Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Pioneers

The discontented are the pioneers of the world. They, who refuse to
take the roads well travelled and instead choose to explore, in various
ways, the way to lasting peace and happiness.

Since my childhood, I have had the good fortune of meeting many people
who could not agree to a conformant life and instead were deeply
affected by the problems of the world and chose to alter the course of
their life in order to find a solution to the fundamental problems of

Going through one cataclysm after another, belonging to one group
after another, following one philosophy after another, becoming
entrenched in the struggles for existence, breaking down at times,
carrying on despite the pressures to conform and to settle down,
withstanding the ostracism of their peers, choosing to give up the
superficial comforts of a secure existence... they had the potential
to be the pioneers of Humanity.

Every person on earth thinks about life and happiness. But these
people chose certain courses of action that required effort, turmoil
and uncertainty.

They, despite the different creeds that they temporarily belonged to,
shared the intensity to seek and find.

Many of them, having been born in India, adopted a particular
spiritual sect. Many of them became disenchanted and lost, confused
and directionless. Many of them suffered doubt, cynicism and a loss of
hope and energy. The instinctual pressures of loneliness, of sexual
desire, of the struggle for financial security, and the entrapments of
authority led us through valleys of despair, of a frittering away of
our vital years, of going around in circles hoping for a breakthrough.

Most of us gave up. Many of us settled down in comfortable careers,
in a familial existence, with the related pressures and
responsibilities, not having broken inwardly through the wall of

I had a friend in school, a financially poor boy. He had the vision
of a peaceful society, howsoever misguided. When we all sat for our
matriculation examination, he saw some fellow students cheating and
being helped by the invigilators who were supposed to stop them. He
stood up and complained. But the corrupt invigilators charged himself
of cheating and threw him out. His life broke down after that. He
became a recluse, a drug addict and was finally hospitalized after
many years, close to death. I came to know of his story many years
later when it was too late...

I had another friend in college, who became involved in the Hare
Krishna movement for individual enlightenment. He became conditioned
with their beliefs. He went to the USA to earn money, could not
reconcile his spiritual beliefs with the capitalist society, but
didn't have the courage to leave it all (because the cost was too
high), became an experimenter with drugs, sex and anti-social
behaviour. He became bitter and cynical, and finally reconciled
himself to a personal failure in his quest, and gave up.

One could say that such people did not have the courage to go all the
way, that they got scared and gave up... But this loss of their
pioneering spirit, and their defeat, is a loss for all humanity.
Humanity extracts a heavy cost for being different and this is what is

Then there were others who became deeply entangled into some sect,
gave up their careers and families, but could not find what they were
looking for.

When I remember those friends, I remember the first line of
"The Howl" by Allen Ginsberg:

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness"

And then the last lines:

"with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their
own bodies good to eat a thousand years."

My salutations to those who did not buckle down, and continue to
further the frontiers of human endeavour in their search for the
solutions to the pervasive and chronic problems of humankind.