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Answer in a Time Capsule

There are certain questions that I have been fighting an unending war with. They might sound ambiguous but they are very real and keep me up at nights. One of these questions is the question of indecisiveness or the inability to reconcile between two opposing ideas. If you stare long and hard into a certain problem, you will always find that there isn’t a simple truth that lies beneath all the turmoil. Truth resists simplicity. Now, when it is time to chose a side, I find myself straddling the fence. Whatever the case may be, Should I be amazed by the feats of  the human race or Should I grasp the feeling of insignificance on the cosmic scale? Should I embrace my human emotional self or Should I strive and achieve equanimity giving room only to reason?

While discussing this with my friend the other day I found out that she had a similar problem, but she seemed to have a bit of a solution for this conundrum. Like my great county India, with its non-alignment policy, she told me that may be, hearing both sides and not talking any side, in itself is a side, the third answer for a question that I believed had only two answers. Like Amartya Sen says in his book ‘The Argumentative Indian‘, we Indians are one of the bests at arguing. Still, I was not satisfied with this and for a long time I was completely obsessed with the concept of neutrality. But it offered me little comfort, It was not long before I found myself with the same question.

Whenever we talk of Scott Fitzgerald, the first thing that comes to our mind is his magnum opus ‘The Great Gatsby‘. I read it, not just went through the words, I actually READ it, thanks to John Green and his Crashcourse videos. It is indeed a phenomenal piece of work, but the answer to my question did not come to me from that, it came to me from his lesser known work, ‘The Crack Up‘, In which he writes,

F. Scott Fitzgerald, photographed by Carl van Vechten in 1937Courtesy: Wikipedia

F. Scott Fitzgerald, photographed by Carl van Vechten in 1937
Courtesy: WikipediaFinally, to put me out of my misery, the answer came to me in a time capsule from F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise…I must hold in balance the sense of the futility of effort and the sense of the necessity to struggle; the conviction of the inevitability of failure and still the determination to ‘succeed’-and, more than these, the contradiction between the dead hand of the past and the high intentions of the future. If I could do this through the common ills-domestic, professional and personal-then the ego would continue as an arrow shot from nothingness to nothingness with such force that only gravity would bring it to earth at last.

Wow! I can only marvel at words like these. The man left a trace in time that, after all these years gives me goosebumps.

George Orwell had been hinting me the same with his ‘doublethink’, but it took Fitzgerald to get it through to my thick skull.

It is indeed by sheer serendipity that I met these great men but I suggest you make time to get to know them, you will not regret it. May be they will answer a question or two that has been plaguing you for a long time. Issac newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.  There are countless giants who are ready to lend their shoulders to humanity across time and space, it is up to us to choose to do so and it is absolutely essential for us to do so if we wish to push humanity forward.

Yours Hopefully,

Manoj BS


4 thoughts on “Answer in a Time Capsule

    • Thanks.
      Neutrality is rather like status quo, doing nothing. That is worse than choosing the wrong side, I’ve rather come to appreciate the value of doing something that takes into account both the sides of the argument than doing nothing.

  1. The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis
    – Dante Alighieri, Italian national epic poet (1265 – 1321)

    Just quoting. Doesn’t mean I do/dont support the view.

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