REINCARNATION AS A METAPHOR.
In my previous blogs , I had discussed reasons why the idea of reincarnation appeals to us. I had suggested that the idea appeals to us because it fulfills our emotional and religious expectations. The idea of reincarnation somehow expresses a compromise between our own conflicting emotional requirements. In this blog , I would examine this idea purely from literary perspective. There are two aspects to this perspective. Firstly , if an idea , such as this one , is really an expression of our subconscious mind , then the question is whether literature , particularly fiction , could be used to deconstruct this subconscious mind. Secondly , whether this idea of reincarnation has necessary depth to be a good literary device.
Let us look at the idea of reincarnation as an expression of our subconscious mind. I think it is reasonable to view this idea as a vehicle for our subconscious need to exist forever and for our delayed wish fulfillment. In that case , popular fiction ought to describe stories that demonstrate this. Try to think of popular stories that we have grown up with. There are two basic themes in popular fiction that are most enduring. One theme is about unrequited love and the second theme is about meting out justice. Both these themes are forms of delayed wish fulfillment. When the protagonists , or central characters , are deprived of what is rightfully theirs , our subconscious mind identifies with their plight by projecting our own sense of being deprived what ought to have been ours. However , we know , somewhere back in our minds , that we may not ever get back things that is rightfully ours. However , if those characters in the literature do indeed get the things they always yearned for in their next births , we feel happy and vindicated. Fiction offers a way to fulfill our wishes by the process of transference. The moral victory that these characters in the fiction achieve become our victory by proxy. If this reasoning is valid then one can deconstruct all the popular fiction to understand what kind of sensibilities we , as a culture , have.
In addition to the major themes of unrequited love and justice , there is another theme that runs through this idea. This theme , in fact , elevates the idea of reincarnation to a literary device of metaphor. Hidden behind these two themes of unrequited love and justice lies the third theme of stoicism. If the first two themes were personal in nature , the third theme of stoicism i. e. acceptance of one’s destiny as inevitable ,is social in nature. If we , at a cultural level , had strong feelings about injustice , then we would have found ways and means to remove injustice. However , theory of Karma is so deeply ingrained in our sensibilities that we have learnt to accept injustice as part of the destiny. It is this stoicism of accepting whatever destiny has in store for us that finds expression in the idea of reincarnation. In reincarnation , the characters who are born again , do not actively avenge the injustice inflicted on them in previous births. They get avenged because destiny conspires to get them justice in their new births. In some sense the destiny also represents society as a whole. Just as a society changes with time , the balance of power within the society changes. The oppressed becomes free. The oppressor becomes oppressed. It is this turmoil in social dynamics that indirectly delivers the justice. Thus the idea of reincarnation acts as a metaphor for individual sensibilities. At the same time , this idea of destiny also becomes a metaphor for social dynamics. Just as social dynamics turns a complete circle by interchanging the roles of the oppressed and the oppressor , the destiny also turns a full circle.
Thus the idea of reincarnation draws its metaphoric potential from our psychological , moral and sociological undercurrents of our culture. The question that I hope to deal with in my second novel is whether a writer can consciously tailor a plot to deconstruct the our cultural sensibilities or that creative processes are too powerful for any writer to master. It may happen that my creative processes may be in total control of my subconscious. Therefore the novel may not turn out to be the one I wanted but it may turn out to be an account of how my own subconscious mind works and , by extension , how our cultural sensibilities , that shape our individual subconscious minds ,operate. In either case , this novel would hold mirror to our own sensibilities.
In my next few blogs , I would discuss the practical difficulties in weaving a very intricate plot that the theme of reincarnation demands.