HOW FAST OUR LIVES ARE IN COMPARISON TO OUR PARENT’S LIVES ?
It is universally accepted that we live relatively faster life than that of previous generation. When we think of our parents , we conjure up an idyllic picture of easy paced life when we were growing up. Our belief in our comparatively faster life is further strengthened by our belief that modern technology has offered more options than those available in our parent’s life time. This is , by and large , true. However , we make mistake in thinking that earlier life was slow and therefore it was more tranquil. It is true that there were less options available to people in earlier generations. It is also true that people were less mobile in earlier times. However , it would be a category mistake to think that life earlier was less frenetic or less stressful. This mistake arises from the fact that we overlook how our mind works.
It is not number of options available that decides the pace of life. It is our indecision to make choices that sets the pace of our lives. The human nature is such that it is equally burdened with decision making whether we are dealing with few options or hundreds of options. This may sound strange , but it is true. When we have large number of options , our mind picks up only the top few options while making a choice. Therefore , mind spends quite some time in making a choice and it doesn’t really matter how many options are available. Our mind is involved in constant conflict of making choices. Therefore, our sense of living a fast life mainly arises from this constant dilemma of making choices. It does not really matter technologically how advanced we are. What matters is how fast our choice making processes are. In that sense , every generation feels that it is living a fast life. We may find such assertions from our parents rather comic but from there mental perspective , this is a valid perception. It is more than certain that our children would find that we have lived in a slow paced life. Therefore , our external yardstick of measuring fast paced life is not in harmony with our internal perception of pace of life.
In this blog , I would pick up this aspect of our perception. There are two aspects that I would discuss here. Firstly , I would discuss whether our personalities have altered because of fast pace of life or not. Secondly , I would describe my own difficulties in creating a plot that appears as a slow paced to the readers even when the characters feel that there is a constant rush in their lives. The beauty of fiction writing is that it allows a novelist (and therefore readers ) to stretch a brief moment into eternity and a life long experience into a flitting moment. I would describe in this blog , how I sought to achieve a balance between the different paces of life say thirty years ago and our contemporary life.
Let me tell you how difficult it was to have the protagonist of this novel to interact with two women in different phases of his life. His trouble is that he suspects that both women are in fact the same individual in two different births. The first woman was his girlfriend when he himself was young. The second woman is also a young but he is , by now , a sixty year old man. Therefore , he finds it difficult to adjust. Part of his mind tells him that he is an old man , whereas part of his mind tells him that this young woman is his girlfriend from the past. At some point in the novel , he realises that it is his own mind that is playing tricks with him. What he remembered as his tranquil past of his girlfriend turns out to be a selective amnesia. The new woman makes him confront the reality and his own true self. At that point the protagonist realises that the life is always complex and fast. It is because we selectively remember the past that it appears to be smooth and slow.
As a novelist , I found it difficult to portray this deception in the protagonist’s mind. However , I accidentally found the answer to this difficulty. When I began narrating the protagonist’s younger days , I spent quite a few pages in creating the details of his background. However , as the plot developed , these very details became instruments of pushing the story further. The plot quickened on its own momentum. Since the novel is in a part flashback and part now frame of reference , this matched very well with the present fast paced life. However , the bottom line is this. The life is even paced. It is how our mind chooses and selectively remembers that gives us a false impression that our present life is faster than the life a generation ago.
Since my novel is nearing it’s climax , I would discuss in my next blog what kind of problems a novelist faces while creating a climax. I would also discuss whether and why should a novel have a climax.