Monday, August 14, 2017

Unsung geniuses

There is a story that once the Goddess of good fortune - Sridevi - and the Goddess of misfortune - Moodevi - appeared in front of a Brahmin asking him which of them was the more beautiful. The Brahmin was frightened. Obviously, he wanted the former to stay with him but, if he called Moodevi beautiful, Sridevi may get angry and go away from him. The problem with making Moodevi angry was not that she would go away but that she would not.

And then he had his Eureka moment. "O Divine Goddess Sridevi! You look the more beautiful when you are coming. And O most awesome Moodevi! You look the more beautiful when you are leaving." Which pleased both Goddesses and, of course, they wanted to appear at their most beautiful to the Brahmin and thus...

Anyway, I remembered this tale thanks to some recent incident. About many people singing paeans about an unsung genius. That has always been intriguing to me - what IS an unsung genius?

I mean, yes, I am hearing people singing of him, which is why I at all know about him, so how is he 'unsung'? AH! You mean he was unsung while he lived and all these songs are getting sung ONLY after he passed away? Somewhat like Moodevi's beauty, his genius shines through only after he is gone? Else, you could well have sung it all when he was alive and made him a 'sung' genius!

To be sure, there is a lot of static in the world...and even those who genuinely sang his praises while he was around could not be heard above all that noise. Especially because the mikes are thrust into their faces and the loudspeakers are at full volume ONLY after he has passed away, so in his lifetime their voices are as effective as a lark singing in a gale-storm. In other words, media gives you space for it only when it becomes NEWS!

There is also that other thing. It is easier to praise someone dead. HE is no longer competition...not necessarily in your own field but generally in what we call success. It makes you feel all warm and selfless when you do it, without the concomitant niggle of finding him grow bigger than you and having yourself compared to your detriment with him.

Of course, it also very difficult to acclaim a genius when he is alive. Much easier to pull down someone since, after all, perfection is only given to divinity and, being ordinary mortals, there will always be some imperfection in our work to peg the criticism on. To praise - especially against the run of things - is to prepare to defend any and all such imperfections and it takes a very courageous and confident person to do that. Much easier, again, to praise after someone is dead...Nil nisi bonum and all that and so there will not be many who will oppose your praise then.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is also something in the way that humans are wired that to add to the stature of someone they do not know, even when it costs them nothing, seems like profligacy. We can be all praise for people we love, and people we call our friends, where we feel the likelihood of shining by reflected glory but a rank stranger? "What is in it for me?" Except, of course, when the rank stranger IS already celebrity when we will gladly add ourselves to the fan following, talk of how you KNEW he was a genius even when he was sucking on his all-day sucker...

The words 'Unsung genius', 'Unsung hero'...anything with that damn 'unsung' in front sticks in my throat. It is a matter of shame that there should be a genius or hero or whatever and he should BE unsung. There is something very wrong about the rush to sing it in the Obits, especially when the first time you raised your voice in song IS in the Obits. It is a black mark on Society that it has failed to recognize and reward its geniuses...and lost not only what they could have offered but also lost ten others who may otherwise have followed their footsteps.

Yes, all of us have our lives to lead and so, yes, we probably do not have the time to render compositions in praise of others. Fine...but why waste the time in the hypocrisy of raising an unmusical ruckus after the chap is dead, when you couldn't care less about whether he was alive when he was?

It is, maybe, that we prefer to keep them unsung so that we can all proudly sing in chorus when they die...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Catharsis

It's a strange world we live in. Very happy, almost deliriously so. Log onto to Facebook and you see people leading such brilliantly happy lives. Going by the pics, we prance around in pristine environments, we deck ourselves up like ramp models before entering the kitchen, we prepare food and serve them like celebrity chef contestants, we go to lovely restaurants with such wonderful friendly company - in short, life is a 24x7 delight. Not exactly the sort of life where catharsis has any role to play, really. After all, one wants to regurgitate nasty smelly things which stink like rotten food, not that fluffy french pastry that you had for dessert. In other words, you want a cathartic experience to rid yourself of grief. Whoever heard of someone hankering to rid himself of joy?

On the other hand, though, going by what people like to read...well, dystopian fiction seems to top the list. I mean, give us a world where leaders model themselves after Hitler, businessmen love to behave like a cross between Scrooge and Voldemort, friends measure your back for the precise location to push the stiletto in and spouses enjoy the process of making your life miserable while making out with the neighbor - in short, any book which describes the world heading to hell in a hand-basket and we cozily curl up with our beer and popcorn, and prepare to enjoy it. Now is that because our lives are so great that we need a break from all this monotonous joy - in our reading at least? A sort of catharsis for happiness?

Or - an earthshaking thought, this - is it because that there IS a world outside Facebook? Are we blessed few a joyful minority in a sea of hell-bound people getting dragged along into the maelstrom of sulfurous smoke? Haplessly and, thus, needing to rid ourselves of the grief that lies beneath our current happiness by reading of others in similar trouble?

It has always surprised me, this idea that the best way to deal with your grief is to read of other people in even greater grief. The 'I bemoaned the fact that I had no shoes till I saw a man with no feet' syndrome. I mean, really, come on, do you love a guy who gets happy because you are in trouble? Even if he kindly explains that it is not merely the fact that you are in trouble but that you are in worse trouble than he, himself, that makes him happy?

Me - I do not get any cathartic feeling this way. Far from feeling, "Ah! But I am better off than that guy", I get to thinking "Oops! And I thought nothing worse could happen to me than what has already happened," and start worrying about losing what I DO have. Which is why I prefer reading non-dystopian fiction. THAT way, I can always think, "Ah! So Life is not ALL thorns. There CAN be roses, too."

But, then, I have always been a screwed-up sort of guy. Like, when people set up idols, I do think I have to make the effort to measure up to them, instead of the normal process of immediately checking their feet for even microscopic deposits of clay and saying, "Oh! They were not all that good, after all." Missing out on the chance of feeling that blessed catharsis from the guilt of being less than you ought to be.

Maybe it is that problem of not being able to cry for yourself for fear of being called a whiner. Switch on that mega-serial and ostensibly cry copious tears for the heroine, who seems to have the knack of inviting trouble for herself in perpetuity.

It IS cathartic to rid yourself of the burden of gloom and grief. But to go in search of greater gloom and grief in order to do so...well, you know all sorts of things strike me as funny!