Ajai R. Singh MD

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On Non-Issues

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New Quest, 86, Mar-Apr 1991, p89-97.

 

 

Ajay R. Singh & Shakuntala A. Singh

 

 

On Non-Issues*

 

I

 

IT IS POSSIBLE OFCOURSE to end this paper ex­actly where we begin by making a statement: Non-Issues need not be made an Issue of. And it would not be far from the truth if we do. But making a factual statement does not necessarily imply either the ability or the inclination to carry it out. Neither does it indicate anything in the na­ture of the state or level of awareness, nor even whether it is in fact practiced or considered prac­ticable; or for that matter if it is understood at all. Statements made quite simply may be unthought of as to deeper implications. And it is the rare statement which after consideration of deeper im­plications can still in the end be simply made.

II

II.1 Consider the manipulative-exploitative use of Non-Issues. Innumerable examples can be cited from history, wars and conflicts, politics and mass struggles, religion and interpersonal rela­tions where this is skillfully (and, sometimes, not so skillfully) done. A Non-Issue can serve, fur­ther, the important purpose of inflaming mass passions. Whether it be assassination of the Austrian prince which sparked off the First World War, use of beef in cartridges which sparked the 1857 Indian War of  

 *Synoptic version of this paper was presented in the Ethics and Social Philosophy section of the 64th Session of the Indian Philosophical Congress, University of Gujarat, 15-17 Oct., 1989.

 

 

Independence (call it the Indian Sepoy Mutiny, if you wish); the use of tal­low in soap; playing of music before mosques; the 'blasphemy' of hanging a leg of beef in front of a Hindu temple; carrying of Kirpans in air­crafts; entry of the police-military in places of worship, right to personal laws; or linguistic sub­divisions of states - Non-Issues serve as the ral­lying factor, helping strike responsive chords in like-minded others, urging them to convert them into Issues. Of course not all will agree that these examples are Non-Issues. But that is exactly how Non-Issues are. They compel us to convert them into Issues in our minds.

Non-Issues many a times help in Issues being brought to a head, in a full and open conflict They serve as the match that lights the hay-stack. Non-Issues with emotive-religious-economic-eth­nic appeal are specially important here. Once in­dividuals are united over a specially dear wish, tradition or dogma, it is but a step to bring about a confrontation which may help solve wider and more important Issues. Consider the salt-satya­graha of Gandhi. The matter, superficially, was a trivial one, of making salt. But note how it got converted into an individual's basic right to a fun­damental need, for which he could not be com­pelled to pay any taxes. Note also how skillfully the master-mind of mass-movement organisers used it as a fulcrum to unite like-minded individ­uals, projecting it as a symbol of their expression for freedom. Consider, again, how no one grudges paying the present government taxes over salt, or any identical matter. The Non-Issue was made important then to bring things to a head; it is no longer important now and has hence lost signifi­cance in the present context.

II.2 Non-Issues commonly get used as the prover­bial last straw on the camel's back. Usually, feel­ings of love, envy, hate, resentment and guilt can be harbored in some state of stable/unstable equi­librium for long till a Non-Issue crops up and helps an individual (or group) almost crystallize his (their) stand or viewpoint. The Non-Issue serves as a via-media, a pretext, an outlet for the expression or experience of long simmering, un­resolved feelings and difficulties. Therefore, trou­ble that may be brewing inwardly for long may burst with the force of a volcano over a supposed­ly trivial matter. Most individuals are taken aback by the intensity displayed in such situations - an intensity not at all commensurate with what is apparently at stake. We undervalue, thereby, the tremendous ability that Non-Issues have to liber­ate long repressed convictions. In fact, at certain times and in certain situations, individuals and groups may deliberately seek to carry out such an exercise. A state of uncertainty or conflict within is anathema to the mind, notwithstanding the fact that its resolution can result in major uncertainty and conflict without. Non-Issues serve as the scalpel that incises a long-festering, deep-rooted boil. It may be a small taunt, an abuse, or an ac­cusation. But to serve this purpose it should be properly directed. It needs to be a direct, though may be minor, attack on an emotionally (not only intellectually) dear thought or principle. And a whole torrent of emotions seething within burst to the surface.

