Aristotle’s famous and immortal words, Man is by nature a social animal, were cited as one of the reasons, by my teacher in elementary school, for study of social sciences. Upon the foundation of this sentence, was laid the little but strong edifice of my training on history, civics, geography and economics until secondary school. I continue to study these subjects till date through auto-didacticism. Even though the sentence provides an exact reason to indulge in study of history, civics, geography and economics, the arrangement of words has always perplexed me, for man may be, by nature, a social animal, but I, by nature, have been a man of shy persona, and the one who generally avoids society. The sentence, therefore, lies in exact contradiction to my own nature. So, this sentence has bowled me over ever since my teacher at elementary school introduced me to it. I am more comfortable in my own company than being in the company of a fellow human.
Being shy doesn’t mean that I have no friends, in fact, I am rather flamboyant whenever in company of my ‘friends’, and I can speak in public with much gusto, can give stellar presentations on technical or non-technical subject matter to a large audience, I interact with clients regularly and I am always willing to give a helping hand to complete strangers too. However, I am exceptionally poor at befriending a total stranger or strike a conversation with him/her if I do not find any common ground with him/her. I will not try to form common ground too. I will not make an attempt to forge a relationship, because I don’t feel any need of it, if it develops by its own, I will take certain time to get comfortable with it. Therefore when recently I went to a social gathering, I preferred to stay alone in the crowd, and did not indulge in talking to or mingling with anyone there, unlike the rest of the crowd. I did talk, but only with the organiser, and that too with economy of words. This was not the first time that it happened so, and to be honest I had no “strain”, I was too comfortable in my own skin, observing people, being a textbook spectator of the events nearby, and enjoying my occasional sips of this super green tea and more-than-occasional bites of chicken nuggets.
Let me contradict the age old wisdom of man, by nature, being a social animal [as explained by Aristotle]. I would state that man, by nature, is a lonely animal. In saying so I assume that in the term “social”, Aristotle included all of personal relationships too. As for social relationships, if only man had not developed a complex economic system [I would rather call it “feeding system”] based on these words of Aristotle, man would feel no urge of indulging in trade and commerce. However, the things are out of hands now, and the economic system continues to get complicated by every passing second, and therefore, one of the two reasons, I need fellow men is to indulge in trade, so as to secure my bread. The second reason I need fellow men is to quench my intellectual thirst, so as to survive in trade, and for that we need authors, publishers, distributors, banks and whole set of other trades. As I see it, I need social relationships as a result of being a child of 20th century, where I had little say in devising economic systems of modern times, and therefore, I need society to serve my selfish needs while I serve its selfish needs.
However, in matters of personal relationships, Man is too intellectual to feel the need of such hokum of relationships at all. Some men including me have fallen in the trap, but only to realise the ultimate truth that personal relationships are over-rated, and Man can do as good without them. Moreover, given the complex economic systems of our times, as the Man evolves, or as the society evolves, the Man will find respite in seclusion or loneliness, neither in the crowd nor in the company of friends, relatives or spouse. The best products of Man’s ingenuity has come from men/women wallowing in seclusion or loneliness. The best paintings, music, inventions, discoveries, socio-economic theories, books, poems and any other work of human ingenuity, have all come from men or women who largely found society as their observational laboratory for testing their hypothesis. I have a high liking for Shakespeare’s high-on-emotion tragedies, but Shakespeare has always presented them with a big element of irony hidden in them, which often makes me think that Shakespeare’s work is all about nothingness or meaninglessness of life and these personal relationships. The way he mocks at love and personal relationships in his ‘tragedies’ is very subtle and sometimes very vulgar too, but only to bring forth the truth about them.
When I look back into my own personal history and compare it with my present, I find that people who often found living without me as an impossible dream, are doing just as fine or in fact much better without me at present, and ironically, an even deeper bond has been established by them with people who once invited their scorn, which I believe will meet the same fate, if not for social obligations such as marriage etc. The personal relationship of friendship and animosity are, therefore, both over-rated. You would do just as bad without an enemy, and just as good without a friend or lover or a spouse. There was a time, when it was hard for me to imagine a life without certain people, and yet I am living, imagining life without them, even if I am in perpetual saudade, but the fact that I am living is living-proof of my assertion that my feeling was, perhaps, over-rated. In childhood days, there were friends with whom it seemed it is a ‘friendship forever’, but somehow things are different today, and I realise that I actually need no friend or company per se. Even if I need a company of a friend or spouse, I would need it to serve my lowly selfish needs of sex or entertainment or enjoyment, perhaps to indulge in schadenfreude or to have kids, but not for my higher selfish needs of trade and quenching intellectual curiosity. In my experience, I have found myself to be dispensable for the people I have had any kind of relationship with. Even my mother has stated that she can do without me, even if with tears in her eyes and a shiver in her voice. “Move on” – the convenient phrase invented by Man takes toll of all personal relationships and feelings. “Move on“, a lowly phrase, as I have found, is much stronger than the perfectly constructed English sentence -“I love you“. Most people just move on and live life just as the way or even better than the one they lived while being with you.
Therefore, I feel, all these relationships of love, friendship, mother, father, son, daughter, cousin, uncle, husband, wife, etc. are all overrated. Almost all people, at least those lacking perseverance [which is like 99.9% of humans], move on and all of them are exceptionally good in doing so. I now take relationships [any] with a pinch of salt, since no man is indispensable, and without me they can live just as good or perhaps even better, but no worse. We must take our social relationships of trade and commerce seriously, but personal relationships casually. The downfall starts when we change these respective priorities.
P.S. Many readers of this post may be in love with someone or be in a great friendship or have a great family or spouse, and will find my assertions to be ridiculous and demeaning their relationships, but that is not the intent of my post. Ironically, I have a liking for, and greatly respect those personal relationships, which stand the test of time, adversaries, the moments of indecisiveness, the originality of man [that is accepting a fellow human as he/she is], and the moments of reality/truth and yet only to emerge stronger than before, and thus proving my assertions wrong. In short, who show perseverance in their personal relationships, I have highest of regards for them.
P.P.S. I want to state many more things, and many more opinions on this subject, but saving it for some other day, hence the abrupt ending!
Thanks for your blog, Rahul, and also taking a moment to read my latest review. Looks like you moved from the US to India, which, I can imagine, was a huge move. My wife and I recently downsized to a nearby apartment and that was work enough.
I read though your blog and enjoyed very much. I agree, personal relations are overrated — they come and go and then we move on. More important is reaching a point where we can taste the wisdom of our own inner life — through reads, writing, meditating, spending time in solitude and silence.
Thank you so much for taking time out. I now do what you so brilliantly remarked – tasting wisdom of our own inner life-!
You can see how irregular I became on this blog too. Now back to normal! Will soon be frequenting your new reviews!
All the best to you and your wife with new apartment – small home – the best hehe!