“Physically, we may seem to be living in one world that we see with our eyes, hear with our ears and feel with our hands. Realistically, however, we live in several worlds, sometimes concurrently. Based on our individual beliefs and superstitions, perspectives and imaginations, knowledge and understanding of the cosmos, as well as our past memories and life experiences, our individual worlds practically differ. It is this difference between our individual worlds that causes strife between humans.
In the physical world that we see, scientific and natural laws prevail. However, in our unique, imaginary, non-visible worlds, we set our own (human) laws, which are shaped by our individual or collective beliefs, values, superstitions and fears. The laws that we create for ourselves work both ways – for and against us. Our beliefs, superstitions and fears affect our psychological world and we suffer internally, possibly due to guilt and remorse, when we break our self-created laws and, coincidentally, bad things happen to us. In addition, when we try to impose our laws on others, peace becomes a casualty.
In our physical world, based on the ongoing expansion of knowledge – through nonstop human endeavour to know the unknown and explore the untouched within the cosmic existence, using the tools as provided by the global education and research infrastructure related to all aspects of human life – humans should not logically be fighting one another over the veracity of the established natural and physical laws. However, some people still find reasons to fight one another based on the extent – depth and width – of their scientific knowledge, laws of nature and life experience.
Only a few centuries ago, many thinkers and scientific philosophers were challenged and harassed by the establishment of the time for putting forth their thoughts about the nature of the universe and its laws. Their thoughts challenged the way other humans thought (ignorantly) about the universe till then.
Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543), a Renaissance-era polyglot and polymath (mathematician, astronomer, physician, classics scholar, translator, governor, diplomat, and economist) formulated (just before his death) a revolutionary model of the universe, which put the Sun at the centre of the universe, with the Earth revolving around it. Until then, people were made to believe (by the establishment) that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and the Sun revolved around it. Copernicus was born and died in Royal Prussia, a region that had been a part of the Kingdom of Poland
Giordano Bruno (1548 – 17 February 1600), an Italian Dominican friar (born Filippo Bruno), extended the work of Copernicus. He was a philosopher, mathematician, poet, cosmological theorist, and Hermetic occultist and known for his cosmological theories. He proposed that the stars were distant suns surrounded by their own planets. As cosmic pluralism, he also raised the possibility that these planets could foster life of their own. He insisted that the universe is infinite, without any centre. For his revolutionary thoughts (and heresy) that challenged the Catholic Church, he was tried for seven years (1593-1600) by the Roman Inquisition. He was charged with blasphemy and denial of several core Catholic doctrines, such as eternal damnation, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and transubstantiation. The Church held grave concerns about his pantheism, as well as his teaching of the transmigration of the soul. On (Ash) Wednesday, 17 February 1600, he was hung upside down naked and then burnt. His ashes were thrown into the Tiber River.
At present, the flat Earth theory continues to be kept alive by some people whose beliefs continue to remain rooted in the medieval times. Many ancient cultures subscribed to a flat Earth cosmography till Aristotle provided evidence for the spherical shape of the Earth by around 330 BC. Despite the scientific facts available about the Earth’s sphericity, pseudo-scientific flat Earth conspiracy theories continue to be driven by modern flat Earth societies and individuals using social media.
At present, many people don’t believe that man really landed on moon half a century ago.
Our private worlds are born the moment we are born and start recording memories. Our internal world disappears suddenly when we stop breathing. It is just a bubble. Our internal world is uniquely our own. It is bound to clash with the internal world of other people because our internal worlds are also interwoven with beliefs and values from our other worlds – families, communities and nations.
When we close our eyes, we drift into a world which is uniquely our own private world. In this world, we are absolutely free to do anything we like. It is shaped by our memories and imaginations. In this world, we feel more secure and relatively more comfortable, because of our past memories. We can go anywhere we like to go, eat anything we want to and feel anything we feel like, all based on the memories of our past. We can punch anyone we hate and love anyone we love. It only requires us to close our eyes and drift in our private world where our laws prevail.
Each one of us 7.5 billion people on this planet lives in a unique internal world of our own, which shapes or is shaped by our imagination, perceptions, beliefs and superstitions. This world manifests as our personal nature and is faintly reflected by our personal tastes, likes and dislikes; personal interests, passions and hobbies; and general orientations. We make our own laws for ourselves, based on our experiences and the repetition of experiences, imaginary causes and effects and, above all, fear.