Hence the worth of abuses. If observed a lit­tle closely one finds they are usually directed to things one holds emotionally dear. Therein lies their scalpel-wielding potential. Whether it be abuse to mother, to sexual capacity, to the sacred thread, to the state of the fore-skin, or to the 'mother'-land. But we shall come back to quar­rels and abuses later.

II.3 Excessive concern with Issues can convert them into Non-issues. Excessive propagation of an ideal, trend of thought or 'Issue' can itself re­sult in disenchantment and, equally important, boredom. This is especially true in a branch like philosophy where so many problems are capable of discussion but so few are a.menable to solution. And in similar situations elsewhere. It would probably be more correct to say that Issues get perceived as Non-Issues. They do not get con­verted, much though the manipulator and the vac­illating person may wish, but are no longer perceived as such. The mind adopts this as a de­fense, to say, as though, 'Enough, and no more', This applies as much to the good things of life as to the worse, to the desirable as well as the unde­sirable. Hence the rich man bored with his riches, the poor revolting against his poverty, the beauti­ful sick of being praised, the intellectual tired of acting the genius, the ideological zealot doing an intellectual somersault, the celebrity weary of act­ing a star, the star craving the commoner's unos­tentation.

While we are at this  exercise, let us also seek an answer to the converse of our earlier state­ment Can excessive concern with Non-Issues convert then into Issues? The answer is, yes, at least to some extent. That is what, in fact, occurs for many people in so many situations. A slogan or campaign drummed up by the media; parties, meetings, seminars and conferences that discuss and regularly report only certain topics; craze over the latest in certain fields of research; scoop into the private lives of celebrities and politicians. This is what the exploiter-manipulator constantly seeks to carry out, the ignoramus wallows in, the enlightened attempts to eschew.

 

II.4 The elaboration of Non-Issues can sometimes act as an indicator to the state of relationships. Those in which Non-Issues get supreme impor­tance, in negative or positive connotation, are usually shallow, immature and/or fragile. Exchanging pleasantries and goody-goody talk here become important or major vehicles of com­munication. Also, when a relationship which ear­lier used to concentrate on Issues starts concentrating on Non-Issues, it should alert the individuals concerned to the occurrence of this shift. Amends, if desired, have to be carried out swiftly; the situation otherwise cannot but terminate or, worse, go sour. Similarly, soured or bro­ken relationships shift to a positive status only by passing through an intermediate stage when it concentrates on Non-Issues with neutral or demonstratively positive emotive appeal.

Non-Issues can at times serve the important purpose of keeping up semblance of good rela­tionship. It can result, for example, in the babying situation where every small wish of the other is taken care of, provided it continues to remain small. The moment bigger ones get raised, Non ­Issues themselves serve as the weapon to strike them down. Thus, when the career-minded wife seeks to exercise her individuality, the otherwise very considerate husband would raise the exact bogey of how his consideration and care is all that she should need. Or, when a husband seeks an in­tellectually fulfilling relationship elsewhere, the extremely loving but intellectually unsatisfying wife may make an issue of how her companion­ship is all he should need, her love being betrayed or spurned otherwise.

The use of Non-Issues to keep up appear­ances of good relationship specially occurs in po­tentially fragile ones, e.g. between paramours, newly-weds, ideologically and/or emotionally contrasting individuals, group or nations who de­cide to collaborate (witness, for example, the Janata government at the centre, and its fall: ­it's difficult to keep up semblances in fragile rela­tionships for long), between non-intimate but semblance- necessary relationships (the exam­ple of protocol immediately suggests itself here: tremendous value is accorded to it in political cir­cles for this very reason. It can be justifiably bro­ken only as a signal of greater intimacy; when justifiably done, a Non-Issue such as this can make many heads roll.)

