I was not a very happy teenager. Indeed, I believe I was a particularly pessimistic one, a trait that haunted me well into my young adult life. This, in spite of the fact that I really did not have much to complain about. A dotting mother, good friends and a brain that did not revolt against the modern educational system – I ought to have been clicking my heels and singing to sparrows as they do in musicals, but instead I was busy toying with ideas of suicide. It seems simply preposterous to me now, but it is a reality I am ashamed to admit. Me, healthy-beloved-educated-well fed-maybe even a little spoilt-me, wanting to kill myself at 13. And at 23. And all the time in between.
Now that I can talk about this in the past tense (thank God!), I have been wondering what exactly was the matter with me. Or the thousands of others who apparently feel the same, if the rising statistics are to be believed. What is so horrible about our existence, finite as it is, that we feel the need to cut it shorter still? Are we not intellectual beings capable of rational thought? And then I wondered, could it be that our possession of rational thought and insight is our undoing??
Other than isolated reports of self destructive behavior seemingly demonstrated by certain grieving animals, and examples of martyrdom wherein some insects protect their colonies via their own deaths, the general governing principle in nature is one of self sustenance. It is also striking how resilient so called lower animals and plants are. I saw a crow in our backyard the other day, hopping around on one leg, and flying away once it found a piece of food. The loss of a limb did not weaken the triumph in its flight.
I remember a science experiment learnt in school where we were to keep a plant in utter darkness with just a little hole on one side permitting light to enter. When examined a few weeks later, we would find that the plant had bent and grown towards sunlight. Photo tropism, I was taught it is called. Now 15 years later, I realize that the experiment had a lot more to do with life than biology. Seeking out light in the dark and opting to survive are tasks that prove difficult for a lot of us. An evolutionary paradox occurs to me at this point. Plants are, in a way, the most basic of life forms, incapable of movement let alone conscious thought and yet are potentially immortal. At the other end of the spectrum are we, human beings, the supreme life forms on Earth contemplating on killing ourselves. Makes one wonder, does it not?
Something makes me believe we are looking at this all wrong, that our evolutionary vantage point is skewed somehow. Maybe the sign of supremacy is not locomotion or the skill to dominate or kill at will, not the million ways we can devise plots and win wars, not the deliberate conclusions we are capable of arriving at. Maybe it is just about your ability to grow towards the light when immersed in darkness, knowing the future is fatally and beautifully ambiguous and that life is not to be wasted pondering questions that are not necessarily ours to answer.