Thursday, 16 June 2016
Human Beings search for continuities throughout their lives. It’s an inherent desire to expect that things should happen as they have happened before. However, in a bid to find a continuity or to ignore it, a lot of stuff is over looked. To be sure, things repeat themselves. Many say that the reason is that there are certain lessons that we have not learned yet and the circumstances are repeated unless one learns them. That being said, a lot of life’s circumstances are much different than anything that we have ever faced before. They are different than our childhood and the way life transpired after that. They are different than the manifestations that did or did not show up earlier or later in our lives.
Let me give you an example. I have always been fond of the skyline that very long trees form. I have loved watching it since I started my degree at Government College. I went to a park today and luckily, there were a lot of tall trees there. I became immersed in how the distant leaves formed the edge of the highest contact that the tree had with the air and sunlight. Out of unconscious intention or design, I didn’t want to see the rest of the trees that were not so high, and didn’t have the same sort of design that made trees reach out to the sky. Yet there they were, and they were hidden from me due to my inability to fathom a life that was not always high.
I only saw them when I became familiar with the old notion of happiness associated with watching air, sunlight and leaves play in the backdrop of the blue grey sky. And they were not the continuity I was looking for, nor were they supposed to be part of a moment that I wanted to remember on a random Wednesday afternoon in December. Yet independent of my bias, they were nurtured by multiple hands who saw to it that they too were around, just in case. Just in case someone was more interested in down-to-Earth than to-the-sky.
My meaning-making stopped when I looked at them and tried to decipher them. Of course, intellect wants to fit everything in a predefined picture, not knowing that it’s another way of strengthening a self-created and self-sustaining incarceration cell. Freedom to think and live again, it turns out, is nourished in the same way as imprisonment of the earliest impressions. To be sure, these impressions are flexible to the extent that they can incorporate within them an anomaly. Like a prisoner is granted several privileges to place him above the other prisoners, the end being keeping the structure of the prison in contact. It is said of the Nazi concentration camps that an inmate performed various administrative duties in the camp, who was known as a Capo. He was often times incharge of the other inmates and reported to the authorities. Such are the concentration camps of memory. A memory different from the rest is given charge of the rest and that’s how it blends in to form a coherent picture of a relatively incoherent life.
Time now is an extension of the Time past (If we think of time as perceived in a subjective human consciousness). An extension by default, builds on the previous experience. Yet, because it is an extension, it is also by default, different than the source. I would like to think that awareness of either similarity or difference might influence how we come to perceive the way time tramples over our memory. But there is an inherent bias in perceiving what-had-been-before in what-is-here-now. Perception of similarity directs our thought processes to a relatively tangible reservoir of past memories. The present moment then becomes familiar and certain. You can just feel the old neurological pathways lighting up, disguised in a sense of certainty. However, to perceive an anomaly or discontinuity is to come out of a well-established structure of mental representations. The structure feels threatened by this alien happening that has, all of sudden, raised doubts on its validity.
In this situation, whatever you have thought up till that moment becomes less valid. It’s as if, you were connected with reality with a bridge and suddenly, the side towards reality moved a few steps back due to land sliding. In this situation, your bridge and the rubble falls on the same place, so you may very well believe that the old days are still intact, even though there will be many reality checks. But still, such is the miserable sustainability of the old structure that you can live in the rubble for years and still survive. As Eliot says,
‘Years of living among the breakage
Of what was believed in as the most reliable-
And therefore the fittest for renunciation.’
It’s important to listen to the hint of anomalies that happen every day. It’s important to resist the urge of contextualizing present in the past circumstances. But how should one find or better still, build a better context to explain an anomaly? How should one hold on to an uncertain hint of transformation and follow through, rather than resorting towards old, dysfunctional ways of existence? Eliot explains it this way:
‘These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union
Of spheres of evidence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled,
Where action were otherwise movement
Of that which is only moved
And has in it no source of movement—
Driven by daemonic, chthonic
Powers. And right action is freedom
From past and future also.
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying;
We, content at the last
If our temporal reversion nourish
(Not too far from the yew-tree)
The life of significant soil.’