 

II.5 Most quarrels, if not all, are over Non-Issues. This applies as much to the common street-brawl as the so-called ideological controversies in phi­losophy or conceptually related branches. Those over Issues usually do not get such a chance. They remain conflicting view-points, occasional­ly develop into slanging encounters. But rarely do they get the variegated accusatory or incriminato­ry character of a quarrel. We must stress that both accusation and incrimination are essential pre­requisites here. There may or may not be others, but these must be there. Eschew them, and you can't have one. Just add them to any situation, and you have a full-blown one. The more adept you can be in this addition, the more can you elaborate upon and the greater your success in its use.

 

If one wishes to have star-examples of Non ­Issues being made important, consider street­ fights, or the purpose and content of abuses. If you ever get an opportunity to listen to the colourlul oratory of these specimen, don't miss it, because you will find here expertise that would put the most adept debater to shame. Not only is the language profuse in profanity, it is exuberant in imagination and adroit in mixing concepts. And all symbols of attack and defense are Non ­Issues. The commonest attack in an abuse or ver­bal assault is either the lack of moral turpitude in, or the expressed desire to rape or '****' the ad­versary, or one of his/her near or dear ones. Thus, abuses involve insinuations of incestuous rela­tionships on the adversary's part, or alleged. threatened or challenged sexual intimacy on the perpetrator's part, with one from the adversary's family. The comedy of the whole affair is that this need have no relevance to reality whatsoever. If, for example, the abuser says, ‘I’ll **** you', to another belonging to the same sex, it is immateri­al that he doesn't have any homosexual tenden­cies and would otherwise balk at the very suggestion of such a relationship. If the abuser ac­cuses another of incestuous relations with sister, it is immaterial if in reality the other has none; and if with mother, that she expired well in his child­hood. A shining example of the comedy of abuses was when one of us chanced to hear an extremely angry woman threatening a man in a quarrel. She was swearing time and again she would kidnap his wife that very night and seduce her - and that with her husband sitting quietly by the side in the courtyard of his hut, calmly contemplating his bidi.

 

II.6 And just as there is a comedy of abuses, we cannot neglect the importance of comedy itself. Apart from the abracadabra of punch, brevity, timing, naiveté, innuendo, rhyming, punning, suggestively, physical contortions, interludes of a particular nature, disparity between words and ac­tion etc. etc. in the making of a comedy, good or passable, slap-stick or subtle, there is also one other essential prerequisite. The enjoyment can be either at others' or one's own cost, but it should primarily be over Non-Issues. The situation is comic when a Donald Duck or a Mickey Mouse digs into the sand or falls into the sea when trying to surf. But it no longer raises a guffaw if he is in reality drowned. The moment the situation as­sumes significance as an Issue, or even comes anywhere near it, comedy disappears and tragedy looms over the horizon. The shrewd comedy writ­er is well aware of this and constantly seeks to carry this out. He switches over from comedy and leads his audience to the brink of tragedy's precipice. But he never allows the actual fall to occur (unless of course he wishes to make a tragi­comedy). In how well is this switch carried out lies his expertise and often his success. This is what Wodehouse does with his Bertie Wooster and Walt Disney with his Mickey Mouse; or Charlie Chaplin, or even Laurel and Hardy. In this manner the comedy writer enhances the dramatic effect of his comic interludes. For, comedy re­mains entertaining and light only if tragedy is kept out of the picture. One can mix comedy with quarrels, estrangements, stupidity, tomfoolery, anger. But the moment the writer attempts to lead any of these to their logical conclusion, comedy ceases and tragedy must take over. The whole business of different forms of comedy writing or direction is in how subtle, loud or under-played, this whole situation is made and how well the writer/director succeeds in playing with such con­trivances, without bringing into the consciousness of his audience the realisation of Issues. One can thus grasp the tight rope walk that this type of work involves; and also why most people con­cerned with the production of comedy consider it a very serious business instead.

This may be disputed by some comedy-writ­ers and their commentators, especially the type who make tragi-comedies, or deal with satire. But for both these, comedy is only a vehicle, nay a fa­cade, and though it may apparently so seem, com­edy per se is neither their absolute nor primary aim. Strictly speaking, therefore, they fall outside the preview of our present comment. But we may go so far as to say that even here realisation of issues is only at the sub-liminal fringe of con­sciousness. In fact its surging growth must keep in step with the hilarity of the comic interludes, but always at the outskirts of cognition, never manifestedly overstepping except in small spurts if at all. If can only become loud, discursive and jarring in its aesthetic appeal otherwise.

