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THE EVILS OF POWER
In the history of man's civilisation, millions of human beings have died unnecessarily through wars, famine and diseases. Ever since man came to inhabit this earth, he had shown himself as a unique creature capable of inventing many things and thereby established the fact that he alone is the supreme master of the world. Thus far he has succeeded, but not contented with such achievements, he has constructed abominable machines of destruction which at the merest touch of a button would be enough to annihilate all forms of life inhabiting this earth. This terrible danger (which is threatening mankind today) can be averted if, and only if, those countries possessing such horrible weapons are sensible enough to destroy them completely. We can only pray and hope that they realise the futility of challenging each other with weapons capable of mass destruction. At any time, Russia or America may begin the first step towards the annihilation of mankind, namely, the Third World War - such is the evil of Nuclear Power wrongly and willfully applied.
Every man, woman and child is born free and equal in this world. Early history tells us that the Romans and Egyptians have ignored this basic principle of equality. They compelled slaves to toil for them, and many of them died of starvation, torture and cruelty. Why must the gallant patriots of a conquered country be enslaved by their victors? The conquerors were powerful and misused their power to enslave their fellow beings. Power in the wrong hands has caused untold miseries to mankind - and yet man is the most civilised and intelligent species on this earth.
The absolute monarchy of Louis XVI (during the later part of the 18th century) was so corrupt that the people revolted. The government had misused its power over the peasants whom it had oppressed to such an extent that it resulted in the French Revolution. During the French Revolution, thousands were executed without proper trial and all Europe protested against this grievous misuse of power by the revolutionary leaders.
However, these deaths were a mere fraction of those who died in vain for Napoleon Bonaparte's climb to power in dominating Europe. Not satisfied with being the Emperor of France and the overlord of Europe, he wanted to conquer Russia. He failed in this attempt and the retreat from Moscow was one of the greatest tragedies in the history of wars. In the freezing cold of the Russian winter, 400,000 out of 600,000 men perished. Here was a man who, through his love for power, wiped out hundreds of thousands of men in their prime of life. As History often repeats itself, it becomes evident that possession of absolute power is evil because it is easily abused.
World Wars are the quickest and most atrocious way of decimating the human population. Between 1914-1945 two disastrous wars have come about at the cost of millions of innocent lives.
Germany had a power-crazy dictator, Hitler, who started World War II with his ally, Mussolini, who was also drunk with power. Such power-mad countries like Germany, Italy, and Japan terrorised the world with their merciless ways of persuading the conquered countries to co-operate with them. We, Malayans, had also experienced the terrors of the Japanese Occupation period when thousands of our countrymen were beheaded, tortured and reported "missing". This is further proof to the evils of power leading to world-wide disaster.
Our world is in great danger today. Many countries possess enough nuclear bombs to smash our earth to smithereens. It is this danger that compels the countries to inaugurate a common government called the United Nations. The task of the United Nations is to maintain peace and order on this earth. Now, nearly all monarchs are constitutional heads, and governments are usually democratic in nature. Even with all these safe-guards against total human annihilation we are still living in a nightmare of a probable Third World War, which will be a nuclear war of complete destruction.
Such are the evils of power if abused and misapplied by an unscrupulous individual or a strictly totalitarian government.
The medium of advertisement is important enough to merit comment by two eminent people recently. Mr. Ungku Aziz of the University of Malaya, addressing the Seminar of Asian Women deprecated the practice of suggestive advertisement, and Mr. Pandit Nehru advised the advertising profession to use its powerful medium for the good of society. "It was a frightening prospect," the latter commented, "that the advertising business had perfected devices which would by-pass the mind, go to the subconscious and produce reactions without mental analysis."
Striking a humorous note, Mr. Nehru said that "the advertiser's job was to persuade that a thing, totally unnecessary was very necessary," or, in other words, to create a need when there was none. In the commercial world, only goods which are utilitarian and have a potential trade value are manufactured and the aim of advertisements is to boost the sales.
Advertisements can be classified under three main categories namely, audible, audio-visual and visual. Commercial radio programmes would come under the first category, namely, the audible. This is a powerful medium reaching thousands of listeners in their homes. This is big business in America, with individual radio corporations and international hook-ups. Singapore has recently entered the field of commercial radio programmes thus emulating Ceylon. Commercial television and the screening of small films and slides preceding feature films in the cinemas would come under the audio-visual category of advertisements. The popularity of Commercial television seems to be on the wane, as in the latest T. V. sets, there is a gadget that turns off the set when commercial programmes come on view. Many films-goers are of the opinion that advertisements are necessary evils to be endured, though variations of the theme - "saya lupa" of a popular brand of hair cream is brought into day to day conversation by a lot of people.
