June 21st, 2017
To be able to look back at one's own life and thoughts and to be able to process the journey which has taken one to the present are cornerstones to a well examined life. The alternative is to always live in the present which, they tell, is a great virtue. They are idiots, however. I have maintained this blog for more than 10 years now and even though I had never meant it to be so, this digital repository of my thoughts and personality has become, in some sense, more valuable than any other material possession of mine. To me it shows a fundamentally inconsistent series of thought processes. In moments of particular generosity I am tempted to view these inconsistencies as incontrovertible proofs of constant learning and improvement. At other more sober times I see them for what they really are. Mere wanderings on a meandering path which is headed towards no particular goal, no great distillation of knowledge, no ethereal summation or condensation. Still, to even realize this in oneself, some personality traits must be present and I can safely think of those traits as being desirable and as uncontested improvements. To realize and admit to one's own follies and limitations is definitely a desirable strength. And while some may achieve this through humility, I don't think it is the facilitating actor in my case. Even my best friends (and especially them) would probably not associate humility with me. The primary factor which is at work in me is an amalgamation of freewheeling cynicism, contempt, and pessimism which makes it easy for me to strip off the many layers of delusion which we, as human beings, often put on our human affairs. There's also apathy and a tendency to find amusement in what I consider the essentially futile and meaningless business of life. I see people who have choices in life and who consistently choose foolishly and it fills me not with sympathy for them but with amusement. As Carlin once said, when you are born you are given a ticket to the freak-show... (and if you are born in America you have the front row seats.) The least one could do is to try to find some enjoyment out of the show.
I am, in other words, not a hopeless romantic, at least not any more and not at most of the times. If I look back at some of the earliest posts on this blog and also some of my early email correspondences I can clearly see that these traits have developed and intensified over time. And that there were some people who were present at the right moments to guide me (unwittingly so) in what I consider is ultimately the right direction. As much as I like and respect people like David Foster Wallace, David Brooks, and Bill Watterson, I do maintain that one cannot develop a healthy respect for the innocent, non-cynical, and loving aspects of life without simultaneously harboring and understanding cynicism and contempt first. In the absence of the latter qualities one is doomed to be a romantic. And the only purpose of romantics in the real world is to serve as examples for how not to live one's life. They may serve as central characters in great melodramas and they form great canvasses for stories of stupendous emotional depth. However, as much as I like these stories I'd never want to be those central characters. There was a fellow Indian graduate student from IIT Madras whom I met very early after coming to UCSD and whose influence I now see clearly in my eventual turn of personality. His own personality was cynical, caustic, terse, and incredibly knowledgeable. He was, as I am now, a huge fan of Russian literature from the 19th century and there is something about Russian literature from that era which strips away the bullshit from human affairs. His early friendship, I now think, is what prevented me from sliding into the great idiotic abyss of optimism and hope.