Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Before you die

Have you come across articles (e.g. this one) which provide lists of places you must visit before you die, films you must watch before you die, dishes you must eat before you die, songs you must listen to before you die, and so on?

If these were adverts, it would still be somewhat acceptable. One of the primary ways in which marketing works is to make the consumer feel inadequate.

But these are articles proper, in magazines and e-zines! I don't think there is a conspiracy behind it (the magazines are not secretly hand-in-glove with film production companies to endorse old classics). It is perhaps just a catchy way to present a list.

But...

The reason why it is catchy is because we do not want to miss out on great experiences. We want to see/visit/feel the "best" in the world. But why the hunger for those "great" and "best" experiences? Because one is unfulfilled and thinks that by partaking of those experiences, there will be fulfillment. It obviously doesn't work (otherwise the Lonely Planet guides and travel photographers and film critics would be fulfilled people). But the allure is very strong.


It is in essence, the allure of beauty and of the unknown. "I" wish for a peak experience to make me forget myself, to let me escape from my sordid world.

But the sordid world is of my own making. "I" stand in the way of my fulfillment.

Indeed, it is a waste of a life to have died unhappily, bemoaning my lot. But instead of pursuing triggers of peak experiences, it is far, far important to investigate the sordidness of my existence, to put an end to the causation of it, and to experience the peaks not at 8848 meters, but in one's daily life.

And I don't mean to smoke a joint. :-)

7 comments:

Swati said...

I experience peaks in my daily life - doing things that are meaningful or meaningless. My life is not sordid. And yet, I would like to experience more things - not because I want to lose myself and my sordid life in them - but for the sake of the experience alone.

Even if my life were sordid, in parts or in whole, I would still think it's equally important to experience non-detrimental experiences as it is to investigate the causes of life's sordidness. It doesn't have to be either/ or.

The Water Bearer said...

I want to experience the best of all...people, places, music, food, readings, movies...so that seconds before kicking the bucket, when I review my life, I get to again see ...the best of people, places, music, food, readings, movies..

This is my only chance...and I want to make the best of it..

Pankaj said...

peaks in ones daily life....wonderfully said.

i would tend to agree with swati too. the ideal of permanent bliss is perhaps an elusive ideal, and a wholesome life consists of a little bit of everything.

talking of death, i really liked jung's views on death (you can find them on youtube). the best attitude towards death seems to me to be an assumption of continuity.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Swati/Pankaj:

I don't disparage enjoying films, traveling, music, and so on.

But the idea that experiencing a particular object/place etc. is going to fulfill "me" is simply not borne out by experience, and yet we continue.

"It's equally important to experience non-detrimental experiences as it is to investigate the causes of life's sordidness"

I respectfully disagree. I think to remove the impediments to be happy in one's daily life (that is, "my" beliefs and passions) is far, far more important than to pursue experiences which can make one temporarily elated.

srid said...

I respectfully disagree. I think to remove the impediments to be happy in one's daily life (that is, "my" beliefs and passions) is far, far more important than to pursue experiences which can make one temporarily elated.

I wish I can live up to that 100% - but that requires pure intent - something that is slowly building up itself.

Pure intent is fueled primarily by the results of incrementally becoming happy and harmless in everyday life (eg: less and less fears and concerns => more enjoyment of everyday things).

Experiences that lead to a temporary elation are in a way an impediment to even considering such an alternative (fearless as opposed to 'fear; escape it by indulging on something else').

One can at least start from something small and learn incrementally. Here's a start - "how am I experiencing this moment of being alive? is there a slight worry/concern? would I be better off without this worry/concern?"

Surbhi Goel said...

"Pankaj: the best attitude towards death seems to me to be an assumption of continuity."

But is that not being delusional or denying that this body expires? Is that not, in some ways, serving quagmire of ego when extinction of ego will remove any fear or anxiety about death?

Lukas said...

Insightful as always.

My own (less lucid) take on this 'before you die' meme is simply that it provides a means to live vicariously and therefor not live at all—or at least your own life. A paint-by-numbers existence.

I, too, am not trying to suggest a financial conspiracy, but it allows you to buy your way through life—purchase an emotional souvenir/tchotchke to idolize, rather than exploring your own depths.

Why rely on other peoples' recommendations for your own life? This only limits your ability to see the inherent value in your own experiences—never measuring up to "the ultimate human experience" purported by some.

Life is not condensible into landmarks. It is too fluid to be contained by a shallow persistence of 'the best'.