A Vision is a Lonely Place

A vision is a curse. The thing not seen sits just behind the screen, coursing through your veins as a fire. Burning down reason and pragmatism in its urgency to be born, to become a material reality.

It is a madness, that excludes the mundane from its consideration. You wish to speak out – to cast in words what is clothed in the mists of possibilities, but no words consent to carry the fire. And you are left holding it in hollow of your breast. Will it burn down the form that bears it, or will the clay of mortality be transmuted by the fire?

Cassandra, The Archetype

Ajax_and_Cassandra

 

Perhaps the best archetype of a visionary comes from Greek mythology as Cassandra, daughter of King Priam of Troy. She is given a boon by Apollo to see the future but, perhaps due to the vagaries of godly nature, also curses her that none would believe her words. The delicious irony of it all, to see and yet not have anyone believe! The helplessness of being unable to guide her kin away from their destined doom.

Of course this is an archetype, an idealized personification of the visionary type. Reality is far away, and diluted many times over, from this essence. But however miniscule the vision, it comes with a proportionate sting.

 

 

The Problem of Reality

The above thoughts will make perfect sense for those who have had an intense creative urge. Not just the artistic or the literary variety but even the more pragmatic and technological variety.

If your vision is sufficiently advanced, it is almost a given that reality will refuse to entertain it, to see the concrete lurking behind the possibility.

This is indeed a hard phase for any creator or visionary. The solutions offered by books on harnessing your creativity, being effective innovators etc. are rather simplistic and offer rational solutions to a state that is beyond reason.

Reality is a complex machinery, there seems to be a method but it eludes any formulation. Those who intuit a method, do so in hindsight but never when in the eye of the storm. The management gurus and their ilk study the cadavers of the past to figure out the elixir of the future.

The Magic Word for Creators

There is no single incantation that will purge the vision into reality. No single act that can be the bridge between possibility and reality.

What is required is a sustained aspiration to hold the vision within and a multitude of numberless acts that chip away at reality. The dream can be made real if fuelled by relentless pursuit. Not the mad rush of the intoxicated, expending a fiery passion on a single lunge. But the unyielding will of a desert nomad moving towards an oasis, or perhaps the will of Yogi seeking to quell thought.

My Greatest Engineering Challenge

Putting man on the moon, sending a probe to the remote edges of our solar system, instrumenting the planet, reversing global warming, finding a cure for cancer and AIDS and every other scientific endeavor that engages our collective attentions are worthy problems as candidates for the title of Greatest Engineering Challenge Ever.

But all these pale into insignificance before the one true problem, at least according to me. That is the problem of purpose, that has confounded, baffled and defeated all but a handful of us since the first animal pondered cause and effect.

Problem of purpose forks into the following trinity of questions – Who am I, what am I here for and what do I become. Questions that have been mistakenly considered as axioms and resisted honest investigation.

As someone attempting to comprehend and practice the methods prescribed by Buddha, I have come to realize this emphatically – Introspection is a path littered with inner conflict. The notions and ideas that make up the sense of self are all placed in doubt. Self-identity is no longer a given. In the place of a homogeneous entity there is a mass of influences and impulses. It is a time of great confusion.

Contrary to general perceptions this decomposition of the sense of self and the analysis of its constituent parts seems to share an intimate affinity with the scientific method that is characteristic of modern sciences. And the elegance of this endeavor lies in the fact that the experiment and the experimenter are one.

We work on our own selves and help re-make ourselves anew. The methods and techniques of our experiments have an exactitude that is more unforgiving than a programming language compiler that barks a warning at the least deviation from the required syntax.

Of all that life churns out in its fevered imaginations, and of all the trials and tribulations I have had the opportunity to confront, this is my greatest engineering challenge ever.