All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures big and small,
All thing wise and wonderful,
The good lord made them all.
I don’t know why but suddenly one day this tune came to my mind and I started humming it. Tracing back my memory in time, I found where I had learnt it. In the wooden, almost over a century old yet imposing singing hall of my first primary school with its high-rise terraced- staircase benches layered in semi-circular arcs. There in the center of the hall used to be our singing sister playing at a huge piano and the entire class would be singing in chorus in glee abandon.
This hymn cannot ring true anymore than today. Though I am not a believer in God, I am a strong believer in the rightful existence of every creature, irrespective of whether it serves a purpose or not. If the cosmic design has fathomed it in a living breathing being, it is in nobody’s right to deprive it or for that matter lessen it in any way.
However, on contrary and sadly so this is not what we have been seeing around us. It is impossible to be living at this point in history and be unmoved by the recent events -death of George Floyd in the US, and the brutal murder of a pregnant elephant in India and the ensuing outrage worldwide. It is superfluous to say that this is just the tip of the iceberg and a reflection of more festering problems.
Which brings me why I would choose to begin what I want to say with a hymn learnt in school. Millions of schools worldwide earmark a period for Moral Science/Value Education or whatever they might call it. “Do to others as you would have them do to you. As you sow, so shall you reap. Giving is love in action” and a plethora of such aphorisms are all too familiar to most of us and we spent every single school day for almost a decade of our lives trying to learn them. Learnt we certainly have, internalize and implemented; I doubt! Maybe it is time to re-think what, why and where things are going wrong when the entire school institution worldwide is united in its impart of universal values during our most influential years.
When we venture out in the world from those sheltered walls, we somehow unlearn those teachings which was so painstakingly imparted and learn to marginalize people and indulge in various forms of prejudice, discrimination in uncountable forms constantly – whether it is in the form of color, religion, caste, gender or even species.
Often, in our career or academics we would have studied about or worked on designing the To-Be state of a system or a process from the As-Is. Projects, enterprises, companies, businesses have a goal to move from an As-Is to To-Be state – a state which is more efficient, productive, egalitarian and desirable. I wonder, why is the To-Be state the desired state in the first place? Among a variety of explanations that might be offered, I see it because it takes conscious plan, focus, energy, resilience, resources to get there. This parallel in Chemistry is called Activation Energy. We “create” something new there through concerted effort – which is the fundamental pursuit and source of happiness of human life.
Yet, when it comes to humanity or culture, we are falling appallingly short of that goal. We continue to exist in our As-Is state. How then can collective human consciousness move to the more desirable To-Be state?
Now this might be easier said than done and I would draw upon the reasoning from Daniel Kahneman’s brilliant book – Thinking Fast and Slow to offer some perspective. We have grown up with such biases and have seen these abound during our growing up years. This resulted in a network of concept (neural pathways) being formed in the brain which leads us to immediately jump to conclusions emanating from our unconscious brain– a black man is dangerous, dark skin is less privileged or animals have lesser rights to live honorably. The brain immediately comes to such conclusions because that bias path already exists and our minds being an energy saving machine quickly go on that path instead of forming a new unbiased pathway which will force us to spend more energy.
This is where anyone who is moved by the recent events can affect change on an individual basis. When you notice yourself quickly jumping to such biases – take a moment, pause, don’t let your mind glide – free on that easily accessible road , put a barrier there which says –“STOP” and force your brain to form a new network in your mind. This forced change can be initially unsettling and the mind will resist every effort to negate it and go back to its usual past state but eventually that road previously travelled will be lost in the woods and this new road taken will make all the difference. This is our desired state to be and that is the Activation energy the world needs from each of us right now.
William Henry Monk