radically changed form as it draws on both the present and the future. The followers of cosmologic infinity, on a different level, might call into question the very concept of time.






Share if you like