Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reclaiming My Interests

I am in between two trips, which, different as they are, perhaps represent my moment in life rather accurately.

I came back from New York, after a work trip. During this, I got to see some sights, including the General Assembly of the United Nations (courtesy an old friend) and the Global Headquarters of IBM, including the CEOs offices etc. In many ways, they were similar - a representation of global ambitions, political and commercial - and representative of a long history of progress. Particularly notable was the Herman Hollerith Room across the corridor from the IBM Board Room, named after a pioneer in computing and the founder of one of the companies that later became IBM, which is used for sitting the guests visiting the top Global executives of IBM (including serving as Prayer Room for visitors from Saudi Arabia when needed). This room featured a tabulating machine that was used in one of the first US census, just like the other various artifacts of technological history that adorn this building. The whole thing, but particularly the IBM HQ stood for a sort of industrial global ambition that I serve in my work, advancing the cause with my skills and experience during my waking moments.

The next week, when I travel again, is going to be different. I shall again be walking around, this time in Prague and Vienna. This is a holiday trip built around Easter, but no less intensive. I go to Prague, Vienna and then Salzburg, and do a train trip across the Bavarian Alps to Zurich and then London. This is a sort of a pilgrimage trip to the houses of Kafka and Freud, which features on my itinerary prominently, and the customary afternoons in Viennese cafes and opera. There are museums and places too, following the usual tourist routes, but for me, it is those dead men who are the most important. The point of this trip is to stand at the doorways of Cafe Central in Vienna as if to catch the moment when a young Freud or Schnitzler would have walked in there, or to enjoy Czech cuisine at Cafe Louvre (again, courtesy a friend) where Einstein or Kafka would have dined. This bit is my time with ideas, indulging in my obsession to live at a time of hope and imagination, of being surrounded by enlightenment. This is, in short, representation of a life I want to live.

Indeed, my life now, mid-life, is really in the middle. It is not just about a time of lost freshness, in Henry James words, but rather of a profound desire to make a break and start anew. This is not a crisis - indeed, there are those who think I want to run away from my life, not true - but rather a sense of empowered destiny that guide me. I do not want to run away from my life, but rather create one, as I have always sought to do in the past. This is mid-life but with an eye to the future. Despite being farsighted by now, I take this in a good spirit rather than any sense of loss. I am ready to start again, but not by running away.

This is why Kafka and Freud matter to me. I live in two worlds, but not uncomfortably in either. I take the stance of an observer, of trying to absorb any ideas that may come out of either - absorbing, not judging - and indulge myself in creating new experiences and possibilities, that may open doors for more new experiences. While I am at no break point of life, every point of life for me represent a break. Rather than living a life which will be worth living many a times, just as Nietzsche would have wanted, my quest is to live a series of unique moments, defying the occurrence not just of the past but also of other men's ideas too. All my ideas are directed towards creation of that uniqueness, of escaping the repetitiveness of past or of conformity. 

This is the moment to reclaim my interest. This is the time to pursue those things that fascinate me - creative lives, enlightened circles, ideas that can change the world - and gradually unshackle my life from the structures of mediocrity that I bought into, perhaps too easily. 

 

 


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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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