 

II.7 Non-Issues can become Issues when they serve our purpose. Non-Issues remain Non-Issues when put in their proper perspective. Every 'suc­cessful' individual learns very early in life the value of differentiating between the two. He also learns early to guard against making, or allowing others to make, Non-Issues Issues, or Issues Non- I ssues. He also learns the skillful manipulative use of converting Non-Issues into Issues, or pre­senting Issues as Non-Issues, if it suits his purpose. Herein lies the secret success formula of most famous politicians, diplomats and schemers (Machiavelli or no Machiavelli), in whatever field they choose as their domain.

The manipulator doles out favours over Non­ Issues and makes it appear as though he is solving Issues. Those who deal with masses use their expertise in this direction continuously, whether they be politicians, industrialists, writers, media men, or others. Thus, the politician doles out parlances of food or shelter to a section of the pee and makes that an occasion for a lengthy discourse over high sounding poverty-eradication programmes. The industrialist offers a niggardly pay-rise and makes an agreement of substantial benefit to his firm. The writer puts in comic or titillating interludes to make a best seller and claim it to be a significant work of fiction. The film maker dishes out a pot-pouri with a dash of cabaret here, a touch of comedy there, a dab of horror here, a splash of fights there, to make essentially a box-office hit, but claims it to be a 'drama that exposes and fights social evils'. A scribe ostensibly crusades for a clean socio-politi­cal order but makes essentially an arresting fea­ture, to improve his credibility, and jack up his price.

 

II.8 Some masters of debate make skillful use of Non-Issues to impress audiences. The central or significant point of another speaker is neglected or purposely connived at, concentrating on some peripheral Issues which appears exceptionally weak or strong, thereby presenting as though the whole argument is such. In this adroit way-laying, uncompromising critics and blind followers are remarkably adept; and special expertise belongs to those of the more voluble or prolific variety. Skillful oratory may at times involve use of im­pressive language at the expense of substance. Oratory is specially useful for this purpose. It is usually difficult to get away with this in writing, though not impossible. For example, mediocrity can masquerade as genius by playing the in­scrutable. But the way-layer does get exposed in course of time because the written matter can be gone over and re-evaluated. The spoken word, es­pecially an oration of intellectual-emotive appeal, by use of public-speaking techniques and juxta­position of the well accepted with other concepts sneaked in also to make them so appear, may not give the time, or encourage the inclination, to do so. The awe-struck or star-struck audience, for example, has almost certainly been taken for such a ride. That is why many times very impressive appearing speeches or words of mouth appear in­sipid when penned down or read. Similarly, very impressive written matter may appear boring when read before an audience without the expert use of mass audio-visual appeal. And from the boring to the inconsequential is but a small step.

 

ll.9 Most worthwhile chair-persons of de­bates in which individuals of varied, especially conflicting, viewpoints assemble have to con­stantly guide deliberations by maneuvering or insisting on the participants to stick, or revert to, Issues, and avoid slinging over Non-Issues. The judgment of a good or poor chair-person rests in how soon he recognizes, and how successfully he reverses, such trends.

Non-Issues also serve the important purpose of acting as outlets for inflamed passions in group situations. They occupy a major part of their time, effort and agenda. Consider meetings, of clubs, societies, cooperatives, companies or nations. Anyone with some experience of attending or presiding over such meetings will agree that it is Non-Issues which usually play a dominant role and excite the most heated verbal exchanges. Most coteries and cliques speak unanimously and are solidly united and most vociferous with re­spect to Non-Issues. It is Issues over which there is either poor discussion, a prolonged but incon­clusive one, or the exercise of a veto. This applies to groups everywhere, whether a housing society, an association, an educational institution, or the United Nations. The President/Chairman retains the power of ruling, the five super-powers of the U.N. have their power of veto to see to it that Non-Issues do not get the chance to become Issues. But often the exact opposite is the case. The weapon is used to convert Issues into Non­Issues, so that the latter get the opportunity to be projected as Issues, whilst individuals and groups stand helplessly watching. The results are the dis­illusioned statesman who finds himself a misfit in the debasement of power-politics and its intrigu­ing goings-on, the dedicated worker who is un­heard, harassed or put-down, and the petty ­fogging political ladder-climber who uses the sys­tem to his maximum advantage. The loss that Issues incur  thereby, by being thus converted into Non-Issues, is phenomenal.

