Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jottings: Slice of life - 8

Jottings: Slice of life
Can we relate to somebody or something without the prism of opinion, Prejudices, social status, professional position or any of the other stereotypes of color, race and religion. It is worth a try. The immediate question that would assail us is : how can we live in society without such pigeon holing?. My answer would be " Have you tried it?" Such questions only arise as reactions from our deeply embedded habit of looking through solidified memory and therefore clouded perception through it. Think of it - Do we actually see, when we are in the act of seeing, Do we actually hear, when we are supposedly hearing. All that happens within is the constant chatter of interpretation of what is being seen or heard. We are, unfortunately, for the most part connected to each other only through our "idea" of each other, never the reality of the moment or the person. J Krishnamurti, often asked this question during his talks and dialogue " Can you look at a tree or a rose without naming it......" Because once you have named it, you have lost its existentiality forever - The beauty, the texture, the color, its ephemerality - all of it is shut out the moment we brand it with the stamp of past. But then, can we do without language Or memory? How do we function without tools of thought. After all, even as I write this, I need words to describe.
The issue is not about stereotypes or branding, but the problem lies in the fact that most of us are not even aware we are engaging in it, and looking at the world always through a dark glass of words, symbols and interpretations. To understand stereotyping only as a social game with some agreed upon rules and nothing more seems to be lost on most of us. We have somehow forgotten that capacity to distinguish between rules of a game vis-a-vis reality. A center forward and a goal keeper are only terms used for convenience within a football field. To extrapolate it as representing the person throughout their waking life is nothing short of foolish. But that is what we end up doing most of the time In our relationships . From the moment we wake up in the morning, we begin pigeon-holing people and events, regardless of context or circumstance. We don't look or even begin to look at the person who stands before us except as a "Husband" or a "wife" or a "child". We reach office, and all we see are "managers" and "co-workers". This list is almost endless, and tragically, this act of stereotyping is instantaneous - almost instinctual and involuntary. The habit has become so ingrained that We do not realize it happening all the time. But once thus pigeon-holed , all forms and sounds we encounter after that takes a life of its own with the parentheses of our understanding, expectation of that role and memories surrounding it; freshness of the present and its infinite possibilities gets buried under the debris of chronic perceptual paralysis.
Religion in its essence is the study of undoing false perception. Nothing else. To bring Man to experience a state of unadulterated perception or to use Aldous Huxley's beautiful description: "Cleansing the doors of perception" ( Incidentally, I am sure many of my readers know this. Jim Morrison's iconic band "Doors" got its name from Huxley. ) is the goal of every mystical religion.
I recently saw a wonderful documentary on Amazon prime named " The philosopher kings". Don't get misled by this title. It's not a historical documentary, nor is it philosophical.. It is a documentary about Janitors - yes, you read me right :Janitors working in eight top universities in America cleaning toilets, keeping the work space clean and breathing the invigorating air of intelligence around them. If you really need to understand what I mean by real person behind stereotypes , then this documentary is a must watch. Patrick Shen, the brilliant young director has not made a sentimental picture about the plight of Janitors. No, not at all. What he has done is allowed them to speak as real, authentic individuals beneath the facade of janitoring. It will be an eye opener to many. The depth of perception they bring to life will clear many a false illusion in us.
God bless...
Yours in mortality,
Bala

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