The Man who Watched

When you are of that kind of age when the dining table seems taller than the Eiffel and steps need to be dealt with palms and knees rather than feet, you get asked a particular question. It’s asked for the amusement of those of slightly more mature years if not minds, around you.

What do you want to be, when you grow up?

At this stage, the probability of you being wise and wise cracking enough to answer a cool: “Happy” is very little. At this very beginning of your life as an organism you are posed a question of an existential nature. Nobody expects an answer, as long as you want to be something. For it is important to want to be something, become a somebody. Tales are not told of nobodies (the Grossmith brothers take exception)

For all your life, you are constantly driven to a goal, which is age, gender and demographic dependent. Your proximity to this obscure bull’s eye is your value of a societal comparison variable. We claim to know not the purpose of living, at least the sane ones don’t. But we still manage to illicit from this apparent purposelessness the need to do. Do what? Whatever further’s something. I know I am being rather obscure, but that is the point. As long as you are creating an aura of busyness, you are acceptable. The idea of a non contributor, a non productive individual in a society has got the obvious stench of unacceptability. Why? Would you like to carry the dead weight of a family member? Friend? Wouldn’t you prod this non producer to get up and start doing something? Of course you would. But will it stop there? The need for advancement is not as natural to everyone as it may appear at first. After all the appetite for ambition is a very personal concept. So a man who does just enough to put bread on the table and keep life running with as much smoothness as his laziness has bargained with his aspirations for; is not a success. He is not to be idealized, accepted perhaps.

We are long past those days of survival based evolution. Everyone need not be intelligent, strong or in possession of any special attribute. There are enough jobs, enough food for people to be able to afford to be average. What thus results in is the guaranteed protection of otherwise vulnerable individuals, whether their weakness be physical or mental. The idea of examinations and rewarding careers to those with higher cranial power has the whiff of financial selection with not biological but cultural evolution. This of course necessitates the hurling of oneself into the race of climbing up a ladder. A ladder whose bottom and top are no different to some people, what about them?

Dinesh is a very ordinary looking chap, a squarish jaw with a smidgen of decent looks but nothing exceptional. He is intellectually as potent as any graduate of a decent university in India. Nothing to suggest that he among a set of his peers shall be able to offer anything more or less than another member of the set. He till now has gotten by, doing just enough to get to this stage, now he is tired. He sees little difference in the lives of his colleagues to propel a desire to seek promotions at his job. Nor is he inspired to do the rational thing, jump jobs till his inflated package becomes the perfect landing cushion for a settled life. Why? Its probably because the perception of success is not a major contributor to his decision process. He wonders if such thoughts are product of a conscious effort to be different or a result of learning. He considers his life to have reached a point of no return, one of a quarter life crises if you will. He has recognized the idea of happiness and it being the most important goal that there is to pursue. He has also realized that this doesn’t include the rejection of the pursuit of success. After all a degree of success is perhaps essential for happiness, if not his own directly, perhaps that of his family. For no person without risking estrangement can hope to be happy while his familial expectations of the same remain unfulfilled.

But what does Dinesh really want? To indulge in thoughts like these, ones with no discernible conclusion but of immeasurable mental stimulation. He could not be happier than to live life in an undisturbed, small, cozy home with a defined set of luxuries. He seeks neither fame nor recognition, the occasional decent company would do. His thoughts hold a greater allure to him than any other living thing on the planet. Whatever association any entity of defined form may have to claim with him, none could be more profound than that between him and his thoughts. Then why can he not be allowed to revel in their company? While he is not compelled to subject himself to the continued effort to further his social and financial reach, not doing so hints at an almost unacceptable if not repulsive idea of living. Even the most involved of philosopher and meta-physicist is expected to share his or her thoughts so that if by chance there be a unique one, it can impact the world. As a thinker, it is certainly not enough to just think and let be, to publish, to report and to do this under the same ambition driven atmosphere is the natural course of things.

Dinesh doesn’t seek laurels and recognition but then he is not a thinker if his thoughts are not on paper and up for review by others who are capable of similar thoughts. A journalist is after all not great for being abreast with the happenings of the world and their intricacies. Not for recognizing the commonalities in the fabric of human existence today, across the globe. But for letting others know and fulfilling a sense of informational duty which came into being just because people began doing stuff which was worthy of reporting. For the progression of a civilization, we need people who contribute something concrete in terms of ideas. In order to better our chances of a faster and more varied development it makes sense for all of us to strive to be enterprising and innovative. But Dinesh though perhaps in possession of such abilities finds no joy in exercising them. The race to a predefined goal and the constant indignation that accompanies it is not to him the best way to spend the limited time he has on the Earth. He would like to take as much time as he can to study the planet and its inhabitants and beyond. To be informed but not the informer. His idea of living constitutes the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowing and not for what he can do with it. He would like to be an observer.

Being an observer is no mean task, in the most conventional sense observers are perhaps the greatest minds that have inhabited the Earth. While the active minds might be industrious, they are remembered throughout if only an observer considers them worthy of mention. While in today’s world it is highly unlikely that a person of some repute shall be skipped by historians altogether, the degree of impact of anything is still governed by those who see and say. Dinesh isn’t happy with even that, he just wants to see. He doesn’t want to be instructed by a sense of personal, societal, financial or epistemological value of an idea before he beings to ponder on it. He wishes his mind to be as free in its pursuit of a thought as a wild horse on a plain grass field. His life will probably have no visible significance beyond his immediate social circles. He will not be mentioned or lauded for any idea he may chance upon for he may not even report it. But then this abstinence from the competitive world will probably render him able to think more clearly. To explore those sides of thought which due to their non – value have received little attention to now. His peers shall mostly see him as a failure, a waste of talent and man deserted by ambition. Such people are often discussed during office coffee breaks for their apparent resignation to life. Dinesh would be one of those.

Not everyone can be Dinesh, a non participant, a non contributor. No, then the world would cease to function, and progress as we know it would become a thing of the past. So can we afford people like him? Those who we acknowledge as unconventional and uninterested and yet deeply aware of the world and its constituents. We have had no trouble with ignorant people till now, those also do nothing but due to inability. Can those with ability also be allowed the luxury of non performance? Its difficult and rather reminiscent of a versatile Shaolin monk who runs a tea stall in the mountains. The monk’s choice of not sharing his vast mastery vindicated only by the complete transformation of an unlikely, underdog pupil. No being a watcher is a moral anomaly for it signifies the reluctance to partake in development out of sheer laziness or perhaps a revulsion towards those already in the resultant situation. Dinesh would know, how could I?

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