Friday, September 2, 2016

..and this month's column

This month's column is one of those increasingly rare inspired posts. I used to think it's very possible to separate your day job from the passion that you want to follow. Apparently no, since you're the same person at the end of the day and all those disappointments, frustrations and anxieties are going to find a way into your (my) writing. Yes, at this point in time, I want those "real-life" experiences. I'm far too cut out from the rest of the world already, or like Sravani puts it, spend too much time in my own head. So being forcefully evicted out of that haven is a good thing. For one, it introduces me to some assholes. People you wouldn't ever want to deal with unless your job forced you to. Incidentally, Sravani and I were having a discussion a few days ago about what it means for something to come naturally to us. And I went to great pains to elaborate how we should listen to our conscience and only do things that come naturally to us. While she argued vehemently against it, repeatedly stressing on the importance of attention and work, dedication and craft on all relationships (which come to think of it, any activity is really), it took a couple of days for the realization to hit me.

Driving a car is natural to me now because I spent days anxious at the steering wheel and had to pay a lot of conscious thought and effort to (l)earn it. The same's with writing. I enjoy it because I'm good at it and so I spend more time with it, which makes me better and creates this nice feedback loop. But I also see now, how easy it is to fall into the comfort zone and convince yourself that you mustn't leave it because this is what you were born to do. And that can be a death knell because the moment you become insulated from the real, messy, frequently unbearable world is the moment the art and passion will stagnate. The freeze will creep from within for the lack of a force to fight against. True, like the great George Carlin argues, it's important not to give a shit but it's more important to know what you're not giving a shit about. The human condition is always a fight against something- mortality, absurdity, insecurity, impatience, confusion, humiliation, impermanence and many other things. I fear the real world because I'm afraid it'll breach my expectations, surprise me, shock me which is an unpleasant experience. To give you an analogy, it's like building a software product and telling people they ought to change their habits because the system is foolproof in it's abilities. True, it is bug-free but it also can turn obsolete very fast. Anybody, anything, that doesn't accept the feedback it receives, most of it, admittedly, unintentional, misplaced and cruel but valuable nevertheless, will not survive (read interesting) for a long time.

We love listening to the stories of artists and other celebrities and wonder how they could've had so many interesting, rich experiences. True, a part of it comes from their ability and expertise in packaging well but all that wouldn't have been possible without them being open to experience in the first place. I understand the importance of this intellectually but to go out everyday and face the wrath of stupidity, arrogance and disrespect is a journey in itself; it's something I would never undertake if not forced to. Hemingway once said that experience is the ink that fuels his stories (actually I heard Imtiaz Ali say it), and there can be no true experience without conflict. No real change without internal strife. The world will not run according to my expectations and the sooner I fathom it, the easier it'll be for me. Life doesn't owe me anything; I should stop feeling so entitled.

I'm not a big fan of the real world. Yes, there are stunning examples of intelligence and grace, wit and charm, genius and perseverance. Except I see them few and far between. And all those worthwhile things were created as an opposition to all things banal and brutal about the world. They say comedy is born out of tragedy. Ofcourse, it is. The construction of a good joke, conscious or subconscious, requires a lot of insight into human behaviour which can only be gained from bone deep experience. And things are driven bone deep by struggle: A struggle to comprehend your inadequacies, your insecurities, others' actions and in your quest to create a more elaborate mental map of the way the world works. Which again, inevitably, will have to be tweaked. At worst, this is a power game between you and life, fighting until death, seeing who's going to come out on top. At best, it can be a Salsa, a Jugalbandi, a game, a collaboration to find a way to appreciate and adjust from each others' differences, a process to fuse into a unique entity. I know where I should be heading but it'll require courage, sacrifice, humour and conscious living. That should be fun.

Also, I should stop using so many bloody conjunctions but (duh!) I'm unable to find any alternatives. Any ideas?


In Search of the Sacred

We’re living in a world where the old structures are falling and the new ones are yet to come up. Every day brings with it new possibilities, opportunities, horrors and disappointments. And it’s very easy to be lost in this torrent. Too much seems to be happening too fast. Advertisers are blaring from all sides, all your friends on Social Media are living amazing lives, so many people across the world are making new discovering and gaining insights, while fascists and psychopaths are placed better than ever to do most damage.

In times like these, it is very easy to give in to hedonism or despair. In any case, those seem to be the only two states I seem to be functioning in. I alternate between living in the fear of missing out or am too enamoured by the new contrivance that captures my inexpensive attention. Sociologically speaking, there’s apparently never been a better time period to live in. Psychologically speaking, mine own atleast, I’m not so sure. A part of my everyday goes into reading lifehack blog posts that try to explain how I can lead a better(?) life. You know, stuff life:

  • Find your true calling 
  • 7 tips to increase your productivity by 400% 
  • Keep a Journal- it’s the best self-awareness tool 
  • 13 things mentally strong people don’t do 

Don’t tell me you haven’t read any of them. There must be a reason my news feed’s filled with them. I also read too much pop-philosophy, spend hours reading habits and quirks of celebrities, and there’s always a tab open on my browser with life quotes from Feynman and Nietzsche. Every book I pick, I hope will change my life, will turn the damn bulb on. Every person I meet, I hope will be my Zen Guru. And obviously that doesn’t happen. In a universe where everything is infused with so much meaning, everything is meaningless. So when this feeling finally hits me in the evening, I just give up and watch standup comedy until I drift into a disturbed sleep.

This is where this post should end. This is where my previous nihilistic self would have ended it. Life sucks. Thank you. Period. I’d have said success is not a causality but a coincidence. Happiness, just bloody endorphins. But I’ve now turned into a more prosaic man. Unromantic, less vocal, definitely not as passionate, more corrupt even. However, I’ve gained something in return- I’m more willing to listen, open to learn, less desperate to show-off, confident enough not to constantly seek approval. Though the journey continues, there’s one learning I want to retain.
It’s this- Every person should have something in life that he’s deeply connected to, their personal haven. Something sacred. That when the world turns it’s back on you, which it eventually will, you can still go to your sanctum and stay there. Humans are solitary beings and I believe it’s life’s purpose to drive that fact deep into us, to feel it in our bones.

Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you -Rumi

What is this space, you may ask? It could be your prayers to your Gods every morning, it could be one hour of Piano practice, it could be running or meditation or writing a Journal filled with your thoughts, ideas and reflections, it could even be that time perfecting the cartwheel. It doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as it’s a world of its own. A place where you can shed all your personas and go in search of your true self. If the scriptures and sermons are right, there’s no true self. Then that must be the place where you just destroy all masks, erase all boundaries and become one with the cosmos.

All enlightenment starts from wistful thinking. I don’t know if this is the “ideal” way to live, provided there’s even such a way. My intellect tells me this seems like the right direction; my intuition seems to find resonance with it. I could be wrong, this could be another false revelation. But the best I can do at this point is to listen to my heart. In its longing to transcend me and return to the oneness, I hope my soul is leading me on the right path. There’s always a possibility that this is a faux-epiphany, maybe all epiphanies are wrong. Maybe enlightenment will teach me there’s no enlightenment. Till then though, I’ll have to learn motorcycle maintenance and inquire into values.

जलने में क्या मज़ा है, परवाने जानते हैं -Gulzar

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