By Navid Zaidi
‘If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects’……Albert Einstein
ستاروں سے آگے جہاں اور بهی هیں
ابهی عشق کے امتحاں اور بهی هیں
‘Other worlds exist beyond the stars,
Other tests of Love are yet to come.’…………..Dr Allama Iqbal (Indian poet-philosopher 1877-1938)
We, the humans, are a peculiar creation. Even when faced with the most discouraging circumstances our imagination and understanding give us a more perfect vision of ourselves. We discover the means to transform our dreams into living actualities. Thus, we gradually become a determining factor in our own evolution.
However, we now live in a world of technology. Despite its extraordinarily positive aspects, it also has a damaging effect on our existence. Our world seems to be escaping us from all sides, turning out to be devoid of sense and stripped of meaning and direction.
‘Competition’ has become a new form of destiny and ‘staying in the race’ is the new goal (what is known by the hopeless term ‘benchmarking’).
The new world of technology makes us feel like we are spokes in the wheels of a bicycle which must keep on going in order not to topple over. We must continue to ‘progress’ but this mechanical progress is fueled by a struggle for survival. In the post-Darwinian world this is a form of natural selection and there is nothing there to suggest that it is moving in a direction of what is better.
Can we seriously believe that we shall have more happiness and freedom because a new iPhone will be here in a few months?
Our thoughts, our aspirations, our ways of life, our entire mental and physical outfit are all determined by the needs of the new world of technology.
The interests of this tech world as a whole are fundamentally different and even antagonistic to the interest of individual personality. The individual is not participating in the tech world with a conscious will. His/her activity is nothing more than an unconscious performance of a particular function which the social and tech economy has allotted to him/her.
We are absorbed in the optically present sources of sensation around us but entirely cut off from the depths of our own being. This brings us nothing but life-weariness and robs us of faith in our own future.
Now, life is a forward assimilative movement and in humans the center of life becomes a Person. The essence of personality is continuous creation of desires and ideals. Personality is fortified by continuous action to achieve those desires and ideals. This sense of effort, the experience of purposive action and the success we actually achieve in reaching our goals convinces us of our personality.
Contrary to what the world of technology dictates, the individual center of experience (Personality) is the fundamental fact of human life. All life is individual. There is no such thing as universal life.
Personality is formed and disciplined by continuous formation of fresh goals and ideals. The essential feature of a goal is our vision of a future situation.
Contrary to what materialists say the nature of reality is both immanent (as perceived by sense-perception) and transcendental (hidden) and so may be our goals and ideals.
The immanent goals and ideals belong to the physical environment that surrounds us and belong to the system of cause and effect. The tech world is an indispensable instrument of personality in the present environment but not a final expression of the nature of Reality.
Personality understands and masters the environment in order to acquire and amplify its freedom and happiness but it is the transcendental that restores to us that attitude which makes us capable of winning a personality here and retaining it hereafter.
Says Dr Allama Iqbal:
‘ It is only by rising to a fresh vision of his origin and future, his whence and whither, that man will eventually triumph over a society motivated by an inhuman competition, and a civilization which has lost its spiritual unity by its inner conflict of religious and political values.’
Consider these four great fundamental values of existence; Truth, Beauty, Love and Justice. All four are transcendental, for all of us, you, me and everyone else. But they are real and based in concrete experience of personality.
On the other hand, is the cause and effect aspect of nature the whole truth?
Says Sir Arthur Eddington (British astrophysicist, 1882-1944):
‘ We have acknowledged that the entities of physics can from their very nature form only a partial aspect of the Reality. How are we to deal with the other part? It cannot be said that the other part concerns us less than the physical entities. Feelings, purposes, values make up our consciousness as much as sense-impressions. We follow up the sense-impressions and find that they lead into an external world discussed by Science; we follow up the other element of our being and find that they lead—not into a world of space and time, but surely somewhere.’
As Einstein and Iqbal suggest in above quotes, the ultimate goals and ideals are to be sought not in the direction of the stars but in an infinite individual life and spirituality.