Sunday, March 13, 2016

On growing up

I'm beginning to understand why it's so hard to grow up. Growing up means taking responsibility for your actions. Its about thinking through before you act and then standing your ground no matter what the consequences. And that's tough. Like DFW said in that convocation speech, its way easier to cede control to your subconscious persona and act on your default mode. It takes way more conscious effort, at every juncture in your life, to mould yourself and your life into something that is built on a foundation of principles. For all that's wrong with the universe, you have infinite control to change it, ever so slightly, into a world you want to inhabit. But that'd mean admitting you have free will, that you're not just a amalgamation of zillions of self-interested microorganisms. That you as an entity have power over your id, your fate, the gods. And I'm not sure if we can ever convince ourselves if we have freewill. Because not only is it easier to say we don't, but it also makes more sense. If you were born as a different person, at a different place, at a different time, and maybe in a different universe, wouldn't your principles and ideals be different. Then, doesn't it mean that the morals and virtues that you want to uphold are plain arbitrary? On the other hand, I could argue that since I was born here and now, and see some qualities and actions as worthy of honour and respect, I need to maintain them to be a better man myself.

Beneath all the layers of public guises and self-deceits lies a man who wants to be good. A strong man. An honest man. A man with integrity. A good man. The Chuck Lanes and Eddard Starks and James Donavans and Rahul Dravids are so idealized because they stand for something they believe in and do not let go even when a storms lashing at them. I also want to add Ivan Locke to that list. Yes, Tyrion is way more interesting but at the end of the day, he's a man who doesn't respect himself. He probably admires his own intelligence and is fond of his quick wit but would he trust Tyrion if he was somebody else? As much as I tell myself that I'm ruled by a power beyond my control, call it the subconscious or fate or just sheer bloody randomness, there's a part inside that refuses to believe it. That mocks me saying its an excuse I'm making to get away being half-good.

As much as I keep saying I don't know, I actually do at some level. Saying I don't know is liberating, it gives us access to do things our better selves warn us against. Saying I don't care, is in its own way, freeing as well. It protects us from heartbreak and failure. In a culture where insouciance is celebrated and the passionate are taken for fools, which come to think of it might not be such a bad idea considering the kind of idiots who are most vocal, it is indeed a tough task to be righteous ( as far as you're concerned atleast ) all the time. From what I've divined about the 1950s America from the movies I've seen, young men were taught to be loyal, brave, patriotic and to keep a check on their emotions. In a word, to be men of duty. And that is more or less what the Art of Manliness advocates. Undoubtedly, it is a romantic notion of what a man should be but how can we continue living without working towards becoming something that we love and cherish. From the Prahaar-infused warrior-heroism imaginations of childhood, to the Roark-esque ideal of purely rational individualism, to the late teen dreams of living the writerly high life a la Garcia Marquez, to the recent Lebowski justified mixture of hedonism and indifference, the idea of who I want to be has kept changing. And just because I know it will change sometime in the future, it's not an excuse enough to not think and understand what I want to be now, from this point in life. And the answer, unequivocally, is to be a good man. A family man. A man of the society. A man committed and responsible. A man who can be entrusted with important tasks. A man who thinks before he says and sticks to his word. A man doing the best he can no matter what the circumstances. From a passionate man to a prudent man. Is it a compromise? It could be argued it is. But all of us, at most times, are compromising. If being a certain way because that's expected by the people who love you and who you love is a compromise, I guess that's okay. And trade-off is the only truth of life. You want something, you let something go. Is that a sacrifice? Only as much as shedding an avatar to get into the new one.

All this reminds me of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. There's character called Sabina who prefers to treat life with a certain lightness, irresponsibility if I may. Because order frightens her with its rigidity, she consorts to chaos. Because responsibility chains her up, she betrays all those who love her. And about halfway into the book, when she's in a time and a place where she's emancipated from her past and future, where's she's literally free to be anything again, she feels a void. And Kundera writes wonderfully about how a freedom with nothing to fight against, with nothing to fight for, is like an abyss. And though I'm not claiming any sort of enlightenment, considering how short my epiphanies usually last, I'm hoping this'll be a new direction. To try, for a few days atleast, to live a life less ruled by whim and more by ideals. To let the Super-ego draw the boundaries in which the Id can be unleashed. To be my own bloody man.

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