On Therapy

This is a surreal image of the woods entangling a woman. I've used this because the woman - who looks distressed - embodies a mental illness sufferer, while the woods is the therapy that only enslaves her more. My essay is about anti-therapy and pro pure medication approaches to treating people with disorders.

I’ll never understand the purpose of therapy. It doesn’t work because the therapist isn’t you. Ezra Pound said that a person doesn’t truly understand a book unless he’s lived at least part of its contents. I believe that. And applying that logic here, I’ll extend it and say that you can’t grasp the complete essence of something that isn’t you because you aren’t it. The same goes for therapy. The therapist will never truly understand a patient’s conflicts. An example is a Christian approaching a Hindu therapist because of fears of hell. Now, the therapist may have read the Bible, but his immediate inclination will be to merge the two religions and try to console the patient. But monotheism and polytheism can’t be united. They are two radically different ways of perceiving God. So, this will lead to frustration, and the therapist will next hit at the patient’s rationality; saying that he isn’t logical. But what the therapist doesn’t realize is that this is a grave insult against the person’s belief system. So, you see the dilemma. Now, say the same patient goes to a Christian psychologist. Now this man will have a Biblical framework of dealing with a patient’s conflict, but he’ll never understand the schemas of the sufferer; he’ll never understand the paroxysms of angst that seize the patient because he isn’t him. Even if the psychologist has seen some degree of despair, he can’t existentially battle with the patient’s pain because each experience – regardless of how harrowing it is – differs in context, degree and how a person perceives it. So there is no framework – regardless of how flexible it is – that can guide a therapist. So therapy fails in the end.

Now, many will argue, saying that therapy does help a lot of people. My answer to this has two points. Firstly, therapy helps create a ‘sustained placebo effect.’ The patient doesn’t truly get better, but his belief in the system makes him think that he’s better, thereby making him euphoric. It’s like a football player who completely relies on his coach’s belief in him. The ‘C’mon son, you can do it!’ Works him into a frenzy and he’s thrown into a simulacrum of motivation. Say the management replaces the coach tomorrow, and the new coach has a different philosophy of motivating his players; the footballer will not perform well. And if the new coach doesn’t believe in him, he’ll hate the coach and himself and stop performing at a professional level altogether.

Secondly, therapy helps create ‘masochistic slavery that masquerades as optimistic self-sustenance.’ The therapist may be kind, sweet and not authoritarian like the others, but he’s saying the same thing: ‘ Dear patient, you are now in a Orwellian Room 101 which will expose your deepest fears and rob you of your individuality. The only way out is to listen to me. I have the power. I have the control. I have the authority. You have nothing.’ The patient thus listens, and the therapist instills in him a love for his framework and rules; the patient becomes the therapist’s slave. Even if the patient argues with the therapist and the therapist is patient, ultimately – if the patient continues with the therapy – his individuality is castrated. He becomes a slave to a blueprint. A programmed robot who monotonously imbues rules and regulations. His identity is gone, but he starts functioning in society and leading a healthier life, and this makes him herald therapy. But say the conflict in him (which was never really resolved) deepens tomorrow, and the blueprint the therapist gave him doesn’t provide answers anymore, then he’ll suddenly and rapidly regress. Then say, he goes back to the therapist, then he’s trapped in a vicious cycle. The therapist’s module initially gave him motes of false optimism. The therapist’s ‘doctrine’ gave him a ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ to therapy. But now, he can’t handle the stress anymore, and he’s infuriated and despairing over the fact that therapy robbed him of his individuality because he’s suddenly developed insight (which you often do, during periods of acute depression) and he’s worse than he was when he first visited the therapist. He’s like a drug addict who’s thrown into rehab, only to return in a worse state, because the core issue that makes him inject himself was never solved.

