Monday, February 13, 2006

The urge to action

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Whether there is any such thing as human freedom in the philosophic sense or whether there is only an automatic determinism, I do not know. A very great deal appears certainly to be determined by the past complex of events which bear down and often overwhelm the individual. Possibly even the inner urge that he experiences, that apparent exercise of free will, is itself conditioned. As Schopenhauer says, 'a man can do what he will, but not will as he will'. A belief in an absolute determinism seems to me to lead inevitably to complete inaction, to death in life. All my sense of life rebels against it, though of course that every rebellion may itself have been conditioned by previous events.

I do not usually burden my mind with such philosophical or metaphysical problems, which escape solution. Sometimes they come to me almost unawares in the long silences of prison, or even in the midst of an intensity of action, bringing with them a sense of detachment or consolation in the face of some painful experience. But usually it is action and the thought of action that fill me, and when action is denied, I imagine that I am preparing for action.

The call for action has long been with me; not action divorced from thought, but rather flowing from it in one continuous sequence. And when, rarely, there has been full harmony between the two, thought leading to action and finding its fulfilment in it, action leading back to thought and a fuller understanding - then I have sensed a certain fullness of life and a vivid intensity in that moment of existence. But such moments are rare, very rare, and usually one outstrips the other and there is a lack of harmony, and vain effort to bring the two in line. There was a time, many years ago, when I lived for considerable periods in a state of emotional exaltation, wrapped up in the action which absorbed me. Those days of my youth seem for away now, not merely because of the passage of years but far more so because of the ocean of experience and painful thought that separates them from today. The old exuberance is much less now, the almost uncontrollable impulses have toned down, and passion and feeling are more in check. The burden of thought is often a hindrance, and in the mind where there was once certainty, doubt creeps in. Perhaps, it is just age, or the common temper of our day.

And yet, even now, the call of action stirs strange depths within me, and often a brief tussle with thought. I want to experience again 'that lonely impluse of delight' which turns to risk and danger and faces and mocks at death. I am not enamoured of death, though I do not think it frightens me. I don't not believe in the negation of our absention from life. I have loved life and it attracts me still and, in my own way, I seek to experience it, though many invisible barriers have grown up which surround me; but that very desire leads me to play with life, to peep over its edges, not to be a slave to it, so that we may value each other all the more. Perhaps I ought to have been an aviator, so that when the slowness and dullness of life overcame me, I could have rushed into the tumult of the clouds and said to myself:

I balanced all, brought all to mind,
.... The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind,
.... In balance with this life, this death.

*** *** ***

....... .........

I suppose I have changed a good deal during these twelve years. I have grown more contemplative. There is perhaps a little more poise and equilibrium, some sense of detachment, a greater calmness of spirit. I am not overcome now to the same extent as I used to be by tragedy or what I conceived to be tragedy. The turmoil and disturbance are less and are more temporary, even though the tragedies have been on a far greater scale.

Is this, I have wondered, the growth of a spirit of resignation, or is it a toughening of the texture? Is it just age and a lessening of vitality and of the passion of life? Or is it due to long periods in prison and life slowly ebbing away, and the thoughts that fill the mind passing through, after a brief stay, leaving only ripples behind? The tortured mind seeks some mechanism of escape, the senses get dulled from repeated shocks, and a feeling comes over one that so much evil and misfortune shadow the world that a little more or less does not make much difference. There is only one thing that remains to us that cannot be taken away: to act with courage and dignity and to stick to the ideals that have given meaning to life; but that is not the politician's way.

- Jawaharlal Nehru in his “The discovery of India”

நேருவின் The discovery of India புத்தகத்தைப் பற்றி விஞ்ஞானி ஆல்பர்ட் ஐன்ஸ்டீன், "... Gives an understanding of the glorious intellectual and spiritual tradition of (a) great country" என்று சொல்லியிருக்கிறாராம். ஆங்கிலத்தில் இந்தப் புத்தகத்தைப் படிக்க ஆரம்பித்ததும் அதிலேயே லயித்துவிட்டேன். படித்த பக்கங்களையே திரும்பத் திரும்பப் படித்து, அதைப் பற்றி யோசித்து என்று சில பக்கங்களுக்கு மேல் இன்னும் நகரவில்லை. மேலே இருக்கிற பத்திகளைப் படிக்கும்போது, அந்தச் சிந்தனைகளுடன் என்னை ஒன்றிக் கொள்ள முடிந்தது. ஓர் அரசியல்வாதியாக நேருவைப் பிடிக்காதவர்கள் இருக்கிறார்கள். ஆனால் அவர்களுக்குக்கூட நேருவின் மொழியின் எளிமையும் வசீகரமும், வரலாற்று அறிவும், நவீன பார்வையும் புறக்கணிக்க இயலாதவை என்பதை இந்தப் புத்தகத்தின் சில பக்கங்களே எனக்குச் சொல்கின்றன.

இதை உங்களுடன் பகிர்ந்து கொள்வதில் மகிழ்ச்சியடைகிறேன்.

இந்தப் புத்தகத்தை ஆங்கிலத்தில் Penguin Books வெளியிட்டிருக்கிறது. விலை ரூபாய் 325.


Seemachu said...

this book has been copyrighted to Smt. Sonia Gandhi..
The discovery of India has to happen through an Italian...
She could have given this copyright at least to Congress(I) party.
Hmmmmmm ... :(


PKS said...


Thanks for recording your comment. From the time you told me this same comment orally, I have been thinking about it. I would like to respond to your comment, probably as a separate post, if time permits. Cheers!.

Anbudan, PK Sivakumar

Badri said...

தமிழில் 'கண்டுணர்ந்த இந்தியா' என்ற தலைப்பில் இந்தப் புத்தகம் அலைகள் வெளியீட்டகம் வாயிலாக வெளியாகியுள்ளது - அலைகள் என்றுதான் நினைக்கிறேன். இப்பொழுது சரியாக ஞாபகம் இல்லை.