Note - This is a very long post, but every small length of it is worth digging into. It happens to be one of the most fascinating, and comprehensible write-ups I have read/heard, which deal with a subject as complicated as the definition and pursuit of truth, but decodes it with the help of instances and characters that have been a part of childhood. This childhood is what constitutes the fabric of our collective memories, and there-in lies the kernel of truths of life as we know them. Read, and ponder.
Truth is belief. Truth is reason. Truth is passion. To be truthful, to me, is also to be moral. Truth is intent. Truth is outcome. Truth is death; the harshest one. It is also life. I believe it should lead me to peace. That is how I see it or want to see it.
Truth is understanding why are we here. Does it make any difference? Our actions? Or may be only some action by some stalwart in his time matters. So does this mean the rest of us are living life like insects? To say that is such a wrong thing. Do insects play no role? Or is that our role is similar to those insects i.e., in completing some sort of a cycle? Seeking truth is about answering so many simple questions that have not so simple answers. Truth is a quest.
Truth of a Teenager
For three decades or so, I have been around observing, trying to get hold of the flawsophies in understanding the real meaning of life, of why and how and what. The first decade of my life was perhaps the best. After that I started indulging in a paranormal activity called thinking – one of the bigger blunders I have sketched so far. Why is that you ask. Hmm… I think for that you will need to know the nature of my indulgence with the world around and perhaps my own the realm of thoughts. In fact there are so many aspects of my existence, that I really do not understand them all. Whenever I tread that path of pursuit and speak to my fellow peers and friends, I come back empty handed. And with every such attempt my belief in Darwin's theory stands reinforced, getting convinced that we have descended from apes. But let’s focus on trying to uncover the essence of truth.
As a kid, I have lived a life of blissful ignorance. I have lived in the times of Chacha Chaudhary and Saboo. I have lived to believe that He-Man was one of the masters of the universe. However funny it may sound to you, I would scathe the fields with a stick and shout in all the glory - "I have the power".
Somewhere, I actually felt that I had the power. I would rescue all the butterflies, when kids from the block would ran around trying to capture them. I felt heroic. It was like saving the world from the harsh, cruel truths. That thought, perhaps, was my first tryst with truth. Since then it has been a journey of sorts.
I believed in some things so dearly and fiercely that they held the status of the absolute truth that could ever exist, if it exists that is. To share with you a long kept secret, I believed I could fly. Not like a bird would fly, but I believed while jumping I could punch air underneath my feet and take off even higher. The jig was this - I would jump off the ground and paddle in the air to go higher. And then I would come down. The next time I would go even higher. These mini-flight were a treat of the awesomeness that I had access to. I would smile and, again, slash the air with the stick in my hand and exclaim - "I have the Power!!!"
And then it stopped. I grew up.
I was not under the cognitive overload poor kids these days have to face. I had access to many comics and scriptures that induced fascination to do things beyond one’s reach, to save the world and feel proud. One such book was "Jatak Kathayein" that had Buddhist stories, each with a moral. They inspired enough to make me fan of Gautama Buddha.
I didn't quite understand him then but I knew there was something common between us. Something that really connected us. It was his pursuit of truth. When this hit me, I was so motivated to pursue truth further that I seriously wanted to leave my home, everything and go. Sadly I was never able to do so, else I would be an enlightened soul today.
Talking of enlightenment, I think I was afraid of the dark. It freaked me out to the brim of crazy. We have frequent power cuts in the small towns, which facilitated many encounters between darkness and me. These encounters became my moments of introspection, faith and belief.
For clear differentiation between truth and untruth, right and wrong, just and unjust, I would try all sorts of methods to meditate and become the enlightened soul I had always read about - the know-it-all kinds; but not like a babajee of course. I also wanted to have the love of my life with me, around me. I wanted to love her to the best I can; write poetries, sing songs, dance, make merry, and I would not leave her like Siddhartha did. Not at all, if she was as pretty and intelligent as Yashodhara was described in those books. Sane. Pretty. And at the same time a very dedicated partner.