Therapy – regardless of the kind – is ruled by hypothesis and not fact. And is hence self-defeating. Freudian notions, Jungian archetypes, May’s existentialism, Frankl’s tragic optimism, Cognitive behavior therapy, Exposure Response Prevention, types and theories of personality are all hypotheses. They aren’t proven facts. They are like literary theories that keep evolving over the decades and view literature from myriad vantage points. But that’s all they do. They are simply perspectives. So, how can something unprovable prove to help someone? That very notion is self-defeating. Instead of using a valid medical E=MC2 to treat a person, therapy uses a medieval E=Truth because E=Truth, even if E doesn’t exist to help people. The outcome, therefore, is one of emotional superstition and cognitive dissonance. Like people in the middle ages believed that an odd old woman is a witch because she’s a witch, without using any valid argument and cruelly executed her with impunity and then celebrated the act; we think that some Freudian notion of sexual attraction towards a mother is frustrated, and hence the person is not functioning well, and thus needs treatment in line with a Freudian framework and celebrate when he succumbs to slavery masquerading as optimism. But we don’t think that our Freudian notions don’t have any proof. E=? is being used to, unfortunately, treat people. And the same is true for all kinds of therapy. A genius conceives an idea, and devout followers promote that idea to the truth. It’s like the Charles Manson cult. The cult of personality is so powerful that it completely inundates the therapist who indoctrinates his patient. It isn’t different from religious fanaticism, or jingoism. So, in that sense, psychology based on hypotheses is pseudo-science. It’s a tool used to subjugate conflicted individuals. It’s a means of power. It’s no different from fiery preaching that scares a person into belief. But it operates clandestinely and subtly and cleverly. It may or may not use fear, but it nonetheless overpowers the person and takes his control over his life from him.

Moving on, how do we treat people then? The only way is to use neurochemistry. Medicine and facts are the way to treat people suffering from disorders. But the problem is that we haven’t evolved enough. We haven’t reached a stage where medicine without side-effects can cure people completely. But we do know things like using SSRI to treat depression. Or using mood stabilizers to treat Bipolar disorder, or using anxiolytics to prevent anxiety or antipsychotics to cure psychosis. Drugs – irrespective of a person’s love or hate for them – help because they alter brain chemistry. They change a person’s mood, thought process, personality, perception, and insight. Now, that last word – ‘insight’ – is a crucial word. Without insight, you’ll never get better if you’re mentally ill. Now, this is a subjective statement, but I’ve noticed that insight comes from experience and medication certainly helps. I’ve deleted at least fifty Facebook accounts and twenty blogs. My capricious mood enslaved me for seven years. I struggled and struggled with Bipolar Disorder, and no amount of therapy worked. I’ve finally reached a stage where I’m erratic but productive. I know that a lot of people think I’m dangerously mad because of my emotional whims. Recently, someone accidentally waved at me on Facebook but then blocked me on messenger because they were scared I’ll respond. I’ve posted obscure statuses, confessed my sins, written garbage, written poem after poem; I’ve vehemently hated people, posted the most damnable statuses against God; I’ve had sudden bouts of religiosity, followed quickly by a death metal phase. I’ve sought help. Therapists have yelled at me. Therapists have asked me if I’m rational. My parents institutionalized me because of psychosis. There, I lay, given injections and almost thrown in a halfway home. I had to argue with the psychiatrists in an assertive way to make sure they didn’t chain me forever. People on Facebook don’t accept my friend requests. People on Facebook ignore me completely. They don’t want me around, and I live a lonely Kafkaesque existence. But medication keeps me going, and I’ve reached a deeper insight because of suffering and experience. No framework or blueprint robs me of who I am, and I have my personal identity and my freedom of choice. Sure, I’ve put on weight, I have what psychologists call periods of ‘low self-esteem,’ but I have a life ahead of me. I’m starting to make long-term goals and work towards them. I’m no longer posting trash. My writing has substantially improved. I see. Yes, I see clearer. Perhaps people think I don’t. They think I’m this clown who’s ‘wasted his life.’ So, I now say to them: ‘No, my friend, you’re wrong. My life is only starting. I’m writing, and I love it. I’m reading, and I love it. Soon I’ll be studying and then working, and I’ll love it.’

Finally, a word to all closeted sufferers of mental illness. Seek help before your prognosis becomes poor. Take your medication, but develop insight through experience, and don’t succumb to worshiping a false god called ‘Therapy.’ Sorrow is a part of life. There is no such thing as total optimism because finitude cannot achieve anything ‘total.’ And for those, with extreme conditions with psychosis and without any insight – my heart goes out to you. My heart aches as I write this, but we haven’t evolved enough yet. Maybe one day science will help us treat mental illness like a common cold.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

On Ayn Rand and Objectivism

This is an image of a man smoking a cigarette while it's snowing. I felt this image captures the essence of individuality and the freedom to make the choice to lead a productive life. The image is surreal and there's something magical about it. It speaks of achieving your dreams and then gaining happiness and contentment.

