The Hindu, August 10, 2004
I have read news about companies that have been driven to bankruptcy. Newspapers tell us about countries that are unable to pull themselves out of financial mess. And in people's lives, things sound even worse. This is really an issue that comes to me when I start thinking about what is the real velocity of change and what should we do about it. Because on the one hand we all acknowledge that "change" is overtaking us. On the other hand, we are dealing with these environmental and psychological changes in the same manner as we did a hundred years ago. Let me give you an example: Almost exactly a hundred years ago, the first car was on the assembly line. This car was basically a metal chassis with 4 wheels, a steering wheel, a clutch system, internal combustion and it took 4 people in it and could do 27 km an hour. A hundred years later and 26 billion dollars in pure research, we have still a metal chassis with 4 wheels, a steering wheel, a clutch system, a carburettor, a piston and takes 4 people and the average speed is 25 km an hour in any crowded city of the world.
It is only now that some experiments have been attempted to move cars sideways for parking convenience. Was it easier to put a man on the moon? And the answer is `yes.' And why so? Because the people who are in the business of cars went through school and university and studied carbutettors, pistons, etc.; to them the car goes forward and backward. While the technology to land on the moon did not fall into any previous pattern. It was a path to new discovery. The trouble is, once the business is in place, it is organised and crystallised. And what they are doing is basically living in the past. Dr. C. K. Prahlad, the management guru, gives another example. When the first Microsoft `windows' came out, it was absolutely phenomenal. Some five people were involved in its creation. Thereafter, you buy one after another and the changes are very marginal. Now they have 2500 Ph.D.s who have not created anything different. The same argument surfaces: once things are in place they are organised and crystallised!
Have you ever questioned why children need two and a half months in summer? I went out searching for an answer. The answer is indeed very simple. Some 150 years ago, all the children were needed at harvest time because farming was a family business. Today, there is absolutely no reason why this system should continue. Still it continues. And yet, thinking is considered to be the ultimate human resource. The problem lies in the fact that very quickly industry wide emulation sets in. And so the industry becomes very similar. And when you start doing the things that are very similar to the other people, it is very difficult to break free. You are caught in a system that is constantly emulating itself.
This phenomenon applies to every single country, industry and individual. Take the airline industry. Nobody makes money; the passengers are crowded like sardines; the food is just awful; some of the time, the planes run late and everybody is unhappy. Most people believe that there is nothing left of that industry. Kasparov, the chess world champion, was made to play against IBM machine over many years. He won 8 out of 10 times. What does he have the machine does not? There is only one answer: Intuition. The human mind is not meant to be creative. The mind is a pattern making system. The information system of the mind acts to create patterns and to recognise them. It tends to reject any new idea that does not fall into its pattern of recognition on experience. Education reinforces this aspect by teaching us to be logical. There seems to be an urgent need to break through the moulds limiting our minds and to explore new paths for real and meaningful solutions rather than band-aid solutions.
Intuition: I belive the answer lies in what Sri Aurobindo has written in his magnificent book, The Life Divine. He states that we need to go beyond the mind and reason. For, if we examine carefully, he says, we shall find that intuition is our first teacher. Intuition brings to man those brilliant messages from the unknown, which are the beginning of his higher knowledge. "Reason only comes in afterwards to see what profit it can have of the shining harvest," writes Sri Aurobindo.
Intuition gives us that idea of something behind and beyond all that we know. The path towards creativity is to enlarge the mind and let it grow and encompass the higher layers and spheres above the mind. In fact, this is the start to a spiritual seeking. The journey is long and tough. It will need a great deal of sincerity, tenacity and relentless pursuit; to keep the mind silent and passive. One will need to curb one's ego and to acknowledge that what we know is far less than what we can know. One needs to leave behind all that one knows; the courage to travel towards the unknown by breaking all the shackles. Sri Aurobindo's Life Divine shows the way. It is quite an extraordinary book, which offers every seeker a path of self-discovery and true creativity. You will get out of this book what you wish to take out of it.