Dr. S. Kumaran’s Article on Winged Reason
Humanism in K. V. Dominic’s Winged Reason
Dr. S. Kumaran
Assistant Professor of English,
University College of Engineering, Tindivanam,
Melpakkam- 604 001, Tamilnadu.
(Appeared in XXVI.1 (Jan 2013) issue of Poetcrit)
The seventh edition of the New Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines humanism as “a system of thought that considers that solving human problems with the help of reason is more important than religious beliefs. It emphasizes the fact that the basic nature of human is good” (Hornby 2005) and Corliss Lamont, the author of Humanism as a Philosophy, states that “Humanism, in brief is a philosophy (religion) the guiding principle of which is concentration on the welfare, progress and happiness of all humanity in this one and only life” (Lamont 1997). This paper explores K. V. Dominic’s Winged Reason, a collection of poems, to bring out the humanistic values expressed in it. The poems found in the collection are an ardent expression of the poetic soul to witness peace and harmony in the Universe. They proclaim the poet’s faith in the humanistic values and his belief in the inherent worth and intrinsic value of non-human others. Further, the poems reveal the poet’s anguish at the evils and the inhuman attitude prevalent in the society and necessitate harmony of existence.
In this modern and busy world, people have lost their respect for human values and lead insular lives. Empathy is often neglected for convenience and for selfish gains. The poet proves to be different from the rest by his sympathy and concern for others. “In Memoriam George Joson,” the first poem in the collection, the poet declares his sorrow on the death of his colleague in a car accident and expresses his concern for the welfare of the family. According to Lamont (1997), “Humanism simply means “human being-ism, that is, devotion to the interests of human beings, wherever they live and whatever their status” and the poet’s ability in bringing out the pathos is beyond comparison and it reveals his genuine grief:
When your youngest kid,
not knowing what has happened,
kissed your face
again and again
and plucked flowers
from your wreath;
tossed them to her sisters weeping and screaming
What a game He plays! (“In Memoriam George Joson”)
Most of the humans in this world are confused about the activities of the world and its functioning. As a fellow being, the poet shows the path of divine knowledge and illuminates the minds of humans with the knowledge of the universe. The poet accepts and informs humans about the role of fate in the lives of humans but establishes faith in the divine play of the Supreme Being and urges humans to surrender unto the will of the ever-lasting soul. He avers that:
As the great poet sang:
We are all puppets in His hands,
dancing to the tunes He plays.
The best is to resign
to what He ordains
in time and out of time (Dominic 18)
As the success of a nation depends on Politics, humans cannot isolate themselves from it. A good deal of knowledge and interest in politics is necessary for every human so as to ascertain their contribution to the glory of the nation. The poet’s interest in the politics of his times is commendable. Unlike Abbey who wanted to find an alternate place ie, Abbey’s Country to confine himself away from the reach of people, the poet discloses his interest in politics and also points out the good qualities of a politician through “Long Live E. K. Nayanar.” He commends E. K. Nayanar:
You were a true Communist;
a comrade to the core of your being,
a rare species,
compassion and love an epitome of Socialism (“Long Live E. K. Nayanar”)
The poet upholds Indian democracy and reveals its lapses through “Indian Democracy.” He feels that Indian democracy is the largest on the planet and is considered a wonder by the world. At the same time, he does not fail to point out how it is made ugly by the selfish politicians who fail to fulfill their duties. He remarks that:
National parties play
trump cards with communalism;
bow their heads before priests.
The real issues of the country
never discussed among people.
fireworks of lies and abuses (“Indian Democracy”)
The poet extols peace and condemns violence in all forms. He does not approve the brutal attacks made on the people by authorities for power, selfish gains, and false beliefs and questions the rationality of their inhuman actions. He addresses the sad plight of the people and reveals his interest in human values. In “A Blissful Voyage,” he avers that:
I wish I had the claws of a vulture
to fetch the skeletons from Iraq
and build a bone-palace
to imprison Bush in it! (“A Blissful Voyage”)
In fact, the poet is ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of the country and desires to explore distant legion. As he believes in the transforming power of humanism, he is determined to inspire humans to be aware of it and to adopt it. In this regard, Kurtz (1973) feels that “Humanists have a moral commitment to free thought, to the fulfillment of human potentialities and the democratic ideal of humanity as a whole.” Dominic also brings out the unfulfilled attempts made by the great personalities to establish humanism and points out their ever-remaining dream:
If I could fly like an angel,
would plead all prophets
to inspire and instill humanism
in millions’ communal minds.
