Friday, February 15, 2008

Remaining True


...And to Friendship that Weathers Storms and Moves Mountains

When you are born, you are born into the middle of a situation: you discover your space, you make your space around you, you cry, you whimper, you simmer down, and finally you invent yourself. You emerge from the shells, breaking some, held closely in some, yet you emerge, you stand up, about to fly, or at least take the leap into the big bad world. Or so you think.

You are first given a name, which tells you that you are one among the crowd. It also tells you that you are different, and the name is the primary facility to mark you out, to seek you out, when you are the one needed, when you're one addressed.

You are given love. It is not really love: it is touch, it is companionship, it is playfulness, and above all, it is the attention and the time: your parents and your folks spend their time with you, with no other hope for reward except the very joy of living, the spontaneity, and pure spirit of life, which only an unattached fellow like you can give. Your love is of a completely formless and neutral sort. Your playfulness is serious and life-affirming, because you do not yet know what life is, or that you are indeed living.

You are given food and affection. This is a natural offering, as one of a family, as one among the own, as someone not different, because you cannot yet fend for yourself, and of course, as a matter of course, as this has been done to your father and to your mother. Or, somehow you come by your food or you are forced to steal it or take it by force. (In the most deliciously bourgeoisie scenario, you have food thrust upon you.)

You find your friends. Initially you cannot choose (just as you cannot choose your parents), and are offered some friends. Some of these friends offer themselves to you, often completely unselfishly, with no strings attached.

You grow. The growth so described is a multi-pronged drive to attach alien dominions to yours: language, connections, skills, strength, concentration, purposeful work, social presence, education, physical prowess, cunning, and finally, carnal attachment for mutual enjoyment and personal benefit.

You are given on instruction on how to abide by the law. The entire educational system - social as well as personal - is built upon this premise. The system of education is just that - a system. It teaches not the arts or the sciences or the humanities. What it teaches you in the classrooms and in the assignments and what it evaluates in the examination halls is not what education is meant to do to you. Education lays down on you a grid, a mold, the iron wire design of society; the hot brand of the condemned modern man, the structured, hierarchical caged fool. The hierarchy is not one of professions nor of attainments but strictly a hierarchy of cages. It is a hierarchy of stupidity wherein the most stupid never realise that they are several levels inside. The smarter ones, the successful ones, can call themselves ringmasters. Or at least they have a few under their boots they can crack their whips on.

Once the rigour of education has been stamped, the aspect changes. Now you are offered sops. A child is offered dresses, uniforms, ice creams, books (these were the sops I was offered)... in general, the child is offered a lot of things. And, for the tender age, things hold out a special charm. By manipulating these things, the child hopes to master the world it cannot make sense of. It is a dangerous game of auto suggestion.

The sops change from things to sex. The packaging gradually changes from glossy to sexy. A child's sops may be construed as meaningful; these have some value. But the grow-up is ensnared by useless objects (bottles of perfume, lingerie, and of course, diamonds and gold, cars). Above all, the grown-up is fixated on one thing only. Whatever (s)he achieves - whatever (s)he deploys by means of considerable social, technical, and professional skills, (s)he expects to drown it on one thing only. Once (s)he commits, the circle is complete, (s)he has been ensnared.

By now the pattern - the structure - has been imprinted. You are now 30, and with child. You know that the sops come back in various forms, always irresistible, but they will always be worthless, sops.

You find yourself at the centre, with lots of spokes radiating outward. You are now responsible not only for yourself but for others. Just as the spindle cannot go down because so much else depends on it, you have to somehow chug along. You decide to make the most out of it.

You find that you have a place in the world. You find that you are valued, respected, as much as you are ridiculed and ignored. What exactly are the qualities on which you are judged so? The common factor seems to be the meeting point where you and your personality cut across the world, the others.

You are branded for some things, for some other things you do not exist, you never really are in the picture. but for those things for which you matter, your position is assumed, you are assumed to represent some things. You are seen as a product or as a representative of a product. In any case, you will be dealing with the nitty-gritty and defending it in case it breaks. Similarly, you will be handling all the plaudits in case it meets with success.

What makes it seem to you that you are the centre, that you are the point, that you matter? It is the ritual of accepting people as finished men and women, as if they represent ideals, as if they are the repositories of traditions, distilling the legacy of their place, their creed, their race. It is a custom, we know it when we are afforded the luxury - the benevolent attention - of that admiring gaze. The admiration cloaks a guarded smile. It is a smile that returns to you and to everyone else. It is a ritual.

You are assumed to remain true to your upbringing, your beliefs. First, it is assumed that you are cliché; once you accept it yourself (not a very difficult thing to do, when you have the advantage of 'experience' behind you), everything falls into place. you become the messianic prophet of your own life, you suddenly become sure of everything when you, just an hour ago, were finding it hard to keep body and soul together running errands for god knows what. A communal collusion agrees beforehand that it should be so, and lo! your deep personal insecurities are vapour. You realise how you have been done in. Gestures of unsolicited kindness pepper your life like broken glass on the beach.

...and you remain true. The great tragedy in life is not taking decisions when you don't understand them; the tragedy is when you take decisions when you know you shouldn't.


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