Friday, September 15, 2006

Sleepless in Ganga Hostel

Senti Warning: Step in at your own risk!

(I am unable to sleep. It was that Expresso I had at Qwiky’s at the Ascendas Tech Park at Taramani. I had had a horrible headache. The Asecendas Tech Park represents the new India - BPO offices, high-disposable incomes, pretty BPO people. My sleep disappeared with the headache. I hate deviations from routine that affect my sleeping rhythm. This one time, in the second year, I went sleepless for two nights without a point, just after seeing Fight Club for the first time. I really wanted to see if insomnia was that powerful. The essence of the experiment is to keep oneself pointlessly awake. If there is some motivation, then it wouldn’t count as insomnia. Managed to do that. I saw numbers popping out of the blackboard the third day. Friends said I looked drunk. This was when I hadn’t started drinking even. It was scary. And trippy.

I hate building a sleep deficit. The rational part of my brain loses control and the emotional part takes over. In common language, I become cranky. The irony is: I can see it happen, I can see my emotional part dictating my chain of thoughts against the protests of the rational part and I feel helpless. My room is stuffy. Al of a sudden, I can hear the Fight Club sounds in my brains and then suddenly the Reservoir Dogs theme. Really love it when this happens. But I have an exam tomorrow and a long day after that. I need to sleep. I decide to go to the terrace. There is a pleasant breeze blowing, the soft glow of the sodium vapour lamps under the green canopy provides a calming effect. I lean back against the low wall in the terrace. The cold of the wall feels deliciously soothing and I am calm enough to observe my own train of thought)

I hate quiz weeks. I always become edgy and nervous. Thoughts of the impending CAT rat race (cat-rat?) and the spectre of the Darwinian placement process are enough to induce extra edginess. It is one of those times when the monotony of being and the constant throb of ambition threaten to hijack the fun from life, the joie de vivre, as the French so seductively put it. Suddenly I think of my schooldays. A time of innocence, a time of concentration. Have never reached those levels of concentration since. Did the TM (Transcendental Meditation) have anything to do with it? A feeling of yearning for that simplicity. Reminded of the teachers of the IIT classes at Satyamurthy School. Epitomes of the “Simple Living, High Thinking” philosophy characteristic of teachers of a bygone era. I am reminded of my own disillusionment with academics and big thinkers ever since leaving school. Doesn’t one commonly observe the very same experts who study their own fields with insight, being extremely pedantic? Don't they let their judgment be clouded by their egos when it comes to anything outside their domain? Vidya Dadaathi Vinayam, goes a Sanskrit saying (Education leads to Humility). Mostly it is the opposite, I think to myself, bitterly.

I realize that my philosophy after coming here has changed and today, I look down upon the very idealism that I once treasured. I feel a knot of fear in my stomach. The world seems so intimidating all of a sudden. It is all very fine to pontificate about the notion of God being only an idea, but involuntarily I recite a shloka I learnt as a kid.

Maybe it is the rising of the sun or the delicious wind blowing but I suddenly feel a revival of my spirits. Correspondingly, the rational part of the brain seems to gain hold again. It is all fine to mourn a lost idealism but a very important thing to keep in mind while following ideals is to constantly question the relevance of the ideality. That is, as societies change the values change. Agreed there are a few basic values which are eternal. Truth and Ahimsa are absolutely essential for a sane society. But beyond that most of the values are the dictates of the economic and social compulsions of the times we live in.In fact, most morals and values are often the reflection of the values of the powerful classes of that society.

Another key point which I think most of us know at an unconscious level is this: Any tradition/movement/idea will survive at a mass level, only if it will bring about economics returns at some level, maybe not immediately, but it should bring an economic incentive. If it fails to do that and is carried on by the force of emotion, then people will start questioning it and quietly breaking such traditions, before it eventually disappears. (I have based these arguments on some instances. Going into them here would be tedious. There maybe practices which do not have this feature. But they will be followed by small groups, or tightly knit communities. Even in those communities there should be an element of choice in the framework. If arrogantly imposed, even those will perish.)

