Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Malaise of Lethargy

"We were not sent into this world to enjoy the loveliness therein, nor to sit us down in passive ease; no, we were sent here for action." - Dorothea Dix, 19th century American social activist.

Last October, the first time in eight months, my blog skipped it's regular monthly post.

On the brink of completing one year as a blogger, when I pause and look back, this period has brought about a profound effect on me as an individual, a student, a writer, and Homo sapiens in general. Apart from helping a scattered mind gather itself and coordinating my hugely incohesive thoughts into somewhat framed structures, a big lesson was the practice of setting myself goals every month and working to pin them down. To the expert procrastinator that I am, this setting of goals (and achieving them) is a hugely difficult task.

I just missed one of my goals last month, thanks to a monster named Lethargy.

Lethargy leads, within the blink of an eye, to depression
Life of a college student is without doubt a busy affair. I have my regular studies to take care of, do my share of household chores, mind the important business of hanging out with friends, pursue my other umpteen out-of-the-curriculum activities, write lab reports, meet Professors, read and re-read books, and I could go on for a day. Busy life, right! Last month when a friend of mine inquired about my blog, or rather the absence of it, pat came my reply. I told her how pressed for time I was and how my daily schedule was resembling that of Hillary Clinton, crisscrossing the length and breadth of America in her campaign trails. Codswallop. My excuse was about as credible as Donald Trump paying a courtesy fundraising visit to a Syrian refugee camp. What my literary friend eventually summarized for me as "writer's block", was identified by me accurately and ironically as an acute case of the malady called Lethargy. The destroyer of youth, the wrecker of potential, the executioner of talent at the guillotine of indolence, on a mass scale.

If the human brain is fertile land, the world around us is a provider of vibrant seeds aplenty, waiting for appropriate nurturing to bring them to full bloom. Perched on the apex of the divine creation pyramid, we are separated from our lowly primitive ancestors of the animal kingdom by the wish and will to contribute to the world in ways other than only to eat excrete and procreate. Being lucky enough to spend most of my time in company of astute and gifted brains at college and elsewhere, I can observe in people around me the potential to take the world by storm. But it is in converting this potential to actual results that a spanner is placed in the works. The exotic ingredients for an exquisite platter are all available in copious amounts, but there is no one to stoke the flame.

O Lethargy, what a disease you are! Merriam-Webster defines it as "the quality or state of being lazy, sluggish, or indifferent", which doesn't half describe the malady it is. Lethargy now is such a big disease among the youth that you will hardly find anything unaffected by it's spread. From turning upside down the daily routine to adversely affecting examination grades, the reach is ginormous. The disease is contagious as well, as a lot of people residing in uninspiring company know to their own cost. Lethargy is that state when one just cannot be bothered enough to do anything - pertaining to use of either the brain or the body. To maintain status quo is Heaven to the lethargic. Absentmindedly surfing through TV channels or perfunctorily making one's way through News Feed on social media - a large portion of the time wasted due to lethargy owes itself to the electronic means available to us nowadays.

Every day when I wake up in the morning, with the first splash of cold water over my face which removes traces of sleepiness from the mind, a tug-of-war begins. You have that article to finish you've been planning on for two weeks now, and you also need to sit down with the syllabus of the upcoming mid-semesters because it really is quite vast this time around: one part of the cranium tries to nudge me into action. But before the action is actually carried out, there is another thought which pops up on the mental notification window - six new messages on WhatsApp bearing some completely useless information, and there is that new video from such-and-such YouTube channel who make vaguely amusing parodies and sketches. And oh, do I see a long break in between classes at college today? That calls for redundant loitering around and perusal of useless activities, and to hell with the new design concept I wanted to consult that Professor about! Who wins the battle in the brain, I suppose, is as clear as the Yamuna waters to all and sundry.

Source: Elon Musk: The world's Raddest Man
In the meantime, one gets those spasms of inspiration. A finely crafted film, an arousing lecture from a visionary Professor or even a fine piece of music, is capable of generating the sudden will and energy to break the ubiquitous barriers of lethargy. Reading about Elon Musk makes me want to do space research, listening to Michel Petrucciani on the piano makes me a jazz addict for days, and hearing a galvanized Professor enlighten us on some amazing scientific discovery gives me the creeps. These thrills, unfortunately, are ephemeral in nature like the life of a mayfly, and just like the reel of a film, they come to an end.

So how are we actually affected by the symptoms of lethargy? During these days of youth, the human brain is working at it's highest efficiency and when utilized to it's optimum, is capable of producing much useful and productive results. In the atmosphere of mediocrity we live in, being average is sufficient, so not many take the pain to excel. Were any sociologist to do some research on this, I'm sure we would find quite a substantial loss occurring to the nation's GDP each year, thanks to under-utilization of talent and skill of the young minds. (Those who do utilize, eventually seek greener pastures abroad.) The brightest of the lot have fallen prey to inertia, and waste what God had gifted them with. "Every body continues to remain in it's state of rest...........unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force" - Sir Isaac Newton finds applicability everywhere.

Speaking of inspiration...
So it's time to locate the external unbalanced force! Set your alarm clock, keep away the mobile phone, have a breath of fresh morning air and look out - there lies inspiration in every corner of the street and in every person down the road. The sweet water at the bottom of a well is waiting to quench the thirst of anyone who cares to drink it, but you need a rope long enough. The universe outside is waiting for you.

Dedicated partly to all my sleeping friends whom I am desperate to awaken, and partly to my own self, who is in considerable need of awakening himself.