On Evolving Truth, Beauty and Love
This day (2 Aug 2021) marks the completion of nine years of LILA’s work as an intellectual and creative actor in the public domain. Further, this issue of Inter-Actions closes its publication in the current format. At LILA we have always been renewing ourselves—nothing has ever stopped us from gathering the courage to move on, even as an ongoing form assumes its smoothest, and embrace newer and more challenging ways of living and working. Of course, with the necessary nonchalance, because we believe, LILA’s translocal initiatives can find fruition only if people actively participate in the vision and mission that animate them. Hence, we have always considered it philosophically and practically important to let go. Today is such an hour of letting go—a moment of freedom and hope at once.
After many years of curating and presenting interdisciplinary conversations (as the PRISM lectures and other public formats) on some of the fundamental aspects of living in these complex times, in 2018, we launched Inter-Actions to give our inquiries a wider space to play out in the digital era. Through these years, many brilliant minds have joined us to reflect on the nature and scope of life within and around us. Together, our attempt has been to see, critique and, if needed and possible, transform the way things have evolved, and to understand “how” we have ourselves evolved through these many inter-actions.
Pertinently, the curation of this final issue of the current round of Inter-Actions has been prompted by our deep sense of irony concerning the commonly accepted notion that the 21st century humans are more “evolved” than their predecessors, from palaeolithic ancestors to pre-internet era grandmothers. We asked ourselves: What does this “evolution” mean or entail when humanity has increasingly and evidently been affected by everyday helplessness and lack of access to the beauty of truth of living and loving? What are the criteria that we use today when we say, someone or something has “evolved”?
The question of evolution has become more intense for us at LILA due to the complexity of living that we experience and witness during this time. It is an era where ignorance and knowledge, compassion and cruelty, originals and fakes, all of these explode at once into our consciousness, making ‘choice’ a hard human act and apprehension of truth a near impossibility. This fusion of values has always been part of human histories, but what makes our age remarkable is its mass scale consumption of ‘touchlessness’. The evolutionary paradox that emerges from this aspect of human living today is that while we profess to be of a rational bent, we are too willing to believe without experiencing, an inclination which leads us to a place of utter insecurity and doubt which no amount of reason can heal. At such a juncture of desperate hope/hopeful despair, how does one make an informed choice to invest in ideas, people, organisms, loves, ills, spirits?
The question that we ask in this issue of Inter-Actions themed ‘Evolution’ is this: Is there a possibility to use our given faculties to grasp at least an intimation of the truth, beauty and love that have helped us touch this moment—our ultimate evolutionary inheritance?
Towards a Viable Imaginary of Living
If we plumb our hearts to see what really lends meaning to our everyday existence as well as our entire lifespan, that exploration will lead us to three potent terms: truth, beauty, love. Many treatises have been written about these, and many experiences have been lived with these at their core. Yet, we consider the contributions to this issue as aids towards imagining a new meaning for living in this epoch with these three anchor values of evolution.
What Reveals the Truth of this Moment?
As ‘language’ stands between our intent and expression, it often divides people and ideas when it should be connecting. Our Basic Conversations in this issue look at this question through two lenses—philosophical and politico-cultural. And this is further extended to the world of economics in one of the Reflections by a former Central Banker that traces the evolution of money across time. These provocative notes urge us to look beyond the surface; they must serve as “initiatives” offering to show us an ever-evolving path of meaning-making that makes our modern space-time a part of many historical continuums.
What Makes Something Beautiful?
In another of the Reflections, an environmentalist tells us of how the transformation of a desert shrubland began by the naming of it. Isn’t it beautiful when the human act of naming becomes a landmark evolutionary step for an ancient spot of wilderness to become an interactive contemporary space “as loved and valued as the wonderful desert minstrels – the Manganiars – who live there and sing the most beautiful songs”? This exploration of beauty across time, life forms and landscapes is extended in Artactions which features an extraordinary multimedia art practice involving an encounter with fossils. Again, all these tell us how beauty is not held captive in any moment, but it is resident in a moment’s capacity to intimate us of the ceaselessness of time.
What Shapes Might Love Take?
Our LILAIGHT of the Season, this time too, is not a space but an idea, which is also an emotion: Love. We present two reflections on intimacy in a rather touchless pandemic world. How has this sentiment been understood historically, and what are the new emergences we are witnessing at this time? We find that closing of the distancing space between people happen in the most unexpected places, often between strangers. This allows us to understand the vital capacity to shape love out of nothingness as a greater common inheritance of humanity rather than seeing love as a linear product of social, cultural or even biological and chemical factors. It is in this original location of “love” that we place and understand the activism of Trolley Times that we feature in our Wordactions this time: The commitment of this group of artists, activists and writers to the cause of the farmers of India, gave rise to a potent newsletter bridging gaps in communication at the border site of farmers’ protest. This exploration of the universal connection that binds us all together continues into the life and work of this quarter’s Renaissance Person who asks: “Isn’t everything queer?” It is a critical inquiry posed to the many limited constructs of the basic human identity that do nothing but separate us. And, our Executive Editor’s regular column deals exactly with this aesthetics of conflict: Can we have a world of healing beyond the conflicting representations of our core identity as humans?
As we close this round of Inter-Actions, we hope the sparks on these pages will grow to be lights that will lead us on. We thank all our writers, readers and benefactors and wish everyone the courage to play out a meaningful life of truth, beauty and love. We shall assume another avatar and meet you soon on another road. Viva LILA!