Do extraterrestrials exist? Are there other lifeforms around us that our human senses are unaware of? Does consciousness continue on after death? What transpires between life and death? These are some of the questions that Dipa Sanatani answers in her sci-fi novel The Little Light.
I am a pragmatic and practical fellow. I grew up in what I would describe as a somewhat typical Chinese family. The purpose of life was to make money, put food on the table, and if you were lucky–you would have the opportunity to enjoy the luxuries of life that only the rich and well-off could aspire to.
The big questions of life–they darted across my mind now and then–but I can’t honestly say I paid them much heed in the past. I spent the first few decades of my life busy with what most humans get caught up in–which is putting a roof over my head and making enough money to pay the bills with some savings left over.
I was blessed with good fortune. My material needs were met and so much more. But I can’t honestly say I took any sort of deep dive to understand if any world existed beyond this one. Sure, I grew up with tales that recounted the Taoist and Buddhist worldview of the afterlife—but these stories were just that. Stories. They were part of my tradition and culture. I did occasionally wonder if they were more than just stories. But given the limitations of my personal experience on these matters, I didn’t dwell too much on the topic and focused my attention on practical matters and pursuits.
That was till my wife passed away. I was shattered. When someone you have known your whole life just disappears one day–that’s when you really begin to wonder where that person went, what their life is like, and if they continue to live on in a different form. I can’t say I made a pact to meet my deceased wife in the afterlife. Besides, relationships such as husband-and-wife are a legal human construct. Is it even possible for souls to get married? It made no sense for our lives to continue on in death as it does while we are alive.
So I sat back and read The Little Light. Initially, I thought the same thing I did whenever I encountered mythological tales such as this one. It is a story. It is a part of the tradition and cultural heritage of the world to tell stories such as these. That’s as far as my mind went. My perspective of the world was the way it was because of my own life experiences–which were in turn shaped by my limited ability to perceive life as a concept.
What exactly existed beyond the tangible world in which I am but a temporary visitor?
As I re-read The Little Light several months later, I began to see the story with new eyes.
Life goes beyond you and me and everything we will ever know or understand. Our imagination is not simply make-believe but evidence of the existence of lifeforms out there that we cannot even imagine, let alone begin to comprehend. There is also something called Cosmic Time. It is a spiral, cyclical understanding of the true nature of the universe. In human terms, our manmade calendar system is something that has forced us to look at time in a linear manner. Our economic development goals are always about acquiring more, more and more. Anyone who knows and understands the business world and the financial markets knows that even wealth circulates in cycles. Booms are followed by busts and so on and so forth.
But the human need to view life in linear terms is really odd if you really think about it. The Sun and the Moon–the two luminaries that shape our lives–are ruled over by a cycle. The Sun rises and sets each day. The Moon waxes and wanes. The Sun creates life on earth and the Moon pulls on the tides of the ocean. We resist the cyclical nature of life for linear developmental goals that go against the laws of the physical universe.
Our lives are a cycle–a spiral cosmic dance of Shiva. With each cycle, we are brought towards a greater and deeper understanding of ourselves and our soul’s calling. We may accumulate greys and get old, but from the larger perspective; that too is a cycle of the human existence. We die and our descendants live on and do whatever it is that they do. Any power that we may have enjoyed, held onto or perhaps even hoarded vanishes as though it never even existed; as though it was never in our possession. As though it was never ‘ours’ at all.
Where are the greats that we revere in history books? Their lives are a memory. Their achievements a legacy that must be preserved lest they fade away. They are no longer with us. They become the legends of the world. And with time, even the telling of these legends change as human consciousness evolves along with its values. As time goes on, the past turns into a mysterious force that mimics the unknown futures that have not yet occurred.
The Little Light by Dipa Sanatani is not a book I understood or even appreciated the first time I read it. Rather, it was a book that I grew to understand as I came to terms with the loss of my wife and understood the nature of death in deeply personal terms.
Despite my philosophical musings on the subject of death, The Little Light is not a heavy book by any means. It is filled with jokes, laughter, the familiar setting of familial quarrels, and of course, the story of the unfulfilled desire of an old soul that is destined to manifest on earth.
I was never a reader of fiction. Like I mentioned earlier, I am a pragmatic fellow who lives what can only be described as a highly organised and efficient life. But I suppose what the great science fiction writers do is allow us to imagine that an alternative vision of reality exists. Perhaps fiction allows the futurist a medium with which to hide deep truths about the human experience in codex–so that only the few who are really looking deep within for answers, will finally discover them when the time is right… and when they are finally ready–to look deep within themselves.
In the Cosmic Dance of time, you will discover Shiva… I know I did.