The way people go about exploring fundamental questions forges their daily habits. When people delve into questions like “Who am I?” and “Who are we?” they generate traditions that conceive and foster cultural identity. Each question can only be analyzed through the lens of the other in order to achieve balance in the individual and the community. The second quest revolves instead around the pursuance of growth through developing our efficiency and effectiveness and expanding our knowledge and capacity to act. This process is assisted by the exploration of “Who can I be?” and “Who can we be?”. Examining the point where the two questions align to point in the same direction molds mutual definitions of success which allow communal and individual efforts to aim for a coincident objective. When we cease to navigate with these crucial questions in mind, we become travelers without a compass or map. Left disoriented amidst our quest, we become unable to move/paralyzed and are shipwrecked in an unknown place to be devoured by time.
Exposure to different circumstances shapes our capacity to consider inquiry. Some people fall into the temptation of sinking in the comforts of set answers instead of striving to navigate through complex questions. Others are condemned to be deprived of the opportunity to wander and dream of improvement, as their energy is drained struggling to survive, existing in a life that’s not adequate to qualify as living. In Varanasi I observed a society scrambling to subsist, lacking the basic needs required to transcend into a life of personal development past the functioning of their undernourished bodies. Ignorance is a condemnation brought about by those sick with power, driven by greed, who selfishly take vital knowledge hostage. Both parties, those who are greedy and those who are robbed by them, are victims of a degrading scheme that doesn’t only affect their own health but that of the environment which they inhabit. As an example, Professor PK Mishra, spoke to our module, “India’s Path to Sustainability” (IPTS), about the main causes of the current state of Ganga-ji, portraying it’s extremely polluted form. He described to us how the government brought the observer’s attention, such as global media, to religious practices consisting of releasing ashes into the water, insisting that this was a worrying factor provoking the filth infesting the body of water. The reality is that seventy percent of the responsibility actually lays upon direct sewage discharge into the river, but the government has failed to make investments in the direction of bettering the current water treatment system (which is almost nonexistent) and water discharge systems. This is because their priority is not common well being but put simply, benefitting from their access to the country’s resources while remaining in their comfort zone. Then as well, these politicians were shaped by their circumstances, brought up to think and act the way they do, which was inevitable.
Blame is counterproductive as we can always dig deeper into what caused a happening, but when one is presented with privileges, there must be consequences for those who deal with them irresponsibly. We live in a world where basic needs, like turning the faucet and having clean flowing water, fall into the category of privileges, when the access to these should very clearly by a human right. Hence we are split into two unmistakable realities one in which a person is forced to exist to survive, and another in which you are given the opportunity to forge an existence of living. Privilege comes hand in hand with responsibilities to potentialize that which you’re given. Maximizing your capacities to contribute, through leadership in sustainable development is the responsible way to go about it. During our “ITPS” Module we elaborated the following definition of Sustainability; “Meeting the needs of the present-day People, Planet, and Profit Seeking Entities while also giving abilities to future aforementioned bodies to meet their own needs.”
Currently in Varanasi the Hindu population has to fight for the conservation of one of their few assets; Cultural identity, which in this case primarily consists of their religious beliefs. Unaware citizens are forced to follow the layout of a system, within which they’re trapped, blindly contributing to the decadence of a being they consider sacred. Which is why they refer to it as Ganga Ji, as it’s personified as a goddess called “Ganga”, and “Ji” is the feminine word used to show respect. They habitually contaminate the stream, not by implementing their faith but by flushing their toilets or through regular water use. This is a concept that most commonly these people will not put effort into analyzing, as it seems irrelevant. Imagine hurting that which you truly love because you are unaware of the consequence of your actions, in fact, you don’t have to imagine it, as it happens to all of us, because there is no way we could know how much we don’t know. Here in India through the vision of Hinduism, the destruction of beauty is expanded upon through Lord Shiva. He is a member of “The Trinity” and his title is “The Destroyer”, he is not considered bad or evil, but in fact he’s necessary. Essentially, the matter that he deconstructs, for instance, a body being absented by life and decomposing into the soil, will nourish an emerging materialization that is yet to take shape.
In order to embrace the vast mystery that surrounds us we must ask questions that will propel our quests. I’ve observed that often times people who come across the power of knowledge fall into abusing it, using it to manipulate those who have not reached it. Knowledge should be a commonwealth from which we can all benefit, because a civilization has to advance together. One human alone will fail to catch up with the rhythm of time and with him will vanish the heritage of humanity. Because, as I learned from the poem, conveniently named “Words for Julia” by Jose Agustin Goytisolo;
Your destiny lays within others,
Your future is your own life,
And your dignity is that of all.
We exist in a universe framed by time and space, the concept of time implies constant movement and transformation, if we fail to follow these patterns, sinking into isolation, we will inevitably be left behind in the corners of time. Because our mistake is to disregard infinity. We most visualize ourselves connected to everything, searching for the interrelation of our being with that happening outside of ourselves. Dismantling the delusion that we are separate. When we have felt this in our hearts we will be able to see the links between the suffering we perceive and the one we experience, we will look at the contingency dominating the polluted rivers, like the Ganga Gi, and understand that our lifestyles are a direct mirror of what the water is going through.
I propose a plan that offers a solution without failing to prevent the recurrence of mistakes. We must encourage a new conceptualization of education. That focuses on efficiently passing on the relevant knowledge that can be employed individually in the direction of common success, unlocking opportunities for innovative thinking. Education should hand over elements that can launch our active research in a creative manner. It should be fundamental to help us structure and understand the learning experiences that occur to us every day. We have to eradicate the misconception that learning and experiencing are separate from each other. Learning is not represented only by an external source, such as a written piece or a person. It lays within our methods of understanding that which we experience. We are required to look at this world holistically and ask fundamental questions. This would make possible a world in which we seek together, through inquiry, ways to adapt and develop sustainably. So let’s make of knowledge something that unites and empowers us together, instead of using it to segregate this world into isolated fractions. Only in this way can we continually advance instead of viciously decaying.