Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ten years old

Though born and raised in India, my education was through the English language, and though my family milieu was a simple, spartan, middle-class one, nonetheless this was quite westernised. Thus, for instance, reading meant reading books in English, and literature meant English and American literature, and literature in English translation.

In the late-80s – early-90s, I did a lot of personal study on ecology & environment, cities and planning. I became acquainted with the work of the American thinker and writer Lewis Mumford (1895-1990). I read several of his books and became more and more engrossed with his work and life. I was an atheist, a secular, rational humanist. I had been strongly influenced by Marx. But I think it was through Mumford that my attention was directed to the Hindu and Buddhist religious texts.

Here’s a passage from Lewis Mumford’s My Works and Days that I had noted down:

“The age of ‘the men who are ten years old’ long ago predicted in the Pali Buddhist texts, had arrived … ten-year old minds enclosed in a ten-year old culture with only a ten-year future – if that. … The Buddhists … said of the ‘men who are ten years old’ that ‘their violent hatred against each other will predominate, with violent enmity, violent malevolence, violent lust for wholesale killing.’ A world picture that omitted all values except those fostered by science and technology was left with only a blank nihilism in our proper human realm.

… Strangely, the palpable rationality of the scientific method within its own accredited area gave rise in the great majority of its practitioners to a compulsive irrationality – an uncritical faith in science’s godlike power to control the destinies of the human race. Those who have studied the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian religious texts know how cruel, destructive and inhumane man’s godlike faculties actually can be. Only mammalian tenderness and human love have saved mankind from the demented gods that rise up from the unconscious when man lets himself off from the cosmic and earthly sources of his life.”

Image: Run, Children of Qanah, Run! by Marlene Azoulai.

1 comment:

Don Iannone said...

Rama...I enjoyed this one. Much learning here. Mumford is a favorite of mine. I spent 15 years in a Urban and Public Affairs College and can relate to his profound ideas. Also, I like the way you hooked up his ideas to Eastern traditions and your own. Nice!