Say someone gives you a fertile plot of land, and you plant a seed, nourish what grows over the years, until at last, you see a flame of the forest with glittering leaves, dancing ebulliently in the sunlight, giving you the greatest delight.

Now, say, that fertile plot is your consciousness or raw potential, and the seed you plant is your reasoning that you nourish with the knowledge you gather from this world, thereby actualizing the potential. The flame of the forest is the product of your learning and long term goal-directed behavior, and the pleasure you get by watching it dance is the happiness you’re entitled to because of your effort.

Now, say, you don’t plant the seed, and you watch as your land becomes barren, then, you haven’t actualized your potential, or say, you don’t take care of the plant while it grows and it withers, then you’ve only semi-actualized your potential.

Now, what I’ve done is given you an analogy to illustrate the basic premise of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. There is so much more she detailed in her essays, but this is a crash course, kind of like Objectivism for Dummies, though I detest those books!

Moving on, say you’ve bought two cars – one big and one small – and someone takes the smaller one, without your consent and gives it to a man who doesn’t have the money to buy a car. Now, this is the principle most governments use when it comes to their economic policies, and it finds its birth in altruism, which is a self-sacrificial model of ethics. You live for the benefit of others. You give even if the person who takes is undeserving. The government forces you to sacrifice what you’ve earned using taxation or a Robin Hood type of system, where it steals from the rich and gives to the poor.

Dictators use this system for propaganda, and the full sum doesn’t even reach the poor because of corruption. Socialists and communists use this system to make everyone proletarian.

So what then, is the solution? What’s the ideal system of government? According to Rand, it’s Laissez-faire capitalism or a free society, where the government is a slave to the people and not the inverse. Laissez-faire capitalism is for individual rights and is against collectivism. It refutes the very notion of group identity.

Moving on, say, an industrialist and an artist decided to do business together. The artist will provide the industrialist with a portrait, and the industrialist will pay him based on the quality of his work. And neither of them pay any tax to the government. It’s just a free market between buyer and seller depending on effort and the quality of work produced. Laissez-fare capitalism advocates just this type of market.

The people confine the government to three rooms in a house in laissez-faire capitalism. The first is to provide policing so that individuals don’t harm each other and are free to go about achieving their dreams through work and effort. The second is to provide military support to prevent invasions from other countries. The third is to settle disputes that occur in the free market when a party or two parties cheat each other. For example, if the industrialist refuses to pay the artist an agreed upon sum even though his work is of good quality, or if the artist creates rubbish, but demands payment, then it’s the government duty to intervene.

Moving on, a good question we can ask ourselves is how the government is financed if there are no taxes. According to Rand, individuals contribute voluntarily and thereby help the government function in true laissez-faire capitalism. In all this, you can see a through and through emphasis on individuality which Rand calls ‘selfishness.’ Her definition of selfishness is radically different from that of conventional society, which deems it as inflicting distress on another individual to achieve one’s needs. She says that one can achieve their desires without adversely affecting another person, and there is nothing wrong with this form of ‘selfishness.’ It’s the pursuit of happiness, according to her because it’s done using what she calls ‘an objective moral code.’ So morality does play a big part in achieving one’s selfish desires, and Objectivism is not about doing as one pleases because man is free.

Moving on, according to Rand, the ‘objective moral code,’ or the ‘Objectivist ethics,’ as she calls it consists of a trinity of values and a trinity of virtues. A person uses virtues of rationality, productiveness, and pride to attain reason, purpose, and self-esteem. Notice that this concept has an existential flavor to it though it’s very pragmatic. Values once attained have to be kept by a constant effort throughout life.

Rationality according to Rand is a full commitment to reason. It demands a total commitment to reality and never going against one’s reasoning. Productiveness means focusing one’s mind thoroughly towards a line of work one has chosen, and the character one builds is their pride.

There’s much more I want to say about Rand’s philosophy, and I also want to critique aspects of it because even though it resurrected me from a tomb of self-pity and despair, it also unnerved me because I found self-contradictory mini-philosophies, homophobia, and racism within Objectivism. I also found certain aspects of the philosophy to be extreme.

