To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Sunday, June 05, 2011
A feature in today’s edition of Brunch, the Hindustan Times’ Sunday magazine, got me thinking. It was about relationships and how relationships these days are so much about individual choices than about the family, community or religion, as they used to be. Individual choices have thrown up new ways of approaching relationships such as live-ins, open marriages, and what not, and people no more care whether these choices impact anyone else but themselves. Contrary to a time when people used to take many things and people into consideration when it came to the decision to marry or the decision to separate, these days the worry is limited to themselves. I, me, myself. The individual is king.

When I think about it in a general sense, and going by my own system of thought, I see predominance of the individual as a good thing. I don’t believe in doing something because someone else says so, does so, it’s what one should do, it’s what my religion says, that’s how it always was done, etc etc. It is your life, and it has to be your choice, as long as it does not harm another human being, and does not stamp or tamper with anyone else’s freedom to make choices, you choose.

But, dig a little deeper, and I ask myself, is it that simple? We all exist in a community of people, and we all want to act as individuals, with our own independent way of thinking and being, and that’s all very good, but when such independence is carried to an extreme that it starts threatening the very fabric or structure or framework on which the community or society itself is built, is it really a good thing? I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I am not referring to the idea of live-ins or open marriages or any such arrangements as contrary to a healthy society or community—as I said earlier, I believe that every individual must have the right to decide and do what works for them, and no one can dictate that for them—but I must say that the question arises for me, in such a scenario where every individual operates as a society unto himself, with their own rules and values, how does the society thrive, or indeed, survive? How do we all live in harmony if we only look out for ourselves? Our emotions? Our pleasures? Do we need institutions like marriage, family, and so on to be in harmony? Marriage or family itself means putting a unit’s interests over that of oneself, so can we even function as a family if we want to be so fiercely individualistic? Is that why families break so easily nowadays because we just cannot be more than me? Where do our kids find the kind of support that we used to find earlier, if marriages and family units don’t exist anymore? How wholesome would such children be? And what about their children? All in all, is our individuality, our thirst for no-bonds, no-strings, taking us to a happier frame of mind, a happier world, where all are happy in their individual worlds, or is it taking us to a collective desert where everyone is lonely and imprisoned in their own world with no one to reach out to?


Been reading John Donne, one of my favourite poets. The high point of his poetry is his ability to combine the intellect with emotion, and win your heart by engaging your head.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
—John Donne