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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Relegated to several states of being

Disclaimer: Please direct yourself away from this post if you are below the legal age because of a couple of stray incidents of bad language, and even more inane points of view on life. Also, the views expressed in this post are only the ruminations of the author, at best, and are in no way intended to be a sort of hideous plot to cause any sort of violence or even harm to other living beings.

I suppose there isn't a whole lot to be said for people who don't do anything with themselves or their lives. And, I wish to do something with my life. In fact, there are lots of things that I want to do with my time here on Earth, like making something that other people can use, or starting a revolution, or trying to walk around the world to discover it one step at a time, or simply focusing on my career and setting forth on a path to individual greatness as I accept the award for being the person most likely to have lived his life the way he envisioned it. I can hear the audience applaud vigorously -- a cacophony of a thousand, individual pairs of hands clapping in solitary unison -- as I complete my little speech about being grateful to my family and friends, not to mention my beautiful, one-and-only princess who stuck with me through thick and thin, and most of all God, for these are the constituent parts of my life's puzzle that have made it happen and made my life worthwhile. I can still hear the audience, but as I open my eyes I can't help but notice the fact that I am half-dressed and staring at the wall which is eight feet away. It's a very static moment -- no movement of time or space, or even thought. The only thing moving is the ceiling fan, that turns at top speed and redistributes the hot air around the room. And, this is how another day will pass me by.

Imprisoned by my thoughts, I find myself at a crossroads yet again. It was easier keeping track of these life-altering moments when I was younger, but having said that, it was always easier to remember the next new and shiny toy that changed my life, just by my owning it. Or maybe it was just so much easier to get distracted by the trappings of life that happened to come your way. Then again, nothing is every complicated when you're a kid. Funny how looking at the wall in front of me I hear myself saying to myself, "But nothing in life is ever complicated." And, I'm absolutely right. I might add, to myself again, that life is never complicated, ever. Then why is it so hard? Why do I let my thoughts imprison me? Why is it that what's inside of my head can make the world seem like a land of milk and honey one instant, and a stinking pile of shit the next? What's going on in my head? What am I thinking, staring at the wall, eight feet away?

Option A

Well, where do I begin? I know, how about I reflect on, or rather, tell myself about the different kinds of things I imagine(d) my life would be like now. Tell myself? Because talking to the wall is just a matter of not seeming unnecessarily insane. Anyway, I'd like to begin with the most widely accepted and generally espoused view of "being successful." I imagined a kind of life where I'm making lots of money, slightly more than I really needed, of course, and that I would have a clear line of sight in terms of progressing along the levels of management, until I reached a relatively senior level of management from which I could retire. Apart from the job side of things, I imagined that I would have a family of sorts, with two children at least because I know what it was like growing up as the only child, and a loving wife who was perfectly welcome to pursue her career as well. At this juncture, I'd like to point out that this is the kind of notion I had for myself, or my life, when I was in high school. Let it not be said that, "Things have to worked hard for to be obtained," and other such statements that imply that I'm lazy or that I expect to be spoon-fed because I have always known I will have to work hard to do/get the things that I want. I don't have any large inheritance to lay claim to, and there is no family business that will make its way into my seedy clutches either. Nevertheless, it was one of the ways in which I imagined that my life would turn out and one that I would say is most commendable as far as the generally accepted views of "a life" go. Obviously, I am leaving out details about the day-to-day activities, but that would just bore me to death to have to live through the agonizingly general descriptions of it all. Here endeth my description of Option A, as I would like to call it.

Option B

Option B, as a result of my labelling the previous scenario, involved various shades of being part of alternate systems that had, in their own right, a ready path to the end of a person's productive life laid out from the word go. To differentiate from the previous option, these shades were of the nature of, or to finally just come out and say it, there were two shades that I had in mind: the armed forces, or something to this effect, and the clergy. Now, this second shade was unattainable as long as I didn't convert to Christianity, or at least until I bothered to identify with any particular faith as closely as was necessary. Being a Hindu, from an apparently "backward caste," the only way I could be one of the "priestly class" was by being reborn. Not in this lifetime, eh? Jokes apart, the appeal of this option lay in the fact that unless otherwise an effort was made to mess things up, I was pretty much assured a seemingly rightful progression. I suppose it was an effort to, or rather that I was impressed by a system that enabled me to rise up the ranks without the necessary corporate shenanigans that I have had the unfortunate pleasure of witnessing firsthand. But, I would be a naive little Malayalee boy to believe that any system in the world is devoid of competition or politics. Interestingly enough, I came upon this version of what I imagined I wanted my life to be like when I had just completed high school. In fact, I believed that there was a lot of merit to this option right into the first couple of years of college.

