The Story – Part 2

Mishka galloped back alone to the village, where the shepherds gathered waiting to be led to the grazing grounds. The place was teeming with flocks of sheep and goats – young, lively ones amidst the slow and old sheep which by years of experience in grazing, knew well where they ought to go at this time of the year. The men paid little attention to such details; The wisest of them always felt that it was a fools job to keep in memory the places and the times where the grass would be idle for grazing. It was a tradition that had been passed down by several generations, and the shepherds did not want to break it. When the kids, new to herding, would ask them why they would deliberately not remember the places, as was quite common to kids of that age, the men often said that they did not want to trade off tradition for reason. They were proud of their traditions, and felt that it was their duty to inculcate it in their kids. Rearing sheep was in their blood, and so was following their forefathers.

The horse was first greeted by Munuu, who with two other children, was gathering pebbles. Mishka, like always, gave a snort and slowed down his pace, seeing the gathering. The men stood up, ready to go where the horse would take them. It took them many days to trust its judgement, and now they were not hesitant any more. The goats and sheep followed their masters, in an attempt to not subject them to humiliation by leading the way along with Mishka. The masters fetched them food and gave them shelter, and they would give them their wool and their milk – there was an unexpressed understanding that bound the animals to the men. The entire moving canopy looked like a swarm of white and black bees, sparsely dotted with brown. The men rode on their horses, moving in groups of two, talking about the weather and the shrubs, rather distastefully. The flat lands were vast with tall shining grass. But the men did not stop there. They followed the horse. An eagle flew above them; “Eagles fly west and sheep walk east”, said a father to his son, “and we all walk east”.

‘They are strange people’, thought Arkan, lying in the grass and staring at the distant herd of people and animals slowly approaching him, ‘the people of the west’. He had heard tales of them, folklores, which described them to be as fierce as their eagles, as exotic as their artistic motifs, and as distinct as their yurts. ‘They must be fearsome’, he thought, and longing to see them, he looked at his own men with difficulty. They let their animals aside to choose the grass of their choice, and sat down wearily. It was still morning, and Arkan scorned seeing the weighed down faces. Gently patting Mishka’s muzzle, he said, ‘The men walk towards the sunrise, but they are as hopeless as the darkness after sunset’.

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The Story – Part 1

The boy’s name was Arkan. He was careful not to slip, as he jumped onto the slender horseback, barely adorned with a worn saddle. He did not complain. He was glad he had a saddle beneath. He knew the pain when the horse’s bones would grind against his own as they galloped as one. Mishka was the horse’s name. The boy heard it from a group of travelers from the north, and fancied a liking towards it, just as his parents had towards his own. The plateau was vast and golden, where he lived, and he rode his horse – his Mishka, he would call it, all around under the sun and the rain, in the face of the winds and the snow, he would ride it, and the people knew him not as Arkan, but as the boy on the horseback. The others lads of his age helped with household chores and rested while he explored the grasslands.

Today Arkan wanted to spend some time with himself far away from the village, and as he adjusted himself on the saddle, he patted his horse, acknowledging that he didn’t wear spurs like the others – not just that he didn’t want to pain his horse, but he didn’t really need them. He whispered something into his ears as he leaned forward, and the beast started to trot. It was still cold and dry, and the grass twinkled as the first light of sun hit it sparse dew drops. Arkan drew a deep breath of the cold air and shivered a little. He had always enjoyed this morning rides. Mishka was lean, but carried Arkan’s slender frame with ease. They were shepherds, his family, his neighbours, his friends. It was on him to suggest a place of grazing for the day.

The grass came up to his calves, as he rode amidst it, and he had to bend slightly to touch it, which he liked doing, wetting his hands with the morning dew, his breath filled with the freshnesss and the lingering scent of the grass. As he did this, he thought about the foreigners. They would pass by his village often and he would escort them as far as he could, and would listen to their tales, each unique and fascinating to him – of the people, the roads, the food, the previous town, the country they’re headed, their women, their languages, and how they all treated him. He remembered them not by their names or faces, but by their stories. We are all stories, he thought, and with the tenderness of a seventeen year old, bathing in the morning sun, drew in a heavy breath, wondering how his story would be.

