Chapter 5 – The Underbelly

Disasters whether manmade or natural, spare no one regardless of religion, race, creed, social status, political inclinations or sexual orientation. In wars – whether wars of attrition or contrition or in aggression or defence; and in incidences of natural disasters, scores of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and even atheists, infidels and agnostics die. In wars of domination and propagation of ideologies, millions perished on all sides.

Everybody got severely whacked, whether it was Korea, Vietnam, China, Britain, America, Russia, France, Germany, Italy or any other stricken nation. All nations, in essence, have been whacked one way or another. War or pestilence, natural disasters or human-aided destruction, have hit every nation. This is resolutely evident that our Creator favours none and is not prejudicial in dispensations of death, tribulations and sufferings.

New Orleans after Katrina hit – U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi
New Orleans after Katrina hit – U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi

The human race is basically prejudicial to the core and largely selfish and deceptive but nature isn’t. It’s obvious that we live in a tumultuous and raging planet and basically nothing can change that. No amount of praises and prayers would change that simply because we attune to the macrocosm of existence and not the ecosphere acclimating to us. In ancient times and cultures, human sacrifices have been carried out to appease the gods but to no avail.

Religion, culture and politics have shaped the world. It has come to a stage where it all boils down to “our beliefs and our ways”. When things don’t quite go our way, we revolt, fight, kill and destroy. We commit all kinds of horrid and despicable acts onto fellow humans. We connive, lie, deceive, plot, betray, plunder, rape, torture, maim, kill and annihilate profuse numbers of people outright. We initiate doctrines and enact legislatures to serve our purposes. We also conceive what are to be earmarked as crimes and transgressions. Yet it appears that what constitutes a crime can be best interpreted as consequences of your actions and not necessarily a matter of wrong or right, good or bad.

Ephesus
Ephesus

Whether your actions hurt anyone and how many people they affect is not often the gauge as some of the greatest villains have got away and never made to account for their transgressions. We created borders – demarcate what is ours just like the pioneers staking claims to wide swathes of land and call them nations. Soon immigration was born. But is it ever a matter of security or just plain old-fashioned selfishness and possessiveness? After all, isn’t security in itself a facet of selfishness and born of self-preservation; and to prevent detriments against what we perceive to belong to us? We often claim that our way is the right way and our interpretation is the right one. We also often conceitedly claim we know the way to God. What’s apparent instead, is that most of us are not only audacious but are actually overtly arrogant amid abject ignorance.

Somehow, natural disasters might not actually be punishment from God as what some of us might opt to opine. Natural disasters are waiting to happen because they have to happen. It’s basically the natural order of things – of “cause and effect” or “actions and reactions”. In short, it’s componential to the Laws of the Universe. On the other hand, it’s also fundamental human nature to be hopeful for without hope and anticipation which we simplistically call “faith” we might as well refuse to live. Perhaps it’s a means of self-consolation with us optimistically consoling ourselves that probably with repetitive prayers and rolling good deeds, we might be able to obtain mercy and hopefully too be excluded from becoming unwary victims to the forces of nature.

Yet personally, short-sighted humans resort to unimaginable dastardly acts simply because we have not the conviction to be responsible or humane while in reality our faith is fleeting. Some console themselves with the convenient notion that religion which offers salvation can rescue them. They predictably view God through their human standards and visualise God to be as humanly conceited as they are. They suss that erecting elaborate alters or houses of worship with constant ritualistic and verbal exaltations could easily please, if not flatter God. Do habitual recitations of praises to God, as is routine among some of us, be an insinuation of placing blame and responsibility upon God?

Some come bearing glamorous gifts for God as though to imply that God is materialistic. They build magnificent houses of worship often toiling over hundreds of years while some were abandoned midway too because their civilisations abruptly ceased to exist. “Do all you want for after death comes nothing” seems to be more of an innate realisation for many amongst us since we know darn well that we would not be able to take our possessions to the grave. Consequently, we try to consume as much as we can while we are still living. Greed and avarice are symptomatically insatiable.

Pragmatically we may be right but since this appears to be the only life we are ever going to get, why not live it with at least a little semblance or measure of dignity? Realisation of this might be what puts us apart. Hence, humans are distinguishable in this context.

