Saturday, January 1, 2022

Ranjana Sharan Sinha




For the last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.

                     --- T.S. Eliot

Before we raise the glasses and wait for the fireworks explode into the sky in a fury of light, our minds are assailed with umpteen questions-- what is going to happen in the new year, how to cope with drastic changes and the like. The New Year 2022 begins today with the world still reeling from the pandemic, shattered and sundered amidst old fears, new uncertainties and challenges. Pandemic may drag on deep into 2022, but it seems to be entering  the endemic phase, meaning it will continue to circulate in the population but in a more predictable and less severe way. With time, the disease could even become similar to routine illness, such as the flu and common cold, experts say. Moreover, we have learned from 2021 by living through it and this year armed with new vaccines, we will be in a better position to conquer those challenges-- we HOPE to win.

The natural world is a paradox of predictability and chaos. So many events happen in clockwise fashion, while others do not. Hurricanes, tsunamis, fire, lightning, weeds, plagues and storms are as much part of life as the predictable rising of the sun and moon. However, these chaotic events in nature are not static. Just like the challenges in our personal and collective lives, they come and go at seemingly random times. What we need is hope and creativity to sustain ourselves during a barrage of crises.

Any creative act, whether it is successful or not, will lead to a flood of dopamine, the feel- good chemical in your brain and that will lead to a sense of happiness and accomplishment. The Vedas, the ancient texts, celebrate life, offering a sense of optimism and hope; they in fact, negate negation and pessimism. Like rain on a drought- ridden desert, hope refreshes your life and brings you lasting peace. So, pick up one thing that interests you, or inspires and motivates you as creativity allows us the time to go deeper in ourselves to our core and results in human reflection.

Epidemics and pandemics have ravaged humanity throughout it's existence and have doomed whole civilisations and brought once powerful nations to their knees, killing millions. Around 430 B.C. not long after a war between Athens and Sparta began, an epidemic ravaged the people of Athens and lasted for five years. The Black Death travelled from Asia to Europe. Plague tore through Shakespeare’s London in what, until recently, felt like a pestilence- ridden era. That plague decimated the capital's population with recurrent outbreaks bringing with it the kind of draconian measures with which we've become familiar in 2020. Perhaps the best- known examples of plagues ever recorded are those referred to in the religious scriptures that serve as foundations to Abrahamic religions. Book of Exodus of the Old Testament mentions a series of ten plagues to strike the Egyptians before the Israelites, held in captivity by the Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, are finally released.

William Shakespeare wrote supposedly some of the greatest works while quarantined during the plague in the 1500s. It is believed that the Bard not only wrote King Lear during endemic of 1564, but also got a head start on Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. John Dryden also kept his creativity alive during frequent lockdowns. On the opposite end of the creativity spectrum, mathematician and physicist Sir Issac Newton's work in the late 1660s, while he was quarantined at home on account of the bubonic plague, is considered to be his best. During this period, he also discovered differential and integral calculus, formulating a theory of universal gravitation, and explored optics, experimenting with prisms and investigating light (as per a report of Hindustan Times). In fact, when death hovers over the heads of ordinary people, they suffer from the feelings of fear, sadness, worry, numbness or frustration; they can't think beyond a certain limit, but creative souls thrive in the company of lurking death. Death acts like a cerebral catalyst in their case.

Creativity is marked by heightened emotional sensitivity and creative people are not afraid to be seen as different or exhibiting unusual thoughts. Creative individuals tend to be independent and nonconformist in their thoughts and actions. Many creative people show an interest in apparent disorder, contradiction and imbalance. As playwright George Bernard Shaw sums it up," Some men see things as they are and say 'why'? I dream of things that never were and say 'why not'." Dreams and imagination are of the utmost significance.

Albert Einstein has been called the most creative genius of the last century who learned how to analyse creative ideas and examine them in his mind because he didn't have a laboratory to test  the ideas. You might not be an Einstein and might not discover the theory for relativity but you can learn from his creative thinking techniques. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world"-- these words of Einstein do not disrespect knowledge but point out that the way to move into the unknown is based more on imagination than it is on knowledge. Too often knowledge will tell you that " it can't be done", but only imagination will find and open doors that you had ignored.


Dr. Ranjana Sharan Sinha

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