All my days are full. They are packed with thoughts, activities and interactions. And yet, it is to an emptiness that I return every day…
An emptiness that resonates with the emptiness of the lives all around me.
No. I am not talking about the emptiness that comes with being single. I am talking about the emptiness that persists, no matter what we do. The emptiness that drives us to take up a job, to marry, to have children. Only to realize that we haven’t rid ourselves of it. More often than not, it only gets worse. We travel in order to escape from it, but find ourselves returning back to the same void. We eventually end up ignoring it and drowning it in the illusion we create with social networking, activism, drugs, alcohol, partying, lifestyle, and what not. But the emptiness remains, stealthily gnawing at our minds, erasing all residues of who we are and where we were meant to go.
In the modern world, I prefer solitude over the company of people. Simply because it is in my moments of solitude that I feel. Feel with freedom. With people, I am either defensive or i am thoughtful and analytical. With my closest friends, I cannot recollect a single moment in recent times when we connected to each other the way we used to, once upon a time. For one, we are all rushed, multitasking and forever in forward gear. Thinking has become our natural reaction to everything.
We don’t wait to feel; we don’t allow the feeling to linger and brew itself into a mood- a mood that bonds us to people…that we carry forward within our hearts…that causes us to miss people in their absence. In the modern world, all our interactions must have a reason and a goal, for we lead such busy lives. We never meet to just spend time together, for we cannot afford that ‘nothingness‘. The idle strolls, the idle conversations, the idle hobbies- they are obsolete in the modern world. Even hobbies must have a goal and timeframe. But we forget that it was in those idle spaces that emotions resided. Sublime, yet very much there.
In the modern world, even love has a goal. Love is a thought. But in those days, love was an emotion…a raw emotion. An emotion that made us see eternity in the moments we spent together. That taught us to derive contentment from simple gestures. We would sit and stare at the stars in the sky endlessly, hugging this feeling that was love. We would hold hands and take long strolls in the moonlight, hugging this feeling that was love. We never spoke about getting married; we were into an unspoken commitment. It was understood that falling in love meant you had found the person you wanted to spend your life with. Marriage only legalized it.
As science/technology replaced art, thought replaced emotions. Today, emotions are defined, have an objective, and are expressed in very specific and concrete terms. What we lost in the process, was the emotional spectrum and the feeling of being alive. And so, it is in my moments of solitude that I feel more alive.
That there is more loneliness in the company of people than in solitude, is the sad irony of the modern world. The title of an old movie comes to mind: “Aall koottathil thaniye”.
In a fast-paced, opportunistic world, I find myself forever in thought mode or action mode. So much so that when I come back to my solitude, I am unable to switch to ‘feel’ mode. At such times, music and movies come to my rescue. A good movie is more alive to me than the people in my life today. For a good movie is packed with the emotional spectrum that defines human life. A good movie abruptly instills in me emotions that I have not felt for a long time in the real world. It is with relief that I discover that I have not lost my ability to feel. I suddenly become deeply sensitive to all the emotions that the movie takes me through, for I have not experienced them in a long time. I cherish such moments that help me rediscover lost emotions. I hold on to them and cherish the mood they create. That is when I become aware of the emptiness in my life… for I have not felt so alive in a long time.
In the companionship of a good film, I can cry. Something I am unable to do in the real world. All my reactions to adversity and stress now take the shape of thought and action. I rarely allow myself to feel sorrow and pain. It is through the experience of a good film or music that I feel all the sorrow in my own life and shed the tears I have never shed in my life. A good film abruptly sensitizes me to the magnitude of the sorrows I have survived, bares me of the defenses that refuse to accept my vulnerability in the real world, and marvels at my survival. It is these moments of vulnerability that make me feel alive again.
The modern world has indeed robbed us of our ability to feel. We are no longer sensitive to the simple joys of life for we never give them the time that is needed to brew them into happiness in our minds. It takes us a lot to feel happy or sad these days. Also, happiness today translates to excitement or exhilaration. We are no longer sensitive to the infinite sublime tones in which this emotion spoke to us all along, many years ago. Sorrow has been replaced by anxiety and fear, for we never process these enough to reach the plane of sorrow. We even ignore our fears, and these build up over time into what we label as ‘insecurities‘. Perhaps the answer to all our insecurities lies in acknowledging and addressing our fears and transforming them into sorrows. We must perhaps relearn the art of crying in solitude. In the modern world, we find ourselves only driven by happiness that is erected on spite, jealousy, resentment and bitterness.
The graph of our life today is a straight line with occasional peaks and troughs. We feel alive only at these peaks and troughs. But in the past, the graph of our life was a tremulous line, the tremors reflective of the persistent sublime emotions that filled our lives. Those sublime emotions that made us feel alive every wakeful moment of our lives. The peaks were only perks.
Films such as Noketha doorathu kannum nattu, Sreedharande onnam thirumurivu, Golanthara Vartha, etc are very much reminiscent of our lives in the 80s and 90s. An era when fences were only between houses, not between the minds of people. The very word happiness in my mind is stored as the imagery that characterized my life then. When warmth, affection and a million other sublime emotions filled the spaces between our words and interactions, giving no room for emptiness. As a child, the house in which we lived was never synonymous with home; it was only a place where we slept. Home was the entire locality, with its houses and open spaces- the playground, firing range, streets and parks that I so loved. We divided our time between houses and the outdoors. My friends’ houses were no different from mine. Even the dogs in the locality were our friends. They were a part of our emotional lives and we were concerned about them. We kids grew up together, in a world of safety and security, lit up by the warmth and affection of an entire community. We experienced such a strong sense of belonging in that community that loneliness would have been hard to fathom. It would have been impossible for me to imagine a world like that being replaced by a world of emptiness and insecurity.
Today, we define our spaces sharply…
Our house, our family, our car, our happiness.
We guard them fiercely, never letting down our defenses. The houses that we call homes are dead structures filled with an emptiness that is so alien to human life. With the materialism we attach ourselves to, we also end up building layers of defense. This defense then drives our behaviour, as opposed to those times when human behaviour was driven by the raw human being within. The raw being whose vulnerability was deeply loveable. What have we earned with our obsession for materialism? Only defensiveness, emptiness and mental illness. The mad pursuit for materialism has reduced us to beings who have chosen to drop their consciousness to the things that really matter, for only then can we fool ourselves into believing that all is well with us and the world, and continue our pursuit for materialism.
There is an urgent need for change. Change at all levels of the community- our schools, our homes, our governments, our offices. There is the urgent need to raise the collective consciousness of a society to the deep mess they have led themselves and this planet into.
The answer to all our challenges- from climate change to growing violence, lies in transforming minds at the ground level. Teach human beings to pause and feel- a sensibility that was once natural to us. Teach them to feel without defense and create a whole new world from what they feel. Sow the seeds for a new culture that shall again rest on human behaviour driven by the raw human being within all of us.