Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rage (and quiet)

There are ideas which germinate, grow, spread out and branch, flower, fruit and become trees. A multidimensional, breathing, living tree with roots that take hold in the soil of your mind.

And then there are leaves on a canvas, around which are painted more leaves, then branches and the trunk, and then the ground and the landscape. The general idea of the tree pre-existed; it was just brought into being on the canvas by a fluttering leaf which fell. But, because this is a creative process, you are free to intertwine its branches with imaginary beings, entangle the roots with other thoughts, insert impossibilities - whatever makes it more decorative, more useful, more elaborate perhaps?

And that is the difference between an insight and manufactured thought. Or is it?

Take rage for example. Not just getting angry. Raging fire. Violent and uncontrollable anger. Something we call road-rage or air-rage or some such, read about in the paper and exclaim in surprise and disgust about. Have you experienced it? Never ever? Or was it possibly-but-that-was-justified-and-I-was-right?

Rage, by definition, is something that is limited, finite in time. A fit of wrath is how Merriam-Webster defines it. Something minor happens; a tiny, easy to extinguish spark falls on flammable matter piled carelessly or tinder stacked in neat rows - it doesn't matter; suddenly flames shoot up, incinerate those in sight. The aftermaths are bloody. And not just for the victims. Rage is a spectrum like any other emotion. It is rage when I lose control and verbally spank my child. It is rage when you abuse and make finger gestures at the driver of that car in front. It is rage when two neighbours fight over a well they have used for centuries together. It is rage when a serviceman denied leave goes on a rampage and shoots four, injuring ten before falling dead by his own rifle. It is rage when a man-beast takes a girl by force because he is incensed by her brother's treachery. Never morally acceptable, there is nevertheless one end which is socially tolerated and practiced by many, although disparaged by all. The other end, of course, is the legal road to the death row.

Have you thought about what happens to the perpetrator in that moment when the spark digs fiery roots? What is happening in that mind? What happens when the fit is past, when the anger and possible pain and guilt and shock have worn off, and also, unknowingly or knowingly, it has become easier to cross that threshold of civility the next time, and the next, and then again? Easier to kill, to rape, to hit, to hurt, to shout, to abuse, to undermine?

Has that person thought of it? Have you? Questioned why? What is it that made that mind so fragile, so unable to accept tiny shifts in values, paradigms, relations that result from mundane everyday events? Was it something in the basic, fundamental motor design? Or the gadgets and accessories we loaded on the way to here? Or was it the stress of recent journeys, the shear and strain from too many potholes, too much weight, too little grease, too much adulteration of the petrol? Was the spark laden with dynamite? Why, what happened?

Try and think - and what you think, desperate to find a solution, to see what happened, is that painted tree. The mind will show you links and branchings and all sorts of reasons and excuses - all plausible, all true - and yet, it will happen again and again. You can follow the chain of events, reconstruct the scene, deduce the reasons, figure out the solutions, and yet it happens, again. For if you are capable of thought, you are also capable of manufacturing it, of building up arguments and presenting your case as fluently as if you were on the school elocution team. You know, and yet you do not know. Until you, one day, reach that insight, that window into your own soul that lets you see what it is that you have known in words so far but not in spirit. Until you find that real growing idea.

It is not an easy process, this finding out the real why, in a way that will make you stop. The onlooker will say, why not stop, why not do things this way and not that, for they can't see the obstacles which you do. For a lifetime you battle them, saying 'no, its not possible', explaining, getting frustrated, clinging on to the little island in your mind that lets you see the whole picture. Till the day you find that insight, and you see that it was that easy, that it was, in fact, those 'outsiders' who saw the forest you missed for the trees. And it is not that complete either. Glimpses, partial truths and untruths, rare fragments of insight - they all are a part of the journey. And that is where the painted tree, the fractal of life on canvas rises up and touches the third dimension here, and here, and there, and the tree of the real idea, bends in to feel the paper and is held fast in its flatness. If I could draw, I would paint this scene for you... this intermixing of the shadow and the object, the weaving of leaves of a tree and its reflection...

P.S. Which of these two categories do you think this post falls in? A real idea, or a painted idea?

P.P.S. The second part of this post has already been posted just before...

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