Commentaries, Essays, Kindling, Opinion

Dear June: A Letter for Pride Month

Image source: http://www.blog.netapp.com

Dear June, 

When I was 22, I remember attending a lunch wearing a black hoodie that had a famous Oscar Wilde quote printed on it. At the restaurant, my uncle told me how he detested the quote and everything associated with Oscar Wilde, because ‘that blighted Wilde was a faggot’. I remember gasping in order to maintain the decorum of my favourite hill-station’s favourite restaurant. I sat quietly while picking at my garlic lemon butter trout with my fork, just the way I did with my pasta when my cousin asked one of our brothers to avoid wearing pink because ‘oh my god, he looks so gay in pink.’ Just the way I sat sipping my empty glass of lemonade when an unassuming elder repeated the f-word (used earlier by my uncle) to describe musical maestros like Freddie Mercury and Elton John.

It wasn’t just on these three incidents that I maintained decorum by focusing on doing something meaningless with my excessively fidgety hands. This habit goes back to my school days, when any two peers with a sense of intimacy were termed as gay as if gay were a cuss word. Atleast for us school kids, it was. And for those of us who refused to become more gender aware, gay and lesbian are still cuss words used as one of the most sure-sought ways of instilling shame in the targeted person. Interestingly, the validity of this claim had little to do with a person’s sexual and/or emotional orientation. It didn’t, actually. In fact, it turns out that being anything that failed to correspond with the present society’s definition of being ‘straight’ or heterosexual1 was something that one had to be deeply ashamed of, if not self- obliterating. Not just heterosexual, but heteronormative, if you will. Could I reason this to be a general reason for you being celebrated as Pride Month? To dispel (in instalments) the cumulative amount of shame that is brought upon the majority of the global populace for not fitting into neat labels, boxes and definitions as per heteronormativity’s assumed taste? 

Every year when I read June newspapers over breakfast as an undergraduate student in Delhi, I would spot pride parades. In other words, the robust and vibrant parades that the more privileged dissenters of heteronormativity2 participated in (mostly) worldwide. The faces, their smiles, the rainbow flags (and not to mention, the dazzling costumes that the bolder segment of the parade donned), all unanimously spelled out ‘freedom’. The rainbow specifically shouted out to its onlooking/ scowling or worse, denying populace that failed to conceive each colour in the spectrum of existence due to their oversaturated monochromes of patriarchal social conditioning. 

As you know June, ‘homophobes’ is the analytical term used to refer to the more radically conditioned populace that arrives at a visceral aversion vis-a-vis non-heteronormativity. Logically then, this term implies their sole characteristic as being ‘homophobic’, which can be defined as a phobia towards all things non-heteronormative. You know why this extended definition is important? Because while my anti-Oscar Wilde uncle was averse to a renowned artist solely on the basis of his homosexuality, my cousin was averse to our brother’s choice of dressing for being non-heteronormative (possibly because for prudes throughout the better part of history, pink is a girl’s colour. Never mind that pink was the preferred shade for boys and blue for girls3, because doesn’t that serve the same binary that you and I denounce? Perhaps I’ll leave this for another part of the letter.)

Now a person who is less fond of June might ask me why I am over-reacting to banal comments on Wilde and pink shirts. 

Because, those are the slightest discriminations against diverse identities that go pardoned,  unapologised for, or even unnoticed. 

Because, those are statements that well-educated and gentrified persons of modern day societies continue to make despite lending a hashtag to #LoveisLove.

Because, these were or are the parents who are sending their kids to homophobic (nevertheless homosocial4) schools to graduate into adulthood and repeat the behaviour of their parents, relatives and friends. 

Because I, and many like me, are tired of the usage of derogatory words to rattle the self worth of any identity that chooses, or even dares to be different. Because we are tired of the constant threatening and even terrorising treatment offered to any ambivalence around heteronormativity.

And most of all, because we are beyond tired of being subsumed for being fluid in our nature and choice of our existential expressions.

