Monday, December 28, 2015

Full Circle

For 4.5 billion years our planet has been making circumambulations around the sacred sun. In a few days it will complete yet another, and us humans will jump for joy and stay up late, marking the moment with an arbitrary number. We will call it the start of year number 2016, as we have been made to accept that the birth of Jesus was a moment in time worth counting from.

A great many things have happened on our sphere, while it has been making its rounds as a prisoner of gravity. For one, the understanding of our origins is more clearer now, than ever before. Since the moment Eratosthenes showed us the earth was spherical and Copernicus discovered the earth revolved around the sun, and Galileo laid the foundation to modern science and astronomy, it took only a few hundred years for us to discover the Higgs Boson, also known as the "god particle". Today we can most certainly estimate how our universe began and know that the "stuff " we are made off, is nothing but star matter.

A few thousand years is but an infinitesimal point on the timeline of our planet and the universe. But it is our relatively recent shared stories, histories and mythologies that continue to dominate our imagination with enduring force. Stories of miracles passed down through generations, seem to prevail and resonate stronger, no matter how much science unravels.

The power of myth gives identity to large swathes of humanity. The sharing of common belief systems, is the glue that binds us, dividing us into tribes and making us vie for power and significance. One group says their stories are more defining of humanity than others. Others say yours are not in touch with the times and are dogma from a bygone era. Another says ours are more universal, all encompassing and pluralistic and humane in nature. While all seem to agree that there is a master pilot somewhere guiding us through our life's journey and we will be rewarded or punished based on who we follow or how we live this life. 

And so people find meaning, entertainment and solace in ritual, scripture, custom, tradition and mortals who project wisdom and saintliness. Others find meaning in violence and following leaders who propagate visions of the "end of times". The clash of cultures one sees today in some parts of the world, driven by stories some hold dearer than life, is quite appalling. One group feels their stories are misrepresented and another feels theirs are not given enough credence. Another feels there is an inherent phobia against one and another a bias. The polarization that ensues, leaves only disdain and discontent in its path. Leading to violence in thought and action.

While we humans conflict over our shared stories from days of old, the planet keeps spinning and going round the sun oblivious to the behavior of its recent human ant like inhabitants. But now the ants are becoming consequential. Not by their tribal wars but by their very existence. The year 2015 was the hottest on the planet in recorded human history. The human ant colony has become so over powering and expansive, that it is releasing more carbon dioxide and methane than ever before.

And so while a large human colony of seven million in the city of Chennai, India, clung to life, inundated by a deluge of relentless rain, representatives from 196 nations met in Paris to devise a plan to save the planet from the heating. The unprecedented rains in Chennai were partly a product of global warming. The examples of what a planet out of balance can become are more and more apparent as island nations see the ground beneath their feet swallowed by the sea. A recent animation of global emissions released by NASA , shows the extent of the devastating impact industrialized nations are having on the atmosphere. The irresponsible behavior of industrialized nations has put the lives of millions around the globe at risk. If we are to leave a healthy planet for our children, it is they who would have to restore balance. It is also the responsibility of other nations to join hands in the saving, if not restoration of the planet by acting responsibly and learning from past mistakes.

The earth will continue its circumambulations around the sun for millions of years to come. The survival of the human species and its belief in stories and myths is of no concern to it. But it is time for us to create new stories for our children, that talk about a return to balance, as there is nothing more urgent

If we are to inhabit this world, we have to pilot this ship ourselves with grace, humility, unity and action. As for the way things are at the moment, I don't see a cosmic pilot doing that for us. And our undying belief in antiquated stories is not going to save us from the deluge. To come full circle, we have to begin now. It is what it is.