A Conceptual Life...

When I first ventured into filmmaking, I decided to make a documentary. The idea was simple. Interview people from various backgrounds, having different lifestyles and asking them to define in their own words – “What is Life?” While the question was mundane and had sort of reached a level of philosophical saturation, I was still keen on finding the answer. The only catch was – one would not quote from a book, movie or a person. One has to sum up one’s own experience and spill out the beans in one’s own words.


When I started it, I never for once felt that it was something that could not be achieved. After months of research and interviewing, I finally shelved the project. None, I met could answer without linking it to someone else’s experience or story. I wondered over the failure – was it because the idea was wrongly conceived or  I chose the wrong set of subjects for interview. But the individuals I chose were all friends. I knew them personally and could vouch for their intellectuality if not intelligence. My project on Life had come to one logical conclusion. Or rather I was forced to conclude, that we are not living a Life in truer sense, rather we are living a Concept inherited from someone or somewhere.


It’s been a decade since then. And I am still at the crossroad, wondering do we really ever live our lives or are we just living a set of concepts.


Today morning, around 9 AM, I had a 3 hour long discussion with a friend who had recently acquired a new concept for living. His was more of a cusp between philosophy and spirituality. And like it happens with humans, he was subconsciously advocating it.


While, I did agree with some points, I still couldn’t see it as anything more than a concept.


When a child is born, the parents immediately weave a world of concepts around it. What is right and what is wrong. They watch it grow and view a concept of its future as to what it will or should become.   


Generally, either the child is perceived as the notorious brat or the whiz kid. It’s strange that of all the parents I have come across, in majority of cases, how only these two concepts dominating their view of their child.


As if a new born human cannot be anything else if not a notorious brat or a genius. Concepts begin to be loaded on the young newborn’s psyche at this very stage.


As the kids grow up, they are exposed to a larger group of people who are equally driven by their own set of concepts. Some would drive them to studies, some to sports and some to just about having fun.


These kids based on their individual resistance either accept or reject one or other concepts. In school, there’s a concept of the intellectuals versus the back benchers and then there are so-called "losers" who don’t fit anywhere. A class may have a batch of 30 to 50 kids, but strangely this entire lot gets categorized into one or the  other of these three categories.


Growing up to teenhood, exposes the individual to the idea of hormones and freedom.  Often, the individual now becomes a completely different personality than what one was raised as.


A guy would start talking about concepts such as "brothers for life" etc. A girl would fantasize about the idea of "best friend forever". A guy would delve in all the acts of machismo, while the girl would be swayed in by her new found freedom and would stretch the boundaries of liberty just to see how far she can probably go.


During College, the concept of "living in the now" dominates the minds, irrespective of the gender. Everyone believes, life is about chilling and having fun. The realities of life can be dealt with later.


For a girl, a guy can either be the rough hunk or a cute nerd or simply a loser. Similarly, for a guy, a girl could  be the next-door-beauty worth flirting, or the hot chic worth pursuing, or simply the one not meant to be even considered.


Strangely again, the entire plethora of human psychological influence that drives the one’s personality is categorized in one of these three categories.


Growing, up we tend to accept the concept of materialism and ambition as the safeguards of our future. Work becomes a priority. Even here we don’t let go off the concepts. We already know how the boss is, what type of individuals the colleagues are, and how we are being the victims of circumstances in the huge shrewd realistic corporate world.


In marriages, the girl comes in with a  preconceived idea of in-laws who themselves have already formed a concept about the daughter-in-law. The guy now hangs out with the men of his kind who bombard him with loads of concepts on how to survive the complexity of dealing with a spouse and the family. The girl's family, bombard her as to what she should do to win everyone’s heart. The girl's friends bombard her as to what she should do to ensure a secure life.


Concepts keep pouring in from all sides all the time. The vulnerable creeper, that our human mind is, it becomes  compelled to latch on to the bark of one or the other concept, and that determines how an individual will react in a given situation.


I am now wondering what if we were born and no one told us about the right and wrong, good and evil, sane or silly. What if we were all compelled to just act on our instincts, given any situation.


Would we in such a scenario behave the way we do today. Would we really ever think of walking away from a dying guy on the road, thinking we would get into trouble if we try to help. Would we look at stranger and still doubt him as if we already know of his con. Would we fight with our loved ones over the issues that we are currently fighting for. Are all the fights that we have, rising from the fact that we don’t believe in the proposed suggestion or is it just that we have already formed an opinion that in a given situation, the others are supposed to act in a certain way. A concept that determines how we should think and act makes us no different than a mechanical robot that has a series of codes inside it governing all its actions.


For once we think what would, life be if there were no concepts loaded on us. Is there a possibility that we would have been a different individual than who we are today. If so, then it drives home the point that this cherished Life that we are living is just "Conceptual Life" and not the "True Life".


-      Shunyatha

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