Has the Older Generation Screwed up the World?
(Full transcription of video)
There is a popular wave among young people that seems to have taken hold of their minds and imaginations, and it’s shaping the way they are looking at the past and the future of being a part of the human community, as well as being a part of nature. That idea is that, “The adults have screwed up, not just certain things, but everything, and we young people are going to set it right.”
“We are going to bring back a synergy between human beings and nature. We are going to stop killing animals for food. We will be sensitive toward the people of other religions, color, and sexual orientation. The older generation has done none of these things. The older generation has been destructive, they have destroyed the planet, and they’re continuing to do it. Somebody has to stop them!”
It’s a very popular idea. Environmentalists talk about it, and millennials are totally obsessed with this idea. It’s obvious that this idea is real and it’s there in their mind, because they don’t listen to the older generation. Beyond a certain age, they are not interested in the wisdom of the older generation. That’s a serious problem for a culture, and for human beings, because information and knowledge can be passed between people of same the age groups, but wisdom, more often than not, comes from experience. It comes from the richness of the experiences of life.
Whether you want to believe it or not, wisdom can only be passed from the past, to the present, to the future. It can only be passed by those people who have already been through the experience of life, and who know certain things the younger generation doesn’t. I truly believe the younger generation has misunderstood technological innovation to be intelligence. Intelligence is a completely different phenomenon, and gadgets and gizmos are a completely different phenomenon.
Just because a certain generation did not have iPhones doesn’t mean that they were idiotic; they simply had no need for it. I mean language is a double-edged sword – you can argue either way. You can say the older generation was smarter because they didn’t even need an iPhone. Today’s generation needs all these things to be able to make sense of life, to connect with people.
Simplicity of life is what they had embraced and it worked for them. For the sake of argument, let’s take the example of the coronavirus. It is not man-made, it is not a product of modernization, and it is not a product of modern habits. If anybody says that the coronavirus is the result of what we have been doing over the last few years or few centuries, they simply don’t know anything about human history. Viruses have always been there, they have always wiped out populations, and it has nothing to do with human activities. Viruses and bacteria are the cleansing mechanism of the earth. Without them, a dead body (plants and animals) would not decay. It’s the process, right? It’s the way in which the balance between organisms and nature is maintained.
When a certain population, let’s say sheep, or cows, or a population of some species begins to explode and dominate and smother other species, something like this happens. The precise reason for these things is unknown, but it’s a way in which nature balances itself. As far as nature is concerned, there is no good or bad. If there was, then such a thing as virus would not exist. It is bad for us because it affects us, it hurts us, and it kills us. We are a tiny part of this vast landscape of life, we have to protect ourselves from nature, and viruses are a part of nature.
The tree-hugging generation has totally forgotten that it is our modern amenities that are keeping us alive today. Just imagine if you let go of all the modern accomplishments of the human race over the past hundred years – take away the communication channels, the advancements in medicine, transportation systems, internet, architecture, house construction – take away all that, you would have probably one in five chances of surviving. That’s why this virus would have wiped you out. The reason why you are alive is because you are finding shelter in the very same things that you are blaming the older generation for. They created this. They didn’t destroy the planet, they have given an opportunity for the younger generation to live in peace for the first time.
Today, a young person can let go of the basic fears of life that human beings lived in for a very long time: Protecting themselves from the environment, from diseases, from wild animals, from other people, from wars, and communal violence. For the first time, this very same older generation that’s being blamed for everything has given today’s young people an opportunity to pursue a life of imagination and creativity. Because they have taken care of the basic necessities, you are standing on the shoulders of their work.
That is why you are even able to see so far ahead and contemplate your position amidst nature and life, and plants and animals. They have worked to give you the platform. If you are not given the platform, you would be at exactly the same level as the rest of the animals. Forget about compassion and contemplation, you’d be struggling to survive.
This argument between the old and the young, modern and ancient, or traditional and modern, is totally superficial. In reality, human beings have intelligently explored their environment and they have reshaped it according to their needs. The problem that we are facing is not our modern lifestyle or destruction of the environment. That is not the problem. The problem is meaning and purpose, which has always been missing.
A human being has always been subjected to asking this most important question, “What is the purpose of my life?” We try to find meaning in different things. In fact, our love for the environment, love for animals – this feeling that the generation before us completely disregarded the environment, comes from our need to connect with everything. That very same need is what pushed generations of people before us to accomplish what they’ve accomplished.
