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The Tragedies of Time

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Disasters and catastrophes, whether man-made or natural, raise several questions for the human mind. For men living largely in their senses, it creates indignation and horror, the shock of sudden loss. It brings pain and suffering to those who have lost cherished ones or whose expectations in life were smashed by some cruel hand of fate. The idealistic philosopher is shaken in his theories that search for symmetry and rational order in the universe. The physical scientist turns his instruments to studying the material forces that govern these events so as to ultimately arrive at a law for their occurrence. He can then devise more accurate equipment for power and control. The psychologist spends time studying the behaviour of individuals and groups in disasters whilst the social activist and philanthropist rush to provide whatever help they can. The religious turn towards God for help and succour in their hour of distress, whilst the atheist uses it as an argument against the very presence of God. Some evade the whole issue by drawing an irreconcilable distinction between God and the world. This world, they observe is, by its very nature imperfect, full of sorrow and suffering, doomed to remain so. Nature is a device or ploy to trap the soul and indefinitely extend the misery and illusion of the world.

Each viewpoint has its truth and is yet incomplete. Even a sum of these views remains so, due to the very nature of the consciousness that experiences the phenomenon. Man, as long as he is part of the machinery of Nature, sees a blind mechanical force with no clear goal. He is like someone strapped to the undercarriage of a car, feeling the twists and turns of the wheels of fate, with partial glimpses of the road and scenery, without knowing the destination. He is oblivious too of the soul that steers along this dangerous road that now seems to overrun an abyss, then turns towards high and beautiful summits. This is the misery of man, or rather the misery called man, aptly described in the Upanishads as an object of sacrifice, perennially tied to the stake of the earth by the triple bonds of body, life and mind. Our mental blindness is a curse, our partial seeing a still greater one. The wholly blind are at least open to every possibility in the mind’s eye, but the one-eyed are shut in a limited arc of vision that allows nothing else into the mind than what they partially see.

We do not see the fate of those who have passed beyond the ken of our senses. If only we could somehow grasp that no one really dies, but merely changes appearance like a voyager leaving a familiar shore to travel to other distant lands and climes. The journey does not end with the closing of one life, but is as a starting-point for even greater adventures. We also do not see that Nature is neither cruel nor just, that the governance of the world is not a system of reward and punishment. We draw a figure of God in our own little image, an exaggeration of the human qualities. But God is a totality greater than all we can perceive and no single idea, vision or concept can hold the whole Truth. We fail to see that while one giant wave was staging the game of death, another was bringing food from the sea to sustain and nourish human life. Yet another was sending its clouds as envoys to the sky, bringing rain for some parched corner of the earth. And yet another was simply sporting with the skies and winds in mighty jest. Many waves were carrying merchandise to distant lands even as many were drowning in the vast expanse. The destroyer and creator are together in play and man chooses to be on one side or the other. Those who do not choose are left at the mercy of the play of forces, driven and tossed by Time’s giant waves to this or that shore in an epic struggle and conflict. For when we do not choose, then something chooses for us. That something is neither driven by man’s blind hopes nor deterred by his fears. For it sees what we do not see and knows what we do not know.

Tragedy is, after all, a sense of proportion according to the value our mind gives it. But it is also the unfilled gap between what we are in our present actuality and could be in our potentiality. And are we not all potentially divine and immortal? To our narrow consciousness, there is a sense of tragedy and loss. But to a consciousness as vast as the earth or as still as the sky, the sense of tragedy passes off into an ever-present oneness moving towards an even greater unity. To that consciousness nothing is lost and everything moves from one level of perfection to a greater perfection. In the being of God there is no tragedy. In God’s vision, the world is not a senseless paradox as the illusionist would let us believe, nor is this façade of events and circumstances driven by a blind, mechanical and un-intelligent will. It is rather an ignorance moving towards a bliss of identity, a field tilled with death that still bears the fruits of immortality. Instead of cursing God and only trying to master Nature, we need to dive deep into both. We need to plunge down where we can discover the utter identity of both, one as the supporting truth, the other as the executive force, one as the wisdom and vision behind things, the other as the power and will that works out the truth that seeks to express itself here upon earth. The way is incalculable because it exceeds all mental limits and expands with the soul into limitless knowledge, boundless power and immortal life. Death and disasters are instruments to goad the spirit towards an immortal strength, to build compassion and rediscover a lost oneness through sympathy with the world’s grief. These first steps serve as a prelude to our epic climb to summits where there are no ‘others’. Our brief joys and sorrows are only the first imperfect attunements of life’s harp strings to a much greater harmony and bliss. Our partial seeing and hasty judgments are only the faint beginnings of sight that will arrive at the full-orbed Light of noon.

Let us then redouble our efforts with each tragedy to arrive at the perfection hidden in Nature and intended in all her movements. Let each sorrow be a spur towards greater bliss, each struggle and fall a means to grow in strength and expand our wings into limitless skies. For such is the way to finding a true and lasting remedy, the remedy that comes by the touch of our alchemist soul.