Tuesday, August 01, 2017

I'm leavin' on a jet plane ... Oh babe, I hate to go

When I read this essay, of course I had to tweet about it; after all, have I not bugged this poor guy,  and others, for years now with my commentaries on the meaning of life!

The author writes:
One day I will die. So will you.
...
So, take a moment to think about the mythologies informing your purpose. I’ll reflect on mine, too. The universe, however, won’t. And that might be the most meaningful distinction of all.
As I have often noted here, the cosmos--I prefer that word to "universe"--doesn't care about you or me or about anything.  It just is.  We come and go.  We are born. And then we die.  We have to make meaning out of the reality that our parents had sex, and the wriggly sperms rushed towards the eggs in order to make us happen.  We also have to make meaning out of the reality that our parents die, our friends die, and that it is only a matter of time before we, too, die.  Throughout all these, the cosmos is just there.  That is it.

Cultures developed myths to help people through their existential angst.  And, for whatever reason, plenty of people cling to their favorite myths as "the truth" while making fun of other myths.  But, all those are myths.  The husband of a cousin of mine relates an encounter almost every time we meet.  He--an atheist now after having been raised in a fundamentalist Christian family--once asked his friend to explain the Hindu mythology, especially about the god Krishna.  The friend told him, "it is not a myth.  He is my god."

Cultures have developed traditions to help people deal with the loss when their loved ones die.  Leave the dead to the vultures; bury, cremate, ... Just as religions have evolved, these end-of-life traditions can also evolve, right?

A latest example is from the old country:
Antim Udan Moksha Airport in Gujarat, the first of its kind in India, puts the departing souls of the dead cremated here on international flights to the heaven for ultimate salvation or moksha: freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Located in Gujarat’s Bardoli on the banks of Mindhola River, the crematorium is modeled on an airport and equipped with two giant replicas of aircraft. The airplane replicas at Antim Udan Moksha Airport in Gujarat are named Moksha (salvation) airlines and Swarga (heaven) airlines 
What’s the most interesting about Antim Udan Moksha Airport in Gujarat is the airport-like announcement which is made to guide funeral parties on entry into the crematorium and instruct them where to keep the body, how to proceed for cremation, etc. 
There is very little difference between the announcement made at the crematorium and that at airports as well as in planes.  What makes the crematorium more like an airport is the typical noise that an aircraft makes while taking off. A similar noise is created when dead bodies are placed in furnace at Antim Udan Moksha Airport
Whatever it takes to make meaning of the death of a person.  We humans have always struggled to figure out our existence, and this is perhaps the latest interpretation.  I am sure there will be many more.  I don't think the day is far away when, for instance, the ashes of a cremated one are taken to the Moon or Mars.

Yes, take a moment to think about the mythologies informing your purpose.

2 comments:

Ramesh said...

How on earth did you find that report ? I haven't seen it in the popular press in India and they wouldn't have missed an obvious one like that one !

Bigger philosophical question. We think the cosmos doesn't care because that's all our current understanding of the cosmos is. But who knows; ,maybe life matters. Maybe its life that even created the universe (the concept behind the theory that the universe is a simulation ).

Anyway, I am quite content that our existence is irrelevant to the cosmos. But we are part of the universe. And as my favourite scientists, Neal Degrasse Tyson says, that should make us feel big; not small

Sriram Khé said...

I read a whole bunch of fake news, which is how I read about that in Gujarat. ;)

The fact that we are intimately connected to the cosmos should make us feel big, yes. The cosmos is us--materially speaking. But, when we feel like behaving as if we are the biggest, baddest there is ever in this cosmos, it will certainly help if somebody around can remind us that even the entire planet earth is nothing but a "mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam"

I don't believe the universe being a result of our imagination, or of a computer simulation. That presupposes an alien life somewhere that is incredibly smarter than us who programmed this simulation. I may as well be a religious nut if I were to go towards such a belief

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