Can Optimism Tide Over Pessimism Forever?

Yes, I am a pessimist at the core.

I embrace what’s grim, seek out for the negative aspects and revel in sadness. But, that’s deep within me. The outer orbit around which my core revolves is all shiny, sunny with a positive view of life. I guess if you have to survive in this long journey called life, you need optimism. It seems so ironical, because life is not exactly a happy, fun-filled journey all the time. In fact, most of the time, it is not happy, if not sad. Let’s call that ordinary. Not happy, not sad. Right in the center.

I have heard people say that life is like a sine wave, with troughs and peaks. I guess, that is again an optimistic view, because from where I stand, the peaks are far and few. Life is ordinary to a great degree, followed by sadness with a sprinkle of happiness. What if the ordinary becomes your happiness, and you don’t really care about the real happiness, the peaks in the sine wave that our life is?

That’s grim, I’d say.

“Why must I live?” – quipped a friend. He didn’t say “why should I live?”. If you look closely, there isn’t much difference in the two. The existential dimension in the ‘must’ is hard to ignore for me. I guess ‘should’ is more selfish reason, more to do with failed relationships, career etc. and a micro view of one’s life. Pessimism at its peak, but then everyone around me is not dying or committing suicide. Why?

All thanks to the strong pull of the “orbit of optimism”. Pull that draws its energy from your mind, people around us (who are equally fucked, but appear happy), and the general guidelines of living in a civilized world, being handed over from generation to generation.

There is a continuous, never ending battle between pessimism and optimism everyday. With each morning as I wake up, pessimism loses, only to gear up to come back strongly in the evening or night.

I am closely watching the battle.

Stella!! Hey Stella!! A Desire Named Love, Companionship and Marriage…

A Streetcar Named Desire (ASND) – strange name for a story, I thought, when I first read of it. I was curious to know more. So, I lay my hands on this Tennessee Williams play book. Engaging, intriguing and thought provoking it was, without a single dull moment. This post is not a review of ASND; neither it is a hosanna. It is exploration of thoughts that flooded my mind after reading the book and watching the fabulous movie adaptation with superlative performance from vulnerable-yet-vanity-preserving Vivien Leigh and raw-dashing-uncouth-‘Polack’ (meaning – of polish origin) Marlon Brando. More on the book and movie, – here and here. For those of you who have not come across this masterpiece, here is the plot summary courtesy wikipedia:

The play presents Blanche DuBois, a fading but still-attractive belle whose pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly mask alcoholism and delusions of grandeur. Her poise is an illusion she presents to shield others (but most of all, herself) from her reality, and an attempt to make herself still attractive to new male suitors. Blanche arrives at the apartment of her sister Stella Kowalski in New Orleans; the local transportation she takes to arrive there includes a streetcar route named “Desire”.  The steamy, urban ambiance is a shock to Blanche’s nerves. Blanche is welcomed with some trepidation by Stella, who fears the reaction of her husband Stanley. As Blanche explains that their ancestral southern plantation, Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi, has been “lost”, her veneer of self-possession begins to slip drastically. Blanche tells Stella that her supervisor allowed her to take time off from her job as an English teacher because of her upset nerves, when in fact, she has been fired for having an affair with a 17-year-old student. A brief marriage marred by the discovery that her spouse, Allan Grey, was having a homosexual affair and his subsequent suicide has led Blanche to withdraw into a world in which fantasies and illusions blend seamlessly with reality.

In contrast, Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a force of nature: primal, rough-hewn, brutish and sensual. He dominates Stella in every way and is physically and emotionally abusive. Stella tolerates his primal behavior as this is part of what attracted her in the first place; their love and relationship are heavily based on powerful—even animalistic—sexual chemistry, something that Blanche finds impossible to understand.

