LIFE IS FOR LIVING by Surendra Narayan

Chapter 11: “Life is For Living”

The subject—Life is for Living—is apparently so self-explanatory and self-evident that it hardly seems to need any explanation or comment. One may ask: If life is not meant for living, what is it meant for? What are we here in this world for, if not for living?

Let us pause and consider for a while whether the answer is so obvious and universally acceptable in practice and that too in respect of life in all its forms. We are generally so selfish and so self-centered that as one puts the question –is life for living? –we at once think only of ourselves. But, is life relevant only to the human species? Surely, the birds, the deer, the lion and all others in that kingdom of nature have as much right to live as we have for ourselves. Look at the beauty and grace of a deer romping about joyously in the forest or in the glade and then think of the heartless shot of the “sportsman” that suddenly kills it. Is it sport? Is man really being “sporting” in doing so? As somebody exclaimed when he saw boys throwing stones at frogs in a pond: “Children throw stones at frogs in sport; but the frogs die not in sport but in agony and in earnest.” Beautiful birds migrate from Siberia and settle for the winter on a warm sanctuary in the southern world. Nature reveals itself in all its glory and joy in them; but it breaks one’s heart to hear gunshots fired at them sometimes by fun-loving marksmen! What about furs and fineries in dress? The softer the fur—because it once belonged to the kid of an animal, and that is why it is softer—the more we are prepared to pay for it and display it the more proudly.

The avoidable cruelties inflicted on animals in vivisection—in the name of research—are another example of our denial of the right to live to our younger brothers. Man believes himself to be the center and the lord of this universe and that everything else exists only for him—hi survival, his needs, his enjoyment. That, however, is a total breach of the trust, for like a ruler’s responsibility towards his subjects, man’s overlordship is surely meant for taking care of those whom he overlords; not for their destruction and exploitation to subserve his own selfish ends.

Let alone birds and animals, does man so obviously recognize the maxim that life is for living even in the human kingdom? History is replete with examples of killings and tortures—in the name of religion, in the name of belief in a particular doctrine or even faith in a particular view of the world. We read of holy wars and “religious wars:–what a travesty of religion! But why think only of the past? Man does not seem to be very much better in this regard even now! Only perhaps the concepts have changed, taken a different form. Not that there are now no more killings in the name of religion or race or faith. But our readiness to destroy mankind has been put on a different—supposedly higher—pedestal, that of economic and social ideologies, and for that purpose we create corresponding spheres of influence which seem to be necessary for thrusting those ideologies down other nations’ throats. Countries are arming themselves to the teeth; each vying with the other in acquiring more and more sophistication in deadliness!

Manufacture of deadly weapons of mass destruction is a big, booming industry on which the economy of many countries thrives and the economy of the others shatters in the process of spending to acquire such weapons at the cost of denying the basic needs to its poor citizens. They call it “balance of power” or deterrence by threat of destruction; but in the process man lives in perpetual fear of annihilation!