As a kid, I remember being labeled as a tomboy for preferring jeans over skirts, Lego over Barbie, sports over makeup and Eminem over Spice Girls. My teenage gait didn’t have the girly hip swing, and my pubescent self began to slouch due to being conscious of my recent developments. Apparently, they didn’t go too well with my ‘sporty jockishness’. And yet, I was fond of applying French manicures, straightening my hair, and got my young heart broken by doofus teenage boys.

Even now, I often perceive myself as tiptoeing deftly on the shores of androgyny. For example, I fasten the longer flicks of my cropped hair with a shimmering pin. On days that I don’t have corporate meetings to attend, I am found in oversized spectacles and plain t-shirts that are flanked by indie pants. My dressing ritual ends with a casual pinning of earrings and a smear of lip colour, in hues that range from subdued nudes to the boldest shades of scarlet. I enjoy musky colognes as I do fruity splashes, and focus on maintaining toned biceps despite failing miserably at performing basic pushups.

What does this hopscotch game amidst so-called binarisms make me? 

They make me who I am, and it is in this fluidity that my essence finds its home.

I was not exempted from the brigade of seemingly benign comments made by close as well as random people such as, ‘beta, it’s so nice to see you become all girly’ ; ‘you’ve cut your hair too short’ ; or ‘you would have been such an eligible boy, if only…’ The lack of validation accorded to my nuanced androgyny did leave me feeling confused about my identity, and at times, frustrated. Overcoming the need to conform to several binaries does originate from a certain amount of privilege, and that is an undeniable fact. But it also arises out of an ongoing internal battle wherein these binaries are vanquished, little by little every day.

My contention against these binaries gained additional zeal when I began to increasingly realise the futility of their artificial imposition.While at LSE, I heard Butler say that gender is nothing but an act of doing, or performativity that is assigned to us from the moment our birth is heralded with- ‘it’s a boy!’, or, ‘it’s a girl’. From that very moment, it is either this way or that. The pursuit of gender justice that unites Butler with humbler selves like me is our mutual wistfulness for a time when birth announcements sound more like, ‘it’s a boy/girl unless (s)he chooses otherwise!’ The finality of birth certificates becomes terrifying to those like us, who’d rather opt for a provisional one that can be revised later by a more evolved and informed version of our adult selves.

Oftentimes, my supposed idealism has been flouted as a bandwagon of western modernity. Those who are more well-versed with the diversity of Indian culture and heritage would agree with me when I say that heterogeneity is unapologetically Indian in its foundations, as is modernity. The temples of Khajuraho, Mahabharata’s Shikandi, the legends of Ayappan, Mohini and Brihanalla only form the tip of a colossal iceberg that swells me with pride for its ancient acceptance, but also pains me for its more recent shunning by the rudimental combinations of imperialism, capitalism as well as patriarchy.

Now keeping in mind your celebratory pretext of LGBTQA pride, I do not mean to undermine the urgency of diverse self-expression making itself more visible through each subsequent June. However, I also wish to bandage an over presumed affliction that rhetorically places a homophobic lot of the society as ‘villains’ against an alienated queer populace as ‘victims’. There are two flaws in this assumption. One, that it is impossible to put an end to binarisms with yet another binary. Two, and more importantly, because this is a redundant mechanism of division.  I’ll tell you why I say that. According to my naïve understanding, gender justice has little to do with vindicating queer identities and avenging homophobic myopias. Rather, the monster that deserves our unanimous fight is the homophobe as well as the queer victim that we carry within us due to the uninterrupted conditioning of heteronormativity wherein we eat, breathe, sleep, and essentially, live. 

Even though my privilege and lived experiences make me more gender-sensitive, I am not a morally upright exception to the conscious or unconscious denouncements that we as a pre-conditioned society make towards fluidity and deviant identities. There are times when the homophobic villain in us takes the subtlest precedences amidst the best of us. And it is this constant internal conflict that I find to be the cause of our alienation. This alienation resides in the very sophisticated boxing of our own fluid selves, as well as everything that we happen to interact with or know. For, how can water be boxed without ice trays?

