“Information Anxiety is now a recognized psychological condition…” writes Nury Vittachi, author of more than 20 commendable books, in his latest, “The Kamasutra of Business” (John Wiley, 2007).
He goes further to state: “….some people are beginning to realize that need to stop building databases and start thinking about what we already know.” For, as he rightly believes, “Today, we may know more facts. But that doesn’t mean that we are wiser.”
Apparently, Vittachi is talking about the excesses resulting from the Free Flow of Information, thanks to Internet and the Web.
Information Anxiety however, can also attack those with a very little or no excess to such Free Flow of Information. For instance, the desert people of the Interior Arabia: In the olden days, they were separated from the rest of the world. They lived in the world of their own. They had little or no knowledge at all of what was happening in the rest of the world. Any new information would need decades to reach them.
It is therefore not surprising that they became very hungry for news, any news. They even greeted each other with a standard question: “What’s the news?” They suffered from “Information Anxiety”. And, Anxiety, any kind of Anxiety, is a sickness.
The sickness affected part of their brain, which made them wild, rough and tough. Fine for them, for life there wasn’t easy either. Only the rough and tough could survive. Their sickness was a blessing in disguise – that is, for them!
It would take them more than two millennia and tens of prophets to soften their hearts. As the heart softened, the greeting too changed. It was no longer “Khair Khabar?” or “What’s the news?” – but, Shalom or Salaam, “Peace be upon thee!”
Rest of Asia did not so much suffer from this kind of anxiety. At least, we, living in the archipelago did not suffer from it. We were seafaring people. We were merchants. We had easier excess to information. It is rather surprising therefore, that we adopted their greeting in Indonesia, “Apa kabar?” – What’s the news? Indeed, the word “Kabar” is from Arabic “Khabar”.
That was not the way we greeted each other before the Arabic influence. Not that we did not care for the news – we did. However, we did not focus all our energies on gathering news and information. We cared more for the kind of knowledge and information that could bring about some transformation – Inner Transformation.
We cared for reading material that carried some value. When newspapers were introduces, we first called them Surat Kabar or News Letter, but later changed estekhdamkhabar t to Koran or Reading Material. And, Koran is a very powerful word. It is from Arabic for Reading. Not just any reading, but Holy Reading – Reading that could turn our minds and hearts holier. The Holy Scripture, in Arabic, is called Qur’an.
Coming back to the way we greeted each other…..
While greeting we hoped and prayed for each other’s well-being. And, we have a long tradition of defining “well-being” as the well being of not only our bodies, but our minds, our feelings, and our souls. We believed in the totality of human experience.
Long before the west began to talk about Intellectual and Emotional Quotients – we were already practicing Sembah Cipta and Sembah Rasa. We also knew that Spirituality could not be measured, and therefore we did not separate it and called it Spiritual Quotient. We rather incorporated Spirituality into all the layers of human consciousness as Persembahan or Loving Devotion, Offering.
We looked at things lovingly. We thought and felt compassionately. We worked devotedly. From dawn until dusk we lived cheerfully, and at night we slept peacefully.
Our View of Life has been simple, but very clear. We did not speculate and philosophize – we put spirituality into daily practice. As such, we did not suffer from any kind of anxiety. We lived a life of prayerfulness. Indeed, we did not even separate Religion and God from Life. We did not have to set apart certain hours for prayers. Our whole life was prayerful. Anxiety was therefore, foreign to us.