I am reading Anna Karenina these days and there is one paragraph that has stuck with me for all these weeks. So I better share it, right?
Leo Tolstoy wrote, describing his character, Stepan Arkadyevitch…
“Stepan Akadyevitch took in and read a liberal paper, not an extreme one, but one advocating the views held by the majority. And in spite of the fact that science, art, and politics had no special interest for him, he firmly held those views on all these subjects which were held by the majority and the paper, and he changed them when the majority changed them–or, more strictly speaking, he did not change them, but they imperceptibly changed of themselves within him.
Stepan Arkadyevitch had not chosen his political opinions or his views; these political opinions and views had come to him of themselves, just as he did not choose the shape of his hat or coat, but simply took those that were being worn. And for him, living in a certain society-owing to the need, ordinarily developed at years of discretion, for some degree of mental activity–to have views was just as indispensable as to have a hat. “
Although he was born in the year 1828, Tolstoy’s words are not only relevant but define our society to a great extent till today. I have never found such an apposite description of things! Stepan’s political preferences and his opinions about anything and everything stem from an unrealized chasm-deep indifference, a trait pretty easy to find in most of us. They say that somebody too opinionated is way too consequential but I think it is a lot better than having no opinion at all or having a personal statement that is so infused with what others think and say that it has nothing typical of you left. It is only done to be a hypocritical highbrow.
This also reminds me of another content I came across a few months back. Oprah was interviewing J. K. Rowling and there J. K. mentioned that when she was looking for a man, she was searching for somebody who had a very strong sense of himself, just as she has (all of her friends thought that it was something very hard to find!). The two ladies (Oprah and J. K.) joked that she had not asked for Jesus, but for a normal, cerebrating human being!.
I think it is one of the biggest tragedies of our time, specially in the social circuits in India that people fail to construct their own syllogisms and simply swallow whatever is served to them just as Stepan does.
Albeit the paucity of profound thinkers is immense in the society we live in, some of us who can change it, please do!! It is a heartfelt entreaty!