Take a pause and think | Pakistan Today

Take a pause and think

  • The time to befriend eternal nature is now

“…and then I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”

Vincent van Gogh

The world appears consumed with the death and destruction that covid-19 has caused and the dread of bracing its possible aftermath. The World Health Organisation has warned that we may have to live with the contagion. Governments and institutions are simultaneously looking at possible ways not only to cope with the existent challenges, but also retrieve the battered economies which are on the verge of collapse, and help sustain the marginalised communities which are smitten with hunger and extinction. This is a task of mammoth proportions which shall only become more dogged with the passage of time.

But, there are only a few of us who are actually contemplating the spectre of post-Corona life. In addition to focussing on the development of a vaccine, there is hardly any attention being paid to what adjustments will have to be made to stop the scourge from reappearing. This aspect becomes more gruesome in the face of humankind’s focus on material things to the exclusion of what may be so critically important for maintaining the order and balance in the universe and, consequently, our lives.

As compared to when I was growing up, what I miss in today’s world is the absence of even a perfunctory engagement with the world of letters. The tablet having replaced the book, poets and artistes, too, have been consigned to the backstage. At our usual gatherings, no one seems interested in talking about the state of the arts in the society, what poets are writing about, or what painters are drawing. I hardly come across any recital sessions which were favourite occurrences in times not long ago when people would gather and read something, or listen to others doing the same which was always followed by a knowledgeable and vibrant discussion. Such engagements are now scorned at as being sheer wastage of time.

We must remember that if the cruel process of destruction we have so insensitively initiated were to continue, there will be nothing left to care for, and nothing would be there to care for us. We would be forsaken by our surroundings. Shorn of the elements around us, we would be but hapless apparitions pounding away at nothingness which would be unresponsive to our pleadings.

One can trace the decline of civilisations and societies in numerous causes, disengagement from creative pursuits and our surroundings being a couple of them. Unfortunately, this is something that is palpably visible in current times. In the process, we have been reduced to resting on our past laurels alone. There is no Manto, no Faiz, no Faraz, no Jalib, no Shakir Ali, and no Naqsh or Sadeqain. There is no Pak Tea House and endless cups doing the rounds among a vast galaxy of celebrities who were all masters in their respective arts. We now live in an environment of gross mediocrity that has dug its tentacles deep. Do we ever think why it has come to this? Why are we afflicted with such terrible dearth of creativity and why is there such venomous scorn for those few who are still engaged in these pursuits? It is like living in a vast, barren wilderness with not a speck sprouting.

And, why is it also that we behave with such gross insensitivity with our surroundings, with nature that is so profusely manifested around us? Do we ever feel a twinge of loathing while cutting a tree, or mauling a row of flowers? Do we ever think of animals and birds as living beings who feel pain at being barbarically chopped away? Understandably, these are alien thoughts which do not occur to us while bludgeoning the rest of the world and the habitat to suit our crude and merciless predilections.

There could be multiple reasons which brought the onset of covid-19, but we should not try to escape the blame. We must accept responsibility for ravaging the habitat and all other living organisms without as much as a passing thought. We take spilling others’ blood as an inherent right. It is a different matter when it comes to our own blood, or that of the ones we hold dear. Then it is a different rationale that we take recourse to– a rationale that works by creating a distinction between right and wrong. Well, those carrying a chalice of venom for others to drink from cannot fathom the undesirability of seeking a distinctive paradigm when it comes to dealing with their own pain. We have different masters for different kind of tasks. It doesn’t work like that. Blood would be blood no matter whose it is that is spilled.

It was Rembrandt who said, “Choose only one master– nature”. That is critical in recognising that we, and all that is around us, are one among nature. If we kill or damage it in any way, it’ll impact us as much as it will impact other organisms. We cannot escape the effects of cruelty that we inflict upon others.

So, fighting covid-19 and dreaming for the vaccine to arrive early is all fine in our bid to continue partaking of the beauty and bounties of nature. But, we should also protect these and let others share them with us. Indulging in acts to decimate the lives of other living organisms is tantamount to diminishing our chances of survival in the future.

The same goes for the absence of creative pursuits which help propel us into a higher dimension of living and introducing us to a newer purpose of life. Somehow, and quite inexplicably, we have systematically deprived ourselves of that finer element which would have helped us understand things in the larger perspective and come up with palliatives which would administer a healing touch not available in the medicinal genre.

Corona may be the scourge of the whole world, but we also crossed a few lines which we should not have. Change is rooted in a mind-set which makes us think and act in certain ways. That is where we have a major issue, as we have been moulded through years of indoctrination focussed on our purported invincibility and the righteousness of all things that we do. In reality, we are just as flawed as the rest of the world. We should accept this so that a certain margin is left to ponder the way we have lived against how we should have lived.

Life is all about getting out of the block that we may be stuck in and caring for others like we do for our loved ones. It is not about monopolising the space that we may have, but manifesting benevolence to share it with others. At the end of the day, we are all in it together, so we should make a collective effort to cherish and nurture the beauty and bounties that nature has lavishly showered upon us.

We must remember that if the cruel process of destruction we have so insensitively initiated were to continue, there will be nothing left to care for, and nothing would be there to care for us. We would be forsaken by our surroundings. Shorn of the elements around us, we would be but hapless apparitions pounding away at nothingness which would be unresponsive to our pleadings.

Remember that, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature always wears the colours of the spirit”. Nature is our friend, an eternal friend. That time to actually accept it as one and handle it delicately is now. Tomorrow may be too late.

The writer is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: [email protected]; Twitter: @RaoofHasan.



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