But all that is for another day. I’d like to end this by saying that I wish laissez-faire capitalism is implemented in India someday though poverty afflicts us, and casteism destroys us, and the aristocracy and the upper-middle class live lives that differ so radically from that of the working-class. I’m for individualism, and I think that collectivism is crushing us and moving us towards religious fanaticism, jingoism, and false pride. We’re voting in demagogues who use bigoted rhetoric and instill mob mentality even in intellectuals. We’re doing this because we see ourselves as a group with a false moral code, rather than individuals with a true one. We’re going through a political upheaval and collectivism and altruism are to blame. Altruism because our leaders are discriminating against minorities and supporting the majority and justifying what they do by making it look like something sacrificial and religiously sound. Cow politics, censorship, media control, and propaganda are at play, and it’s clear that democracy is failing. The only cure is laissez-faire capitalism, where a government’s influence is minimal because we’re not slaves of our government. It’s our slave.

Inspired by ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’ by Ayn Rand

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

 

Lamentation

This is an image of dark clouds hovering above a lonely tree. I chose it because it's bleak and augments my post which is about the rough political climate in the world today.

There is a group of thinking and well-functional individuals who believe that education will solve all the world’s problems. But what they fail to realize is human nature is innately violent and capricious. Give a man the tools to create something beautiful, and he’ll fashion a weapon. We behaved this way when we were tribes and nomads; conquering the weak and destroying the fallen, and we’ll continue this way tomorrow when Elon Musk’s visions meet actuality.

War is inevitable. Crime comes from a fundamental thirst to crush. Suffering will prolong as long as the human race walks the earth. We’ll never see utopia even if some celestial hand gives us infinite means to achieve it because our reflections in the mirror only show us the façade. Beneath it lurks a untameable beast, a Christ-less abomination of hate, lust, greed and a need for control.

Just flip through the pages of history, and you’ll get what I’m saying. Every form of government – whether it’s a monarchy, a theocracy, a democracy or a communist or fascist state – has failed us. Intelligent, well-spoken people have suddenly turned into jingoistic monsters of national pride or religious fanaticism and have brought people like Hitler into power.

We’re finite, and we need something to hold. And because God eludes us, we turn to something either materialistic or quasi-spiritual; idolizing people in power, or a governing set of principles that are detrimental to other people. We work ourselves into a great frenzy. We embrace delusion like a lover. We look beyond ourselves, but we end up welcoming pandemonium. Collective hate grips us, and feverish, we herald the most repugnant revolutions. The finitude of man without a link to a good, infinite God will always be the cause for his destruction. And I mean both ‘man’ in an individual and a communal sense. When the worship of small objects ceases to satisfy, we turn to larger ones, and we change from individuals worshiping to a nation worshiping the wrong policies with unmatched vigor.

As we move towards a new age in technology and learning, we fail to see that all these leaps in knowledge are a far cry from an atom of wisdom. What’s the point in education or reading Marx, Dostoevsky, and Eliot if a twisted mental framework governs us; reducing us to mere impulsive, emotional creatures. Now, I’m not invalidating emotion. I think the capacity to feel is one of God’s greatest gifts, but some recklessness destroys even our feelings; turning them into vulgar things.

Sadly, with the rise of the right-wing in many countries, and jingoism and media policing, we’re watching democracy – which many think is good government – crumble and Fascism grow. Perhaps democracy never existed, and we only believed it did. The freedom to participate in the workings of a nation, the freedom to engage with leaders we elect, and the freedom to collectively unite gave us a sense of purpose, but now that very purpose has turned into something repulsive. We now want the freedom to eradicate people who don’t conform to a belief system. We now want the freedom to confine ourselves under dictatorial regimes that bring us national pride, which is so absurd and ludicrous. We now want the freedom to unite under a banner of wrath deeming it ‘justice.’ And the ones who speak out are deemed ‘anti-national,’ or ‘sickular,’ or ‘presstitutes.’ What we’re creating is borderline thinking of ‘us’ against ‘them.’ We might as well say (and we already are) that you deserve to die if you don’t pay your homage by thoroughly subscribing to the government’s demands, even if it goes against fundamental human rights.

