But I’m the one who’s most important because the criteria that I use for what is most important are the ones that made me who I am.
Who are you? Are you a sum of your parts or do the parts exist individually? Are you the role you play? Or is the role playing you? How many disguises do you wear to get through a day? Are you the disguise or is the disguise you?
MP and I have many interesting discussions on what it means to be human in the macro sense and what it means to be MP and Suchita in the micro sense. We obviously never come to any conclusion. I doubt that is the point of our discussions. But some days we feel we don’t belong in this world, which is too complex for our simple brains to comprehend.
I remember when I started reading ‘A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking; I had this moment of dissonance where I felt I was too small to have any impact on this world. That feeling did go away once I read further…the science and the explanations of black hole and antimatter are so fascinating (and Stephen Hawking such an ingenious writer) that you forget to worry about your own insignificance. Either that or you pacify yourself with a – I may hold a miniscule portion of the cosmic real estate but I do exist and that is significant enough. However, the dissonance still comes and goes.
In a recent discussion, MP asked me – do you feel alone, like no matter how many people you have, they don’t really understand you? I feel like everyone has the tools to function in this world but somewhere, I am lacking in that basic understanding.
I, empathizing with what she was feeling, promptly replied to the set of questions with my own exalted position – you need to understand the rules just enough to be able to play the game. Why do you need to understand the world?
But MP is not someone to be trifled with, with such overarching statements. You have to give her references, examples, blueprints, before she chooses to understand what you mean. And so in patented Suchita fashion, I scoured my brain for an example that would adequately explain what I meant. And surprise of all surprises, I found one in the form of two stories – ‘Heroes Die’ and ‘Blade of Tyshalle’ by Matthew Stover. MP and my entire discussion (and what this rambling post is trying to explain) can be summed up beautifully in the plot of the two books.
Here is a brief summary without trying to give away the larger storyline: There are actors or Aktirs (as they are known in the story) who play roles in video games (it isn’t a video game but for now, this small albeit a tad misleading explanation is enough). The books follow the story of Hari-Caine where Hari is the human and Caine is the disguise (Aktir). Obviously the personalities of Hari and Caine are different. Where Hari is a regular Joe, Caine is a diabolical force to be reckoned with. The character of course suffers from a conflict of what he really is – is he Hari or is he Caine? At the end of the first book, he reconciles these apparent disparate images of himself. He is Hari and Caine and chooses to don a role as and when the need arises.
Now the second book has an interesting twist. By the end of the book, the character realizes that Caine is not the disguise but Hari is. Caine is not the Aktir but Hari is. Caine cannot survive in Hari’s world and so he takes up the disguise of Hari. But in doing so, he dials down Caine so much that he forgets where the Aktir begins and the man ends.
Quite satisfied with the evidence I had provided, MP has now promised to read the two books in order to further understand how Hari becomes Caine and vice versa.
Coming back to the question of existential crisis, there is also an interesting theory that our parents have. According to them our ‘generation’ wants euphoria…where happiness will just not do. And it is perhaps in this pursuit of euphoria and defining the criteria that will make us euphoric that we create so many avatars of ourselves. And in building so many avatars, we spend most of our lives trying to figure out who we are once all our disguises and Aktirs have been stripped away.
PS: if there is anyone who thinks MP and I need a shrink (apart from each other) let me tell you, we agree with you. And let me also tell you, our shrinks think everything written here is quite normal.