Try to understand this: Modernization/civilization is not one man’s idea. It is not one individual’s dream or desire. We’re not slaves to modernization. We are all a part of it, we are in it, and we are enjoying the benefits of it. Now, one thing this particular virus has done is given us an opportunity to step back and look at the relationship between man and nature. We have always been thinking that a perfect correlation between man and nature can exist; man can live amidst nature in perfect harmony.
What this virus has shown us is, if you want to live in perfect balance with nature, you should also accept the laws of nature. The law of nature is impartial death, meaning that nature doesn’t care who you are – whether you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate – when nature chooses to kill you, you have to die. Will you accept that? You cannot, right? So, by the very nature of how things are, we have to fight against nature to survive. Where did we forget this? If we don’t fight with nature, nature will consume us. We are just a tiny part.
Now, are you so selfless that you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for the sake of nature? Of course not! You can talk about environment, and you can talk about absolute synergy, you can talk about all kinds of things, but you are talking about it, you are at the center of everything. When your life is in danger, when your survival is in question, then the relationship between you and nature changes. If the very same tiger that you’re conserving, that you want to be protected, is chasing you, and if you were given an opportunity to kill the tiger or die, what would you do? Would you say, “The tiger is more precious than me, so consume my life?”
It is an undeniable fact: “I” stands above everything. It is not an idea – Self is not an idea. Self is your reality – and that’s the only thing you have, and that’s the only thing that you’re fighting to protect. As long as you possess that self you can talk about environment, and you can talk about synergy with nature, and all that. But when your survival is in question, nothing else matters.
So, what has the previous generation destroyed? They have destroyed the absolute possibility of your destruction. They have created civilization. They have created a system under which you can stay alive – basic, plain, and simple. Because you can stay alive, then comes other contemplations, other desires.
Having compassion toward animals is actually a higher form of thinking. I’m not degrading it. What has it taken for us to get to that level where we can contemplate on higher things, apart from just worrying about our survival?
I think this “social distancing” time is a wonderful opportunity to step back, take a break, relax, and see life for what it is. On one hand it is a struggle for survival, and that’s what the older generation had to deal with. The generations that have come before us had to fight for everything. They had to create things. The very amenities that we are enjoying, they had to put in their blood, sweat, and energy to create. That is one part of it: Survival.
Then comes appreciation, involvement, and celebration of life! This is a great opportunity. Since the older generation has given us a basic platform without having to worry about some animal attacking or even somebody attacking you, I would say it’s one of the most wonderful opportunities to step back and relax – be in silence, be in solitude. Just meditate for a while. Settle into the experience of life. When you don’t have to worry about running around, you can look at things more closely. You can play with your children, you can be amidst nature. Isolation doesn’t mean that you lock yourself in a room, it means stay to away from people, stay by yourself. This doesn’t mean that you cannot walk into nature. It doesn’t mean that you cannot go hiking. It doesn’t mean that you can’t go outside (in America anyway). Isolation is really just to not become an agent of spreading the disease. Whether you get personally ill or not, you can become a carrier. So, just stay away from people.
What a wonderful thing! In fact, even without this virus, I have been saying, “Step away, get away from everything. Take a break. That’s what meditation is all about.” In fact, silence, solitude, stillness, I’ve been talking about it like a prescription for coronavirus. I don’t even know what that virus is, but I’ve been talking to you about it like a prescription, because that’s what heals. That’s what I mean. Rest is how healing takes place.
We need to look at this as an opportunity to relook at certain aspects of life; that we look at our relationship with the environment. You can love nature, but you should also accept that nature is a dangerous place. It’s pretty from the outside. The forest looks beautiful, nice and green, with flowers blooming, and birds chirping. When you have to live in it, that is when you will know that everything will be trying to eat you.
All the modern accomplishments have just been a way to keep ourselves safe. This poses another challenge: Because we have developed this understanding that we can protect ourselves, we’ve got to understand that a virus is nature’s way to eliminate the sick, the old, and the dying. It affects everybody, but it kills those who have some problems health issues. Right now, this is where our confrontation is, this is where our intelligence is.
We cannot allow nature to do that to our elderly people, or people who have issues, because we have intelligence and we can take care of them. There itself is your confrontation with nature. Love for nature, respect for nature, and a true understanding of nature is something you can look at in these times – not just blind, mad, tree-hugging stuff.
There is a reason why humanity is the way it is: If you look at a lot of our amenities and facilities, it’s basically an extension of nature. It’s an extension of the very same things nature provides. If an alien were to drop on this planet and go in search of intelligence, it would find intelligence in the city, not in the forest. It would move around in the forest and realize that there are animals there but there’s not much intelligence.
