By Saurabh Bhattacharya January 2000 Self-empowering spirituality, a tryst with life eternal, time-travel, alien visitations and, ultimately, Godhood—the third millennium promises humanity a trip to beat all trips It’s quiz time, folks. Bang into a new millennium, still wet behind the ears, we are faced with the quiet query: what’s next? Stupid question, did you say? Think again. In millennia past, it seemed we’d done it all. We realized that, all said and done, the earth was round and there was nothing you could do about it. We expanded our geographical horizons to discover all the land that was available for discovering—and promptly over-populated them. We walked on the moon, found water on one of Jupiter’s satellites, cloned a few sheep (and raised an ethical storm), created the computer, the Internet, robots, keyhole surgery, supersonic jets, ‘mind-expanding’ drugs, and agreed that everything under the sun was relative. While playing with new toys, we also acknowledged the wisdom of our ancestors by returning to the past in search of the future. We rediscovered ayurveda , pyramid energy, yoga , naturopathy , crystals, paganism, sorcery , shamanism, meditation , and the primal sound. We confirmed that there was more to the human mind than Freudian sex, affirmed that the true means of human study lay in transpersonal psychology, and concluded that God resides, in the literal sense of the word, within. We established, organized, diluted, corrupted and finally left old religions to create new ones. The West went East in search of God and drugs and the East turned West seeking Mammon and true followers. The past 1,000 years were also a period of contradictions. We burnt heretics and then iconised them. We slaughtered witches and then made witchcraft chic. We eradicated species ad infinitum and then raised funds for their upkeep. We slashed and burnt our way through nature and then found out that earth was actually a sentient being that went by the name of Gaia. Embarrassed, we turned vegetarian! Since our genesis, we humans, like an insatiably curious child, have poked, squinted, tumbled, straightened, unmade, remade, lost and won the game of life. But we still haven’t managed to figure out the rules. The enigma remains ever elusive, ever-tempting. Hence, after the roller-coaster of a millennium, we barely have time enough to catch our breath before plunging back into the game by daring to ask: what’s next? What follows is a glimpse of ‘what’s next’ on the agenda of human evolution. Dissenters could address their queries to life. For, in this quiz, Life’s decision is final. THE FAMILY WAY The family has always been considered the representational unit of any period. So, we begin our millennial ride with Pa, Ma and the child. The move from a joint to a nuclear family is old hat. What is emerging now is the sub-nuclear-super-joint family. This means a unit that contains just one individual who, when connected to a larger, more diffuse network of individual units, becomes part of a super-joint family. Confused? To comprehend this futuristic society, let’s turn to Aldous Huxley‘s Utopian Island, in which every child has two groups of parents—biological and intellectual. Such a scenario would have been implausible a few years ago. But life has changed since the Internet. Now, virtual families are the norm. As Delhi-based American diplomat and New Age observer Lewis K. Elbinger points out: ‘The Net has given everybody the chance to return to the joys of a joint family without compromising on individualism. Today, despite being in Delhi, I can share a virtual Christmas with my family and friends in the USA. I can break the virtual wishbone with them and drink the virtual toast. Only, the virtual turkey doesn’t taste as good as the one my wife makes.’ Futurologist Howard Rheingold, pioneer of the virtual community concept, feels that soon this global community will be a healing force for individuals alienated by the stress of modern day society. ‘Hundreds of thousands of people rely on their virtual communities as a real lifeline,’ he states. ‘People whose illness or disability prevents normal communication, people who are caregivers or who suffer from even one of hundreds of diseases.’ Huxley‘s Island is on the verge of becoming a reality. Yet another factor that will increasingly link humanity together is the rise of people with strong ESP—the result of a lifestyle that commands lesser attention to daily bread earning and more to the cultivation of inner resources. More and more people would be able to keep in touch through nonverbal, psychic communication. The instances of this are all-too-visible in the naturally esoteric New Age community. Harsh words that would have earlier led to a split in the family will remain unstated, and the message will be passed in the form of a thought pattern. Tomorrow’s family will seek complete harmony through individual space and psychological comfort. It will not be necessary—or even desirable—for the millennial parent to keep a hawk’s eye on his/her offspring as that would limit the growth of both parent and child. Almost every second modern guide on parenting, from the classic Baby and Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock to the ultramodern Speed post by Shobha De, emphasizes the need for spaces in a relationship. And what better way to remain close and not cloying than a sub-nuclear-super-joint family model? TRANSFORM INC. Winds of change are blowing fast and furious in the work world also. But here, technology is giving way to the soul’s evolution. As S.H. Venkatramani, specialist in corporate communication, notes: ‘The corporate world is now realizing that in the new millennium the competitive edge will come from hi-tech as well as certain basic human values. There is an increasing recognition of intangible assets such as work ethics.’ The days of behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow‘s self-actualization’ needs are here in earnest. As Anil Sachdeva, MD of the Eicher Consultancy Service, says: ‘Companies and individuals that provide people with the best opportunities to realize their potential and live by their values would get the best talent.’ This is the world of ‘Transform Inc’ where the material and the metaphysical become indistinguishable. For an upwardly mobile and burgeoning global middle class, a psychological feeling of well-being has become almost a necessity. And this feeling has now overflowed from the home and office to flood the neighborhood supermarket as well. While the New Age of the nineties has already turned the faith-money equation on its head, its millennial avatar will create a radically new definition market economics. ‘Money,’ exclaims Leonard Orr, California-based rebirth pioneer and creator of the Money Seminar, ‘Is the basic mantra of society today. It teaches you how to give, for the more you give, the more you receive.’ The key term of the future, however, is ‘abundance’. Workshops on how to create this abundance are multiplying, conducted by people who come across more as corporate execs than offbeat spiritual gurus. The best part is that the consumer/seeker finds no contradiction in paying for spirituality. Elbinger notes: ‘New Age marketing considers the non-material aspects of economic activity an attempt to manifest the highest ideals while exchanging the most mundane objects.’ Gone are the days of a spiritually enhanced elite that is fed and clothed by the more materialistic masses. Transformation is now an individual’s birthright, and if a company has the means to provide the necessary infrastructure, it is justified to pay for services promised. So, even organized religion—the ultimate arbitrator of matters spiritual—is giving way to ordinary people with extraordinary fix on spirituality and an increasing emphasis on techniques rather than talk. Meditation and yoga remain the hot favorites, and the bottomline is spiritual self-empowerment. Meanwhile, the religious boundaries are getting diffused. Increasingly, people are blending faiths to create a spiritual cocktail, which suits their individual tastes. Says, international corporate trainer, Sukhdeepak Malvai: ‘Why do I have to believe only in the religion I was born in? I’d rather have the freedom to admire the all-embracing philosophy of Hinduism, the innate compassion of Buddhism , Christ’s unselfish love for all, and the immediacy of Zen. Faith is a matter of the soul, not a label that is passed on from generation to generation.’ THE HEALER’S WITHIN The spirit’s yearning for nirvana today comes hand-in-hand with the body’s desire for holistic health. In fact, the last two decades saw a near-obsessive fascination with physical health, albeit restricted mostly to chiseling a sexually attractive figure, according to the fashion of the moment. But the millennial man or woman is interested in more than bulging biceps and sexy legs. Increasingly, instead of introducing alien therapeutic ingredients within the body, the body itself is being made self-healing. Consider the research of Prof Peter Zilla, South African doctor who has been trying to make the human body re-grow its own parts! Till now his work involves ‘tricking’ the body into growing new arteries and heart valves, but the day is not far when we would be able to mould our whole physical structure to near-perfection—without any side-effects. Already, doctors are planning to grow heart, liver and kidneys from the recipient’s own stem cells in vitro and then transplant them into the body. If today, we can get a new arm by us
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