Thursday, 19 May 2011

Am I capable of change?

As a great majority of people who've ever lived, I've had my own share of troubles and struggles. I'm pretty sure that is the nature of things, seeming especially hard during our puberty. In fact, sometimes it seems as if things are always getting worse.

But is it really the case?

I don't think so. Ancient wisdom says that all is change; Inuit have a saying that everything passes. Henry David Thoreau wrote that "Things do not change; we do". I think the strand that ties all these perspectives together is that the human mind is capable of finding its peace with ourselves.

I saw a movie once - whose title escapes me - where there is an on-going exchange between a brother and his older sister. The boy has ambitions of becoming a rap artist and his whole worldview is about revolution and about getting ready for it, whatever it is. He is totally zealous and earnest and evangelical about this impending revolution and always taking pains to make distinctions between himself (who is ready) and his sister (who doesn't seem to care). Having had enough, she finally challenges him to tell her what exactly this revolution is he is incessantly talking about. And he has no answer.

There comes a realization sometimes that somewhere along the line that we got caught up in a storm of propaganda or uncritical thinking or unrealistic ego wishes or someone else's unflattering views of us. This whirlwind is almost impossible to resist and some people do not make it out. Some die for an impersonal cause; some commit suicide; some overcompensate and start acting in bizzare ways (wearing pompadours and polyester suits of silk, or punishing and "loving" ourselves overly harsh); some wear false bravado and become sensitive to all and any slights. In any case, we have unwittingly, as an anthropologist said of hopeless situations, "socialized ourselves and our offspring that this is the way the world is".

I myself have acted in all these ways and then some. I've done things and not done things that I'm not proud of. But when I reflect upon this seriously I find that everything that I've gone through and will go through contributes to my sense of identity. It is perspective and self-reflection, and nothing else, that makes positive change possible.

As Thoreau said, it is us who change. We cannot do otherwise. The pons asinorum (bridge of asses) of life is the admission of fallibilty and personal responsibility.


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