The arrival of Blanche upsets her sister and brother-in-law’s system of mutual dependence. Stella’s concern for her sister’s well-being emboldens Blanche to hold court in the Kowalski apartment, infuriating Stanley and leading to conflict in his relationship with his wife. Blanche and Stanley are on a collision course, and Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s would-be suitor Mitch, will get trampled in their path. Stanley discovers Blanche’s past through a co-worker who travels to Laurel frequently, and he confronts her with the things she has been trying to put behind her, partly out of concern that her character flaws may be damaging to the lives of those in her new home, just as they were in Laurel, and partly out of a distaste for pretense in general. However, his attempts to “unmask” her are predictably cruel and violent. Their final confrontation—Williams alludes to rape, but never states it directly—results in Blanche’s nervous breakdown. Stanley has her committed to a mental institution, and in the closing moments, Blanche utters her signature line to the kindly doctor who leads her away: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

As it is evident, Blanche was devoid of love and companionship, which made me wonder – Is it that important to have presence of love and companionship in life? I know everyone’s life isn’t like Blanche’s, but, they surely have a lot missing. What if she would have found someone and married like her sister Stella? Would she have ended up in an asylum? Does marriage really brings the balance required in the society? Is one not ‘settled’  until he/she marries? Is all this relevant in today’s world?

Companionship

Man is a social animal – time and again this statement redeems itself in each individual’s life. As we’re growing up, we feel more comfortable with our friends than our family. We find solace in the fact that we know someone who shares our view on the world around us, is as clueless about a lot of things as we are, and have a lot in common beyond age. That’s where it all begins. Dependence on friends, companions and cronies. Life and age chisels us into an individual with independent thinking and decision making capabilities, which is not at all possible if we don’t have support from companions, as we learn a great deal on real, practical life from these people. Need for companion who share our likes/dislikes, passion etc. remains through out our lives, as all of us want to be heard/listened to, recognized/appreciated/feel important or just to let others know that we exist.

Love

There is no single definition of love. Its highly relative and means different to different people. But, everyone will agree to the fact that they are constantly on a look out for love. Yes, even those people who disagree!! Beyond satisfying carnal desires, we all need to be loved because of the following basic parameters,

  • it is satisfying that you are worth something on this earth,
  • you are desirable by people and they seek your company,
  • you see yourself as normal and not as deviation, following the normal code of society,
  • you have a follower who holds you in high esteem, giving you feeling of superiority over others.

Surface parameters such as – you want to appear cool, happening and ‘not-left-out’ among your peers, admire someone for any attribute of theirs, are in love-with-love or simply convince that you are beautiful/handsome in other’s eyes… 😉

Sentimental/Emotional parameters such as you want someone who can understand, listen, identify with you, has a matching wavelength, acts as a friend, would be there-with-you in-thick and thin etc.

Marriage

Our elders, peers, relatives, friends, movies, media, advertising, industrial companies  – pretty much everyone that comprises in society, makes us believe that we are not settled unless we are married. I believe in love, companionship and marriage. However, I believe its not necessary for one to marry. Marriage is basically seeking life long love and companionship. How true is that – will form a great debate topic. 🙂

Now, back to the question facing me, is it really important to get love, companionship and marriage (LCM)? Yes, it is true. We need at least one of these to make our life worth living. And love / companionship can exist sans marriage. Live-in relationships prove that.

We need it because of the most powerful reason  – if you are without Love and Marriage, and have companionship, I am pretty sure your companion will have/would look for one of these two in his/her life. Eventually, your companion would stop devoting time towards you, may not fulfill your companionship needs and you will be left alone. And everyone fears exactly that – being alone! Life would seem hollow at that moment. Without a purpose…

Companionship can be a short term measure, but for long  term, you gotta have love or marriage to keep you going. For those of you,  if its all about living  in short term, companionship would seem to be the best possible thing. If it works for you, great!! But all of the people I know, can’t stay alone, without LCM…That’s what happened with Blanche in ASND…

LCM is not an Indian concept, that is, its not only in India society gives more weightage to LCM. Wherever you may go, in any civilized society, rules of the game are alike. For example, look at all developed countries’ heads of state – everyone is married or has companion. The perception of man/woman being incomplete without a partner is deeply embedded in people’s mind.

Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives – Bertrand Russell

Like it or not – Comparison is Inevitable!!!

Its everywhere – in the air surrounding us, in our relationships, inside us! Comparison is omniscient and inevitable, and you can do nothing (or can you?) about it...Even it features a lot of times in my previous blog posts...

Comparison is one social characteristic which can be found in any culture…it has nothing to do with education, social status, rich or poor, civilization…its all pervasive and everyone indulges in it…We compare things, places, people, status, wealth, happiness/sadness, decisions, relationships and every tangible or intangible thing possible on this earth. We do this relentlessly from childhood till the time we die and no one seems to notice it !!!

Its debatable (I wonder why all the things I write on this blog are debatable and have no right or wrong answer 🙂…) whether comparison is wrong or right…its relative to people’s perception…So, when your parents compare you with your cousin/neighborhood kid on marks in school/college, its bad. But, when you compare yourself against your crush’s girlfriend/boyfriend, and find yourself way better, the comparison is good and healthy. Your manager talks about healthy competition in the team, by comparing your achievements vis-a-vis his pet. Utter BS!! When appraisal letter is out and you exceed peers by some percentage points, you feel on the top of the world. Perspectives and situations may be different, but comparison has the last laugh…

Comparison is one conditioning every parent gives to their children, deliberately or in ignorance.

In any stage of life, you are in a race (the very platform of comparison) – be it coming first in your bloody class/school/college, in your office, in eyes of your life partner, while amassing maximum wealth. And when you have kids, the comparison thingy reboots and is passed on as a legacy to your kids. Quite a life cycle…like Energy, comparison cannot be destroyed, however, it can be created anew.

You can’t help comparing – should you give up? Problem is, you really can’t! Its a very strong force riding our mind which defines what path we choose, shape our attitude and have deep impact on day-to-day life. Almost all of us have idols, benchmarks and standards against which we constantly compare our progress in life and decide the course of action. So, how to curb it, more importantly, when to curb it? It would be improper on us to expect from a child/teen to give up comparison. But you grown up people, can certainly make a difference in your life. Exerting a better control on your personality and behavior,you better start doing some introspection and look out the areas in which you compare.

In many walks of life, we screw up because we compare. Lets stop this unending chain of comparison from areas which you dislike. Make sure what comparison you had been subject to, you would not do the same on people you have some impact (like your partner, children or employees). You have to break this chain, no one else can do anything for you. While comparisons you have created afresh and your loved ones are being subject to them now, I don’t think any strategy will work – because, they have come out of your mind/thinking and would appear alright to you.

One more argument I would put is to at least not compare people (your lovers, parents, kids, friends etc, etc.). Its difficult as we gain sense of confidence, security and pride when we compare people. But if we can minimize comparing people, it can go a long way in strengthening your crusade against comparison. If you are a ‘compulsive comparer’, do it with inanimate objects that do not possess any feelings….

Lastly, if you feel what all I have written is BS, and there is no harm in comparison as it provides a purpose and direction in life, go ahead and do it. Just make sure you do not tell it to people who you are comparing. It is not cool.

A Thought on Happiness…

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self contained,

I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to god,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, not to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,

Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

Walt Whitman

Interesting Take on Marriage…

“I never was attached to that great sect

Whose doctrine is that each one should select

Out of the crowd a mistress or a friend

And all the rest, though wise and good, commend

To cold oblivion; though it is the code

Of modern morals, and the beaten road

Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread

Who travel to their home among the dead

By the broad highway of the world, and so

With one chain’d friend, perhaps a jealous foe,

The dreariest and the longest journey go.”

– Shelley, Percy Bysshe