SP Kachru

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Wisdom Versus Reality

by S.P. Kachru  

A few centuries ago, one saintly Philosopher who is said to have been satisfied with a small barrel as a home, propagated the insight that a human being always wants what is good for himself alone but not what would be good for all people. This wise perception probably holds true to this day, which leads one to assume that it will continue to be so, a few centuries later. The only likely use for this insight will be to decorate book shelves with volumes containing it and other ancient pearls of wisdom, or to give such tomes to one’s friends and grandchildren, so that they can enhance their own display of reading material.

The human being evidently expects to benefit more from new realities than from ancient wisdom. We appreciate the automobile, for example, which people have not been entirely mistaken deriding as a toy for adults. The only thing that cars produce are accidents, which primarily harm their proud owners and their passengers. Far more people have lost lives in accidents than in wars, nevertheless, while such sudden end to life is hotly discussed and disputed, we have yet to see anyone who has demanded abolition of cars in order to save thousands of lives, each year. Critics merely find fault with the fact that in a car, one drives past far too many things that one could otherwise enjoy.

This is not the only reason why automobiles are expendable. They also have no nutritional value and are thus not required to keep people alive or help them procreate. You might object that automobiles are required to transport marketable goods, but profit-driven trade has always found adequate solutions for doing this in all epochs, even without such vehicles. Moreover, what we can say about automobiles, applies just as much to other technical toys - ranging from televisions and computers to aircrafts - which are all very entertaining but which contribute nothing to the physical well being of the world’s population. Words of wisdom such as those uttered by our great saints appear to be superfluous because hardly anyone has any use for them, but weapons of all kinds are expendable for the opposite reason - people use them too much. Tanks, Bombers and Missiles etc. are useful solely to those who manufacture them. Everyone else could exist without them, and this would not detract from their quality of life in any way. The ever available supply of guns, revolvers etc. is probably sufficient to meet the needs of jealous husbands and robbers of all kinds.

Other things, incomprehensibly described as dispensable, can probably be called essential, namely luxuries. Arguably so, the allure of luxury is integral to the human being as such. Superfluous and unreasonable things, which have lost all semblance of being necessary or useful, act as signal of freedom. They confirm something that human being can spare less than any other, self-respect and dignity.

Each sign of superfluousness, each piece of luxury, takes on a special, even crucial meaning especially in bitter poverty, where the experience of want determines a person’s life expectations. Luxury confirms and symbolizes the fact that the human being is able to raise his existence above all the indignities and insecurities, despite everything. All this taken together leads inexorably to one conclusion. We do not need words of wisdom which no one bothers to live by. What we need is luxury - superfluous and unreasonable - especially for the poor.

Source: Milchar

  

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