So June, I end with a thank you for patiently enduring my musings that find more concrete expression with the unfurling of your rainbow flags. But before I sign off, June, I leave you with a crucial endnote that I hope for you and your successors to pioneer. This endnote revolves around an important observation that Amartya Sen shares when it comes to identities. He refutes one’s identity as being a source of accidental discoveries and instead, points at conscious choice as its fountainhead. In other words, we are not passive victims of  stagnant identities that we happen to discover. On the contrary, we are active agents of our constantly evolving identities that we harbinge through choice and mediation in multifarious situations of constraint. But then again, which choice is made in the absence of limitating circumstances?, asks Sen. 

In a nutshell, the presence of never-ending contingencies doesn’t take away the cardinal existence of choices that we are entirely responsible of and accountable towards.

Since you advocate the freedom of diversity more than any other month, I welcome you yet again with the earnest hope of leading each one of us to reclaim the choice of being who we are and how we conduct ourselves. I welcome you yet again with a pledge to continue the uncomfortable, yet undenyingly worthwhile quest of self discovery and self truth. As the world continues to be gripped in the fangs of a dreadful pandemic, I welcome you yet again as the month of freedom and diversity. I hope for you to usher it to a more sincere, accepting, and liberating means of existence. May you end after weakening the impostors within us, and undoubtedly, the biggest impediments to our own freedom.

Sincerely, 

Your fan. 

Footnotes : –

  1. A person sexually or intimately attracted to people of the opposite sex (only sex, not gender). Source : Google dictionary, italics mine.
  2. A term related to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation (and conduct). Source : Google dictionary, italics mine.
  3. 1918: Smithsonian on magazine Earnshaw’s Infants Department (stated in Vintage News by Khadija Bilal)
  4. Relating to social interaction between members of the same sex. Source : Google dictionary.

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Kindling, Memoirs, Scribble

Know Thyself

For the tougher ones amongst us- let’s put our shells aside for a few minutes, and momentarily accept that we could do with some love. That we are all vulnerable in our little and big ways, and that there are times when we don’t have our act together, and that deep down inside, the child within our adult bodies screams to come out. Basically, let’s drop the swords of defence. Slightly difficult in the beginning, but it does get better in a while.

Right.

So there are days when we simply don’t want to ‘adult’. We don’t want to wake up to the daily morning rouser, do the same job, eat the same afternoon meal and conform to stifling norms. We don’t want to paste a smile, put on lipstick or make polite small talk. We don’t want to battle the raging traffic or the raging boss. We don’t want to compare stats or run a rat race. On these days, we just want to BE. Be for a change, and not chase some goal for the sake of it. More cautious people would call these instances ‘weak moments’, or ‘deviations’, which are temporarily permitted on days that we call ‘weekends’, or ‘vacations’, or for many, maybe not even then. Anyways. What exactly does it mean to have a ‘weak moment’ or a ‘breakdown’? It’s not simply ‘that time of the month’.

Sexist jokes are so 1900. Blah.

When observed closely, a ‘weak moment’ such as the ones cited above is an honest manifestation of our fatigue towards the multiplying stress that we constantly ignore. In other words, there are tiny and large molecules of stress that accumulate in our minds on a day-to-day basis— most of which we might not even acknowledge.We are the brewing pots for this stress until a day when we can no longer contain the whirlwind that this collective stress has brewed up. And BOOM! There goes a volcanic release- in the form of words, actions, self-harm, or further bottling up, which leads to more catastrophic releases. After having resisted (consciously or unconsciously), we have crashed under an enormous amount of stress- generated pressure, and experience fatigue.

