Friday, October 2, 2015


When i began my descent into deep depression there was, in my circle of family and neighbors, a sense of deja vu. As though the cul de sac, which they assumed would be the ineluctable consequence of my over sensitivity, had finally materialized. My impassivity at my father's death, my subsequent refusal to countenance the extraction of my emotional incommunicability about it, led to an assumption of a willed repression. Depression, it was presumed, was a form of articulating distress.
Throughout the salad days of my being mentally ill, though at 27, salad days sounds portentous and self important, i was told off for not showing strength of character in overcoming my illness, for being indulgent in circumscribing myself in the cocoon of my precarious sense of self. This bracing optimism, commonsensical 'get on with it' seemed , as it inveterately does, patronizing. I felt the weight of collective stoicism upon me deepening my inadequacy in failing to show that resolve and willpower. It was assumed that this mincing optimism, promulgated with such assiduity , was right and my intractability a sort of sulking, a refusal to see another point of view. This was coterminous with the reiterated 'I understand' which most around me said again and again. That the depth of my despair could have been felt and surmounted was inconceivable to me. I was familiar with the vocabulary of 'projection' which made some sense but not entirely.
There may a compendium of reasons why platitudes are uttered. Somewhere the platitudes and shibboleths around pragmatism have a veracity , a possibility of self transformation. Yet the inability to measure up gets perceived as a fatal flaw, an intransigence . But for quite a few people daily life is infernal and to just get through a day immensely courageous. Unlike the commonplace assumption the putatively inoperatinal mentally ill are not subsumed in self pity though that may be true for some. People work around their traumas and pains, find their own coping mechanisms. They may not correspond to what they might be expected to demonstrate but that doesn't undermine the sheer gumption getting through takes. Some surrender and kill themselves and i have begun to see that it might seem ineluctable, a apposite culmination and exercise in control in a world where one feels a volitionless pivot both without and within.
That i could express this 'maturity' was no radical , self wrought metamorphosis. Other grievous health crises intervened, the suffering i glimpsed within me was apprehensible in many around me. I began to feel, amid the provisionality of life itself, the fact of being among other sufferers , some in worser positions.This realization of my salubrious circumstances, despite the inner despair, wrenched me into eschewing what i had been told was selfishness, self indulgence, masochism.
I have no answers as to whether practicality is the inevitable response to existential angst. Sometimes it seems all restitutions are makeshift, tenuous , underscoring the very indeterminacy and emptiness they seek to ameliorate. But then these restitutions protract one's sense of negotiating life without the cataclysm of self annihilation. The delicate scaffolding of 'meaning' can be a strengthening of the will to live or a loosening of one's grip on life. I don't regard suicide as an abdication of responsibility. Nor do i feel it is the only form of release. But it is a choice exercised in the shadow of unendurable inner trauma . Just because it seems precipitate does not negate its necessity.
I regard my life trajectory as being in some way responsible for my metamorphosis. This 'maturity' has been wrested from me by forces beyond me.I can't assume its immutability or extensive prolongation. But currently it seems invigorating. If i have chosen expansiveness, empathy , connectedness as my bulwark it is because they make sense to me. They are not incontrovertible truths or axioms that are mandatory. Each person chooses , from the exiguity of contingency, moments of reprieve and comfort. I disallow the possibility of superimposing my own version of 'maturity' given the capriciousness that actualized it. The black dog hovers as a subterranean possibility , glimpsed consciously but expediently suppressed, capable of re emergence . But self awareness about the arbitrariness of being human may, after all, be our very apotheosis. It facilitates both reconfiguration and relinquishment, equally pertinent. But for now, i seem to be on the side of life, one of the many chosen ones. I cherish this randomness, i will polish it and hone it the best i can, knowing that the crepuscular substratum is both imminent and immanent. It is this ricocheting of free will and destiny that will determine my psyche. Meanwhile, i exist, therefore i exist.


