9 months ago

The grand design

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It was a winter evening in the eighties as I was visiting a friend. His elder sister was sitting next to me watching tv in the living room. Suddenly she turned around and said nature was very cruel. There was a tiger on the screen feeding on a deer. It was the wildlife series. I was taken aback. That night I was a vegan as I had my dinner. The next day I talked  about her comment to a friend who was a teacher of religious studies. His comment was casual. Unless this was done the planet would have been overrun by animals. This is the grand design.

In spite of what he said life is a series of killings as one species of animals feed on another, humans on animals, animals on animals and plants on whatever is available. All are hunters as well as the hunted. The weak has to make room for the strong. Darwin calls it 'survival of the fittest'. Underneath it is cruelty all along. Forrest Gump considers life as a box of chocolates not knowing which one comes next. It is a box of killings, a tiger not knowing the next prey or me not knowing the main course for dinner at night.

Earth to-day is crowded, considering the resources it must have to satisfy the basic human needs. The needs vary between nations. It was once estimated that if the entire earth-population had the North American standard of living, three earths would have been needed to fulfill the total requirement. Yet, once born all effort is made to protect that life. One is not permitted to take his own life. However, a small number of countries allow this option, termed euthanasia, on unbearable health conditions.

Back in the eighties there was a television serial about the life of a person who was on the run. He was required to report at the Termination Centre because he had turned twenty-seven. His time was up on the over-populated planet. But he did not want to leave so soon and hence was on the run. That was 'Logan's Run.' This is akin to the draft laws of the sixties when able Americans were required to serve in Vietnam. Those who declined had to suffer the consequences as did Muhammad Ali. Overnight he turned from being a boxing hero to nothing.

There are other variations in the way a life is contained. A boxer in his thirties is old, while a politician at that age is green.  The important thing, for a life, is to fill it up with events, not yawns. For a boxer life beyond thirties is a yawn, unless he can find a second career. Else, he may as well quit like Logan. If the barometer for survival in tomorrow's world is meaningful contribution alone, it is not far from Logan's Run, though the context is different.

For those of us who have crossed Logan's age there are societal requirement to fulfill. One has to earn his living but up to a point of time. People are retired on reaching an age, a bit longer than twenty-seven, when they are presumably less productive. This is despite being fit, physically, and mentally. The implicit assumption is the same, make room for others to step in. That is euthanasia extended. With the passage of time more countries will adopt forms of euthanasia that may not seem moral today. We are already treading on the border line as we accept right to abortion or termination of ventilation for a nonresponding patient on a hospital bed.

Like it or not, we are bound by nature's laws. Our experiments in doctoring the constituent elements of life such as the DNA, are basic preserves of nature. It is not known whether crossing the divide is good. We are already debating on similar questions as we play with elements of intelligence to be imparted to machines. We hasten to add that these experiments are very different from areas such as journey to the Mars that are bound by the physical laws of nature. Aldous Huxley in his book. 'Brave New World' talked about experiments in breeding humans in groups of alphas and betas serving different purposes bordering closely on the caste system. Hitler's experiment in creating a super race through selected breeding may have been inspired by ideas in the book.  In the world tomorrow there will be more such issues to resolve, some unsettling. Aldous Huxley had a very different way of looking at life. 'The Fifth Philosopher's Song' is a poem by him on life born through a cataclysmic process where millions of spermatozoa fight one another to win the right to live. Out of that 'billion minus one' there would have been one Newton or a Shakespeare. They did not make it because of 'poor me'. That was Huxley himself. All part of the grand design.


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