LIVING, DYING

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LIFE - Life Is Finitely Eternal

What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want,
I'll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusory
– property and position: all that is gained at the expense of
your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell
night. Live with a steady superiority over life – don't be afraid
of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all,
all the same: the bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never
fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don't freeze in
the cold and if thirst and hunger don't claw at your insides. If
your back isn't broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can
bend, if both eyes see, and if both ears hear, then whom should
you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of
all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart – and prize above all
else in the world those who love you and who wish you well.
Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of
them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it might be
your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are
imprinted in their memory!
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Man's Search for Meaning
The Nazi concentration camp propelled the famed psychiatrist Viktor
Frankl to found logotherapy that enables mankind to arrive at some
meaning of one's life. Solzhenitsyn, incarcerated in Stalinistic prisons,
mused over the same issue. What's one's life all about? Does it have/
can it have some meaning?

Solzhenitsyn's Nobel-acceptance speech, read out by proxy ended with
a cosmic assurance: A word of truth outweighs the world. Scattered
around us are some elemental, ordinary truths that are ready to serve
the purpose of conveying to each one of us, the verifiable eternality
of one and all, in the face of the banality of the brevity of human life.
It's an undertaking worth its while.

The Eternal You (TEY)
Oh Arjuna, existence never becomes non-existence.
- Lord Krishna in Gita

Let us play a game. Let us assume that you, or rather the capital YOU,
are the Lord in charge of the human world, and are asked to design a
(Mahatma) Gandhi. You decide: "Let Gandhi be." Once Gandhi comes
into being, Gandhi, being your own creation, is nothing but you, the
Lord, on the simple Vedantic ground that Siva is Jiva and vice versa .
So, Gandhi, should imitate you in having the features of God/Iswar/
Brahman/Nature (make your choice), who should be, like you,
unprecedented, unparalleled, unrepeatable . Simply put, unique
(Vedantically, Ekam evam, advitiyam nityam).

The is-ness of Gandhi, is the Is-warness of Gandhi. All the physical
features of Gandhi – his face, his rather prominent ears, the prints of
his palms, feet, fingers, and toes, the venous pattern on the back of
hands, and top of feet, the gyral and sulcal patterns of his brain, his
various proteins, his DNA-print, sweat-aroma, his voice, and his
flowing handwritings. Not one of these can afford to be non-unique,
and that too from his cradle to the pyre. With your amazing repertoire,
you do this, unfailingly, be it Gandhi or a giraffe, Stalin or Salamander,
Mao or marmoset. In your kingdom each life as it were, is a center
that you occupy. So it is rightly said that God is an entity that has a
center everywhere and circumference nowhere. (By the way,
whatsoever applies to Gandhi, applies to the human you.)

The above-detailed uniqueness has to be above the limitations of all
times and all space. Gandhi's footprint has to guide Buddha's footprint
and vice versa . Which means that both of them, separated seemingly
by two millennia must coexist at the same time, in manifest/unmanifest
forms, in The Eternal Here and Now . The clock/calendar time thus
turns out to be a mere man-made illusion, being in the words of the
adorable Einstein, a "free creation of human mind" to suit his
convenience, but no way real. It pays to restate Dobson:" Time passes
you say? Oh, no. Time stays you pass." So also says sage Barthrahari:
" Kalo na yati (Time moves not) Vayam eva yata . (It's we who move.)
Where Time is Not, Eternity, Eternality, is. You are atemporal. Your
body is Configured Temporality whose only constant feature is
ceaseless change.

To enact the above cosmic play, Gandhi or you, have to have, as the
Indian scriptures aver, 3 bodies – the causal, the subtle, and the gross
(caran, sukshma, sthule). Your eternal self is timeless, birthless,
deathless, but complete in all its unique details. Your subtle body,
unfailingly unique, forms to fashion and function your gross body,
looking cosmically and functioning bodily to see that not a single
feature of yours is a duplicate of anybody's else's feature in the farthest
past, amidst the present, or the limitless future.

Christ declared to his disciples "Before Abraham was, I am.." This
grammar-flouting golden words are applicable to you. Before your
subtle/gross body was, you are. You are forever.

Homeobox Heaven: Animal-n-Manimal
Nature, in its principled parsimony, wastes no effort, no model. The
Gandhi story above, illustrates the TITE principle – Total Inclusion
allows Total Exclusion . Gandhi's brain had had to know all the brains
in retrospect, spect and prospect, so that having Totally Included them,
he could Totally Exclude them, to fashion one of his own. "At the
deepest level, each of us is a co-creation of everything happening in
the world." Gandhi was as much responsible for his killer Godse's
uniqueness as Godse was for Gandhi's. Chaitanya (Cosmic Awareness)
is neither matter, nor energy, nor this, nor that, occupies no space, is
beyond all time, and like the pointless point that spawned the Big
Bang, it – Chaitanya – contains all events and persons, thus giving
them a simultaneity that is largely missed.

