Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Adventures On The Margin

Can one be born at the wrong end of time? If it's a matter of opinion poll, it would certainly seem likely, because most of us will possibly want to be born at our parents' era, when things were more certain, opportunities were more forthcoming and in general, life seemed to be simpler. And, surely, some among us would want to be born in the future, when the advances in medicine are complete, and, as we hope, advances in digital communication would allow us to achieve perfect democracies.

But, like other matters of reality, opinion polls can not tell us whether we are really at the wrong end of time. The omnipotent fact that we are all products of our own time, the past is our past and the future is our future, and such thinking only represents a denial of the present; may be a defeat. So, instead of being at the wrong end of time, we can indeed be misfits. This may be shameful, and that's why we flip it when we blame the time around us and retreat to a time we haven't seen.

However, being a misfit may not be shameful. I almost wear it as a badge of honour, though other people may, regardless of what I think, laugh at it. I do not resent, or despair, the world around me, nor would I want to retreat it to a past without the Internet, or fast forward into a world to be in love with a Cyborg. It is just that I disagree with, and therefore continuously try to change how I, we, think. It is not a rejection of my time; I just accept it to be imperfect.

Indeed, my being a misfit and my trying to change the way we think and act are connected. My biggest gripe with how we think and act is that increasingly more and more people think that change is not possible. In the Western world, in the middle of which I live, the glamour and the glory of the institutions are so apparent, that they appear to be timeless and universal. Anything that hints at their fragility or faults is treated as marginal, may be crazy. In short, we live with the expectation of uniform conformity, of going through the same motions, belonging to certain classes that were set for us, performing the same rituals and living similar lives.

This is good life, surely. We can surrender our conscience to law and a government, and let them worry about what is right. We can have our opinion duly recorded at least once in five years, and enjoy a very brief moment of being sovereign as we queue up in voting booths and savour our moments of opinion in the cubicles. Rest of our time we can criticise, around the office water-cooler (do we still have some around?) or on the blogs (just like this indulgence), though we remain forever in minority of one. In the meantime, shopping malls, brands and TV channels give us useful advice on how to live, what is right or wrong and how to fit in best and be one of the crowd. We get easy templates, the word itself being a signifier of the times we live in, for 'date', love, marriage, affair, life and relationships. At saner, safer moments, we plan for the future: We commit ourselves to buy overpriced homes, paid for by mortgages, and then work compliantly rest of our lives to pay it off. We make the world go around, economies decline and rise, progress claimed and its fruits consumed, by our myriad daily actions of following the pattern. And, then, we die, proud of being faceless among many, remembered, not surprisingly, with word templates that could have been used at anyone else's death, by anyone else's loved ones. 

There are problems in this lovely convenient, stepford wives, view of life: Wars in distant lands, Islamists who seem to be a time wrap, immigrants who have strange manners and strange colours living down the road, overpaid public servants who do not work, protesters who keep marching on the streets for god-knows-what. However, since we have surrendered the matters of opinion to the media, some very similar sounding analysts and politicians who know best, such aberrations are nicely fitted into the woven patterns: We finally have a theory of everything, which is to have no theory at all.

Within this, I have chosen the easy path - of being a misfit. Living a less than perfect life, searching endlessly for a theory, not being able to cast aside an idealistic view of what should be, are easy because not doing so is obviously so foolish. Standing slightly apart gives even the most casual and untrained observer such a majestic view of this massive ant colony, its rhythm, its roles and its futility, that it is worth doing. It is enjoyable too, living a Quixotic life of grand projects and great responsibility, of bringing sensibilities of a bygone age in the middle of a go-go time, and at the same time, having a deep commitment to the future and having the freedom to imagine a different one. This blog has always been the chronicle of that journey: I hope I shall never lose that spirit.

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How To Live

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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