Therefore, practices which were attractive or elegant once have to be jettisoned if they are not relevant for the times. There will always be old people saying that things were better during those days but they too are looking at the world through rose coloured glasses. That does not mean we should lose all sense of idealism. It just means that we review our value systems and goals periodically to see if they are consistent with reality. For example, I still think that “Simple Living, High Thinking” is the most elegant and satisfying way of living. However, simplicity thirty years ago may have meant having a cycle if you could afford a Bajaj. Today it means owning a Sumo if you could own a Land Cruiser :-)

Coming back to the changing nature of moral values: Herein lays the problem of the idealist. An idealist may take a prescriptive stance but the compulsions of change will lead that notion of idealism to be changed. However, she cannot change it as the act of changing would reflect on the idealism of her stance. Therefore, the idealist preacher is stuck in a situation where she has to impose her philosophy or be caught on the wrong foot. That is how many well meaning thinkers have ended up becoming hardliners and contributing more to the untruth of the World. In other words, idealists and crusaders are more likely to cause non-ideality than the Average Joe.

Therefore, what we are left with is an Absurdist view of life. Yes, there is no inherent meaning to life. But that is a liberating notion, not at all a sad one. Since my existence doesn’t have a pre-ordained meaning I can go about shaping it whatever way my intellect leads me to. Therefore, the only thing left to do, given that we have come into existence, is to plunge into the world with complete involvement and determination to experience all that it offers. The determination to experience the world should be so complete that if there is any obstacle then we must invent ways to go over it. Hedonism is my religion :-)

Feeling clearer, I walk down to Hot Chips for an early breakfast.


Naresh said...

nice post da.
its nice to read wandering thoughts.
some parts reminded me of my own musings.

to me it feels nice to map my thought process.

one or two points.
1) Agree with the "simple living, high thinking" ideality.
2) why is the idealist 'she'? :)
3) and the final conclusion is interesting...

themiddler said...

Hey thanks man! I thought it may come across as painful.

The "she" for idealist? Actually I am doing this Language, Culture ad Society course and the Prof. is like English is gender bias blah blah... so I thought I would be fair to the fairer sex ;-)

karthekeyan(rg) said...

Yeah... 'she' for idealist! It was kinda out of context!
But fully agree with your notion of idealist. They are like stuck-at-0 or atuck-at-1 faults... Not able to preach something different for the changing world!

Sickboy said...

The problem with being a cynic is that anything remotely perceived as idealism is immediately torn down and ripped to shreds in the brain.

But hedonism is one thing this cynic completely agrees with. :D

But hedonism itself as a way of life is completely impractical, no?

There I go being a cynic again. Sigh

themiddler said...


Hmmm... it is unsustainable no doubt. But we must aspire for it, don't you think?

Ajit said...

STRONG post da!!..
1. F slot fundaes man. Use he/she if you want to abide by the international rules of language and publish this blog post in some journal!! :)..
2. I was getting a little existentialist by the day.. but this post will change it all i guess :)..
3. Yeah da, Hedonism is the way to go :)..

themiddler said...

Thanks for stopping by.
Dei the new convention is to put he/she OR she only.

A general comment: Why has the she attracted so much attention????

themiddler said...


You were getting existencialist by the day???

Dei philosophy is for retired people like me. Nee elaam goyalez maadhri paper podra vazhiya paaru :-)

Sickboy said...

I'm sure barring ascetics, everybody would want to lead a hedonist's life. Including me.

themiddler said...

Ha! That's the catch! Everyone DOESN'T want to lead a hedonist's life. To put it better, people CAN'T lead a hedonist's life as something in them would keep on gnawing.

We are constantly programmed to have a cause, achieve something, go somewhere... so much so that people are convined that a hedonist's lifestyle must be a myth.

Hey sickboy, great having you here. Keep visiting and blogging when you do get the time.

Sickboy said...

That's what even I said. Anybody who doesn't aim to lead a hedonist's life ought to be called an ascetic. :D Life's too short selflessness to creep in. But like I said before, hedonism isn't pragmatic enought to be achieved to perfection.

Anyway, I'll definitely try to keep the nonsense up on my blog.

Sickboy said...

+ [for] in the fourth line above.

Ashish said...

"There will always be old people saying that things were better during those days but they too are looking at the world through rose coloured glasses" So bloody true...

And if Existentialism implies going with the flow without thinking and enjoying life, I'm all for it!