Due to the technical nature of the audible and audiovisual advertisements, their application is of necessity circumscribed and the visual medium is the most popular and widespread. It is the visual medium which gives most scope to the talents and imagination of the advertiser. Open any newspaper or magazine and you will find it loaded with advertisements, which to a certain extent is the life-blood of these papers.
Big industrial concerns may have their own advertising sections, but advertising agencies cover the needs of the rest. The artifice employed by the advertiser is to arrest the attention of that reader and to rouse his curiosity to find out what it is all about. For this, beautiful pictures, amusing cartoons, snappy dialogues and such like are used. They run the whole scale, from the hyperbole to the plain unvarnished facts. There is the advertiser who, by the very contrariness of his advertisements, makes the grade. The second-hand car-dealer, who claims that all his stock are old crocks, and paints them in the blackest of colours is often to steal a march on his rivals who aspire for things that they do not possess. There is the apocryphal story of the likeable rascal who advertised that his Himalayan beauty-aid would make the dark-skinned fair, if applied with faith. See the escape clause - if applied with faith? How he must have laughed at the gullibility of the human race when he raked in the shekels. The sovereign remedy for bed bugs for the outlay of fifty cents turned out to be a needle and two stones attractively packed, with instructions for the operation. The instructions were to impale the bug with the needle and crush them with the two stones. You do get these charlatans in every trade. The advertiser with the guarantee of class products, his firm's reputation and tradition is on an easy wicket.
We are all familiar with advertisements of girls clad in scanty form-revealing dresses, with hordes of young men in attendance, all because she is using a certain brand of beauty-aid, perfume or foundation dress. It is in this deification of sex and conquest of man that the mischief of these advertisements lie and that is what should be toned down to keep these advertisements healthy and safe for Asian girls.
THIS IS THE CHANGING WORLD
Who could have sat down and pondered the striking changes that had taken place within the space of these last ten decades? It is really remarkable to note that in just only the later half of these years, Man who is by nature, a creature seeking to fulfil his needs to be superior among the beasts of the world, has dominated the world from Mother Nature. He has destroyed some of the beauties of nature in order that he can pave his way on the road to progress. He has utilized the forces of Nature, air, water and so on to facilitate his working conditions, and what is more, he has established himself as unrivalled among the other animals. Yet some of them are greater than he in size, and among them he is as defenceless as a deer in the vicinity of a lion. How then could he have survived the struggle of Life, and even be the master of all the animals? The answer therefore lies plainly in the INTELLIGENCE. Yes, it is his intelligence that has made him what he now is.
Years ago, back to the time when there were no such inventions as we have today, and which were only dreams to the contemporaries, the people were quite content with what they had in hand, but some of them, those born with a mind of new ideas, and whose names now live on a result of their laborious but fruitful works, turned the dreams of the impossible into realities. They worked through the hours searching for materials until they suceeded in their discoveries and inventions. They did not keep their secrets to themselves, but passed them on to others instead. In this way, their scientific works were not selfishly kept for their own purposes but for the benefit of Mankind. Nowadays when we talk over a telephone, for instance, ride in a motor-car or in a train powered by a steam engine, we do not often realise that they were the results of intensive and pains-taking works of these people to whom we should owe our gratitude.
Even in this modern or so-called Atomic age, civilized and belligerent nations are in a lust for power like times of old. To gain what they want, they indulge in small wars with neighbouring and otherwise peaceful countries as a step toward world supremacy. When these small wars flare up into bigger ones eventually, in which the whole world will be plunged into chaos like the two former world wars, a heavy loss of lives will not only be inflicted upon the nations which had been attacked but also upon the aggressors.
It would have been better therefore to see them help in eliminating this anachronism and help to restore peace and order throughout the world. Fortunately there are some countries who are just as anxious for peace as some are for war, and they have prevented war-faring nations from drifting into another disastrous world war that might even wipe out Mankind itself.
