Sunday, October 17, 2010


It had been a while since I had read, seen or heard something entirely disconnected from me, that had moved me. I have often found myself translating images and passages, other people's experiences, into those that I can relate to; and if they happened to be something that I could find no axis to, either emotionally or ideologically, I found myself masterfully 'projecting' sympathy.

This is the same me who in the spurt of adolescence, had spoken up in an inane moral science class proselytizing on the importance of sympathy, saying that it simply wasn't good enough; that if we could not be empathetic we had no business showing sympathy. (The teacher had simply heard me out, thanked me when I had finished and gone on with her rant as if there had been no interruption!)

This is also the same spoiled child in me who had taken to, very early on in life, making much of her exertions and expecting all attention to be centered upon her. Much as I had wanted to wring a certain woman's neck for implying that I have an attention seeking disorder (resolute in my belief then, that she is branding me without trying to understand my peculiar case{!}) , it has taken me over two years to realize the various different implications of the term 'histrionics'.

Therefore, the present me, a queer mix of self righteousness and what I am beginning to call an unselfconscious (though, not unconscious) self-centered-ness was, no wonder, rendered incapable of responding to things that could not be prototyped into the categories of her limited emotional and ideological archive. This had, I confess, not bothered me for a long time. (I do, after all, live in times which had been advocated by certain twentieth century writers in their treatise called "The Virtue of Selfishness".)

This had become a way of life until it was put to shame by the brutal honesty of a child. It was through his worldview that I could see how much bitterness had clogged my receptivity and how for some time now I have been putting things into predetermined brackets, brackets that I have fought for and have bruised myself in the pursuit of, brackets that are different from those that I had been fighting against and yet for all practical purposes that function like the ones that I have relinquished.

There seems to be something more earnest about existentialism when compared to this form of being which believes that in embracing bitterness and hence legitimizing selfishness, lies it's answers. Atleast existentialism was an acknowledgment of defeat and hence discomfort at the inability to expand one's reach; Individualism functions by convincing people that there is nothing to expand to, that being self centered translates into self sufficiency and hence strength.

However, what seems to be closer to the mark in answering questions about life in the world are those efforts that are not directed towards doing just that. Be it the child who told me the 'story of his life' or the book that finally made me cry, not in the parts where I could see myself but in the parts that I truly felt the character's feelings, were both more life-affirming than any philosophical effort to understand the 'essence of our condition' has been!

There was a time when a certain taciturn, self-absorbed architect created by an immigrant American woman writer used to be my hero; the idea of a self motivated, creative man working against the tide of society was extraordinarily appealing to a misunderstood, self absorbed teenage girl. However, today, the character of a lawyer, motivated by the trials of a girl whom he had known as a teenage boy has forever dislodged the pedestal that had been instated in favour of the former. I no longer see any value in not being able to affect and be affected by people, rather I see it as an insidious ailment and the project to rationalize it, an unpardonable crime against humanity.

[There is no comparison between the writing skills of the two authors. The above mentioned woman was highly skilled and she received her due acclaim as a writer. The second writer, a certain Richard Paul Evans, is more 'popular' with no reason to be remembered in terms of his contribution to Literature, but for some very fortunate emotive skills, he will be remembered by readers like me.]