Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Same old, same old

December column for AZIndiaTimes:


Like any school kid will tell you, distance does not equate displacement. I could meander for hours and end up very close to where I started. Displacement, being a vector, is direction specific. In life, there is usually a distinction between the direction you ought take and the direction you end up taking. Work is a product of the Force you’ve applied and the Displacement you’ve made.

We live in an age obsessed with Efficiency. We have identified a few variables- Money, Societal Status, Physical Fitness, Relaxation, Things we own etc., devised ways to quantify them and plan our lives trying to maximize the output we get for the force we’ve applied. We multitask, buy in bulk during Sale events, constantly upgrade our skill sets, network with friends and colleagues who we think can give our careers a boost. We get extremely pissed off when something unexpected happens- a death in the family, the child failing an exam, the bathroom drain clogged on a weekday. We curse the universe for not finding a more suitable time to assign us our share of problems. It’s one way to live.

But since all of us aren’t such perfectly rational calculating machines, we give into procrastination and lethargy, devise new ways to create leisure amidst all this hullabaloo, find methods to jeopardise the plans we’ve created for our own good. Suddenly, in the middle of this permanent sprint where we are trying to run with a tunnel vision, a voice tells us to see to our left, where we see a narrow, beautiful, inviting path and before we start cursing ourselves for doing it, we’ve already changed directions. For a while the lack of competition is refreshing. We get enough time to think all the thoughts we’ve put on the backburner for weeks and months. We enjoy the sights and sounds, take a sip of the refreshingly cool water. We think we ought to ignore the race, build a small hut in this hamlet and spend our lives tending to our farms. And yet, soon after, we start worrying about our decision, if we’re doing something wrong, if we’ll fall so far back in the race that we’ll never be able to catch up. So we run back. We yearn for the external validation.

In an increasingly connected world, our idea of feeling alive is heavily dependent on the constant feed we receive from our social network. Why are we so afraid to chart our own path? Is the herd mentality that’s so deeply imbibed within us an evolutionary attribute? Admittedly, there is comfort in marching with the masses; Even if it’s to Mount Doom.

I think all these thoughts because I hate the idea of work. I’m always on the lookout for shortcuts (which itself is a manifestation of efficiency) and trying to arrive fast at my salvation point. I try cutting away from all the accelerating information and marching to my own drum but it is so hard. Every interesting titbit of new information learnt creates a tiny feeling of achievement and, thereby, pleasure. It does not seem to matter that I have turned into an information consumer than a human being who can gather information, convert it into knowledge and use it to improve (whatever that means) my life. I spend my mornings charting out time-tables, aftertoons failing to implement them, evenings cursing myself for being such a weak-minded procrastinator and nights googling about new technologies I can learn that will make me rich and happy.

I do not want to live my life like this. Not this Fast Food mode of innutritious living. The question is how do I escape its gravitational pull. No Yoga, no Meditation, no Zen Habits, no Reward Systems seem to be working. So I keep moving around in circles, chasing my own tail. Not moving forward with the rest, not charting my own path through the wilderness but stuck in the same place, paralysed by the fear of walking down the wrong direction and progressively getting more paranoid for not walking down some arbitrary path, thereby creating a negative feedback loop. So to avoid worrying about all this, I turn away from what I’m supposed to do and feed on middlebrow articles on the Web.

I do not want to run. I want to walk, meander, get lost, explore unseen vistas, nap under the trees, bump into other interesting beings, share stories, learn wonderful things. What’s stopping me? My own fear of the unknown. I’m afraid of what I’ll have to hear in silence; So I’m constantly yapping. Is life a problem to solve, a sight to behold, a journey to take, a lesson to learn? What should I be chasing- Happiness, Pleasure, Liberation, Satisfaction? I sometimes think that this idea of choosing to live my life more intensely is also a marketing gimmick.

What do I really want then? Wherein lie my real feelings?

1 comment:

Deekshith said...

The Mount Doom part had me in splits.

I’m afraid of what I’ll have to hear in silence - this is by far one of the most honest lines you've ever brought into being.

Quite contemplative in its tone.