Sunday, March 24, 2019

Write to share, not to impress

How do some people enjoy working? The software corporate folks, and I only know what they have to say because I've spent most of my working life with them, call it play or fun and yet I think it is work they're doing. Maybe if it was Linus Torvalds that I met everyday when he was building Linux, I'd have believed the play part. Yes, that too might look like work to me (I have never understood how people spend their spare time writing software to build tools) but I can see what he means when he calls it fun. But when a colleague whom I'm working with, calls designing the database and writing scripts and building zeppelin notebooks fun, I'm totally lost. His actual words: "I'm doing pre-sales right now and I'd shoot myself in the face. I love doing this: writing code, building models; doing something of value". And I go, why the fuck can't I feel the same about my employer/ customer/ stakeholder. Is the reason for all my suffering? That I can't stand to think of anything other than my comfort and greed.

I've never done anything for anyone. Sure, I do stuff for the people I love if I know it'll make them happy. I help strangers a bit when I can. You know, the simple stuff, giving directions, helping with suitcases. When money becomes part of the transaction though, I can't stand it. If you love it so much, why do you do it for the money? It's not just money too. I've been a volunteer for causes that I feel deeply about and I think I do a very lousy job. I just turn up, no homework, no planning, no design. In my defence, that's how I live my life. From whim to action to retrospection to more whims. I've never been able to stick to anything in my life that involves conscious work and dedication. What is progress if not making a goal and walking towards it, correcting and learning on the way nevertheless but eventually trying to reach the preordained goal. I've never, ever been able to do that at a level that cannot be understood by a monkey. I can do the physical stuff but find it almost impossible to make my mind do something I want to. Though who this I is and why he can't control his mind I don't really know.

Last week, I went to an Actors and Filmmakers meetup. I've been dissatisfied with the software jobs that I've done and a part of me persistently tells me to move to find jobs as a writer in film, theatre, videogames etc. So I said, sure ,let me meet these people, get a couple of contacts and see if I have the chops to be hired without pay so that I could start off by working on weekends. But after having hearing them describe their lives and their problems, I realised that I didn't want to be a filmmaker. I have trouble writing and directing and I went there hoping I could learn the craft and find a discipline. My problems weren't monetary, they were artistic. These people, by their own words, were actors and writers who did the work they wanted to but were desperate for more opportunities, and thereby money. They claimed to be skilled at their craft and their problem was not of inspiration but that of existence. They weren't able to eke out a living. Comparatively, no matter how much I crib and cry at my sinful corporate job, I at the least am making good money (good enough for me to live a comfortable life, buy things I want, go to places without too much fuss and have the ability to take care of my loved ones). It was a real shocker, seeing all these talented people learning about Social Media Marketing and trying to find newer avenues on the internet to gain some popularity and money. Walking back home, quite shaken, I felt blessed for having a market-friendly degree. Hate my job as much as I could, I had the luxury of hating it from a warm and secure place.

Anyway, actually going there was a great thing because all these years, in my head, I thought becoming an artist meant freedom to pursue interests, ask important questions, have great conversations, and most importantly not be worried about expending mental energy for earning a living. To live like Montaigne, like the character who sings అవధిలేని ప్రతి అనుభూతికి ఆత్మానందమే పరమార్ధం. Of course I realize that people like that have their own set of problems, that great art comes out of overcoming great obstacles blah blah although that's a different discussion. So I'm having these thoughts and then it hit me that I don't want to be an artist as much as an aristocrat and it was a bit of a shock because I always considered myself to be left leaning. I thought I wanted work abolished; I now realize I want to be in a place where I don't want to do it. Of course I love these fancy gadgets, wonderful architecture, complex software platforms, access to excellent healthcare and education, and none of this would be possible without smart, dedicated people putting in efforts. For all my mockery of the working class, I see clearly now how I'm feeding off them. You leave me in a jungle for a day and I couldn't survive. I need the society for safety, pleasure, companionship, learning and yet I persistently mock the ones who grease its wheels albeit in an imperfect manner.

Freedom, the pedestrian connotation of it, is overrated. To be free from the surprises and shocks of life is to be dead. Real love is our inability to stop doing what we want to despite the innumerable obstacles we face. The stars align themselves in beautiful shapes every now and then. At all other times, it is love for the act that helps us swim through. To be a writer is not to complain about how life does not make it easy for me to write great things. To be a writer is to keep writing because I love writing. To write is not to write the one Truth after all the struggles. To write is to be in a constant, evolving relationship with life and using writing as a witness to that. Writing is not the panacea to all the problems in my life. It is the constant background music of my life, my companion with who I can have discussions and arguments at all times, and who helps me engage with life deeply.

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