Friday, 24 July 2015

Certain Empathy extends only after our line of sight.

Hello. It has been about a good ten days since the last time I stumbled my way here, and for once, I actually feel a sense of relief to see the blank, empty page of a new post. I'm back at college, for my fifth semester in chemical engineering. It was quite a vacillating two weeks leading up to my eventual return, though.

When there were ten days left for departure, I was impatient for the holidays to end; I told myself that I was raring to go back to college. However, when there were about three days left, my feelings were akin to Prince Abdullah from 'TinTin'; They'd have to drag me, kicking and screaming every step of the way if they wanted me on that train. On the last day, though, I felt fine. I didn't feel particularly nervous or afraid, and while I did feel a slight twinge of annoyance that I had to return, I accepted the fact that I needed to finish what I had started.

Being alone in a hostel room is a lot different from the safe solitude, that your boudoir at home provides. This is my fifth time around, coming here, so I thought that I'd be fine, and I was, mostly, for the first few days. As the hours dragged on though, even if you try to convince yourself otherwise, certain undesirable thoughts do creep into your mind. At moments like that, there is nothing quite as effective as finding a creative outlet to occupy all of your concentration.

"Cooper!" Brand shouted, Jerking in her seat, she looked at the craft attached to the underside of the Endurance. 
Cooper gazed back at her; their eyes locked, for what seemed to be an eternity. It might have very well been that, with the black hole being in such close proximity. Or it could have been just a sliver of a split-second. Brand didn't know, couldn't decide. She couldn't see any light reflected from Cooper's eyes.
"We agreed on 90%, remember? Dr Brand" Cooper said simply, as he disengaged the craft, setting himself adrift on the event horizon of the black hole.

It's incredible, that we can find so many scraps of 'Pulp Wisdom' scattered across fiction and non-fiction alike. Even comics and cartoons, often draw inspiration from philosophy and morality, such as Calvin and Hobbes and Cyanide and Happiness. The above dialogue was from a sequence in the movie Interstellar, right before the movie's next scene made people go "Eh? What?"

The movie was acclaimed, mainly for its ambition, and the brave attempt by director Christopher Nolan to create an original screenplay on such a magnitude. What intrigued me the most, was a certain scene of the film, at the beginning of Matt Damon's first appearance. Damon mentions that Michael Caine's character sent all of the astronauts - Cooper, Brand and Co. - into space, knowing full well that the odds of them ever saving the people on earth were close to nil.

He did this, after giving the crew a statement to the contrary, and telling Cooper in particular that he was undertaking this mission to save his children. Damon states that Michael Caine's character had correctly identified this:

                                "Empathy extends only as far as our line of sight"

However, as per the dialogue excerpt from above, we see that Cooper's actions are truly the crux of the entire film's premise. That he chose to sacrifice himself, to give his partner a chance to create a new colony of humans, populated by people whom he would never meet- in other words, out of his line of sight- over a chance to be reunited with his children, is a direct refutation of Micheal Caine's belief, that humanity could not save itself without a proper incentive, something Christopher Nolan probably wrote in the script on purpose.

I believe that people can genuinely care for each other during times of calamity and disaster. The recent earthquake in Nepal is a case in point. Support in the form of relief aid, manpower and prayers for the safety of the survivors poured in from across the world. But for most us, it was just 'Someone Else' who had lost nearly everything they had in their lives, if not their lives itself. If the whole world were in danger, as it already is from numerous mistakes of our own, would we see such empathy for others. or would we prove Michael Caine right?

Alternatively, if we flip that statement around, what would we have, especially in India? Recently the American Supreme Court legalized Homosexual Marriage across the country, in a landmark judgement. Facebook, quick to react to the potential implications of the judgement, offered its users a mechanism to convert their profile pictures into shades of the rainbow, giving them an opportunity to display their solidarity and support to the verdict.

Let me just interrupt in between here though. In my opinion, the victory achieved by representatives of LGBT communities at the supreme court was not a victory for love. I feel that it was common sense that won that day. We are all beings who are capable of living our lives to the best of our capability. If each of us wants to live his or her life a certain way, then he should be allowed to do so, as long as it doesn't infringe upon the equal rights that another person also possesses. Admittedly, this is an over-simplification of a much wider issue, but I do not feel that I am wrong in saying

                                                     "Live and Let Live"

The question that I finally have is, would such an empathy survive at all within our line of sight? There were millions of users on Facebook, in India, a land were homosexuality is still illegal, who changed their profile pictures to the same in shades of the rainbow. But for every single one of them, barring a few, I am willing to wager that actual homosexuals are simply "Someone Else". They support the movement because it trended wildly in the week of the verdict and in our politically-correct society of today, it is 'cool' to be seen as 'forward'.

But exactly how receptive those individuals would be if someone they knew, such as a close friend or family member, came out of the closet? Would they be as understanding and 'forward' as they portray themselves to be?

1 comment: