The Wagging Tail.

I reproduce below an article that appeared in one of our local newspapers recently. I reproduce it as I found it illuminating and indeed, fascinating coming from a neurosurgeon.

“The early morning winter mist only enhances the mystical ambience that envelops the atmosphere on my morning walk up the hill. Silhouettes of trees and the visible landscape are bathed in the serene silver hue of the setting moon. The trees are in slumber, as are their avian dwellers. Or so it seems. The isolated chirping of an early riser is audible in the hushed silence. The winding mountain path is barely visible, just enough to ensure that my feet don’t transgress the lateral boundaries. The only other sound palpable is that of my own breathing, which gets a shade heavier as I climb further up the hill.

The mind is almost thoughtless, till suddenly, an arbitrary thought breaches its stillness. Like a pebble thrown into the calm waters of a serene lake. Turbulence. Followed by a cascade of reactions, emotions, opinions, anxieties, and apprehensions. It’s amazing, how a mere thought can completely alter the interior and unleash a flurry of neurotransmitters that wreak havoc in the mind. Simultaneously, there follows a rush of corresponding hormones that prepare the body for possible combat with an unseen, virtual enemy.

The flight, fight or fright response is triggered by a random thought.

The skies get a bit brighter with the rising sun that surfaces from the horizon. I reach a plateau. My breathing eases a bit and the cone of visibility widens. Then, I spot her at a distance — the majestic Labrador, trotting obediently just ahead of its master. An unmistakeable feature of this gorgeous canine is her continuously wagging tail, a testimony to a perennial state of causeless happiness. She wags her tail ceaselessly. Happiness, beyond the cause-effect paradigm, oozed from her every pore.

I wonder what might be going on in her mind. Her dark brown eyes look blissful, with no trace of any anxiety, fear or chaos. This must be causeless happiness; perhaps even happiness that precedes any cause. My happiness had to be necessarily subservient to a tangible cause. And worse, I permitted my mind to ravage my happiness with irrational, arbitrary, virtual apprehensions.

My encounter with the happy Labrador suggested that being happy is a matter of choice. Being happy could be the cause and not the effect. Could the effect precede the cause? This paradoxical phenomenon is termed ‘retrocausality’. It was long considered that an effect preceding its cause, is an inherent self-contradiction, because, as 18th-century philosopher David Hume discussed, when examining two related events, the cause, by definition, is the one that precedes the effect.

The only distinction between cause and effect is temporal… If i decide to start wagging the tail of my mind, I know my mind will find a reason either in the past, or perhaps in the future. My ego cannot accept happiness without a cause.

So, i start wagging the tail of my mind vigorously, and — lo and behold!

I discover those dainty yellow flowers that are swaying gently; I feel the cool breeze caressing my face. I become an inseparable part of Nature and resonate with it. Happiness thereafter doesn’t remain a response. It percolates the here and now. Happiness loses all conditionality. It transcends to a state of unconditional bliss. A state where cause and effect merge into a moment that lasts forever. Eternal Bliss. Ananda.”

Deepak Ranade is a neurosurgeon in Pune.

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