Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ramblings on morality

Yesterday started with a lecture by Robert Swan, renowned polar explorer and environmentalist. Then, we had three lectures, one following the other in the afternoon. Somehow, in the midst of this spurt of hectic activity, I got writing - 

What is the color of morality? A confused shade of grey or a clear shade of black and white? What makes people test the limits of morality and move on? Is it because, we define it very loosely or rather, is it because, morality, per se, is undefinable and hence relative and amenable to exploitation? What about beliefs and principles then? Can they be altered and justified based on the vagaries of time? Or, are we just getting caught up in the dictionary meanings too much by attaching weights disproportionately to words? Perhaps, there is no reason to worry at all, or is there?

As we progress, we tend to measure advancements in terms of the size of our bank accounts and in terms of how quickly our stock of business cards runs out! When somebody who has been to the north pole as well as the south pole (literally) walks in and says, "Status is not about what you have; it is about who you are", it shakes us up! It makes all the races we run, deadlines that we chase and the obligations we get tied to, pale into insignificance! 

What really is character then? What does it encompass? How do we measure up? When everything is elastic, inflatable based on one's position and perspective, what is absolute? What is constant and unchanging? Well, when I think about it, I draw a blank! Honesty, truth, loyalty, friendship, commitment, sincerity...? If, in the face of competition and for the sake of reasons, entirely attributable to impatience, greed and  selfishness, each of these can be trampled on and traded to move on, what happens then? What are we left with to hold on to? Where does it leave us in the larger scheme of things? 

It leaves us rudderless, ready to sway and be tossed about by even the slightest hint of turbulence. We become pawns that can be moved by any random player, surrender ourselves to fortunes that we can't even imagine controlling! We lose our grip on our own lives, regret every misstep, brood over missed opportunities and watch helplessly as happiness remains elusive! 

As Jose Saramago puts it beautifully in his masterpiece Blindness - "When one stars making small concessions, in the end, life loses all meaning." Indeed, the world of one's own moral boundaries begins to blur as soon as the first concessions are made. The erosion starts right then, and spreads like forest fire. Small drops make an ocean, quite fast at that!