On Meditations by Aurelius

This is a picture of a statue of Marcus Aurelius. I've used it because my essay critiques his philosophy.

I like Aurelius. I like his notion of withdrawing into yourself irrespective of the space and time you’re in, his idea of mortality and fatalism, and a few of his thoughts when it comes to controlling impulse with reason.

I love his philosophy of the present, and never adding more to an unfortunate circumstance. But I disagree with his concept of this being the best of all possible worlds, or the Whole, or the absolute Reason. This world we live in, is often more absurd than fiction, and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out. Things go unexplained and you’re never going to find answers or that quaint room with its beautiful symmetry and archaic charm.

No, you’ll often find yourself in a space that’s disjointed and fractured from your convictions: a room with yellow wallpaper, and yes, please catch the allusion, or a frightening, unnerving blurred mass enveloping you with zombies and tricksters breaking free, threatening to bite through flesh, and chew on your bones. And this isn’t paranoia. Just one panoramic glance with keen insight and you’ll see it: the horror, the miasma of living decay that’s abominable choking you, making you want to retch.

And I also dislike his insistence on man being social. Being social comes with both its flaws and its breakthroughs. Sure, it’s good to meet people, but finding yourself in a clique that stereotypes, or a group that hates with an unwarranted agenda makes void the entire notion of socializing being something always productive. He says it’s terrible to fracture yourself from society, but you find artists who’re are complete misfits or loners, giving you masterpieces. I think this is related to his notion of the divinity of man, or looking within to find the light. Now, I always interpret the latter in a very general way, and never make mystical or spiritual connections to it. You must look within to change, but that’s pretty much it.

I don’t believe in human divinity because when I see the world, I see a swirling mass of darkened grey. I use this color because humanity is prone to wickedness although it’s capable of good. The notion of humanity’s inherent nature is a subject that’s hotly debated ever since the first man and woman came into existence. Some say Adam’s fall led to a shift in balance and total depravity; others say we’ve not connected with our innate goodness, but I think both views fail.

We’re not totally depraved, and we have the freedom to choose, but we’re not innately good either. Just one glance at the holocaust tells you enough of the anti-divinity that’s present in man, unless you say that divinity itself is evil. I think man has no divinity, but I agree with Aurelius on the concept of a soul. But his overemphasis on morality puts me off. It’s preachy and becomes self-righteous. But then again he’s addressing himself. Also, is it humanly possible to exist with absolute mastery over impulse and emotion? Still, all said and done, concepts like embracing death without fear, knowing that you’ll be forgotten one day, and that it’s pointless weeping for the dead since they aren’t coming back makes sense.

But the idea of us being recycled by the universe, and just being reduced to mere atoms is only partially true, in my opinion. Sure we’ll all die and go back to dust or ashes, but that’s only the body. I believe that the soul lives on, not one with the Whole, but in another dimension. You can call it heaven, hell or purgatory, but the soul is immortal, but definitely not divine. But I’ll contradict myself here and say that it’s possible that complete soul-annihilation takes place. Hell, I’m open to change.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

On chimeras and a constant need for validation in our postmodern age

This is a picture of a man silhouetted against a matrix. It represents our digital, postmodern age which revolves around technology.

You sometimes encounter people in life who want you to love them intimately. They’re literally obsessed with you and try forcing their perceptions of intimacy on you. They’re not exactly stalkers but aren’t a far cry from that breed. Now, I understand unrequited love and the need for someone to reciprocate your feelings, but if you truly love someone, you’ll let them go. You’ll never force your delusions on them because no two people think alike.

Yes, there may be a collective consciousness, but I don’t believe in the concept of soul mates or two people sharing one soul. A collective consciousness is something more genetic and has to do with traits acquired and personality, but ultimately you are your being.

People fail to recognize this aspect of liberating individuality and seem to constantly seek the approval of the ‘other’. They have ideas of the other which are often so different from who the other really is. They have dreams and misconceptions that often lead to such acts of foolishness. We live in a cyber, postmodern reality where a few messages sent, or a few Tinder dates make ‘together forever.’

Love requires commitment. Love isn’t judgment. Love isn’t falling for fancies. Love has a deep emotional aspect to it but that’s something that one acquires after years of actual togetherness and it’s not the puppy emotional, fake, cyber simulacrum.

I have found strange people entering and exiting my life. They come in like hurricanes of trust and promises and exit like whirlwinds of bitterness all because they expected something that I didn’t want to give them. I can offer friendship, loyalty, and trust if people give me the same, but I cannot offer love that satiates your chimeras. People don’t understand that I’m not hardwired to love them like their mind tells them. Your mind tells you many things and you feel myriad things but most of what you’re going through is self-indulgence. Pure selfish, hedonistic anti-altruism and when I don’t give you what you seek, your bitterness erupts like a pustule and those warm eyes turn into icy glares meant to pierce or wound.

People go to insane heights when their delusion meets the hard ground. You’ll find them unfriending people on Social Media, engaging in gossip and projecting their anger and insecurities onto the person they perceive insulted them. They dig into their pasts and scrape old wounds until they’re bleeding again and play the blame game. The person of adoration becomes an object that needs destruction.

Sometimes the madness descends to utter incoherence. ‘How could you have done that?’ You’ll find them screaming when you did nothing wrong. I don’t love you and neither did you love me. You worshiped me, and I’m not flattered. I need you to move on. So, please get over it. That’s the only response you can give people like that and if you don’t want a direct confrontation, just cut ties. Trust me, any vicious cycle, even if a person has faced similar circumstances in their life but deludes themselves into thinking that creates a special unity, needs a severing.