The people who support jingoism argue like lawyers; berating anyone who utters otherwise. I ask like George Carlin did if nationality is even a reason to be proud. Your nation doesn’t define you. Your individuality and what you do with it shapes you. I’m not talking about what you’ve achieved, but who you are. Yes, we’re innately evil, but there is some capacity for good. There has to be. A gathering of people standing for a cause doesn’t define us either. We’re people with understanding, emotion and a will. We choose who we become. I’ll end this by saying that this period in history calls for a personal nihilism. Not a communal despairing of terrible circumstances – though I’m not against that – but an individual, introspective despair and prayers even if you’re angry with God like I am, and lamentations and a forging of a personal identity despite the burdens of censorship, hate crimes, wickedness, and lawlessness.

Find yourself through it all. That’s the least you can do.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A hard knock life

This is a picture of wood burning. It represents a difficult life, trial and agony.

Whoever said, ‘Life is beautiful,’ was either caught up in grandiose delusions like green sunsets or sought solace in excruciating pain and became a tragic optimist of sorts.

Life isn’t beautiful, and it’s not fair. It’s bleak like an arid landscape devoid of any vegetation and tortured by the spiteful sun. It roars with pain like the waves that thrash madly and then sweep away the shore in their angst. It agonizes you like a throbbing hangover after a night spent drinking a bottle of rum. It tortures you emotionally and physically like a man with cancer who also happens to be on death row.

Life can ebb away before you know it, and all you’ll become is a redundant machine like an outdated computer with dust and grime coating its screen. Life can break you like a wrestler puts his opponent in a hold and crushes his arm. Life can gut you like a thief sneaking up on you and pushing that blade into your belly for just a little cash. Life makes its demands and when you don’t heed; you may not suffer the consequences now, but there will come a time when it’ll take every drop of blood from you.

Philosophers have sought explanations as to why there is sorrow, and as to why we live in a fractured world. Some have made that bold nihilistic statement – ‘God is dead,’ and have envisioned a world in which humanity has absolute freedom without consequences. Some have gone further and added that every human is responsible for every cataclysmic event that happens even though there is no purpose. These days we argue about the very nature of reality. ‘Are we living in a simulation?’ Some ask.

But theories meet theories and anti-theories, and ultimately the search for purpose becomes what it truly is – a never-ending struggle with time, space and our place in reality. ‘Everything is meaningless and just a chase after the breeze,’ said Solomon who was probably the first real nihilist.

The truth is that all his metaphors and exploits and wisdom gained him nothing. Then defeated, he wrote Ecclesiastes and projected his grimness while he did. I’ll end with a story of a prodigal son. Except in this one, there’s no closure, no catharsis, and no epiphany.

Once there lived a man who demanded his father’s inheritance and spent it quickly on buying himself an apartment. He believed he was absolutely free and spent more money on women, cigarettes, and alcohol. The money flowed because his father was rich, and he set up bank accounts and tried using it responsibly while maintaining his bohemian lifestyle. But pleasure always catches up and overthrows direction, and he fell into drugs and horrible company. Towards the end, battered and bruised, he said, ‘I’ll get my shit together,’ and tried, but he found his pattern of recklessness inescapable. He found himself becoming the man in the iron cage, the reprobate; abandoned by God and forsaken by men. His father passed away, and he went back to live with his mother. She showed him love, but he never reciprocated it. He’d become so used to getting what he wanted that now he projected his failures on her and verbally and physically started abusing the poor old woman. One day, he struck her too hard, and she collapsed and lay there, breathless. ‘Oh, mother! Oh, sweet mother! My angel! What have I done? What have I done?’ He sobbed bitterly. Then too cowardly to face the law and shame, he resorted to taking his own life.

Life isn’t beautiful because it always leaves you wanting more.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

On the nature of depravity

To examine depravity using a lens of reasoning, we must ironically first examine its origins using a lens of faith. What is depravity and how did it originate? Science has a plenitude of answers for all aspects of the human condition except the soul. When it comes to matters concerning the spirit, the scientist, being the rationally minded fellow he is, rests on a pillow of logic, and covers himself with a blanket of atheism or agnosticism. There are exceptions, but this is the normal trend.

The scientist comes close to being a Kierkegaardian Knight of Faith but stops right where he’s supposed to make that leap and grasp the abstract. ‘The abstract? That’s philosophy’s realm!’ He exclaims and strives and strives some more using his utilitarian approach to examine the mysteries of the universe. He gains knowledge, and his mind expands, but the sheer ‘absurdity’ that there is a God threatens his very schema of reasoning. He knows that all he knows will indeed seem like trash if he believed. So, he inches and inches; never making progress while paradoxically making progress. It’s a strange dilemma.

