Saturday, 22 August 2009

Diminutive Volume, Immense Book-2


In the fall of 1930, historian , philosopher and author of The Story of Civilization, Will Durant (1885-1981) found himself outside his New York home, raking leaves. A well dressed man approached Durant and told him in quite tone that, unless the revered teacher could give him a valid reason not to, he intended to kill himself. Durant offered the stranger several quick reasons to live, and the man turned and left, never to be seen again.

Haunted by his encounter with the despondent stranger, Durant contacted 100 liminaries in arts, politics, religion and sciences, challenging them to respond to the fundamental question:
Out of the hundred only few replied and they included; Theodore Dreiser, H.L.Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, John Erskine, Charles A. Beard, John Cowper Powys, M.K.Ghandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mary E.Woolley, Bertrand Russell, Count Hermann Keyserling and George Bernard Shaw.

Despite their uniqueness as individuals and the very different lives they led a consistent thread runs through their viewpoints, revealing a commonality among humans beings who not only seek meaning in life but who actually achieve it.

The book ends under a note “A personal Confession” by the author:

“This then, I should say is the road to significance: join a whole, ands work for it with all your body and mind. The meaning of life lies in the chances it gives us to produce, or to contribute to, something greater than ourselves. It needs not be a family; that, so to speak, is the direct and broadest road which Nature in her blind wisdom has provided for even the simplest soul. It may be any group that can call out all the latent nobility of the individual, and give him a cause to work for that shall not be shattered by his death. It may be some revolutionary association which a man or a woman gives devotion unstintingly. It may occasionally be some work of beauty that absorbs the soul in its making, and becomes boon to many generations. But in every case it must, if it will give a life meaning, lift the individual out of himself, and make him a cooperating part of a vaster scheme. The secret of significance and content is to have a task which consumes all one’s energies, and makes human life a little richer than before”


  1. Inspirational indeed...

    "I have. in both, my darkest and brightest moments, always wondered why I have been put here in this world, make to take the journey I have traveled and yet nothing of significance. I do hope to get that adrenaline rush and the spiritual uplift to look over and above the mundane and leave a lighter yet clearer positive footprint on the face of humanity.."

  2. I have come to the conclusion after re-reading this post, Akhtar Sahib, that there is nothing more important than this topic. Also the answers are deeply satisfying and might well be useful to any who take this advise to heart.

    There is rather quietly implied a sense of community indicated -whether felt close-by or whether there is a sense of a vaster scheme with more distant (even global connections). There are so many applications.

    I am hoping several others will "show up" here for a longer dialogue. Perhaps, Ashfaq Sahib - you too will come back and tell us a little more about your applications soon?

  3. Also, would not RR qualify for such a community?

  4. Certainly, RR qualifies for such a community, with its richness and profoundness in trying to understand the implicate order.

  5. The COMMUNITY of Iqbal and RR:

    In the new website for RR, I am immediately drawn to this following recommendation for Khurram Sahib's Encyclopedia of Iqbal -- with all that is facing you in your country and us in ours...these aspects of Iqbal's mind may help provide the common table such a spiritual community like RR or any other needs.

    " encyclopedic biography that covers all these aspects of the mind of Iqbal, without removing him from his various contexts: his time, his beautiful expression, and his unconditional faith in a common future for humanity."

    Shamsur Rahman Faruqi

    I especially hold this up as a banner over Iqbal and one for us all: "the unconditional faith in a common future for humanity..."

  6. Very Impressive.
    To understand the true meaning of life we have to look inside ourselves to explore what is hidden/stored in our unconscious. Its a very difficult exercise but what we gain from this experience will guide us to have a balance life. As life is all about having a balance between good and bad, pleasure and pain.

  7. Perhaps Ramzan is an especially good time of year for the reflection you speak concerning, Aamir Sahib?

  8. Indeed Ramzan is a very good time. Lets explore our inner self to create a balance between pleasure and pain.

  9. Aamir, how do you go about finding this inner balance? I am especially interested in the many varieties of doing so. Your statements and this entire blogpost is poignant and particularly significan to me.

  10. Connie,God exist everywhere, but we can find him inside our heart. Once we start understanding our self we come closer to God.
    Life is all about having a balance between pain and pleasure. We can create this balance by not allowing our emotions and actions to be affected by outer world interventions rather our inner self through better understanding and logic which guide our emotions and actions.
    Inner balance can be obtained by not encouraging the outer world or events to influence our emotions and actions. We have to control our emotions as they may lead us to destruction.
    God has shown us two paths. One leads to glory (Right Path) and the other to destruction.
    We all know that fire will burn us so we never go near it as it gives instant reaction. But we do bad / wrong deeds despite knowing the outcome. We choose the wrong path because the reaction time is long whereas fire hurts instantly. We all our doing this because we are using our conscious part whereas once we enter the room where our unconscious is, then we no longer do wrong acts as there we have a understanding that we are in front of the Creator and He is watching us.
    Inner balance can be obtained by getting closer to Allah and understand that we all are here for a three hour quiz and the result of which will determine our future that has no end.