When approached reasonably- why would we let these stresses build up and then conquer over the best of us? Why is it that we do not acknowledge our stress until it takes a toll on us? Why do we practice or allow this refined form of self-harm? The problem isn’t that we hate ourselves. Quite the contrary for most of us. Most of us actually love ourselves, but the problem is that we do so very selectively. Meaning, we tend to love parts of ourselves that we aspire to be- our stronger selves, the titanium in us, our beautiful selves, our fit selves, our capable selves, our desirable selves. The other aspects of ourselves- that do not fit into these optimal boxes are neglected, ignored, or resented. Our weaknesses, vulnerabilities, scars, uncertainties, errors are disowned by us as if they don’t exist- simply because we wish they didn’t. And to make it not exist in our realities, we do what we think works best- pretend it isn’t there, or resent it if the former isn’t possible. What we end up doing in the bargain is that we start holding fragmented senses of selves and seek fulfilment in those fragments. The truth of the matter is that we are powerful wholes of all that constitutes us- the parts that we love, as well as the parts that we wish we didn’t have. The more we resent the unwanted parts, the more it wears us out. It is like trying to rid ourselves of our own shadows. The shadow, on the other hand, is a sure-sought assurance that light is falling on us! So in being whole, I am as powerful as I am vulnerable, I am as sufficient as I am doubtful, I am as independent as I am rooted. It is just what is dominant at a particular time and what isn’t. Not only is understanding of the Self more humane and real, but it also reflects the infinite power within each one of us- that our traits- perfect and imperfect are limitless, and that while excesses in either ways are dangerous, balance is key. Hence, to accept the balance of being- the better side and the worse, is the basic way of coming into closer connection with oneself. ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself’ is an elementary way of communicating this entire paragraph. If only I were more Yankee in my writing 😉

Moving on.

It is only when we accept ourselves for the best and worst in us that we are at a greater comfort to listen to the voices within us that we would otherwise ignore. To understand that I am vulnerable and that it is okay to be vulnerable at times- is a crucial starting point to what my vulnerability is saying right now. If I don’t, it doesn’t quieten my vulnerabilities, but only piles these voices up inside me until I can no longer contain them. When one remarks that they slept like a baby, they say so because the baby sleeps with no worries in their mind- a baby’s primal instincts: sleep, hunger and poop are all that concern him/her at that age. If only life were as simple! However,  I am perfectly aware that it would be rather naïve and unrealistic to wish for stressless sleep- everyone has stresses in life, and no one’s life is perfect. There’s so much going on in our lives on a day-to-day basis, and that’s the truth. But, if life complicates itself, why do we further complicate our relationship with ourselves? It is not as if we’d do a better job at ‘being adults’ by further disconnecting ourselves. Quite the contrary. Our bodies are constantly speaking to us, as are our minds. We just need to listen.

In a world where putting up a brave façade is trending only more every day, a greater number of people fear confrontations. Confronting the other is virtually impossible if we cannot confront ourselves. Pretty basic, isn’t it? If only we listened to and addressed internal conflicts, externalising the practice wouldn’t be as cumbersome as it seems. The idea of confronting internal conflicts and voices might be fresh for many, but that shouldn’t intimidate oneself. It is as simple or complicated as you make it for yourself. With most things in life being complicated and complicated beyond our control, simplifying your own relationship with yourself is a basic gesture that we owe to ourselves. The simplification is, well, simple. It just requires us to take out some time to reflect. Reflection is far simpler when frequented daily. It basically entails reflecting upon how your day went, your actions, your deeds, your energy, your sense of Self on that day, or even in that moment- what is it saying to you? The more you practice this, the more receptive or meditational your mind shall become. This is not the same as overthinking, as it might lead many to fear. Reflection and overthinking are systematically different such that the former is an initiative that consists of acceptance and observance of oneself; not a deliberate, conclusive drive that one forcefully thrusts themselves through. Reflection of this sort is the simplest way of getting to know oneself, and staying connected to one’s being. In reflecting, you begin to understand and accept- not so importantly what you think and want, but how you feel. Being connected to how you feel is mediated by the sheer sense of honesty and acceptance. This connectedness generates a sense of self-actualisation- of inner peace and fulfilment- of being one with yourself.

Lastly.

In gaining more closure vis-à-vis yourself, your perception towards the world becomes clearer too. Some great minds have argued that our viewpoint of the world is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. So if we simplify and persevere our connection with our inner being, our perception of the world moves towards being less complicated too. It’s all inter connected. And finally, as we accept our being without being too judgemental, imposing and harsh, we do the same of the world. This immense self-sufficiency leads us to conceive a very powerful act- that is, while we might not be able to ‘save the world’ and change everything that the 9-year old in us hoped to, we can remain tranquil despite a lot of its evils, and not let it get the better of us. We can preserve the magical capacity to BE despite, and not according to what we hoped to control. In short, we can continue to remain hopeful and grateful for whatever good there is, and whatever better we are seeking to make of it.

