The Pharisee and the attenuated Nihilist

Once, there lived two men. One, a conservative Indian moralist who loved his culture, had jingoistic views, and hated liberals who, in his opinion, spent their lives in lounge bars, smoking cigarettes and drinking, and did nothing better than having sex and were never committed to any cause, reason or a vantage point that gives a man enlightenment and a sense of self-worth. The moralist prided in his country’s slow progress towards Fascism, even though he detested the very term. He believed that the new communal regime gave the country a pride that the liberals had forgotten, or thrown into garbage bins along with their used condoms, and other hedonistic pleasures. The very sight of a liberal entering a bar with his girlfriend appalled him. He hated the minorities and people of other creeds and religions, and strongly endorsed the regime’s stand to put down any perceived or even imagined threats from them. He believed that eating meat was heretic, and firmly stood by any decision that imposed legalism, since he felt it gave the country a structure of values. He detested the opposition and their scam ridden, corrupt atmosphere, and even if newsmen exposed scams of the regime, he quickly labeled them as ‘charlatans’ or said, “These trite things are nothing compared to the last decade of sordid political debauchery.” He watched The Republic regularly, and the biased journalists who never bothered checking facts and pulled stories out of context, satisfied him as much as his enema. He loved Yoga, and quickly defended it as a ‘secular practice’ with a vehemence that even a rabbit in heat couldn’t fathom. His lust for his nationality stayed insatiable, and he didn’t mind resorting to any measure to protect his nation’s integrity. If they asked him to murder, he’d willingly do it, or arrange for it, because the state defined his individuality. He existed in a symbiotic relationship with his country, although it was parasitic to the minority. His very existence in this crisis of political upheaval rested in das Äußere (what is external) because he believed that what’s without will catapult India to vielleicht das außerordentliche (perhaps something extraordinary). And if it needed sacrifice or even a mini-holocaust of lynching, or forced conversations, he didn’t mind, because to him, that made him a hero, and not even a tragic one. So this man, despite his intelligence, couldn’t live as an independent entity: one with no relation to the state or to the absolute. Now regarding the absolute, his notion was of a plural truth, which the state upheld. Is this man justified? Is this man right? Or has education twisted this man’s thoughts, because of its baptism in culture? These are questions I’ll let the reader answer.

The second was libertarian in his views, although he wasn’t utopian or idealistic in any way. He was actually nihilistic, though not in an absolute sense. He believed that everything had an antithesis, and perhaps this is a structuralist mindset, but he saw things in terms of parallels: Good and evil, finite and infinite, life and death and other things as well. He, however, didn’t see everything in shades of black and white, and gave room to grey when needed. He believed in individuality, and though he went up to Kierkegaard’s concept of infinite resignation, he didn’t move further to grasp abstract faith. He did not think of himself as a hero or villain, and that was one of his grey areas. He believed in Kierkegaard’s concept of the particular, the universal and the absolute, but despised the tragic hero, and could not see himself as the Knight of Faith who stands in absolute relation to the absolute, and defines the universal more than it defines him. Perhaps he did have a little grandiose concept of the particular influencing the universal, by staying resigned: not in a despairing sense, but in a doubtful apathetic one. He was against the regime’s practice of subduing minorities and hated the regime imposing its culture on the individual. He believed that culture must never define an entity that’s capable of existing without it, and neither must literature or journalism have a cultural bend to it. He despised the moralist, but did not live like a hedonist, which was another of his grey areas. He did not worship art, but expressed himself through it, often tackling taboo themes like sex, alcohol and marijuana, despite his only vice being smoking. He did not have a problem with liberals who frequented lounge bars, or lived hedonistic lives, but he had his idea of existence, and stayed true to it, however much he could. He often broke his own rules, which was his third grey area, but always managed to pull himself back to his comfort spot which was probably neither here nor there. His art did not parallel his life or his views, although many people believed it did. He only gave his poetry a hue of reality, which many found shocking. He acknowledged his faults, which were many, and often judged people unnecessarily, but often did so correctly. He despised the lynching, ate whatever he pleased, and despised Yoga being imposed because he believed it offended the minority. He despised both theocracy and Fascism, and hated both his regime, and the butcher of Geneva who established a blood stained theocracy in which Servetus was the least of his crimes. Still, he didn’t find much support for his cause, because he hated any kind of preachy fundamentalism. If a liberal were to preach to him, he’d detest that vantage point and the man. So, in that sense, he did not support radical feminism, and believed that no man could call himself a feminist because at a cognitive level all men either objectify or stereotype women. He was no doubt a man of complications. He also struggled with mental illness, but fought through it all using prose, philosophy and poetry, but never made them his religion. He did have relationships with women, but nothing really lasted, and he always found his home, reading, studying and writing. He had a complicated relationship with his family, but made his closure with them. Is this man justified? Are his views flawed? Is he man of hate and not love? Has the writer given him more prominence than the former? I’ll let the reader answer.

(Inspired by Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard)

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

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4 responses

  1. I believe I recognized the Nitin I (kind of) know in one of the two portraits! You write very well indeed – which is a statement not intended to belittle the content. The second figure is preferable and a lot more likeable.

    • Yes Bruce. The second figure is me or the direction I’m moving towards. The first is an antithesis. And yes, I’ve made my share of mistakes, and have offended a lot of people unnecessarily, but I purposely wrote a somewhat biased portrait in my slow attempt to release myself from wars and other nonsense. Thank you very much for your comment.

  2. This will take you some time!

    Often, the situations in our lives shape our lives. Our society influence our lives to a great extent. When I blame fundamentalism for my lack of faith in religion (not God), I also recognise that someone else has beautifully accepted it as a part of his life, which is not wrong or unfair unless he is comfortable.
    So, it comes down to the very fact to me that I can neither judge if the first person is right or the second. I don’t know who deserves love, who is flawed. I don’t think I can answer the questions raised.

    I do connect a little more to the second one, majorly because I think life for me is being comfortable. Yes, relationships are turbulent for him, but the writing brings out the fact that he shares a very cordial, friendly relationship with himself. To me, that is what makes one comfortable.

    The post is very interesting and thought provoking!

    • I’m glad you connected more to the second one Orange. The second portrayal is actually me. The first is antithetical to who I am. I wrote this piece to find catharsis and move from petty wars to more serious writing. In my opinion both characters are flawed, but the first a little more. And I completely agree with your view of recognising people who have faith and respecting them. That’s my motto too. And thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. And yes, finding peace with yourself is the ultimate goal. For me and for anybody, in my opinion. Sometimes we find it through a slight bent towards nihilism. And to each his/her own I guess.

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