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By Jai Kanth Panthail GITAM University Shaastra Pin:492 Ph:9032547193
“What do you mean by that?” was the immediate retort. Knatu wasn’t surprised by that. Humans weren’t exactly an intelligent race. His years of living with them had taught him that. The first contact had occurred exactly for that purpose, around 250,000 years ago. Humans needed somebody to guide them. Someone to tell them what was right…and what was not. “I’m surprised you find it so difficult to understand, Mr. Robert. Clearly your reputation precedes you” Robert didn’t like it when strangers reminded him of his credentials. They were like extra baggage, coming in way of far more important matters. “My reputation is of no concern here, I presume.” “Oh, I’m sure it is. Why else would your government choose you to speak to me? A PhD in Cognitive Para-Psychology from MIT, and the world’s foremost authority on such matters…there is no doubt. You, I presume, are definitely qualified for this job”, Knatu replied “Let’s get back to the point. What did you mean when you said Art itself is an indication of man’s connection with the universe?” Robert demanded. “Well, before I answer that, I would like to ask you something, Mr.Robert. What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Abstract Art’?” “Well, to be truthful…not much. I’m a psychologist, not an art critic” Even after living for so many years among them, this still felt strange. Where he was from, knowledge and culture were for all. It was not a matter of choice; everyone had to know about them. He went on… “Such Art is a disconnection with the soul. Do you know why abstract art never seems to exhibit a fixed plane of reality, Mr.Robert?” Robert had no idea. Knatu went on. “This is because there was no such plane when the first contact occurred. A race as primitive as your’s didn’t need one.” Robert was a picture of utter confusion. “You, Mr. Robert…I’m starting to doubt your reputation. Surely you must have heard of the works of Epicurus”, Knatu couldn’t have been more amused “Yes and the works of countless others like him over the centuries. What Epicurus and the other ancient Greek atomists argued was…than an infinite universe ought to have an infinity of populated worlds. But that does not clarify my initial query, why is Art…especially of the abstract kind, suddenly in the picture?”
Knatu smiled. The hospital bed…along with the straps on his wrists did not allow for much movement, and his human body was of not much help either in this regard. Even after a century in it, he longed to return home...after all, it was just a speck in his lifetime. “I’m starting to enjoy this conversation, now that you’re on the right track. Epicurus did get it correct to a large extent. But he, nor the countless others as you mentioned…they never went beyond the direct interpretation of the cosmic signs. All along, the answers were right here…on this planet.” “But the Drake’s equation…it does mention the fraction of civilizations can develop a technology that could release detectable signs into space…and this was stated never to exceed 1%” Robert cut in. “You are right, Mr.Robert. But the point here is not the signs, but of the human race itself having the ability to communicate in such manner.” Knatu realised it was not getting any easier for Robert. One of the problems with the human mind was its inability to think beyond what existed at the present moment, or to put it more correctly…it’s incapability to reflect multiple dimensions of reality. His own civilization had taken centuries to overcome this hurdle. “Let me make this easier for you. By now you might have realised, I suppose…that I do not belong to your planet.” Robert nodded. That fact was obvious from the beginning. But that didn’t make it any easier. “Also,” Knatu continued, “I hope you understand that I have been trying to get across to you certain facts…facts that you need to understand, as the representative of the human race” Representative? What the hell was he speaking about? Or what the hell was ‘it’ speaking about, Robert stared…dumbfounded. “And finally, I realise my attempts to make you understand these facts…so far, it’s been futile. I have a better idea. Let’s go out for a walk” A walk? Surely, he was out of his mind! This place is as secure as the White House itself, Robert decided. The PMU was the last place on earth somebody could think of escaping from. And he was sure it was more isolated than any other high-security holding area in the world. The PMU stood for Psychological Maintenance Unit and Robert would not have believed anybody’s word on its existence…till today morning. Being one of the leading Para-psychologists in the world, he was surprised he didn’t know about it earlier. But that was how it was…if the Government didn’t want you to know about it, you damn well wouldn’t…and most probably shouldn’t! Three feet thick walls of reinforced steel, guards armed with weapons that probably didn’t exist, countless guard towers…it would do better to commit hara-kiri than try to break out of this place.
“I understand your feelings, Mr.Robert” Knatu went on, “but I assure you this is possible. Place your hand on mine, and I’ll show you how.” Robert did not budge. Surely, this was impossible. “Mr. Robert, sometimes it is necessary to let go of the set notions of your perception of reality. After all, possibility does not become reality unless one lets it .You of all should know that” Robert was still apprehensive. But what this creature was speaking about, the consequences of it being real would be phenomenal. His scientific curiosity took the better of him, and Robert extended his arms towards the pale white hand that had shocked him just a few hours back.