Simple, isn’t it? Or maybe just less complicated.

Either ways, thank you for letting your guard down. You can put it back on, but beware- for it’s going to seem a lot heavier this time- Gosh! How much baggage were we carrying!?

Beats me.

🙂

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Kindling

DELIBERATING FREEDOM  

The World’s largest democracy celebrates its 68th Independence Day in many ways. Many Indians wake up to watch the iconic Red Fort parade screening, followed by a plethora of patriotic movie broadcasts and soap opera marathons across our TV channels. Proud Indians commemorate and pay homage to the brave freedom fighters and martyrs of the nation. Arm chair critics slightly milden their approach for this one day, appearing to do so unknowingly, while many patriots make pledges to be better citizens and take responsibility for the advancement of their country. Small children are found selling mini flags around traffic signals. Many fellow-citizens sport tricolour-themed attires, accompanied by endless selfie sessions. Those working in demanding, corporate jobs heave a sigh of relief for getting a day off, which they can spend being at home and taking their families for a promised outing that their work backlog had caused them to postpone through several weekends. Cybershoppers relentlessly raid through the Independence-Day special online sales. It’s that time of the year again. Clearly, Independence Day holds many meanings for citizens across the length and breadth of the country. Most meanings might not find a consensus save one- Independence Day celebrates the nation’s long- fought freedom, which it attained from its colonisers on this very day, 68 years ago.

Freedom is what 15th August is characterised by and celebrated year after year for. This day deserves every bit of the nostalgia, pride, tributes and celebrations that it generates at so many levels. I intend to briefly trigger a reflection of freedom at a particular level. Not the freedom that our nation won and constantly strives to defend- that gets much reflection on this day as it is, which is fantastic. What I indicate here is a psychic freedom of sorts. We are all temporary repositories of certain kinds and degrees of freedom- some of us inherit more freedom by the virtue of our socio-economic standing, at the cost of those who are less privileged than us. The disparity through which freedom is inherited is unfortunate, and the reality that shapes our existence. Through the course of our lives, this freedom is affected by the choices we make, the work we do, the lives we lead, and often, strange chances of luck, as many would agree. The freedom that I conceptualise as inherited and further pursued is what I term as external freedom. It is one of the two kinds of freedoms that I will cause my readers to reflect upon today- how aware are you of the kinds of freedom that govern your being? How responsible are you about the freedom that you hold? Are you exercising your freedom to liberate yourself and others? I hope my article gives you some direction towards addressing these questions about yourself.

External Freedom 

During a dinner table conversation, some pseudo-liberal raved about how modern their thinking was, and how much freedom they endowed to their family- how their spouse and children were free to do anything, and this, by the way, valorised them in their perception since “they” gave their family so much freedom. While I am sure that this person was well-meaning to a certain limit, they were hugely mistaken with the way that freedom worked. Freedom cannot be “given” from one person to another. The moment you say you “give” somebody freedom, you are attaching to yourself an authority which is at best, elusive, as I now go on to explain.

At the time of your birth, you inherit your family’s socio-economic standings that jointly and by default render you a certain quotient of freedom. Thereafter, while going about your job, duties and climbing or descending the socio-economic ladder, this freedom is further accumulated or depleted. Cyclically, your children inherit the freedom that your socio-economic standing can afford. You cannot entirely control or command the amount of freedom that you inherit at birth or achieve throughout your life- the former is a matter of chance and the latter- a matter of several forces, most of which are out of your control. This freedom stands for external freedom- social, economic, political, cultural, ethnic, religious, etc. That is to say, in its various forms, it depends on external sources- the society, the economy, your job, your political clout, cultural and religious forces, all of which you are a part of but do not entirely govern. The benefit that you derive out of these institutions is not guaranteed, for the institutions themselves are uncertain and constantly evolving. You do not own or control any of these institution, and hence, nor do you own or control the freedom that is derived out of them. These institutions outdate and outlive your existence, and that is the humble pie that we all have to swallow.

