Friday, April 20, 2007

13 - The Contours of the Eternal

The text book of college physics by Resnick & Halliday[1] – one of the most incisive yet understandable books of its genre – ends with an intriguing statement : The universe is full of magical things, waiting for our wits to get sharper. The obvious implication is that the sharpness of the wit will eventually cut through the magic – which is of course the correct stance for a classical scientist. But what if the universe is magical itself, not merely full of magical things ? And what if the wit was a part of the magic as well ? So we circle back, yet again, to the congruence of the knower, the to-be-known and the process of knowing itself. The primordial singularity.

Singularity is elusive. While anyone can pursue this goal, reaching it is the preserve of a chosen few – activity is guaranteed, but results, unfortunately, are not ! So many a seeker has to be content with the journey itself without the satisfaction of arrival – so let it be for us as well. At least for the moment.

But as we rest upon a crest and look back at the road that we have traveled so far, what is it that we see around us ? We see a landscape – or perhaps we should call it a thought-scape, an idea-scape or ideally speaking, an insight-scape – that is perhaps as intriguing as well as confusing.

We see ourselves as patterns that sit at odds with the patterns around us. But not for long ! As we sit and watch the patterns that we are and the patterns that we weave around ourselves, we see or rather sense that there are subtle changes happening in the vicinity. It is as if a thin sheet of the illusory – or is it knowledge masquerading as truth ? – is trying to spread across the undulating terrain of the substratum and as it settles in into the peaks and hollows, it ends up gradually revealing the contours that had been hidden so far. Paradoxically enough, that which obscures reality ends up as identical with the same.

The contours of this terrain are eternal and the end state is that all patterns will finally converge with it. This will not happen quickly nor will it happen if we try to rush things and end up tearing the fabric. It is a process as inevitable as the annealing that happens when iron is repeatedly heated and then allowed to cool, so that the crystalline constituents arrange themselves in a manner that nature or energy-states dictate, and result in a state of softness that in turn allows it to respond to and align itself to the presence of an external magnetic field.

The contours of this terrain are eternal in the sense that while the fabric cover may or may not fit at the moment there will come a time when it will not have an option of not doing so. This sense of inevitability is unnerving. Is this a cessation or suspension of free will ? Is this an extension of the hidden hand of psychohistory, extended from societies to individuals, that Isaac Asimov spoke about through Hari Seldon in the Foundation ? Or is this what Emerson was speaking about when he said ‘when me they fly, I am the wings’.

But this patient wait for things to fall into place is fraught with dangers. Could it degenerate into an invitation to willful inactivity for those who have an inclination to stay away from hard work? Is this a license for laziness ? Is this a call to cool your heels on the roadside while the great trucks of enterprise and human endeavor roll forward on the multi-lane highways of the world ?

On the other hand, what about the inactivity of those who are otherwise dynamic in ‘reality’ ? Is that because of the fact that these individuals have a real insight into the dynamics of eventuality, of inevitability ?

Lord Krishna had of course exhorted one and all to engage in positive and dynamic action, to labour without seeking the fruits of labour but is it possible that such advice was meant only for those who have to be told what is to be done ? Is it really relevant for the self-motivated seekers who actively seek out patterns, or rather see through patterns, and have the insight to extrapolate these patterns out into what is commonly referred to as space and time.

But, in any case, what did Lord Krishna achieve through his exhortations ? We know of him as the emissary between the two rival camps who apparently tried to negotiate a truce and avoid a war, but if you read deeper in the story behind the story, it is quite clear that it was he who had catalyzed the catastrophe to achieve a strategic catharsis in a society that he saw was unwinding towards a terminal decline. But despite his most energetic activism, his intense involvement with the politics of North India, the Dharma Rajya that was notionally, though finally, established was at its core a hollow joke. The land was ravaged, society was thrown in turmoil and power passed into the hands of men who were but mere straws and of whom no political trace was left for posterity. The grand vision of a new and enlightened nation state remained at best a dream or at worst became a nightmare. Kali Yuga arrived, and that too not a minute behind schedule ! There was no way that he could stop or even delay the wheel of inevitability as it rolled on its predestined path.

Of course there could be another interpretation of Lord Krishna’s advice to labour without seeking the fruits of labour and this is based on a different translation of the word phal : which could mean both (a) fruit or reward but also (b) results. If we use the second interpretation, then perhaps his advice can be viewed as a tacit and pragmatic acceptance of the inevitable ! Activity, or work, as we all know, can be guaranteed, but results are another matter – they are totally unpredictable. So it may be wise to say that one should on focus on work and not bother about the results That is how you manage expectations and avoid the disappointment of failing to obtain the desired results.

The current band of dedicated Karma Yogis – the NGOs, activists and others who wish to change the world may differ, but the world that that they wish to change may have other ideas ! If you are a pragmatist, you may consider leaving the world to look after itself and focus on your personal evolution towards the singularity. If Lord Krishna, the foremost strategist-soldier-statesman of his age could not stop the Kaal Chakra from its predestined path there should not be in shame, dismay or heart burn if we, mere observers, fail to do so.

Questions are easy, answers are not. Whether to act or not appears to be a matter of personal preference, of free will. Whether action has the desired result or not is another question altogether.

Most of us view causality, the co-relation between cause and effect, between result and action, as a non-negotiable cornerstone of our world-view. But just as we had argued in the case of astrology – where we had replaced causality with patterns as the key to the underlying principle – so could be the case in this larger world view. Causality is an illusion and reality is a pattern to which all sentience would eventually attain congruence with … a pattern that defines the contours of the eternal.

But is this correct ? That is known with certainty only to those who have achieved that congruence, that identity. That means it is known only to the Contours of the Eternal itself.

1 Fundamentals of Physics, Halliday, Resnick and Pearl, 6th Edition, John Wiley and Sons, pg 1138

1 comment:

Atul said...

I think the point that we need to look at is that when we have an incomplete Knowledge, we cannot but represent this in the form of imagery, which at best is an incomplete depiction of the Absolute.

Coming to the idea of the finite or the infinite ... Whether the Universe is either of the two ... The way I see it, the Universe, being generated from the point of the primordial Singularity, is evolving to attain a state akin to the Creator ...

Prof. Hubble, though, has something else to say! Observations suggest that the rate of expansion of the Universe is decreasing, which leads to a possibility of the Big Crunch ... One such cycle of creation and destruction?

More comments to follow ... Have had enough of work ... going for a meeting now! :-)