Day 89: On Connectedness

Sevagram. June 2020


Day 89 

Today was a solar eclipse which began around nine in the morning and continued until two in the afternoon. As a religious practice, it is recommended to not eat or drink water during the eclipse hours. Being at home, it was to be complied. Not eating food was easy. To not have coffee for five hours would prove to be an effort. A life patterned on religion isn’t always easy, perhaps, across all religions. We tried our best. But I couldn’t help looking at the slow movement of minutes on the wall clock. It was proving to be an effort until Maa relaxed the observation by 2 PM. Relief was a big cup of coffee. An addiction was confirmed today. 

During these days, several aspects of daily life as well as living in general, have come under spotlight. I do not recall thinking of or articulating my views on religion, faith, profession, decades ahead and engagement with political ideas. The unusual nature of these pandemic days – which have confined a lot many of us to our homes and opened up substantial numbers of unassigned hours, have catalysed the process. Maybe, I would have felt a need for these articulations a little later in life. Do I want to spend the evening hours discussing politics of the day? The answer is a clear no! Will I join protests in solidarity with marginalised groups and protest against injustices? I will try my best to. What is religion for me? It is a mix of values, practices and way of life according to a system of thought that the family has found itself believing in and practices it. Does it always lead to blind faith? No. Do I want to question practices of a religion? No. If it works for a group of people without bringing harm to others and to me personally, I am happy to move away and leave that alone. These questions arise often these days because the time that was consumed by work, travel and outdoors has freed up. This phase of emergent questions and thinking of responses and my position on them is useful. When the pre-pandemic life resumes there would be more coherence and clarity in actions and decisions henceforth

On a side note, I read a remembrance piece on conservation biologist Michael Soulé on LWON. Among other things, he was one of the first scientists to coin the term ‘biodiversity’. Craig Childs quotes from an interview where Soulé articulates the connections that he sees and what that makes him feel. These are words from a breed of scientists that are hard to come across in these times –

 I was looking at the shells of land snails and wondering about their components. Where had that calcium traveled, and what shapes had it taken over the course of its geological history? It possibly had been in the bones of dinosaurs, in the teeth of mastodons, and now it was in these perfect, delicate shells cupped in my hand. That was another opening to a feeling that we’re all connected — in the paleontological as well as the spiritual sense. Are the two different? The feeling of connectedness was far more powerful than I can convey.

He was a Co-founder and Director Emeritus of Wildlands Network. It is said that with respect to the fate of biodiversity he considered himself neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but a “possibilist.” A possiblist is a good predisposition to go with in these times. As I cycle around the town every morning, I am noticing how these connections manifest in one’s immediate environment. Connectedness, like charity, begins at home too. 

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