What is with this age and the need for constant reinforcement? I guess social media has played a destructive role in fueling our narcissistic egos. It’s all about the likes, comments, and shares and it doesn’t matter if you’re happy or depressed. If you’re happy, you’ll resort to posting picture perfect selfies and gloat as the likes and comments flow. And then there’s the sorrowed narcissist. The person who uses depression, prior abuse, and the ostracism or bullying they’ve faced to get the same likes. This person doesn’t usually use Facebook but uses blogging platforms to achieve the same goal – an ephemeral reinforcement.

I think we’ve forgotten how to have a good time. We don’t even read paperbacks anymore. We prefer shortening our attention spans by spending time reading blog after blog, hoping someone will find our blogs and like or comment. And a comment; something said by a stranger we know nothing about makes our day. And if it isn’t repeated the next day, we feel insecure and lost.

My friends, this is shallow living. But getting out of this needs suffering. You need to suffer pangs of loneliness to know solitude. You need to suffer failure to know that victory isn’t everything and this is a gradual change or an unraveling of sorts.

Having said this, I’m guilty of so many things I’ve pointed out and criticized, but I’m slowly realizing that this cyber existence isn’t worth it. Now I’m not advocating a Luddite puritanism but a balance or a middle road like the Buddha put it – neither giving in to too much or too little.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

On the WWE

This is a cartoon image of a wrestler. I've chosen it because my post is about wrestling.

If there’s one family that gives Vince McMahon sadistic pleasure, it’s the Rhodes family. Dusty Rhodes was the ‘American Dream’ in Mid-Atlantic wrestling in 1985. He delivered the famous ‘Hard Times’ promo and was probably one of the greatest promo-workers of all time. He then moved to the WWE in 1989 and Vince made him wear a yellow polka-dotted dress and dance by waving his hands around like a shmuck.

Then came Dustin, Dusty’s son. Vince made him a bizarre freak called Goldust with a ridiculous signature move called ‘shattered dreams’ which involved tying a wrestler to the corner post, making an obscene gesture, complete with sighs and weird noises and kicking him in the nuts. Goldust is still the same. It doesn’t matter if he’s a good or a bad guy, Vince makes sure the freak lives on.

And finally, we have Cody Rhodes. Vince made him ‘the Dashing Cody Rhodes,’ who was a looking-in-the-mirror, vain, metrosexual weirdo. His gimmick was comparatively better than his brother’s or his father’s, but it all changed when he became a red Goldust called Stardust. Vince teamed them up together and gave us not one, but two absolutely ridiculous, clownish freaks.

So, here’s my solution. I think the WWE should go out of business. All they do is repackage the same crap and we, being the sheeple we are, watch. In the eighties, we had a muscular freak, who went, ‘Brother! Brother!’ And in the nineties, we had a skinny ‘showstopper’ who almost put the company out of business, and then a ‘badass’ who went around chugging beers and hitting his finisher on everyone possible, and then another modernized better looking, Samoan version of Dusty Rhodes who replaced the hard times promo with something about smelling cooking and then ‘monsters’ and ‘beasts’ and ‘animals.’ And lest I forget, a modernized version of the muscular freak – until a few years ago – who wore similar clothing and kept beating everyone in his path, even though the audience booed him. Why didn’t they boo the Hulk in the eighties? Don’t ask me. Maybe people then thought wrestling was real, or maybe his patriotism towards the end of the Cold War and on the brink of the Gulf War made them go gaga. I don’t know.

But it’s the same thing in the end. Now, people even know it’s the same thing and keep watching it. Of course, the woman’s division with ‘The Man’ is a breath of fresh air, but how long before that runs out of steam and we’re left with repackaged garbage again. The Man herself is a repackaged version of the beer guzzler, but she possesses a strange charm and allure today.

Moving on, let’s talk about backstage politics. In the nineties, there was the clique who got their way doing whatever they pleased, including screwing a wrestler by using the dirtiest act ever seen on national television. Google Montreal Screwjob. Today, backstage politics are in the limelight. The wrestlers and even the owner is open about it, and we still watch the WWE! Some people think that just because Shawn Michaels mentions God, he’s a Christian. The truth is the guy was a junkie who gave up drugs, but never changed his ways. He’s still a master manipulator. Ask the Hurricane.

Finally, I present to you the ultimate solution that will end our addiction to the WWE. It’s really like heroin. A person keeps using even though it’s making him dumber and he wants out. So, here’s the deal. Now Seth Rollins is up for a match against Brock Lesnar at this year’s Wrestlemania. Now, the very thought of Brock Lesnar irritates me because all he does is come, beat people up and have a manager say the same things over and again eloquently for him because he can’t cut a promo. Anyhow, I digress. So, let’s have Goldust injure Seth Rollins on the road to Wrestlemania. Let him drive a fancy pink tow truck over him for all I care. Then let Goldust challenge Lesnar, and when Lesnar smirks, beat the living hell out of him, leaving the ‘Beast’ shocked. And let this trend continue with Goldust beating Lesnar week after week and let him cut a ‘weird times’ promo, complete with theatrics and sighs. And finally, at Wrestlemania, let Goldust beat Lesnar in under a minute, beat up Heyman, arrive the next day on Raw with the WWE Championship and say, ‘Shattered Dreams!’ before the screen becomes black like the ending of The Sopranos. And then no more WWE, no more merchandise, no more video games and not a word from the executives and producers and the chairman, leaving the fans shocked, until they’re relieved and move on with their lives!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)