Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Significance

Instead of a post on Chapter 2 of the Gita, I wanted to post something else I have been mulling over for a while.

One question that haunts me and I think a lot of people is the question of Significance. Is our individual existence, individual efforts and actions of any real or lasting significance? Or is it merely a tiny ripple in the ocean that is our universe? Many of us walk through life without asking that question about ourselves because we are content that while we live our lives, we will affect and be significant to those who are around us and care for us. This should be enough and a satisfactory answer but for some persistent reason it is not, or at least for me.

Many including myself, live our daily lives in very much an autonomic sort of manner. We awake, we shower, eat breakfast, jump into our car or take public transportation to work, work long hours, take a lunch, work some more, leave the office, come home, cook, spend time with our friends or family or even alone then go to sleep, rinse, cycle and repeat the next day. We do this for at minimum five days a week. Then on the weekends we spend time going out, doing the chores we neglected over the week, spend time with people and so on. We do this over and over again till maybe when we hit our mid-lives suddenly we ask where has the time gone and what is my impact, aside from my biological legacy?

Honestly, I don't have an answer for that question that will please everyone maybe not even anyone but myself. Sometimes the depressing truth is that most of us will fade into oblivion only leaving behind genetic material, I don't think this necessarily has to be the case but most of the time it appears to be the case. When I originally started writing this post a few months back, I would have said that most people would disappear into nothing and only leave behind their genetic legacy without changing the world for the better or any way but now I don't think that is the case at all. Life actually throws surprises at us and causes us to reassess our world views and outlook on the ebb of our existence both universally speaking and also specifically in regards to the individual.

Our significance is this, we, each and everyone of us are the living force of nature. Billions of years of stellar, planetary and now biological evolution have led to us, the only known highly intelligent and conscious beings in the universe as we know it. In our very bodies dwells this history of expansion, modification and development of consciousness. It burns within our being brightly but we lose sight of it at times and by doing so we lose sight of our own significance. This earth is our home and all living and conscious beings are our relatives. We are significant in our insignificance, amongst all other living creatures on this planet, it is we that alone have the ability to protect and save each other and them. With this fundamental knowledge must come an ethical imperative for us to act accordingly.

We find ourselves burdened by our fears and ego. Recently, I came to the insight maybe had by hundreds if not thousands before me that our fears are a by product of our own egos. Fear is the emotion or thought that our very self worth or even at a deeper level our notion of self is potentially entirely extinguishable. Fear of loss, fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of abandonment, fear of change, fear of the unknown and so on. At the heart of all these fears is the ego. It is the ego that will change or be affected by these fears. It is our very notion of self as we have come to view it that is at stake, which causes these fears to arise. It is these fears that drive us from understanding and fostering the significance that the universe has endowed in us.

These fears begin to disappear when we find our purpose both as individuals and as a world. Our purpose is simple, sustain this planet and sustain ourselves. Build a bond with one and other so that we no longer remain islands unto ourselves but a support system, where each of us can and must depend on others. We are the harbingers of our own path and as a collective we have a huge impact on this planet. What we do here in our every day actions has an aggregate affect on the people around us and the world at large. This might be a running theme in a lot of my writing, the idea that we are called upon to be more compassionate and caring, for it is our inherent destiny if we are to survive and sustain ourselves. It is a destiny we are afraid to accept at times because it will shake us to the core and require that we re-engage ourselves with our fellow beings beyond just a superficial level, opening up our own selves and expanding our consciousness developing empathy and sympathy. This is the key point of people who gained this insight and were able to issue it out into action like Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and the thousands of people who devote their lives to others.

Next post I will pick up from Chapter 2 of the Gita, which is Krishna's overview of what he will delve into. Any thoughts or comments?

2 comments:

Akash said...

Nice post. Carl Sagan has some insightful thoughts with a similar perspective -

"It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

"The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds."

"Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."

Brij said...

Hi Mukunda,

It felt really refreshing reading this post. It feels good that there are other people in this world that think of this very question of Significance and ponder over it deeply enough to realize the different dimensions that are at work around us and how that affects our own very being or ego.

However, the more I think about this question of Significance and ponder over the works of the great spirits before and around us, their passions in the empathy towards their fellow spirits/energies I can't help but think about how hard it is to not let that affect your ego.

Think about it, as an individual you want to make a mark on this world, you even want to believe that through your thoughts and deeds there is some inherent change that you could bring about it the lives of the people around you. But in my mind there is where lies the biggest philosophical fallacy of all. If this empathy is being expressed even for a quantum of self-importance it negates the very act of it as you fall back in the ego trap.

As you say, and as do most of the great philosophical teachings, we need to recognize that we are not even an individual or ego or spirit, that we are all the same. That there is just one light. However, I feel that is easier said than realized. Because until that realization comes through in every thought, in every action, in every moment of our existence in this physical world, everything that we do, however, selfless it might appear to the rest of the world, you know in your heart that is not fully selfless. That there is some tiny part of your ego that is feeding off from some of it.

Sorry for my ramblings .. your post opened some of the questions I have been thinking about for a while and couldn't help putting those thoughts down :)

Brij