Immortality

I happened to be reading Yuval Noah Harari’s book Homo Deus and around the same time watching Satish Kumar’s interviews Being an Earth PilgrimHarari was speaking of the obsession of certain Silicon Valley magnates with the achievement of immortality, whereas Kumar was describing how both his mother and the activist poet Vinoba Banave recognised when their life was coming to a natural end and accelerated this process by self starvation.

The difference appears to be in the attitude to death. Kumar sees this as the natural culmination of the process of a life; the magnate sees it as an undesirable end to be avoided.

Surely the desire for immortality is a gross illusion of the psychological ego. The process of a life requires a growth of the person to a level at which the ego and it’s selfish concerns are transcended. Here lies the death of the ego that it was so fearful of avoiding, such that it desired immortality. Whether achieving this state or not, the person ultimately dies – Kumar would say this is to be reincarnated and take the process further.

There is no case in nature, out greatest teacher, of a life or process that is without end, or death. Life indeed demonstrates as a set of processes that are born, manifest, grow, flourish and ultimately die.

The search for immortality is a great vanity and illusion of the hubris of the psychological ego.

Of course, this is not to suggest that there is not value in research aiming to increase the typical human lifespan, which may well serve some purpose of which we are not yet even aware.

Soil, Soul, Society

“Soil is the source of all life… All life comes from the mother soil and returns to her…
If my outer body is soil, then my inner being is the soul. As I cultivate the soil to grow food for the body, I take care of the soul and cultivate love, compassion, beauty and unity to realise the harmony within and without.
When I am at ease within, I am at ease without… Through caring for soil I am a member of the Earth community and through caring for society I am  member of the human community…
…the trinity of Soil, Soul, Society is a way of saying in three words that we are all related, interconnected and interdependent. This is a trinity of wholeness and unity of life in its myriad forms.”

soil_soul_societyThe above words are taken from the forward to Satish Kumar’s new book Soil, Soul, Society: a new trinity for our time. They express the essence of what is in the book.

I have over perhaps four decades read much written by Satish, in his various books and Resurgence magazine editorials, and have heard a number of inspirational talks by this modern purveyor of wisdom.

The book contains little that is actually new to me, but does provide a good summary of Satish’s approach to the world and his three major themes. He shows how these came about through the inspiration of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain philosophy, the special influence of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and E.F.Schumacher, and the organisations that have flowered through these special inspirations. Along the way we find a passionate critique of modern Western civilisation and its unsustainable focus on economic growth at the expense of the natural environment and individual and social wellbeing.

The need is for a renewed focus on Soil, Soul and Society, reconnecting with the wisdom of ealier, sustainable, societies.

If you are familiar with Satish’s thinking, this will enable you to drink once more from his well of wisdom, reconnect with earlier inspirations. If you are not so familiar, the book provides and excellent introduction and overview. It is beautifully written in an inspirational style, and the ideas are so important today.

Today we are reaping the results of 50 years of these ideas being essentially ignored by mainstream political and media thinking and kept at the margins in various charities. How much longer can this continue, as we grapple with the unsustainable effects of that mainstream – notably inequality, lack of a stake in the ‘good life’ for many people, environmental degradation and global warming? No doubt this is a subject I will return to in future posts.

See also Satish’s TEDx talk.