IS IT GOOD OR BAD ?

       In my previous blogs , I have discussed the compulsions of the plot and its characters in shaping the novel. I had suggested that there are inherent demands of the plot that unfold as the novel progresses. Similarly , the characters, being personifications of human emotions , have  their own momentum. This results in commandeering of the plot to its emotional climax. The role of a novelist is that of a witness and an arbiter of these multiple and divergent pulls and pushes of these factors. Moreover , when the novel is about reincarnation , there is an emotional continuity of any given character to be maintained across different births. As I have discussed earlier , the destiny operates by ensuring that karmic interactions amongst various characters are settled by forcing these characters to think in the manner that would cause the destined events to unfold. The destiny can only achieve this by ensuring that the emotions of any individual are consistent with that individual’s past births. This is because these emotions would ensure that the individual concerned would act according to her/his  past life memories. Thus, for a reincarnation novel, the emotional continuity is essential.

         From a novelist’s point of view , I am concerned about this emotional continuity. While writing this novel , I realized that for a character to act according to its emotions , these emotions must appear in the form of wishes. It is the desire for wish fulfillment that shapes the actions of all of us. We are not able to express our emotions very clearly but when they appear in the form of wishes, we can clearly understand and fulfil these wishes. If this reasoning is correct , then our collective belief in reincarnation must also be reflected in our attitudes towards wishes and their fulfillment. In this blog , I would discuss how we treat our desires and wishes as Indians.

        There are two contradictory attitudes in our present day culture.  We, somehow, exhibit an ambivalence towards our desires and wishes.  On one hand , majority of our religions have instilled in our minds that desires are some kind of impurities that soil our souls. Thus there is an emphasis on asceticism in our upbringing. On the other hand , as we became more westernised, we have absorbed positive aspects of wish fulfillment.  The  present day aspirational paradigm of individual excellence is based on the importance of self belief and self fulfillment.  In reality , this paradigm endorses and sanctifies the individual desires. Thus we have accommodated two contradictory attitudes in our present day culture. This ambivalence characterizes our mind set. 

          However, there exists a third perspective which explains why we are ambivalent . This is the perspective of  psychology.  From psychological perspective , this ambivalence is reflects on the inherent contradictions of our contemporary society. In psychology , wishes and desires are embodiment of lacuna in our self image.  We normally desire something because we subconsciously feel that we lack that thing. Of course  , our subconscious perception of what we lack and its conscious embodiment in the form of desires are not identical.  Our mind plays tricks and what eventually surfaces as a wishful thinking is quite different. This difference between the lacuna in our subconscious self image and conscious wishes is diagnostic of our mental health. Therefore,  from a psychological perspective, this ambivalence is normal as well as educative.  This ambivalence tells us how,  as a society , we are changing.

          From literary perspective  , there is another aspect to our wishes and their fulfillment.  This aspect is that of tragedy. In the classical literature , the tragedy arises because the protagonist fails to achieve the wish fulfillment. In modern literature,  particularly after the literature of absurd , the tragedy is not a failure to achieve the wish fulfillment , but it is the futility of wish fulfillment. The  protagonist , during the process of wish fulfillment , realizes that his self image , and therefore the content of the wishes , have changed during the struggle. The tragedy in this case is that wish fulfillment , when achieved , appears hollow to the  protagonist. The final denouement in this case is the realization by the protagonist that wishes and their fulfillment are irrelevant.

          As a novelist , I am more interested in the ambivalence itself and its psychological origins. It is necessary for any novelist that she/he must describe this ambivalence without being  judgemental.

       In the novel that I am writing now, I am facing this dilemma of depicting this ambivalence without being judgemental.  As I mentioned above , the characters in a novel on reincarnation must have emotional continuity. This continuity would surface in the form of strong wishes. In this novel  , as I mentioned in my previous blogs  , one of the characters seems to have memories of past births. The  protagonist of the novel , a chartered accountant , tries to analyse these past memories of his girlfriend in the context of this emotional continuity. He begins with scepticism.  However, as the plot unfolds, his own emotional attachment to his girlfriend starts interfering in his analysis. His journey from being skeptical to a believer is one of the themes of my novel. As a novelist , I would not pass a judgement whether his transformation is right or wrong.  I think the key point is that individuals are neither right nor wrong, they simply are.  

       This brings me to the the question in the title of this blog. Is it good to seek our wish fulfillment ? or is it bad ? I think the correct answer is that it is neither good , nor bad. The key insight into our behavior is that we are bound to have wishes.  More importantly , we are bound to seek fulfillment of our wishes. Neither having wishes, nor seeking their fulfillment  is optional.  We are constituted in a such a manner that we compulsively wish and with equal compulsion , we seek its fulfillment. Therefore, if there is something like destiny , then it must be it must be in the form of this compulsion. To put it differently , the notion of destiny is a  personification of this compulsion.

         In my next blog  , I would discuss how an individual changes her/ his beliefs under the influence of strong emotions. 



