The first week of January is when many of us make new year resolutions, only to relapse to our usual ways in a few weeks. For the past few decades, humanity was having the best of its times since the dawn of civilisation. Though the pace of technology and science and its impact has been rapid in the last two centuries, it was the previous two decades that it achieved blitzkrieg velocity. On average, humans have never been this prosperous or had this much life span since the dawn of civilisation. The world shrank, and the frontiers of science extended to space.
The humble virus threw a spanner in a jet’s turbo engine when it was speeding on the runway for a takeoff. The global economic meltdown is still ripping apart the destiny of all nations and changing individuals’ lives. It is altering history in ways unfathomable. Governments will rise or fall or disintegrate in the next decade because of the impact of the pandemic of 2020.
While as individuals, most of us may not alter the course of history in any perceptible form, we might reassess our situation and transform our lives for better. Whether or not we like it, the impact of last year will affect us in ways we cannot imagine now. Whenever such a crisis strikes, it would be nice to look for answers in the past. Not because the past has solutions for everything or it has been unblemished, but it is reassuring.
Most ancient civilisations like India or China stressed the need for harmony in our life. Pandemics are nature’s way of reminding us we have lost the balance. Science has given us so many blessings, more than any religion or ideology, but it also has taken us away from nature. Even the way we look at the time shows how precarious our connection with nature has become. It makes no sense why a new year should begin at this time of the year. There is no perceptible change of weather or season on January 1st from the previous day, unlike the traditional Indian calendars that begin a year on the day of an equinox or at the end of the monsoon.
The Gregorian calendar is as quirky as counting the beginning of the day from midnight instead of sunrise. The time or the modern calendar has no relationship with the seasons. It is just an ephemeral entity, a measure to pace up our lives, and the speed is making us breathless. Time is considered God in Indian thought. Kalapurusha and Mahakala are synonyms of God. Time is eternal and cyclical, and aligning it with seasons reminded us to stay connected to the rhythms of nature. We are now spending more time online. We are connected with each other over social media, yet becoming more and more antisocial. Science is finding evidence to corroborate what many ancient cultures discovered instinctively. Nature can help our brains and bodies stay healthy and profoundly impact our behaviour.
A morning stroll can reduce anxiety, brooding and stress and increase our attention, capacity, and creativity and increase our compassion. Watching the sunrise and the sunset without fail, every day, could be one of the most important new year resolutions one can take this year. Watching the moon wax and wane every fortnight, a leisurely saunter instead of a competitive jog in the park and observing the sheer diversity of plants, birds and butterflies in our tropical land could be more beneficial to us than any crash diets or air-conditioned gymnasium memberships.
Slowing down would help us face the crisis that is unfolding. This calamity will pass, and there will be another period of calm until some other emergency or war or pandemic rises. That is the nature of time, cyclic and eternal. One needs to only look at a starlit sky to feel puny and infinite at the same time. While scientists battle it out in bringing out the vaccine, we can resolve in this new year to bring back harmony in our lives.
Anand Neelakantan firstname.lastname@example.org
Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy