Of Human Nature

on Monday, 25 May 2009

Of late I have been given reason to contemplate human nature.This post is a result of a melancholic Sunday spent sipping a lot of tea and pondering over a lot of questions. Why do we do what ever it is that we do?

Modern human history is a story of the rise and fall of many ideologies and systems that boasted of fervent followers and contemptuous disbelievers, usually simultaneously. Powerful ideologies have the distinction of being able to spur people into action- to rise up in arms, to stand up and fight, to protest. A powerful image comes to mind.Ironically, it is the image of a feeble looking old man in white loin cloth spinning cotton. His ideology, non-cooperation, humbled the greatest imperial power of the time and gave the world a shining example of democracy.How did this little man accomplish a seemingly impossible task? Was his idea that powerful? But then there is nothing tangible about an idea, it is after all, a ghost conceived in the mind of an individual. What then, pushes people to be able to die for, or worse, to kill for an idea?

Passion. A very important word among us humans. Inspiration is not inherent to the idea. It is the passion of the preacher that inspires action. I believe that some people are burdened with more than their share of this intoxicating feeling. Their lives are driven by a quest, no, a thirst for passion. It is quite impossible to be passionate about a lot of things at the same time and there in lies a great risk of tragedy. What happens to that passion-driven individual who picks the wrong thing to be passionate about? Despair lurks nearby, ever ready to claim more for its own. But then, great happiness can come out of great passion too. It seems to me that it is the choice of the object of passion that defines the destination. Pick your subject wisely and you might be rewarded with great joy.

Detail. Detail is of paramount importance for self aware and intelligent life. Abstraction tends to blur out details, and too much abstraction can be demoralizing. If all of humanity was divided into types of people based on their life choices, I think the largest group would consist of those who chose to be significant and relevant. Detail is important to these people, and abstraction a great threat to their happiness. Because, if you blur out the details, what are we, but irrelevant specks of insignificant matter in the vast emptiness of the universe. Too small, and consequently too insignificant. Generation after generation of human beings, with all their stories of glory and treasures of knowledge are nothing but a speck on a blue dot on a huge black canvas.But when detail is added to this speck, there is great significance. And a large number of people can be made happy.

Then there are the artists. Humans moved by beauty and aesthetics. The dancers, writers, painters and musicians. One question plagues my mind. Why is misery associated with the creative type? Of all justifications that have floated into my mind, the most concrete is that misery is an empty feeling. Happiness is filling. Emptiness creates a vacuum that begs to be filled. And most times, expression comes to the rescue. And thus art is born.

Human actions are endless and therefore this piece can be endless. I choose to stop here. Take a breather. Some more for some other day. But before I stop, to all those critical thinkers, I would like to say something.

I do not believe that I have an insight into human nature. Nor do I think that I have found any reasons for our actions. I do not know if there are any answers to be found or any reasons to justify our actions. the more I try to find answers, a greater number of questions arise. I am but a humble novice attempting to answer one of the biggest question humans have ever asked :
Why do we do what ever it is that we do?