Modernism- as Tagore puts it



“Modernising is a mere affecatation of modernism, just as an affectation of poesy is poetising. It is nothing but mimicry, only affectation is louder than the original, and it is too literal.

One must bear in mind that those who have the true modern spirit need not modernise, just as those who are truly brave are not braggarts.

Modernism is not in the dress of the Europeans, or in the hideous structures where their children are interned when they take their lessons, or in the square houses with flat straight wall-surfaces, pierced with parallel lines of windows, where these people are caged in their lifetime; certainly modernism is not in their ladies’ bonnets, carrying on them loads of incongruities. These are not modern but merely European.
True modernism is freedom of mind, not slavery of taste. It is independence of thought and action, not tutelage under European schoolmasters. It is science but not its wrong application in life-a mere imitation of our science teachers who reduce it into superstition, absurdly imposing its aid for all impossible purposes.

Life based upon mere science is attractive to some men, because it has all the charecterisitics of sport; it feigns seriousness, but is not profound.

When you go a-hunting, the less pity you have the better; for your one object is to chase the game and kill it, to feel that you are the greater animal, that your method of destruction is thorough and scientific.

And the life of science is that supeficial life. It pursues success with skill and thoroughness, and takes no account of the higher nature of man. But those whose minds are crude enough to plan their lives upon the supposition that man is merely a hunter and his paradise the paradise of sportsmen will be rudely awakened in the midst of their trophies of skeleton and skulls.”

Rabindranath Tagore- from his lectures in Japan 19196-1917.

Man, Morals and Material- by Rabindranath Tagore



Thus man, with his mental and material power far outgrowing his moral strength, is like an exaggerated giraffe whose head has suddenly shot up miles away from the rest of him, making normal communication difficult to establish. This greedy head with its huge dental organisation, has been munching all the topmost foliage of the world, but the nourishment is too late in reaching his digestive organs, and his heart is suffering from want of blood.

Of this present disharmony in man’s nature the West seems to have been blissfully unconscious. The enormity of its material success has diverted all its attention towards self-congratulation on its bulk. The optimism of its logic goes on basing the calculations of its good fortune upon the indefinite prolongation of its railway lines towards eternity. It is superficial enough to think that all tomorrows are merely todays,  with the repeated addition of twenty four hours. It has no fear of the chasm, which is opening wider everyday, between man’s ever growing storehouses and the emptiness of his hungry humanity.

Logic does not know that, under the lowest bed of endless strata of wealth and comforts, earthquakes are being hatched to restore the balance of the moral world; and one day the gaping gulf of spiritual vacuity will draw into its bottom the store of things that have their eternal love for the dust.

Man in his fullness is not powerful, but perfect. Therefore to turn him into mere power, you have to curtail his soul as much as possible. When we are fully human, we cannot fly at each others throats; our instincts of social life, our traditions of moral ideals stand in the way. If you want me to take to butchering human beings you must break up that wholeness of my humanity through some discipline which makes my will dead, my thoughts numb, my movements automatic, and then from the dissolution of the complex man will come out the abstraction, that destructive force, which has no relation to human truth and therefore can be easily brutal or mechanical.

Take away man from his natural surroundings, from the fullness of his communal life, with all its living associations of beauty and love and social obligations, and you will be able to turn him into so many fragments of a machine for the production of wealth on a gigantic scale. Turn a tree into a log and it will burn for you, but it will never bear living flowers and fruit.

Excerpts from the lectures of Rabindrnath Tagore-1917-1918