Option C

The third option is one I revisit, in my head, every single time y life seems to have taken a turn for the worse: Death. Plain and simple, I love thinking in terms of "Fuck it all," when I can't see past today. Now, I don't think about it very often, only when the going gets fucked and the fucked stop going, but when I was in high school I remember not wanting to see much more of life past the age of 25. I thought I would give it my all and do the kinds of things that would amount to an involved life before "kicking the bucket" on my birthday. True to my nature, though, being in a hurry meant that I lowered the age limit to 23. But, sitting here writing this means that I haven't obviously gone through with this option. Am I happy? I don't know, yet.

Before I talk about this next option, I would like to point out that it is one that I have imagined for a long time, since high school or slightly earlier, when I first learned about and then learned to recognize the sheer effort it required to renounce the world as Siddhartha Gautama did. It has evolved slightly to accommodate concepts of being environmentally friendly and other such cliches, but I imagine it has taken over my life since then and I would like not to go back on it. Well, I don't know if "going back on it" is the appropriate thing to say. Perhaps I should say I would like to not leave this behind because, for whatever reason, it seems to have given my life new meaning.

The three biggest influences in my arriving at and attempting to put some kind of framework around this option are my first impressions of the life story of the Buddha, before and after, "The Story of My Experiments with Truth" by Mohandas K. Gandhi, and "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn. To me, these stories combined an external view of the world around me, as well as providing me with a sense of insight into the individual lives of people; how one tends to see oneself, one's role in the universe, and generally making sense of one's existence. I realize that I began listing concepts in a manner contrary to the books and learning that I listed just before this, but when I really think about it, I think that all of these ideas are the same thing, really. I mean, the story of the Buddha, or Prince Siddhartha's transformation into the Buddha, to me, is a story of looking at the world around him and identifying that although suffering took many forms, it had the same root cause. Then, Gandhi's life, or his own, lucid description of it, is a lesson in intense introspection and in seeking what he understood to be his truth or purpose. Finally, the story of Ishmael provided me with a notion, a truth almost, one that I seemed to have been searching for a long time; what does the world around me mean? What is it really? To attempt to synthesize all of these ideas, as they appear to be in my head, the cause for suffering as identified by the Buddha, is the world as it is in Daniel Quinn's "Ishamel", and Gandhi's introspection is a means of identifying one's role in all of this. Now, I will admit that I may have missed the point of all of this, but I didn't begin by saying that this was the one and only truth as revealed to me by a higher power now, did I? All I said was that these are the ideas that have made me want to change my life because they seem to go to the heart of the matter; providing reasons for the existence in terms of all life, not just the "people" who inhabit this planet. Before I begin to explain each of these ideas, or at least how they are connected with the millions of other notions and concepts in my head, I'd like to bring this paragraph to a close as one of the longest introductions to any of the options that I have attempted to talk about so far.

