What is Life?
There cannot be a better metaphor for describing life than that of a wave. Not the kind of wave that we instantly imagine at the mention of word wave, I am talking about a wave of varying amplititude, a wave composed of many sine and cos waves. In scientific terms a wave is a plot of the value of some quantity against time, a vibration, and what is life but a vibration. We are a tiny vibration in the life of celestial bodies, ephemeral and yet eternal, tiny and still huge, simple and yet vastly complex, oh my!, I am greatly confounded by the duality of life. How must I reconcile my emotions and my thoughts?, the emotions that seem so real are proven to be nothing but some chemicals reacting to some events by my thoughts, the one refutes the reality of the other. The questions, who am I?, what am I? and why am I here? have haunted many a great minds for centuries and yet we are nowhere closer to a commonly agreed upon answer. Am I a free intellectual being, capable of all actions imaginable? or a mere puppet in the hands of nature?.
It should be very easy for anybody to relate to atleast some, if not all, questions or information in the above paragraph. This essay is not an exploration of answers to those questions, they exist only to illustrate the complex nature of our lives and the quintessential character the of human race, namely, consciosness. We may be born with consciousness or human race may have developed enough to nurture it in their progeny, the nature vs. nurture debate will continue, but nobody can deny that experiences of a man have profound impact on his consciousness.
Like everybody I have grappled with these questions, sought answers to them and failed, nevertheless they have grown me as human being, bettered me to a point where I can say that I run a very low risk of falling into existential crisis or depression. Thinking about them has allowed me to cross a certain threshold of minimum philosophical wisdom necessary to lead a satisfying life. Perhaps the oft repeated metaphor of iron going through fire to become steel is indeed apt to describe the situation. There was a distinct stretch of 6 years in my life that was very tumultous and hard for me. The two years that I spent preparing for IIT-JEE after my tenth grade were a very good example of how you can contrive to ruin the eagerness and enthusiasm of youth. I simply hate those two years, I did nothing but failed miserably, the strongest emotion that I can remember from those years is that of helplessness. I simply wasn’t designed for performing good intellectually at that time, I had no motivation other than getting a good rank for studying. I and others around me would try to motivate me using a lot of superficial crap but it just didn’t cut for me. I know I could work hard if needed and I did, but simply working hard didn’t just produce any results, all the hard work is utterly useless if you can’t firmly grasp the laws of electromagnetism. Doing physics is a sole happy memory from that time, but I had it all wrong, I thought I could do physics by formulating the problem completely with my imagination and only bringing in mathematics to prove the results I had already imagined. I had no tool other than my imagination to tackle the problems in physics and thus I failed miserably in Physics in the exam. I was doomed in mathematics from the start, it was a whole new realm of doing things for me and I only did good in chemistry because the sheer amount of efforts that I put into mugging things up. I can be very competitive, I am not quite sure if that is a good thing, but it helped me rebounce after this catastrophe. I would spend the next year better in a hostel away from family and quite happy, but obsessed with my previous failures. This is the time when I came accross books Surely You Are Joking Mr. Feynman and Yugant, both of them have influenced me a lot. I’ve learned to reason things on a very objective and practical plane, utterly devoid of emotions, from Yugant. RPF taught me just to be curious, exploring and having fun in your work.
After spending a year at the hostel I returned home to be plunged into a winter of depression that would last very long. Again the emotions that dominated the following three years were anger, helplessness and hopelessness. I was one sulking asshole during that time, I was moody, utterly disorganized and completely without the hope of doing anything good with life. I had little respect for anybody let alone me, I had zero confidence, zero self esteem but a lot of originality. Though I was in a very shitty situation I never followed the norm and I never gave up, I didn’t give a fuck if my solutions to my daily problems were liked or disliked by people. I didn’t give a fuck about my future and I didn’t give a fuck about the people that cared for me. I had lots of balls but I didn’t have independent thought to go along with it, no insight into handling relations with other humans, no strong philosophical base to make my decisions on. I was neatly fucked up. I’ve been to the dark valley that parents protect their children from, I understand how grotesque our lives can become. The hellish abyss that emotional distress creates is very real and palpable. I like some of Eminem because I can relate to his stories without a flaw, I can walk into the shoes of Jordan in Rockstar effortlessly.
I am not going to bother explaining the whole situation specifically, it is just too personal, but I am not exaggerating anything here, if I gave you pages from my journal during that time you would understand. I literally wept for an hour when I got late and couldn’t give an interview, I have at times wept alone in some corner of a bus stop when nobody could see me. That is some fucked up shit for a twenty year old healthy kid to do. But I don’t die in there, I come out alive and kicking. This time the films and cinema came to my aid, they helped me understand the complexity of human emotions, our motivations, desires and thoughts. Cinema helped me grasp the other beautiful facet of our lives love, happiness, simplicity, curiosity and enthusiasm. My course in practical philophy had come to an end as the inflection in my life’s waveform was beginning to take the shape of a rising crest. No more troughs.
I’ve not only realized that strategy and discipline can only complement imagination and hard work, but I’ve adopted those two things in my daily life. I am organizing better, I am managing my time better and I am very optimistic about the future. Not many words are needed to say that I am fine and doing well. You can lead a very simple, satisfying life if you understand the duality of life. There is no good or bad, beautiful or ugly, better or worse, simple or complex, the things just are. The great RPF has convinced me that it is better to remain curious and exploring than have fixed answers. I think I am also what you might call a Karma Yogi, or a practioner of the ways laid out by Geeta or stoicists, but I am not bound to them. I believe I am astute enough in my day-to-day activities that should I encounter a problem to which either objectivists or realists or anarchists have a solution, then I would freely borrow it from them. My coming of age story ends but the pertinent question shall continue to present itself to me, the question, what indeed is life?.Post by: Ajinkya Tejankar