How many detectable alien civilizations are out there in our galaxy? In 1961, astronomer Frank Drake developed an equation to estimate the number. Now data journalist David McCandless, who gave the talk “The beauty of data visualization” at TEDGlobal 2010, has created an information graphic for the BBC calculating the Drake Equation -- with a twist. It’s interactive, and you can be as optimistic or skeptical as you like as you set the value of each variable in the equation.
Due to infinite source of wisdom many European writers were inspired in oriental philosophy particularly Hinduism and Zen. Somerset Maugham wrote The Razors Edge and Aldous Huxley wrote the Island and The Doors of Perception which dealt with chemical persuasion to Nirvana. Similarly Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is a timeless creation and a must read which would suit the human condition for centuries to come. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. This blog is my posthumous tribute to Hermann Hesse. Here is my favourite excerpt from the book available as free source e-book. Image Courtesy: museums.ch
“I’m not kidding. I’m telling you what I’ve found. Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught. This was what I, even as a young man, sometimes suspected, what has driven me away from the teachers. I have found a thought, Govinda, which you’ll again regard as a joke or foolishness, but which is my best thought. It says: The opposite of every truth is just as true! That’s like this: any truth can only be expressed and put into words when it is one-sided. Everything is one-sided which can be thought with thoughts and said with words, it’s all one-sided, all just one half, all lacks completeness, roundness, oneness. When the exalted Gotama spoke in his teachings of the world, he had to divide it into Sansara and Nirvana, into deception and truth, into suffering and salvation. It cannot be done differently, there is no other way for him who wants to teach…
He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha, instead he saw other faces, many, a long sequence, a flowing river of faces, of hundreds, of thousands, which all came and disappeared, and yet all seemed to be there simultaneously, which all constantly changed and renewed themselves, and which were still all Siddhartha. He saw the face of a fish, a carp, with an infinitely painfully opened mouth, the face of a dying fish, with fading eyes—he saw the face of a new-born child, red and full of wrinkles, distorted from crying—he saw the face of a murderer, he saw him plunging a knife into the body of another person—he saw, in the same second, this criminal in bondage, kneeling and his head being chopped off by the executioner with one blow of his sword—he saw the bodies of men and women, naked in positions and cramps of frenzied love—he saw corpses stretched out, motionless, cold, void— he saw the heads of animals, of boars, of crocodiles, of elephants, of bulls, of birds—he saw gods, saw Krishna, saw Agni—he saw all of these figures and faces in a thousand relationships with one another, each one helping the other, loving it, hating it, destroying it, giving re-birth to it, each one was a will to die, a passionately painful confession of transitoriness, and yet none of them died, each one only transformed, was always re-born, received evermore a new face, without any time having passed between the one and the other face—and all of these figures and faces rested, flowed, generated themselves, floated along and merged with each other, and they were all constantly covered by something thin, without individuality of its own, but yet existing, like a thin glass or ice, like a transparent skin, a shell or mold or mask of water, and this mask was smiling, and this mask was Siddhartha’s smiling face, which he, Govinda, in this very same moment touched with his lips. And, Govinda saw it like this, this smile of the mask, this smile of oneness above the flowing forms, this smile of simultaneousness above the thousand births and deaths, this smile of Siddhartha was precisely the same, was precisely of the same kind as the quiet, delicate, impenetrable, perhaps benevolent, perhaps mocking, wise, thousand-fold smile of Gotama, the Buddha, as he had seen it himself with great respect a hundred times. Like this, Govinda knew, the perfected ones are smiling.
Not knowing any more whether time existed, whether the vision had lasted a second or a hundred years, not knowing any more whether there existed a Siddhartha, a Gotama, a me and a you, feeling in his innermost self as if he had been wounded by a divine arrow, the injury of which tasted sweet, being enchanted and dissolved in his innermost self, Govinda still stood for a little while bent over Siddhartha’s quiet face, which he had just kissed, which had just been the scene of all manifestations, all transformations, all existence. The face was unchanged, after under its surface the depth of the thousandfoldness had closed up again, he smiled silently, smiled quietly and softly, perhaps very benevolently, perhaps very mockingly, precisely as he used to smile, the exalted one.
In his heart. Deeply, he bowed, touching the ground, before him who was sitting motionlessly, whose smile reminded him of everything he had ever loved in his life, what had ever been valuable and holy to him in his life…
“You look so young and cheerful”. Manager said.
“It was taken some ten years back just after my marriage.” Customer said.
“Thank you very much for bringing this and showing us. I want one like this.” he said showing another specimen of a duly filled card.
“I will give next week sir as I have to take one from the studio which is far away in the township.”
“We’ll open the account and you can operate but dont’ forget to submit the photo.”
Manager said and closed the matter .
He said to me, “Here we have to explain everything in detail and make them understand. One should have lot of patience to deal with them.” Then the routine work went on for sometime. The tea boy came to asked whether we wanted tea. He was in a very playful and joyful mood. He was happy to break the news. “Indira Gandhi has been assassinated sir. Some people in the tea shop were talking Sir, that she has been killed by her own security staff.” We were shocked hearing the news. Immediately we got it confirmed through radio news. Both of us were discussing about the various conspiracy theories about the incident leading us nowhere with the then available news inputs. The tea boy came back to collect money. He was then also laughing, jumping and telling the same thing. I caught him over the shoulder and talked him what was so happy to feel about. My manager called me and said in a schoolboy english.
“Leave him man he doesn’t know anything. I am relieving you now. Many of the buses leaving the hill station would have been cancelled. Pack off and go home. Along with this I am giving a copy of the relieving order marked to Regional Office. Kindly post it tomorrow. I’ll be visiting my native place in the course of next week. “I’ll call you bye.”
“Will he do like this if she had been his mother?” I asked him. He patted my back and beckoned me to leave without time loss. All this happened rapidly and he was in no mood to talk. I shook hands said bye and left.
I rushed to the room where we were staying, changed my pant to jeans, had my warm clothing on with my cap and sports shoe. My shoulder bag was heavy due to the camera gears. I left to find that all the buses were cancelled and I was walking and beconing to every passer by with my thumbs up for a lift, but no one stopped. I had to depend on cargo lorries or vans to hop in and go. One lorry came and when I waved my hand it went far ahead and stopped as though with lot of deliberation. The driver waved hands. I ran and got into the lorry. The cleaner boy seated near the driver moved a little and gave space for me to sit. I closed the door. The lorry moved forward. I just peeped out. A tea picking women and her little child were coming. She was carrying a big collecting basket in one side. Both of them waved hands at me. I also waved hands bidding goodbye till they receded away from sight. I turned and settled myself. The driver and cleaner boy gave some customary talks. I could easily guess that both of them have drunk like fish and were in high delirium. The driver was going on talking looking at me with no concentration at the road. I realised that I had taken a wrong decision of alighting this lorry. I have heard about frequent fatal accidents in this hilly route. I asked the driver to stop so that I can get down. He understood me and said,” Don’t worry friend I will safely land you in the plains.” The situation has become inevitable. I did not prey god, for I pretty well knew that god was not a fool sitting somewhere to sanction my prayers. I have read about ‘Near death experiences.’ Invariably all the subjects who were interviewed have said that they had a feeling of traversing at a high velocity speed in a dark tunnel towards a bright white void of oblivion. Some people have also expressed that they saw apparitions of their dead relatives. At the moment the lorry would nosedive and somersault causing grave injuries and metamorphose into a high speed travel to the unknown white oblivion. All these thoughts came fleeting in infinitesimal moments of time…Did he land me safe in the plains? …yes he did land me safe in the plains and that is why I am blogging this slice of life to you.