Blog :The Incredible Adventures of Nocturne Noire in the Massively Populated Blog World
Date: 8/19/2012 3:39:26 PM
My college hostel was infested with pigeons. If you didn’t shut the windows, you’d find one in your room soon enough.
Don’t have a thing for pigeons, I don’t.
After forgetting to close the windows one day, I returned to my room to find a pigeon comfortably settling down on the ceiling fan. I sighed and opened all the windows and doors. Fresh air and sunlight streamed in. Pigeon least interested. I decided to encourage it and switched the fan on. It looked a little worried and flapped its wings ever so slightly, but then decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle and settled back firmly with strengthened resolve. I didn’t want bird soup in my room, so I switched the fan off, and poked and prodded the damned feathered thing with a broom. It flew down to the windowsill, perched there stylishly for a moment, cocked its head as if to wonder what I could possibly expect it to do now, and then flew back to the fan. I shouted, clapped my hands and used the broom on it for a good five minutes before it finally realized that freedom was just beyond the window.
I know many people who behave exactly like the pigeon. In fact I used to do the same thing too. Freedom may be just a wing-flap away, but we are unable to tear ourselves away from the familiar even if it threatens to make bird soup of us.
Psychologist Martin Seligman once conducted an experiment on what he calls “learned helplessness.” It is a technical term for the condition where a human or animal has learned to behave helplessly, even when it has opportunities to help itself and escape from the negative situation. For the experiment, Seligman placed dogs in three groups. Group 1 dogs were given electric shocks which they could end by pressing a lever. Group 2 dogs were given shocks which persisted regardless of their behavior. Group 3 dogs received no shocks. All the dogs were later put in boxes where they received electric shocks, but from which they could easily escape by jumping over a low barrier. Group 1 and Group 3 dogs jumped over the barrier and escaped, whereas Group 2 dogs accepted the inevitability of the situation and stayed whimpering inside the boxes.
We are often like the pigeon or Group 2 dogs, unable or unwilling to help ourselves. Sometimes, we may not even know how. But the significant advantage of living in the era of information explosion is that every damn thing that you want to know is out there, just waiting to be picked up. While discussing grand business ideas, my best friend used to say, “We are all floating in a river of wealth, our business idea is the scoop with which we take our share.” Indeed. There is such wealth out there – not just money, but knowledge, love, fulfillment, happiness, opportunities to discover yourself – just waiting to be harnessed.
People lose themselves in the superficialities of what religion and self-help promise them, without bothering to look inside themselves to figure out what needs fixing and then just going ahead and fixing it on their own. Which is why it is terribly annoying to see people mindlessly performing rituals to attain “enlightenment” and such, without even being able to let go of their fears, negative addictions and self-destructive thought processes.
Fear is a strange animal. You can never get rid of it. All you can do is look it in the eye and let it lick your face. Remember even Batman feared bats till he overcame his fear. The courage to act in spite of fear, to move with fear, comes only with either desperation or extreme defiance (under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed*). There is strength in fear, you just have to get a handle on it and twist it your way.
When I see pigeons settling down comfortably in the rut, I want to shake them till their feathers come off. I constantly watch myself to see whether I am becoming a pigeon. When I see myself becoming pigeon-ish, I fight for my life.
Life must be constantly reclaimed, in the face of inevitable and necessary losses, changes and fears. The only other option is to be a pigeon.
The choice is always yours. That’s the curse of being Free.
* Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Filed under: Life, Observations and Opinions