Excursions Of A Bibliophile

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Archive for November, 2013

Notes of a Nobody: In the shadows of a vague personal philosophy

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on November 29, 2013

Thinking ManIt is my belief that for most part our life is perplexingly unfathomable to the point of being meaningless. “What is the purpose of our life? Why are we here? – are two questions that confront any thinking individual.  I doubt if any school of philosophy, thought or religion has addressed this question conclusively. Maybe, it is this frustrating aspect of our existence that has prompted Albert Camus to suggest that the only serious philosophical question is whether or not one ought to kill oneself. “Suicide,” he believed, “is merely confessing that [life] “is not worth the trouble.” Writing on the topic of suicide in Harper’s magazine columnist and writer Clancy Martin says:

 “Living, naturally, is never easy. You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for many reasons, the first of which is habit. Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering”.

Overall a pertinent observation and the last word in the observation in my view the most critical one – “suffering”.  I think it is for this reason Buddhism, the most psychologically astute of all religions, proclaims cessation of human suffering as its banner line objective

An indisputable aspect of human life is the suffering that is associated with it. It is integral to life. I do not think there is even a single human being on earth who would confidently proclaim that he has not suffered in his life – ever. Every one suffers in some form or shape. It is the degree that varies. Human suffering is a solid reality beyond contention. Therefore, I think a critical purpose in our life should be to reduce this suffering around us to the best of our ability and capacity. Does this approach of reducing overall suffering around us bring meaning to our lives? I am ambivalent about it. However, what it definitely does is increase potential for spreading happiness and make our lives more tolerable and hopefully a joyous one for some for some time if not for all for all the time. This is an objective which can be an end in itself.

Unwittingly this approach will also tackle two other thorny questions in our lives viz. need for God and need for leaving a legacy. Reducing human suffering is a god-neutral activity. For it, the presence or absence of God really does not matter. Anybody from any walk of life can try and attempt it without taking recourse to God and still feel spiritually uplifted. Secondly, a measure of life well lived is the one which leaves a lasting legacy. Anybody who contributes to reduction of human suffering also contributes immensely to building this personal legacy.

Achieving spiritual contentment and leaving a lasting legacy can be the twin purposes in an otherwise seemingly meaningless existence

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Notes of a Nobody: Authentic Vicariousness

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on November 9, 2013

Vicarious: Felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another

Thinking ManI very often ask myself the question: what is the purpose of art? And within that more specifically I ask the question, what is the purpose of literature? Many minds have applied themselves to this question and have come up with different answers. My answer to this question takes the form of two words: “Authentic Vicariousness”.  And here is what I mean by it:  From birth to death whatever we do becomes the path of our life journey. Despite our vanity and self-justification in thinking that we have exercised choice in defining our life-journey, when we look back all that remains is an immutable trajectory. It is what it is. Potentially, at each stage of our life journey there were possibilities that our journey could have forked into infinite branches. All of them are roads not travelled and will never be travelled by us.  Literature’s essential function should be to illuminate these untraveled paths in ways that is authentic and realistic. In other words it should enable me experience by proxy what I have missed out on in my life trajectory. The impact of experiencing this vicariousness can potentially have life transformative outcomes. It could take the shape of building reserves of empathy, sensitivity, edification, mellowing, restraint and an expanding inwardness in ourselves.  In other words, the possibility of flowering in us all what we broadly consider good and noble

…. and that in my view is the essential purpose of literature

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