Why We Do Things We Dont Need To

We all have been there. We chase opportunities we do not really require. We apply for that job, give that exam a shot, all because it is just an option available. This kind of action is justified when we are perhaps dreaming of a career in that particular field, or even when we haven’t really decided our path in the near future. But no, the majority do not fall into either of the categories. We come under the category where we already have a fixed path ahead of us all set and ready to be taken – hopefully, the path we choose to go in – but still we attempt all the other stuff irrelevant to us. In the Indian context, we try our odds at exams like CAT, GRE, GATE and Civil Services, even after choosing one particular path beforehand. I have seen people taking a CAT coaching and simultaneously giving the GATE exam as well, just because they want to experience how the paper is. That is still okay, its just a normal exam after all. What is even more surprising is the lengths we go to with the same kind of thinking.

People spending a couple of thousands to see how another exam will be can be justified. But what about those spending 15-20 thousand on exams like GRE or GMAT when they are actually seriously planning to go for an M.Tech!? What’s the point in taking a GRE exam, when you are fixed in your mind that you want to pursue an MBA in India? But that is still far better when compared to people who try their luck at the Staff Selection Board for the Armed Forces, especially when they go for such a tedious and stressful process while they are actually in bad health. Dude, do you even know what you are getting into!?  Sure, just saying that the person is going for an experience, much like we go for fun experiences, is on the surface a reasonable excuse. But when you are really weak and ill, you feel like going for such a stressful and even physically demanding experience? Seriously!? Whom are you kidding? Such an action is commendable when we are actually struggling for any opportunity available to leverage our career, but otherwise, it is not.

We all want to have exciting experiences, and when we have the money, it is even more easy to have them all. We need not justify how we spend our leisure time; what experiences we indulge in. It is very normal to want to experience new things, although we do not want to make those experiences a regular thing for us. For instance, we might be an Engineer, and want to experience something as out of our path as flying a fighter jet. Abdul Kalam has done it! This is a wholly different scenario from what we are focusing on right now. The previously discussed instances do not fall into this category. They cannot be treated the same way as we treat our day to day wishes for experiencing something like a long ride or a trek. Why? Because more often than not, they hint at something much larger than a trivial wish. These instances are much different from the decisions we take to go after certain things due to peer or parental pressure. These are completely voluntary decisions, and we take them intentionally with no intent of following them through, if we happen to get through the first few hurdles. In fact, we want to get through the initial barriers, that is specifically the reason why we go after them. We would love to say proudly that we have cracked both GRE and GATE, and boast that we now have the choice to choose our path more freely, while the truth is no more further apart – we have chosen our path much before! So then, why do we do this? Sure, pride is a good factor, it definitely does give our egos a little boost, but that’s not all about it. Pride is something we feel for ourselves, it is not something other people give us. Respect is something we crave from other people, and the prospective of getting that can also be a significant driving factor. But more importantly, the largest share is occupied by our insecurities. We view these as challenges, as opportunities to prove ourselves, and thereby subconsciously overcome our insecurity that we are not good enough! 

Does this help? Of course it does, provided we manage to cross the barriers and overcome the [unnecessary] challenges we set for ourselves. But what if we do not manage to do that? We fall deeper into the spiral and keep telling ourselves that we are not good enough to overcome even this challenge, and that we have always been like that – unfit for everything! (Note how we generalize). That is even more detrimental as we keep lowering our self worth consciously with every such attempt. And this directly affects the way we tackle future necessary challenges as well. We justify to ourselves the way we are being ill-treated by people, and we become mentally powerless to strongly speak up for ourselves when the need presents. This is a downward spiral, and we keep going down in it, unless we happen to overcome a challenge.

Now, is the situation any better if we do overcome any of the [unnecessary] challenges? As discussed earlier, it feeds our ego a little bit, and it helps overcome our insecurity by a significant measure. Unfortunately, this is temporary. We do feel elated with a boosted self esteem, and we feel confident about ourselves. But that is not the end of it. This self-esteem will only last a little while, as long as our recent victory is still floating in our conscious minds; as long as we keep remembering it, and telling people about it. And after a while, as the charge slowly settles down, we go back to our previous selves. We again look for opportunities and challenges where we can prove ourselves, perhaps to a new set of people, but most importantly to ourselves! We are all prone to this kind of behavior, it is in fact ingrained in us to a large extent, but unfortunately we do not realize it. This is not going to change until we consciously change our way of thinking and the ideologies we hold. So now that we know about it, and acknowledge its presence in us and the detrimental effects it can bring to us, what can we do?

Fight the battles you really need to. Not every battle is your battle! 

