Murakami and me

In all honesty, this love for Murakami’s work is a complex one to talk about. It’s not about throwing words of praise and hunting for the right adjectives to symbolize the passionate addiction , obsession, that I have for his works. I’ve struggled to express the thought so much that I had to rewrite this piece a whole lot of times. I still struggle to find that balance. I’ll attempt , nonetheless. Fortune usually favours the foolishly brave.

I’ve not been an avid reader and Murakami didn’t exist in my world at all. Times changed and I chanced upon his book. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage .The word on the street was that the gifted author was a lunatic. They had said that his works had an aura of depression, that his works would never paint a rainbow picture of the world, that I had to be a special kind of mad to enjoy his works. I guess the last sentence is true enough and a lot of folks did end up missing the point. It’s a very subtle point that is not that difficult to miss.

To empathise with his works, one needs to view the world around in a different light. The world that Murakami paints, has all sorts of demons and angels that walk among us. In fact, his works are heavily laden with crafted layers of existential philosophy, the nature of soul and body and the separated worlds of wishes and reality. If none of that interests you, the casual convoluted narrative would keep you intrigued. To understand the world that Murakami paints one should also understand the nature of the worlds of the many.

We all lead multiple lives. That alone warrants a divorced , disjoint view of the worlds that we are a part of. Each fracture that is led by our choices, we also leave behind bits and bolts of ourselves locked away in the altered realities. To simplify that statement, each time we pretend, adjust, accommodate or compromise to cope along with something, we also either make peace with that alternate or harbour a longing of a ‘what if’. While for most of us, this fork in the road does not dissociate us from being ourselves, the works of Murakami exaggerate that fracture. He runs wild with possibilities of the alternates and goes on to paint the picture of how the characters cope up with the altered outcome of their choices. In that sense, all the worlds that surround us start to make sense.

Many find Murakami depressing. I wish I could agree to that. I don’t. This again ties back to the world of the characters that we are introduced to. I’d be lying if I were to say that the world is a happy place and that at every corner of this world, we humans embrace happiness and blissful joy. I’d be lying if I said that the world was dark and there is nothing there which finds a nurturing care in this forsaken land that even god looked away from. For most of us, the world is a semi-balanced blend of the extremes. We are happy when we can. We are sad when we are. Smiles and tears when the moments usher themselves in our lives.

The world that Murakami paints, his characters always and I mean always , go through moments of pristine pain. This pain is crucial to both the development of the character and the story itself. I’m a philosophical bloke. I’m a skeptic and a believer too. I believe that unless there is an entropy, there will always be an inertia. In short, there is nothing like a good dose of jolting pain to shake us away from the inertia of disillusionment. It’s that pain that delivers us towards awakening and enlightenment.

in the non philosophical sense, if it aint broke, there aint a story. The author challenges the status quo of the character’s world by breaking them or pushing them to the brink of a collapse that they no longer can contain behind a wall of denial. This usually sets off the domino effect. The plot moves away from establishing characters to forwarding the plot of the story.

Like the rest of us, the characters are faced with choices. Either stay broken. This charts out a linear flow of events to come. Or, do something. The do something part takes the characters on a journey of awareness of the self. The characters start to understand themselves. They are now free to face their demons without the fear of it.

We are no dissimilar to the characters in Murakami’s world. We are equipped with experiences. We also witness those jolts that try to shake us away from our inertia. We either sustain in denial or reject our realities and embark upon a journey of rebuilding ourselves.

This phase is not possible by chewing on a sugar coated , hard boiled candy. Many of us single out this phase and brand the works as depressing. I don’t have an opinion on that perception. In the words of Homer Simpson, it can either be the worst day of your life or be the worst day of your life SO FAR. It’s that so far, that defines our life. That defines our identity. That defines the characters in Murakami’s world.

The journey leads to realization and then there are choices to make. Do the characters accept that realization or do they reject it. More choices and more forks on the road in terms of the narrative. Eventually, that acceptance leads to different outcomes. That’s the simplest view of a cause and it’s effect and the consequences that follow. The cause, the effect, the consequence, the trio dictates the future of all the causes, all the effects and all the consequences that the characters will endure.

