What Should Determine A Proper Civilisation?
There is definitely a significant call for a change in the way we do things. Even TIME magazine says so in their recent article. But is all this just talk - where is the serious thinking about what kind of life - what kind of civilisation - do we want, or what do we consider we should evolve towards? Do we have a concrete - real - idea of what the word 'civilisation' should mean? Can peace be achieved?
Using the computer game 'Civilisation' to model our needs is not likely to help!
It is remarkable how we are led to believe that civilisations are found when some artefact is discovered. But the renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead had a different form of measure. To her, civilisation begins with the application of care. Early in his career, Dr. Paul Brand, who became an eminent surgeon, attended a lecture given by Mead, which he later documented in his book 'The Gift of Pain'.
"What would you say is the earliest sign of civilization?” she asked, naming a few options. A clay pot? Tools made of iron? The first domesticated plants? “These are all early signs,” she continued, “but here is what I believe to be evidence of the earliest true civilization.”
High above her head she held a human femur, the largest bone in the leg, and pointed to a grossly thickened area where the bone had fractured and solidly healed.
“Such signs of healing are never found among the remains of the earliest, fiercest societies. In their skeletons we find violence: a rib pierced by an arrow, a skull crushed by a club. But this healed bone shows that someone must have cared for the injured person—hunted on his behalf, brought him food, served him at personal sacrifice.”
With Margaret Mead, I believe that this quality of shared pain is central to what it means to be a human being.… And the presence of a caring person can have an actual, measurable effect on pain and on healing.
In contrast to modern civilisation, which Gandhi characterises ... as being chiefly preoccupied with “bodily welfare” — for example, the attainment of more comfortable homes, faster machines and speedy air and rail travel – true civilisation pointed at right morality. [He produced a] famous definition: “Civilisation is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path of duty.”
Unlike the familiar discussions of “civilisation”, which classify the world into different civilisations and catalogues the differences in terms of cultural artefacts, Gandhi distinguishes “modern” and “true” civilisations on the basis of morality alone. ... The observance of morality in true civilisation, Gandhi elaborates, is essentially about the exercise of self-restraint, about abstaining from self-indulgence, about mastering “our mind” and “our passions.”
Weil was always consumed by concern for the underdog throughout her life, and went to remarkable lengths in providing as much personal support to others as she was able, even to the extent (while exiled in wartime England in 1942) of restricting herself to meagre rations to the level that she thought her own people in occupied France had been reduced. Having never been a very well person, the effect of this dietary regime caused her premature death, aged 34. Shortly before, she had been preparing to go on a secret mission into France.
Since 1937, and Weil's special spiritual experience, her philosophical work had begun to dwell on the nature of an ideal civilisation through new inner vision. Weil, though never deviating from her newly-found personal Christianity - became keenly interested in other religious traditions - especially the Greek and Egyptian mysteries; Hinduism (especially the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita); and Mahayana Buddhism. She believed that all these and other traditions contained elements of genuine revelation, She wrote that:
Greece, Egypt, ancient India, the beauty of the world, the pure and authentic reflection of this beauty in art and science...these things have done as much as the visibly Christian ones to deliver me into Christ's hands as his captive. I think I might even say more.
In how to start going about creating a true civilisation, education of a certain kind is needed. Perhaps the current virus pandemic is helping us in that cause. I will leave the last words to the great guru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba:
If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.