I have made this point, when I would travel around Russia that like in Tomsk there is a cultural centre, actually in every Russian town or city and in other places in the world, what is in the heart—usually in the primo location of every city is a cultural centre. Because people understand, this is the … here are supposed to be on display the greatest achievements of human civilization, of human thought.
As the Victorians or Romantics, they expressed, they said, “What is poetry?” And by extension that means deep thought. They said, “The best of what has been thought and expressed.” That is what literature should be, and that is what culture should be about—the best of what has been thought and expressed. So they understand that you go to the cultural centre, and you see the play, the ballet, hear the orchestra … Why? Because there is an intuitive understanding—this is the zenith point of human civilization.
That is the way it was. Now we have the Internet. And again, maybe Thoreau, another American transcendentalist, when they told him, “What do you think about the Transatlantic cable?” That was a cable that went from New York under the ocean to London. So they could send messages instantly. It was like before the Internet. That was the 19th century conception of ‘wired’. And when asked what he thought about it, everyone was so excited, he said, “What if the news is that the Princess has a cold?” And that’s what the news has become. This movie started this, this person did that …
In the golden age of television they said that television would eradicate ignorance. After TV there would no longer be illiterate people. Everybody through the medium of television would become enlightened. All knowledge would be available to them through TV.
In the end, not even, you know, midway … I was the first television generation. As now there is Internet generation, I was in the first television generation. By the mid-sixties one of the slang names for TV was ‘boob tube’. ‘Boob’ has different meanings, we know. So it became ‘boob tube’ in other ways in time too, but what they meant at the time by calling it ‘boob tube’—‘boob’ also means ‘idiot’.
So it was told, you sit in front of this, you don’t become an enlightened thinker, you become a moron. A passive, overweight moron. That was the end result of this ‘enlightenment device’ called television. So there is always one or another … “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”—the French say, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
The other day someone showed a bunch of quotes about … It appeared to be anti-Internet, like anti-Twitter, Facebook, on every quote … You thought, “Oh, that’s what they are talking about.” And actually it was saying like, “Now people will stop communicating personally with one another.” And there is the whole list of quotes like that, but then at the end it says, “These were comments people made in the 19th century about magazines.” They were saying, “Now that there are magazines … That was going to ruin human interpersonal relationships.”
So here we are, 13 years into the 21th century: social networking, Twitter, Instagram … In the future people will go, “What’s was that?” And someone will go, — Look it up on Wikipedia. — What’s that?It will all change—“plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”—and become more of the same. And still the world, this I guarantee to all the future viewers, “Tell me if there are still janma, mrityu, jara, vyadhi—birth, death, old age and disease. Do a little check-list on that one for me. I am willing to bet that they are still there.” They are inescapable. Mortality is inescapable. Science hasn’t made people immortal.
We are searching after amrita, which means ‘nectar’, and by extension—‘immortality’. It is the search of devas and the asuras, as we are told, in the “churning of the ksir ocean”. And I like to frame this in modern sense that, in one sense, the ultimate pursuit of theist and atheist is similar—everybody wants happiness. No one can deny that they want to be happy. They want love, affection, a loving affection and happy relationship. Atheist, theist, agnostic alike.