What I love the most about a Murakami book is that the ending is never inked. There are no ‘and so they lived happily ever after’. Most of the works take us, the readers, to the point of acceptance of the characters. We are then left to interpret the action of the characters. The characters accept or reject their reality based on our acceptance or rejection of what we witness in the journey. While most readers would call this a lazy writing technique, I think it would have been lazier to spell out the choices that the characters would go on to make. It’s easy to say that the prince kissed the princess and then they lived happily ever after. It’s a challenge to tell us that the prince is wondering if he should kiss the princess. It’s brilliant to leave us to wonder if the princess wants a life with the prince. It’s sheer blissful magic to contemplate if there is a happy ever after to the tale at all.

You’d have to be a special kind of crazy to fall in love with Murakami’s works. I am a special kind of crazy. I am a wreck when I endure the depression. I’m an eternal optimist when the characters embark upon their journey of awakening and self realization. I am a skeptic when they make a choice to believe in the new status quo. I am a realist when the tale comes to a close. When the story is said, I enjoy the peaceful stream of thoughts that drifts carelessly in the raging rapid that the story is.

Like any other book in the world, it is what we make of it. While the world sees depression and resentment, I see life and the struggle to want to live.

Karthik

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Book Review : Lord of the flies

Coverpage of the Lord of the Flies

Lord of the flies, William Golding

In many ways, the book Lord of the flies can be compared to a fantastic experiment to understand collective psychosis. Psychosis, according to wiki, is the fracture of the mind because of a disconnect from reality. Collective psychosis is a reflection of how a group of people , who are confined to a space, display a hive mentality. This hive mentality usually amplifies the common outlook. A society with enough good intentions will garner a collective good intent. A society that thrives on other motives will generally oscillate towards that. Hence the phrase, it’s only human.

The book starts with a bunch of kids finding themselves stranded in an island that is desolate. The first of the kid that is introduced to us is a chubby little one. He meets another kid, who has a fair hair and is fitter and handsome. The new kid introduces himself as Ralph. The chubby kid never gets the opportunity to speak of his real name. He goes on to narrate that , back home, the other kids used to taunt him by calling him Piggy. The nick name sticks. So in that island, there is Ralph and then there is Piggy.

The unlikely duo stumble upon a conch. Ralph blows and this attracts the attention of the other kids who are stranded. As the kids assemble, we get to realize the situation. Kids vary in their age. The littleuns are aged around six. The biguns are teens. The prominent biguns are Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, Roger , Sam and Eric. There probably are a few more but I didn’t make a note. Mostly because I found them to be a plot filler than anything else.

The littleuns, there is Percival, and there is this other little rug rat who has a purplish face.

Jack , is the leader of a choir and his mates and him are stranded on the island. Since Jack and his mates form the majority of the biguns, Jack does feel a little betrayed when he is not elected as the chief. Ralph is the appointed as the chief. And that’s mostly because Ralph had assembled the kids by blowing through the conch. The conch goes on to symbolise leadership for the rest of the book. Symbolism is a major theme in this book.

Zippa-do-dee, the kids manage to conclude and agree upon the plan that their apex priority is to get rescued. To be rescued, Ralph rationalises that they should be lighting up a fire that would generate smoke. This smoke is expected to be spotted by the ships. The biguns explore the island to confirm that it is an island indeed, and isolate the perfect vantage point to light up a fire.

Piggy’s spectacles is the only means of ignition. School grade science at play here.

Things start off good and then they stop staying good. Jack takes the role as a hunter and his group of cronies, and yes a word that I’ve not had the pleasure of using for a long time now, become the designated hunters. Jack starts off as a lame hunter. His first attempt at hunting a wild pig ends up as a failure. This becomes a significant failure in Jack’s life on the island. His ego hurt, hunting now and hunting successfully becomes a symbol to Jack to assert his credibility. Fine, I tried to sound politically correct. Jack’s manhood is now represented by his ability to hunt. Yup, that suits the tone , as written in the book.