A painting the author drew, inspired by Leonid Afremov
I have had this strong urge to set out and explore the course of life like a river, to not be contained but be out there. While I do not want to sound any smarty pant, I realized that my peers - my friends at school and my sisters, were not like me. I was different. I do not know how. I felt I was in the crowd but aloof. I did enjoy company, but there was a sense of solitude that I enjoyed more. How did it compare? Perhaps that’s a question I’m still negotiating. I find in me a recluse who would enjoy sitting on a rock on top of a mountain and feel the joy of having achieved the climb. Maybe I don't fit. I find myself socially awkward and I have mixed feelings about that.
It is not that I don't long for a friend with whom I could share without inhibitions. It is also not that I don't long for companionship. I do. Just like anybody. I hate the void. I long to hold hands and feel assured. Or feel secure and loved in a hug. I crave for that. But I would never initiate it. I would rarely ask for it when needed. Instead, I while away. I drift. I think this is also because my parents, though loving, have been very firm and inexpressive. They have taught me not to rely too much on others and do things by myself, to be by myself. I love them, and so do they, yet rarely do we hug. It takes such an effort. Really. Sounds crazy? Well that’s how it has been.
Anyway, getting back to story of truth, now you know how similar my life then was to that of Siddhartha; except that I didn't have a loving wife, a kingdom to rule but we shared the same notions to run after truth, to seek answers. I used to think about it and discard the thought of abandoning home, mulling - "I am barely 12. Siddharth left home when he was 29". Now, I realize that he was more decisive than I am or ever will be.
The Spider Bite
Every now and then, I would see the futility and worthlessness of my existence and try to ascertain whether or not I’ll make a dent in this universe. In fact there were so many ways that I could sneak in and punch the whole strata that I started exploring, and the more time I spent exploring, the more I realized how insufficient my experience was. I had taken a plunge and it was a fall. I needed the right terminal velocity or I would drown in the history or perhaps in my own unfinished dreams. I needed the right pull before I could catapult my ideas in search of truth. I think it started, when I was 7. It was then when I was first introduced to Spidey. Yes. Our very own Spiderman from the friendly neighbourhood.
Now Spidey, I found, was an interesting character. He had similar notions of pursuance. Yes, I am talking about the truth. The urge to go beyond what is in your reach and help the world in better ways.
As Spiderman, he would beat the bad guys; jump off buildings; weave his own truth; wear his own lie yet be loved by all. As Peter he was good at studies; he was respected by girls; he helped the needy and did all this as a common man. So he was master of both his universes, not just one. To top it all, he didn’t have to leave Mary Jane. He knew exactly when to switch roles. Sadly later in the story I realized, that like Yashodhara’s case, he had to distance himself from MJ. This became a point of my concern. A serious one. Both these fair ladies were very committed to their heroes, still had to live a life of lonesomeness. This truth was a little scary. What is truth if it is not shared? No better than a lie. I thought about it. Why is it that no one who pursues it so fiercely gets to live with his companion? I was finding more and more such stories, yet my craving hadn't died. The saddest part being that most of the time, the hero opts out of the relationship, despite loving their beloved so dearly. Another hero of truth, I recently found was Mahatma Gandhi. His story is similar, but let’s not go there. This post is more about my truths than his.
Through the early years of the second decade of my life, I hoped that I would someday leave all behind and go in search of truth. At times I would secretly wish that a spider would bite me and I would morph into some kind of a super hero. Sadly, none of them happened. Perchance the mosquitoes did try, but nothing substantial came out of that.
I was still a popular kid. The females would love to have me around, so much that my guy friends would get jealous and pass comments. I guess it was I who kept these girls at a safe distance. You see, I wouldn't mind female spiders but I guess they didn’t fancy biting me. The only way to tackle this was by engulfing myself in the inky darkness, relentlessly slaughtering all the other thoughts. It was like I was under the spell of truth. Then I was stripped off that too, by deception. Deceptions question your illusion of validity in the frames of reality in the bigger context. Truth is then judged and measured on the scale of happiness.