Option D

This last option, Option D, is an overall concept I have of what I want to do with my life. It doesn't involve any followers, family or friends, it isn't necessarily religious or spiritual in nature, and most importantly, it is not an answer to anything. All it is, is an attempt by me to make sense of the world that I now inhabit, and a way of identifying how exactly to bide my time without leaving behind so much as a footprint when it comes time for me to go. Now, I realize I mentioned "followers" a little earlier on and I don't really know why I said that except for the fact that I hope I don't come across something, an idea that is, that people will praise and set in stone and not really live their lives by, or at the very least use as a framework to make their own inferences about their own individual existence. For example, Gandhi's life was a good example of how to search for the meaning, or purpose in one's life. He talked about ideas such as non-violence and the world having enough "to satisfy every one's need" without getting caught up in how these ideas were the be all and end all of humanity. There's nothing to suggest that he wanted to be idolized and have his face on every single note of Indian currency. Having said that, and attempting to get back to discussing the option I began talking about, this option includes a variety of shades that range from renouncing the world to living in a world and understanding that human existence is not the only kind of existence that people should be concerned about; reconciling the fact that human form may be the most complex form that "life" can take at the moment with the fact that most human beings find themselves in a world that mimics the natural world in its rules but thoroughly abuses this same natural world in the process. What do I mean? Well, civilization has enabled mankind to establish a stranglehold on the Earth by assuming that it was created for him, an idea from "Ishmael", yet civilization is unable to escape the laws that govern competition and "survival of the fittest"; always attempting to annihilate those who are "against us". No, I can express that idea a lot better. Let me try that again.

Civilization cannot accept the fact that people die, but it tends to elevate human beings to the level of gods; first by creating them and then by setting them in opposition to one another. No, death seems to be the final frontier to be conquered, no matter what the cost, so that we may fulfill some kind of destiny that we believe to have been handed to us. Competing in the civilized world takes the form of acquiring and maintaining access to limited resources so much so that other people, by sheer virtue of being endowed with the instinct to survive, have to perform some function that results in profitability for the controller of resources and permission to live for everyone else. This is similar to the natural world, except surprisingly cruel in comparison. Daniel Quinn refers to this as the brilliant mechanism of "locking up the food" so that the only way others can access it is by working for it. I believe, as does Mr. Quinn, that attempting to sustain this model of life plays out to be a lot more cruel and harsh for every living thing on this great, life-sustaining orb. What this means from the overall point of view of Option D is that I have become so sick of this world and all that it stands for, that the first shade of this option is to give all of this up and move far away; as far away from humanity as we have come to mistakenly refer to it. But where will I go? Looks like my fellow human beings have me cornered on this one by occupying and severely populating all decently livable tracts of this planet already. Leaving no stone unturned, it becomes that much more difficult to picture myself sitting under a tree with some form of orange robe, in intense meditation. No offense to the Buddha or his followers, but leaving the world behind and hoping to go to an uninhabited corner will find me at the outer reaches of most habitats, those that will most likely not support human life.

Having said this, I don't rule out turning to this option at some stage if it does come to this. Making an obviously forced segue into the next shade, I'd like to think that I've attempted to incorporate many of these ideas in my life when I tried to live as a pure vegetarian, and pursued a "clean and healthy life," as it were. Of course, being naive about some kind of "overall idea" of how these things would work out in enriching my life and aiding in maintaining the world around me, I became quickly disillusioned about this entire effort. Don't get me wrong, I do seek to return to some aspects of this soon enough, but I feel the need to plan this out in a little more detail, if nothing else, so that I can make sense of it in my head and be comfortable with the whole thing. So, with regard to this shade, and my apparently failed attempts at partial initiatives to this effect, I would like to say that this is something I seem to be able to most immediately in my life; it's the option that I have turned to at this point, although it's far from complete, in terms of the overall fitting together of pieces and all that.

On that note, I have attempted to incorporate ideas such as "need vs. want", absolute self-sufficiency, and perhaps even supporting a sort of anti-charity set of notions. Dangerous this last one, but allow me to explain. Over the last couple of years, I have begun to question giving money to people who "beg" for it. I seem to see this as just another profession, except that it comes as a sort of choice for people to not support it. So, I don't. I know that this is "cold and heartless" already, but I'm going to add to this list of people the little kids who sell several items of the unnecessary kind at traffic signals. I don't really give them a whole lot of lip about it like other people do, about how they should be in school and this isn't what they should be doing with their lives, yadda yadda yadda. I just politely refuse to buy anything from them, and if need be, let them know that I'm not interested in what they have to offer. If it's any consolation, this is how I deal with door-to-door sales people too. I don't appreciate people who show up at your door, thrust random objects in your face, and tell you that you "need" to buy these things to have a better life. I just plain hate it!

