Beauty as a Basic Need

Yesterday, the discussion that meandered through censorship, cultural policies, art and society left my mind racing through out the night. My mind was working through the ideas expressed in the forum, sifting through, scrutinizing, recalling statements, evaluating…maybe like my family feels, I am just plain mad. Or I am just one of ‘them’. So who are ‘they’?

I would like to call ‘them’ as people whose basic needs are slightly different, or more than the others. I really have no idea, if the people whom I meet day in day out, people who seem to have everything, and people who don’t seem to have anything, have anything in common with me. Do they really want the things I want. Have they got them? Are they happy?

Do people feel beauty is a basic need? When I say beauty, i don’t mean the way some men are hung up on some fantasy woman with 32-28-32 figure Naomi Campbell types, or women dreaming of some male equivalent,(whatever their measurements are…) I mean do people want beauty as expressed in nature, in art, in the diversity of our smiles? Do we search for it, the way we search for truth, freedom, justice, identity?

Some of my colleagues expressed that in our community, spaces for social communion and sharing have been erased. Our families are emotionally sterile grounds, a simple site where a struggle is for survival alone. I wonder if it is merely the economics of it, why someone wouldn’t really consider watching a movie every now and then, a need? Or going to a play? At least some of these movies, plays, books, poems,paintings and music fulfill in me a sort of a hunger; they ease my pain a bit; make me reflect; give my mad meandering mind a meaning to hold on to. Why do people around me not want these, the way they want food, clothes, jobs, sex or religion? Or is this only normal, and it is again myself, slightly eccentric in my needs, slightly complicated, doomed for a bit of mad meandering?

Great thinkers have already said that basic needs goes beyond the requisites of basic survival. Maxneef says its well being, freedom, identity, love etc. But why is it only Maxneef and the like, a minority, and not the whole lot of us? Is there no common human element in us six billion?

Sunil says it’s a very Sinhalese-Buddhist disease, this negation of complex needs, as you find in Sri Lanka. I can call it Capitalist-Nationalist disease. I mean, Cancer or Aids; whichever, right?

After the forum, on my way home, I chat up the cab driver. He’s a shaken chap. Locked up in his small car, pushing into middle age. He’s no Maxneef. But his mind has started questioning. He says he hasn’t seen a movie or held the hand of a girl in a long time. he says he feels like living dead. Hacked. Tired. Hopeless. Lost. Lonely.

And I meet so many people like that day in day out. Tired, hopeless, lost, lonely people. It’s like we carry a tiny glass capsule around ourselves, and trapped inside we all feel the same.

And I really don’t know…when I get this feeling, which is not even loneliness, I go watch a film or read a book and it temporarily gives me the beauty I lack in myself, in my life. So, I recommend the same pill to the cabby, ‘there’s Akasa Kusum, go watch it…and about a girl, i don’t know really the way around that one, but i wish you luck!’

Ha ha ha! (Just a way of finishing the whole thing, in wanting better words…)

Morning Blues

I’m reading a book called Inner Feng Shui and it tells me that I should think positive in the morning. So I woke up this morning and thanked God for the beautiful day; thanks the bounty of the universe for the fact that I am alive and happy and lucky today. I have a loving brother who drives me to work every morning. He faithfully drops me on top of the road, so that I can walk ten steps to the office just so I get some exercise. As I walk in to Siripa Lane, I meet the madman again. He is diggin’ in to the garbage bin next to Sea Lord restaurant and collecting some food for the day. The air becomes pungent with the smell of foul food. I have seen this guy on and off, haunting the area. Yesterday I stood for a moment watching it. Today I choose to walk past, ignoring the annoyed faces of the tuk tuk drivers, who seem to tolerate this daily foul-up of morning air as an obligation to their traditionally Buddhist upbringing that force them to compassion.

I am angry now. How come the world is so cruel to so many people? I know this madman is not the only unfortunate I saw for the week. So I know its not about one individual not doing well in life. Its the system that makes some people overly fortunate and the others deprived! So even if I give this guy money to buy a lunch packet today, it makes no sense. There are so many days more for him to survive and so many others like  him. Very much like when we vote one corrupt leader out of power another will come in who will be even worse. We got rid of President Premadasa, but today many say he’s better than what we’ve had after him.

My collegue and dramatist Rajitha Dissanayaka was in conversation with Dharmasiri Bandaranayake recently. I rememeber watching Dharmasiri’s play ‘Yakshayagamanaya’ as a kid. Its a translation of a Brechtian play – Driving Out the Devil, maybe – I’m not sure. The end of that play is the elimination of the dictator, but it adds: “Don’t rejoice that he is gone. The womb that bore him will bear many more”  

So I guess that what we are suppose to do is to change ‘the womb’; The Evil System. And Gudrun Kramer says, the System has its own inbuilt mechanisms that will protect it from change.

It’s still 7.40 am. It’s too early to be angry. It’s too early to be confused.