On simplicity and patience


The cult of really simple things


By Rajneesh Narula

(Another in my occasional essay series) http://meritbbs.unimaas.nl/narula/essays.html



Life is supposed to slowly exhaust our expectations, which is why (some say) that Hollywood-type fantasies are so entrancing to the average man.


As your average man, I beg to disagree.


It is true that with time it is easier to disbelieve in the purity of human nature, and the sanity of the general public. There is overwhelming evidence that everyone has ‘issues’, that everyone is screwed up in their own way.


It is this tapestry of human cacophony that provides the backdrop that writers (be they of prose, poetry or theatre) use as fodder, as the basis for our collective fantasies. What Hollywood does do rather well is it improves on reality. People are so much more attractive; even peasants dress well, and people die so very spectacularly.


But most of all Hollywood provides us with something that real life can never do: it gives us hope that there is - almost always – a happy ending, and that in drawing the main character’s destiny through its serpentine path to the film’s climax our most fervent of hopes is proven to be true: that there is a point to life after all; that life has a plot.


And we love this, because we all wish to believe that in rather short order lady fortuna will smile upon our endeavours; that great adventures await us involving women with heaving bosoms and sparkling wit, or sensitive men with rippling muscles and deep blue eyes. That our genius will be recognised for what it is; that bountiful treasures of one sort or another will be ours; that people will love us for what we are.


In short, we all live on in the hope that there is a point to it all. Hope, as they say, springs eternal.


My life thus far has not proven to be a dull one. I have had my fair share of heartbreak, mishaps and downright disasters, but also many moments of ecstasy and happy coincidence. These all have happened rapidly, simultaneously, sequentially and incessantly that sometimes I feel very, very tired, because I don’t know how I’ve managed to squeeze it all in, and I am not sure I have the energy to hold on to the roller coaster for much longer.  Especially the sad and unhappy bits, because I am certain I want not to cry anymore. Life's long fingers have held and squeezed on my oesophagus, the ensuing dull hollow pain in my chest bittersweet and shrill. But I also know with certainty that I cannot get the one without the other; that the rose must have its thorns, the thorn bush its snake. Often I don’t know if I’m marooned in a Monet landscape or exploring one of Munch’s nightmares.


It is true that I have been more fortunate than most in the variety with which my life has been blessed. Although I have developed a strong addiction to irony and sarcasm which is reflective of my experiences, I must confess that I too have not totally given up on the idea of my life having a plot, rather than being held up by a Kafkaesque gatekeeper awaiting that all-enveloping darkness. My rational half celebrates existentialism; my emotional half has made a conscious choice in support of Eternal Naïveté, that there is a point to it all. To paraphrase a certain epic, I am among those innocents who always depend upon the kindness of strangers.


But the two positions are not as serious a paradox as you might think. In realising that there is no plot I am able to appreciate that the beautiful moments in life are fleeting, and that they are their own reward.  Thus the solitary smile in the room is worth preserving, because it’s most often a fleeting but unselfish gift of unbelievable elegance that warms my heart, simply because it is, and because I was there to capture it in my soul.


Like the vast majority of mankind, my achievements are of the anonymous variety, but because I hope against hope that a plot may be forthcoming, I remember my experiences are an embarrassment of riches for which I must give if I am to continue to receive. In a twisted sort of way, eternal naiveté is a precondition for rationality, and vice versa. The very act of seeking to rationally understand the paradox requires a certain amount of optimism, and optimism itself presumes that there is future, and a positive one at that.


The benefit (?) of being balanced on this fulcrum between naïveté and rationality is that I have learnt to appreciate two things: A plot-free world requires patience and a regard for simplicity. Just as I am certain that Moments of Perfection shall surely pass, I also know that other such moments shall surely come. I do not subscribe to the idea that some invisible hand has drawn out the cause and effect of my every undertaking in such great detail that my actions are irrelevant. But the idea is very appealing, is it not? That some greater force has mapped out my mission, and that this mysterious (but no doubt splendid and meaningful, if not heroic) future that the stars have bequeathed me will come to pass.  Perhaps my mission is simply to record the contented swaying of blades of wheat  (not yet knee-high), as they commune wilfully with wild flowers on a Roman hill. Or the secluded seconds of a child’s simmering smile, or even the blueness of the sky.


These and other such simple mementos are what patience is about.  Because I am aware that I cannot determine the rate at which other people’s lives will unfold, when said flowers will frolic with aforementioned wheat sheaves, how and when the beautiful brunette in the launderette will smile.


Having said this, simplicity and patience are subjective concepts. Just a few nights ago walking back home after a late night of revelry I watched a bruised porcelain moon against an turquoise blue sky impaling itself slowly on a distant spire. I thought, how very beautiful and tragic and pure, although even then I was sure I had seen the exact same thing a thousand times before and wandered away, unmoved.


Welcome, dear friends, to the cult of really simple things.

Copenhagen 031108