However, Man has progressed so much these days that he has even turned his attention to and beyond outer space. He has sent first a satellite into orbit round the earth, then a 'miniature zoo', and has succeeded in sending a man into the realm of space. What the results will be, will be left for Fate to decide. But we should not be sitting idly by, waiting for the results. Instead we should do our bit and contribute our services in the interest of Mankind. This is what we, as citizens of the world should do in this changing world...
"Well, son," the father said, "your brother is going abroad tomorrow and I hope that will stop him and you from getting into any mischief. He is going to America to study." He paused, then continued with tears in his eyes, "Your brother is older than you and wiser, yet you two are always quarrelling. He is a fine boy and your mother and I will both miss him, but, although I know he likes you, I doubt you will miss him. I don't know why you two can't seem to get along." He sighed, stopped and looked at the boy, who sat expressionless; but there was sadness in his eyes. The brothers had seldom expressed their affection for each other, and now, he detected a glimpse of affection in the boy's eyes. The boy seemed to sense his father's scrutiny and turned his eyes away. Sensing that the boy wanted to be left alone, the father left the room.
For a long time the boy sat silently, staring at the closed door. The fact that he would not see his brother for a long time again, gave him a choking feeling which he found hard to express, and that feeling brought tears to his eyes. He realized now that he liked his brother more than he or anyone else thought he did. He did not show his feelings the following morning, and spoke to his brother as he had always done before. The day passed quietly and quickly. Each one of them seemed depressed. Then the hour of departure arrived and rather reluctantly they prepared to go to the airport.
The place was swarming with friends and relatives and the brothers had no chance to speak to each other. Finally just before he boarded the plane, the elder brother spoke to his younger brother. For a moment, the brothers looked at each other, each unwilling to express his feelings for the other, yet both knew that they would miss each other very much. They both stood there staring at each other oblivious of the world around them, lost in a world of their own. Finally, the elder brother said goodbye. For a few seconds the younger brother did not reply, his pride preventing him from saying what he wanted to say, but his eyes conveyed all his emotions to the elder brother. Then, in a whisper he said, "Goodbye." He watched silently as his brother walked towards the plane, that familiar figure, and wondered if he would ever see his brother again. The elder brother stopped at the door of the plane and looked back. The brothers' eyes met briefly for the last time. The door of the plane closed. Suddenly the younger brother had a vision, in place of the plane was a huge coffin which trapped his brother inside, at the same time a cold feeling of horror swept over him. Then the vision was gone. Beside him his mother was crying but his sorrows were greater than hers, for sufferings are greater if endured silently than those which are expressed outwardly.
The plane sped down the runway, slowly but surely it rose from the ground. Soon it was but a speck in the sky, which disappeared in the distant clouds.
That night, far out in the ocean, the crew of a lone fishing vessel, sat idly staring at the skies when their attention was drawn to the sound of the droning of a plane's engines as it drew nearer. Suddenly a bright flash split the darkness of the sky, followed by a loud explosion and bits of flaming metal were scattered all over the sky. For a few minutes the horrified fishermen sat petrified, then they searched feverishly for survivors, but there was none.
In his room, the boy sat shocked as the radio announced the tragedy. He buried his head in his hands when the radio gave the flight number of the plane involved - it was his brother's plane. He did not even hope that there had been a mistake for even as he had seen the plane take off, he knew he would never see his brother alive again. He could see the haunting face of his brother in front of him and he knew life would now be meaningless. His resistance finally snapped and he gave way to his pent up emotions and sobbed bitterly.
Footsteps tramped wearily towards his room. His father had also heard the news and had come to break the news. His father's heart was heavy for he was sad over the loss of his son. He slowly opened the door and was about to speak when he saw his son crying bitterly. He knew that there would be no need to tell and he also knew that just when the boys had discovered their affection for each other they would be parted forever. Tears rolled from his eyes as he silently closed the door.
THE WORLD OF NIGHT
The last slanting rays of the sun are fast fading away; and with it the lofty Arch of Heaven, the rainbow. The ever-changing forms of the clouds roll swiftly across the darkening sky. As the sun sinks lower and lower behind the black outlines of the hills, the last swallows silhouetted against the streaks of light just above the horizon, veer for home. Thus, with a final unavailing show of defiance, the sun yields its domains to the Forces of Night. The death knell of another day is tolled.
But with the sunset, another world is born - the world of Night. Now is the time when the subjects of Night, the nocturnal creatures, spring to life. Now is the time of peace and rest for the followers of the sun; but for the creatures of night, there is no peace, and the struggle for survival has begun.