 

II.IO One of the best ways of camouflaging the worth of Non-Issues is by subtly mixing them with Issues. Disguised or impassioned appeals to sense of pity and sympathy, loyalty and patrio­tism, with overt appeals to reason and logic is one of the most commonly used methods. It is espe­cially employed by those who, for example, appeal for individuals found guilty of committing wrong or in need of retribution, for indicting oth­ers, and for messiahs of various causes. Thus advocates who plead for criminals, cliques after some-one's blood. priests who seek divine inter­vention for wrong-doers, or followers who herald a prophet are its greatest exponents.

 

II.11 Let us now focus attention on literature and the creative fields. First, the films. Here, the dif­ference between Issues and Non-Issues is special­ly clear. Films which lack a thorough-going or creative worth involve the characters into numer­ous side-issues, usually ill-connected. A movie that is a work of art, usually concentrates on a central theme, uses new characters, desists from diversionary tactics like fights, dance, song, cabaret or melodramatic sequences unless a must in the narrative (the best example of this would of course be a film about fights, songs or cabaret; here inclusion cannot but be legitimate). The same principle applies to any other work of art. whether poetry, story-writing, painting or Indian classical music. In fact, what distinguishes a mun­dane work from a classic is this constant concern with Non-Issues in the former and Issues in the latter. What distinguishes a trend-setter from a bush-beater is about the same. (We don't know whether our present exercise falls in the latter cat­egory. Can we take solace in the fact that we are concentrating on the Issue of Non-Issues?).

Some clarification of certain works which are considered classics but may not follow our above rule must be offered here. Consider the 'Mahabharata', or Tolstoy's magnum opus, 'War and Peace' , to cite just two. There are many char­acters here, many diversions in the narrative and enough appeal to many types of emotions. Does that not disprove our contention?

In both works, as in any mass situation like a war, a multitude of characters need to be in­volved, a variety of emotions need to be experi­enced, a number of sequences, major and minor, have to be narrated. The central theme, however, the Issue, remains only one - War (and Peace, too, if you please), The characters, if anything, have significance only as related to this central theme. The presence of a multitude of characters, in fact, serves the very purpose of highlighting the variegated nature of this enterprise of man. And those parts of such creations which stray into Non-Issues are exactly the ones that detract from the worth of these otherwise immensely readable works.

 

II.12 What, after all, is the purpose of meditation, dhyana, or psychotherapy? Or, even, of proper teaching, or knowledge? It essentially involves the ability to concentrate on Issues and to desist from Non-Issues. The literate becomes educated, knowledge becomes wisdom, the neurotic be­comes stable only when this occurs. The student becomes a good disciple when he can do so and the teacher becomes a good guru when he can prevent his student from not doing so. Detractors, and those who get distracted. are precisely those who are unable to differentiate between the two.

 

II.13 Issues have a specificity of time, space and person. Something that is an Issue at one time, in a particular context, or for a particular individual, may be a Non-Issue at another time, in another context, for another individual or, even from same person at a different time, in a different con­text. Needs, feelings, thoughts and actions also have their specificities. The presence of food is irrelevant when one is thirsty, or vice-versa. The emotion of deep caring is irrelevant in a casual re­lationship; in fact, the moment it starts becoming an Issue, it causes either a reorientation or a disin­tegration. The consideration of justice is immate­rial to the need for revenge. The moment sense of justice becomes important, revenge loses its qual­ity of blind hatred and cannot sustain itself. Sex, similarly, is a Non-Issue in a platonic relation­ship: if it starts becoming an Issue, the relation­ship cannot but lose its platonic status.

