As our plane danced through the skies from Paris, headed for the charm of Vilnius, the tapestry of Europe unravelled below. It was as though a gifted artist had painted a majestic mosaic of nations, each with its own tale, each with its distinct shade and texture. Among this spectacle, the Baltic territories gleamed, reminiscent of vintage jewels in a monarch’s diadem, whispering of epochs gone by and treasures of tales they cradled.

Yet, the ethereal view from above met an amusing contrast aboard. Our culinary preference for vegetarian fare went comically astray, with beef burgers landing on our trays. The flight crew’s humorous understanding of vegetarianism led to fish burgers as the alternative. In their world, fish seemed to float ambiguously between flora and fauna! Faced with this culinary conundrum, parental ingenuity kicked in. I relished the fish, sparing the pristine bread for my young ones. Indeed, when challenges arise, so does innovation, even if it’s sparked by a fishy mix-up!

As dawn’s first light brushed Vilnius, the city enveloped us in its serene embrace. Our delayed arrival almost led our designated driver to call off his search, but timely intervention from the conference organizers kept our journey seamless. Nestling in the heart of the city was our retreat, Hotel Artis Centrum. Its generously proportioned rooms were a delightful discovery. Yet, the allure of Vilnius cut short our respite.

The following morning, lured by the heady scent of freshly brewed coffee, I found myself irresistibly pulled to our room’s window. There, a church, resplendent with terracotta tiles, rose majestically. Its pinnacle bore a luminous cross, standing as a testament to protection, righteousness, and the eternal rhythm of birth and renewal.

After indulging in a lavish continental breakfast that delighted our palates, we arrived promptly at the hotel lobby. My travels across developed nations have instilled in me a reverence for punctuality. As the old saying goes, “Time waits for no one.” Our gracious host, Donata, was already present, visibly impatient as a few attendees lagged behind, challenging the importance of punctuality that our travels taught us. As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and timekeeping, it seemed, was sacrosanct in Vilnius.

To our astonishment, present among us was Prof. Eugene Meyers, a towering figure in the world of Otorhinolaryngology and a prolific author. Despite being a nonagenarian, his spirited demeanour was remarkable. We were also privileged to meet Prof. Metin Onerci, the esteemed General Secretary of the International Rhinological Society. Alongside these luminaries were our cherished colleagues: the warm-hearted Dr. Muaid from Iraq and the jovial Dr. Shaukath from Ireland. Additionally, there were scores of newfound friends from various European, West Asian, and Middle Eastern countries. Participating in the Baltic ENT Congress alongside such distinguished individuals was truly a humbling experience.

With everyone assembled, our journey began. We meandered through the cobblestoned pathways leading to the historic Vilnius Cathedral Square. Guiding our steps and enriching our minds was the effervescent Jelena. Her deep knowledge and zest for the city’s history were palpable. As we strolled, one recurring motif stood out: wherever my eyes wandered, they were met by the reassuring sight of holy crosses, echoing the city’s deep-rooted spirituality.

In the heart of Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, history quietly unfolds. Central to this narrative is the Vilnius Cathedral Square and its accompanying Bell Tower. Tracing its lineage back to the 13th century, this tower was initially a component of the city’s protective barriers, only to metamorphose into the belfry for the esteemed Vilnius Arch cathedral Basilica by the 16th century. Time has scarred its façade with tales of fires and sieges, events where its resonating bells fell silent or were taken. Yet, its spirit, like Vilnius itself, remained indomitable. 

Currently, it houses six bells, their melodies echoing throughout the city. Some even whisper of the enchanting secret behind their resonance — a single strand of a bell caster’s wife’s hair.

This sentinel of time, boasting a clock older than London’s Big Ben, is an enduring testament to the city’s resilience. Its hand, marking only the hours, is accompanied by an enigmatic moon-phase indicator. 

Yet, for all its history, the Bell Tower’s trials mirror the concept of “creative destruction.” As advocated by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942, this theory underscores the necessity of periodically dismantling antiquated structures, making room for innovation — a cornerstone of capitalism. This perspective diverges from conventional economic views, emphasizing dynamic evolution driven by competition and innovation. In this narrative of progress, the old often makes way for the new, fostering both loss and growth. Although Schumpeter referenced this theory, his stance on it remained ambivalent.

Creative destruction is a core concept in economics, emphasizing continuous innovation that introduces ground-breaking products, often making older ones obsolete. This principle is evident in sectors like technology, where new advancements are constant, and in media, where platforms like Netflix overshadow traditional outlets. Likewise, conventional banking faces competition from agile fintech start-ups. Such progress brings challenges, including job losses and potential power concentration. For instance, while Ford’s assembly line revolutionized car manufacturing, it also caused job losses. Similarly, the internet brought both disruption and opportunities. Apple’s approach of replacing older products with innovative ones further exemplifies this. Introduced by Schumpeter, the idea of creative destruction suggests that even with short-term challenges, the long-term objective is economic growth, innovation, and enhanced market stability. The principle captures the ongoing tension between innovation and its immediate challenges, aiming for enduring market progress.

The principle of creative destruction led my thoughts to the profound verses of the Bhagavad Gita: “Paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya cha dushkritam dharma-sansthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge.” This eternal proclamation, translating to “To safeguard the virtuous, to obliterate the malevolent, and to re-establish the pillars of righteousness, I manifest in epoch after epoch,” felt resonant with humanity’s continuous voyage through the annals of history. This sentiment swelled within me, as if my sojourn to Europe’s heartland was a living embodiment of this timeless promise.

As our exploration of Vilnius began, I was deeply moved by the harmonious blend of its historic churches and avant-garde structures. The city pulsated with an ambiance where the reverberations of bygone eras gracefully danced with contemporary life’s vibrancy. The Bhagavad Gita’s wisdom seemed omnipresent, echoing in every nook and cranny of this Baltic jewel. Vilnius, with its rich collage of culture and history, subtly yet powerfully resonated with the promise of protection, resurgence, and the enduring victory of righteousness. It felt as though the city itself breathed the spirit of “sambhavami yuge yuge.”

Prof. Dr. Prahlada N. B
22 October 2023

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