Now, before you think my reasoning is flawed, please note that I’m only analyzing the scientist of today. The scientist of tomorrow might just live in a five-dimensional world, and fully evolved and fully equipped may be able to peer beyond space and time into matters of the soul and picture things non-linearly.

So, what is depravity? Some say it’s ignorance; others say it’s active rebellion against what’s right. Now, let’s go further and ask ourselves how we distinguish right from wrong. This falls into the realm of morality. Now, none of these things are proven, but they do exist. It’s sadly ‘common sense,’ and there isn’t any research on the subject. It falls into the realm of theology, theodicy, and philosophy.

My view is that depravity originated from a passive act and then took an active form, which brings me to the story of Lucifer. How did he fall? His fall (if you believe in the Christian viewpoint) was the original act of depravity. After much introspection, I’ve concluded that God caused it in a way that didn’t make him evil. Harsh, but not evil. Now, before I continue with this train of thought, I want to define evil by saying that there are two kinds: a metaphysical evil and an innate evil which originated after the fall of Lucifer. God is infinite, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent and hence the gap between an infinitely good God and finitely good creation itself is evil. It’s metaphysical evil. So, the only way to bridge that gap is through grace. The grace of God holds a being in place and prevents him from wishing to become his own God. In Lucifer’s case, God for mysterious reasons withdrew that grace and hid his glory from Lucifer, which in turn, made the cherub want to be God. And that was the first sin or the first act of depravity.

Then came Adam’s fall where something similar happened, and then depravity completely overwhelmed man’s very essence. He became corrupt, selfish and innately evil. Sadly, this is the only way I can explain depravity. But what about morality? What about the conscience? If man is totally depraved, why does he feel guilt or often make the right moral choices? I can only explain this using religion again. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Hence there is a hardwired knowledge of good (the conscience) in every person. But every person is also naturally predisposed to evil.

I’ll end this essay by saying that I’m willing to be proven wrong by counter-arguments and I’m willing to listen (even if I don’t agree) to other viewpoints. Perspectives are fascinating and beautiful and have this raw quintessence. And as far as evolution is concerned, I’m no Darwinian, but I do believe that the earth is millions of years old and there is so much more we as a species haven’t discovered yet. Finally, some of you might ask the all-important question: Why did God passively orchestrate Lucifer and Adam’s fall? The answer is that God is using the worst possible of all universes (the one we live in) to bring in a new heaven and earth, which is the best possible of all universes, where his name will be glorified, and all his attributes praised. God needs evil to proclaim his righteousness. His notion of good and evil works both collectively and individually. God will judge each person individually, but he uses evil to collectively bring about a greater good.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

