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Apolitical Alternative

By Roya Monajem, Tehran

From the time immemorial, or at least since the emergence of the first religions of the world, humanity's greatest hope has been the arrival of a savior. What is the root of this 'emotion,' 'approach,' 'state of mind,' or whatever hope is? From which physiological need does it originate? It must lie deep in human psyche to have survived so long? Should we classify it among our positive traits (such as forgiveness, kindness, care) or negative ones (such as revenge, repulsion, ignorance)?

The controversy whether hope is good (virtue) or bad (vice) has been an ongoing controversy at least since the appearance of the Greek myth about Pandora, the first woman, created to entertain Prometheus, to distract him from his will to help ordinary human beings to suffer less. He had stolen Fire from Heavens and had brought it to Earth, a punishable act to the judgment of the Greek Pantheon. So they created Pandora and as you know before sending her to earth, gave her a jar of divine gifts to deliver to Prometheus and Pandora was forbidden to open that jar. As expected, Pandora like her counterpart Eve, 'disobeys' the divine order and opens the jar to see what is inside. Once she removes the lid, the content, 'what is now known as human virtues and vices', rushes out of the jar. Petrified of having now an empty jar in hand, Pandora hastily replaces the lid with now only one of the divine gifts still remaining in the jar. That's why, it is still questionable whether hope is a vice or virtue. Apparently, to all the religions of the world, it must be a good thing, a real gift, that creates an impetus for stimulating human survival instinct; hope in the arrival of a savior, which is similar to the Hindu's belief in the possibility of breaking the eternal cycle of birth-death-birth or of reaching Nirvana, or Buddha-hood, or Enlightenment. So why is hope good? Because it can help us to look forward to and thus survive. In other words, hope is good because it stimulates our defensive-immunological system and thereby acts as a part of survival mechanism in human beings.

In order to realize what a great role hope can play in our will to survive, remember all the times that you fell seriously sick, so sick that you thought you might even die. Do you think we would have survived if we had lost hope?

And when do we feel the need for a savior most? When we feel totally desperate and in despair which is directly proportional to the amount of pain and suffering we 'think' we are going through. Of course, our thoughts are not necessarily exact reflections of reality. They can magnify or the opposite minimize the reality. The rich can suffer as much as the poor because they act the same, but in opposite directions; one magnifies and the other reduces the hardship their members go through. How do the poor achieve this great task? How do they manage to survive the great real hardship they are experiencing? One is to give meaning to their suffering which is what all religions try to do. And religions, although in different languages, but say more or less the same thing: that this pain and suffering helps human beings to purify their soul and spirit. Instead, we will have the next world. We will go to Heaven after death. We are promised to go to heavens if we do as God has dictated us to do through His Prophets. And this promise brings about hope.

Atheists are very unfortunate in this sense. And by atheist, I mean one who does not believe in Religions' God. Perhaps that is one reason for this kind of people to be more prone to despair and thus all kinds of dis-eases. They have no such hopes. Their number is not known as many of them are counted among believers. We are automatically classified among believers of our parent's religion, no matter whether we actually believe in it or not. Even when they leave it to the individual to choose his/her religion when mature enough, such as seen in Bahai Sect, a child born to Bahai family and educated in Bahai way, almost definitely will choose the same belief when reaching adulthood. This is rather a tactic than a 'free' choice.

But let us go back to 'atheists.' Although atheist in the ordinary sense of the word, meaning 'pagan,' 'non-believer,' 'heathen,' a good number of us are still religious, but not in the old sense of the word. It is true that we do not believe in the God of Religions, which means we do not identify ourselves with any particular known or unknown religions, but we still do hold a belief: The belief that God (the Savior) is Love which knows not only no religion, but no nationality, no race, in one word no man-made limits. In this new form of religiousness (using Osho's term), other's religion, nationality, race, language does not play a role anymore in fulfilling another apparently human need, i.e. the sense of belonging. What is important here is how the other conceives the world. How many Americans share their Presidents' views about other nations, religions, races? Could the Vietnamese really win the war, if American youth had not risen against American invasion of Vietnam? Against all those Napalms falling on the Vietnamese soil and people? Would they act as much 'civilized' with Afghanis and Iraqis, if they did not fear that the news of their 'brutality' would be revealed if not instantly, but soon enough (as happened in the case of Watergate, Irangate and the like)?

There are moments when one feels mortally suffocated and nauseated by observing how 'the will to power' is overpowering rulers and ordinary men and women alike. It is in such moments that the idea of savior helps the faithful. All religions which speak of the arrival of a savior, (e.g. Christianity and Shiite Islam) tell their followers that the savior will come when evil dominates the world. Isn't this that moment? Isn't the whole earth going through Dark Ages? Isn't this Kali Yoga in the true sense of the word? No wonder that most of the world is under the command of fascist-like democratic or autocratic rulers!

What can be a similar hope for us apolitical atheists?

For us Persians (Iranians) inside and outside the country? For those so-called Sunni Iraqis wondering what if Shiite (due to their higher number) seize power, and those atheist Shiite that may be wondering what if a Shiite autocracy seize power in his/her country? What is the hope for those Afghanis, in whose blood and gene pools, the soul of great warriors still linger, the same soul that made the English Imperialist flee from their country, now that their country is under American occupation? And we are all keeping silent toward all this 'injustice, ugliness, cruelty and...' surrounding us and dominating our One planet Earth.

In this state of absolute desperation, the only hope is the existence of all forms of love-affairs - no matter how ephemeral or foolish - going on not only between lovers, and parents and their children, but even love-affairs between human beings and any other thing (even if in the form of mere fetishism) and the resulting air of love that we can smell as a thin current finding its way through even the most terrifying air- pollutions such as the one overshadowing Tehran in this cold winter. Nothing can prevent the arrival of this current of love that once it penetrates our hearts, it brings about an immediate transformation that depending on the force of hope it automatically creates, it helps our survival instinct to find a way to rise above our despair and look forward to a better future for human beings and our beautiful earth.

This form of hopefulness is quite different from that awakened by the idea of a religious savior. It is not the same as the historical hope in a hero, which automatically intensifies the already powerful state of apathy, indifference, passivity dominating us due to the feeling of despair ruling the world as the result of continuous firing of missiles of intimidation (quite explicitly under autocratic totalitarian regimes, and very subtly and implicitly under the democratic ones). We need this hope to shake us and bring us out of this passive, reactive state. And it is not about somebody from the 'other world' or an afterlife. It is available immediately and directly by referring to our heart and see that what is helping it to continue beating in this inhuman world is the love we feel for our beloveds and the love they feel for us. And it is enough to go to the window and open it to smell that thin international current of love dancing in the air, calling us all to breathe and invigorate it by our loving breathes.

This is another special remedy for those suffering from the Idealist Intellectual Syndrome.

... Payvand News - 1/24/05 ... --

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