While on this tirade, I just realized that I did in fact have one more option in mind, something that I've only considered sporadically. Like Option C, I only toy with this idea as a form of amusement, sick though it may be, admittedly. But, in this life so far, I have learned to never say "never", or to even hint at the unlikelihood of the most ludicrous things that I, or any person, may see in his or her mind's eye becoming a reality, a part of the "real world".

Option E

This newly discovered Option E, as I am forced to so unflattering-ly name it, is for me to do something drastically bad and purely evil in or to the world in which I find myself. I don't think I've imagined a life of crime, even if I may have occasionally harbored secret ambitions of being like Don Corleone, mostly because I've been a goody-two-shoes all my life. I've always worried about disappointing people, and it eats away at me, heart and soul, when someone gives me a telltale shake of the head that seems to go, "Tsk tsk tsk..." Coming back to my description of what I see myself doing in this option, it has to do with me going out with a "Bang"! Because if I have to disappoint, it had better be everyone all at the same time. Now, I don't know why, but it began with a twisted, environmental-terrorist/fundamentalist kind of thinking as someone who wreaks havoc in the name of the planet against those "who do not know what they are doing to our world." Since then, this thinking has been further reinforced by my misanthropic inclinations when dealing with my species. I think that the world will be a far more livable, or at the very least a slightly more interesting place, if half the people on this planet disappeared. Now, I don't intend to top any of the world's greatest magicians by making all these people disappear momentarily before I bring them back by by whipping a large, satiny piece of cloth off of a large box or cage with a resounding "Voila!" No, I intend, as part of this option, to clinically and most effectively rid the world of at least three billion people! I imagine that this requires tons of planning and even more, in terms of death-delivery on such a grand scale, but I know I will figure it out if I really put my mind to it. I guess I have to really feel the need to have to do something like this. :-)

Sorry for being very smug about this, but this smile is just impossible to hide. Why? Well, several reasons really. I can't really say that I "will" turn my back on notoriety, neither can I say that I may actually go through with this. It's very 50-50, and that in and of itself is kind of amusing. More importantly, it's rather amusing to have started out by writing about how I can't figure out what to do with my life and ending with a plan for mass extermination of large numbers of unsuspecting people across the globe; how there are all sorts of various options, and variations or shades of options that I can pursue as my life's goal if I just felt that little extra push to send me in that direction. Sounds crazy, I know, but it's funny to attempt to how my mind really works, and what it considers to be sane from one day to the next. Scarier still, may be the fact that I wouldn't have to feel any real sense of hate towards my fellow human beings to try and annihilate them. All it would really take is a "just because" kind of frame of mind. If anyone were to ask me, after the fact, well, I suppose I would say that this was one of the millions of things that I could have done with and in my life, so I did it. I guess I could have just as easily worked towards making the world a better place to live in, but I chose to kill half the planet's population instead. Even way more scarier than my little messed-up thought processes? The fact that the world will remember me forever and ever as being the person responsible for such an act. Now that's scary!

En fin

All in all, I guess I have to say that this is very much what the inside of my head looks like at times when it feels like I've got my back against the wall, and my life has both hands firmly clasped around my neck, choking me into a sweet, dark lullaby of nothingess. But, the lesson that I usually come out of this kind of mental fixation for random life paths with is that anything could happen the next day. Tomorrow, I could wake up with a smile in the morning, wanting to smell the dew drops on the little blades of greass beneath my feet; the sweet fragrance of wet and green, reminding me that life is worth living for no other reason than to be here, now experiencing this simple pleasure. And quite really, I imagine that that's all there is to life. To wake up, shrug your shoulders and feel yourself being freed from the weight of the world, and to
reach up in a cat-like stretch, every sinew tense and about to snap, only to breathe out slowly, relieved to let it all escape into thin air. Just like that.

And then, all of a sudden, I remember that I always get in my own way. That every waking moment that I have, that I cherish and yearn for, hoping that it will remain with me forever, is quickly sucked into the vortex of what-ifs and if-onlys. Oh, the lonely onlys and the stifingly iffy what-ifs. So much for that theory and this reality. So much for the much talked about "here and now." So much for nothing being everything in this world of blinding wisdom. So much, yet so near and yet so far...
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