In course of time, the kids entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the fire alive , goof up. The let the fire die. A ship passes by and panic ensues in Ralph’s mind. This creates a rift between Ralph and Jack. To Ralph, getting rescued is the most important thing. To Jack, it’s hunting.

The stark reality is that these are all a bunch of kids who are trying desperately hard to transform into responsible adults. They try and they collectively fail. The littleuns are too little to understand the circumstance. They continue to do the million mischievous and silly things that kids that age do. They miss their mothers and cry, they play in the sun and enjoy getting dirty. They lead a normal life of pointless distraction.

The biguns are caught between two worlds. They are kids and since they are also the elder ones, they pretend to be adults.

As the days go by, there is a talk of beasts that are there in the island. Fear grips the group. The littleuns are the first to be scared witless. Fear propagates through the group. Mass hysteria and paranoia kicks in. The group decides to never to speak about the beasts. The biguns do their part in trying to hunt down the beast and that doesn’t go anywhere.

Frustrations start to press down the kids and over disagreements, Jack decides to take his pack of hunters and leave the group. He creates his own tribe and in his tribe, kids paint themselves in red and white.

The rest of the book is about the beast that hunts in the island, and you’ve got to read to the book to know if the kids made it safe and sound.

This book is a master class on psychology.

Piggy, the fat kid , and yes I’ll call him that. It’s not because I’m insensitive or I feel the need to rubbish a kid on it’s physical appearance to feel a bit better about myself. Piggy, the fat kid, is the one who stumbles upon the conch. He is the thinker in the island. He has the necessary traits to be a leader. He is the lord of the fire, without his glasses there wouldn’t be a fire. Piggy never shines bright through the book. Something holds him back. He gets teased a lot and piggy’s outlook towards life is a line on throwing excuses. He hides his limitations behind excuses.

Ralph, the chief, is uncertain as hell but pretends to be a wise chief. He consults piggy but there is that confidence in him that makes him a leader. Ralph is a wonderful example of how one can rule the world by feeling wonderful and confident about oneself. It’s that self assurance that makes Ralph a natural leader

Jack, the hunter and a chief of his own tribe. Jack’s ability or inability to hunt manifests as his worth in the island. Whatever that Jack is battling inside his head, he translates that into the skill of hunting. There is so much violence in Jack. That coming out from a kid who sings in a choir!!!! interesting peek into the psyche of such a little boy. Jack expresses violence to compensate things that he lacks or things that he is denied of.

Ralph wants to remain civilized and English throughout the book. Jack descends into savagery. The conflict between culture and primal is evident in the tale. When there is no one to look at us, or to judge and supervise us, do we still remain decent and true to our masks? That is the question that the book poses. Different people are different when there are no eyes on them.

In the context of real life, it does explain the lack of civic sense in our offices and the same folks are at their ‘International Best’ when they are deputed. We are different people when people are around us. This book removes that supervision from the equation. It observes the people in it in that absence. Chaos flies spirited.

Lord of the flies is a wonderful book. I found it hard to read. There were numerous times when I lost track of what I was reading. I found it to be extremely descriptive. Every inch of the island is described. I had trouble sustaining focus. It’s still a wonderful book to read.

Karthik

Holy Christ and Strings!

I do like drama in real life. I enjoy the drama , mostly because I see them when they usually don’t even exist. This perfectly places me between two states of the mind. The one where I’m naïve and the one where I’m a suspicious skeptic. Through a few iterations, a baggage of lessons learnt, I’d like to assume that I’ve grown a bit wise. I’m not sure if I’d ever be wise enough.

The fantastic part of telling a fabricated story is the treasure hunt phase. The other beautiful part is the execution of the idea itself. I could have made this a tale. I chose a different approach this time around. Leaving this in the realm of fiction would have diluted the seriousness to the tale. When I talk about strings, what do you think of? Strings could be the ones from a musical instrument, like a guitar or a violin. Strings could be the emotional ties that keep us anchored to something. Strings are also the ones that the ‘Master of the puppets’ pulls. We’ll be talking about such masters of the universe. One sentence that pays its tribute to both Metallica and HeMan. I like that.

