November 30, 2007: [I dedicate this blog to two guys with whom I connect — one on the iLand one offline. The iLander is Sunshine, with whom I disagree on a number of issues including his dislike of stray dogs. But I connect with the genuineness and essential gentleness that shines through his writings as well as his comments to othe people. I dedicate this particular post to him because he has inspired it this morning through his reasoning, which is representative of the thought-process that all of us have.
The offline person is Tejus Coulagi, the guy who named our tiny fledgeling group Children of the Earth, and gave it the catch-phrase, Protecting Our Mother. Tejus is characterised by his innocence and earnest good intentions, which shines through the name and catch-phrase, and indeed, much of what he says. He asked me to design this logo for our group-of-three; I hope he likes it.]
Something that Tejus said in the course of a discussion keeps playing in my head several times a day:
“Maybe this whole Global Warming thing that is happening is a blessing in disguise,”he said with childlike sincerity, as we stood at the seaside at Nariman Point.“Fighting a war unites people by making them sink their differences. All the other wars that were fought to save the world were against ‘other people’ — against the Nazis, communists and so on. But this time there is no external enemy; this time the enemy is within. We are ourselves both the bad guys and the good guys. And so maybe fighting this war will unite all humans in a way that no previous war was able to do.”
At the time he said it, I was struck by the naivete of the statement. It seemed like such a childlike and simplistic vision of the world! Imagine all humankind being united forever in harmony! It was a laughable thought, I felt.
To a large extent, I continue to feel that way.
And yet I find myself hoping that we can nurture this childlike thought within us. I hope we can take this tender sapling-of-an-idea of home and water it, and against all odds, try to grow it into a tree.
Something that Sheila Das quoted comes to mind here: Yoga kshemam vahamiyam.“To whom I alone am the only refuge, it is my responsibility to grant everything needed (yoga), And to preserve everything granted (kshemam), That responsibility I take up on me(vahaami-aham),“Sheila explains.
I interpret it like this: The good Earth depends on me and I on her. Will I take the responsibility for her well-being, or will I shrug and say that I am not a big influential man like Al Gore or a Mahatma like Gandhi? Will I shrug and say that I’m anyway polluting a lot less than the typical American, and go on with my life?
At first sight, these thoughts seem like empty idealism; Sheila’s thought seems like a nice thing to think about and feel a bit saintly about, but not like a good basis for action. In good faith and seriousness, we all advise each other to be practical and not ‘an idealistic fool.’ Because we are well-versed with the dangers of unrealistic behaviour based on false, idealistic notions of our place in the world.
It was in this spirit that Sunshine, Sheila and Lissome Lady advised me not to do anything foolish such as disposing off my car. Sunshine said: “ES, Dont get carried away by that spirit of self sacrifice. I did not mean to goad your conscience into making sacrifices… rather i would ask you: will you stop breathing because you emit Carbon Dioxide? or stop using electricity? Come on!!! The only way out is to make others aware of the dangers of global warming. Anyway, where are the roads in mumbai to drive? Take care and dont walk too much on those polluted roads .. you will ruin your health. We need you to spearhead this campaign. :-)))”
Sunshine went on to add: “I used the car only as an example but you need not take it to heart. Each one as an individual is like an ant when earth is taken as a whole. So selling your car will definitely not solve the issue of CO2 emmision.”
My thoughts, hopes and fears
When Sunshine and LL ask me whether I have sold my car before I preach, I really do take their question to heart. No, I’m not about to sell it as a kneejerk reaction because that would deeply hurt my wife and children, but their question goes deep nonetheless.
Because in the context of Global Warming, our enemy is not someone else out there, it is our own selves. So we must introspect and direct our actions inwards… otherwise it will all be so much empty talk and no action. We will all keep pointing our fingers at one another.
Yes, I am part of this whole thing, this economism-consumerism syndrome. I hope to muster the vision to see it with clarity. And I hope to grow the inner strength and conviction needed to tear myself away from it.
As Sunshine points out, selling my car (or destroying it for that matter) won’t solve the global problem of CO2 emissions, because I’m only one among 6.5 billion human beings.
BUT such steps may go some way towards cleansing myself internally of this pollution, this poisoning that is killing my planet. I am internally polluted by my dependence on a variety of external things for my daily life. I have all sorts of dependencies… I can’t even start naming them clearly because they are so much an inseparable part of me!
So my little inward-directed acts (like bathing with cold water, giving up sugar and artificial sweeteners, consciously walking home from the railway station instead of taking a rickshaw) are aimed at recovering my own freedom from my habitual ‘modern’ behaviours. Of course they won’t solve the CO2 problem!
Currently, I’m not on my way to solving the WORLD PROBLEM OF INACTION on the issue. I’m not anywhere near making a dent in that problem, and I have no illusions about my ability to do so.
I’m struggling with myself to solve the more immediate problem of MY OWN INDIFFERENCE & INACTION on this issue. If I can take care of that, then I can implement in my own little life that concept that Sheila Das quotes about: taking responsibility for someone who depends on you and you alone.
Because to me, my relationship with Planet Earth is personal, not general. Earth is not a PLACE where I live, it is a PERSON with whom I live and breathe and constantly interact. Maybe the Earth as I know it is fated to die, and I am indeed too tiny and insignificant to do anything about it with my foolish, ineffective idealism.
Well, I am fated to die too, so that is no big deal. I can go on with my tiny insignificant life, constantly seeking the path of least resistance.
Except for one tiny detail: I shall meet my Mother face to face, I shall rest my head upon her lap and sooner or later, I shall have to look into her eyes.
And if I have failed her, she will say with her eyes, “I trusted YOU. I’m not asking about all the billions of other people in this world, my child; but I thought I could trust YOU.” And silently, she will brush away a tear.
No, this is not about what other people will do or not do to save the earth, this is about what I do or fail to do.
I don’t pray for the world to be saved; the world is too big and too complex for insignificant me. I can only pray that I do not fail myself.