Thursday, March 25, 2010

This picture, a screaming half-page on the Times of India, announced that Gujarat, the state that Gandhi hailed from, was burning. Religious sentiments, fueled by political expediency, had erupted into a massacre.

I've never forgotten this picture - it has burned into my memory like a horse's branding. This is the image that comes to my mind when I think of fear.

What drives people to do in a mob what they wouldn't do by their own, killing one another by the dozens? A sense of security in numbers? Disregard for life? For themselves? For others?

I find it fascinating that the things we are taught when as children, things that become a habit knit part of our lives, things we take for granted when we think, never questioning, always assuming - these same things could be so wrong & destroy us & the world around us.

A great example would be Earth itself. Until someone came along & challenged the contemporary thinking, Earth was the centre of the universe. The Church convicted Galileo a heretic & sent him to the gallows for questioning its authority. Only a few hundred years later, we take this so much for granted.

Unquestioned following of authority, external or internal, could be possibly one of the best ways of chaining oneself to a position. When the assumption breaks down, as it no doubt will, a whole life suddenly appears to be fake & without any value or purpose.

Which possibly explains mid-life crisis: throughout one's life, everyone is after what everyone else is after. With no real knowledge of either oneself or one's purpose, we sail through life accepting that money equals happiness, rich equals good, more or bigger is better & so on. One fine day, however, it suddenly breaks down - it could be the death of a loved one, a heart attack, the loss of a limb in an accident, being made redundant.

What drives you to do what you do? Have you examined your motives? Are they your own? Or are they like second-hand smoke, something you have picked up from someone you may or may not know?  These are some of the questions that I've been asking myself, & the answers are startling. You might want to do this questioning yourself. After all, what good is a mind, if we don't use it to think for ourselves?