MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #24

REINCARNATION AND EMOTIONAL CONTINUITY.

           In my previous blog , I had discussed the role of technological changes in shaping our emotional universe. I had suggested that though human emotions are absolute in some sense , their nuances would be different and be influenced by societal changes including technological changes. I had cited instant gratifications provided by communication technologies as a prime example of this type of changes. I had suggested that delayed gratification enriches our emotional development which is missing in the post Internet era.

          Purely from a novelist’s point of view , these different emotional stages are important because every character in a novel must have particular emotional depth depending on each character’s societal background , including the sophistication of technologies available in the society. While  this is a routine requirement for writing a novel , it needs to be fine tuned depending on the social backgrounds of the main characters of a novel. Normally , a novelist tries to differentiate between characters belonging to different age groups by detailing different emotional stages of these characters. While doing that , sometimes a novelist also incorporates the technological influences on these characters. In this blog , I would discuss my own experience in dealing with this aspect of characterization. In my second novel , this problem is slightly different because the character is supposed to be a reincarnation of a character present in the first half of the novel. Therefore , the reincarnated character has to be similar and dissimilar at the same time.  Moreover , since there is a time gap of around twenty five years between these two avatars , the emotional stages are different in each of these avatars. As the novel depicts the year 2016 , the present avatar had to be a tech savvy unlike her previous avatar. Therefore , I would discuss this aspect in this blog.

          As I have mentioned in earlier blogs , the key appeal of the theme of reincarnation in fiction lies in the emotional continuity of the character being born again. If the reincarnated character were not to have any memories of its past lives and emotions experienced earlier , the whole purpose of this literary device of reincarnation would be lost. Therefore  , it is vital that a reincarnated character must have such memories of the past lives and that these memories must guide the behaviour of this reincarnated character. However , I found that the problem with this reasoning is what should be carried forward from the previous birth and what should be new in this birth. On one hand , I wanted her to have identical emotions and morality , but on the other hand , she had to have different sensibility in tune with the modern times. This is where I became aware that how technology changes our emotional experiences.

        I realized while writing these different avatars , that beneath the notion of reincarnation , there lies a deeper understanding of what constitutes an individual person. I think  that when we refer to soul , we are actually referring to some aspects of an individual that do not change with each incarnation. In reincarnation , these immutable aspects of an individual must be taken as a soul of that individual which are transferred unchanged. As a novelist , I find it tempting to think that these immutable aspects are nothing but our emotions in their absolute form. In that case , the purpose of individual’s life ought to be to experience these absolute forms of emotions in their purest states. The fiction , therefore , plays an important role in enabling the readers to experience this emotional bliss.

       At present , I am detailing the second birth of the reincarnated character. This character happens to be a reincarnation of the girl friend of the protagonist. Or this is what the protagonist suspects. My problem is how to differentiate between these two avatars. It is important that these two avatars must have something in common and still be distinctly different. I am trying to use Internet access , and the information overload that comes with it , to create more forthright and open minded character which , at a deeper level , is the same woman with  whom the protagonist was in love. The novel is about whether the protagonist’s belief turns out to be true or not. More importantly , as a novelist , I am more concerned about how these changed , but still unchanged , emotions help the protagonist to find out the truth.

           In my next blog , I would discuss why a novelist should not prove or disprove any belief. A novelist’s task is to portray an emotional journey of the fictional characters that helps these characters to find their own versions of truth. A novelist can hope that this emotional journey would inspire the readers to undertake their own pilgrimage to find their own versions of truth. In my second novel , my focus is not on whether the notion of reincarnation is true or not. I am more concerned about how the protagonist travels through his various emotions to arrive at his version of truth of reincarnation. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #23

DO OUR EMOTIONS CHANGE WITH THE  TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES ?

