– Hem Raj Kafle
Some of our undergraduates show remarkable philosophical leaning when they are allowed to discuss life. The discussion sometimes involves such meaningful questions, directed to the teacher: “When do you think an academic will go out of use? Can a person remain spirited forever? Isn’t there the possibility of one’s sudden disappearance because more vibrant persons come to displace/replace?”
These questions must make a high-spirited person hold his breath for some time to envision his own future, with a feeling of slight pinch to his current usability. He should rather start with this thesis: “When I degenerate, I will disappear. To exist I should know the tricks of scooping butter with a crooked finger.” Well, it is tricky to try to find the number of such thinkers. My assumption is that there are many under our noses. To mention some universal symptoms of atrophying is my purpose here.
I think the first striking symptom is the reluctance to being receptive. This is when a person begins to set limits to learning and teaching, which is to say, he develops a sustained sense of fullness and saturation to the extent of intolerance towards productive criticism, and displeasure for the emergence of competent young successors. The second symptom is the fear of failure and bitterness. One’s intellectual erosion begins with the urge to avoid challenges when one has accumulated absurd experiences so much into believing that the world conspires against good people and life itself is deceptive. But one who fears challenges will hardly teach others the remedies against hardships. And one who always falls probably fails to tell others how to rise permanently.
Perhaps the most remarkable symptom of erosion comes with the feeling of surrender when there still is a chance to confront for a good cause. I believe each learned person should develop the quality of leadership with minimum sense of positive dominance over ignorance. Someone has rightly said, “When my father stopped shouting at me, he lost his world” meaning that a powerful, competent hand is always welcome in guiding a productive individual. Let alone sharing personal experiences, when a more matured generation begins to fear or lose control over less matured generation even in necessary cases, the channels for transmitting established socio-cultural values will gradually disappear. Each generation should develop as much the power of dominance and guidance as the readiness for reception and expansion of knowledge and values.
The old practically do not avoid being sociable and sharing experiences, but if they do, they will only contribute to backwardness or possible stagnation. One who has lived an individualistic life, cut off from empathetic relatives during life’s most receiving phase, would finally regret saying, “I wish I could relive my elders’ lives in a new context. If only I had ever asked them how hard it was to live their times.”
People once venerated might go out of use when they literally begin to show signs of disappearance from the mainstream. Appearance is not the matter of age but of intellectual energy. Neither does it have anything to do with the matter of physical presence but of leaving a legacy. Those who resign from the desire to become heritage allow others to lose sight of them. Visibility remains so long as others see you in terms of social presence and achievements.
An intellectual invites his own disappearance when he only revels in the past achievements but does not add any at present while competitors have already achieved newer heights. Successful people are usually narcissistic to the extent of gradual exclusion from the majority. But they can save themselves from disappearing by transferring their achievements to upcoming generation of competitors. If human beings had the rigidity of keeping all their skills and subsequent achievements to themselves, and if they had inability to learn these from others, all of us would still be living primitively.
The power to command respect is an important quality to check early atrophying. The respect should come with being able to become a convergence point for the majority in matters of leadership and knowledge. I believe a leader or a knowledgeable person has to be useful in the local level. Some competent people are out of use for their craze for telescopic usability, which means the ambition for a higher level, probably international, exposure without sufficient commitment to their lived surroundings.
Finally, I would exemplify three kinds of people who would rise in momentary limelight, but gradually fade away because of certain hamartia. The first type plants a tree, works hard till it grows and bears fruits, but finally, reveling on the fruits and gentle breeze atop, becomes too lazy to pluck weeds and shun insects. He rather expects someone to attend the tree merely for the sake of shade and wind-blown fruits.
Someone recently told me of a second type in an interesting metaphor about the relationship between legs and the chest. He said, “The legs move and hold the body, but the chest receives the medal.” I think, this hints at the Shakespearean sense of “bubble reputation” that someone in a leadership enjoys till the subordinates agree to work hard for him. When the legs choose not to move, perhaps because the chest cannot sustain the glory of the medals or aims to climb too high to notice the pains below, the “bubbles” begin to burst into oblivion. The chest will begin to pant in helplessness.
A third type presents a somehow oxymoronic appearance. He boasts of having got very wide eyes after having “borne a thousand blows of life,” but the vision is too clear ahead to miss seeing the filth under his feet. The filth ultimately travels to his kitchen, bedroom and worship. This happens repeatedly. He is busy cleaning the filth indoors, and ultimately becomes invisible.