For The Literati Mafia 

When the mountains whisper

I’m in the mountains where the air is cold and crisp and the fog enshrouds this little town like an enigmatic esoteric doctrine obscures a portion of scripture. The layered tea plantations look like layers of a green pyramidal cake; rich in taste and a delight to the senses. I amble down hairpin bends and breathe for a change, and I’m mystified by the power of nature. It has this innate ability to calm and refresh me. I’m no longer surrounded by brutal machinery and vapid super malls. I have no need for cheap wine and even that insatiable urge to write something that reeks of self-loathing is gone. Smoking is no longer something that temporarily releases me from angst but is a pleasure I savor while I fix my gaze on the blue peaks that encircle me like fortress walls. I say fortress but I’m not trapped here. It’s a far cry from some devilish force holding me against my will in a sequestered apartment complex where rage erupts from some wound within causing a catastrophic explosion that leads to an implosion of reason and perception and an animalistic thirst to wreak havoc taking over. Here, freedom beckons with the scent of the Eucalyptus; vivacity beckons with the freshness of the animated sparrows; serenity beckons with the aura that each blade of grass possesses – engulfing me and lifting spells of depression. I like this cottage I’m living in. It’s quaint and archaic and my internet’s limited and I need a fireplace at night; the door is made of teak and doesn’t open easily, but I’m not complaining. The more I look at creation in the eye, the more I want to leave my neon hued, gaudy city behind. I’ve never been one for boisterous laughter and parties and making an utter fool out of myself. Sure, I’ve lived that life but each day felt like giving a piece of me away. Some deep inner piece that cheap hedonistic thrills will never replace. Now, in this place I’m taking those pieces back from the earth, the petrichor, the breeze and the mist and putting them together in those vacant spaces in my heart. There’s something within every person that no amount of materialism will suppress – a deep despair that’s rooted in a need for a higher, more transcendental connection. No amount of wine or people or cigarettes or even art takes that away. Most people don’t project this despair and try their best to deviate other people from getting a glimpse of their inner self with their ostentatious Facebook feeds and Instagram pictures. The few who do are sadly shunned by a society that stereotypes. Then there are a popular few who know how to create drama out of it and thrive on the attention that they get on social media. These cunning few suddenly write about their ‘problems’ and then move back to the mainstream pretentious nonsense. They know how to manipulate the sheep on social media with their sorrowed narcissism. But this post isn’t about them. It’s about confronting the despair within. It’s that very despair that leads to addiction, to incessant posting on social media, to hate, to rage and to a crippled existence. It eats at a person and that person finds temporary respite in temporal things and idolizes them. We forget that things fade away and people can never be our everything, just like we can’t be our everything because we’re finite with limited minds and limited lifespans and limited abilities that wither slowly and just like books collect dust or iron rusts, we deteriorate with age or illness. So, there isn’t any point in finding solace in what’s innately fractured; severed both existentially and eventually literally. So, it ultimately comes down to finding an infinite God. That’s the essence of Christianity. But what happens when we can’t find God or when God is silent or if you’re an apostate who feels cut away from him? There has to be something more than banal materialism or reckless hedonism. I think that’s where the beauty of solitude comes in. I feel lonely in the city, but alone and at peace with myself in the mountains. The neo-cosmopolitan city I live in is a modernist’s lament. It’s a harsh reminder of the things I don’t have. Having said that, there’s also a constant discomfort that nags. It tears my contentment asunder and I’m always looking for answers using technology when technology is the very thing that’s killing me. Now, I’m not saying technology is bad, but I do have a little Luddite in me that screams when there’s too much of it, which is why, I race to the hills when I get a chance. Where will I finally end up? I don’t know. I have an idyllic dream of settling down in the hills and taking long walks and perhaps teaching; shunning my old life and avoiding self-loathing and angst, and mooching off them to write completely; basically killing the narcissist in me using nature. But life with all its practicalities and pragmatism always stands in the way like a huge unclimbable gate with spikes on top. But I’m feeling vaguely optimistic today and hence these lines.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

What I’d give for absolute freedom

My father, mother and I live in a multifaceted three-bedroom apartment. It doesn’t just have many literal aspects but figurative ingredients too which spice things up or sour things down. I didn’t grow up in this prison maze, but like a rat, I scuttle here and there now, hoping on a morsel of hope. Sometimes after the rains, when the open windows caress me with petrichor, and I’m invigorated, I lie down and listen to Hammock or some other post-rock band with a surreal tang to it, and I’m just present. The shadow of a once abusive father doesn’t trail with a scythe like a reaper, and I close my eyes and envision crotchets and minims floating by and carrying me along; carrying me to nuanced places and distant snow flaked horizons where the sound of a political engine doesn’t churn out the grating discordance of Fascism and I can lie looking at Creation’s wonders. But sometimes there’s an anti-aura of malice that separates the family, giving us each anti-halos or devil’s horns and even our shadows become nightmarish apparitions fighting each other. I guess each of us is a snail ensconced, struggling to break out of a shell. There’s a spirit of anarchism that possesses all of us, and we don’t want to gyrate to the tune of another’s voice as sweet or bittersweet as it sounds. We want to rush freely on our own paths, divided, and embracing a nightmarish Sartrean freedom, but something unlike and like a Lutheran bondage of the will ties us together. And when it does, mother hurts son, father threatens son and son lashes out at father using kicks and punches. ‘You deserve this! You old bastard for all those years of fucking with my life!’ I say, shrieking and projecting my insecurities over whether I’ll finally be free. Freedom. The word itself implies a concept with infinite plausibilities, but then the cycle of life and death, of youth and age reminds you of its antithesis – finitude. You’re only as free as you’re allowed to be is a daunting truth that makes you question if you’re ever free at all. The arguments in this household often transcend the dynamics of an individual in a multifaceted household and drift towards our condition in a multifaceted country. Will we escape the bondage that awaits us when the jarring buzz of Fascism is a roar? Will we be ultimately free in a fashion we’d like however idealistic that sounds?

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

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