It doesn’t take much for one to understand the nature of written and verbal communication. Very similar to forensics, every time we leave a trail of words (written or spoken) around, we also leave behind an imprint of our truest nature. I call this a reflex honesty. There are times when our minds work faster than the speed of our thoughts. It’s precisely at these moments when people exhibit their natural self. It’s not all that very difficult to pretend and put on a show. It, however, does take a lot of effort to sustain that show. Putting on a show, indefinitely, forever, without inconsistencies, and always staying in a make believe character is hard. It takes a lot of conscious and subconscious effort to maintain that façade.

And so our tale takes us to the realm of manipulators. I find these folks interesting. They make a wonderful character to explore and add elements to a said story. Manipulators are an Archtype persona. They pull strings to either keep themselves satisfied, or do it because doing so servers their purpose. Such Archtypes are impressive because uncovering the motivations that drive them , is often the hunt that takes us, both the readers and blokes in real life, on a journey of discovery.

These Archtypes have always existed. Right from Mahabharat, the earliest known Manipulator that I can think of, the Bethal ; which also manipulated in the interest of it’s preservation and vested interests, this archtype is one that transcends time and stays relevant to the modern context. I think it’s also pertinent to note that we, as folks; as a herd; usually don’t mind the manipulation as long as we are not told that we are being manipulated. As with most things that govern life, being manipulated could be a good thing or something to regret later on.

Since manipulators are an Archtype, they do exhibit a specific type of modus operandi! I made that sound more sinister than it usually is. But , you get the general idea.

1. The Jeebus Syndrome – Or as science calls it, the Messiah complex. Most manipulators enjoy playing the compassionate god. If you remember my works on Carl Jung, the archtype personality is that of a Wise old man/Wise old woman. The underlying ploy is to fuel trust and faith in the victims, but posing as not a threat but as the designated chosen one who is put on earth to serve all humanity :)))))

2. All ears, all guilt – Most manipulators are great listeners. I’m not sure if the vice versa is true enough. Their ability to listen, to throw light on our misgivings, also feeds their status as the Wise old bloke. They are prone to deflect questions that try to expose their intent. They usually deploy guilt to sneak out of tight spots.

3. Victim card – Most manipulators , always and I mean ALWAYS, play the victim card. They exhibit a certain charm that accompanies the fact that they have been there, they have suffered and hence can understand what you are going through. If you start to connect the dots, point 3 feeds into Point 1 and therefore Point 2 is the way they run their business.

4. All in, all the time – Most manipulators go all in and all the time. It is human to have skeletons buried deep in the closet. It takes an enormous effort for us to open up and share our deeds to others. Manipulators usually rapidly accelerate that phase. They go all in. It’s a tease and a gamble of sorts. By feeding us personal , all too secrety secrets, they A : Obligate us into opening up trust B: Obligate us into reciprocating with a few nasty secrets of our own. And bada boom, feeds into the victim card

The dynamics between a manipulator and their prey is also interesting thing. It banks on TRANSFERENCE. Transference is similar to a Stockholm syndrome, just without a Stockholm in place. There is a symbiotic relationship at play here. Victims are kept in that stasis of misery and guilt so that the manipulator stays relevant and in context. Manipulators really do look for their victims to remain miserable because if folks are not miserable, they’d not go about painting their lives to such manipulators. It is a vicious cycle. They both need each other, they both feed into each other and as long as the victims and predators co-exist, neither would fizz out.

I am but amused at this cycle of prey and predation. Things used to be different before the dawn of the age of 24/7-365 social outreach program that the Internet is. We do make it easy to get manipulated. In ways, we also do manipulate/influence the course of the lives of folks that we are connected to.

Emotional manipulators are real. They walk among us, they talk to us everyday. They are not monsters who hide away in shadows. In fact , they are not monsters at all, till we start making them one. That said, it’s nice to recognize the world around us. Staying observant and staying sceptical is a survival skill that comes handy. At all times.

