for ISKCON News on Oct. 14, 2011
The recent Blackberry crash has certainly upset millions of subscribers. I happen to be one of them. But should I become really upset like the others…? I suppose I have a laptop to take over my communication needs when my Blackberry goes offline. Then, shouldn’t I seethe because I am paying for this service? Or would a healthy sense of detachment see me through what is a cause of frustration for those dependent on it?
Frustration and dependence, or anger and attachment are twin qualities that symptomize much of the protests we hear or read about around the world. The profusion of anger is often enhanced with aids like mobile phones, in that they help to coordinate with sophistication and numbers. But isn’t there a sense that the more we get used to ‘improved’ living standards, replete with all of our handy high-tech gadgets, the more we blame and protest when these become sub-standard or are taken away from us?
Could it be that when our expectations and dependence upon things meant to improve human life are too high, then our resulting misery felt by their failures are too extreme? To put it another way – can our ‘must have’ technological trinkets save us from inevitable old age, disease and other natural causes of fear and uncertainty?
The economic downturn is biting, and credits and loans harder to pay off. Lose a job or a house and become a statistic, and join a growing band of protesters demanding change, drastic reforms or material improvements. Blame the banks, blame the politicians, and blame anything that interferes with our standard of living.
Weather patterns seem to be altering. Strange, extreme and deadly nature unleashes unpredictable force that displaces millions, starves and kills. Rings of fire, geo-fault lines and rising sea levels induce rethinking on carbon outputs, human greed and exploitation. Blame capitalism, blame God, and blame anybody else but – ourselves.
When unfortunate things happen to us, we all need someone to turn to for help or comfort. High tech utensils can assist in certain areas. Some people would like to be controlled by ‘loving, caring’ robots. In the absence of receiving help during economic hardship, natural disasters or harm caused to ourselves, the inclination to blame someone or something is an expected outcome.
If we are accustomed to expecting the best in protection, safety and assurance, and yet when danger does slip through to rudely accost us, our dependence on technology meant to help - often lets us down.
How many people lose faith in God when and if millions die in one jolt of earth movement, or when a passenger jet laden with innocent’s crashes, or the object of our faith and respect cheats us? How many of us lose faith in humanity when loved ones turn against us, and friends turn into deadly foes when siding in ethnic, religious or racial conflict, or fail to offer assistance to those in dire need?
This familiar litany of human failure will indeed cause all manner of protest and blame, and shall continue to do so. Might it ever make a difference if we ourselves were to acknowledge our own role in contributing to the blame game? Are we not able to see that human failure is mirrored in the technology we depend on?
We need only observe how the human condition changes when millions of people move into vast urbanised sprawls for a living. Mass concrete jungles usually harbour the worst of humanity, cut off from organic and natural environs. It would not be an exaggeration to say how modern gadgets induce a dependency that if deprived of it, causes human friction, or worse.
Try weaning away computer, television, mobile phone and social networking addicts from their attachments to encourage sharing in family activities, to do some gardening or to learn something of real substance and meaning – like the purpose of life… just observe the frustration.
Imagine this on a worldly scale in terms of depending on jobs people hate doing, depending on isms that fail to solve economic and societal problems, and depending on human frailty for scientific and medical cure for all’s. Do we ever think that by depending on things that often fail us, we spoil our outlook on life, and wonder in bewilderment why our greatest attachments leave us?
When these attachments become absolute necessities in our lives there is more reason for anger when deprived of them. Whether it be fuel for our cars, a power outage or personal dignity, could we be situated further and further away from natural reality? When we are afraid to confront the realities of life, we simply take shelter of artificial solutions that affect our humanity.
This is a problem when we try to raise our level of attachment to ‘higher’ standards of living, because, like spoilt individuals, we protest all the more if and when we are faced with economic austerity measure as some countries are doing. This does not fit well with a simplified mode of living where natural detachment helps to retain equanimity in times of need or loss.
Yet this detachment has to be informed with a proper philosophical basis to shield from the unexpected, the “why did that happen?” scenarios that plague us all. This basis acknowledges that somehow, cause and effect are not arbitrary chance occurrences that just happen. People who see the world this way have balanced emotional handling capabilities without being fatalistic.
Such people are true optimists in that their contentment is maintained in the face of deprivation of the very attachments that cause misery. Is there such a thing as a happy non-attached person?
This kind of detached lifestyle is practiced by those who - even amid economic success and prosperity - see the fleeting nature of material assets. But this information is lost to the deterministic premise that we all pursue life merely to keep our genes intact, at any selfish cost. It is a world away in terms of purpose, conscious awareness and adaptability to the ‘negatives’ of life.
It is one that can be measured by observing a sane balanced reaction during causes for seething protests. An affinity with a Supreme Spiritual Being who allows humanity to reap the reactions of their own follies in worldly domination – rather than blame God – lends an assurance that we are responsible for our own actions. Failing this, it must reveal our spoilt tendencies, being ever ready to blame.
To be spoilt this way is to be weak and vulnerable, and without philosophical reasoning why ‘bad’ things happen to us ‘good’ people. The path of loving devotion dedicated to the Supreme is explained in an ancient, yet futuristic scriptural text called Bhagavad-Gita – as it is – by Lord Krishna. In it, the very reasons for causes to our fear and attachments make our own attempted understandings juvenile at best.
The unlikely phenomenon of being detached and yet most happy is given as a way forward in genuine self-preservation for humankind. With this lifestyle adaptation there is far less chance of thumping fists, stamping frustration and blame directing.
Next time our object of deep and necessary attachment malfunctions, that knowing sense of resignation of things beyond our control might just help us become detached, for the time being anyway. And with this, I look at my Blackberry to learn that I am still disconnected. Oh well…