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By Atul Mishra
Can it be asserted that existentialism is an ancient philosophy, or is it really a modern concept? Is the essence of existentialism a western philosophical thought?
Albert Camus’ words in The Myth of Sisyphus-“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide” nails the existential disposition. The purpose of human existence comes down to this statement. Existential philosophers say that those who realize the absurdity of life in their ennui also realize the importance of ‘individual’ and freedom. And that’s Camus’ argument in its dregs- that life’s absurdity and meaninglessness become all the more reason to accept it and live it fully, and that we must imagine Sisyphus happy.
When we think of existentialism, the names that come across our minds are Camus, Sartre, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard is considered the father of existentialism. According to Kierkegaard, angst and existential despair appears when an inherited or borrowed world-view (what modernists now call ‘a collective conscious’) proves unable to handle the unexpected and extreme life-experiences that are personal (personal conscious). Nietzsche extended this view to suggest that the so-called Death of God -the loss of collective faith in religion and traditional morality – created a more widespread existential crisis for the philosophically aware. Sartre’s “Existence precedes Essence” theory defines the human nature and its localized and changing power, and that because existence precedes the being, an individual is bound to be free.
The existential philosophy can be surmised as- because life is absurd we must live it happily and do our duties, and that’s what gives a man an over-reaching quality and freedom (Nietzsche’s ubermensch, the over man). Existentialism has had many proponents in 19th and 20th centuries but on tracing the itinerary of Indian philosophy it’s found that roots of existentialism can be found in many Indian classical texts and philosophers as well.
The concept of self and the epistemological position that an individual possesses, which philosophers like Kant,Husserl, Nietzsche and Camus talked of have been maintained profoundly in Indian Philosophies of Bhagvad Gita, Buddha and in the modern teachings of Radhakrishnan.
For instance, when Arjun went through a personal crisis before the battle, Krishna’s words, etched with a fervor of existentialism came as a solution to his problems.
If The Myth of Sisyphus having drawn from Greek mythology can be seen as a solution to existential dilemma, then very similarly Andy Fraenkel’s Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest is a perfect example showcasing how the magnum opus Hindu mythology is an eternal solution to existential crisis borne by a majority of us these days.
Speaking to the Elephant Journal he said-
“The dharma is the essence of all sacred teachings. When we understand the dharma we can live a life of wellness. We have lost sight of the dharma. Understanding the dharma is pivotal to what Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest is all about.”
The teachings of Buddha and Krishna have analogies to Nietzsche’s “ubermensch” theory. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche asks, “What is the greatest experience you can have? It is the hour of the great contempt. The hour when your happiness, too, arouses your disgust, and even your reason and your virtue.” Shades and echoes of this philosophical ideology (while speaking of the transgressing power of an individual) is replicated in Buddha’s life where he abandons everything and achieves the greatest experience that Zarathustra here is talking about. A stark analogy between Nietzsche and Buddha is that they both begin from a common notion about the nature of the world and the human condition.
These commonalities have to do with their epistemological views and their nihilistic attitudes toward metaphysical issues. A dialogue in the Sutta-Nipata presents the Buddha responding as follows to an enquiry on metaphysical theories- ‘Apart from consciousness’, he says, ‘no divers truths exist. Mere sophistry declares this ‘true’ and that view ‘false’.’ A similar notion appears in Nietzsche’s Will to Power:
‘Judging is our oldest faith; it is our habit of believing this to be true or false, of asserting or denying, our certainty that something is thus and not otherwise, our belief that we really ‘know’ what is believed to be true in all judgments?’
Even the Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya defines so much about the ontology and epistemology of the existence of human beings. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan reinterpreted Advaita Vedanta and found similarities in its theories with the thinking of existential philosophers. Both Radhakrishnan and the existentialists emphasize on the immense potentialities of an individual. Radhakrishnan maintains that man must be transformed and transmuted to a higher level of existence in course of evolution. Man’s greatness is not in what, he is but in what he can be, is what Radhakrishnan says, exactly like the ideology of Jean Paul Sartre who proposes-“it-is-what-it-is-not and that it is not what-it-is.” Man exists and makes himself develop into what he wants to be.
High drama was witnessed in Kanpur Dehat for over an hour when a man, upset over his wife's alleged affair with a local man, climbed the tower with his children and threatened to commit suicide. The incident took place on Monday near Gandhi Nagar in Akbarpur, when the man threatened to commit suicide after throwing his kids down from a height of nearly 40-feet. Chaos prevailed around the area and the locals informed the police that rushed to the spot.
After about half-an-hour of convincing, the police managed to bring him and his children down. The man told the police that his wife's affair was going on with his neighbor. He had complained to the police, but no action was taken. Police said that as per the man, his wife had developed an illicit relationship with a man, living nearby their house. "As per the man, in his absence, his neighbor visited his house often. He said that he had reprimanded his neighbor many times, but to no avail," said the police.
The man had complained to the police, but no action was taken. | Pixabay
The man had also lodged a complaint with the police but no action was taken. On the other hand, Akbarpur police said that on the basis of the complaint, action for breach of peace has been taken against the neighbor accused of luring his wife. Circle officer (CO) Akbarpur Arun Kumar said that the police are trying to sort out the issue. "Whatever action is appropriate will be taken," the official added. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, man, wife, alleged, affair, children, India, police, neighbor, complaint, suicide, accuse, drama.)
