Saturday, May 22, 2010

On the Burden of Thought

It’s always difficult to think. Think about it (on second thought, don’t!) – there you are, lazing on the sofa, watching an old movie of not any great substance, and your mind is getting used to not getting used. And, all of a sudden, your eyes stray towards the bored tick-tock, and the rain cascading on your windows shut, and you are reminded of the flesh and blood of which you are made, and of that horribly mocking challenge: “I think. Therefore, I am.”

Just like that, in a trice, your existence stands questioned, exposed for all to see. And, you realize – you’ve got to think. Think! About what?

You can’t just think of the second hand ticking away – that is so hollow, not even sure if that qualifies as thought! You cannot ponder over the dreams you’ve wasted, for that’s patently unproductive. You can let your mind wander over to the moon, and dream of romantic sweet nothings, but there’s hardly a thought there that has not been thought before – even worse, that has not been reproduced before in some written form or another. The burden of your existence pinches without pity, and it’s all the more scathing thanks to the trillions of thoughts that have gone before, the thousands that have endured in paper format as proof of their being (and of that of their creators), and you just wish that you were back in time as a caveman, when there were still ideas to be had, myths to be created and discarded, thoughts to be invented (or discovered, depending on whether you are fatalistic or not) and so on and so forth.

So, thanks to my forefathers and mothers, thanks to the great ponderers over time, bearded and ecstatic at discovering what is now mundane, here we are – travesties of existence – caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place, with a brain – and, therefore, the potential (nay! the expectations) – significantly larger than the Neanderthals', but the vistas of the unknown ever so gradually obliterated over time through the rather selfish explorations of men and women with the good fortune to live before us.

And yet, we must think. That is what we are taught in schools, that is what our overtly proud parents and relatives expect of us, that is what our colleagues challenge us to. Indeed, what is more, that is what we crave of ourselves – that single original thought, that one discovery to our name, that one irrevocable proof that we are, and have been.

It is tough!

Especially so if you are an adult. For a child, it is so much easier! As a child, you have the option to think – it is no mandatory test for recognition. You can gurgle and make sounds appearing intelligent (when all you are really doing is expressing your cheer at the fresh diaper that cradles you), and everyone around beams as at the unveiling of a ground-breaking discovery. As a child, you are like the caveman – with the option to choose your first word, to articulate your first dance, to crayon your first Picasso and showcase your intellect. You have the chance to discover, and invent, and win glory in Neverland.

Not so as an adult. As an adult, the slightest sound you make will be subject to scrutiny, the first word you speak will define your careers, your moves on the dance floor will bear judgment and possibly decide who you get to spend the rest of your life with (or without). As an adult, it is not enough to think. It is far more important to appear to think. Hence, the frowning faraway look inspires awe, the sitting pose in stone with the head resting on one’s palm draws raptures, the hurried walk along the corridors of nowhere with sheaves in one’s hands promotes respect.

Think about it.

Times change!

In older times, it was so much easier. You left thinking to the few, and enjoyed the fruits of their labor. You outsourced thinking, as it were, to those who knew the art best, and partook of their fruits as just shareholders of society. You lacked the wherewithal perhaps, and were not expected to think, for you toiled hard and did your bit in the fields and the ships and the factories so that the thought service providers could think on your behalf. And you enjoyed their (nay! yours by proxy) thoughts at the theatre, in the shops where every decade brought tremendously different inventions, in the classrooms where you learnt facts replacing opinions and superstitions by the day!

Today, things are different. Opportunities have been democratized, and so has the burden of thought. No longer can one take refuge in darkness and hope to be sympathized with, no more can a visit to the apocethary be proof enough of our progressive ways. No, we are ALL expected to think now. We are all expected to contribute to the collective thought library of human endeavour and achievement, no matter our station or upbringing. Or, inclination.

Once, thought was a route to understanding our surroundings, and even ourselves, better. Now, it is the high road to commercial success. No wonder the business of thought has flourished, and spread across nations, communities, creeds and all other manner of boundaries. The competition has soared with the burgeoning population, with each set of mother and father desperate to figure in the autobiography of the next Einstein, Michelangelo, Rabindranath,…

Think about it.

Today, the expectations are immense and all-pervading, the potential spread across the globe, the opportunities diminished in the manner of all natural resources.

Ask yourselves: What can I do to ease the Burden of Thought?

And, you know what? There is a lot you can do! Conserve. We cannot be selfish and consume all remaining thoughts in the universe. We NEED to leave some behind, undiscovered, un-invented, un-thought – if only to give a reason to live, and a fair chance to prove their being, to those who will come after us. STOP!

Build resources of thought. There is a growing requirement for unfinished symphonies, incomplete novels, unexplained poetry, unshared phenomena, untouched substance. We must start and not complete, we must plant but not grow, we must…you get the drift.

Recycle. Reuse the epics, re-quote the classics, rebuild the ancient wonders, remodel myths, reword pulp fiction. All I am saying is (and, I’m sure, were John Lennon here today, he would agree – in bed or out of it): Give Thought a Chance!

Do your bit for all humankind. Be proud to say, with me, “I DO NOT think. Therefore, I am.”

And, always will be!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! That was good. I was beginning to feel a lot of pressure as I was reading until you releaved me of it. :-) That is very cute. I'll come back to read your other posts soon. :-)