Animals are a part of nature. This is just the process. This animal cannot survive on its own but here is a species that has fought this system, and that’s where I see intelligence. Now, tell me if you can postpone your death, even by a single day – isn’t that a part of intelligence? Wouldn’t you call that intelligence? There was a time when the mortality rate was so high that people usually died around the age of 30-40. If somebody could live until 50, that was an achievement. Anything and everything could kill you; a fracture could kill, a bacterial infection could kill you.
Our continuous fight against all these things is our fight against nature, because nature is raw, impartial, and not interested in human beings. That is where the whole problem is. Human beings are interested in human beings, but nature is not interested in human beings. Nature is interested in the balance. So, in nature there is no difference between a mosquito and a human being. Can you develop that level of compassion? Can you look at a mosquito and a human being with the same indifference and the same compassion? The day you’re able to do it, you’ve become a true environmentalist.
Until then, accept the fact that you are human-centric. Nature is a part of us. First, importance has to be given to human beings and the way we think, the way we are progressing. It is easy to love dolphins, dogs, cats, and other animals, but it’s a lot more difficult to love human beings. That’s what is happening. We’re falling in love with everything, and we are hating our own kind. To say, with such arrogance, that the previous generation has messed up! That itself is a testimony of how grossly we have misunderstood the contributions of people who came before us.
All these things that are happening show us that life is still very simple; it’s not about buildings, it’s not about advancement. Those things are necessities, but that’s not the fulfillment of life. What the current situation shows us is, a single virus – that is invisible – has shaken everybody from presidents to prime ministers to poets to writers and religious thinkers. Everybody shut up and stay at home! A thing that you cannot even see – a thing that you cannot fight with a sword, is knocking you down. Humility. There is so much more to life. There’s so much that we don’t see or understand.
We cannot just be blindly arrogant about our place in the environment. Yes, we can alter our environment to help our survival, to keep our children safe, that is who we are. That fear to stay alive helps us to keep creating things. We are naturally creative beings. Innovation is not just about survival; it’s also about enhancing our capabilities, and our desire to touch lives. If I have the capability to touch 10 people or 100 people, I will choose 100 people. That’s where technology and industrialization comes in.
When you put all these things in perspective, you can see that there is a balance, but that balance comes from our understanding. If we are just one-sided – all for environment or all for modernization, we miss certain things. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to see the balance: Somebody’s pushing and somebody has to resist. We love nature, but at the same time nature can destroy us. There cannot be a 100% synergistic way of living amidst nature. We need a wall, we need a boundary that can keep us safe. That’s what we call our homes, and the moment there is a home, there is a requirement to take care of it. Then comes all kinds of other amenities.
The entire modern world is built on a very simple premise: The moment you say you’re not living in the forest, you’re living in an artificially created environment, you need a lot of things. If you’re just living in the forest you don’t need things like air conditioning, heat, and running water. It’s just nature. Animals don’t worry about all that.
Where do all our necessities come from? It’s because we want to stay away from raw nature, we want to protect ourselves. Then comes all the requirements and necessities. If you say this is a destruction of the planet, then you are missing the point. How can it be destruction of the planet if it is to keep you alive? You might say, “Well, I’m not questioning individuals and homes, and things like that, I’m talking about industries. I’m talking about big corporations. I’m talking about organizations or industries that create lots of pollution.”
They are the machinery that is allowing us to live this way. It’s a mechanism. Of course, an industry, just by being the way it is, operates at a certain scale. Since it operates for multiple people, it appears like a big problem. Well, if you take away all these industries – you take away paper mills, you take away crude oil industries and such as that, what kind of world are you envisioning? My request for the younger generation is: There’s enormous wisdom that you can learn from people who have been through the experience of life. Life is not all about what’s happening right now. If you have lived 50, 60, or 70 years you would have seen these cyclical things. You would have seen financial cycles. You would have seen cycles of diseases, natural destruction, and you would have understood the balance. This is how nature functions, and you would be prepared for it.
But when you’re young, you might look at all these things as a problem. For all you know, this virus is a cyclical thing – it just happened. Because of the position that we are in, having the internet, technology, and all our available resources, we are made aware of the number of people who are dying. Every single individual who is being affected, you are able to look at them like statistics: By country, by region. This was not possible before.
What we need to do now is to stay away from people. We need to protect ourselves and others. Most importantly, we need to re-evaluate our relationship with the environment.