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International Academy of Ethics.

This seemingly very simple sentence, ‘to be or not to be’ carries a deceptive simplicity. The speaker/author appears to have carved out a situation for a character in which he is forced to decide in favour of a situation or against it. It is a matter of extremes that the author has unfolded here. To be is an extreme situation, which has been conflicted with ‘not to be’ which is on the other extreme. It is a situation in which a man is divided within himself. And this line signifies there are only two options. To be or not to be.

Such cutting edge situations develop in our lives when men are produced before kings and asked a life and death question, as was put to the great Guru Tegh Bahadur sahib, the 9th Guru of Sikhs, by Aurangzeb: Accept Islam, or be ready to die.

This was an apocalyptic moment in which a decision had to be taken, to be or not to be.

And here, to be was an act of extreme disgrace, and not to be an act of great sacrifice and love for truth and beauty of being.

The Guru was great and he cleared this examination in a way which was no easy option. He chose ‘Not to Be’. And the result is the Sikh religion is here, and the Hindu religion has survived the onslaught of Islam. That is why the Guru is called ‘Hind Di Chadar’ [The Covering Sheet of Hindustan] who saved it from disgrace.

‘To be’ at the surface, appears to be a choice in which a man decides to live somehow, and if he does not take the settled route, it could lead to his extinction [not to be]. That is an existential way of looking at it. We are referring to bare survival. The animal instinct to remain alive, by killing those who threaten you. Or, by living on the lesser fish. This is the final lesson of survival, and this is the way the world has been going on. The poor have to survive, and at what cost? They do not bother about the costs. Whether it is morals, body, mind, or soul, - they barter away everything for a few morsels which keep them going.

Let us move a bit further in this discussion. Parents give away their time, work day and night, keep busy, keep awake to fulfil the dreams of their off spring. This too is living on the edge. In this world where there is no dearth of provisions, [got to a Mall and see how things are available in plenty], and it appears life is just wonderful, you find it is not so wonderful. The house which, there was a time when it could be run with the salary of one person, cannot be run even when both the husband and wife work in their offices. The ceiling above and the floor below are mortgaged to the banks. The kitchen keeps waiting for them all the day. They have everything but not a penny in their pockets. Everything has flown to the bank. Yes, credit card. It gives me a creepy feeling that we are using the credit card of life. We are living on credit, whereas the means of living which we could easily generate, have gone out of stock.

This is ‘to be’. To be alive somehow. At all conditions. All costs.

Don’t you think ‘to be’ involves a huge compromise. And our men in general have no other choice. They are not bold enough to fight it out trying to live on their own terms. Living somehow, surviving at any rate, is one form of ‘to be’.

Another form of ‘to be’ is to exist with all your force of being and authenticity. Here it is no compromise. And here lurks the danger of extinction too. If you assert yourself, and try to live the way you are, a young man will have to leave his parents, and a young girl may have to elope with her lover to set up a home later, and a wife may endanger her marriage, if she asserts too much.

From this it emerges that there are some people who take extreme sides, survive on their own terms, but there is a majority of people who fail to assert their humanity. They try to follow the path of compromise. It is the path which falls between ‘to be’ and ‘not to be’. The path which has no danger. The path of safety. The path of the faceless crowd. The path of the followers. This is not the domain where leaders of the masses are produced. I am not talking of political leaders. Survival in their case is a graceless activity.

In fact, for an ordinary person, surviving is a challenging task. If they are alive, it is no mean accomplishment . It hardly matters how. This is the scale on which most of our people live. And, this makes them harmless multitudes, who are themselves living on the edge. How can they be a threat to any dispensation?

The question of being [to be] has been made so difficult that people are forced into compromises, if they want to escape extinction [not to be]. Hamlet, who was torn between the two extremes, is a lost soul. So are we lost souls, who do not possess the courage to strike. To clinch the issues. To identify ourselves with the urge of life. But we are given to philosophizing and lack decisive action which takes us towards a life lacking conviction. The dangling mind represents the modern proclivity of indecision, but it also points to man’s failure to react with conviction to situations that life forces upon him.

Philosophy takes life into those realms where we try to milk ideas and come to impossible decisions, which are mostly impracticable. Only in novels we find protagonists living out their philosophies. In real life, philosophy takes the back seat, and what drives the chariot is not ‘Chana’, but expediency. Ordinary men are not Arjunas, nor is their charioteer, the Lord Himself. We are very ordinary people, but as the times are fast running into timelessness, we are caught up in situations which might turn epical.

To be or not to be provides options. But we are moving towards a situation in which we shall soon find ourselves optionless. In order ‘to be’, [survive], we shall have to click on the other option ‘not to be’ [die as human beings gracelessly]. This is the equation which defines the human being today. In order somehow to live, he has compromised with the highest forms of manhood. Grace is missing from our lives. And the most shocking state of affairs is this: We do not realize it. We are in a state of stupor. We do not know what is happening to us, and finally, what we are doing to ourselves.

Dr. Jernail Singh Anand, the author of 155 plus books, is the recipient of the Charter of Morava, the highest Serbian International Award in Creativity, at the 60th Belgrade International Writers Meeting . His name was engraved in the Poets' Rock in Serbia, a rare honour for an Indian author. He already holds The Franz Kafka Literature Prize, Maxim Gorky International Literary Award, Cross of Peace, and Cross of Literature (Italy) awards.

Dr Anand is Founder Chairperson of the International Academy of Ethics, and an Honorary  Member of the Association of Serbian Writers, Belgrade. He is Prof Emeritus in Indian Literature at The European Institute of the Roma Studies and Research Belgrade. Dr Anand is credited with the theory of Bio-text (critical theory). His work has been translated into more than twenty world languages. Author of 9 epics which are regarded as modern classics, Anand has organized 5 International Literary Conferences.

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