Peace, Satisfaction, Happiness
To ideate deeply, there are some encounters in each of our lives that invite us to pause and think about our lives. I realised while this pursuit was an honorary and cherished one in my life, it was slowly losing its charm. So far I hadn’t understood that satisfaction and happiness are two different things and absorption in a task or a routine or a drive cannot always give you both. I originally linked truth with peace, peace with satisfaction, and satisfaction with happiness. This was changing.
So what is it that I should aspire for now if not truth? What was happening to me was no less than any hysteria. I could see there were more side effects to it. I was becoming too serious, too rational, too giving and all of that was not easy. I had my own suffering. I was beginning to understand that perhaps "no drive" is also a "drive". I also understood that circumstances that we can’t choose and the structures in life that we choose have less to do with satisfaction or happiness or peace. All of this is largely determined by temperament. It is rarely an after effect of truth. So what is the rhyme and refrain here? It is logical to view life as series of moments; each with a value; each episode with a truth of its own; connected with the intent more than outcome. The rhyme is the understanding in repetition. The refrain is questioning your very own understanding. Well that is debatable I know. And I am still hooked.
Truth Can Seduce You
While writing whatever was coming to mind, I was wondering what exactly this post is about. What is this "essence of truth" I have been talking about? Yet again, not an easy one to answer.
|Are eyes the site, or medium of truth?|
The author does end up drawing them a lot.
So I asked some questions. Simple questions seeking simple answers. These seemingly simple questions led to more questions, rarely offering answers, that too in bits and pieces.
"What is truth?" - I asked myself.
Truth is something that conforms to reality, is factual, is derived out of consensus; has a logical conclusion. Yet we know that truth, sometimes, is only true in a context. I am talking about relativism.
Questions that now propped up were:
What is real? What is factual? Is it not very dependent on individual perception? Can it always be proved by some logic? Even in relativism all points are valid, and with such a premise truth may not be true out of the premise and it so turns out that it is contradictory. Can truth be self-contradictory? Doesn't relativism defy the very nature of truth itself?
What I exactly wanted to do was define it but it seemed impossible. So if it can't be defined, does it really exist? Some say such a truth can only exist in faith. Is it? I doubt.
Truth is, maybe I am here for a reason. Or maybe truth is that there is no such reason at all. I am just blabbering. The idea of truth has seduced me for long. What came out was no less than a gaping void. In the age when boys run after girls I ran after truth.
To think of it, whatever the truth is, unless it encounters more realms than yours it is no better than a lie and it is meaningless in essence, even if it holds good. And what good is such realization that makes no difference to you or the world around? Every truth needs a meaning. Buddha found it in sharing with people, telling them what is right, leading them away from the "ladna marna" on the path of ahimsa. Spidey found it as the exact opposite. He understood he needs a mask and people would not understand his truth. They would get irritated as to why he is endowed more than a normal human.
While truth does not lead us to chaos or a safe bay, it is just the temperament that changes in how we lead our lives. For example, if you marry a person it doesn't mean he is a chest of happiness (or sorrows, for that matter) in your life. It is his temperament (and yours), more importantly, which is deterministic in actual situations.. Truth is independent of it. It does not make a dent. Temperament does. Massively.
With that in mind, truth to me, is about a belief that I would want to carry all my life. Truth is supernatural and perhaps the greatest kept secret as well. Truth is political at times and also free from all reasons. Truth is passion. There are so many layers to it. I cannot define it as one clear emotion, or as one clear definition. It is an amalgamation of sorts. Go ask the same question to people out there and you’ll get different answers each time. That’s what truth is. It is everybody's perception. What is yours?
Do you have something to offer? Then sprinkle me some truth. I am game.
About The Author - Navin Dutta is some awesome, successful professional in his routine existence, but in the world where I had my first tryst with him, he is a majestic writer and a wonderful human being. He has an unbelievably rich trove of talents, which he quite consistently dazzles us with. Extra-ordinarily well-versed in most affairs of the world, humility stands out as a glaring, yet pleasant aberration in a person of his stature. The above write-up is an edited version of what he read out to an eager audience at the eleventh gathering of the Poetry and Cheap Humour group. You can write to him at email@example.com or follow him on twitter by searching for @flawsophies.