Random Thoughts

The Story of Life

It is the curse of humanity to chase a mirage, because the acquisitiveness of man exceeds his wisdom. There is no doubt that a certain amount of money is essential to survival, but the desire of excess money is only the greed of a misplaced sense of self-worth. Shelley's poem Ozymandias of Egypt reveals the desire for immortality and evolution shortchanges us, in that we are at best constrained only to pass on only half our genes, which get diluted with time. The empty pleasures of material affluence still leave humans unfulfilled.

Ozymandias of Egypt

I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: 'Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things, The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains: round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The charm of Hinduism is not the false promise of afterlife, which a primitive philosophy used to obtain order and a civil society in this life and to enslave the less privileged, so that they would not rebel against the entrenched power elite, but the fundamental truth that the curse of acquisitiveness knows no limits and is incapable of satiety. Jainism, Buddhism and Christianity repeated the same message. The Bhagwad Gita verse which Oppenheimer mistranslated at Almogardo means, 'I have now become Time, the destroyer of all things', good or evil.'

The relentless pursuit of wealth by foul means or fair and the subsequent donations to seek immortality or to appease the conscience, as Carnegie and others have done, is a futile quest with scant rewards, which many humans are unwilling to give up. The beauty of Hinduism, in spite of the fact that it, like all religions is a purveyor of snake oil, is that it emphasizes the futility of pleasure from material wealth. Christianity sums it up nicely in the statement that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to attain heaven. Truly wisdom is a scarce commodity.

There is a story of the pre-partitioned Punjab of India, where in the middle of the night in the home of a poor Masir, the wife hears a noise and suspects burglars and so nudges her husband to alert him of the presence of thieves. The husband replies, 'Din Dahaade ke ujaale men saanu kuch nahi mildaa, to ainu raat ke andhere men ki milangaa'. It translates that what wealth he sought in the daylight with unconstrained vision, he could not find (and perhaps was not even worth coveting). How could thieves blinded by the darkness (enveloping their soul), steal anything from them.

The moral is that those who have the vision have nothing that can be stolen, for true wealth is not material, only ephemeral. To paraphrase Shakespeare, he who steals my purse steals trash. He who steals my character steals everything. And yet the nature of the beast is to persist in futility, as Shelley said, We look before and after and pine for what is not Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.   


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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