       In my previous blog , I had discussed the creative process that shapes the plot of a novel. I had discussed how personification of various emotions can create various characters and drive the story forward.  In that blog , I had mentioned that real creativity of a novelist lies in her /his ability to blend different , and sometimes conflicting , emotions to create a more realistic character. Such a character appeals to us because we ourselves are made out of several complex emotions.  Thus any character that has emotional depth because of blending of different emotions , would be more like us and therefore would be more appealing.

       In this blog , I would discuss how this blending of different emotions in a single character makes such a character a flawed character. Let us say that a character created by blending several emotions has sufficient emotional depth and is more realistic. While , as a novelist , I can tell you  that it is more  satisfying to create such a character , but the problem is that such a character turns out to be a flawed character. How does one  predict behavior of such a flawed character ? For a novelist  , this is  very crucial because the details of the plot of a novel hinges on how that  character would behave in a given situation. This problem is also faced by all of us in real life.  There are always individuals in our lives who are emotionally very complex and it is difficult to predict how they would behave. Of course , in real life , one does not have to follow a plot , whereas in a novel, the novelist has to create an interesting plot.

          I think the real problem with such fictional characters  is that their  ability to reason is influenced by their emotional frame of mind.  This is  true in our case also. Our ability to reason is also  influenced by our emotional frame of mind. Unlike computers , we think differently under different emotional framework. In this blog , I want to discuss whether we , as a species , are rational animals or not. Of course  , there are large number of books on various aspects of human ability to think  but I would sidestep the theoretical perspective.  I would write about this as a novelist and as an average ordinary human being.

       This aspect came to my notice while writing my second novel. As I have been writing about this novel in my blogs, this novel is about the theme of reincarnation. The story is actually about an average person , who in this novel , is a chartered accountant. He comes across someone in his life who apparently has memories of past births. Now , the protagonist  , being an ordinary human being , has no way to confirm whether this reincarnation is true or not.  Being a  professional, he tries to use his analytical skills to confirm whether the reincarnation is true or not.  The trouble is that he is emotionally very close to the person experiencing these past life memories.  As the story  progresses,  the protagonist is increasingly influenced by his emotions and his reasoning starts getting accordingly  distorted.

        As a novelist , I found it disturbing to realise that what if such a distortion could be happening with all of us. Therefore, I decided to observe how this  protagonist changes his reasoning as his relationship with the person experiencing the reincarnation changes. To my  surprise ,  I realized that human  rationality is not uniform or standard.  It changes with our emotions. We sometimes change our opinions over a period of time. This is actually a result of change in our  emotions. While trying to develop the character of the protagonist , I realized that there is more serious problem of how the emotions of the protagonist forced him to start believing in mutually contradictory reasons at the same time.  In order to do that , the protagonist started developing ingenious arguments. While  psychologists are familiar with this distortion of reasoning because of emotional disturbance , we do not recognise such a distortion in persons around us in real life.

       As a novelist ,  this was a good opportunity for me to try to understand human mind ,but as a human being, I was disturbed.  I realized that this could be happening to me as well. What if my own beliefs were also distorted ?  More importantly  , I realized that situation in real life was far more difficult.  In a novel, there is always a novelist who could keep characters in some kind of thematic control.  In real life , there is  no one who could exercise such a control. Maybe that is why our culture has invented a deity like destiny. By placing our faith in destiny , we we feel comfortable that our distorted reasoning is not of our own making.

        I would like to clarify that this view of our reasoning being distorted by our emotions is not necessarily a depressing view of human existence. This is because this very distortion also  produces heroic human beings. The  point behind writing this novel on reincarnation is that no matter what our emotions are , they would shape our reasoning. It might make someone a hero and it might make another person a psychopath.  The process of making both types of individuals is same. Interestingly  , sometimes an individual may be both , a hero as well as a psychopath. 

          I have asked a question in the title of this blog.  The answer to this question is that yes , we are rational , but our rationality is fragmented.  Our tragedies arise when these fragments of rationality conflict with one another. Maybe the correct answer is that  we are rational in parts but not as a whole. I would end this blog a serious comment on the nature of human tragedy.  In literature , we are taught that there are two types of tragedies , Greek and Shakespearean.  In Greek tragedy , it is the destiny that wrecks the tragedies in human lives.  In Shakespearean tragedy  , it is the human nature that wrecks tragedies in human lives. While writing this novel on reincarnation , I realized that both the types of tragedies are same if the destiny were to dictate the distortion of human mind . Maybe, destiny makes us think in such a way that our actions , based on this distorted reasoning , bring about tragic consequences.This is the core of Indian tragedy. It transcends Greek and Shakespearean tragedies. You just have to read Ramayana and Mahabharata to see how destiny operates.

          In my next blog , I would discuss how our wishful thinking actually tells us what we are. More importantly  , I would discuss how even wish fulfillment can have tragic consequences.