i’m sure none would admit that you intend to go through life just horsing around.
a few weeks ago, the inimitable merman asked me and a bunch of friends if we are interested in watching repertory philippines’ staging of shaffer’s equus. the gay bunch was busy so it ended up that it was jp, me and the merman.
to those unfamiliar with the play, i can’t be bothered to write my own synopsis so i ‘cut and paste’ imdb’s:
‘A psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, investigates the savage blinding of six horses with a metal spike in a stable in Hampshire, England. The atrocity was committed by an unassuming seventeen-year-old stable boy named Alan Strang, the only son of an opinionated but inwardly-timid father and a genteel, religious mother. As Dysart exposes the truths behind the boy's demons, he finds himself face-to-face with his own.’
the truth is (and to assure you that i haven’t gone all artsy-fartsy highbrow on you), the play gained notoriety because of the lengthy scene in the second act involving nudity. in fact, harry potter’s – daniel radcliffe made headlines and billions of internet picture downloads when he took to stage as strang, announcing to the world that the boy that played potter has, err, grown up. the nudity is such that on the way out, the merman told me –‘ i hope people don’t think we paid the cost of the ticket to see cock’.
but i digress.
the reason i am writing about this is the crux of the play – at least for me – resonates with a question i have been asking myself for sometime. that is, ‘is a life without passion an acceptable loss for a life of normalcy?’
actually, such succinctness and gravity of questioning was more the play’s rather than mine. when i asked my friends about it, it was framed rather lamely with ‘do you still have a goal?’ and i ask this because more and more i am thinking that lately, it feels like i have none.
when i started working, fresh from student activism, my goal was to make a significant contribution to the rural poor. when i joined government, i aimed at being a part of those who introduced meaningful reforms in the bureaucracy. failing at that, i went to africa looking to regain my soul. after 8 years, i came back home wanting to retire. now, realising that i have, at least, 10 productive years in this deadly, if weary, body, i’m stumped.
i asked jp and he started essaying the ‘good’ i am doing for others. i said, that’s debatable – but even if it is true, doing good fulfils the receiver. the giver is satisfied only obliquely through some form of inverse vanity. i doubt if my goal is that.
when asked, id went on a discourse about ‘helpers’, ‘those who need to be needed’ and ‘altruists’, differentiating them in terms of social psychology and linking it to evolutionary ‘survival of the fittest’. if that did not make sense to you, suffice to say this was 3 am and its either id was already too drunk to make sense or i was to understand.
j, my man of the moon, asked,’ why is it important? maybe the journey is more important than the destination.’
l, the other half of my small team at work quietly says, ‘maybe you need to define what you mean by retirement. after all, being in a place where you can afford to rest is a valid goal.'
there were others equally insightful perspectives i got from others but none of them seem to assuage the restless feeling i have inside.
and then i watched the equus and i realised it is possible i am asking the wrong question.
the thing is, i have goals. they may be not as single-minded as before, but they are there. the feeling of listlessness emanates not from its absence but from the feeling of losing passion.
in the play, Dysart, the psychiatrist, called it ‘professional menopause’. the lack of ‘worship’. something that happens to you as you become more trained. as you age, perhaps. you cease to wonder or be surprised. you think the outcome will never be good or bad but always something in between and there’s very little you can do to influence it.
sad? perhaps. i’d like to think of it as a wake-up call. my own version of raging against the dying of the light.
i know for a fact that i once had passion. that means i have a capacity for it. like riding a horse, i should be able to do it again once i been saddled up for some time. if i have to unlearn my cynicism to break it, at least the wind will be blowing against my face.
so next time, when my life’s Strang asks me and challenges my demons, ‘at least I galloped – when did you?’ – i will answer:
once, and sometime soon - i’ll race you.