The Homeobox Heaven is Nature's formative, and functional,
prototype. A whale is a magnified worm, and a worm minified whale,
for the genes involved in the making of the two are identical. Having
made, say, all mammals alike, Nature grants them heartbeats/breaths
that are just the same for the mouse or the marmoset, ewe or, the
elephant, monkey or man. A human spends a billion breaths in 100
years of lifespan. A mouse or monkey does the same, albeit in its
allotted life years. Having done that Nature distributes the beats-n-
breaths in a sort of normal distribution, making each beat-n-breath a
complete life. It must be noted that while in the womb no mammal
spends any breath, but only the beats.

The numerical sameness of beats-n-breaths, across the entire
mammalian spectrum, and its distribution in a normal fashion, allows
one to assume that breaths-n-beats come from outside one's body,
beyond one's control. Each breath is a cosmic gift, each heartbeat a
heavenly heritage. We may not beat our heart consciously, but, like
Buddhism has always urged, we should breathe, aware of "I inspire"
and thanking high Heavens for each breath that is granted.

Needless to say, our license-to-live is renewed every heart beat, that
is every 0.8 second, and every breath, that is every 3 seconds. If only
we were, all, just aware of life's ephemerality and evanescence, we
wouldn't need so many Gods and religions to guide us towards decent
humanness.

Heartbeat and Chest-heave are, lifelong manifest activities, the former
nameable as CORDIS, the latter as CINE – Cycle Of Rhythmic
Diastole Initiating Systole, and Cyclic Inspiration N Expiration. CINE-
CORDIS comprise the throb of being. If the SA-node in the heart is
the pacemaker of CORDIS, and the respiratory-center in the medulla
in the brain stem that of CINE, then the book-keeping of CINE-
CORDIS is done by the subtle body that is in, through and around the
gross body. The grants of the CINE-CORDIS quota is both phylogenic
and herdistic. Belonging to the phylum mammalia, a human is granted
4 billion CORDIS and a billion CINE, over the human lifespan of
100 years. Among humans, the herd decides which human will have
how many CINE-CORDIS, thus accounting for varying life-durations
ranging from a few throbs to its full quota. The CORDIS account
starts from within the uterus, whereas CINE accounts joins it at birth's
first gasp.

Both CORDIS and CINE seem sui generis, but they are not, for they
are foisted on/gifted to a human from the cosmic outside. There is a
beautiful Buddhistic metaphor: Cosmic bellows (Nature's/God's
blowing-bag) work to make the heart expand to diastole (followed
reflexly by its systole), and to make the chest expand to thus inspire,
and the as reflexly, expire. No money can buy a single CINE or
CORDIS, nor any power usurp it or deny it.

The herdistic distribution of CORDIS-CINE (throb) quota decides the
brevity/longevity of a person. So the herd decides which cycle or throb
will be, peremptorily, the last one. The phylum decides what will be
maximally permissible quota whereby there won't be any more
CORDIS-CINE. The herdistic control thus provides the randomness
of sudden deaths and inexplicable survivals of the prognostically
given-up by the learned medicos. Significantly, to the lay and the
learned, CINE is readily visible, CORDIS easily palpable, and both
audible through the ear directly, or via the stethoscope.

From the time William Heberden described Coronary Artery Disease
- CAD, around 25+ percentage of deaths due to "heart attack" kill
humans, within first 3 hours of symptoms, while the persons were in
the pink of heart-health until then. Such consistency of human
mortality, from No. 1 killer, for the past 240 years, raises a question:
Is the heart-attack fatal, or the arrival of the moment of death, on the
quota-card running dry that makes the attack look fatal?

Sophocles summed up the human predicament, and a way out thereof
2500 years ago.

Why should man fear
Since chance is all in all.
For him, and he can clearly
Foreknow nothing?
Best to live lightly, as one
Can, unthinkingly.

The Biblical invocation of "Have no thought for the morrow" may
be, improved upon Sophocleacally, by advising:

Have no thought for the next
Beat nor the next breath.

The advice is to live (and die, see later) moment-to-moment, and
movement-to-movement.