There will be many scenes of violence, and fights for the one thing common to them all, food, will be present. They will struggle blow for blow and life for life - all in darkness. There will be no mercy shown for one of the rules of Night is "Mercy will not be shown even to those who offer it".
Through the soft rustling of the leaves in the overhanging. branches swaying in the gentle breeze, an agonised cry of another victim in the jaws of a killer can be heard distinctly. Another shriek of fear from a field mouse in the claws of an owl soon follows. These cries are but the sounds to be expected at night. The victims, in the eyes of the killers, are but morsels of food, and the victims die "Unwept, Unhonoured, Unsung."
But in contrast to this scene, there is a scene of perfect calm above. The moon glides silently and smoothly across the sky with an occasional wisp of cloud sailing just as silently in front of her. The stars twinkle endlessly far, far beyond the clouds, and their twinkling seems to be sending messages to earth with their flashes.
Up there, it is a world of silence, perfect in peacefulness and calm; a world of heavenly sweetness, full of contentment...
CRIES OF INNOCENCE
Sweet conscience taught me love, and in beauty I found my peace what strange and distant arts, what fearful necromantic visions gave me this life I do not know. I shall never ask because there is pain in wisdom. To the end of my soft days spent in playful reveries, I shall live in fullness, sustained with love and blind to unhappiness which knowledge secures. I am empty but youthful, and the sacred spirit of age stirs within my heart to capture its gladness: and I weep in shame, for this joy is all my own and none shall touch it.
Sweet melodies lull my unrest and lay to sleep the cataclysmic fortunes of my soul; I know no ugliness; and troubles are mild dreams far away. How little I hear beyond these mystic chords and shimmerings of a million strings I do not know: nor do I wish to inquire for I was told once in my infancy that there are piteous things to be heard. As I float in aimless passage about this eternal lightness, I forget all but pleasantness and every moment is bliss.
Sweet friends brought vigour into my time, and in kindness I sought salvation; they told me incredible tales of a world wrought with suffering, which I understood not, and with bleakness and much displeasure. They are kind because they did not desire to enlighten this puerile form that I inhabited. From whence they came, so they related, men and women raved like those possessed: they had no music in their lives, but I could not comprehend, and sweet friends, they smiled.
Sweet freedom released me from wants, and I have all that I could wish for; what battles and dark intrigues in the name of liberty go on I do not know: I treasure my ignorance of uncherished frontiers and cruel depths. Nothing intervenes in my calmness which flows like the blue waters past a benign water lily. Today I shall visit the land of the mountain nymphs and rejoice to see them at play - O, what divine metaphysic is pervasive in my constitution that laughs forever I shall not know and I do not care. I am always glad with the world and my life is with the fairy land where I was born. Sweet sweetness is my soul.
THIS SCIENTIFIC ERA
We live in an era of tremendous technological progress, of rapid changes and vast innovations - an era of science. The store of knowledge acquired through the scientific method is so large that no man is now capable of comprehending all fields in a lifetime. With so much knowledge of physical phenomena mankind wields enormous unprecedented power over his environment.
The potentialities for accelerated advancement in all fields of human endeavour are present. We have the tools for freeing humanity from the oppressive forces of nature, for moulding a great civilisation and for realising a golden age of material and intellectual achievements. However there looms a tragic eventuality which will preclude all possibility of arriving at that golden age, or any other age. This is the holocaust of a nuclear war which in all likelihood will have no survivors.
Modern science has effectively reduced this world to a small place. No longer do we live our lives out independently in isolated pockets removed from foreign people. So easy is communication, so swift is travel that the repercussions of any individual's actions may not be confined to the domains of his town or country. Just as interaction between individuals in a complex society is plainly unavoidable, so now interaction between mutually interdependent peoples of different nations is increasingly ineluctable. Because present day societies are characterised by considerable (in many cases absolute) governmental control, every individual is greatly affected by the actions of the ruling circles, both local and foreign. If our civilisation is to endure, it is imperative that every responsible person realises the implication (that holds for him especially) that accompanies the decisions of the major powers in the world political arena. Nuclear weapons are so destructive that the formulation of international civic consciousness and the application of corrective humane action to prevent their use is urgent. This is particularly so in view of the precarious situation in which opposing camps wage terror to achieve their aims. The inability to resolve peacefully differences, incompatible interests, and conflicting ideologies is a crucial manifestation of the many flaws of our so-called civilised societies.
