The world today is a place of massive upheaval. There is a pandemic which is testing humanity and stretching it to its limit. There are powers that are trying to make a point and playing games of one-upmanship, even though the timing is most inopportune. However, this is not without precedent. History is rife with stories of conflicts and wars. And some of the greatest stories of inventions have been the direct resultant of diseases and the fight we have put against them. We might still find a way to win against these, but there is something else which is starting to assume demonic proportions; opinion.
Before COVID 19 made social gatherings passé, there was one in my family for which I deliberately walked in late, just so that I could escape the vitriol which two parties would be throwing at each other in the name of political ideologies. I just could not muster the courage or patience to go through the same set of “Them VS Us” that I anyway have to keep up with on social media, or in the news, or office, or the coffee house, or any other form of gathering that you can think of. What I find entirely baffling is that these end up being taken personally, which then results in two to three days of angst and sullen faces looking at each other. And in case you do not wish to participate, you end up being labelled as someone who is not interested!
And this malaise doesn’t end just there, people are at each other’s throats online, ensconced in the security provided by the screen and keyboard. Jordan Peterson makes an interesting point about how men are more civil in their conversation with each other when there is the peril of physical harm. Being devoid of this threat has made people thoughtless. There are promoters of political correctness, who in their messianic frames of mind have started doing what they claim to fight; clamp down on free speech. Then there are those who think that modernism and progress are what we need to get done away with because I guess hunger, health and all the development issues have been taken care of. This, combined with the relentlessness of the traditional media houses in stoking the fire of anxiety in the quest of sustaining themselves is drawing lines in the ground which didn’t exist even a decade back.
My father made this painting recently, called “The Wooden Bridge”. It depicts a small bridge made of wood, going over a small stream, thin enough to let a person pass without getting his feet wet. You can use it to get from one side of the beautiful forest to the other side which is just as lovely to look at. The colours primarily used in the painting are green and brown, muted but pleasing hues devoid of too much detail. Only the rivulet has been depicted with clarity. The construction is rudimentary, planks nailed together with only one railing to hold on to. However, it will get you across.
The painting also depicts what we are experiencing in our lives these days. Both sides are made of colours which cannot be classified as bright or cheerful but hold immense beauty and appeal. The hedge is thick on one side, the shade lovely and welcoming on the other. In the very same manner, both the sides of the proverbial “debate” have a lot of good things going for them. Altruism and the need for equality are needed for a just and fair society, but what we have learned in the past is the platform on which the transformation will occur. We only notice the stream flowing underneath and treat it as an insurmountable problem when all it really takes is to extend our faculties a little more, and as is shown in the painting does not need you to put in what you might consider a mighty endeavour. And maybe, just maybe when you stand in the middle the reflection might just be at its clearest.
I would like to end this with a quote from Sir Isaac Newton, which is as true now as it was back in the 18th century.
“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”