Karthik

Oh young Jung!

There is something so fascinating and mysterious about the way the people are. The sight beyond the sight, the game of cat and mouse played in the mind. The petty satisfaction derived from guessing what others are thinking and the joy of making ample correct guesses. That’s the game of poker. That’s also the game of entertaining psychology.

Most of us associate psychology to Psychos. And then the conservative ones think of shrinks, Psychologists, at the mere mention of the word. There is also the massive negative connotation. All things psychology point towards mental instability and the feared fracture of the mind. Most of us usually don’t realize that we all exhibit such analytical skills in judging and predetermining motives of others in our day to day lives. The step into office and we try to put ourselves into many shoes. We think like how we think others would think. Workplace and business is usually a brilliant and yet such a subtle game of picking psychology hues. It helps us understand things better. It helps us plan for things better.

Different people are different and our ability to adapt and know the right set of things to say to keep the folks happy, is a skill that differentiates the ‘Go doers’ and the coveted ‘Go Getters’. Business has a different name to it. It’s called a soft skill. A soft skill is a million square miles beyond just the ability to string a few sentences together in a different language. This people skill is the one that we tend to call ‘Leadership’ skills. The wonderful ability to influence, manipulate, steer, inspire a wider team in order to meet common objectives. The average day is littered with evidences of Psychology 1-0-1.

I have many vested interest into this area. I like talking to people. I love meeting new people. I enjoy imagining the life they’d have lived. I like writing fictitious tales of such characters, leading such lives. As a story teller, I enjoy the many nuances to how people are, how they interact with their world, how they react to given circumstances. I love framing tales around the rise and fall of heroes and villains to add that drama to my story.

This curiosity led me to the works of Carl Jung. While the authenticity and the validity of Jung’s works can be disputed, I’m fascinated by the fact that I have tools to model my characters and give them a personality. I remember writing a bit about Anima and Animus. The masculine and feminine side to us all. This time around, I found myself stumbling deeper into the rabbit hole called Archtypes.

Personality, as the word stands, is derived from Persona. It’s a bit funny because Persona is something that we use so that others can spot us, identify us, categorize us and subsequently either accept or reject us. Persona and by implication, a personality is a mask that we put on display to appease to the world around us. It’s a fad. It’s a fashion statement. It’s a lifestyle choice that’s put on a public display.

The self, and along other contexts(examples include self discovery, spirituality and arm chair philosophy) which is referred to as the soul, is the way we are to ourselves. The self , quite often , is very different from Persona and the personality.

Got a bit of a time. Google – > Jung Archtype personality test. I don’t remember the link, but yeah, I took one. I happen to be a Joker. That’s two levels of joker. I see myself as one and it’s my choice of persona. Apparently, the tests reveal how you see yourself and what show you put for the world to see. Yup. It’s pseudo-science official.

Before we step into the details of the Archtype, the term archtype itself is a definition of traits that are exhibited by most people. We have the Joker. There is the Wise old man, The wise old woman, the Lover, The Devil to name a few. Archtype itself is a part of the collective unconscious that most people are aware of but indifferent towards. Collective unconscious, the words do suggest that we acknowledge the archtypes without even realizing it.

To quote an example, anyone dressed in orange, peaceful enough face, long enough beard. We equate them to God-men/women. Associate honesty, truth and purity towards them. And bada boom, scandal a few months down the line. Archtypes do play a pivotal role in shaping up history. All leaders, who have managed to capture the attention and hearts of people, exhibit this trait. They are successful only because we put our faith in them. We do that, also because unconsciously, we feel compelled to form a favourable opinion.

So back to Joker. The Joker takes the life easy. Fun. Contemplative. Thinks a lot. Acts when necessary. Uses humour to win the day and doesn’t care about the heroes and villains of the tale. It’s the journey that fascinates the joker. Call it a confirmation bias, but yeah, I can lead myself to believe that I fit the bill.

Another interesting thing about such Archtypes is the existence of Shadow. Shadow is a darker influence. Every archtype has a corresponding shade of a shadow. The deeper the manifestation of such a shadow, the stark opposite becomes the Personality and identification of the self.

