Generally there is a tendency to elevate humans as a superior species. I have described in earlier blogs that the only thing that separates the human beings as a species from all other species on the earth, is our capacity to think and hence reason and thus make any of our actions a matter of choice. Thus all our actions can be based on rationale. They need not be a matter of instinct or reflex. This is indeed true. But, today in the aftermath of horror in Newtown, CT., USA, I have learned, even this is a simple and somewhat glorified view of the human species.
Humans also distinguished themselves from all other species, especially the animals, when the first Neanderthal picked up a sharp edged stone and started using it as a tool. Since then our developments have progressed to spears, cannons, guns and missiles and more. I think this escalation of developments in tools of destruction – especially the annihilation of those who are no threat to any one or of any consequence – seems to be where humankind seems to have rapidly distinguished itself from other species. Animals kill other animals for self-defense or for their food. Even in acts of self-defense, they tend to run away first, rather than challenge the offender. In their hunt for food, they follow their evolutionary path as a course of nature. But, none of the animals, as far as we know, pick up a tool, gun or ammunition to extinguish the life of other animals or destroy the nature. This dubious distinction belongs to the human species!
How else can we describe the continuing violence in our schools? How else can we describe the violence occurring in many nations across the world, with the death and destruction of so many innocent human beings? The only factor behind all these heinous acts of violence and crime is this: People have simply stopped thinking, reasoning and making choices that precede their actions. We have stopped being human beings.
Yet, our feelings and thoughts of despair have to give way to reason and reflection.
In Bhaja Govindham, the poet Saint Sankaracharya offers his prayers to the Lord as follows:
Through association with those who are good and reasoning centered, may I develop a calm reflection and compassionate outlook. May such reflection and compassion lead me to non-attachment (as evidenced through absence of anger, passion, envy or violence). May such reasoning centered non-attachment be the source for eternal peace and my liberation and Self – Realization! May Lord Govindha bless me for this evolution as a human being!
The above prayer may be too intellectual and philosophical. However, let us now resort to the first prayer and its appeal: “Through association with those who are good and reasoning centered, may I develop a calm reflection and compassionate outlook”.
Those of you, who read this essay may know of someone who is lonely, isolated and need some help in their reflection and reasoning. They may not have thoughts of violent crimes. But, there are always those who feel hurt for one reason or another. Their thoughts and feelings of being let down and isolated, unfortunately makes them think of actions, some times of extreme heinous nature.
Everyone knows ten people, who know of ten more. Let us reach out to others and expand the network of reasoning centered association. Let us help ourselves and others such that our actions are based on reflection and choice. This may not be a substitute to curb the role of guns and their deadly power for destruction. That needs a national dialogue and political will and policy changes. But, each of us can contribute something by reaching out for those in need and giving them a chance to open their hearts and emotions, such that the irrational thoughts and acts of violence in unexpected quarters can subside. It may not be all the answer we need. But, it can be a good beginning.
So, please go ahead and contact someone you have not reached out for months; Contact someone who might feel alone, isolated and left distanced from the society; Let there be open and honest dialogue of our thoughts and feelings and issues; Let there be association of the good for reasoning centered thoughts and exchange of views. Let us make this small contribution for a large and unmet need in our life as human species. Let this be the down payment for returning us to what makes us humans: Thought and reasoning centered, which distinguishes us from other species on earth.
Let us also take a moment to share our grief and our thoughts of c0ndolences with all the parents and the family members who lost their children at their tender young ages and the elders at school who gave their lives, while doing their service for a noble cause – to educate our future generation. Let us also show our deep gratitude for all the first responders and the Government officials who displayed the better aspect of us, as the humans, in all their valient efforts through their response at this time of crisis.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year!