Monday, October 28, 2013

Reflections and Interests: Learning for A Pivot

I feel free. I feel free to do new things, and start learning again. 

This is a wonderful feeling. For several months, I pursued a fixed goal, whose shape was pre-defined. This is not just at work, in my personal life too - there were things to be completed, awards to achieve, promises to be delivered, all arranged in advance. Then, suddenly, I arrive at this point, from inside perhaps rather than outside, when some goals are achieved and some have been exposed as useless. I feel footloose, the settlement done and the road calling me again. All the affections and memories of yesteryear beautifully curated and arranged in my mind in a wonderfully rich display, pregnant with all the love and comfort and belonging, never to go away, but just as the starting point of the travel that must follow. 

I have always questioned the need for an end in life, particularly an end known in advance. Yet it is the end known in advance, matters most: In some societies, it is prearranged before one is born, and in some others, this is negotiated in school, but in all, life is just a journey in some direction, and an endless quest for settlement. And, yet, this is just terribly depressing, because no one really wants an end to a pleasurable existence and would rather have endless beginnings; what we know from school or our parents is just the ideal life that was but not it would be or could be at our own time, and indeed, it is impossible to see ahead what we like without being in the situation.

This is what I do, put myself in situations. My experiences have so far been modest and middle class, but I skirted with bankruptcy and felt rich at times, I conformed and subverted, schemed and been noble, loved and been manipulative, settled and left, and alternated between dreams and the practical. In all, I resisted the end, being categorised and defined. For me, the narrative of love and belonging is the one that needs to be reinvented at regular intervals, and something that needs to be a moving feast rather than a set menu, because life is ordained to be that way. So, however much I may cherish my memory, love and belonging, they are beautiful because I leave and only carry a weightless sense of them, rather than be buried, like any ancient pharaoh, with all the accumulated gifts of life, to become stale, to degenerate and to lose it in meaningless abundance.

At this very moment, I am at a similar point of departure. I am not tired or bored, but it is the lived intensity that I have achieved and what must be maintained by moving the goalpost. But the reinvention is not just about changing the goal, but essentially subverting any desires of stability that may have creeped in, like the mould on the unused hinge, that we must battle from time to time and cleanse ourselves of it. 

Of the many ways of possible subversion, the most potent for me is to try to live in a language milieu that's not my own. I believe I am now too used to a certain kind of thinking, having lived in certain language societies all my life. And, that, by exposing myself to a new kind of language, I shall let the world change around myself, subverting my own sense of stability, and thus generating the intensity that must accompany a meaningful life. 

To my friends and colleagues who invoke Samuel Johnson's Tired of a London, Tired of Life dictum against my desire for the road, the point is to cite the very variability of London that allowed the space for Dr Johnson's wonder, and not the mortgage fuelled City economy that lives,depending on who you are, either in gentlemen's clubs or museum galleries, building a language society that narrowly defines a version of the world that persistently show up in any possibilities that I may be able to explore from inside it. Instead, my quest is for the variability and the intensity that lies in the edges, perhaps outside, the boundaries of the languages that I know, a very different sensibility that should be explored as my next new adventure.

Finally, what if all this fails? Failure, however, is just set against a norm defined, and doesn't exist outside it. Seen one way, all departures are failures, but from a different vantage point, once a departure is possible, failure ceases to exist. In fact, departures then become norm defining, as the norms must expand to plug the possibility of departure, and must seek to turn the leaving into failing all over again. My quest is therefore to play this new hand, defy the expectations and subvert the patterns, and do something that confounds, and in confounding, start something new.

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"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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