PRIVILEGE, that ubiquitous word. It is a word used plentifully these days. In life to have food, clothing , shelter itself seems miraculous , given the many who struggle to make two ends meet. Privilege, in terms of caste, colour race, sexual choices . Though there is a perceptible change in these sphere plenty of the older associations still persist and are perpetuated imperceptibly. Sometimes one is unconscious of ignoble impulses of superiority simply because they are overlain by an assumption of equality.Or elsewhere one's self mythologizing is seamlessly coalesced to the way one presents and apprehends identity. In such a situation the performance becomes the reality.
The word privilege scares me. I have had my own share of misfortunes, perhaps more so than some yet there are many who suffer from exiguities in their daily lives , entailing privations and deprivations i can circumvent by virtue of my contingent situation in life . To be candid, the proportion of the salutary things in my life far outweigh the discomfiting. Sometimes it seems churlish to evince fractiousness, querulousness in the face of many larger injustices. Yet i am impelled sometimes to indulge my fit of pique if only to alleviate the guilt experiencing such pique induces.
Privilege makes me guilty. It prompts self censoring. It makes me neurotic and fearful of committing some unconscionable solecism, however inadvertently. It induces self consciousness and watchfulness to words, gestures , body language. I preempt the conferring of offfense even before i express myself. I have to be mindful of condescension, of patronizing. I have to demonstrate humility and the provisional nature of my empathy, despite its authenticity. Above all i have to consciously eschew promulgating prejudices, barbs , objurgations of which i might be unaware, which i might assume to be incontrovertible simply because i have absorbed them.
Somewhere i cherish this self censoring which, when protracted, becomes a way of being, a modification of consciousness. It makes me thoughtful in uttering platitudes knowing how incompensatory they are. If guilt renders inadequacy and self loathing then it also augments the fibres of empathy that entwine all of us. Awareness of privilege is a mixed blessing. Ceaseless self excoriation can become an indulgence, manifesting sometimes in deferential, obsequious insincerities. But elsewhere it can invigorate, inculcate humility, translate into purposive, fruitful action. Privilege operates in many spheres and in some ways all of us are unprivileged in some aspect. But one has the accoutrements of survival and coexistence. And that, to start with, is sufficient .


An overdeveloped conscientiousness or a overactive freudian superego is not a pleasant acquisition. Yet what strikes me about guilt as i experience it is how salutary it is. In that it allows me to both experience compunction and feel good about it. After all the fact of one's moral probity, however protean it by be, is a necessary faith and belief. It can lapse into self congratulation but it can also transmute into a quickening of empathy so that one is impelled, both by the reactivated fibres of one's natural feeling and by a sense of doing right, to fruitful action.
Guilt lacerates and diminishes joy many times. It becomes an incessant self admonition that, ironically, performs a palliating function. In propitiating the deity of self reproach i feel affirmed in my goodness. This does not undermine the piquancy of the guilt or the genuine remorse i experience so precipitately. It does, though, in accompaniment to this necessary self examination, confer a moral high ground which, in partaking of reproachful bad conduct or thought , affirms, through that very reproachfulness, a certain irreproachability. Though i speak for myself only.
To encounter disparate and contradictory propensities in myself often necessitated a certain resolution, a certain tilt towards, a repudiation of, something or the other. But i now enclose these contradictions in me as a mosaic of life's complexity, as an embodiment of what i can know and of how much i can't. The awareness of incertitude makes me humble or , at any rate, less prone to grandiose assumptions of unimpeachability. Such failures in sustaining self regard, such puncturings of solipsistic proclivities, heartens and ennobles. But, as i said, implicit in such an admission of indeterminacy, for me, is the discernment of some depth of life's unfathomability.
Guilt can be an indulgence, a cycle of ceaseless self denigration. Guilt can be be an assuaging of one's unconscious amorality. Guilt can, in a space of existential void, be the only reason to exist in a way that feels vital. But guilt can create opportunities to breach the impenetrable barrier of one's egotism, to reach out, proffer an apology or regret sincerely so that one's interlocutor may discern the pulsations of empathy. Guilt can translate into purposefulness, acts of altruism, through sublimation. Guilt can both negate and affirm, sometimes enervating the will through their inveterate overlap and elsewhere prompting action, emergent from expediency but benefitting something larger than the self. It is the direction guilt can take one to that determines ,presumably, one's coexistence with and assimilation of this indubitable impulse within all of us, to then ,to either be hemmed in or strike out.