What if human don’t die?

You know why the gods envy us, Brat Pitt asks Rose Byrn in Troy. He then answers the question himself: Because we are mortal. The gods are immortal and they are jealous of our mortality. Pitt plays Achilles, who pursues people like death even as he is haunted by the dark shadows of the dead. He goes on to say, In my dreams, I see the men I have killed. They are all waiting for me on the other side of the river. For Achilles, there was only one certainty in life: Death. Not god, not faith, not love. Just death. It was death that gave meaning to his life. He could become immortal by putting others to death. Never mind what Pitt said of the character he played, but it was Achilles who was actually envious of the gods, on account of their immortality.

From ancient times, men have tried to cheat death. This gave rise to various religions and myths. But death has been smarter than us. Humans have not been able to achieve immortality. Not yet. But we may be moving closer to it, if scientists like the American Ray Kurzweil are to be believed.

Kurzweil recently claimed that humans could become immortal in as little as 20 years time through nanotechnology and an increased understanding of how the body works. Calling his theory the Law of Accelerating Returns , Kurzweil claims that soon we will have the means to reprogramme our bodies’ stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse , ageing. Then nanotechnology will let us live for ever. Many prominent scientists support Kurzweils claim.

In Kurzweils brave new world, human beings will evolve into cyborgs and small machines planted in their bodies will carry out vital functions. Kurzweil says nanobots, which are a thousand times more effective, will replace our organs, making us immortal.

This means that the idea of death would forever be dead. In a world where imeless people live in a timeless zone, what will happen to all the faiths which connect human life, death and soul with god As humans play god, what would happen to the idea of god What about nirvana (freedom from the cycle of death and birth) What about moksha (salvation from death). What will give meaning to human life when the fear of death ceases to exist How will a cyborg keep his superfast mind occupied A cyborg would be able to write a book in a few minutes. He wouldnt need any meditation to recharge his mind. Of course, he would be able to drink and smoke without any fear of cancer or clogged arteries. Would there be any place for god, religion, spiritual philosophies in this kind of world.

A new book, The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures, by Nicholas Wade, argues that people have a genetic urge to worship. Wade says that the instinct is engraved in the brains neural circuits because of the tremendous advantage religion conferred on early societies. Therefore, he says, the extent to which people practice religion in modern states may wax and wane, depending on social circumstances like war or privation, but religion is unlikely to disappear entirely.

Wades argument is that religion , like music appreciation, is a universal human faculty that draws people together, stirs their emotions and exalts the mind to a different plane . In that sense, religion goes beyond the questions of life, death and soul. So, if in the past, religious behavior evolved merely to further the survival of human societies, we may now see the birth of new godless religions and philosophies.

Though the cyborg age may sound like something dreamt up by science fiction, artificial pancreas and neural implants are already available. In Cyborg Citizen : Politics in the Posthuman Age, author Chris Hables Gray predicts healthcare, social interaction and politics in the age of prosthetic limbs, artificial organs and performance-enhancing drugs. In Grays world, cyborgs are not some kind of freak but normal human beings who will pay taxes like you and me . He calls them the new normal .

In this respect, at least he is right. Although the new normal will have one advantage over us, namely freedom from death, tomorrows society will still be paying taxes!

Are you a good human being?

Am I really good? Have you ever asked this question to yourself? Basically, a good human being is one who wouldn’t harm others and if possible, would go out of the way to help someone.

Is that good enough? Or, does one need to apply more stringent, rigid standards? In a book called “The Difficulty of Being Good” – By Gurcharan Das. He has examined the Mahabharata through an analysis of the one predominant characteristics – good or bad – of each of the epic’s characters. What is heartening is that all good characters in the epic seem confused too, at some point or other.

Yudhishthira is convinced he cannot declare war against his elders and brothers, but still does so; Arjuna is dead against killing his grandfather, his teacher and an unarmed Karna, and yet does it; Bhishma is goodness personified, but he doesn’t try to stop his grandchildren from attempting to disrobe the hapless Draupadi in court. He also leads the armies of one set of grandchildren against another!

Who can deny Lord Krishna’s goodness? and yet, at times we question the advice he gave Arjuna that let to the killing of his grandfather Bhishma, his teacher Drona and his brother Karna! Goodness, it seems, is confusing.

The goody-goody characters on television confound the confusion. They are so good, so pure, so butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth that they are not just unbelievable, but actually irritating! They suffer vicissitudes and insults with never a word against those who persecute them. Their ‘nobility’ makes you squirm in your seat.

Now, why should goodness irritate? But truth is that too big a shot of goodness does arouse discomfort! All of us know at least one friend, aunt, cousin, or even our parent or sibling who irriate with their saccharine goodness or obsession of self-sacrifice! They are so good that they seem Divine! Such people are an anachronism in today’s world! They set such high standards that they make us feel inadequate.

Mahabharata too has its moments of irritating goodness. Yudhisthira is calm and unmoved during the period of exile as Draupadi’s temper blazes. “Why be good?” she asks and “Why doesn’t your anger blaze?” His goodness at that point is irritating to his beloved wife and brothers, as enumerated by Gurcharan Das.

The Mahabharata reminds us once again about the difficulty of being good.

Is it important to have some bit of vice because the bad instinct is inborn, a part of us? And goodness is the struggle against that instinct; we all achieve varying degrees of success and so are good in different ways. That’s human. And so Krishna is good, so are Yudhishthira and Arjuna. Their struggle against evil, their moments of weakness and their repentance make them so.

So then, are we saying that actually, it is the evil within us that makes us good? Just as without darkness, who would appreciate light? How can you be good if you have no shade of bad within you?