HOPE – Humanity Opts Polarity Exclusion

Never give out while there is hope;
But hope not beyond reason, for
That shows more desire than judgment.
William Penn

That lofty human sentiment, called hope , as a term is O.O.O. (Of
Obscure Origin). Lexicons define it as the "expectation of something
desired," and "a leaping, or to leap, with expectation." Hope may be
seen as human hubris or habit, for it runs totally counter to such banal
wisecracks as Hope not, Despair not, as also Vivekanand's lofty
"Desirelessness is deliverance" and Krishna's advice, in the Bhagvad
Gita, that each one of us, ought to be, a witness , to every moment.
The resigned que sera sera – what will be, will be, and the Biblical
Let thine, and not mine, be done, allow no hope really, and yet A.J.
Cronin, wrote, in The Keys of the Kingdom: "Hell is when we have
ceased to hope."

Ambrose Bierce, the American sardonic wit, in his The Devil's
Dictionary defined Prayer as "a supplication" by a self-confessedly
undeserving individual, to the Lord that "at least for my sake, let 2 +
2 be = 5 and not 4." Homo sapiens (the wise one), loves, unwisely
though, to hope against hope . Hence the ceaseless pilgrimage for some
Miracle at Lourdes , and other shrines and saints world over, from the
time of Adam.

Leonard Mlodinow, co-author with Stephan Hawking on A Briefer
History of Time, and currently a Caltech teacher on randomness, has
authored a Bierce-like book on The Drunkard's Walk – How
Randomness Rules Our Lives . Citing innumerable, impeccable mighty
and mean examples from current work-a-day life, he surgically
exposes the human penchant for refusing to see the writing on the
wall, when it comes to hoping. He shows, how we all, world over,
first glorify God as Omniscient and Omnipotent, then set about
dictating the terms of our destiny, to brag about our successes and
bemoan our failures, with none of our feelings having any realistic
justification.

Mlodinow likeably generalizes that (i) when chance is involved,
people's thought processes are seriously flawed; (ii) the human mind
is built to identify for each event a definite cause and can therefore
have a difficult time accepting the influence of unrelated or random
factors; (iii) in the political world, the economic world, the business
world – even when careers and millions of dollars are at stake – chance
events are often conspicuously interpreted as accomplishments or
failures, (iv) failure is fair in possibilities, she is not fair in outcomes.
(v) we tend to see what we expect to see. (vi) what makes one or
another to stand out is largely a conspiracy of random and minor
factors – that is, luck; (vii) in complex systems (which includes human
lives) we should expect that minor factors we can ignore will by
chance sometimes cause major incidents. Mlodinow falls back on
Francis Bacon's summing up in the year 1620: "The human
understanding, once it has adopted an opinion, collects any instances
that confirm it, and though the contrary instances may be more
numerous and more weighty, it either does not notice them or else
rejects them, in order that their opinion will remain unshaken."

To modern medicine and its purveyors who have learnt to swear by
their diagnostic/therapeutic/prognostic sophistry, it will be educative
to read Mlodinow's justification to choose the title of his unsettling
work. "The title The Drunkard's Walk comes from a mathematical
term describing random motion, such as the paths molecules follow
as they fly through space, incessantly bumping, and being bumped
by, their sister molecules. That can be a metaphor for our lives, our
paths from college to career, from single life to family life, from first
hole of golf to eighteenth. The surprise is that the tools used to
understand the drunkard's walk can also be employed to help
understand the events of everyday life. The goal of this book is to
illustrate the role of chance in the world around us and to show how
we may recognize it at work in human affairs. I hope that after this
tour of the world of randomness, you, the reader, will begin to see
life in a different light, with a deeper understanding of everyday
world."

Homo modernus , the modern man, has got addicted to comforts, of
all sorts. Gibran, visiting the USA early 20th century, wrote: "The lust
for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and
then becomes a host, and then a master." Hence the current creed of
ignoring the small print accompanying each credit-card, a mortgage,
and now the global meltdown just because Americans, aped by the
rest, just ignored the small print. This mania of ignoring-the-
uncomfortable (or unappealing) plagues every walk of life, a few
examples of which follow.

Take the example of automobile, defined by lexicon after lexicon as
self-propelling car, a motor car. This facile definition leaves out the
more vital issue – the self-propelling must be self-halting, the latter
aspect more vital for persons within the car and without. The
advertisers must educate the buyer that the self-halting part (brakes)
of a Porsche should be more powerful than the engine at its most
powerful. This lost, motor cars, in the telling words of Robert Ardery,
continue to be "the marvelous engine of human destruction." Most
educated people when asked what is the most important part of an
elevator (lift) could not think of the counterpoise, which to them,
like the dark side of the moon, just doesn't exist nor matter.
An unwritten therapeutic code, being practiced for pretty long in
cancerology, is: Some treatment is good, more of it is better, but a lot
of it is the best. The code has as its basis a "comfortable concept" so
heartlessly exposed by Bodley Scott: "The science of therapeutics is
founded on the touchingly naοve assumption that there is an answer
to every question it poses." Asher points out that our unending naivete
is sustained by what Crawshay-Williams calls The Comforts of
Unreason . We always ask "What is the treatment of this disease? But
not "Is there a treatment of this disease?" Modern medicine has been
practicing genureflexopathy that provides knee-jerk-therapy to the
trivialest complaint. The result is iatrogeny – doctor-caused harm/
death – that, in the USA, competes with breast cancer and car
accidents.

