On the 21st of January, I had to travel to the South-West of France to be with my father for a while; he was ailing, much weakened, and grieving for the absence of his life-companion, Christiane, who had left on the 29th of September last.
From there, I sent my next contribution; a couple of days later, on the 31st of January, I checked the e-mail box at a local Internet café, and found a note from the editors of the AV News and Notes, saying that they felt it wiser to postpone the publication of this note by one week, as it followed too closely the departures of Roger Anger and of Gustav. Roger Anger had passed away on January 15th in the South of France, in a hospital to which he had been taken a few days earlier, I think; he had been expected to return to Auroville by the end of the month. Almost at once, several articles were published, both in Auroville and in the national newspapers, “The Hindu” in particular, some of which were written by Aurovilians.
Gustav’s body was found in a hotel room in Pondicherry, on the 20th of January, robbed and brutalized.
The editors went on to say that, in their opinion and that of a few readers who had sent them feed-back on my notes, it would be nice if I was not always negative and critical.
I replied at once, thanking them for their comments and for letting me know of this feed-back; I wrote that I had only received a few occasional thanks on the road, and that it seemed to me I had rather expressed an intent and an effort to affirm the orientations of Auroville.
I reflected upon this. Have I been gratuitously critical, have I been seeking my own satisfaction, passing judgments and giving lessons no one had asked for?
My usual tendency is to be harsh, very harsh towards my own movements; perhaps, I had nonetheless managed to disguise even to myself an egoistic motivation in having these pieces published in a community forum, deluding myself with the notion that they were of some real value?
I drafted, the same day, another note, titled “On the Relative Merits of Criticism”, which I reproduce here, below the earlier note.
On Borders and Companionship (21-01-2008)
We appear to be submitting still to the age-long and universal habit of cultivating the chasm between those who have a physical body and share the focus provided by the physical world, and those who no longer have one and are released from that focus.
Customs do vary from place to place, and even within the ranks of any particular society, but all our forms of farewells, obituaries, eulogies, memorials, rituals, mainly serve the one common purpose, that of ending and of containment, of drawing a line and, in effect, of shutting the door as early and as neatly as possible on those who have ‘departed’.
To a large extent, all our actions and movements in the wake of physical cessation are self-serving and self-gratifying. We rush to the use of the past tense, we quickly build some acceptable edifice out of our respective entanglements, we nurture and embrace our own mourning, and all of it is done this side of a border that remains unquestioned and beyond dispute.
It is very seldom that we are genuinely driven by the concern for and the knowledge of what may be the needs of the person whose physical embodiment has failed.
Perhaps we have learnt to resonate with the somewhat vague understanding of stages of transition and rest, and clumsily seek to attune to their reality while securely maintaining our physical stance.
But, no matter what, we dare not challenge the so tangible fact of separation.
Yet, in the Mother’s world, we do not take birth in the pursuit of our own salvation – although Her Grace saves us time and again from the consequences of our selfish choices -; we are committed to an on-going process of change and transformation towards a continuum of consciousness, awareness and presence, wherein all borders and all chasms gradually cease to hold sway.
And the view here is that, in Her world, it is infinitely more meaningful to cultivate fraternity and fidelity and companionship across all borders, rather than submitting to the continuation of the borders themselves.