The US forces continued their bombardment of buildings and institutions in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province, as part of their alleged manhunt of Islamic State (IS) fugitives, state news agency SANA reported. The US forces are shelling buildings and public institutions on Tuesday in the vicinity of the Sina'a prison in the Gweiran neighborhood in Hasakah "on the pretext of hunting down IS militants who fled the prison," said SANA.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry has slammed the US airstrikes as civilian casualties have been reported. | Wikimedia Commons
The shelling came in tandem with waves of raids by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to homes in the surrounding areas, rounding up many civilians and taking them to unknown locations, the state news agency added. On January 20, IS inmates inside the Sina'a prison, which is controlled by the SDF, started a riot that was coordinated with IS militants from outside, who detonated the prison's gates with two booby-trapped vehicles, succeeding to free some prisoners.
The incident triggered clashes between IS and the SDF as well as US airstrikes on the areas, where the IS fugitives could have sought shelter in, Xinhua news agency reported. The clashes and airstrikes are still ongoing as the SDF has so far failed to contain the situation and storm the prison. The Syrian Foreign Ministry has slammed the US airstrikes as civilian casualties have been reported. Hasakah province is largely controlled by the US-backed SDF, while certain areas, particularly in the city of Qamishli, are still under the control of the Syrian government. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: US forces, shelling, bombarding, syria, islamic state, civilian casualties, qamishli, tandem, syrian democratic forces)
The circulating avian influenza outbreaks, including in India, do not seem to pose the 'high' risk but surveillance and biosecurity measures are necessary to reduce spillover risk between poultry and wild birds, a UN-backed scientific task force said. Throughout the past autumn and current winter in the northern hemisphere, multiple avian influenza outbreaks, caused predominantly by the H5N1 HPAI virus, plus other subtypes, including H5N8, have occurred in India, the UK, the Netherlands and Israel with the ever recorded mortality of the Svalbard barnacle geese in Solway Coast.
The Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds, co-convened by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), on Monday recommended that surveillance and biosecurity measures are reinforced to reduce spillover risk between poultry and wild birds. The Task Force has convened and produced recommendations and guidance for authorities and managers of countries affected or at risk. Wild birds, including globally threatened species, are victims of HPAI viruses causing avian influenza. Affected sites also include areas of international relevance for conservation such as protected wetlands.
More than 2,400 migratory water birds died in the Pong wetlands in Himachal last year because of avian influenza. | Unsplash
It is essential that authorities with responsibility for animal health apply the One Health approach for communicating and addressing avian influenza. That means recognising the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment and acting with a coordinated and unified approach. The Task Force reminds authorities of their international obligations to ensure their response to the pathogenic virus does not include the culling of wild birds, nor actions that would cause damage to natural ecosystems, especially wetlands.
Ruth Cromie, who coordinated the work of the Task Force and the production of the statement, said: "Avian influenza represents a One Health issue threatening health across the board. The highly pathogenic viruses are still relatively new in wild birds and this winter's high levels of mortality remind us of their vulnerability and that working to promote healthy wildlife benefits us all." H5N1 is currently the avian influenza lineage most found in Africa and Eurasia in both poultry and wild birds. The wide range of wild birds affected include wildfowl, waders, gulls, cranes, grebes, herons, pelicans, gamebirds, corvids and raptors (diurnal and nocturnal), in addition to sporadic cases in mammals such as red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) and harbor Phoca vitulina and grey seal Halichoerus grypus.
Consider occupational exposure, e.g. those working on poultry culling operations. | Unsplash
In terms of human health, the currently circulating H5N1 HPAI viruses do not seem to pose the same zoonotic risk as the 'original' Asian lineage H5N1 (clade 2.2 and their derivatives plus clade 18.104.22.168b H5N6 viruses currently in China). In general, the risk can be considered low, recognising that some agencies now consider occupational exposure, e.g. those working on poultry culling operations, as low or moderate. In India, several instances of bird flu were reported in 2021. More than 2,400 migratory water birds, and almost half of them being endangered bar-headed goose, died in the Pong wetlands in Himachal Pradesh last year and that avian influenza (H5N1) was the cause.
Besides the bar-headed goose, the other species that died were the shoveler, the river tern, the pochard and the common teal. An 11-year-old boy died at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi last year due to avian influenza, country's first fatality. India reported the first outbreak of avian influenza in 2006. RSPB Scotland is calling for an emergency local moratorium restricting shooting on the Solway for the rest of the wildfowling season. It calls for urgent action to reduce the devastating impacts of avian influenza. New statistics from the most recent counts show that the UK is this winter experiencing the worst outbreak of this deadly disease on record, with migratory geese which 'over winter' on the Solway being the hardest hit.
According to RSPB Scotland, the latest population counts of the Svalbard barnacle goose show a drop in numbers from 43,703 in November last year to 27,133 in this month's count. This represents a decline of 38 per cent in the Svalbard breeding population of this species from winter 2020-21. CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel said: "Through late 2021 and early 2022 there have been numerous outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, with severe impacts on migratory birds. "The CMS Secretariat responded by convening the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds together with the FAO. We are pleased to share its advice and key recommendations for countries affected or at risk, and look forward to continuing our collaborative work to minimize risks to humans, poultry and wild populations of migratory birds." (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : avian, influenza, surveillance, United Nation, scientists, breeding, population, birds, affected, countries, poultry, migratory, health, issue, virus, responsibility, international, ecosystem.)