A World Astir|Jan 7, 2008 12:30 PM| by:

Generation Next

There is a growing concern among parents and teachers about the present generation fed on a regular diet of T.V., internet and mobiles. This concern, on the one hand is natural while on the other hand, it is puerile. It is natural because it is a protective reflex ingrained in every species towards their young ones. And this reflex comes into action whenever anything noxious or novel is introduced to us. It is a fear of the known devil as well as a fear of the unknown. The previous generation had little exposure and access to the world as the present generation has. Therefore, they are very naturally apprehensive of those ‘new things’ that are disturbing the fixed routine of our life and running over the formulas and boundaries of our thoughts, customs and conventions. This fear of the unknown resembles partly the fear of the first flight. Nevertheless, it becomes somewhat childish because it is born out of ignorance and our own incapacity to handle an increasing complexity of life.

But the complexity of life, the coming of the Space Age and its consequences such as the worldwide web, have come to stay. They are a fact of modern life and all our ignorance and incapacity, our fears and anxieties, our ridicules and cynicism is not going to change things. What we can and should do is to study and observe and understand the deeper intent of the Time-Spirit that is working its secret Divine Purpose through all this. And then we can say in what way we can align ourselves to this cosmic will and in what way we depart and deviate from it. For, like all things that Time uses as an instrument, the value and worth of the instrument lies at least partly upon the user. TV, Internet, mobiles and other forms of technology are mere instruments that have both the sides. On the one hand they have made the earth flat and the world a global village, on the other hand they have made everything – the worst no less than the best – available at our doorstep and on the push of a button.

What is to be done about it? Obviously stopping by force or compulsion, is not the way. It is likely to make things worse. If a teenager accepts it then it may mean a handicap in one way or the other, a limitation in dealing with the whole of life as it presents itself to us, and a consequent diminution. If he does not accept the pressure, as is most likely, he will either turn his energies into a revolt that may sometimes take the extreme form of a negative role-playing, discarding everything that is good and beautiful simply because he is deprived of his share of experience, choice and freedom. Or else it will lead to falsehood, lying, and posturing, resort to devious ways and cunning and deceit. Let’s accept it, these things have become a part and parcel of our everyday life and the only way we can shut them out is by closing our eyes.

They have served a purpose too. They have wired the world together, to say the least, making it easy to access information. It has facilitated communication and transfer of knowledge immensely. It has helped build bridges and made the group-boundaries more and more blurred, at least made it much more fluid and plastic. Compare the days when our group-identity was largely limited to the family or the community based on religion, customs, social norms and tradition. Now, children link themselves based on inner subjective needs cutting through all outer and formal divisions. They meet as netizens on virtual communities. The little colony in which one chatted and made friends has suddenly expanded into a world-colony. The subjects of discussions have also changed from small local issues to larger common things or inner ideative and subjective issues.

Of course there is the flip side too. There is also pornography and false propaganda, wrong influences and veiled suggestions. It is like everything in life where much waste accompanies a little good. Besides, these things have always been there in the human society because they have always been there in the human mind and in our collective past in one form or the other. What this immense technological development has done is to make everything large in size, magnified in quantity, easily accessible and global. But we should not forget that the consciousness meeting this challenge is also a wider consciousness. The mind has also added a touch of perversity to these things. Nevertheless these things have to be one day faced by man because they are there within him. He has long repressed them or overindulged in them. Today we are compelled to confront them in their most acute form. Whether most human beings will be able to master the challenge and go beyond it or else succumb and revert to the animal state or rather a state of primitive harmony is a thing to be seen. But forced compulsion or isolation is not the way now; it is neither possible nor desirable. Man has to confront his shadows one day. Perhaps, we are going through that phase right now.

What we can do however is to equip our children to face themselves and the world, to confront the shadows when they arise. This world has a terrible and a beautiful side and the two are often mixed and intertwined. It has lovely sunlit peaks and flowering meadows but also the underbelly and the snake writhing below our feet. Our children cannot avoid one for the other. The days of isolation are over. The days of forced restriction are gone. Now, each one must choose and they must choose out of their freedom and not under external pressure or social compulsion. What we have to teach them is how to choose responsibly rather than make their choices. This means spending time, this means being an example, this means education.

The whole problem boils down to education. Not a job-oriented but a soul-centered education. It is only as the deeper soul in us awakens and grows and steps out that we can find some true and lasting solution to the problem. It cannot be done by any artificial means such as moral lectures or by an enforcement of strict outer discipline. The former leads to an artificiality and a hypocrisy if not accompanied by the true soul-movement that inspires the sense of the good and the sense of the beautiful within us. The latter leads to worse dangers, a harsh and unforgiving humanity hardened by the law that is acutely aware of the follies of others but blind to one’s own mistakes. It is only when our outer discipline flows out of the inner need to regulate our life and channel our energies in a way that is commensurate with our inner ideal or some highest aspiration that we have a harmonious individual.