I would meet Gandhi too
who is weeping at his shattered dreams. (“A Blissful Voyage”)
Humans long to have a sense of belongingness to a place and are ready to die for their home land. On the other hand, its absence questions the meaning of their lives and puts them at the mercy of others. Further, the lack of mercy leads to mental trauma and inexplicable woes. The poet brings out the unhealthy atmosphere of Tsunami camps in “Tsunami Camps.” He feels that even gods will become crazy seeing the sufferings of the refugees. Though many days are over since their arrival on the camps, their status has not been improved a bit. Further, the poet mourns that they are not given basic amenities for their living and vehemently remarks:
“Where have gone the crores
collected for our relief?”
Money is hoarded in the government exchequer,
or diverted for some other purposes.
“It’s better to kill us than torture like this.”
“We don’t have sufficient food,
we don’t have pure water” (“Tsunami Camps”)
The division among the people is the result of their contaminated minds and it makes the world an unsuitable place for living. The poet shows how humans have brought division among themselves ignoring the purpose of God’s creation in “Haves and Have-nots.” He reveals that God had no idea of Have and Have-nots when he created humans and they are purely ‘man-made categories.’ He finds Nature is bountiful enough to feed with its resources but ‘selfish man disrupts Mother Nature’s feeding; Further, he questions:
What right has the mortal man
to divide and own this immortal planet?
What justice is there for the minority
to starve the majority? (“Haves and Have-nots”)
Humanism has become an integral part of the poet. Even in his dream, he thinks of humanity. He brings out the existence of quite contrary things in the society and questions the rationality behind incongruous actions in “A Nightmare.” He finds a mother forcing her obese child to eat more and juxtaposes it with the bony child who was crying for a crumb. Further, he notices people relishing feast and also observes ‘two ragged girls outside struggling with the dogs in the garbage bin.’ The poet points out the desertion of aged people by their children and the sufferings of the parents in “Gayathri’s Solitude.” He exposes that the children leave for foreign countries ignoring their parents at hometown. They think that the money they send could make their parents happy. The irony is that:
Poor, miserable mother,
she has no hunger,
she has no sleep.
An old lily flower
pale and faded.
Dawn to dusk,
sitting in an armchair,
looking at the far West,
longing for her children’s calls,
she remains lonely. (“Gayathri’s Solitude”)
The poet brings out how human values are violated in the pretext of religion. In “In the Name of God,” the poet exposes how the name of God is used to cover illegal actions and to practice evils. He also thinks that ‘criminal actions’ done in the name of God outnumber good things done in His name. He observes that:
Terrorists butcher thousands
in the name of God.
Teens become terrorists
in the name of God.
in the name of God.
Higher castes exploit
in the name of God.
Secularism is nullified
in the name of God. (“In the Name of God”)
The poet believes in the beauty of village life and encourages humans to learn humanism form it. The poet compares city life with village life in “City Versus Village” and elucidates the greatness of village life. According to Pragg (1973), humanists deem “creating conditions for free development of individuals and groups in the form of prosperity, equity, legality, participation and self government,” and Dominic addresses the same. He finds people in the city live in their ‘own island’ without caring even the death of their neighbours. They do not exercise humanism and confine themselves to their inhuman actions. On the other hand Village is a place:
Where all live
in harmony and love.
They are gullible-
so fooled and cheated
and looted by the townsmen. (“City Versus Village”)
The poet’s exposure of the loss of human values is commendable. He points out the evils of kidnapping children in “Anand’s Lot” and ascertains the mental trauma of the kidnapped children who are made to beg for the kidnappers. Readers could not help shedding tears when the persona of the poem, after having immersed his eyes on the pupils in ‘tempting uniforms’ remarks:
How happy were those days!
Mummy gave me kiss and ta-ta;
like butterflies flew to the school
with Rajesh, Praven and Smitha
chattering, singing, dancing, running.
Alas! Like a vulture came the car then;
picked me in and dashed away. (“Anand’s Lot”)
Humans should treat non-human others on par with them. In “A Sheep’s Wail,” the poet expresses his love for animals and exposes humans’ lack of attention to them. The Sheep, persona on the poem, reveals how humans ignore the rights of animals and butcher them mercilessly. It blames humans, for shearing its fur given by God, for sucking and draining the milk for its lamb, and for killing it along with its kith and kin. Further, it censures humans as the cruelest and the most ungrateful of God’s creations and questions:
Nothing can be more absurd!
Aren’t we His children?
How can He forgive you?
If a heaven is there
We will reach there first
And pray to God to shut you out. (“A Sheep’s Wail”)
In “Ammini’s Lament” and in “Ammini’s Demise,” the poet reveals his tender nature and his acceptance of non-human others as his constituent part. In “Ammini’s Lamnet,” he pictures how his pet cat Ammini could not stop its ‘incessant cry’ over ‘the loss of her darlings’ that had been sold by the poet in a ‘weak moment’ when ‘troubles increased.’ The poet and his wife shared the sorrow of their dear Ammini and ‘the pangs of’ his heart was a ‘laughing-stock’ to his guests. Kurtz (1988) opines that “There is a deeper aspect to the ethical life, however: moral awareness is rooted within our nature as human beings. There is a built-in dependency relationship based on socio-biological roots and cultural conditioning, and this reflects itself in our emotions” and the same is expressed by the poet. In “Ammini’s Demise,” the poet captures his sorrow over the loss of his poisoned Ammini and questions:
How could that fiend
poison this angel?