It is a sheer waste of your resources to set unnecessary challenges and to go after them. Choose what you want to pursue. Opportunities are vastly available. Select your battle, prepare well for it, and fight it. Even if you lose, it will still be a worthy battle in the sense that you have given your best, and have gained crucial insights from it. On the other hand, going after all the available battles, with little to no preparation, is at the most going to leave you beaten and dejected. Following this will help you focus on what is necessary for your benefit. But our problem is not yet solved.

We need to know that we are worthy of the things we deem ourselves worthy of! There is absolutely no necessity to prove yourself to anybody else.

If you cannot get this down your throat, then you are living a life controlled by others. You need to reassert to yourself that you are good the way you are. You can be better, but you are still good enough. There is no point in trying to do something to raise your worth in the perception of other people, be it even your parents or your closest relations. Worthiness is just a subjective term that has nothing to do with practical reality. Its just that – a conceived concept born out of one’s condescension and another’s self-doubt. The faster you can incorporate this understanding, the better. You deserve what you tell yourself you deserve. Let nobody tell you otherwise. Let nobody hold the reigns to your inner life.

On God and Religion

Our perspective is limited to our perceptional abilities. With our senses, and with the sophisticated equipment that we developed with the help of those very senses, can we perceive anything in the world. But we are very well aware that neither our senses nor our equipment are really equipped to sense everything that exists. If that isn’t the case, then we would be all knowing beings. So since we acknowledge our lack of ability to perceive everything, we have to hypothesise about various possibilities in this universe. And one such hypothesis is the God hypothesis – an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent being who looks over life on earth. Well, this term has changed a lot over the centuries, perhaps during the Abrahamic period, it meant a God who loved only his followers and hated everybody else. Perhaps now the more socially acceptable meaning would be a supernatural being who loves people, and who tells them to love everybody else, even if they do not believe in him. Now it is clear that the definition changes with time, via people. Recently, I read about a girl who was 15 years old, when she was raped by a stranger, had become pregnant, had been kicked out of school for it, had suffered trauma and had given birth to a baby who died a few weeks later! Imagine the anguish any person would experience from such happenings. Perhaps death would have been a bit more easier than life for her at that time.

I know of a woman whose sister had had a leg amputated due to an infection, and has been enduring the pain with the hope of a better life, only to know that the infection had affected her again! This person is good by human standards, and she believes in a personal God too, and she believes that God is looking down and helping them through life!

Only a couple of days back, just as I stepped out into my balcony to breathe in the cold morning air, have I seen an eagle hanging upside down in the air, with its claws being strangled by a kite string. It was perhaps stuck there since several hours, desperate to free itself, and ironically, right behind it was a small temple, carrying on with its normal routine of rituals. I went out immediately, gathered a few people and was able to free the bird, and to my surprise, I heard a person saying that it is saved by God’s grace! I replied back that it was in fact suffering there since hours, and asked if  that too was by God’s grace. He was floundered for a moment, but said, ‘perhaps the bird did some mistake and that is why God punished it’. I retorted back that it was the said God’s quality to forgive living beings for all their mistakes, and if he would punish first, then there would indeed be no difference between the nature of a man and God, in that sense.

A few nights back, I was having a casual discussion with a very close friend. He was a good man, and he believed in a personal God. He told me of the death of the mother of one of our mutual friends, and I was very distressed after hearing the news, and in fact, more so after knowing how: She had a full body burn by her clothes catching on fire while doing a religious ritual. She was praying to her God for a better life for her and her family, to say the least, and she was dead a few days later, after being treated in the hospital. I couldn’t help but tell him how I cannot comprehend of such a God who would make even his believers suffer. I personally do not think that such versions of God deserve worship. And if God is one entity which we worship through the worship of several individual versions, even then such a God would be knowing of his worshippers, and their motives, and wouldn’t subject them to such extreme suffering. I stated that such a God is either not powerful enough to prevent their suffering, or is not benevolent enough to do it. My friend was taken aback and asked if I can prove that God doesn’t exist. Without invoking the Russell’s Teapot to explain to him about the burden of proof, I instead told him that if a God does exist, then that God simply does not at all fit into the common religious description, and he had to reluctantly agree. There is tremendous amount of suffering in this world, and we humans of this age are in fact very fortunate, and we will realize it when we look into our history or into the lives of other life forms. Some religious people say that God intentionally makes us suffer, and that it is all part of some divine plan. I find that it is an absurd way of comforting ourselves with delusion, because there is literally no basis for such a belief to be true. It is a nice fantasy to believe in, and is on the same lines as any other fantasies that children believe in, to alleviate their emotional insecurities. If people are indeed comforted by that thought, then it is more like a placebo effect, and has nothing to do with the reality of the existence or non-existence of God. Moreover, if God has created the universe, and the billions of galaxies and planets and all the other stuff, it is quite ridiculous to think that he would be so interested in the little and relatively insignificant creatures like us that he would look into each one our daily lives and doings, give us points for all the good and bad things we do, and later redeem those points to put us in heaven or hell. I am not an atheist, and I think it helps to know about the Spectrum of Theistic Probability, the knowledge of which allows us to have a more practical view on our level of belief. Having pantheistic and panentheistic tendencies, my views regarding God would perhaps be somewhat closely described by Einstein’s words when he said,  “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” And I think that the term God is only very abstract, and unfitting to this kind of a belief, as its meaning is mostly dominated by the anthropomorphic model of God.

