Saturday, November 28, 2015

For whom the feeling tolls

From a simple series of drawings to sophisticated and precise motion of objects following physics laws, animation has come a long way in just a few decades. Companies like Pixar have raised the bar with every movie release. Eventually all animations look sophisticated, beautiful and stunning, yet they fail to hold us unless there is a compelling story. Illustration is for the mind. Story is for generations. This is a key point for creating good slides/presentations - it is good to have appropriate visuals, but you need to have a compelling story.

In the Inside Out movie, the story of a girl depicted through personifaction of emotions is a brilliant way to capture the psychology of a child. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that 'depression emotion' is going to have some kind of impact, but the script manages it very well until the end. The fact that depression is an important emotion for human beings (perhaps animals too) is a neat little knot. But after watching the movie, I felt something was eluding me and I wasn't able to quite capture it. I have heard a similar story-line before? But where?

Many people read the bhagavad-gita in original, translated or original with translations and are awed by its philosophy. Lectures after lectures have eloquently captured its essence expounded through a variety of experiences. Its so easy to quote 'karmaNi eva adhikAraH te', 'yogaH karmasu kausalam', yet it is near impossible to put them in practice. Or get a thrill reminiscing Robert Oppenheimer quoting the destruction verse (divisUrya sahasrasya) during the nuclear bomb.

Whenever I get hold of a book, I tend to read the Introduction/Foreward section fully. Understanding why the author write the book, provides a context for the content. In that sense, one of the most brilliant and under-rated chapters is the first chapter of the gIta. In fact both rAmAyaNa and mahAbhArata are fantastic human psychology guides. Many characters of these two epics are diluted in our day-to-day versions and are put in black-white, so the real shades don't come out as vyAsa had put it. I feel sorry for psychology students who quote Jung and Freud at the drop of a hat, yet cannot explain the confusions of yudhiShThira or the anxiety of dasharatha.

From author's view, follow how the context is being brilliantly set. If the content was important, he could have directly skipped to the preaching section. Yet vyAsa devotes an entire chapter to set the mood. In the first chapter "arjuna vishAda yoga", there is a brilliant contrast of two feelings: duryodhana's and arjuna's. Both are driven by ego and are ready to annhiliate the other side. Duryodhana cautions droNa of his nemesis, followed by provoking that he is not a kShatriya (implying not fit for a battle) and then implying a soft corner for his favorite student. He has more strength in numbers than the pANdava-s, yet is doubtful of victory. And arjuna begins with ordering krishNa to take 'his' chariot in front of the army and proclaims that he is ready to take them on.

At no point duryodhana exibhits a feeling of remorse that what he is doing is wrong. Though enveloped in doubt, there is no sadness in him on what happens to anyone as he clearly declares that others are willing to die for him. In complete contrast, arjuna after being cleverly put between bhIShma and droNa, breaks down because of 'depression'. (A trivia: Many think that the first words spoken by kRShNa are in the 2nd chapter. But here kRShNa says, "Arjuna, see the assembled Kurus"). This vishAda is the reason arjuna is ready to lay down his life in the battle-field and hoping he would get mokSha without any incurred pApa or effort.

Just as in Riley's triggering of her fondest memories, 'depression' played a key role for arjuna to bring out the best in him. Without 'depression' we would all be like duryodhana, not even feeling what is wrong.

For the Samskritam lovers, the verbs used in arjuna's lamentation are like leaving a kid in candy shop. The dhAtu of many words are deep in meaning that translating them does not do justice. (kRupayA parayA AviShTaH, sIdanti gAtrANi, mukham pariSuShyati, gANDIvam sravate, tvak paridahyate, sreyaH na anupaSyAmi).

I've heard people give various reasons to learn (or not to learn) Samskritam. From a cliched 'I read in 5th grade' to a proud 'My grandfather knows it' to 'I simply don't have time' to 'Its complicated'. A few among them stay on to continue to learn the language, in addition to just admiring. For them, the depression has already set in.

When is yours ?

(Some ideas inspired by Sri Dr. Padmakumar's bhagavad-gIta series on youtube).
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