In a more congenial approach to our existence, many of us are also palpably honourable, dignified and sincere. We can look beyond race and religion and sacrifice selflessly as if to care for the world in our feeble but nevertheless gracious attempt to balance the scales between what we perceive as good and evil; and right or wrong. We know that it’s the will of God that we exist by and that we are none more superior to the other but perhaps a tad more privileged.

We understand that religion and politics should not be merged much like accepting what’s spiritual and what’s practical often contradicts one another: and that life is filled with its fair share of ironies. We understand that God did not create borders and that’s apparent in some lands being fertile while some are barren. Otherwise, he would have apportioned everything nicely and neatly and divided it between us fair and square.

Grigory Rasputin-1916
Grigori Rasputin-1916. Photo: Imperial War Museum

Religion has very much been a result of man’s preponderance with the mysteries of life on earth itself. Death remains unthinkably mortifying for it spells the end of existence in the physical world. We have the good, the bad and the ugly in every race and religion. Some of us console ourselves by expending religion as a blanket immunity to commit all our dastardly deeds. We exploit religion and God as some kind of passport for our passage into eternity and the inexhaustible afterlife.

Ecstatic Ritual of Khlysts
Ecstatic Ritual of Khlysts

It is in fact luxuriant human selfishness, greed, cruelty, nastiness, perversions and a whole load of ruinous attributes that corrupt our minds, bodies and souls. Often too, it’s with the actions of only a few mortal souls that have contributed to create the monstrosities of our ills. They bring on dire in galactic disproportions. Most of their talk about human rights and equality is mostly a sham and an evil-modus to beguile. They preach one thing but practice another.

Lines between right and wrong are rather fuzzy and mendacity can prescribe evil under the guise of righteousness. Parameters are deceitfully manoeuvred and rendered absurdly vague and fluid. Who decides who gets tried for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity? By the way, is there ever an acceptably clear definition for genocide? Can an act of war spurring from illegitimate or unfounded grounds be construed as an act of aggression? If so, then wouldn’t an act of aggression which causes massive loss of lives and property damage be indistinguishably tantamount to genocide? Still, it is all a matter of popular or selectively biased interpretation.

Evidently, wraths of nature do not exempt the animals; plant-life or insects from perish either. Why does the same cruel fate befall them too?  In deeper reflection, we realise that we are actually comrades in existence on this torrent planet; and as if we have all been forsaken here to traverse a harsh but intermittent- joyful passage.

Animals are so very different from humans. Surprisingly, man ought to take his cue to learn from animals. Most pertinent or wanting would be on issues of morality. To begin with, animals are never pretentious or sarcastic. They are direct. They are never cynical and don’t bother to criticise. They may be full of antics but these are designed mainly as body or sign language. They are not conniving albeit animals in packs are known to plan ambush.

They are never mean. When they rebuke or fight, it is instinctively for survival or propagation reasons. Most of all, they don’t cheat or lie. Though they could be cunning but then again it’s for strategic reasons which are associated with survival instincts. They are not ungrateful. Rarely do they bite the hands that feed them. They are loyal and have been known to sacrifice themselves purely out of love or a call of duty. They don’t abuse their young. Lions are known to devour their mate’s cubs but then again these are predominantly for sexual reasons since lionesses will not mate when they are nursing cubs. Hence it’s cognitive to life’s conflict of purpose.

Spotted hyenas are cunning but mostly to eat. Photo by GalliasM
Spotted hyenas are cunning but mostly to eat.  Photo by GalliasM

Animals are not avaricious. They will eat their share and accumulate none, except perhaps for squirrels storing up winter rations. They practice bio-degradability. Generally, they leave inconsumable pieces and scraps to other animals and scavengers. Vultures for instance, are nature’s very own sanitation squads. So too are pigs. Therefore they too have duties to perform which have been programmed into their genes and instincts.

Animals don’t backstab. They would usually confront or run away from unwinnable situations. They are not malicious except perhaps for leopards which are known to hunt purely for sport. They don’t flatter either. They don’t cause environmental damage or carnage just out of greed or disregard. They are easily satisfied too and live by the day. They don’t destroy in order to rebuild and fight fair without the use of weapons. Few are ever antagonistic but they steadfastly protect their territory in their instincts to survive. There is no bribery or corruption in the animal kingdom.

