What World Would You Love to Live in?

By Anupam Saraph

“What is a good person like you doing selling your life as a commodity by pursuing a career?” The uneducated Mongu mama’s question startled young Rajendra.

“I was trained to be a doctor; I know nothing else.” He responded.

“The world needs water. Go help the world to find water,” Mongu mama responded.

“I don’t know anything about water. What can I do?” Rajendra asked.

“Start working, you will learn everything there is to know.” Mongu mama responded handing over some digging implements to Rajendra.

For the next two days, Mongu mama took Rajendra to every well in the village. He made Rajendra go into the well to understand how water made its way into the ground. He helped him understand how water helped fill the earth’s thirst before allowing the sun to satisfy its thirst by evaporating the water on the surface.

He made Rajendra discover that the rivers had stopped flowing because the earth’s thirst was unfulfilled. He made Rajendra discover the way to ensure rivers will flow was to help the earth to satisfy its thirst.

Rajendra gave up being a doctor pursuing a career and began to work for water. His family, his friends, the world around him thought he was mad. Thirty years later more than 7 rivers in the desert land of Rajasthan found their life after Rajendra helped the communities to satisfy the earth’s thirst.

Today, my friend Rajendrasingh’s work is recognized globally and his example inspires many. He has not just found water, but joy, meaning, and fulfilment, not just for himself, but for millions across the world.

The weeks of lockdown has suddenly left many upset because their careers were suddenly punctuated with a comma, a semicolon or even a full stop. The world as we have known it has suddenly ceased to exist. Many are trying to find the world they lost back. To restore the familiar by confusing it with normal.

Few realize, at that moment, that it is a moment of joy when the world stops treating you as a commodity for sale. It is a moment of tremendous pleasure when your actions are about doing whatever you do because it is the right thing to do, not because someone purchased you. It is liberation when you are freed from selling yourself in the pursuit of a career to fuel a machinery that slowly, but surely eats your soul and destroys everything you love on earth.

In the past weeks, many friends from different lands and different circumstances have called or written with their stories of shock, surprise, loss, and pain. Most have realized that the world they grew up in is gone forever. Many are seeking to find what the new world may look like and how they could prepare for it. Few realize that the we will lay the foundation for a new civilization. Fewer understand the responsibility that places on each of us.

The civilization that we grew up in treated society as a market. No wonder everyone and everything was a commodity to be sold and purchased. We have been bought and sold many times over in a society that calls itself emancipated. Our acts and actions have been enslaved to keep us as slaves in the pursuit of having a higher monetary value every successive year. We never questioned the value of monetary value. We have outsourced our responsibilities and put others without the same values, risks, or rewards in charge. We have turned away from doing the right things in pursuit of our careers and surrounding ourselves with material waste instead of friends. We have worked hard to build the very civilization that has been destroying everything that sustains life and makes it worth living. The civilization that addicted us to the short term at the cost of the Short Now, the lifetime of a child born today.

No wonder we lost our eyes to see that which is beautiful on earth, feel that which brings us peace, smell the fragrance of love, taste the pleasure of friendships, hear the wisdom of the universe, and to touch only to care. We have ceased to experience the world outside ourselves, our careers, and our lives. We have lost the meaning in our lives.

Only when we follow the example of young Rajendra and cease to be commodities, only when we stop treating life as a marketplace, we lay foundations for bringing peace, love, friendship, wisdom and meaning into our lives.

Moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar never gets easier. It is, however, an adventure that offers a journey like no other.

If the wisdom of Mongu mama could cause 7 rivers to flow in Rajasthan, will it help you to lay the foundations for a new civilization?

What is a good person like you doing selling your life as a commodity by pursuing a career?

Dr. Anupam Saraph is recognized as a global expert on complex systems. As a Professor of Sustainability and Governance of Complex Systems, Dr. Saraph, has taught System Dynamics, information systems, environmental systems and sustainable development at universities in Europe, Asia and the Americas. He has worked extensively with Donella Meadows on global modeling and systems theories. He holds a Ph.D. in designing and exploring sustainable systems from the faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, the Netherlands. He is based in Pune, India.

Photo: Rajhastan Desert. Encyclopedia Britannica.