Coming back to my previous example of the pseudo-liberal patriarch. You thought patriarchy gave men freedom that they, as patriarchs (fathers, husbands, sons, kinsmen or men in general) “give” to women. Think again. At a more superficial level, patriarchy appears to be giving freedom to the men that live upto its ideals of manhood and masculinity. But what they are essentially doing is regulating patriarchy at the cost of their own freedom to live life as per their terms. They adopt a particular ideal of manhood and go about a lifestyle that is tightly governed by patriarchal norms- looking and conducting oneself as a ‘true’ man, constituting heteronormative family, working in a job that has been approved as ‘respectable’ by the society to earn a ‘respectable’ salary, and conceiving (and seldom rearing up) children who will do the same. Is there any space for ideals of the self, their sexualities, ambitions that deviate from these ideal norms established by patriarchy? Would the system confer equal freedom to a man whose conduct and choices threaten these ideals? Obviously not. All that he could hope to be conferred with is a life of social stigma and character assassination, to begin with. The same could be said about women- those who follow patriarchal ideals of womanhood are more revered than other women. In similar context, think about Manu’s ‘immoral, loosely charactered and eternally licentious women’. Rings a bell?  There are brownie points that are handed out by patriarchy to its most promising players, as long as they regulate and reproduce patriarchy. It sustains itself as an institution through its agents, awards them external freedom, but far outlives and overpowers them throughout.

So who is the real winner here? Patriarchy.

The same could be said about any institution in the society- it pays its conformists a significantly powerful dividend. By conforming to and thereby regulating its potency in the world, you are simply an agent of that institution, a subject of it. The dividend that it award to you- external freedom, will temporarily give you immensely liberating powers, only so long as you conform to the institutional norms. The moment you deviate from its norms, you stop being its subject. That is, the moment you stop regulating and multiplying the institution through you, it withdraws the external freedom that it had earlier conferred upon you. For example, as a woman born in an orthodox Brahmin family in rural India, you multiply Brahminical patriarchy by following its ideals of what it means to be a Brahmin as well as a woman. Your interdisciplinary identity as a being of caste and gender is being pursued by you to multiply systems of patriarchy and caste. When you disavow caste-based discrimination, when you stop conforming to gender-based discrimination and divorce ideals of chastity and womanly duties, you forsake your freedom to exercise your powers as an upper-caste woman and are penalised or at best punished by the institution (through its other subjects) as an outcast. You only retained that external freedom as long as you served the institution as a subject.

Bottom line: you are a subject of these institutions and of the subsequent external freedom, never a possessor of it. Moreover, you will be entitled to external freedom as long as you conform (even if that means negating yourself). Harsh, I know.

Due to its elusive, unpredictable, but most importantly, enslaving nature, external freedom might be temporarily empowering but is far from liberating us (read my title- deliberating freedom: pun intended!). What then, is liberating freedom really? Is there a truer sense of freedom than this? Most definitely, there is. It is what I term as the second kind of freedom- internal freedom. The freedom that isn’t conditioned by external institutions and factors. Neither does it hold ulterior motives, nor does it operate in hidden agendas. Internal freedom is unconditional, and resides in all of us, but few really get to identify it and be truly liberated.

Internal Freedom 

I once again come back to my example of the pseudo-liberal at the dinner table. What if s/he had a different concept of freedom- what if s/he believed in freedom being a non-negotiable right of every human being? What if s/he didn’t think of it to be a big deal if his family acted about freely, and lived life as per their terms? That their freedom was free of external permissions and conditions? Answer: s/he would cease to be a pseudo-liberal. In simpler words, this is the conceptualisation of internal freedom-  freedom that cannot be granted, conferred, awarded, taken away. While the institutions that I mentioned previously might only acquaint themselves with internal freedom in what we collectively conceive to be a utopian world, internal freedom sprouts from our internal being and can govern and condition our relationships with others. That is, internal freedom is a state of being, as a mode of existence on both, individual as well as collective scales. 

