Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Two sides of a coin

I've asked a lot of people this question - What are the two ways you can look at things?

Some answers were:

a) The right way and the wrong way (the most popular)

b) The pragmatic way and the emotional way

c) The biased and the neutral way

I guess these are more or less along the lines of most answers I would get for that question.

My answer is a lot simpler - Your way, and my way.

Who decides if something is "right" or "wrong"?

Who decides if something is the "pragmatic" or the "emotional" thing to do?

Who decides is someone is being "biased" or "neutral"?

What's "right" to someone could easily be "wrong" to another. A pragmatic decision may not always be devoid of emotion and an emotional decision need not necessarily be one that isn't pragmatic. And surely a biased decision doesn't always appear to be a biased one to the beneficiary.

The only things black and white in this world, are black and white.

In the end, we only have our own opinions, thoughts and ideals to carry with us into every decision we make.

No two individuals can ever be completely alike in terms of their opinions towards different issues. So in the end, any situation, any task, any instance can only be summarized or looked at in two possible ways - Your way, and my way.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Purpose of Existence

The one thing that fascinates me about the human being, is his/her ability to find or search for reason, logic and order in everything. We seem to have this almost child-like fascination for things that have no evident order governing them. This fascination has embodied itself time and time again over the course of history. From the likes of Archimedes, Newton and Aristotle to name a few, mankind's obsession with order seems to show itself time and time again. This obsession sometimes puts a smile on my face as I think of it as almost a show of contempt for the thermodynamic quantity of entropy.

Everyday we go about our lives pretending we have everything in order. And why not? All we ever know is what we've been told. From the time we are born, we are indoctrinated with the notion that we must do as we are told. Little toddlers, innocence personified, we are absorbed into the system when we don't have a chance.

I don't intend to criticize our way of life, and I certainly don't mean to go on a pointless rant that
denigrates our society and the systems we go by. I will just use the age old defense and say that I am merely expressing my opinion.

Before I digress any further, let me get back to the matter at hand.

From the time we are born, we are, as I mentioned before, absorbed into the system that is - the modern way of life. As children, we are told that we must study hard and do well to end up in some job helping somebody else get their work done quickly. Well not in those words, but thats what they 'usually' do intend to mean. My point is, we have no choice in this issue. We are born, we conform and we die. That sums up the life of almost everyone alive today.

I wont question the working of this system. No. I'm only going to question its establishment in the first place.

You're probably wondering by now, what my initial discussion about the human obsession with order has to do with all of this. Here is where it all comes together. I believe that it is our search for order and our need to become masters of all we see, that has led to the establishment of such a system in the first place. We aren't the way we are because of the system. The system is the way it is, because of who we are. Or to put it rather poetically, the system that I question now, the system that I accuse of robbing us of our basic human qualities, exists by the virtue of our enjoying a human existence in the first place!

Before I go on, let me define this 'system'. The system that I refer to, is a system of existence. A system that encompasses our systems of education, social behavior and professional careers. This system I refer to, refers to the very moral fibre that we live by. The system of existence I refer to, encompasses everything we assimilate and conform to every day of our natural lives.

I believe this system is a direct result of our futile attempt to find a general purpose to life. In fact, I think the very invention of this system is a work of sheer brilliance. At some point in history, well into the search for a purpose to our existence, somewhere amidst the frustration at the mere thought that like the animals, we merely exist to procreate (which again brings about the question of the purpose of existence of other animals too, but lets not get into that now, shall we?), mankind found an ingenious way to invent a purpose of life! Yes, I used the word invent. If the true purpose of life was to climb the corporate ladder or amass an obscene amount of wealth, then surely our ancestors' very existence was obsolete? This system, and this way of life is not the work of some divine hand that asks us to study well and make a good living. It is the work of some people in the past who believed that this would be an ideal 'distraction'. Now, I don't mean that word in the sense that this system was invented as part of a ploy to keep us from the ultimate truth. I mean to imply that the formation of this system is a result of a group of individuals and societies, over a gradual period of time, losing sight and losing hope in their search for the true purpose of life.

