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Life can ebb away before you know it, and all you’ll become is a redundant machine like an outdated computer with dust and grime coating its screen.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)