         In my previous two blogs , I had discussed the idea of generation gap and its relevance to fiction. I had suggested that it is not just the age difference but the different emotional stages of human beings that appears to us as a generation gap. However , the question of what influences our emotional development still remains to be answered. Our collective perception on this topic is that it is the social and family backgrounds that shape and control our emotional growth. By and large ,  this is also corroborated by the academic research. Though , there are different nuances of this perception between the popular belief and academic opinion , it seems reasonable to assume that this perception is valid. However , there is one aspect of our emotional development that has been missing from public perception. This aspect is increasingly being studied by psychologists but has yet to percolate down to our collective psyche. This is the aspect of the role of technology in influencing our emotional development.

        It seems intuitive to lay persons that due to technological advances ,  our way of thinking has changed. For instance , it is common for people from older generation to complain about lack of arithmetic skills in younger generation. With the advent of calculators and computers, the younger generation does not need to remember the tables by heart. Therefore , there is no denying the fact that mnemonic tricks of remembering large number of tables and tricks of fast calculations are altogether missing in the generations growing up in the days of these calculating devices. While this inability to calculate numbers mentally does not produce any handicap in the cognitive development of young children , the fact remains that the technology has deprived these children of certain mental agility. While this influence of technology on our thinking appears to be self evident , the question is whether similar influence of technology on our emotions happens or not ?

       In this blog , I would look at this aspect of technology. More importantly , I would discuss this aspect from a novelist’s point of view. It is one thing to say that our emotions are shaped by the technology and it is quite different thing to create characters personifying two different types of emotional responses. I became aware of this aspect of our emotional universe when creating a character who was supposed to have been reborn. The literary context of reincarnation is to show that basic emotional content of the reborn individual  remains unchanged.  However  , the fact that the technologies would change in the intervening period, would obviously mean that the emotional development in two generations would also be different. It was while trying to keep balance between the emotions carried forward to the next birth and the emotions that were new in the next birth ,  that I came across this realization.

        Therefore , let us see how the technology influences our emotional universe. At the outset , I would admit that I personally subscribe to the notion that human emotions are absolute in the sense that they do not change amongst different cultures and different times. I believe this to be true because we have all been able to enjoy great literary pieces irrespective of their vintage and their cultural origins. While reading Shakespeare  , we are able to identify with the characters and experience catharsis simply because the emotions brought out by Shakespeare are universal. Similarly, which reading Kalidasa , we experience same catharsis even though the characters belong to the distant past. Therefore , it seems reasonable to me that there is something absolute about human emotions that transcends the cultures and history. In fact , this absoluteness of human emotions justifies the appeal of reincarnation in popular literature.

        If this is true , then the problem is how could anything , let alone a technology , alter such universal nature of emotions. The answer lies in the fact that while our basic emotions are absolute , its nuances are not. What Shakespeare said about love being a many splendored thing , is true for all emotions. We experience same set of basic emotions in our lives again and again. However,  every time there is a different nuance of that basic emotional content. It is here that changes in emotions manifest. In that context , let me discuss the role of technology.

        I am sure most of you would agree that the most important change , that new technologies have brought about , is the way we communicate. The change consists of not only in the speed with which we can communicate but also of the content of our messages. Sometimes , our inability to communicate with persons close to us would result in a sense of restlessness and anxiety. This aspect of being separated from loved ones is universal and has  found its expressions in some of the greatest works of art. However , in the days Skype and instant messaging  , the sense of being separated from the loved ones doesn’t manifest. Obviously, the contemporary literature doesn’t have any such master pieces depicting the angst of separation.

        In fact , this is true of not just the deprivation the sensuous company of our beloved , but it is true of all sensory gratifications. The inherent merits of delayed gratification and its role in enriching our emotional universe are lost in modern times. The on demand supply of pleasures has atrophied our sensibilities. Therefore it would be fair to say that the technology ,  in its abstract sense ,  has blunted our emotions even while increasing our sensory pleasures. The technology has disconnected our emotions from our sensory pleasures. To that extent , the technology is indeed dehumanising. It deprives us of individual sensibilities and therefore of our individualities.

        In my next blog , I would discuss this aspect of changing technology in creating a changed sensibility of a person who was supposed to have been reborn. My focus would be on the problem of creating such characterizations rather than on validity of the concept of reincarnation.