They don’t incarcerate others and certainly don’t blackmail. They kill for self-preservation but don’t premeditate murder. They don’t persecute or torture and never bear false witness. They are guided by their natural instincts and are quick learners. They can be apologetic but don’t know embarrassment. The list of animal attributes and marvellous characteristics can go on and on but try listening to and observing them a little closer because through them, nature speaks. They pose as glaring uninhibited examples and where we could most graciously learn from them.

Kruger cheetah – Photo by Mukul2U
Kruger cheetah – Photo by Mukul2U

Notwithstanding, the good side to man is also ever as endearing as well. In humans, there’s unconditional love, charity, humility, sacrifice, altruism, trust and so much more. However, the corruption of man’s knowledge and consciousness will perennially be the issue. Conscience can be easily subdued or cast aside by some of us and we can easily turn a blind eye to injustice. Therefore some among us would like to equate the Garden of Eden episode with the apple symbolising the “fruit of knowledge” and that once knowledge is awakened, it gives rise to evil and other discretionary ills.

Hitherto, man has since time immemorial, inevitably learnt from animals and merged some of their observations into human qualities which in many ways, aided in our civilisation as well. Male Antarctic Emperor Penguins care for the young while the females leave for extended periods, as studies show, to replenish on their nourishment. In the human context, househusbands may have emulated these male penguins.

Bats are blind but their flight paths are guided by high-pitch sonic emanations and bounce-backs. Coupled with highly sensitive ears, these inform them where objects and obstructions lay. The modern day radar was invented based on this principle. It began with Heinrich Hertz experimenting with radio waves reflecting off metallic objects in the late 1800s. Later on, German inventor Christian Hulsmeyer used it to build an apparatus and deployed it to prevent ships from colliding in dense fog.

The ancient Indians and Chinese based their martial arts by learning from and imitating animal moves with inclusions of species such as tigers, monkeys, storks, snakes and even insect such as the praying mantis. They then incorporated these animalistic moves into specialised and agile fighting skills. Martial arts as we know of them today were discovered with these applications. There are virtually loads and loads of examples but truly, man ought to take his cue and learn from animals and in particular, on issues affecting ethics and morality.

Chinese martial arts. Photo by Shi Deru (a.k.a. Shawn Xiangyang Liu)
Chinese martial arts. Photo by Shi Deru (a.k.a. Shawn Xiangyang Liu)

As dignified humans, it’s not until we are capable of treating people with dignity regardless of creed, race or religion; and begin to respect all life as God’s purposeful creation, can we even in the remotest of justification expect any privileged treatment from God. But still, that’s unattainable for many. In principle, when we defy God’s works, aren’t we defying him? Can we take mysteries in life as a sign that everybody is right yet everybody isn’t?

Can we care for others as well as the environment with such unequivocal conviction as we have for our pervasive selfishness? Can we learn to share the proceeds and produce from God’s fertile soils, so that there will be no hunger, nor poverty – for the world produces enough food to feed us all? There is enough of everything for everybody -air, water, oil, gas and lots more. If we can’t, then we shan’t even mention we are God-loving or God-respecting. Our pretence and antics won’t get far and all the holy-holy scriptures would have meant little too.

So what is God and where is our religion amidst all this? Where are the limits of our faith, comprehension and imagination? For all we know, life on Earth is just an interlude or transit on our way to another incarnation in another physical world located galaxies away. It could well be that our mode of transport there is via an ethereal entity we call our soul. It’s launched from death’s portal and through other dimensional wormholes our soul could travel through to the next destination. Earth might have been just a school of subtle conditioning after all.

Author: J. Sam Barr

Greetings from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 5 – The Underbelly”

  1. Read some of your poems. Some of them are quite enchanting, in the way they touch on life. I feel a special affinity with ‘The Water Lily’.

    Any particular reason for your focus on Thailand?

    1. Thanks for visiting Christine and I am glad you can relate to some of my poems. There’s no focus on Thailand except that I just returned from a trip visiting ruins. Just the timing I guess and to add some albums to the blog. I have in mind to post some pictures from Aceh too but in the near future. In any case, I have an affinity with Buddhist places. I can’t explain why but it seems to be there.

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