Maturity is the death of naïvety and the birth of a listless or tortured soul. You start seeing everything either through a lens of apathy or turmoil, and the once distorted world strangely becomes clearer. You then see bedlam and destruction for what it is, and you either give up or suffer some more. You wonder why everyone else can’t see the darkness for what it is, and they shun you for that. The truth is indeed stranger than fiction. There is only opacity in this world that masquerades as translucency, and people blinded by the ‘light’ prattle on about things being grey. There’s pandemonium all around, but the hopeful with deluded consciousnesses are tragic idealists, and they’ll remain that way until either oblivion takes them, or the blackness overwhelms them and gives them lucidity.
We are strange creatures; rotten at the core like an apple with a worm in it, but outwardly benevolent. Now, I’m not implying that we’re hypocrites but instead saying that a maze with lurid walls has us trapped. The only way out is to understand that there is no fluorescence, but only tenebrosity. I sound like the prototypical nihilist, but ironically, it’s purposelessness that saved me more than the showmanship of Benny Hinn or whoever does cartwheels on the stage while slaying in the spirit today. It’s meaninglessness that gave me meaning more than the fire and brimstone that only frightened me. The pastor of a Reformed Church near me would yell, “This is a corrupt age where man and another man come together as one!” And I’d wonder where poor Walt Whitman went. Is that old spider being roasted in hell?
The very word ‘life,’ sounds platitudinous and optimistic adages are hackneyed. If I were to paraphrase Thomas Ligotti, I’d say that we’re all trapped in a bubble of hope, until a needle of gloom pierces it and we see the flotsam or the wreckage of cars, dirty train compartments, planes blowing up in the sky, and ugly tree stumps. We then read Ecclesiastes over and again, and say with Solomon that all the money, the ambition, the women and the gadgets are worth nothing. We realize that existence is like the ending of No Country for Old Men. There is no closure, or as the hopeful might put it, a mattress and a soft pillow by the fireplace. There’s only chaos seeping into the void.
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty —that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” said the romantic who personified Autumn so brilliantly and apostrophized a star, and yet I can’t help but wonder what he was thinking. This world offers no beauty, and even the most generous of us are fundamentally broken. We don’t realize it, that’s all. Truth is not a ray shining in the darkness, but a black line on a whiteboard. Truth breaks and doesn’t edify because you see the world for what it is. You see through the flattery and the Bautas of encouragement. You look hate in the eye and call him out for who he is, and then the hopeful become vindictive. I’ve seen ‘friends’ uplift me when I was soaring, and spitting on me when I was down. I’ve watched women fawn over me when I was young and handsome, and say the most spiteful things when I was older and ugly.
The movie Hurt Locker ends in a monologue where the protagonist addresses his infant son, saying: “You love playing with that. You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your Mommy, your Daddy. You love your pyjamas. You love everything, don’t ya? Yeah. But you know what, buddy? As you get older… some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you’ll realize it’s just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And the older you get, the fewer things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things. With me, I think it’s one.” He then abandons his family and does what he knows best, which is, defusing bombs. This is ennui leading to clear sight.
In the first season of the show True Detective, Rust (one of the protagonists) says: “I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in human evolution. We became too self-aware; nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labour under the illusion of having a self, a secretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody’s nobody. I think the honourable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.” This is the true perspective that people don’t let into their minds because they’re afraid.
So, what frightens us? Why do we not embrace hard realism and instead opt for a more saccharine vantage point? The truth is that it is laborious to introspect. Looking within doesn’t lead to the light as many heretics say. It makes us aware of our depravity and the human condition. We’d rather stay ignorant than become self-aware. The consciousness is hardwired to credulity until it’s freed from illusion. Once it is, however, it transforms into something unambiguous, but the flip side is that there’s no coming back. Strangely, the world is full of madmen, but the ones who are deemed mad possess insight. Lock away the healthy people in an asylum, and let the weirdos roam the streets. There might be peace and understanding then.
The great irony that’s life can never be understood, and even if it is, the one who understands it shouts in an oubliette. This is the tragedy of existence; the comedy that’s the truth, and the meaning that’s no meaning.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)