One of his students asked Buddha, "Are you the messiah?" "No", answered Buddha. "Then are you a healer?" "No", Buddha replied. "Then are you a teacher?" the student persisted. "No, I am not a teacher." "Then what are you?" asked the student, exasperated. "I am awake", Buddha replied. (From a Buddhist Manuscript) Spring…the time of the Cherry blossoms, Robert thought. When all of New York City is covered in a swath of multi-coloured hues. “A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring”, Alexander Pope has written. How ironic it sounded, now that he had just teleported out of a maximum-security facility with a creature which claimed it could give him that ‘knowledge’. “Hello, there…” Robert called out. Knatu turned and faced him. The look of utter confusion Knatu had seen on Robert’s face earlier was back. But now, it was time. Although the park walk-way, with its blossoms, looked inviting…it was for another day. He settled down on a park bench. “Mr. Robert”, Knatu smiled and went on, “I’m sorry I never told you what I am called. From where I come, I am called Knatu. And I wish to get back your earlier query…about why art is the connection between your civilizations and mine” Thank you, Robert wanted to say. After all that he’d been through, he had other questions. But he realised they could wait. “Firstly, we come back to my previous statement. Remember I had told you that a race as primitive as your’s did not have a fixed plane of reality when it first evolved. It’s contact with my civilization ensured that it got one…”
“Excuse me, what exactly do you mean by ‘contact with your civilization’?” Robert interrupted. Knatu smiled and went on. “Mr. Robert, of all the species that have evolved on your planet, why do you think your species got to be the dominant one? Why didn’t the other species develop as much? This is because we helped you. The first contact, as I said, occurred many thousands of years ago, and since then the human race has evolved exponentially. But you still carry traces of that very first contact” Robert nodded. Although there were parts he still didn’t understand, a basic assumption that he did not need to process this new stream of information with pre-set conditions certainly helped. Knatu went on. “Art is something that has existed on your planet from the very first days. But do you know, Mr.Robert…that the very first traces of art on your planet occur only after 250,000 years ago? Doesn’t this seem a little strange?” Robert was no historian or archaeologist, but it certainly did feel odd. “It is because Art needs a fixed plane of reality…and here we are back in your field, Mr.Robert. A fixed plane allows a civilization to represent what it perceives in a distinguishable and definable manner. And we gave you that. But over the millenniums, as your society developed, Art took on new meanings. It became more naturalistic, losing the abstract manner of pre-historic times. Your connection with your self waned, discontent became more widespread. The whole concept of conflict began, because you had lost your ability to connect with your roots, the very things that had helped you develop in the first place” Knatu said. This was a little too much new information for Robert to process immediately, and he collapsed on the wooden bench, next to Knatu. Knatu’s unbroken smile did not help either. ‘The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven’, John Milton had written, in ‘Paradise Lost’. Robert’s mind was certainly going through the ‘impossibility of hell’, and he didn’t like it. He was a Psychologist…he was supposed to understand other people’s minds, and his own seemed pretty confused now. “So, Mr.Robert…as I said, your Art lost its abstract tendencies. It lost the very remnants of the proof of contact between your civilization and mine. Which is not a good thing, let me tell you. Because the ability to retain these remnants is a sort of qualification, or to put it better…the ‘prerequisite’ to receive further aid. Further aid that will help your species to evolve even further” “Prerequisite to evolve further? What do you mean?” Robert demanded. “Well…you remember I mentioned that to represent Art, you need a fixed plane of reality…or a dimension?” Knatu asked. Robert nodded.
“These fixed planes are not the end of the story”, Knatu continued, “Because to comprehend Abstract forms of art or to evolve even further…you need something more…” Knatu had spoken his last sentence in a very tempting manner, and as he saw, Robert’s eyes went wide, his mind apparently in profound concentration. This was the moment Knatu was waiting for. “And those are the ‘multiple planes of reality’, Mr.Robert”, Knatu smiled, “the ability to interpret and represent reality through a series of planes. This is what you need to process Abstract art. And this is what your civilization lacks, and mine possesses.” The most important part had yet to come. Knatu hadn’t faltered so far, but he had to be careful with his selection of words. Robert nodded, his head bobbing from side-toside, as if he was contemplating intense thoughts of infinite magnitudes. Knatu had expected that, and wasn’t surprised. There was no probing look from Robert this time, so Knatu went on. “So…the attainment of these planes gives you the ability, or rather…the capacity to comprehend Abstract art as we do. And it lets your civilization return to the days before conflict, conquest and subjugation. Days of disconnection with one’s self.” Robert understood it all now. It was as if a sudden wave of enlightenment had washed over him, pulling him out from the depths of ignorance and plunging him into an ocean of peace and contentment. It was all very clear now. “So, Robert…are you prepared to take the plunge? I mean, is your civilization ready to proceed onto the next stage of evolution?” Knatu asked, his eyes probing Robert’s for signs of doubt. “What do you mean ‘my civilization’? Robert demanded a puzzled look on his face. Knatu was a picture of ecstasy. The parables had almost come to an end. This was where it all ended, and also where it all began. “You, Mr.Robert…stand here today, as the sole representative of your civilization. Are you prepared…on behalf of all human society, to proceed onto the next step? If yes, take my hand…” Knatu said, extending his palms to Robert. Robert had no doubt about what to do next. It was as if he knew it all along. Extending his arms to Knatu, he felt the very hands he had hesitated to take a few moments ago… and then closed his eyes. A flood of white light washed over…and then it was all dark. Knatu smiled. The parables were complete. It was time to go home.
Outside, the atmosphere was bleak…with a dust storm raging just over the horizon. This planet was not at all like his, he noted. From where he came from, the cherry blossoms bloomed in spring time. That was one thing he always thought of, although it was a long time back. Suddenly, he looked up. “I don’t understand”, the creature said moving all its six arms perfectly in sync, a result of years of evolution. “I’m surprised you don’t” he replied, understanding the strange language the creature spoke. This would take some time, Robert thought. But one day, he would return…just in time to see the Cherry Blossoms bloom. ************************************************************
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