Our beings are only partially constituted by contingencies that land us in institutions that aid our survival in the existing world. That is, in a liberal capitalist world, we wouldn’t sustain ourselves if we didn’t work through the institutions that prescribe external freedom. So to attain internal freedom one doesn’t have to adopt a nomadic way of life and become a complete recluse. By all means, being subjected to external freedom is unavoidable in present situations, don’t resist it. Accept it that present circumstances and state of affairs subject us to certain factors that we might not endorse as liberating (they might be least liberating), but instead of resisting it, it’s more important to be aware of the external freedom monopoly, while identifying its limitations. Remember, if that hadn’t happened, our arrival to understand internal freedom might not have been possible. Yes? Okay.

Internal freedom comes from internalising the realisation that while there are parts of us that are bound by these institutions, there are also parts of us that are above them, that understand, accept and are aware of these institutions, whereby they become meaningless, because we are sensitised to a higher state of being. That higher state of being exists above these institutions, which enables and is enabled by our tremendous capacity to rationalise and imagine, to love, to respect and the strength overcome all known adversities. That despite surviving in the institutional world, a more significant part of us exists in a state of being that seeks a greater purpose in life- not just to sustain and exist but to truly live, to truly feel alive. That is, a higher sense of ourselves exists, which calls for us to embark on a pursuit to find true contentment in our existence. We mainly arrive at this by being true to ourselves- asking ourselves whether we are deriving meaning out of our lives. Are we growing? What is it that we believe in? Are we living our lives in sync with those beliefs? Since internal freedom is found through internalisation, we can never lie to ourselves. In being honest with ourselves, and understanding that we exist in a higher state and are constantly evolving, we are able to free ourselves from the shallower pursuits of common conceptions of beauty, wealth, fame and the ‘good life’ which are constantly subjecting us to the very institutions that yield external freedom. When we realise that the higher state of being comprises of an evolution of the human spirit and not complex institutions, we also begin to understand that this being has no space for negativity and judgement but only acceptance and unconditional humanitarianism.

It is very empowering to internalise the realisation that we all possess parts of ourselves that are strangely infinite, which only indicate possibilities that are yet to be discovered and which will further us in our evolution of self. In these realms of ourselves there resides internal freedom, which comes from an acceptance of ourselves, of what we perceive as the good and the bad, as two sides of the same coin, and with that acceptance, we liberate ourselves . How? With continuous acceptance of self, and the belief in being able to overcome a diminished sense of inadequacy, the process repeats itself until we attain a sense of tranquility and make peace with who we are. Only after accepting and overcoming our fallen sense of selves do we permit ourselves to be liberated by inner freedom because it is a liberation that is not externally imposed but generated from within. Along with this higher realm of ourselves where this self-actualisation process takes place, the inner freedom that it is sensitised by is one that exists irrespective of who we might be or where we might come from. As a fact of being human, it exists in every one, and only when we sense the inadequacy of external freedom can we arrive at it.

Once we have internalised this conception of ourselves, our entire gamut of being slowly begins to free itself from external freedom and internal freedom. We stop holding conditions, judgements, presumptions because these factors are barring us from self actualisation. We slowly detach ourselves from meaningless conceptions that flout the world and seek the mystical pleasures of life. What follows this process of internalisation is a change in our basic conduct towards others- what was earlier conducted by external freedom now begins to be conducted by internal freedom- we approach those around us with minimal or no judgement, conditions or ulterior motives. We begin to sense a greater togetherness with humanity and with the world- compassion and love begins to dwell in our souls for those around us while we become more aware of their suffering, vulnerabilities, unhappiness and insecurities. Since we now know the process of internalisation and the bliss that it brings, we are liberated by inner freedom and hence practice the same while interacting with others as well. We become less affected by what would have otherwise bothered us a lot. Inner freedom’s mystique begins to govern not just our actions but also our reactions. And yet, we are aware that we cannot be responsible for enabling someone to realise internal freedom- only internal generation by oneself can do that.

Lastly, retract yourself to the past a little bit. At times when you have difficulty in explaining yourself to some people, and discover that that one person might be understanding what you mean without you saying it? You’re sensitised to something similar in your realms of consciousness that others aren’t YET. Among that entire lot, it’s the two of you in particular who are experiencing your 15th August together. And today, I hope this piece delivered you a similar spark in its own twisted way.
Happy Independence Day!

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