Sunday, July 27, 2014

We Are All Diseased

I seem to suffer from this disease. As always, I might be completely mistaken. But -- to phrase it like a man of science for once -- all available facts lead to the undeniable conclusion that the probability of me suffering from this disease is quite high. You know what? I think you suffer from this disease too. In fact, I think most people I have encountered in life suffer from it. If all normal people suffer from a disease, is it even a disease anymore? Would it be an "abnormal" condition, as diseases ought to be? But I am getting ahead of myself here. Who am I to conclude that you suffer from this condition? You would never concede the fact. You would deny it outright. All I can be sure of, if one can be sure of things, is that I suffer from it. For all I know, you don't. Or do you? Do you, like me, suffer from the disease of Inconsistency?

Inconsistency would not be such a worrying thing, if not for the human tendency to look for consistency everywhere. We look for identifiable patterns, and try to fit things into them. As soon as we sense a compromise to the pattern, we work hard to set it right. But grant things a glance that is more than cursory, and you will realize that there are no patterns. Early last month, I temporarily gave up my watching-sports-takes-lot-of-time-so-dont-watch policy by watching a couple of matches. The second match I watched was the Wimbledon final, where Federer and Djokovic battled for the throne. I almost gave up my dinner to watch Federer show a glimpse of his much-talked-about old self (I haven't seen much Tennis). Whilst Federer was playing like a spectator-magnet, Djokovic was just there, just good enough, and almost lucky to hold on to the match. As soon as the match was over, there was a barrage of opinions, most of which spoke about Federer. I wondered why, for despite the fact that I had myself felt Federer had been the better player that day, Djokovic had won. He managed to stick it out when things were bad, and made most of the opportunities he got. Isn't that what Tennis is all about : winning? How would it feel to be Djokovic, to win and to still fend of questions about his opponent? In an otherwise Utilitarian World, where the end justifies the means, why were we attracted more towards Federer, instead of Djoker (I am obviously discounting past records, and talking about the particular match)?

Just a day before, I had watched my first sports match in a long, long time. MCC XI vs Rest of the World XI boasted so many big names that I had been waiting in anticipation for long. Sachin, Lara, Warne, Murali, and most importantly -- Rahul Dravid. My fandom of Rahul Dravid was such that I gave up watching cricket when he stopped playing. All my wait for one more innings from him turned out anti-climatically, as he out was out bowled the first ball he faced. The much-acclaimed wall had his defense broken. That's all right, I told myself, and recalled all the good memories he had given me. With Rahul Dravid, the method of scoring runs was more important that the runs themselves. If runs were more important, I had argued numerous times with friends, I would rather watch a fast-ticking scoreboard. If runs are the only thing that is important, watching a couple of kids playing book cricket would be much more engaging. My firm belief was that the means justify the end, and not the other way round. Where was the consistency?

The first thing I learnt about a corporate environment is that people are seldom concerned with how you do things, as long as you get them done. Why should we evaluate people from the cini-industry any differently? After all, a cinema is usually a commercial product that aims to make money; a fact that only a few directors (like Vetrimaran) admit frankly. So, when a Kamal Hassan talks about how long he had to wear an unnecessary make-up, or someone praises director Bala for his authenticity in making a movie, I quickly dismiss it as humbug. Yet, when I see a movie like Rope (Alfred Hitchcock), I can't help wonder about the logistic hurdles that had to be surpassed in shooting it. Take this scene by Tarkovskey from a movie that I am yet to watch. There is not much that is engaging about this scene, but it never stops fascinating me. How could they have calculated the exact time that would take for the mansion to burn, and time the shot perfectly? But why am I so worried about how the shot was made, instead of how it looks in the end? You see the inconsistency in me?

I could go on and on about my inconsistencies, but I guess I have made my point. Let's talk about you a little. You, as in the general public, and not the individual you. When Preity Zinta accused her (former) boyfriend Ness Wadia of abusing her, you questioned the fact the he was after all her boyfriend. "Why had she been silent all this time, and choose to accuse him now?", you asked. You didn't factor in the possibility that she just changed her mind about him, that she could be inconsistent. When politician actress-turned-Nagma slapped a guy for molesting her in public, questions were raised about her selective outrage. The fact that she could choose to be inconsistent in deciding what is okay for her did not occur to some of you.

Have you ever tried changing yourselves, for good or for bad? You are invariably met with resistance from people who expect you to behave a certain way. Ask a smoker who is trying to quit when he still has smoker friends. Things could be easier if only we embrace the fact that we are inconsistent, that we do not fit into patterns, that we could not be studied, and that our reactions could not be predicted. Sartre deals with this profound concept in his beautiful novel, The Age of Reason. Alas, his protagonist Mathieu gets trapped into a pattern of trying not to be fit into any pattern. Once again, we get to see that Socrates was wrong, that there is a vast gap between knowing the right thing to do and doing it. But knowing is a first step. Let us at least recognize that we are bound to be inconsistent.

PS : The title is inspired from George Carlin's stand up routine -- You are all diseased

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