What harm had it
done to him? (“Ammini’s Demise”)
Humans should revere Nature and abstain themselves from looting its resources. The poet informs humans about the sanctity of Nature through “I am Just a Mango Tree.” He asserts that humans could learn from a tree. He also pictures how the Mango tree has fulfilled the plan of the Creator by serving others. It shelters the student-friends, gifts people with its fruits, and offers its lap to sleep. Further, the poet exposes the selfish nature of humans. As the humans desire to construct a waiting shed they want to cut the Tree. The Tree is perplexed and for its prayer, God replies:
‘My child, I created him
in my own Image
but he’s gone astray;
My agony is endless.
That’s the fate
of the Father everywhere.
I shouldn’t have created this human species;
But how can a father kill his sons?’(“I am Just a Mango Tree”)
The poet announces how humans have lost even their sleep owing to their unnatural ways of life in “Sleepless Nights.” The poet feels that birds sleep peacefully all through night as they obey the norms of nature whereas humans have lost all their peace and spend their nights without sleep.
The poet’s philosophy on the various aspects of human life is par excellence. In “Beauty,” he exalts inner beauty as real and terms physical beauty temporal and unworthy. He assures that nothing on this earth is ugly as all the things are created by God. Further, he says physical beauty fades like a flowers and is forgotten once when its life is over. On the other hand, achievements of humans earn them eternal beauty and “only spiritual beauty gives eternal joy” (Dominic 28). The poet reveals the bliss of married life in “Connubial Bliss.” He declares that male and female are made for each other and none can reject pains and pleasures as they are ‘God’s own gifts.’ Further, he ascertains marriage brings heaven on earth and it helps humans to fulfill the plans of the Supreme Being. The poet captures the true nature of old age and warns the youth who neglect old people in “Old Age.” He reveals that life cycle of humans becomes complete with old age and it humbles the ‘monarch of yesterday.’ Further, he points out the uncared attitude of the children towards their aged parents and warns:
Ageism is contemptible;
Today’s torturer tomorrow’s victim;
we live with ironies. (“Old Age”)
In “Pleasures and Pains,” The poet considers pleasures and pains as a part of human life and avers that:
Pleasures and pains:
two sides of a coin.
We toss it early morning;
majority gets the pains side.
pleasures come like sprinkles,
while pains fall like a deluge
and continue like monsoon.
Happiness is a mist
while sorrows shower like snow. (“Pleasures and Pains”)
The poet acknowledges the greatness of women and asserts their dignity and independent nature in “International Women’s Day.” He considers women as the harbinger of all lives and commends them for their service to humanity. At the same time, he exposes the cruelties imposed on them and reveals the narrow mindedness of patriarchal society. He exposes patriarchy thus:
Woman is the game!
Birth to death,
an instrument of lust
and hot-selling sex!
Her very birth ill omen:
an unwelcome event.
No guilt in foeticide;
foeticide is matricide;
no life without mother. (“International Women’s Day”)
Humans should not usurp the property of other humans and should live by their own labour. The poet emphasizes the dignity of labour in “Lal Salaam to Labour.” He considers labourers as the ‘backbone of the country’ and believes that the service they render to the society cannot be repaid. Moreover, he feels that people live because of the labour of the labourers and they should not ignore their plight. The poet finds that the labourers build houses but have no home to stay. They clean roads and markets but are avoided by the common men. Further, he calls:
Let us not be unjust
when we pay them wages,
for we can’t do what they do.
Give them at least their due;
the more we give, the more we get;
Put charity in humanity
a spiritual bliss that never dies. (“Lal Salaam to Labour”)
Thus, the analysis reveals how the poet declares his faith in humanism through his treatment of human life, divine play, politics, Indian democracy, poverty, natural calamity, division in society, religious hypocrisy, Nature, village vs city, kidnapping, love for animals, independence of women, and dignity of labour. Moreover, the analysis reveals the poet’s faith in didactic poetry and ascertains the relevance of his writing to the present day world.
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Kurtz, Paul. Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Humanism. New York: Prometheus Books, 1988. Print.
—. “Humanism and the Moral Revolution.” The Humanist Alternative: Some Definitions of Humanism. By Kurtz. New York: Promotheus Books, 1973. Print.
Lamont, C. The Philosophy of Humanism. New York: Humanist Press, 1997. Print.
Praag, J. P. Van. “What is Humanism?” The Humanist Alternative: Some Definitions of Humanism. Ed. Paul Kurtz. New York: Prometheus Books, 1973. Print.