In 1980 while I was pursuing PhD in the U.S.A. I stumbled into the world of philosophy. Beyond my engineering studies, I devoted myself to my new-found passion. Since that time, I have been maintaining a diary. The following episodes are based on selected journal entries.
Invisible Fault Line
During a casual conversation, my philosophical viewpoint angered my good, old friend of fifty years. He was so angry that he abandoned our friendship. I was dumbfounded for I could not believe what was happening. When I realised that it was real, I phoned my friend to beg his forgiveness, but to no avail.
I have come to realise that invisible fault lines run somewhere deep in our minds. These fault lines lie where we are immovable from our deeply held beliefs, faiths and instincts. There would naturally be a tremor when two opposing fault lines collide.
The saddest part is that we are unaware of our own fault lines, let alone those of others.
Eternity in Heaven
I befriended a crippled, teenage boy. I asked him what he would do if God gave him one – just one – day of normal life. He replied, 'I would go out for a walk. I would walk, walk and walk all day. The day would be like eternity in heaven.'
'Oh God!' I cried. I have already lived a long life without knowing that I have been living in heaven. Now I feel vulnerable that my heavenly life might end at any moment.
As I enter the narrow alley, I slow myself down to the pace of a man in front of me. The man is too old to walk at a normal speed. As I become impatient, I realise that the aged man represents my future. I accept my destiny and follow him humbly.
I am worried about the sale of our property. If it is not sold soon, We will run into financial difficulty.
Last night, the real-estate agent informed me that an offer has been made on our property. The offer is quite low compared to my expectation. It is an interesting situation. Can I have peace of mind, regardless of loss or gain.
In response to my recent letter, the mother of my long-lost friend writes: 'Only God knows a mother's grief. Outwardly, I pretend all is well, but inwardly my pain never ceases. Why did He choose to give and then why did He choose to take it back – this remains a mystery to me to this day.'
How would I ever know a mother's grief? How trivial is my problem compared to the loss of one's child? Should I not put aside my worries and concentrate on loving our children while they live? They may not be with us tomorrow.
I watched Casualties of War on TV. The story is set during the Vietnam War. Three American soldiers, despite protests from a fourth companion, rape a Vietnamese girl and eventually kill her.
The story revolves around the agony the fourth soldier suffers. The drama is so real that I not only hated the three soldiers, but it made my blood boil. I wished the fourth soldier had killed his fellow soldiers before they could rape the innocent girl. Since that did not happen, I wanted the three soldiers to be punished, just as much as the fourth soldier did. But the system wouldn't allow it. The major with whom the fourth soldier lodges a complaint says that in a war that is the name of the game.
Metaphorically, the story features an offender, a victim, a human conscience and an onlooker. The offender is one of us – a human being, one of our kind. Bringing him to justice is not true justice. We should all be brought to justice – including the prosecutor, the jury, the judge, the highest authorities and the onlooker.
Guilt will not go away if we are not ashamed of crimes and do not take penitence and put ourselves in pain. Acts like condemnation, announcing a verdict, preaching non-violence, or even raising the fear of hell mean nothing. They simply hide our complicity.
How would one ever know that he is an accomplice to the action he condemns?
I thoroughly enjoy my cool morning shower. The process of first wetting, then massaging the body with soap and finally rinsing it is so refreshing. How I wish I could give such a refreshing shower to my inner self.
One of the most disgusting chores that I often have to do is pick up the excrement of our dog, Spotty. It has an awful odour and it turns my stomach. The other day, as I was attending to this chore, I realised that millions have to do worse things, like cleaning human excrement. The worst part is that they must do it for a living.
I cleanse my heart every time I attend to such a despised chore.
Tohon is a regular contributor to The Daily Star Literature Page.