Religious influences have always been profound in the history of man who by nature is susceptible to the awe of the unknown. Science with the empirical nature of its approach has contributed to the forsaking of religion. The order of the day being rationality and the use of reason - modern man proves sceptical towards theological doctrines which have to be accepted on faith. He is repulsed by the seemingly ridiculous sacramental practices which cluster many religions. Influenced by the materialistic trends engendered by science he loses interest in the deeper meanings of the religious approach. Unfortunately, the rejection of unscientific dogma and sacramental practices has led in many instances to the total rejection of religion and its wealth of spiritual wisdom and inner truth. Man today is no longer prepared to strive for the nobler qualities and the higher realities of life. Not unnaturally the outcome is total religious bankruptcy and loss of emotional and mental stability. There is corresponding widespread fall in moral standard (especially in the industrialised nations of the west) and human values. An ubiquitous obsession with trivial pleasures and material gains prevails. These and other consequences have made modern man the emotional wreck that he is.
The scientific era is also an era of incongruities in the socio-economic field, and of strife in the political field, arising from attempts to redress the unbalance of opportunities. Emergent nationalism in Afro-Asia and elsewhere has led to the speedy relinquishment of power by several imperial nations. Independence has brought ceaseless struggle for power in the political vacuum of the young nations. Nation building has never been easy, a fact which newly independent countries are discovering to their cost. Nor can they look to the more advanced nations of the capitalist and communist blocs for guidance, for the political leadership in these blocs is blind to the realities of life in the twentieth century. For instance, it pursues ends, which if carried to the logical conclusion, will entail the clash of military might and subsequent carnage.
This - the scientific era - holds great promises if only we reconcile our partisan differences and see facts as objectively as science demands. If we fail to halt the trend of intimidation and terror the future we face is a dark and formless oblivion.
WHAT IS HISTORY?
Etymologically, the word 'History' is a derivative sense of a Greek word meaning 'to weave' and the association of the two ideas is probably due to the feeling of Greek historians that their task was to select the significant threads of events in order to weave a pattern; but it was the Greek historian, Thucydides, who first expounded the doctrine that if there is a pattern it must be prescribed by the events and not by any preconceptions of the historian.
History, in a wider sense, is all that has happened, not merely all the phenomena of human life, but those of the natural world as well. It includes everything that undergoes change. Briefly, history is termed the story of the past. It is not limited to a simple record of what is or believed to have occurred. More properly it is concerned to examine, analyse, and explain past events particularly in human affairs, and in the words of R. G. Collingwood, "to tell man what man is by telling him what man has done."
History began with the Greeks in the 5th century when they developed a reasoned approach to the past combined with an ability to analyse the cause, examine the effects, and, from the results, build up an account of past events. Since history is concerned to analyse and explain as well as to describe events of the past, it is impossible for it not to be coloured by the personality and mind of the Historians. A simple example such as the "Black Hole of Calcutta" incident is sufficient to support this point. An English historian said that the incident of 146 people being crammed into a room 18 ft. by 14 ft. 10 ins. with only one small window reflected the cruelty of the Indians; on the other hand, an Indian historian argued that a room 18 ft. by 14 ft. 10 ins. was unable to accommodate 146 people. Now, who is right? This is debatable. Again, only the earliest historians could attempt to record and discuss all events of which they had knowledge. Later historians must necessarily select those events they regard memorable, and the selection they make must be a matter of personal judgement.
The most clear-sighted historian will make allowances for his personal prejudices in his writing of history, but he will be the first to admit that history cannot be entirely free from bias. The standard of values which the historians applies to his study of the past is determined by the general, social, philosophical, religious and economic ideas of his age, either because he is in accord with the predominant thought of his time or he is in revolt against it. Thus, the history of the Jews in the Old Testament to the Marxist historian was the story of the growth of human thought and behaviour, that is, primarily, the story of the influence and effect upon man of his economic environment.
History is an art, a branch of creative literature, which seeks to recount the fortunes of man, having regard to the truth of what is said and to the artistic effectiveness of the story. There is of course good history and bad history, the degree of goodness or badness varying in proportion to the two factors of truth and beauty, but a writer must have some claim to be writing the truth and to be writing well if his work is to be considered as history at all.
