The world we knew is no more. Of the world to come, we know but little. The human brain has been overtaken by the computer, biology by technology. Man is being overwhelmed by new forces. Can he ever again be the master of his destiny?
We are not sure. We are not sure, to begin with, whether there is purpose in the universe. Or in the affairs of men. These are questions for which we have no clear answers.
And yet life without a purpose is unthinkable. If there is none, we have to invent one to make life meaningful. From hedonism to Utopia, the choice before us is indeed wide. We have to make the right choice.
That history is the unfolding of the mystery of Gods'sdesign or that it is the progressive evolution of man?these are all comforting thoughts to which we cling on with less and less conviction. But there is no other alternative. Science generates both hope and hopelessness.
It is the presence of evil that destroyed our faith in God and religion. It is destitution and squalor among men which destroyed our belief in ?progress? and it is the triumph of the unjust which destroyed our faith in the possibility of a good society. Hope of a social revolution predicted by Marx ended in the nightmare of the Gulag. Man and his ideology?both are deeply suspect today. We should never again put man on a high pedestal, as we did before, for he will look down on us.
The Age of Reason did not prevent the rise of Fascism and Nazism. They almost overwhelmed Europe. But the human spirit triumphed over them.
The colonial empires were decolonised. Did freedom of the colonies lead them to democracy? It did not. Not one of the free has been able to achieve the ideals of re-nascent world. And that includes India.
But production has grown. There is more to distribute among men. But the spiritual and moral emptiness amidst all the affluence is not what was expected. Those who were dissatisfied wanted to stop the world and get off. The ?flower children? were all over the world as nomads of our age. It is not material progress that prods the evolution of man, they said. But consumerism marches on.
No religion holds out the promise of a noble end for man. Neither Hinduism nor Christianity nor Islam. Instead, they all talk of a slide into Sodom and Gomorrah?to a world dominated by evil. Some believe in a fiery end, others in a watery end. Hindus believe in a cyclic process. Only science promises the evolution of man to super-consciousness. Aurobindo supports this views.
Stephen Hawking wants to tamper with the DNA to produce the men he wants. But there are great dangers in tampering with Nature.
Man has freedom. This gives him the opportunity to shape his future. But freedom can also mean peril. Man can make mistakes. And he has made many. The nuclear terror is one.
To most of the intelligent, sensitive peoples, the world has ceased to have any meaning. Without a first cause, a beginning or end, it is a frightening place to live. In such a universe, one looks in vain for an ultimate purpose. Only the bovine and asinine can be content with the certainties of yesterday.
Religion has failed to make man peaceful and ethical. Politics has failed to make him just. And economics has failed to make him happy. Man is greedy and acquisitive as ever before. Public squalor and private affluence continue to co-exist.
The times were bound to produce a new breed of hedonists whose sole aim was to eat, drink and be merry. They deliberately fostered nonsense. We are living in the Age of Nonsense. Terror, as a way of life, is the ultimate Nonsense.
According to David Corten, a former World Bank official, the world is now ruled by a global financial mafia of faceless bankers and hedge fund speculators. They are men with no heart. And he Editor or Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, says that the world has move from politics to economics?that is from the lust for power to insatiable greed.
America is at the helm of this anarchic world. It can no more lead the world. But there is no alternative to America in sight.
Political equality and economic inequality?this is what the West has bestowed on the world. It has been the principal cause for the world'sdisorders. This cannot go on. Prof. Woolerstein, President of the World Sociological Congress, gave capitalism another fifty years. And Prof. John Gray of Oxford says ?a free market and a fully-democratic order cannot co-exist.?
UNESCO calls for an ethical society in its report ?The World Ahead: our Future in the Making.? The sane world supports it. But the market will not and cannot create an ethical society. Only a knowledge society can be an ethical society, UNESCO says.
Knowledge alone can liberate man from ignorance. Affluence cannot. In this the Gita is right. But the path of knowledge (Jnana marga) is the most difficult path. Will men opt for the path of knowledge? I am not sure.