The burden of the above elaboration is to drive home a few lessons
vis-ΰ-vis life-n-death and living-n-dying, wherein death and dying play
as dynamic a role as life and living, in symphony with their
counterparts. Robert Ardrey has described death as "the greatest
invention" of life, and for the right reasons.

Death-n-dying play the counterpoise role for life-n-living . Life
determines its "uncompromising finiteness" with the watchful help
of death. Dying (expire-ing) is the balancing opposite of living
(inspire-ing). When you breathe in, death-n-dying sustain life-n-living,
and when you breathe out the roles are reversed. You call it death
when there is no more dying as there is no more living.

Asimov has described the universe as electrostatically neutral, for all
the positive charge therein is exactly balanced by that much negative
charge. Life is meaningless sans death, and living not possible sans
dying. Doctors and their patients march in concert to their final living-
dying, inspiring-expiring, beyond which both exist not, and you call
it death. Dying-n-death are woven into life's DNA – wherein D is for
Development (being the role of Lord Brahma), N is for Nurture (Lord
Vishnu) and A is for Annihilation (Lord Shiva). DNA is the Holy
Trinity that exercises its sway regardless of health-n-disease and
doctors-n-medical care. It is little wonder that Cooke, an eminent
English physician, writing on Doctors in an Oxford encyclopedia,
sums up the scope-n-limitations of medical care in a humble, holistic
fashion: "It needs to be more generally recognized that most medicine
is about relief of, and comfort in suffering, and in the main way very
little to do with saving life."

The BEST Omnibus
There are 4, non-optional aspects of one's being – Breathing, Eating
(drinking, included), Sleeping, and Thinking. All are cosmic gifts,
beyond the ken of any genius, beneficial to all lives, and in a way,
cost, almost, next to nothing. Indian scriptures hold them as
apurushaiya – incapable of being generated by any human being. Each
one, then, is a priceless gift, no treasure dare purchase.

A single breath, or a heartbeat is the most improbable event, entailing
as it does an array of complex enzymes, tissues and integrated cycles.
Goethe poetized: Unwrap each morning/moment as a precious gift.
Breathe, like a king or a queen, for you are conversing with all the
breaths of the world, plants and microbes not excluded.

Omar Khayyam's 'A loaf of bread, and a jug of wine" are sustainers
of life, and therefore divinity incarnate. A grain of rice and a drop of
water are so priceless, no Bill Gates can purchase. Eat-n-drink royally,
for eating is life's lust for life, effortless in its operations and global
in its sway.

Sleep or Somnus is born every time that Mort or Death marries Nyx or
Night. It truly allows you to re-hearse death-n-life after every blessed
blink. Sleep is as yet a mystery to science, but was not so to the Bard
of Stratford-on-Avon.

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt mind, great Nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.
William Shakespeare

All religions urge humans to be humble enough to surrender, to the
higher powers that be. The very word Islam connotes I surrender.
Herbert Spencer urged: "Undress at night." Homo, human, humane,
humility are all rooted in humus = earth, soil, ground, and a human
being is "the earthy one to earth - born."

Thinking, illustrating in a way the mind of every life-matter, is that
divine spark that Chaitanya or cosmic consciousness provides us with.
The Kathopanishad and Milton have held the same opinion: Mind
makes heaven or hell, heaven of hell, and hell of heaven . Richard
Tyndall summed up the powers of thinking when he aphorized that a
single thought can do more work than a 1000 people labouring for a
1000 years. Have the pride that the Thinking Reed of Descartes ought
to have. Summarizing, life's essential success resides in

Breathing meditatively
Eating thankfully
Sleeping burdenlessly, and
Thinking liberatingly.

In Aes Triplex, the adorable R.L. Stevenson wrote: "We live in the
time that a match flickers." This evanescent, ephemeral event called
one's life offers heavenly opportunity to be happy, Desiderata is a
poignant plea, sans any God, any religion, any –ism, any book, earning
or learning. It's worth a perusal now and again.

Desiderata
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
-Max Ehrmann

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