Everything we see around us, every fragment of this so called moral code is a product of the human mind. Why then, do these 'postulates of existence' acquire an almost untouchable status? I don't want to imply that the moral code or the system of existence is wrong. I am only trying to ask a simple question. Why do we take it for granted? Where is the innate human faculty of thought and reason when it comes to the very way of our existence? Even science, which is deemed to question everything around us, finds itself oblivious to the very existence that brought about science in the first place.

I believe that the human race is at its tipping point. I believe that we are at that point in our existence, where we can choose our fate. Will we rekindle that lost spirit of skepticism and scrutiny that has gotten us this far already? Or will we blindly fall into the hands of our predecessors, utterly oblivious to the prospects of a world run by thought and reason? Will there ever be an Aristotle in our age? I'd like to think so, but to put on my pessimist's hat and predict, I'd have to say no. The only change I see happening, is for the worst. I believe every day we stray from the faculty of reason and thought. That does not mean we're not applying them, it only means we aren't applying reason and thought to the one place that it is most needed - the purpose of existence. Until there is some sort of mass intellectual revolution, I believe the true purpose of life will forever remain a myth. A myth, compensated for by a system of existence that aims to please a large majority of people, if not everyone bonded to it.

Friday, September 01, 2006


There has always been a fire that burned bright within us. Its flames have always seared the very core of our existence. It keeps us going. It gives us a reason to wake up every morning and face this arcane world before our eyes. There are times when this fire rages within us, unabated and unchecked and there are other times when it lays dormant as a dying ember, waiting to be rekindled. This is no ordinary fire. This is the fire of desire.

We are mortal and we shall always be susceptible to all the mortal tendencies which come as a virtue of our being human beings. We will err, we will stumble, we will conquer, we will succumb but one thing shall never change - We will always want.

What is this thing we call desire? The enlightened Buddha said something to the effect of - "Desire is the root of all misery.", and also a logical implication which said "Misery can be shed along with desire". To call these wise words would no doubt be an understatement. These words are profound any way you look at it. Call me arrogant but I think that while this is true, it is only half true.

Is it desire that makes us want all we cannot have? Is it desire that gives us nights of restless torture? Is it desire which makes satisfaction the proverbial forbidden fruit? Well to put it simply, yes it is in most cases. We always WANT. We live to WANT. We breathe to WANT. And rather poetically, we WANT to WANT.

The web of desire is the one that we are perpetually entangled in. To get to the point that you, dear reader, are expecting me to come to, let me say this. As the enlightened one put it, we must indeed shed desire to shed all misery, however, you don't just shed misery. It is my belief that you shed happiness as well.

Why would you want to wake up every morning if you knew you had everything and didn't want anything more from life? What more is there to find in a life where you have no desire to accomplish any more than you already have? As hard as it already is to find a purpose in life, how would you find your purpose to live when you have nothing more to live for? Living just for the sake of existence is a crime against existence itself. If you shed desire, you not only eliminate the tendency to want something you cannot have (and therefore be unhappy), but you also distance yourself from all the things which make you relatively happy, which you could have.

Hence, my belief that the statement that branded desire as the cause for all misery is a half-truth. If shedding desire gives true happiness, should you even want happiness? Wouldn't that be a paradoxical contradiction of your need to be free of desire?

It is of no doubt that desire, is in fact the root of much unhappiness in the world, at the same time, it is the fire that burns inside us, keeping us going everyday. However, it is desire that will always be a part of us in one way or another - as a desire to be something more thanwhat we already are, or as a rather cruel irony, a desire to be free of desire. These are my views but I'm sure they are not mine alone. To summarize what I believe in strongly,

Its fragments among
The mirrored facade,
Of the mind that lies within.
Its glory lost in
Illusory potence,
That succumbs to mortal sin.

Its divinity bound
By a sheltered cause,
That will never conspire again.
Its mortal bliss,
A mere dream until,
It concedes to its own sweet pain.

Its words a mirage,
Unto the facets
Of the fickle human mind.
Its power is a will
Of its very own:
A pagan wish unto my kind.

Its form unseen
By most, but felt
As a healing, searing fire.
It is my bane;
It is my elixir -
This hallowed curse that is my heart's desire.

Nikhil Menon