Life's extremes and the will to close gap

Special to Times of Oman

Thirty five thousand feet above the city of Munich, I flipped through the 9th June edition of Time magazine. A full page advertisement from an organisation called moaned the fact that over 780 million people, more than a tenth of entire humanity, do not have access to safe drinking water.

Titbit news on the opposite page flaunted that the estimated expenses for the wedding in Florence between celebrated artiste Kanye West and the reality show star Kim Kardashian was $2.8 million and that the median of a CEO's annual pay in the US rose to $10.5 million in 2013.

These are not breaking news; just facts that we live with. But raw statistics does strike hard; and it hurts reading them in that sequence. Life with the extremes!

Disturbed, I dumped the magazine and looked out through the window searching for a better view of this world. It was a bright European sky.

I found nothing but some more emptiness till the horizon. I closed my eyes, stretched myself a bit, and let my mind free; free from sways of my eyes, buried under a resolute pair of eyelids.

Riding on simulated darkness I wondered why I was dismayed at all. Wasn't that a true rendering of the world we live in?

Information age is taking us to zettabytes of data while we argue on millisecond latencies. A giant Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope is slated to be placed one million miles away from our planet to look for life up to 30 light years away while scientists elsewhere are studying sub-atomic particles like Higgs boson and Fermion.

Recently, I was fortunate to have a personal chat with the thirteen times Grand Prix winning Formula One ace David Coulthard. He treated me to nerve rattling narrations on split-second decisions he had to make on treacherous racing circuits around the world; decisions that stood between his life and death!

When asked which track he feared and which he loved the most, he said, "It is Monaco. I love it the most because I fear it the most". Love for extreme fear!

Later on the same day, I met with a Bulgarian businessman who hated life on the fast lane, talked passionately about Kundalini yoga, Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Buddha. Yet another encounter with extremes on a single day!

Extremes are a part and parcel of our lives and this world. Growing up in the blessed grey oasis called the middle class, most of us flirt with extremes when convenient, like a daredevil ride in Disneyland, exotic feast on ultra-luxurious spread of buffets, or a round of golf under a sweltering 47 degree Celsius sun.

But, this oasis occupies a rather small portion of our planet. Bulk of the human race, most of the landfill, and the water bodies live in the extremes. Either too cold or too hot, very fertile or absolute wasteland; ultra-rich or pathetically poor, highly educated or abysmally illiterate, superb healthcare or scarce first aid, devastating floods or dreaded droughts. The list goes on.

Realisation of this reality is a good first step. Trying to do one's best to bridge the gap is a great second. Getting upset and escaping on a flight of denial is retrograde and defeatist.

I opened my eyes, and picked up the Time to read on.

The author is a freelance writer based in Muscat. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely his and not of Times of Oman.

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