The Financial Express

Reconnecting with the past    

| Updated: March 26, 2021 21:50:13

Reconnecting with the past        

The twentieth century came with its revolutions in the two major areas of human endeavour: social and scientific. With the social revolutions like the ones that took place in Russia in the second decade and in China at the end of the fourth decade of the past century, people everywhere began to dream. It was the dream that humanity would finally be able to declare itself free from all the evils of the past: all kinds of exploitation, superstition and ignorance. Great scientific revolutions, on the other hand, held out the hope that humanity would finally be able to claim its right place in the world. Technology would free humanity from drudgery and diseases. So, the century that was, was one of hope, of dream. But as it drew to a close, all the hopes were dashed. The dreams proved to be nightmares. Social revolution failed to deliver what it promised. Technology, if anything, made wars more destructive. In fact, it was for the first time in human history that the spectre of the total annihilation of human race loomed large on the horizon. Far from making the world more liveable and better, technology has been used to destroy Nature. Overexploitation and burning of the fossil fuels have been instrumental in rendering the atmosphere hotter. Receding forestlands due to mindless felling of trees have almost destroyed the entire life support system of the earth: Life is now hanging in balance. 

Meanwhile, we have crossed the second decade of the twenty-first century. What has it on offer?  So far, no new messiah of change has come. But the phantoms of the long lost past have been raising their heads all over. The West that claims it has illuminated humanity with the light of science that it removed the darkness of superstition and ignorance with knowledge is itself now in the grip of darkness. Racism, religious bigotry, misanthropy, bias against people of colour dominate its society and politics. And, technology that kindled the hope of dispelling all kinds of darkness has itself become a vehicle to spread superstition, hatred and intolerance. But what does it all signify? Is a pall of darkness going to engulf humanity like it did in the Middle Ages, again? Or is it the birth pang of a new dawn for humanity? No one knows. But what is clear is that all the past experiments to change humanity's lot have failed. Those were nothing but tinkering with the forces of society and Nature that people hardly understood. The West's obsession with controlling Nature and society has brought humanity to the brink. During all these years that it has been under the spell of Western thought humanity has about forgotten the teachings of the great sages of the orient of yore. They taught people not to control, but to live with Nature. They taught us that everything we see all around us are in sync. It will be chaos if the fine line that runs through the entire cycle of life is broken. But the proud Western thoughts and their protagonists were no respecters of that time-tested ancient knowledge. As a result, humanity, still beholden to the Western ideas, is drifting like a rudderless ship in a tumultuous ocean of uncertainties.

But even amid this apparently all-pervasive irrationality, there is still a flicker of hope. It is the willingness to learn from the past. It is time new light was shed on the knowledge of the past. In fact, it is time to delve into humanity's distant past and not to dismiss everything of old off-handed. The upswing in irrationality and violence all around has a deeper meaning. It is perhaps a kind of subconscious protest against the changes that technology has unwittingly brought about in human society. To make sense of it all, it is important that we revisited humanity's past to understand human culture better.  So far, Western knowledge tried to analyse and discover the external world with a view to controlling it. It is now time to look within; to know why we are the way we are. It is time we made the effort to know not by disassociating ourselves from the rest of the world around us. A repetition of such attempt will again prove to be self-defeating. The last quarter of a millennium has been wasted on externalising everything we had within ourselves.

The new era that is dawning will be one of reconnecting humanity with its past, respecting and mending the damaged link with Nature. The technology, too, is growing out of its childhood. It is gradually coming of age as it has been, of late, seriously trying to draw the power required to run it from the Sun-the inexhaustible repository of energy. So far, over the past billions of years the Sun appeared to have wasted its energy with abandon. Humanity was yet to learn the process Nature has been using all through to create and nurture life by using the Sun's energy. But now it seems, humanity is trying to learn it.

So, this effort at rediscovering, not denying, our past and being in rapport with it is going to mark the dawn of the era in the making. At the same time, the endeavour to re-establish our relationship with Nature, and not to destroy it, is going to usher in the new technology-a technology mature enough to harness the Sun.

The dream of an egalitarian society free from all discrimination and exploitation is not, after all, a distant one. It is within humanity's reach. What is necessary is to begin the soul-searching in earnest.

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