It is a great irony that the time that a person spends being happy and content is precisely the time which is also his least productive, least creative, and least formative. This is not to say that a state of contentment is to be avoided but only that that state may be a fundamental contradiction and an ultimate mirage for a certain kind of person. For a person who sees virtue in instability and darkness, for one who cannot help but observe the degeneration which is implicit in stability. One can get too carried away with this chain of thought and, drunk on the romanticism of mere words and on their revolutionary appeal, undermine the virtues of happiness, contentment, stability, but herein lies the delicate rub, the slender truth pulsating on the whimper of a knife's edge. It points in only one direction, towards only one conclusion. One that I have arrived at time and again and have not been able to escape in my many internal musings. Still.

If for the duration of this post I do put my blinders on, if I do allow myself to be swayed by a lack of balance and good reason, if, and only for a bit, I put aside the final state of cosmic confusion which is my irrevocable destiny, and think about the most formative years of my life, the ones I miss the most in an intellectual sense, they would have to be the last couple of years that I spent in San Diego. Between the Curlew street house and the sixth avenue apartment, at a time when I found myself more alone than most people probably ever will, wandering aimlessly along the streets of Hillcrest and North park, observing silently and hearing from a distance the muffled drone of the business of life, I grew more as a person than I did perhaps in the sum total of all my other years. There was nowhere to go and often nobody to see and the days would roll off one after another with the kind of rigidity and purposelessness which is the very embodiment of life itself. Time, it now feels, both slithered away too quickly and stood motionless for an unbearable eternity. In hindsight I see those years as being deeply crucial. As a person I was essentially half-formed before them and I thought that I knew everything. I came out of those years thinking that there is nothing to know in a very deep sense. I also came out of those years dismissive of the "knowledge" of others. Those who have never struggled alone simply have nothing worthwhile to say. They speak exclusively in platitudes and their lives are but ridiculous carbon copies of each other.

4 observations on “
  1. Gordy

    Hi Ankit,
    It is like the reverse of "growing pains" -- instead of physical growth causing pain in children, you have mental pain causing growth in an adult. Both necessary for grad students brought into this country scarce half made up [spiritually]. Maybe one can be happy, but discontent -- the attainment never satisfying, but with joy in the pursuit. Or is it only true that "happy people are all alike; each unhappy person is unhappy in his own way?"

  2. Ankit Srivastava

    I don't think I have ever met a completely happy person. That would be a depressing sight. However, far too many people seem incapable of even being able to process their many predicaments. In this sense they become mere tools of life and utterly indistinguishable from one another. Their perpetual question is "why me." Their deep philosophical predicament is never being able to answer that one and never being able to come to grips with the reality that there isn't a reason. In this sense sarcasm, black humor are the characteristics of those who are interesting in themselves. Sadness, self pity is not interesting in itself except when it is used as the raw material for sarcasm and humor by those who have a better grip on reality.

    I like your play on Tolstoy :).

  3. Gordy

    I hope this is not intruding too much into your privacy, but I went and read a few more of your recent musings. It is interesting to compare your post from April -- "this series of accidents has landed me at a point where I can lay claim to a certain sense of inner peace and contentment" with the first few lines of this post -- "the time that a person spends being happy and content is precisely the time which is also his least productive, least creative, and least formative. ... a state of contentment ... may be a fundamental contradiction and an ultimate mirage for a certain kind of person." One can only imagine the degeneration that has taken place over the summer...


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