We must also comment on the manipulative use of specificities. Thinking about a speaker's or writer's personal appearance, apparel or decora­tions, titles and degrees, should be a Non-Issue while judging his speech or writing. Concentra­tion on his style of speaking or nuances of language can similarly mar one's concentration on the essence of his thought. And yet so often these Non-Issues become the very Issues which im­press audiences to a major degree. Much of what is known as star or glamour value is based on this emotive appeal brought about by skillful use of Non-Issues. All public men desirous of popularity use it and prefer to err on the side of over, rather than under, use. The best verification of this is when such individuals or agencies lose their star potential. Suddenly, the very action, gestures or mannerisms that used to appear attractive before become lackluster, rather ludicrous, now. This is also why stars of a past era fail to generate star struck enthusiasts in the folliowng. Similarly, stars of today may be unable to excite the imagi­nation of a generation past. A better example of specificities may be hard to find.

There are, however, some Issues which are Non-specific with regard to time, space and per­son. In this sphere must come the noblest of virtues and the basest of vices, both difficult to justify as person, time or space specific. Here are those eternal values which have universal appeal and have always remained Issues, which detrac­tors have constantly tried to convert into Non ­Issues but always fought a losing battle over. They have surfaced and resurfaced in many gen­erations, cultures and literatures. They continue to remain the refrain of thinking people of all times, often defying attempts at solution, as they defy our  rule of specificity.

 

III

 

III.1 We must now draw a line.

III.2 Concern with exposing Non-Issues for what they are worth can also have its draw-backs.

Most enjoyable moments of life are over Non-Issues. Whether it be lovers playing hide­-and-seek, the beauty sun-bathing, the prude. sermonising, friends gossiping, cups of tea, card-games, friends going for long walks on lone­ly stretches. None of these are worthy of being considered Issues, except by the advertising media. Yet they may be exactly the stuff of which the small pleasures of life are made. And one can be very much the loser by missing out on them. The joy of identifying with the know-all, omni­potent hero of a third-rate movie, the pleasure of witnessing a no-holds-barred verbal assault, the slanging matches between people and groups in debates and meetings - there is something to lose in being unable to experience or enjoy their flavour.

 

III.3 Non-Issues serve as a preamble to Issues. Preliminary ice-breaking and softening up is usu­ally their privilege. The weather, health enquiries, children and spouse's welfare, who's who, opin­ion on current affairs all serve this purpose ad­mirably. Communication may appear brusque, ill-mannered and ill-advised if conducted other­wise.

They have another purpose as well. When used later on during communication, they serve to convey Issues; or lead to them. Occasionally they become road-blocks when stubborn insistence on trivialities scuttles settlement of Issues. Most other times, however, they are used to adroitly convey what the Issues at stake are. This occurs as much between negotiators as between newly formed acquaintances. It is best highlighted in the oft-repeated instance of a man proposing. Both the comedy and the intensity of such interludes are dependent on how efficiently Non-Issues serve as a preamble to and suggestively convey Issues, or lead to them, without causing shock, embarrassment or panic. And during a retrospec­tive reverie, it is these Non-Issues which are most tenderly remembered, even when the Issue no longer remains enjoyable. The fondness of re­membering the impossibilities of the first time need not be marred by the insipidity of all the other times that is in fact the present state of af­fairs.

 

III.4 Non-Issues can bring the sun-shine back into so many lives. A simple hand-shake, a small pat on the back, a common sorry, a heart-felt condo­lence, a prompt reply can be the way Non-Issues soothe, nurture or nurse wounded feelings. deep­ set hurts or long-felt resentments back to health.

 

And how so very rarely do they get used. A little warmth genuinely reciprocated can help melt so much unnecessary caution that borders on distrust, thaw the reserve and lack of spontaneity in inflated egos, remove the crust of masks and fronts and reveal the essential humane core in the most snobbish, render unnecessary the need to erect barriers and barricades to mind or body: to make only calculated moves, if at all; and the obsession with guarding one's privacy that shuts off as much unnecessary as necessary input.

