The Modern Man

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Each time the modern man becomes acutely aware that he is frustrated and heartbroken, the frenetic review of his values begins anew. Rivers of ink start flowing in the publishing houses throughout his domains, which extend now all over the universe. Fashionable thinkers spare no effort to think up some kind of explanation for the sad state of his affairs or another short-lived sociological theory about how to handle it. Most imaginative film producers contribute with their spectacles, trying to outshine one another with the help of the most refined computer software. Psychoanalysts never call it a day. Drug industry synthesizes sophisticated new venoms bearing respectable classical names. Insurance companies and travel agencies vigorously expand their offer of insuring and visiting whatever might have been overlooked. Cosmetic surgery invites him under the scalpel, while conveying an impression of immortality and perfection. Nothing is neglected to calm the modern man and assure him that everything is all right, and that there are unimaginable means to set right, no matter the obstacles, whatever might not be so. But in spite of all the tremendous effort and energy input, the anguish remains in front of the modern man, omnipotent and mocking like an untouchable jester.

Before we try to analyze this situation, let us first define what is meant by the term “the modern man”. We can trace his descent back to the fourth millennium before the present day, and once the scientific fever of believing that everything could be explained through examining bones and pottery was over, not even one serious historian remains who dares to say what the world was like beyond this four-millennium boundary. Even within this period, the majority of historical statements are nuanced by commentaries such as:

Written sources describing the Scythians are more numerous, but they contain only fragmentary and often contradictory evidence.

The present state of our historical knowledge does not permit us to give any reliable account of the Hsiung-nu much beyond the third century B.C.

The trend of new discoveries seems to weaken the theories which seek a European home of the Indo-Europeans.

According to widely accepted but unproven theory the Huns are the descendents of the Hsiung-nu. (Early Inner Asia, Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge)

Although such confessions reflect certain dignity of the new generation of experts, they also demonstrate that above all and in fact –we don’t know.

Once situated in time, the modern man can be defined as a man sunken in oblivion. Here, oblivion refers not only to the characteristic which is part of the human essence, but above all to a separation –a total and definite breakup which puts the modern man on the other side. There, an abyss extends right in front of him; a vast, incommensurable abyss, so much so that it prevents him from even trying to imagine what could lie beyond it. His oblivion has reached such an extent that the modern man behaves like somebody who has stopped looking for something because he has forgotten having lost it.

One of the adjectives used by the Creator to describe man is forgetful. Yet, He also affirms that man has been created according to a harmony which is the best possible.

(1-4) By the fig and the olive and the Mount of Seeneen and this city of peace. We have indeed created the man in the finest of moulds…   

Qur-an 95 – at Teen

This apparent contradiction is the clue to full comprehension of the absolute greatness and extreme subtlety of Creation, where paradox comes to be the background of reality. Bearing this in mind, it is easy to understand one of the most controversial arguments in history, that of the shape of the Earth, which for centuries divided Europe into two opponent groups and resulted in ruthless clashes, with many a man having been burnt at the stake in the process. If we take the side of science, the only accepted and acceptable –nowadays– side, we have to admit that the Earth is round and that all the people who believed it to be flat were foolishly wrong. Nevertheless, let us be foolishly wrong for a while and affirm, in spite of all the discoveries and scientific statements, that the Earth is flat.

Whenever we look around, we see nothing but a vast, flat space. Even when we ride on a horse or in modern times in a fast car, we constantly see this enormous plain spreading around us in all directions. Whether we go north or south, east or west, whether we walk or run, again and again we see nothing but a huge plateau. Even from the top of the highest mountain what we see is a never-ending plain. So, if flatness of the Earth is a piece of evidence verified by millions of people at all times, why is science so categorically affirming the contrary?

In fact, there is no contradiction whatsoever. Whether it is round or flat, for us it is flat, and life on Earth as we know it is based on this fact. As far as we are concerned, its shape is irrelevant as long as it fulfills its function –that of sustaining life on it.

Another bone of contention, the consequences of which were even more brutal, was the question of Earth’s movement or immobility. Neither the Catholic Church in their ferocious reaction nor the emerging scientific minds understood the paradox underlying this issue. In the same way as above, all scientific proofs and knowledge can be contradicted by saying that the sun moves and the Earth stands still.

It is a fact of life that every day, at a given time, everywhere all around the planet a huge ball of fire can be observed as it starts illuminating dimness of the horizon until its immense roundness is fully appreciated in the continuous ascension and movement towards west. Not only we, plebeian laymen, but also the most learned astronomers all around the world, peering into the skies through their 200-inch reflectors, keep saying “the sun rises and the sun sets” and so are taught school children all around the world. What else can you say? A solar clock, which calculates time thanks to this movement and the subsequent motion of the shadow, is still to be found in most European towns.

