Friday, April 13, 2018

To live like I eat

April column for AZIndiaTimes. I didn't file a copy for March. Also, I changed the title of my section from Kicking and Screaming to Ways of Being. Can't remember why.


To live like I eat

I have grand visions. I make good plans. I start working on them with a bang. Eventually though, I fail to implement new habits for more than a few days and motivation fizzles out. A few days and many self-help blog posts later, I’m ready to give a new vision another shot. Only, I drop it halfway too. Ad infinitum. Eat, Plan, Fail, Repeat. Undoubtedly, my lack of will and discipline play a major role in the failure. This failure to execute plans is all-pervasive- Working out regularly or learning a new Programming language. Or with keeping a journal or vouching to travel more regularly etc.

“I ­always have to feel that I'm bunking off from something.” -Geoff Dyer

I’ve always been a procrastinator, a lazy bugger, an escapist, someone who hates the idea of work itself. A part of me tella that when I’m gone, it’ll be my work, even if only for a few years, that’ll prove the fact that I existed once. For me, posthumous remembrance is, or I’d like to believe it is, a big deal. And that makes this all the more conflicted- this battle between instant gratification, living perpetually in the moment, walking, on whim, towards whatever is now catching my attention and the voice that tells me that great things that people will look upto can only be built by delaying gratification in the service of working diligently towards a vision and overcoming innumerable hardships to arrive, at least ephemerally, at the summit of human excellence.

I’ve been taught, by my family, society, culture, that work is good. Least for what it gives us materially and more for how it gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Work need not necessarily mean paper-pushing tasks. To work is to, I’ve come to learn, embracing my best self to make the society a better place. And to do that I must work towards Physical, Mental and Spiritual fitness and that is where I’m falling short of my expectations. My life so far has been a series of failed attempts to becoming the best man society needs me to be. I know it very well because amidst all this hullabaloo, I feel like I haven’t left a mark on my own bloody life. Yet, I can vouch with sincerity that I started all that I have with clean intentions and a sincere mind.

Why am I so unsuccessful then? Is it because of my weak-willed disposition. Or maybe because my plans are wrong? Or because I’m choosing the wrong things while life is trying to nudge me towards my destiny? Everything I am in life today has been mostly because of chance. I always did what was safer and easiest do to which, more often than not, is going with the flow. My primary defence for that is that since I don’t know everything and I’m not really passionate about something to march to my own drum, so isn’t it safer all around just to do what everyone else is doing? Of course there were a few moments, very few, when I stood up to what I really thought was right but even then a part of me chose to take the risk because I wanted to be known as intelligent or courageous or a maverick; You know, all those wonderful qualities. That presents a really deep conundrum- I want to play safe, seek the protection of being in a group but simultaneously want to be seen, admired, be the centre of everyone’s attention- How is that possible?

“Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence” -David Foster Wallace

I had to solve that problem because it would be the platform on which everyone of my other decisions would play out. So to placate both sides of the argument, to be in this society that I grew up in and in which I had found comfort and solace but also to climb atop the dominance hierarchy, I decided, or my subconscious did, to strive for those things that my immediate society valued most. In my case, these happened to be Intelligence, Material Success, Artistic Temperament, Health, Control over Impulses etc. Since I’m not a master of any of those things, everyday I try to manipulate reality in such a way that I give off an impression of control. I, a person with such extreme spatio-temporal limitations, someone who has no clue how or why he’s here, is presumptuous enough to attempt to manipulate the universe so that it can give him temporary relief. I’m trying to win a game in which I’m one among infinite participants and whose rules I haven’t even begun understanding.

What then do I do? Live on whims and fancies? Blindly follow my impulses? Jump into the river and give in everything to life? Or do I try to impose order onto life, something that is born from a very limited understanding of effects and repercussions? Do I choose to uphold values which I either don’t know or completely understand? Why am I in this lose-lose situation? For every path walked, there will be an unlimited number of roads not taken? Which leads me to salvation, if at all that’s where I should be headed? I have been asking these questions for years now. Either I’m not growing or these are so central to my being that I confront them wherever I go. The confusion is amplified by the Web that’s filled with a cacophony of noises and most of them are trying to tell me how I ought to live.

My wife loves the idea of food. She has the ability to understand and enjoy really complex flavours while I spend most of my time savouring the most basic flavours. We try each others’ ice-creams occasionally but otherwise we’re happy to live and let live. Maybe that’s how I ought to live, like I eat. With freedom and personal preference. I don’t intellectualize what I eat; I don’t worry about how the future generations are going to judge me by what I choose to eat. Some like their guavas ripe, others don’t. Some like chocolate ice-cream, others prefer vanilla. There are no good or bad tastes. They just are. Well, why can’t I just be then? Do what I believe is right at that point, act and move on. Maybe, after all, I don’t have to measure up to someone else’s idea of best being.

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