 

III.5 The joy of a lilting melody, the bubbling verve of an idiotic beauty, the flavour of scandal ­laced gossip, the impossibilities of a comic-serial, the tear-jerkings of a soap-opera, the foot-tapping and hand-clapping of a pop sequence, the robust rhythm of a qawwali, the pirouetting over a disco sequence; enjoyment of the antics of men in posi­tion, somersaults of politicians, the prancing of prudish aristocracy - why need one lose the ability to enjoy all these for the vestal pleasures of classical music, the intricacies of the velvety ghazal, the joy of a Mona Lisa a Rembrandt or a Reuben, a Kalidas or a Shakespeare? There is no rational justification for one approach castigating the other. And one has nothing to lose really by giving up the prudishness that results from dog­matic adherence to anyone of these approaches. If anything, both can be thoroughly experienced, if not by personal involvement, at least as a re­ceptive spectator willing to be amused.

III.6 Thinking over Non-Issues, therefore, may be an Issue worth thinking over. And discovering, and experiencing. The smaller mercies of life are hard to get. The larger ones are out of reach, any­way. One cannot, therefore, lose the opportunity or ability to enjoy Non-Issues. That would be the surest form of self-torture, and masochism.

One cannot also lose the ability to discrimi­nate between Issues and Non-Issues. Especially where it can malter. A stable personality is a happy blend of Issues and Non-Issues. The Issues are to be vigorously pursued, the Non­ Issues to be thoroughly enjoyed. At no stage, however, should the individual allow them to get inextricably intertwined. They have to co-exist, but side-by-side, not in an amalgam. Not for a moment should one be allowed to negatively in­fluence the other. And not for a moment should one be robbed of the infinite joys that can result therefrom.

Of course we do not mean thereby that some­thing vigorously pursued cannot also be thor­oughly enjoyed, because the enjoyment can be as much the result of the pursuit as the pursuit of the enjoyment However, it is difficult, though tempt­ing, to accept the converse statement as proper. Non-Issues need to be thoroughly enjoyed but cannot be vigorously pursued, because that can only be at the cost of Issues. We may also add that Issues need be vigorously pursued but not that thoroughly as to exclude the enjoyment of Non-Issues. Issues also need not be that thor­oughly enjoyed that it disallows the enjoyment of concurrent Non-Issues. We may go so far as to say that neither Issues nor Non-Issues need be pursued/enjoyed at each other's expense.

III.7 What makes sceptics, pessimists and cynics the unenjoyable specimen that they are is not their total involvement with Issues or exposing Non-Issues but their inability to enjoy Non­ Issues. If only they could shed this, they would come into their legitimate inheritance, and deliv­erance. But, of course, this may endanger their identity and probably hinder  them in the pursuit of what they consider Issues. This, in itself, may be no small problem for them to resolve. But then an identity that falls heavily on one's shoulders is best got rid of before the shoulder itself gives way.

What, again, makes the absolute hedonist re­pulsive is lack of the pursuit of Issues and a total involvement  with enjoyment of Non-Issues. He may do himself a good turn by realising that fun and frolic extract their own price in the form of melancholy and disenchantment if delinked from an abiding commitment to at least some Issues.

A stable personality, therefore, would be wise to steer clear of both extremes.

 

III.8 Philosophy especially can do with being less sombre and sour-faced. Or sounding like a re­quiem. Serious pursuits need not be carried out in a grave manner. One can avoid being considered frivolous or flippant by means other than solem­nity or pomposity. And it is mere poppycock that needs the subterfuge of pedagogy or pontificality. By appearing intense, dedicated, obsessed or ha­rassed one can succeed in conveying honesty of purpose. But to more avail would be an intensity that is not an obsession, a dedication which is un­harassed, a genius that is not a snob, a honesty which is not doctrinaire, a purposefulness that is neither a crusade nor a diktat.

 

Of greater import is the joy de vivre of describing the bubbling ecstacy of a baby's smile or the twinkle of mischief in a toddler's eyes than all the reams that can be written in aesthetics. Read Will Durant's autobiography, 'Transition'. Especially his final chapter. Or note the way in which most seeking or creative. souls come into their deliverance. Ideology, power, money, fame, all become redundant.

 

Non-Issues becomes the supreme Issues.

••

 

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