Looking with awe at the astounding structure of the universe and the human life in it, it is completely reasonable for us to think of a creator or a supreme intelligence, more so when we do not understand it,  and it would even perhaps help us in our endeavors by providing a sense of subconscious emotional support. And it is reasonable enough to conceive of an anthropomorphic deity with super powers. But in the face of humongous evidence, it is irrational to believe in such a deity in the present day. And if we define such a deity as beyond everything we can conceive, who are we to define on the first hand? How do we know? Personal revelations are not reliable at all, for we know of the human mind and its delusionary nature more now than ever. If there is anything that is worth reverence, it is nature and the laws by which it functions. We can see them working around and in us. And if we do not respect those laws and instead set out to respect something else formed out of sheer imagination, then in a way we are disrespecting what is worth the respect. And if there is anything through which the entire universe functions, it is through energy, and its the same energy which is in us and in everything around us. And I do not think we need to call it God, unless we want to institutionalize it and go after the power which comes along with it. Just Energy suffices. We know that this energy is in, and transcends all living things, and I can as well find that energy in a lump of coal, or even in every breath that I take, and I revere it, for my life and the universe around me is totally comprised of it.

I strongly believe that the moment we take our religious scriptures as general civilizational histories generously topped with fantasies, we will be able to understand our past, and our position in this world better than if we assume them to be sacred and unquestionable

Let us look from the perspective of microscopic organisms. They perhaps do not even acknowledge the existence of individual living beings like us, instead they just rely on their environment at the cell level. All their interactions are at the cell level itself, but these interactions affect us as a being. However, these microorganisms might not even know of that. They might perhaps wonder what is happening, when we take measures against them, because we are too massive for them to perceive as  singular entities. Instead, we form the entire natural surroundings for them. Similarly, maybe there are creatures which interact on a different level in this universe, and we are forming a habitat in or around them. We wouldn’t be able to perceive of their existence objectively by our current sensory developments. And we wouldn’t understand why our lives are being affected by unknown forces, on which we have no command upon. We may attribute randomness to such forces, but they might make sense on a much larger scale of existence and perception. We just do not know. This is a fantasy, albeit a reasonable one. And if scientific advancement can hint towards such a perceptional reality of a particular level of nature, it is really commendable. But on the other hand, the moment we come to know about such beings, we attribute the title of God, along with a  sense of sacredness to it, and stop all further exploration into the concept, then we would be doing more harm than good. That is the problem with the religions. We believe in doctrines, and we won’t change our mind no matter what. I do not think such religions will be of any real help to mankind. Merely pointing to God is only laziness and escapism from trying to explain the phenomena.

Some people say that if I do not think it is rational to believe in their God, then I can as well stay shut, instead of letting out my own beliefs. But I must assert that I will do just that, the moment religious apologists stay shut about their own beliefs. I find these people distributing pamphlets, giving free sermons, and attempting to attract into their religions at every possible instant, which is very unwelcome when all you are doing is having a casual walk by the lane. If one’s religion guides one to attempt attracting people into it, and one can declare some religious book as an authority for one’s actions,  then a normal person like me can as well declare my own reason and mind as sufficient authorities towards speaking my beliefs. And freedom of expression anyway prevails. One person hurting another’s beliefs is but natural, when there are only two possibilities: I believe in your God, or I don’t. Anyone can claim that one is hurt by someone who doesn’t believe, but the line is blurred.