Friday, that today is, go on and indulge a little curiosity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearson-Marr_Archetype_Indicator_(PMAI) and google Jung and Archtypes to learn a bit more about yourself.

Just thinking about Archtypes and Shadows has made me restless enough to want to sit and breathe complicated characters to life. Sweet sweet pleasures of life 🙂

Karthik

Silent screams

Your silence unsettles me.

 

Image credit : Google!

That statement is both a declaration and a confession. Silence leaves me nervous and fidgety. It kindles and stirs the insecurities in me. It breaks me down, leaves me defenceless and vulnerable. I’d be lying if I attempt to downplay the effect that your silence has on me. It puts me on a destructive path and always I find myself spiralling down into a misery.

A simple thing like silence, and I defeat the simplicity by forcing my mind to interpret that in myriad ways. How I react to your silence is a testament to how much I feel broken and shattered. It sure is funny, the way I react to silence. I can sit beside you and enjoy the silence blissfully and yet when you are out of sight, that silence consumes me.

I feel lucky. I’ve clocked mileage on the road called call. It’s helped me tag many faces to the statement, ‘your silence unsettles me’. There have been quite a few ‘Your’. There have been quite a lot of memories to those faces. I also realize the awkward truth to that realization. I feel it would be pointless to debate the existence of the many faces that have donned the role of instigating that dreadful silence. Curtailing the journey to just one person would have kept me away from being what I am today. The contradiction is ironic. Do I celebrate the diversity that my life is? Is it also not a long history of cracks that show the extent of how much broken I feel on the inside?

I can’t undo what that’s already been done. The wiser option is to assess and acknowledge my life for what it is. It’s that acknowledgement that eventually led to this catharsis. Your silence unsettles me. Your silence breaks me down. Your silence reminds me of how insignificant I feel and how I struggle to overcome my demons and pretend to smile. Your silence rips through my masks and it exposes the crippled child that I feel that I am.

The present and the future get shaped every day. While I’d pretend that I put a brave new face and meet the challenges with an open mind, an open heart and work towards a better today and tomorrow. The reality is that while I pretend a new start, I’m also battling the demons from the past. It’s a daily existence of a struggle with the past, a struggle with the fears that shape the tomorrows, a struggle to find courage to dream that one day everything will fall in the right place at the right time.

The story of what I am today cannot be told without understanding the story of how I got here. My surrender to your silence is a cumulative result of my battles with silences across time. The way I react to your silence is a eulogy to the many dreams that I’ve buried in time. Like how the world manages to get bad things move to worse by trying hard to fix it, I’ve only managed to align myself to this way of the world. My efforts of dire desperation to make my world a happy place is also one of the reasons why I could never get things fixed.

I’d like to believe that redemption is a commodity that never arrives too late. I no longer blame the ‘yours’ of my world. I no longer hold the world accountable for all its silences. I no longer yearn to burn the world to atone my sins. I wish I could say that I understand and wish I could say that it’s all ok.

It’s not. I don’t understand. It’s not because I refuse to. It’s because I don’t know how to. There might come a day where I find myself in a place where I can understand your silence. Today’s not that day. Your silence represents something else to me. It introduces me to my demons whom I’ve managed to ignore. My demons aren’t gone. They’ve not been slain. They have been shoved away beyond my line of sight. Out of sight, out of mind is how I manage to coast around the day.

With another day, another chapter in life, another silence to deal with, I did what I’ve always done. I tried to deal with it in a way I saw fit. This chapter, has been a little different than the others I’ve carried out. I learnt the distance that I can cover by having an open mind. I learnt the value of my gut instincts. I learnt how instincts conflict with an open mind. I’d like to believe that now I understand the virtue of the two vices; Instincts versus and an Open mind.

I am what I am. I refuse to change that. I am what I can be. I acknowledge the degree to which I let myself adapt. I accept what I’d always be. I’ll probably always be a little nervous around your silence. I’m learning to tell the difference between what you mean by your silence and what I think you intend to convey.

Karthik