Metaphor for the Loneliness of the Human Condition


I was discussing the Fundamental Loneliness of the Human-Condition with my Mother a few months back. And as usual, I was trying to explain things using big, fancy words in an animated way. And she gave this ridiculously simple but utterly beautiful  Mumbai Local Train analogy to eloquently explain with simplicity and profundity.

She said (paraphrasing her):

“I board the Mumbai Local at Mulund Station and get off at Matunga Station (or vice versa). The train itself originates from Thane/Dombivali/etc. and terminates at CST (or vice versa). For my Mulund-Matunga (and back) journey, I meet several people daily who have become train acquaintances. I smile at them, make small-talk about various things, and generally enjoy their company. Some of these people board from before Mulund, some board between Mulund and Matunga. Likewise, some of these people get off before Matunga, some after Matunga … The point is these are mostly all nice people who have become good acquaintances and regular companions for that daily journey/ritual. I cannot expect the person who gets down at Ghatkopar to come all the way to Matunga (or a person getting off at Dadar to prematurely get off at Matunga) just for my sake – whether because I am feeling low or alone, or because of some inevitable setback in life – because doing so would disturb these people from their own paths and journeys. They are fleeting companions. And I am to them what they are to me as well – fleeting companions, who partake in offering some form of kinship or camaraderie in our brief travels together. They too cannot have such expectations from me (i.e. expecting me to deviate much from my course) … Such is Life. We are all traveling along our respective different paths by ourselves. Maybe our paths cross each-other regularly or maybe they intersect at odd-times. And maybe there’s a bit of magic and sparkle in some of these path-crossings. And maybe some companions bring out the absolute best in you, and stick around for a long time, immeasurably altering your life for good. And sometimes, their departure is not their own choosing – sometimes ‘shit happens’ (I am paraphrasing myself here). And we must of course be thankful to these personal guardian angels, as well as to others who have touched our lives in small and big ways … But all said and done, everyone – all companions (small, big, far, near, loyal, family, friends, etc.) are transient. And they cannot be a substitute for our own sense of peace and tranquility with oneself and the world. And fundamentally, it is our karma/duty and our karma/duty alone to travel our own path, and to navigate it safely, conscientiously, courageously and gracefully.”

That pretty much captures it, doesn’t it? Sometimes, we tend to over-think and find ways to describe in painstaking detail – using heavy, dense words and jargon. This is probably a coping mechanism to try to convey to other people the depth of whatever feeling or epiphany you are having. But the reality of it is often quite simple and can be expressed quite elegantly and concisely through simple metaphors. It’s difficult to come to terms with the Loneliness inherent to Humans and to Life itself, but it is indeed that simple.

[She said the above in much simpler language. I couldn’t help but be a little verbose]

All of the fundamental truths of the universe (especially as applied to Human Existence) – are intuitive, self-evident, somewhat obvious and therefore a cliché. The trouble is that Humans themselves have trouble accepting simplistic Occam’s Razor explanations and we tend to hate clichés. However, as David Foster Wallace puts it brilliantly and poetically:

“The most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.”

The fact is you or I or anyone else *can* (and in most cases *will* eventually) work out the thoughts/sentiments expressed by my mother on our own – perhaps with our own quirky analogies and inside-references and tailored metaphors. It’s just a question of time (which varies from person to person). It’s also perhaps a question of life-experiences: trials and triumphs we have along the way – which make us ponder, undergo realizations, and perhaps change the trajectory of our life. Ultimately though, all fundamental axiomatic truth is organic and self-evident to one and all.

[Originally shared on Facebook (privately) a while back. Also mirrored/published on my Medium: (1) ThisPost@Medium, (2)Profile@Medium]

 

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