A Dialogue

This post is actually in reply to a comment on one of my previous posts Ignorance is Bliss. I consider it a good piece of thought, and chose to make it an independent post in itself, given that it should not go unnoticed as a comment.

Its not a fascination about death, but only a conscious choice that a person faces, when he arrives at that point based on the previous arguments. Understanding life is an ongoing process since known history, and I’m sure you would agree with me, that humanity has made significant progress in that direction. Based on this fact, it is imperative that we cannot come to the conclusion that we can never understand why we live completely.There is a hypothesis that we simply cannot know about life in its entirety because we are not biologically and psychologically equipped enough for that mighty a task. And maybe we do need hardware changes, but evolution will take care of it, if it is indeed necessary. But since evolution is an ongoing process in itself, we as individuals are also playing a role in it. So let’s do think and contribute, and in doing so, we might be planting seeds for an increase in the said neuronal connections.

If we agree that attainment of bliss is the aim, many religions promise bliss and eternity. But we do not blindly go by all their rules. We use what we believe is our better discretion. And regarding anything, “how” is a much simpler question at times, because we can answer it through observation (be it even statistical) and through experimental science. But when we ask “why?”, it more often than not gives rise to a paradoxical never ending line of thought. One such example is regarding the creation of the universe, where an infinite causal regress arises.

Thinking about thought itself is perhaps what psychologists most definitely do, and philosophers sometimes stumble upon. But we should know that thought cannot think about itself without the initiator of the first thought in that cycle. So we should be sure that it is we who think about thought, which comprised of other thoughts.

Yes, we have built upon the thoughts of other people, though flawed they are. But we do not have a better way, for if we do not do that, we wouldn’t have any scope for progress – the one thing much craved by humanity in the present day. But in our process, we try by all means to identify and rectify the flaws committed by the people before us, in hope of a better outcome. In fact, that’s what philosophical dialogue is all about. Talking about the bliss due to the two different types of ignorance, true ignorance and willful ignorance, it is implicit that the bliss is of a different kind in both, in the sense that it arises from a different combination of feelings in both cases, but nevertheless be called as bliss, based on the definition of the word.

It is most definitely we, who are making ourselves happy, but we do so with the help of a complex combination of a plethora of aspects in and around our lives, and that’s just the way human life is. If we were to engineer and synthesize happiness willingly and forcibly, then we would perhaps be equivalent to lab rats, and a majority of us do not find that idea very pleasant. That said, many of us do make a positive attempt in that direction, because happiness is a dire need. But just because happiness can happen synthetically doesn’t mean that it does not happen through other means, and so does bliss happen through ignorance.

Ignorance is Bliss

Ignorance is Bliss.
Humans are needlessly sophisticated.
Lucky are those who do not question life, for they live in ignorance, and ignorance is bliss.
Life has no meaning other than that which we attribute to it.
When intoxicated by life, man does not think about the ‘why’s’ and ‘what for’s’ of life. But when he is sober, he can clearly see that he was in an intoxication till the moment. But just as a drug that plays with the brain, life plays with his mind and forces him to indulge in it again, for he cannot live otherwise after he is addicted to the intoxication of life. This brings me to an existential crisis.

The delusion of faith is necessary for life.

To know the truth is to know that there is nothing but death.
All that religion professes is aimed at a perceived proper moral progress of society.
All that philosophy has to say is that it acknowledges the questions, but it has no answers.
All that biology says is that the gene is made to survive and reproduce and propagate itself, or that we are merely a random accident without any specific meaning.
Most of the other fields of science only construe various methods of life and various explanations of phenomena assuming that life has a meaning and is worth living, but none actually question whether it really has a meaning or if it is really worth living. They simply assume it to be true.

Life is meaningless, and all this struggle is worthless. And that’s the truth. Ignorance now is no longer an option, for I know this. But now, acting in a rational manner, do I kill myself and free myself from this delusion? Or do I stay like a coward unable to act and pretend I don’t know the truth? Or do I become an Epicurean?
When it comes to a question between knowing and acting by the truth and being alive, which should be man’s priority?
What is the difference between one who has faith out of ignorance and one who has faith out of the knowledge that it is necessary for life?

On Necessity, Freedom of Will and Nihilism

The deeper we see, the more we are able to comprehend the innumerable number of forces affecting our success or failure, the lesser we will be able to owe it to our own abilities or to the lack of them.

