Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Life's Meanings, Wealth, Alcohol and Driving!


A few decades ago my friend Shankar Nag had produced a Kannada film ‘Accident’ that has featured my other friends, Anant Nag, Ashok Mandana, Nagabharana, Arundati Nag, Ramesh Bhat, H G Somashekararao and host of theatre activist, where a rich and a minister’s son driving his car in the dead of the night in an inebriated condition after a merry making party moves over a pavement killing dozens of poor people sleeping there and almost got away with it all except a divine intervention that kills him in yet another accident at the end of the film. Truth is stranger than fiction. Since then I have come across reports of several such incidences in real life, but without that divine intervention, but with even more thicker plots: hiring expensive lawyers, buying support of police and politicians, judiciary not relying on conduct but “intention” in the mythical mind all making the criminal get away with the crime with only some minor bruises. The system that produces such events hastens to chip in to protect itself too!

To day’s drunken youth need not inherit riches, they are rich on their own by themselves. It makes things even worse. I may sound too much psychologizing, being a hard boiled psychologist myself. But, are we not living always with our mind, not giving even a second’s respite to it to rest in silence so that the being can experience the world beyond the mind? The tragedy begins just here. The story starts with the upbringing of the child: a poor development of social consciousness, often noticed in the children of affluent family. Either the parent are too sunk in themselves with their pursuits or with their problems that make them not to attend to unfold of the social dimension in the child or the child sees around within and outside the family getting away and succeeding without it. In either case, a vital link in the development of a wholesome personality is missed. It is normally around the age of three that the child is made to wean himself from his self indulgence and gradually move towards people, culture and society to develop concern and skills of dealing with them as they are vital to ones own growth and fulfillment as he grows along. It is not mere sympathy for people that are crucial, much less the apathy of course, but empathy – an ability to see others as they are or as they see themselves. Only the wearer of shoes knows where it pinches and we must be able to step into it as often as it is required. “I may not agree with even a single word of what you say but I will fight to death your right to say it” said a libertine French philosopher Rousseau. This is empathy, not sympathy. This is respect for others as much as for themselves. It is usually the parents or those significant others in the family who help child reach out to society and culture. Perhaps the wealthy parents think that they can do without them. But the cost is going to be very high. The child misses the unique meaning of his life that is chiseled out with his interaction with the world and people as they are.

As the child moves out into the world, to schools and colleges and later at work, they are influenced by the models available for growth. If dishonesty, self-seeking at the cost of others and the bribe that makes one reach faster, he would rather copy them especially when it is supported by the family and the authorities and also when he finds that he can get away with it with no negative consequences. Here again, one depends on external models of growth rather than on ones own concrete experience of unique talents within. Borrowed meaning, not the individual derived meaning, runs the life.

Lack of individual meaning in life and the dependence on unsure external elements is one of the major factors in the heavy and compulsive drinkers. They drink to drown their meaninglessness in life, to escape their existential crisis. Drinks can only mask it as long as the drinks last but can not erase the malady.

It is time that we realize that there is no substitute for living a genuine and authentic life that emerge when the unique talents inside is discovered, developed and utilized to the service of others who need them as well as to the good of oneself. All others concerned must cooperate to let it happen.

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