A Personal Account of Being and Nothingness / Ritwik Chaudhary

Prefatory Note: According to Karl Marx, the essay form is written so that one may learn something.

I. Physics

Learning is the loveliest breeze. Perhaps, it is the only feeling that has ever stayed with me.

In school, as life suddenly seemed to happen, I used to be a precociously average student (what has now transformed into an average human); I enjoyed perhaps the literary story, but as the fire of the imagination rests in one’s life, so I spent my time with books and secretly read in the library, but didn’t believe myself to be an artist, and still don’t. Instead, unlike the other who had, by now, discovered a vocation (identity), I found my identity in myself and what I felt. I loved Physics, because what to me today is no more than a forgotten perspective, a dream, used to mean some day as an explanation of Nature of things, human nature itself, a type of thing which for all time has meant to the world a god. I did well in my class suddenly in tenth, came first in physics in 2nd term and prelim, when I began studying, my tution teacher thought I was intelligent, and in my boards I topped in my optional paper, a mandatory subject in the boards which in my case was physical education. I had two or three important thoughts in this time that have affected me consciously. The first was somewhere during my exams, as I walked back home from the bus stop on that same road I had spent in the pursuit of the way of happiness: friends, success, etc, for the way of happiness is a way of the world; until it finally struck, I should try to study, because I can’t be happy. I thought about it, believed in the dictum, but denied it consciously until I matured and sobered down. The second thing of importance was my discovery to keep studying without wanting to succeed, and when, in my eyes, I finally did succeed, which was after my boards, I realized, I had achieved nothing, it was all a masque, and I began playing an author. I sat, on holiday, knowing nobody, thinking and reading from books about Newton and Einstein, two figures whom I could express as the pinnacle of creation. I had read books about them, never studied them, but knew them: I could identify with their sense of self. The thoughts and feelings I harboured have stayed with me, but my ideas have changed. Einstein and Newton were philosophers of science, which I am conscious of, but I do not believe in their ideas because I’ve lost faith in science, art, and human achievement, in the same manner as one loses faith in God. Yet, I’m not a nihilist-revolutionist, because the only thing that has mattered for me is a case for good: and yet, I know the colour spectrum that thoughts emit through the world’s prism. What played on my mind those two months of summer vacation was the beginning of my conscious contemplation, a journey I have never abandoned: things which had very little to do with ‘meaning’, ‘I’, ‘Nature of the world and its institutions’, but it was the natural course of development of a will to try understand these, almost from afar: I started thinking philosophically.

II. Philosophy

In my 11th and 12th I studied not humanities but science, and until recently every night I see myself back in school casually taking an academic direction in the arts, waking up every time unable to take that route. It’s the imprint of this dream that’s the elusive truth about my life; I know that, and the fact that it is recurring is all of my truth, a phantom who appears as my self. I study BA in English from distance education (in the final semester, have 6 more papers to clear and 6 papers recently attempted whose result isn’t out yet). Before this I began four (or five) different academic courses in the same campus, but left each one after the first semester. One can only follow that great river of the consciousness as a boatman of the night. Right before giving my engineering entrance exams, which I failed at preparing for, instead concentrating on cinema as well as studying Physics: to know, not to do; one month before them, I decided to not give them and instead pursue a career in film. The basic plot of this fresh consciousness was my circumstance, I had no one to guide me on those lonely nights. It was an expressive thought, and I might’ve opted for Political science at D.U. where I could secure admission, or one of the ‘lesser’ colleges of D.U. as well as a top Mumbai college, for English; but, I believe, I acted true to my artistic nature and chose BMM (Mass Media), read Kafka, studied theatre; after the first semester I wanted to pursue English because I became acquainted with the subject through my experience, then realized social science isn’t true, and in the burning house of my mind I took up B.Sc., conscious of merely the notion of a life in Art. In B.Sc., I began discovering philosophy, Nietzsche, Stirner’s ideas, Camus, and the poetry of the mind. I had already read and thought in philosophical terms, had my own diary of concepts, and was drawn to the truth only where it served the cause of freedom: for what is true in the age of politics, our world? The images speak for themselves, and their meaning can only be learnt by incessant repetition in society, which if in one he recognizes the truth, his words and actions begin to appear real, and the essence of the image is born.

III. Literature

When you begin to lose control over your thoughts, you begin to talk.
– Khalil Gibran

I have a thousand stories for Max Stirner, a thousand fears pamphleteering on that archetypal street, distributing to the citizens. What do I know about a dead man? A portrait, that’s all. To Engels, Stirner was a philosopher of negation. A sort of marginal consciousness. I believe Stirner to be a positive, life-embracing figure, whose first act was life itself. He came as a poet, reading in a corner what he had written earlier, read it aloud, almost reciting word to word, stayed for the show to end, with the usual yada-yada. A simple poet for whom this meant everything.
It is in the image of the Artist that I fashion my life. It is no ordinary contradiction. I believe myself, at all times, to be a product of my thinking, like a zen master to myself whose teaching is nothing at all, a struggle of selfhood, a jihad of sorts. I believe in literature, I believe in the theatricality of life. It has been my goal to strive in this direction. As for the revolutionary philosopher, “Nothing is true; everything is permissible,” I have taken the path of my divinity, which means human actualization, as a discovery, for better or worse: it is in life that I roll the dice of my Hope.
Writing! It weighs heavy on my eyelids, when I can finally see what I see; or when of a sudden I laugh because it’s the truth, I find that I’m an actor. The heart is a countenance, a face, the only truth there is. To look forward, to go further, to meet the sky in want, to be a thinking human, despite the fate of men in defiance of gods; all one truly ever feels, sitting still on a chair, unable to find the words for it. In reality a man does not believe in God, he can merely know Him. And so he carries on believing, carries on living, and as he does he stands in defiance.
Inseparable from my question stands the figure of beauty, in so far as I am truly literature: I am a word whose meaning rests outside of me. All that I’ve ever thought, I create, is the train I’ve never taken at departure, watching on at a world and a life departed. Literature, for me, is not a passion or something I love; it is an answer I have, in the end, given myself. Therefore, it is the sum of all my life’s endeavours, all that I’ve loved, all that I’ve lost, and perhaps, if happiness is in life a justified reason, then art for me is the road to it.

My concern, in this life, is as artist; and for this purpose I take up the study of literature and theatre with the intent of, as Wilde said, the critic as an artist. I believe in the idea of study, that’s why I don’t read books, I study them as an art form. Research for me, means what it means to a scientist; my basic goal isn’t literary achievement but lies in learning and knowing. I believe in the notion of self-study, and everything I do or think follows this methodology. I am interested in literary theory and formal philosophy, but it is writing that I see myself pursuing. In this context, my area of interest includes Existentialism, and the notion of philosophy of literature. I hope to study, because I believe in education and in research, and perhaps, above all, in following one’s dreams.

Ritwik Chaudhary is a theatre and literature student. He wants to do a PhD., following which he will continue to write and do theatre. He is currently pursuing BA in english from distance education. He is 26 years old. 

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