At any given point of time, any event is a causation of a number of forces, and the event is a result not of any singular force but of the resultant of a parallelogram of forces at the very least. And the more we try to comprehend, we see that the likes of these concurrent forces affect every singular event in our lives. We try to map a few, and it is when we realise that there are just too many, do we attribute a collective name to all the remaining that we cannot figure out but still acknowledge the presence of. And that we call luck and fate and any of the several related names.

We cannot say how many, but sure we can say of at least a parallelogram of forces, for we know, upon proper observation, that two forces are common to each and every act that we do – the force of necessity and of free will, and that while one increases in magnitude, the other decreases, but neither can ever be zero. And these two, combined in various proportions with several others yield what we see.

It takes a great degree of courage and knowledge to overcome our human tendencies and actually attempt to understand a person and his actions – why he has done such and such a thing under such and such circumstances – especially when we do not approve of those actions.

To imagine complete freedom of will with no inevitability in our actions, we must consider ourselves entirely uninfluenced by the external world, and performing actions independent of any cause, and also existing outside the realm of time. Such a conception of human life would no longer result in a human. Hence, the force of necessity is never zero in our lives.

To imagine complete inevitability in all our actions with no freedom of will, we must have the knowledge of an infinite number of relations the man has with the external world, an infinite number of causations to the origin of time, and an ability to consider an infinitely long time before we judge his actions. This is not possible, and hence, we cannot say that the force of freedom of will in our lives is zero.

We are all influenced by necessity at each moment, and also by free will at the same time. Without inevitability, man is solely and completely responsible for all his actions, and we know that this is not true, for many of our actions are in fact caused by happenings outside our control. Similarly, without freedom of will, there is also no human life possible, for we are aware of the consciousness of choice and freedom in our lives.

Perhaps we humans find it difficult to live with the truth. It definitely takes a great degree of courage to embrace the truth. Quoting Nietzsche, ‘To live is to suffer. To survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.’ The concept of nihilism, assuming it is true, leads us to the hypothesis that we are forced by our own minds to be delusionary and further attribute meanings to our lives, despite knowing the truth.

Let us take a case of two persons. One believes in nihilism. He knows it to be true, by all his observation and knowledge of life. He knows that no matter what one does, the ultimate destination is only death, and that all we all do is only to ease that journey towards death. The second person, despite knowing about nihilism and despite having a tendency through reason to believe it, says that the while the former sees death, he sees glory through his actions, as his final abode. Can we say that one is true and one is not? Each person, according to his own mind, sees his own truth as the truth. But on observing from a different perspective, we see that neither can be dismissed as false. Similarly, neither can be worshipped as true. But including our own experiences, we tend to see from a neutral perspective that the final abode is definitely death, for we all at each point acknowledge death but nevertheless give in to the human tendency to invent ways to (mis)interpret it. Yet we see that the latter had an authentic tendency to believe otherwise. From this, can we not say that while one person, through conscious efforts, is able to dare to accept and live with the truth, the other, despite accepting it, still chooses to refute it with regards to his own life?
From the perspective of the former, it stands that the belief of the latter does not really matter.

People often ask me why I am philosophical. I think the reason for anyone to not bear any obligation and still be interested in anything is only out of a pure fascination, and so is the case with me as well.

Regarding why I tend to believe in nihilism rather than any other streams is because I find nihilism to be more probably true. Different things in life are only a matter of difference in perceptions and the deeper we see with the more we get to uncover the mysteries. In search of knowledge, for the shallow mind materialistic things perhaps stand as the only things that are there. For the more observent mind religion and then perhaps spirituality come into existence. For someone who ventures further, various philosophical doctrines like existentialism and determinism are found. But philosophers who go deeper, not satisfying themselves with what is found and thinking that there must be something more to it than just these, will find that in reality there is nothing.

Men set out on a expedition travel to a long mysterious cave and find cobwebs at the entrance. A few hypothesize that the cave is only filled with cobwebs, and stop there. The remaining remove the cobwebs as mere obstacles to true knowledge and find spiders and other insects. They think the cave is filled with insects and that this is the truth. Most do not venture to travel further, for they believe with all their heart that the cave only has insects, and they are filled with fear of what might happen, if they refute that belief. They have faith, but faith, as Nietzsche said, is not wanting to know what is true.