(45) Have you not seen how your Lord prolongs the Shadow? If He willed, He could make it stationary!

Qur-an 25 – al Furqan

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Once again paradox explains this apparent contradiction, demonstrating that what is important is the harmony and knowledge of the passage of time, so precious to human beings; as well as our perception of perfect and absolute immobility. It could be called “functional system” –the way this creation functions to benefit and sustain us. Scientific theories, which aim at uncovering operational system (how creation  operates) are the most unstable elements in existence. Indeed, one can hardly rely or be expected to rely on them.

Again and again science clashes with everybody’s experience. Definitely, there is harmony in the whole Creation and if just one atom of this harmony were to be removed, the benevolence and beauty of our world would turn into an unbearable nightmare. We can see that this harmony is not based on logical evidence or rational deduction, but is rather a result, a welfare, a well-functioning which rests on paradox; an extremely subtle equilibrium of many elements and factors which have to be contradictory and, at the same time, complementary. Nightfall is a fact which we calmly expect to happen each day, but in order for this phenomenon to take place millions of events related to one another must previously occur. However, we are content to perceive night, we enjoy and take advantage of it, and poets and lovers owe night great inspiration.

Let us imagine what life would be like if every time we wanted to use a washing-machine or any other modern electronic domestic appliance, we were required to enumerate all the processes the appliance needs to go through in order to fulfill its purpose. Our everyday life would become so complicated that most of us would start washing by hand, keep food in cellars and iron our clothes with a stone heated in a bonfire. Luckily, the manufacturers of our domestic appliances are kind enough to include in all of them a button with two magic words next to it: ON/OFF.

It is thanks to the kindness of the Creator that everything has been done in a way that the only thing we have to do is enjoy life. Scientists, however, dry up their hearts tearing down veil after veil in their never-ending endeavour. Each time a veil falls, another veil appears since every scientific answer gives rise to more questions. Therefore, all the marvels of the universe are for them –and their followers– enigmas, half-solved mysteries, confusion, theories and counter-theories, mathematical formulas; whereas the taste of the fruit they are analyzing day and night is being missed because this harmony implies, above all, utility.

It is neither roundness of the planet nor its flatness; nor gravity or thermonuclear laws that are important. None of them is our business really. All these principles are submitted to one simple fact: living creatures are to dwell on a certain planet in harmony and without terror. Human beings can realize the utility of the Moon and the Sun every day of their lives. Without it, the existence of these two celestial bodies would be meaningless.

(5) It is He Who made the Sun to be a shining glory and the Moon to be a light of beauty, and measured out stages for her; that you might know the number of years and the count of time.

Qur-an 10 – Yunus

Over the past sixty years, any amount of money and human resources required has been granted to and buried in outer space exploration. The modern man finally set his foot on the moon, watched the event on TV (where else?), was euphoric,  felt the whole universe under his hand and concluded that he was able to tame each and every power there might exist. One of the heroes of the lunar adventure expressed it in the following words, on which everyone was hanging: “It may be a small step for (a) man, but it is a giant leap for mankind.” However, the gravity of the moment may have run away with him and it is still being discussed what he really said.

With the passage of time and the party over, the modern man has learnt that all those years of exhausting work, paid for out of his pocket, brought about the knowledge that the moon is a small round planet full of stones. It also brought about a few hours’ entertainment while watching spectacular science fiction films. When he wondered about the nature of this giant leap for mankind, the modern man was told that what may have looked like a deceptive discovery was, in fact, the beginning of an endless end. The modern man hung his head down feeling guilty, reproaching himself for his mediocrity and for not understanding that one thing is a man and another thing is mankind, and that he was just a man; and that a man is not important –such a small thing, almost nothing; a tiny particle dissolved into the meaningless term “humanity”. On hearing this, the modern man got even more puzzled, hung his head still lower, went to sleep for a while and then decided to see another science fiction movie, in which he heard yet another magnificent buzz line: “Houston, we have a problem.” He admired the coolness with which it was pronounced and decided to be as cool as the captain of the spaceship and not to worry; perhaps he, too, could call Houston, or anywhere at all, to make somebody aware of his own problems.

It is clear nowadays that spacial fever is over, all science fiction enthusiasm gone and all space dreams buried. It is also quite clear that the captain lied. But lies die hard. We have just been told by several space agencies evenly distributed all over the world that it’s going to be lots of little steps instead of one big leap. For some time now the mass media have been raising from the ashes a new hope, hoping to empty your pocket more than ever in order to keep the show going by launching multimillion-dollar probes to out where they claim we belong.

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What a nightmarish dream!

The modern man finally discovers that the harmony he needs can exist only on Earth, and that it requires such an inconceivable number of factors to be taken into consideration that our mind would never be able to make it; and therefore any attempt at establishing or maintaining life under any other conditions would result in utter failure.

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