Thursday, 22 October 2015

Karb-o-Bala as the Meaning of Life

Reading Camus and Dostovesky in Muharram.
Albert Camus has presented an influential case for what he called metaphysical rebellion, and cited the reign of injustice, innocent suffering, and failure of reason to comprehend the absurdity of experience and slaughter house that history is as validating such a response. Imam Hussain’s encounter with death and finitude, and all the evil that life has to offer, including misery and death of innocents is exactly opposite. However, in terms of concrete action against injustice or evil, both conclude on the same note. Let us read Camus and then try to ask him, and with him the absurd heroes we find everywhere today loitering in the streets and cafes, the question of meaning of the life of martyrdom.
      Camus’ case is lucidly argued in The Myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel. He finds no meaning in life – not to speak of in death – and finds that this universe that includes death and suffering of innocents is indifferent or hostile to our aspiration for either comprehending it or finding it meaningful. Within the limits of reason we can’t be reconcile to it. And we shouldn’t take the leap of faith.  And we must rebel against the metaphysical order. Refusing both hope and despair, suicide and murder, resignation and raza, he lands in a position of defiance. Camus quotes Dostoevsky's Ivan in his The Rebel: "If the suffering of children serves to complete the sum of suffering necessary for the acquisition of truth, I affirm from now onwards that truth is not worth such a price." "All the knowledge in the world is not worth child’s tears." As Camus puts Ivan’s position: "He doesn’t say that there is no truth. He says that if truth does exist it can only be unacceptable. Why? Because it is unjust.” “Ivan incarnates refusal to salvation. Faith leads to immortal life, but faith presumes the acceptance of the mystery and of evil and resignation to injustice.” As part of his own Christian-mystic self, Dostoevsky presents Alyosha, a saintly brother of Ivan, whose noble ethic recalls  ethic of Hazrat Ali(a.s) and his sons. (In fact, according to one opinion, he is modeled on Ali).
      Life, for Camus, is thankless Sisyphian task. He finds reason impotent “when it hears this cry from the heart. The world itself, whose single meaning I don't understand, is but a vast irrational. If one could only say just once: 'all is clear' all would be saved."  The absurd born of the confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world must not be forgotten. Absurd must ever be kept alive. This is what dignity of man requires.
      Camus is neither reconciled to earth nor to heaven. The totality of existence he is not able to accept stoically or heroically. He is simultaneously for life and yet against it if considered in its totality because he is unable to accept death as part of life. He can laugh but he can’t accept to weep. He is sad why our desires, our grand ambitions get frustrated. 
      Religious response, as illustrated in Hussain (AS), is no simple hope that all will be well. It is developing eyes to see that all is well. It is seeing as God sees and accepting our role as slaves of God, as actors in a film directed by God. No desire, no will to dictate or advise God. No complaints. Utter gratitude for all things. Defiance against human constructions, against injustice only.
      A sense of oneness with Proletariat – all the oppressed people (Proles, the root of Proletrait, as Eagleton notes, originally means all the oppressed). Religious man isn’t resigned; he is involved in great endeavour of saying yes to the crushing burden of personality. He is the yes sayer that Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is. Life of the spirit is the life of creativity, of love.The religious person accepts fate and the world as divine. He blesses existence in true Nietzschean sense.
      Camus can’t imagine what is so obvious for the mystic -- the world as his own exteriorized self. Camus only knows his self as a centre of suffering, as irreducible and undeniable subjectivity, an empirical self, an ego. Of the Self of which Socrates spoke, and to which mysticism and religions address is hardly glimpsed by him. Where Dostoevsky finds God in love and Buber in relations, Sartre, Camus’ one time friend defines hell as the other. Only in self giving, in martyrdom, in “shahadat gahi ulfat” is God or Heaven, Hussain announces. Needless to say, it is Hussain’s martyrdom that has been celebrated by mankind, by men as diverse as Gandhi and Nehru.
      Camus’ heroes die unreconciled. Hussain and his great family have no complaints. In attitude towards death is the final test of a philosophy. Visiting graveyards to contemplate death is the great wazeefa Heidegger suggests to modern man. Hussain’s mourners are ready to injure themselves and very few are ready to die in life, die to the ego. We are all required to be martyrs if we belong to Islam and its Hussains. And that martyrdom is saying no to ego and unconditional yes to other, to love.
      The important point is that the rebel doesn’t and cannot rebel against life itself. He consents to live despite logic. As Camus quotes Ivan “I live in spite of logic.” Logic demands suicide  but neither Ivan nor Camus would accept this. Ivan will live, then, and will love as well ‘without knowing why’. When the meaning of life has been suppressed, there still remains life.” The point is what does religion demand if not only life, more life, larger life, eternal life. Martyrdom is exchanging life of cowardice and cunning and beggary for life of an adventurer of Spirit. It is to let the exiled Beauty shine forth. 
      The kingdom of God is found when our will is in harmony with cosmic will or God’s will, to use theological language. Religion frees man from angst of choosing as well as from the traps of bad faith by asking him to surrender his will and thus find freedom in God’s will. Not ours but heavenly father’s will be done as Jesus put it.  Properly understood, this is the way to defeat the “absurdity” of life. Religion is innocence of becoming, and choiceless awareness as sages have always interpreted it. Faith is innocence, innocence of becoming,  a song of love, transcendence of ego and other directed ego fortifying, action. It denounces all utopianism and all heroism and all supermanism. It consents to die unheard, unnoticed. It requires no triumph, no trophies, no recognition.
      We have no choice and warrant to take arms against the cosmic or metaphysical order as we are part of that Tao and would imply denying oneself and life thereby. But it is in the name of life we defy or seek explanations. Reason itself that gives its verdict is part of this order. Tears of children are part of this order. Reason doesn’t comprehend it sure but heart, that has “its own reasons which reason doesn’t know” as Pascal said, does. A shower from Heaven erases all memory of pain one previously felt as Dostovesky’s story in The Brothers Karamazarov seeks to show. No complaints when the Beloved finally gives audience.

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