Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Life Not As We Know It

Back in the July 7th edition of the NY Times an article appeared called Scientists Urge A Search For Life Not As We know It by Carl Zimmer. A report published by the National Research Council explained that scientists are looking around the planetary system, and even on our own planet, for “weird life.” Surely, they surmise, there must be life forms that can function in bodies and environments totally different then our own.

I can safely say that I’ve encountered weird life. It’s no big secret. They’re on the news every night. The activities of these weird life forms appear as headlines screaming at us from tabloids and televisions. And as we listen, shaking our heads in disbelief, we’re hard pressed to understand how some of these creatures think and how they reach the decisions they make and how they do the things they do. They certainly have to be aliens because their actions defy human reason, logic, and compassion.

Even rats can exhibit more human kindness than humans. This is revealed in an article from July 10th entitled Rat To Rat, Kindness Takes Hold. Researchers trained rats to pull levers to supply food to other rats. The experiment was started with three rats in adjacent cages trained to be providers of food, and they were never rewarded for their behavior by the researchers. After a time one of the rats was replaced and the behavior was learned by the new rat from the remaining two. Eventually all the original rats were replaced, but the training to be providers was transmitted to the new guys on the block.

As human beings, harassed by the forces of the kaliyuga, we are being untrained in kindness, especially toward those not of our own tribe and species. Instead, we are being reconditioned to be unkind, greedy and totally self centered. Why is it that rats can learn to cooperate and help one another, but not the life forms who inhabit the White House or the board rooms of big corporations?

Another article, from July 24 entitled Smart Curious Ticklish, Rats, explains that rats and human beings have a lot in common. Rats, like human parents, like to tickle their little ones. Rats, like many humans, are “sociable, curious, and love to be touched.” When threatened with a shock, and the shock doesn’t come, rats, like some humans, are observed to breathe a sign of relief. And yes, they even anticipate enjoying sex, (as one researcher says “it’s not simply instinctual for them”). And get this - rats can distinguish between good and bad sex. (How the researchers have figured this out one may never know.) Another thing: “”One study showed that rats accustomed to good times tend to be optimists, while those reared in unstable conditions become pessimists.” Rats are also very adaptable. Rats raised in the lab and then released into the wild did just fine. And one final observation - rats, unlike humans, don’t lie. Really. That’s because they immediately express their likes and dislikes through their bodies and actions.

But getting back to the article from the first paragraph, this search is nothing new. For thousands of years, sages have been in search For Life Not As We Know It. And the good news is that it’s available without having to search on other planets. Another way to put it would be “A Search For Intelligence Not As We Know It.” We all have seen where the usual type of “intelligence” can lead us. The living entities who thrive everywhere – in the earth, water, fire; on all planets and in different shapes and sizes – all use their specific types of intelligence to gain control over their environments as much as possible, and desperately try to emerge as the lords of all they survey. They squabble, they claw, they growl, they roar, they bite, they gouge, they shriek, they swarm, they sting; all to protect their territories or their mates.

For the most part, humans use their intelligence in the same ways animals use theirs. It comes down to four propensities: we all eat, sleep, mate, and defend. And often enough it seems many animals have an edge over us on one or more counts. It’s a jungle whether the creatures are running on four legs or driving on four wheels. So the trick is to search for an Intelligence Not As We Know It, but rather the sublime, Transcendent Intelligence; the Supreme Intelligence; the All Knowing Intelligence, by whose grace we can extract ourselves from the multiple layers of material bondage which entangle us. The National Research Council’s report concludes that it would be a shame to encounter intelligent life and fail to recognize it..

“Now listen to the knowledge of yoga whereby one works without fruitive result. When you act by such intelligence you can free yourself from the bondage of works.” Bhagavad Gita 2:39

“I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible.” Bhagavad Gita 7:25

“One who is transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything. He is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” Bhagavad Gita 18:54