Herbert Bayer’s – Lonely Metropolitan (1932), Source: Google Images
Life has always found wise ways to keep me perpetually perplexed and bemused, and yet it has also supplied me the strength to retain my ability to interpret the former, if not even derive inspiration from its undying mysticism and even loss and pathos, in complete humility and submission. Clearly something has made me capable of deriving this strength from loss and pain, where even as I see myself crumble into bits, I eventually discover a much more resilient me, capable of compassion and forgiveness. But how much of it has got to do with the dire straits we find ourselves in vis-à-vis our inherent nature that presents us with a choice to rise to the occasion by interpreting it in a more humane way? Does life really have a mind of its own or are we as a race far superior and capable of mutating our mind in accordance with nature and life and yet submit to the former instead to restore humility and greatness? And with that logic, who then becomes a greater being? Which, then, among these is God?
A single facet of life whose style of governance I have perpetually opposed and found difficult to accept is – Death, brutally incompatible with the whole idea of forgiveness. Why isn’t life forgiving? Is forgiveness only a virtue of mortals, and death is just a penalty for their own actions? Then who are we praying to? What are we praying for if we are apparently the only ones capable of forgiving life, when clearly there is a lack of an element of humanity within the ruthless discipline of life? What a lacuna!
Just a couple of days ago I met a dear friend for lunch before she and her husband headed off for their vacation in Europe. It was a Sunday evening and it was heartening to see her so relaxed and excited after concluding a ruthless working schedule. It was a matter of a few hours before I received a message from her after they had landed in Europe. I was left horrified. They had to leave immediately for India due to the sudden death of someone extremely close within the family; it was a car accident. My friend had broken down by then. It had taken only a few seconds for the entire mood to come crumbling down as she struggled to fathom what had just happened after an ordinary night and day. It was all over, just like that.
Perhaps, I must take a moment and establish an intended caveat that my entire string of thoughts that follows may or may not be supported by an apparently convenient choice of established beliefs and assumptions more dated than what reasoning can qualify or uphold. I can only assure you of my sincere attempts at making any conflicting contrast seem least obvious.
Death, the highhanded, no-nonsense facet of life, that I have dreamt of questioning a million times in my head, had once again appeared before us like the stereotypical malefactor who gains immortality. Of course, here is where religion comes in like the zealous parent of a spoilt child, to explain to us how and why we should accept death and how it is only a phase of life. Pardon me, only?! Since when does losing someone who has parented you become ‘only’? And once again, being human, only I am expected to accept that with complete faith.
If at all one should argue about Karma or the consequence of human actions, which I wouldn’t completely dispute, should life not deserve at least a respectable end? If not a fair shot and fight for life? Why such a deplorable ending to a man so undeserving and life-and-law-abiding? Does life not contain an element of humanity, mercy or at least a sense of justice? Why death? I have seen mothers outlive their daughters, with neither customs nor poverty to blame. Never has this element of loss and tragedy ever seemed justified. It never will be, and I am only filled with remorse and helplessness at its suddenness and unfairness.
This only reaffirms my faith in the fact that we are like ants in an anthill, in the entire gamut of things, reading too much into everything around us where in reality it is but an accident with almost equal probability, where our prayers and beliefs are just selfish requirements intricately designed by our intelligent minds to protect our sense of being and sense of insecurity. We dread the unknown and so find it far more convenient to leave it all in an unknown someone else’s hand, whom we choose to call God, Life…or whatever.
My intended inconsequential observations would revolve perennially around a multiple questions weaving into each other or even encroaching into each other’s territory. Essentially, I ask then, what matters? Is it possible that Marcus Antonius Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, a valiant warrior and a stoic philosopher, could have been so wrong when he wrote: ‘In the end, everything comes to nothing. And nothing matters’. Nothing? So then, what does? Or when? Why bother?…Where is God? Hmmm, ’tis always the questions we might ask that might matter more than the answers we might get.
© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013