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Whatever force created the world or ‘existence’ as we know it, made a robust system where each work of creation had a role to play in perpetuating life. There was an equilibrium of sorts where everything co-existed and survived for millions of years. It will survive for many more millions of years. As ‘our’ world evolved, there were creatures that tried to upset the equilibrium. These creatures got wiped out from the face of the earth. In the larger cosmic design, nothing changed. In the last twenty thousand years or so, which is nothing in terms of the time over which the universe has existed, human beings have created severe instability in the equilibrium designed by Nature, which is now trying to right itself after giving the human race several warnings that have gone unheeded. In our delusion of creating a better world (read a world that satisfies our unending greed), we have tried to subjugate the forces of Nature and are now facing a fierce backlash. Dinosaurs and sabre-toothed tigers extincted themselves for reasons which were perhaps not in consonance with their designed roles on Earth.

Humans differ from our closest ancestors, the apes, primarily due to our ability to think, cooperate and manipulate things in a manner that no other species has ever done in the past. It is therefore no surprise that despite not being the fastest or strongest creatures on the planet, we have the greatest capacity to disrupt life, opposing all designs of the Creator. This has led us to believe that we can do anything with impunity and get away with it. The concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ which was applicable to the ‘theory of natural selection’ started getting applied to other walks of life and is now widely and rather unwisely interpreted as ‘winning at any cost’. This, coupled with greed, has made us so hungry for power, money and material comfort that we have completely lost sight of the larger good. Competition has trumped cooperation hands down. In the race to be Number One, we trample upon every other nation, community, organisation, belief and individual for selfish ends. The results are there for us to see.

Most of the realities that we have created for ourselves are inherently fragile. I think there are three primary reasons for this. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, we often do things that militate against the elements – we wish to overpower them and hence fail. Why does a spacecraft crash or a space mission often fail? Why does a nuclear explosion cause untold damage? Why do unchecked deforestation and industrial emissions cause environmental disaster? Because these activities are inherently anti-Nature. Secondly, we have very little knowledge of the universe and our own world. Despite all scientific research and experimenting, ever so often we have a virus or bacterium that stumps the world completely, a tsunami that kills millions or an earthquake that causes devastation despite man-made warning systems that we think will work. They don’t. Thirdly, the future cannot be predicted with any great accuracy or certainty. This is really an extension of the lack of knowledge but is more complex because we create theories, statistical systems, mathematical models and other predictive tools that repeatedly fail. The best example here is that of economies that undergo upheavals at the slightest happening anywhere in the world. Nobody ever predicted stock market crashes or oil-price volatility to any degree of accuracy. A three-month virus pandemic is causing world economies to go into recession. Thousands of predictions of how the pandemic will pan out globally have also failed miserably. If this is not fragile, what is?

In difficult times, we have never been failed by water, air, fire, earth, animals, plants and our own capacity for compassion. They have saved us from a much higher degree of devastation than we would have otherwise faced. In fact, they have allowed us to get away rather lightly. It is little wonder, therefore, that traditional Indian culture has worshipped these elements and entities in different forms. Various forms of Indian deities have even been referred to as ‘Mother’ in an obvious reference to a nurturing parent who cares for her children and admonishes them when they go astray. In the words of Dr Ichak Adizes, the noted Israeli professor and business consultant, “Nature is giving us repetitive warnings – and like a good parent, it increases the punishments till we hear the message and do what needs to be done – and change.” He further suggests that the time has come for humanity to change focus from ‘more is better’ to ‘better is more’ and that we must not confuse ‘standard of living with ‘quality of life’.

These warnings are indeed overdue. If not heeded, the destructive power of nations and new technologies coupled with human greed, conceit and ignorance could become a fatal cocktail.

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