you can find the world in a person's diary who thinks He's the world

Apr 6, 2016

Questioning, Learning & Carl Sagan

Questioning started early in my life. One of the questions I still remember is: why a construction worker can climb a temple's gopuram on his legs, whereas, I was not even allowed touch a book or anything sacred with my leg. I put this question to my mom when we were travelling in a car as we passed by a gopuram under construction. She said it is OK for the worker to touch it because he had a reason to. Until then, I thought it was an absolute rule not to touch anything sacred, but this question changed how I understood the world. Almost a decade later, when I came across the four horsemen, I readily recognized I was an atheist and that that was a thing..

My journey as an atheist continued as I studied at Columbia, where I attended a talk by Salman Rushdie. I got agitated when Christians screamed into microphones at the subway and distributed booklets to convert people. The only thing that got me that agitated was filling forms.

My journey of questioning and learning continued, and I became a "non-thinker" of religion. The topic of religion was important to others, but not me. Studying for Masters and living alone and then in a relationship with a like-minded person in New York, I never had to deal with religion and it became a non-issue to me.

Then, our marriage, ISIS and Islamophobia followed, all of which re-immersed me in conversations on religion. By then, I co-founded and was managing an organization of people and the focus of my work had also changed from protecting the environment to providing basic rights and services to people while making sure that does not compromise the ability of future generations to do the same. In short, my interest was sustainable development with a strong focus on helping people. This is where my personal opinions also changed to understanding others and helping them. I turned into a humanist.

My thoughts during the past few months were summarized a few decades ago by an intellectual giant--Carl Sagan:
If it takes a little myth and ritual to get us through a night that seems endless, who among us cannot sympathize, and understand!
We long, to be here for a purpose, even though, despite much self-deception, none is evident
I'm still questioning and learning and I encourage you to do so. I'll not lie by saying that you have to do this only once and the rest of your life will be set. This was what children growing up in India are told before their school enrollment, before their 7th class boards, before their 10th class boards, before their 12th class boards, during Engineering examinations, before their job interviews, before their promotions, and the list goes on.

Learning is a life long process. Don't despair that you have to do this all your life. Find joy and happiness.

Twitter @rkharvel

    follow me on Twitter