The way to do this is to first discover our own soul, to first educate ourselves. But what do we do till that happens? Well, the one thing we can do to motivate our children through example rather than by word is to grow more and more sincere. This has to be done in a threefold way, whether simultaneously or successively. The first is to become conscious. That is to say, to observe the effects of different things upon oneself, to observe oneself with a certain degree of mental honesty that sees things as they are without either a hypercritical self-pity that condemns oneself or a hyper-indulgent self-admiration that keeps justifying everything. It is not easy to cultivate this intellectual rectitude and this power of discernment; one needs patient and steady working upon oneself. Next is to have the courage not only to see and admit but to go ahead and change what needs to be changed. This needs again a steady and patient application of will towards the desired change.

It is here that the most serious dichotomy appears, between thought and action, knowledge and will. The gap between the two is there because of a third layer that buttresses these two-the emotional being. Most human beings do not act on the basis of the knowledge given to them but on the basis of the emotion that they are experiencing at a given moment. So also our knowledge is often coloured by emotions and reason finds a hundred ways to justify our need for happiness, in whatever devious ways we find it. To be free from the clutches of our emotional being is not easy. Yet, it should be part of our education and upbringing to refine, channel and regulate the emotional being by cultivating the sense of beauty – beauty in thought and feelings, beauty in idea and impulse, beauty in all forms of self-expression, beauty in action, in our external life and surroundings. This exposure to the sense of the beautiful, to a deeper rasa of life is often wanting, sometimes very much wanting in homes and schools. Many homes and their dwellers live as if under constant stress and generate a lot of crude energies of anger, fear, violent passion in the atmosphere exposing the children to strong psychological toxins. There is an utter disregard for harmony and peace. The schools are only a shade better! With all the stress on performance, they have become more like factories for mass production of a stereotyped human machine that is first for earning money rather than the creation of a conscious, thinking individual.

That is why one of the most powerful ways to change someone is the power of authentic love. Love is a potent catalyser for it seeps into the system deep and far penetrating the darkest corners of our being. But to be truly effective it must be armed with wisdom, patience and strength. It must be guided by a subtle and plastic wisdom that understands the deeper forces at play in human beings, knows the hidden intents at work and the subtle laws of evolution that operate upon us. This wisdom is not a rule-bound limited light of our surface reason that judges things and people by their appearances and outer behavior. It rather sees the hidden aspects, the things in the making and things in the waiting. It must be patient, enduring and forgiving. It must acknowledge the need of suffering and of the long night sometimes as a passage for our greater good and lose not hope or courage since there is a black pall of darkness all around. Finally, and most of all, it must be strong. A weak, sentimental love that is full of pity and indulgent charity has not the true power to change. It only knows how to suffer. Or perhaps not even that for its suffering is largely a kind of self-pity or a frustration because the other person is not fulfilling our expectations! It is not love but self-love that wants another to fall in line with our own image of him or her. Love that is strong, is free from expectations, free of possessiveness, free of demands free of all dependency, and therefore it has a strong liberating action on another person. It gives itself silently, without fuss or show, it sacrifices for the sake of the best in another but does not expect him to be other than himself. It does not want another person to be a reflection or a mirror image of oneself but rather a true image of what his deepest will and highest destiny demands. And it ceaselessly labours towards that, without any conditions, without any perturbations, and keeps alive the flame of faith and hope through every storm and twist and turn of fate.

Such a love and wisdom is indeed exceedingly rare in its embodied form, though it exists in our own depths as a Light that leads and Strength that supports. We must help our children to get in touch with this authentic Light within them and to be their own master by following it. And if they are fortunate enough and have the extremely rare privilege of coming in contact with that Truth-Light in an earthly embodiment, then we must teach them to value that contact beyond everything else. In fact our duty or responsibility ends there. For our children are a Trust from Above. And our earthly work comes to a close when we have brought them in contact with their authentic Light. Once this is done, the path will open up, they will move where they must through whatever obstacles and difficulties. They are in “safe hands”, so to say and once that is done then we should have no longer any worry or anxiety since we have handed over the person to where he truly belongs, the Divine.

This alone will help us and save us, and save the race as well. All the rest is eyewash or a surface plastering that makes well-mannered children, with a polished exterior who end up either wealthy beyond measure or as under-confident hypocrites who indulge in show and sham to impress others and do not lead an authentic life of their own. It is not this that the future wants but a living and conscious being wide enough to embrace all existence, strong enough to carry the world’s weight upon its shoulders without buckling under, and wise enough to subtly discern and detect the light that hides within darkness and the darkness that uses light as a cloak to disguise itself. Nature is indeed striving to create this new kind of humanity that of all things hates hypocrisy and despises all artificial and arbitrary norms and standards. It rather respects authenticity, accomplishment, and achievement. Today’s children are born with higher intelligence, a sensitive heart, a deeper quest, and a carefree life-force with a tremendous zest for living. They are individualized and subjective and non-conformist for they want to discover their locus-standii within them and not walk by any outer reference point or standard of conduct. They live in a larger psychological space and value freedom, equality and unity more than anything else. And though they sometimes misunderstand these values and misuse them, even so their seeking is greater and is justified and sanctified by the Time-Spirit. They are the “massive barrier breakers” and “wrestlers with destiny.”

“Their tread one day shall change the suffering earth
And justify the light on Nature’s face.”(1)


1. Sri Aurobindo: Savitri, Book 3, Canto 4

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