A set of few, driven by reason and logic and not by mere faith, go on forward and discover colonies of bats with their each step. With sufficient evidence they say that the cave if filled with bats. But a very few keep going forward, and as they go deeper, find that the cave, in reality, is filled with nothing but emptiness. All the cobwebs, the insects and the bats have just made the initial parts of the cave as their residence, and they either fly away or disintegrate there. But what the cave actually has, is nothing. This is the idea of Nihilism for me.

And such is life as well. The universe has existed for billions of years and will exist so, and the entire human race only occupies a tiny timeline in it. We were not there earlier, and we won’t be there later. All the life forms – We just came and we will go. Our life in this world doesn’t have any real significance and a special meaning. All the doctrines of knowledge are mere explanations of a certain level of understanding of the universe and our life in it. But the ultimate understanding is that all these attempts are futile and there is really nothing to everything, and that all we can ever know is that we know little.

Purpose of Existence!?

‘The purpose of life is a life of purpose’ is a classic quote that most of us take for granted. But I must admit that I have more than once dared to venture further, into not accepting it at face value. This is not anywhere near the first couple of times that I ask myself this question. It started with the belief that we are here on Earth with a predestined purpose and we need to find and fulfill it. This thought later paved way for the notion that we need to attribute our own purpose to life, as we live it. Most of us fall into either of the above two categories. But what if there is no real purpose to life and we are just stuck here with life in our bodies, to live till we get to die? That would be a very pessimistic take on life. Nevertheless, the truth is perhaps not concerned with what names or shades we attribute to it.

I happened to notice a poor family living in a one room house. As I observed them for a few days, it was clear that they based their livelihood on doing house chores and other similar jobs. Their typical day goes something like this: They wake up every morning, wash their clothes, utensils and themselves and cook food. Then they set out to other people’s homes to wash clothes, utensils and cook food for them. For this, they are paid and at the end of the day, they return back home, and sleep. They use the money to buy food and other necessities to keep themselves alive. (So that they can go to work and clean utensils again!?).

What can be their purpose of life? Are they even aware of such a purpose if it exists? We may say that the purpose of our life lies in being happy or in achieving goals which we set for ourselves. But what happiness can there be in their lives is a question that has haunted me. And are not goals merely imaginary checkpoints we set for ourselves? For if they are, then the purpose that we attribute to achieving them is also imaginary! Most people say that the meaning of their own life lies in their family and its well being. But there are many people without a family as well. The kind of meanings we attribute to our lives are many. But are these purposes real? Or are they mere delusions serving to fulfill our craving for the belief in a purpose to live in this world? We can believe anything we want – even that mobile phones are made to be thrown at walls whenever we feel frustrated! But that doesn’t make the belief true. We may argue that the truth doesn’t matter as long as the belief helps us lead a better life. But if that is the case, then no one can probably tell that any belief is wrong either, even if it might have bad implications.

All this propels us from moving away from Essentialism to Existentialism and then towards Nihilism – The ultimate meaninglessness of life! Maybe we are searching for answers in an answerless world, which is Absurd. Maybe the literal meaning of life is ‘whatever you are doing which prevents you from killing yourself’, as Albert Camus put it. All this means that there might not be a singular purpose but our job is to just be complacent with whichever explanation satisfies us.

 Recently, I came across a passage in War and Peace where towards the end of the book, Tolstoy beautifully explores the subject: ” As the sun and each atom of ether is a sphere complete in itself, and yet at the same time only a part of a whole too immense for man to comprehend, so each individual has within himself his own aims and yet has them to serve a general purpose incomprehensible to man. A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child is afraid of bees and declares that bees exist to sting people. A poet admires the bee sucking from the chalice of a flower and says it exists to suck the fragrance of flowers. A beekeeper, seeing the bee collect pollen from flowers and carry it to the hive, says that it exists to gather honey. Another beekeeper who studies the life of the hive more closely says that the bee gathers pollen dust to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that it exists to perpetuate its race. A botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a male flower to a pistil fertilizes the latter, and sees in this the purpose of the bee’s existence. Another, observing the migration of plants, notices that the bee helps in this work, and may say that in this lies the purpose of the bee. But the ultimate purpose of the bee is not exhausted by the first, the second, or any of the processes the human mind can discern. The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the  more obvious it becomes that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension. All that is accessible to man is the relation of the life of the bee to other manifestations of life.”