There is also the science of history, in the sense that the historian seeks to know as well as to create. To discover what has happened in the past, to know where to look for the evidence, how to extract it and make it available, and how to evaluate it, is the scientific task of the historian. To present the evidence in a form that will give intellectual pleasure to others is the artistic task of the historian.
The value of history is above all else intrinsic. Like every other art it is of value for itself alone, regardless of any extrinsic utility it may have. The proof of this is the joy which men had in the telling and bearing of stories in the past from the very earliest times. Delight in history is often greatest in people who are still unlettered. History also acts as a vehicle for moral education. Men have always been urged to study history, to know how sinners perish and tyrants are destroyed. The cynics have used history to demonstrate the vanity of human wishes; the Victorian optimists used it to prove the inevitable virtuous progress. History is also used as a tool for the propagation of religion. St. Augustine of Hippo in his "City of God" made the greatest of all attempts to use man's history as the vehicle for illustrating the plan and purpose of God.
A study of history is valuable to the statesman and to the politically conscious citizen. It is found too, that a historical training is often a useful prelude to a career as a journalist, clergyman, economist, diplomat, administrator, social worker or civil servant. History too, provides a sound method of approach to the study of politics, economics and religion by adolescents. It is valuable as a means of developing both the sympathetic and critical faculties. It is often urged that some knowledge of history is useful to the scientist, the economist or the student of literature or philosophy, on the grounds that no science or art is static, and that therefore to understand it for what it is or for what it is tending to become, it is necessary to know how it became what it is. This is to acknowledge that every subject of study or field of activity has a history whether it be nuclear physics or local government and that history is in this sense universal.
To sum up, history, as far as we are concerned, is an account of the past, a narrative delivered in its true perspective, devoid of prejudice and written by an unbiased, clear-sighted, imaginative, and understanding, critical historian. It is therefore my firm opinion that history can never be perfect; but improvements can be made so that it can come as near as possible to perfection. History needs to be re-written from time to time and past events re-valued in the light of fresh developments and new ideas. In addition, advances in other branches of knowledge bring to the historians new means of discovering the facts of the past and suggest to him new methods of handling his sources. For instance, modern historians of ancient history are assisted in their knowledge of their subject by the field work of the archaeologists and more recently by the development of aerial photography, radiography and pollen analysis which have brought to light new facts about ancient settlements.
IS THERE A LIMIT TO SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS?
In trying to talk about this subject let us first have an idea of where we were and where we are. In referring to WE, I mean our ancestors, ourselves and probably our descendants. We were once living in an age of almost total ignorance when all or almost all of our actions were instinctive. Then with the utilization of our fortunate endowment of mental ingenuity we laboured through the ages, gained experience and applied it. In gaining experience and applying it sensibly we began Science.
From the rubbing of sticks we went on to knock flints; from flints to better flints and from better flints to matches. Then we decided to flick switches and to press buttons.
From stones we went on to spears; from bows and arrows and slings to guns and cannons; from cannons we went on to bombs and from bombs to atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs, cobalt bombs and probably will go on to the brick again.
Then consider our progress from muscles to water and wind; to steam and gasoline; to electricity and atomic energy and solar energy. And so on we progressed in various fields - scientifically, i.e. experiencing, learning and applying.
Now we know where we stand in the History of Science. This is a great age, an age so great it has to have a few names - the atomic age, the synthetic age, the age of rockets and sputniks and whatever you know of (perhaps the age of beatniks).
Yes, we cannot doubt that we have progressed a lot scientifically. Let us not try to give all sorts of definitions for PROGRESS. PROGRESS is only relative in meaning. We cannot doubt that we know a lot - although this statement must be made only comparative to what we at one time didn't know - i.e. almost everything. If this is only comparative in meaning perhaps there will be a time when people will know a lot more compared to the amount (if we may say so) that we already know and will have progressed still more.
If so, what after that? After all time is infinite - (by the way will some more intelligent person define "time"?).
The great scientific outburst of the seventeenth century, with Newton and his contemporaries as identifications, followed by an apparent decline in Science due to an over-complacent atmosphere led most people to think that Science had reached a close, that scientists had discovered all there was to be discovered. Considering the copious effusion of revolutionary ideas, discoveries and inventions in that short space of time we would be led to think likewise if we had lived then.
