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)

Men of Perdition

This is a picture of the beautiful woods with an ominous face in the background. I've used it because it represents the depravity of some men who destroy everything humanity stands for.

The clip found its way to YouTube, and my friends in college showed it to others on their phones as if it was a video of a back-heel nutmeg by Ronaldinho. I was guilty too, simply because I shared in the excitement. Many years later, it haunted me. He knelt, reading out something they’d forced him to. You could see the pain in his eyes, the horror in that look that begged for mercy. He knew that death was nearby like a rabid dog, uncontrollable, and rushing towards him, but he still grappled with fate; wrestled with all his might against an indomitable force, and even though the contest looked like a scrawny one-armed man trying to take down a Herculean Undefeated Olympic champion, he didn’t give up. He wanted to survive. I’m sure he’d wrapped himself with a blanket of delusion, and refused to let actuality pry it free. Perhaps, he sincerely prayed, and asked for both justice and grace; his petition so different from his mechanical chant at the Thanksgiving table. He was, at that moment, in the dusk of his life; reading from that penultimate chapter of his novel, unable to digest the words because what once read like a metaphorical delight with a debonair protagonist, was turning into an unambiguous note, filled with grammatical errors, and written by an unwashed, tired, bedraggled slave robbed of even the right to think. I’m sure he envisioned returning home to her; thought of when he met her, and how that moment became the apogee of his personal life. He’d found true love at last, but it was now enveloped by a miasma of despair, and her laughter which always summoned an ebullience that poets like Neruda have immortalized was now a faint stutter that tried to give him hope but failed; and the world they’d sewn out of Rayon Challis, was now spinning in the laundry machine, looking like a coarse mop cloth. He waited, and then felt the sword, and you could see the agony in his eyes as it slowly tore through the Levator scapulae. They were sawing away as if his neck was the bark of a tree. Soon his neck was partly separated from his body, and the sight resembled a normal distribution curve with the hanging head rising to meet the laceration, and the rest of the neck descending from it. It had an odd symmetry to it, and maybe my description is callous, but what’s really ruthless is men with black scarves around their faces, robbing a child’s innocence, and creating fissures in his heart by brutally murdering his father; men with twisted notions of faith, killing in the name of religion; declaring war on an already fallen race that is struggling to get by, and hoping to find elusive peace. Men butchering men like animals to announce their credo, to create a cause founded on askew notions of truth, thereby constructing an anathema with no real backbone; an abomination that has flayed reason and emotion, with an unmitigated penchant for destruction like an unpredictable tempest. Men who’ve rapidly descended that ladder of depravity, lost all inhibition, and are now like animals, grunting and howling; carnal beasts, who rape, plunder and then castigate immorality; men driven by frightening, twisted scruples, and are willing to die for them. Men who’ve abandoned love, and are already in perdition, hoping to devour many as they walk their journey of corrupt instinct; jog their marathon of hatred, and run their race of devilry.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)