Famous cricketers, of both the past and present, are known to have a superstitious routine, e.g. putting a red handkerchief in their right pocket, wearing left pad first, putting the left foot forward while crossing the boundary line to bat, frequent (nervous) withdrawal of hands from batting gloves, frequent rotation of bat etc. Elements of superstitions are also seen in other sports-persons, as well as the rich and famous. People avoid wearing certain colours on certain days of the week and occasions, and show preference for particular colours that have proved to be lucky in the past.
Families usually have their own unwritten laws and superstitions, which they term as family values. For example, some families demand their children to have matrimonial alliances within their own ethnic communities or within their own socio-economic classes. Interestingly, the author’s family does not cook sun-dried pickles because of some bad experiences of earlier generations. Due to fear of (imaginary) repercussions, subsequent generations have followed the unwritten law and never dared to cook pickles.
A community can comprise people belonging to a same religion, ethnicity, caste, gender, calling, sport and socio-economic class. Humans have tendency to get polarised within communities, which generally ends in dividing them between ‘us’ and ‘them’, invariably with mutual apprehensions, driven mainly by threat and fear.
Every community follows certain ways of doing things, based on its beliefs and values. In the cricketing world, number 13 is considered as unlucky. As such, batters try to jump this number for fear of getting out on this number. Chinese community considers number ‘4’ as a bad number (signifying death) and number ‘8’ as a good number (signifying prosperity). As such, floor levels 4, 14 and 24 in any multi-storey building in SE Asia, and perhaps in the mainland China, are denoted usually as floor levels 3A, 13A and 23A respectively. Kashmiri Pandits don’t traditionally consume mutton, fish or eggs on the 8th day of waxing moon (Ashtami); however, they do consume mutton and fish on Navreh (The Kashmiri Pandit New Year day) and Haerath (Shivatri). On the contrary, reverse is the case with other Indian Hindus.
Interestingly, people from one community generally tend to criticise people from other communities and sometimes scoff at them for following and nurturing outdated beliefs and values without realising they too follow similar outdated beliefs and values themselves.
Nationalism separates a nation from other nations when it claims to be the greatest of all. But who measures it and what are the parameters based on which it can be measured and claimed to be great? Do military might and wealth of a country make a nation great? If yes, humans have not progressed since the dark ages. Real human progress would be deemed to have occurred when no one nation claims superiority over other nations, but instead treats all other nations with equal dignity and respect.
Through history, humans have been reaping the fruits of hard work undertaken by people from many other countries across the world, and not only from their own country. Let us just look at the engineered world around us, including the appliances and gadgets that we use constantly, which have been developed and, perhaps manufactured, in other countries.
Nations import humans from other countries, be it as manual labourers, or as technicians, or scientists, or as other professionals. Nations also import food, medicines and technology from other nations. When a nation launches a satellite in space, or announces any other significant scientific breakthrough, how often does its leadership acknowledge and thank the conceptual inputs and the foundation works undertaken by the pioneers of the space technology, and the hard work of scientists and engineers from those pioneering countries who made such space missions possible? The answer is: ‘Not very often, mainly due to nationalism and national pride. We don’t like to give credit to others. We tend to use others but chose to live in our own bubble of nationalism.’
Nationalism is, however, different from national characteristics, the latter defining the general thinking and behaviours of people. Traditions mark the uniqueness of a country. For example, New Zealanders exhibit their unique character by the haka, a Mauri ceremonial dance (or rather a challenge), which is performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet, with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. Historically associated with traditional battle preparations of male warriors, the haka is performed by both men and women at social functions, including sporting events, welcoming distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, or at funerals.
To conclude, therefore, it is not surprising that humans fight one another when their worlds clash. Their fights are based on our religious beliefs, fears and apprehensions (valid or unfounded), superstitions, value systems and nationalism. Such fights will continue till the human race exists on the planet. Recognition of this reality is important so as to bring some acceptable degree of mutual tolerance and respect amongst humans, which is essential for their peaceful coherence on this unique planet.
There can never be one world for humans because they are not robots. Their internal worlds are as infinite as the outer world they live in. Every human is a complete cosmos in himself or herself.” … Bill K Koul (26 July 2019)