Memory — Linkages with Nature
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 10 Aug 2020
10 Aug 2020 – All of us have memories, some pleasant some distasteful, in our lives. I am not referring to only pleasant memories of various events such as moving into a big house or a grand gift given to a child on his birthday. Unpleasant, painful events such as having an accident also are part of our memories. My purpose in this essay is to understand the meaning of memory and to determine its relationship or linkage with Nature in its various manifestations.
Memory also serves us to know the world around us and also what a person truly is — a business person or a poor farmer; it also helps understanding the essence of oneself or what may be termed as one’s nature.
I still remember the journey by bullock cart from Lahore to Ferozepur across the newly created border between Pakistan and India. My parents were also travelling in the same cart. I was obviously hungry after a while but the food that my mother had brought along had been exhausted. I remember that a lady travelling in another cart gave me some toffees to eat. It quenched my hunger for some time.
The purpose of my remembrance of this event is not to highlight our arduous journey but to refer to the tragic division of one country into two in August 1947. The division of India was a horrendous one with thousands of women brutalised, many people killed and several more who lost everything — their home, their jobs, the very essence of life.
Many years ago, about five decades back, a trained Nurse went from India to Canada for higher studies. Before that she had to work in a hospital there to make some money for her education. When she entered the hospital, a Canadian nurse showed her a thermometer and asked if the Indian nurse knew what the instrument was. This memory highlights the ignorance of ordinary foreigners about India at that time.
Another interesting incident is of 1970 vintage that my memory recalls. A friend and I were travelling by car in a place near Kingston in Ontario on the eastern part of Canada. We stopped at some place named Napanee to enquire where a good restaurant would be located. The person we talked to was a middle aged woman. She did answer our question but when we asked some more questions, she just smiled and said she did not know. She said she had never been outside Napanee all her life but she was quite satisfied by her sheltered life. If she did not know where India was or how far Kingston was from her village, so be it — no complaints.
Memory is absolutely necessary for students who are pursuing education— under or post graduate. Students and also others pursue education for acquiring knowledge of any discipline — language, history, science or mathematics or any other discipline for that matter. This helps a person to demystify the complex nature of the world; in fact this helps a person to gauge his own nature — his strengths, his weaknesses, his likes, his abilities. If a person knows he has an analytical mind, he would do well in subjects like mathematics or sciences. A person who in inclined towards music or fine arts , is likely to avoid the so called scientific pursuits.
According to the spiritual guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the purpose of knowledge is to remind you of your true nature. Remembering one’s true nature brings joy and meaning to one’s life. It also gives satisfaction and stability, and prevents mental or physical distress.
Nature on this planet consists of human beings, animals, fish, trees and plants etc. In one way or another memory plays a significant role in these entities of Nature. For example, if a person knows that the road he is walking on has certain dangers such as presence of lions or panthers nearby, the person will avoid using that road. Similarly, if there are occasional landslides it would be best to take another path.
Animals also have this instinctive ability to avoid a situation like fire or floods for their own safety. Maternal feeling of protection of their cubs is often visible in female animals known as mammals. These include the common monkeys found in abundance in India. It is also clearly visible in cows and horses and other creatures.
Even plants have an intrinsic feature or nature (which we cannot ascribe to memory) of facing sunlight or opening/ shutting of petals at appropriate times of the day. Trees also demonstrate a similar propensity for proper and sustained growth. These actions are a result of rudimentary impulses or reactions built over long durations of time periods.
A plant called sun flower (surajmukhi in Hindi) turns its face towards sunlight as the day progresses. In addition to seeking sunlight for their growth and blossoming, some rare plants have an unusual trait. They can trap an insect that sits on them and then close their petals and eat and digest the insect. These plants are in that sense non vegetarian — they can eat other living beings. They belong to the species that are called carnivorous or insectivorous. Amazing!
Some religious persons such as the Indian philosopher, yogi, spiritual guru Sri Aurobindo (1872 — 1950) believe that the essential meaning of Nature is intelligent consciousness that is able to distinguish good from bad, simplicity from luxury, light from darkness, mother from her cub, animal from plant and the other manifestations observed in our complex world. Memory of course is also an element of this consciousness. Let us ponder over these beliefs.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 Aug 2020.
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