Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The "Depressing" Reality

Is life as it is a "depressing" reality?  Or can one celebrate how the world and the universe is?  Is there an objective answer to this?

I know many people who eschew realistic cinema, calling it "dark" and "not entertaining".  According to them, art is for entertainment, and not for provoking a thoughtful look at what is already a hard-to-handle reality.

There are cynics (and existentialists) who consider cheerfulness to be philosophically naive.  According to them, a straight look at life must reveal absurdity, pointlessness, a void of meaning, and so on.  There are others who consider philosophy itself to be a pursuit suited to dark hearts, and want to "live" instead of "ponder".

I think there were always philosophers and poets and jokers in this world.  Those who made people ponder, and those who made them laugh or cry.  Greek tragedies and Shakespeare's plays are as much a part of our heritage as Lewis Carroll or Wordsworth.

The more a person looks into the future, the more he has to struggle with notions of mortality, heritage, loss, separation, regret, doing the "right thing".  That is the burden of a great mind.

Believing comes easily to children, and if we consider children to be happier than adults (at least much less wrought with regret, guilt, unrequited loves, thoughts of suicide, etc.), then it stands to reason that believing and trusting are key aspects of a happy life.  Over the years, beliefs and trusts and faiths continue to get shattered.  Life is essentially disillusionment.  And so, as the day of life progresses, after an initial noon, it is all dusk and then eventual darkness.

Nobody wants to die.  But death is there, inescapable.  And I think how one wants, or does not want, to think about death is the key to this puzzle.

Cheerful people do not want to think about suffering, old age, disease and death.  They know it all exists, but why bother with it as long as it is far away, in space or time.  They revel in the here-and-now more than the "ruminators" and "philosophers" and "cynics", who can't help but look beyond the immediate revelry and sigh.

But it also might be that life seems dark to those who are discontented or who have encountered failure or subjugation, and their unhappiness propels them to introversion and philosophy.  And the rich and the successful view life as a gift and as a garden of delights.

Many philosophers point to the immense existence of suffering in this world and ask how one can celebrate and be entertained while all this death and destruction is going on.  Inexperienced philosophers also point to the "injustices" in human civilization and feel depressed about it all. (The expectation of justice is the expectation that the weak will win because of a "law".  Is this expectation more pronounced in the weak, perchance?  Because it is a wish for themselves to be out of suffering and unhappiness?)

But in my view, it all starts with suffering in one's heart.  A philosopher starts from the sadness and incoherence in his/her own heart and therefore the suffering and "injustice" around him/her bother him so much more.  In that sense, Buddha was a great philosopher.  He suffered, was anxious about the existence of suffering, struggled hard, and thought he had finally found an end to all this darkness.  It doesn't matter that his solution was ultimately an illusion.  But he was driven by his own suffering and the suffering of the humanity around him.

Many scientists now agree that a depressive personality might be innate and of a chemical cause, and only chemical intervention will save the day.  We can't just blame modern living.  The modern life is both more comfortable and more stressful than the life lived by our ancestors.  And by all accounts, a tragic view of life has been ongoing (side by side with a romantic one) for thousands of years.

So, how one is feeling inside determines how one views the world.  Not a big surprise, but it explains why cheerful people might want to avoid Michael Haneke's and Ulrich Siedl's films.

They just don't want to spoil their mood.

1 comment:

Madhvi Dhaumya said...

I agree with the crux of your post: “how one is feeling inside determines how one views the world”. So could emotional intelligence (EI) be said to be at the heart of our world view? EI refers to the “ability to read and understand our emotions in ourselves and others, and to handle these feelings effectively” (Daniel Goleman).
Goleman has talked about the various types of EI and one of these is ‘empathic concern’ which means we care about the well-being of the people around us. The recognised guiding spirits of all times have possessed this kind of intelligence in good measure. Apparently, the overwhelming response of the masses must have reinforced their belief in their own world view based on their understanding of life, suffering, liberation et al, and that they could be counted on to show the path to those seeking their guidance for ‘deliverance’. Having created a ‘secure base’, this surely helped them to innovate; giving them adequate security to take risks, rebel against the entrenched norm and carve out a distinct path.
This sensitivity to other peoples’ needs and the readiness to help if required made the man called Buddha. Those following Buddha and other masters do find a resonation in their masters but eventually evolve to be Individuals with a certain philosophical bent in consonance with their own type of emotional intelligence only.
Can anyone ever approximate another being’s innerscape? Hence the variegated spectrum of homo sapiens as well as movies :)