But, people like Benjamin Franklin, James Watt and Priestley made scrambled eggs of that notion. And so did Rumford and Davy and a host of others right up to Rutherford and Einstein. Now we know a lot. We know about Hertz's radio waves, Hopkins' "pterins" and nucleic acid; about Mondeleeff's Periodic Tables and Rutherford's atomic structure. Our knowledge ranges from microcosms to macrocosms; from Planck's constant to the mass of Betelgeuse; and from matter to antimatter.
But. what signifies knowledge when there is no end? Won't we reach a stage (I don't know when) when we can say that we have reached an ideal state of existence where everything is scientifically the ultimate? Won't we ever be perfect scientific human beings?
But hold on, what if we do reach such a stage? What if we reach a stage where further improvement to our environment or further advancement of ourselves becomes impossible - impossible in the sense that our scientific advancement has reached such transcendent levels that we reach the acme of scientific achievement?
Gosh! Things would be dull and uninteresting. Imagine knowing everything there is to know. There wouldn't be any training in scientific deduction because it would be idiotic deducing nothing. Just imagine. No research scientists in a scientific world -- it is preposterous.
However, relax. We need not worry. This subject is as unpredictable and undebatable as "infinity", "space" and "time" are indefinable.
THE DEADLY RAPIER OF INGRATITUDE
She lay motionlessly on the heap of stinking rags. Her haggard and wrinkled face bore a look expressive of great misery. Her tearful eyes, unmoving, were listlessly directed at the cobweb-infested ceiling of her dilapidated hut. Her breathing was heavy and irregular. She was oblivious of the vexatious bites of the swarms of mosquitoes that had gathered around her. Nor did she care for the yearnings of her parched throat; nay, not even the excruciating pangs of hunger arrested her attention. What, oh just what was ailing this old, pathetic lady, a lady in such a terrible plight as to be frozen into immobility, and in such a frail state of health as to be on the verge of death?
She was recollecting memories; memories of those hard years during which she had so painstakingly nurtured her one and only son, memories which produced such crushing grief that overwhelmed even her stout heart, the valiant heart of a mother. Her mind was back in those tedious times, dwelling on her hard old privative days. She remembered the days when her beloved son was a lovable child, good-natured and docile; indeed a wonderful child gifted with the possession of almost all desirable qualities. Then, though in abject poverty, she was undismayed and had toiled incessantly to provide for his education. Vivid scenes of the times when she had eagerly helped him in braving the frightening storms of childhood flashed through her mind. Indeed innumerable were the times when he, daunted by difficulties and haunted by fears, had turned to her for solace and encouragement, and she had never failed him. Many too were the times when out of sheer motherly love, out of her deep motherly concern for his treading on the right path, and never in violent outbursts of rage had she given him severe thrashings, though in reality each stroke of the cane she gave him had filled the deep recesses of her own heart with grief, and hurt her much more than him.
One by one, these painful years of hers, years of toil and hardships, of woes and worries, and of burdens and perplexities, drifted away. Through all these depressing years, she had marched on unflinchingly and steadfastly, toiled on with unwavering determination, and had faithfully and with great zeal discharged all her motherly duties for her beloved son's sake. Her spirits were never dampened by each new year which presented her tender skin with more wrinkles, her soft hair new whiteness, and her precious sight with increased dimness. Such was the love she had for him, such were the sufferings she had endured for his sake, and such was the manner she had served him.
After all those years of sweat came this heart-breaking day with the greatest woe that could ever betide a human heart. Her son, now fully-matured and virile as a bird capable of lengthy flights had turned on her, and had rode on the crest of opportunity away into the world, away to seek his own fortune, leaving her stranded in her senility! What a hideous heart of stone that his must be! Indeed, what utter ingratitude, ingratitude of the worst, ingratitude incomparable! Such a shattering blow it was that it sent her reeling into the abyss of wretchedness! That was why she lay still on the heap of stinking rags......... frozen into immobility......... on the verge of death. Her face contorted in a paroxysm of agonising grief which crushed her heart. Pierced in the heart as she was by the rapier of ingratitude, a sword far sharper than a warrior's sword of steel it was no wonder she died in a flash!
Oh black Ingratitude, thy power's great A blow of thy evil blade sealed yet another's fate The valiant heart that braved toil and hardships; that never did waver, Like a balloon pricked by a pin did it burst under thy power!
Last update on 19 March 2000.
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng