Tuesday, November 20, 2007

God. Not again....

It is one thing to read about folks with fanatic beliefs (or even see them on strident TV). It is quite another to run into them out of the blue, in an absolutely average and otherwise normal day-to-day life.

Within the past one month, have jaw-droppingly met two human beings - one an MBA classmate of my husband (from IIM-B, OK?) who I was meeting for the first time, and the other (another day) a senior marine engineer I was introduced to, at a dinner party.

Each convinced about their personal way of looking at the world. Of complete distrust of the 'other' religion they had constructed in their minds. Equally distrustful of anyone's pluralistic credentials. In the midst of a staid dinner-do, with its polite guests, to have an oh-so-polite row with a stranger, was to me, a strange, disorienting experience by itself. Also made me aware of how easy it is for all of us to fall into a routine and pattern of our everyday lives, with little need to meet / interact with folks from outside our usual ambit (thus, we usually spend all our time with folks who have similar thoughts as ours). And then, when you do meet someone this way, how easy it is to find not just a healthy difference of opinion (that makes life interesting actually!) but someone completely completely polarized in his / her own set beliefs. [I expect these two chaps felt the same way about me..]

Coincidentally or not, I am currently reading Richard Dawkins 'The God Delusion'. While I am not an atheist like him, I am intrigued by his logic. So far (page 156 now), his definition of God - the Christian / Islamic / Judaic / Hindu one - one in a human form, who is supposed to listen to your prayers and even answer them by favoring you - in these respects his distrust is well taken. I have zero patience with a karva-chauthified country... But I can't quite figure out what it is with RD's own strident all 'Reason and Rationality' tone of voice and 'evidence and proof' fundas. We are splitting hairs, methinks, re: God.

To me, God is the name I give the awesomeness I feel - of the Universe, the very fact that we exist, that we question our existence, that we 'love', we 'smile and laugh'. It is in the sheer diversity of the immense yet puny planet we inhabit, a world where even chaos theory has a logic of fractals behind it. In short, a world that never ceases to amaze, in its order as much as its disorder.The formless 'consciousness'. That was there in the era of the dinosaurs, now and long after we'll be gone.

Where miracles are not just in the mysteries left to be solved, but the miracle of the possible - the three airplanes I can now see out of my window, waiting to land over Mumbai airport, in the 'sms's that I can receive at a moment's notice, from anywhere in the world. That is akin to reading someone somewhere's deepest recess of their minds. In everything that we have 'created' where nothing existed earlier.

It is even in the exasperation of meeting folks who dig in their heels, and believe all 'proofs' proffered by their own kinds, are right, and nothing you can say can anyway change their already-made-up minds. :-)

Reminds me also of Andy's Christian sister-in-law. Andy is one of my corporate clients from the UK, and he mentioned one day, how she does not believe that we human beings 'evolved' from apes such as orangutans or chimpanzees, for like she says 'have you ever or has anyone ever , ever seen even one of the thousands of apes in our zoos becoming a human!?' :-) :-) Ahhh....

At yet another do last week, a gentleman (who loves conundrums) posed this query to me: How come he could recall at least 5 occasions in this past year, when in a gathering of 20 people, two had their birthdays on the same date and month... and what is the statistical probability of something like this happening, he asked, when each could have been born on any of 365 different dates. He said he threw this challenge at me since I am a Stats student (was too, in my undergrad!)

My reply - not sure if it was to his satisfaction - was this: you and I have just met today, and here are 15 other people around us. With no birthdays matching. This will be promptly and conveniently forgotten by all of us. We human beings are social by nature and meet folks ALL the time. Everyday. But when on the rare occasions, birthdays do match, it sticks in our mind. This is psychology. Not statistics.

Now, the question that I am intrigued by is: What was the probability of running into such well-educated fanatics who believe so totally in their own version of the world. On two out of three social dos, in one month. One of them, in fact, disbelieved all statistics... census or otherwise, and actually indicated to me that he thinks Muslims outnumber Hindus in India due to their 'high birthrates'. How did I know we Hindus were in the majority anyway, he demanded.

This reminds me of Bertrand Russell's celestial teapot. As quoted by Dawkins. 'How can you doubt', Russell asked, 'my suggestion that between Earth and Mars, there is a china teapot circling the Sun in an elliptical orbit'?
And any proof you give, will always be 'non-proof', you see, for I can always ask 'How do you REALLY know it is not there, eh?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you