Peace and the precipice

It is perhaps not an uncommon experience to suddenly feel thankful for the way things seem to be shaping up for you at the moment. Or the way the life is treating you, to put it another way. For the believer it may be relatively easy to feel consistent with a certain sense of symmetry that one has always hoped to achieve by joining the right dots and tracing the curve remaining, hopefully, close to the optimal. For the more religiously inclined, good Karma of following an impeccably laid up enlightened pathway across the garden is perhaps indicated. A clever agnostic will, probably, be disinclined to interrogate his good fortune!

It is but natural to look for, be happy with an apparently extended sunny interlude and quietly pray (not always clear to whom) that the reprieve continues. I am reminded of a song composed by Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet, that expressed a similar earnest wish with touching audacity of hope (I shall offer an imperfect translation of only the first line) : /Let my days spool over in equal serenity and content/. Whereupon it may become easy to let the mind escape like a bird the skeletal cage into the clouds taking shapes and colors we never thought the tyranny of logic or physics would let us perceive. This could also be one of those fleeting sequences of clairvoyant moments when our body as though it is a well tuned integral part of a majestic symphony orchestra that is universe, seems to sense an enormous fugue rising out of the ocean, dancing down the slopes of mountains, enveloping the parched environment in droplets of rain, leaves, dirt, sweat, flavors of leavened bread, fondness and hope.

Until time like an assassin waylays one into a remorseless dark hole that absorbs all light and lets nothing out. No matter how one looks at it there is an existential fragility about all of us, agnostic and believer alike, our awareness clouded sometimes explicitly and assailed with hints of rains on other occasions. In sickness and separation, debility and death we only face the masks of a faceless, senseless, self-organized and stochastically configured adversary. There is nothing particularly good or bad about it, or right or wrong. Even to call it adversarial or think of it as a benign presence are meant as a set of coloring book exercises the clever among us had invented eons ago to channel the fear, bafflement and feeling of being a derelict in time and space into some manageable ordering and sense, alternately feeling beholden and being cast away.

Are human beings capable of being simultaneously aware of the precipice and the beauty and the peace in whatever lay beyond? Can they face up with equanimity to the spatially or temporally spaced opposites not only in the physical, material world but even as members of a complex human society they have helped to devise and evolve? Who among us would not open his heart to the warmth emanating from hearts of other fellow beings in an apparently unending serenade of goodness and hope only to be persuaded later, equally convincingly, about hearts turning into stone, beautiful and the humane metamorphosed into savage? Haven’t we rained down bombs and missiles from massive machines scorching the skies on the streets and homes and hospitals and granaries in a city or town marked red on a perceived axis of evil, unerringly projected on a screen blanched out of emotion by the no-nonsense generals for the benefit of the wise leaders of men ensconced comfortably in another city or town in a distant continent, where thanksgiving is in progress or loudspeakers are plaintively calling out over the dust and the din of the bazaars to the faithful for the quotidian prayers for goodness, peace and hope to prevail?


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