Shades Of Gray

Life teaches priceless lessons along the way. We are taught in our kindergarten years to recognize colors. And there comes a time when we consider ourselves masters at identifying each and every shade in the palette. Blue, green, red, black, brown, yellow and white are all crystal clear images in our minds. The clarity taught at those tender years is not merely an education, it is our ancestors’ attempt to give their children something to cling on to when the colors start merging and the lines between them seem muddled. These thoughts have been lurking in my mind for many years now and finally my pen has chosen to shed some light on them.

As one grows older the definitions and meanings seem to be conditional and perspective at best. Anything can be anything and anyone can be anyone, all one needs is to be able to change the paradigm of observation. As a perfectionist I would love to cling on to ideals of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, intelligence and folly, worthiness and triviality. But then again, aside from religious, moral or hypothetical ideals, I know of no person who is absolutely good with no amalgamation of evil in him. I have never come across untainted intelligence, morality or character. Everything is relative and thus it seems humanity is more inclined towards error and imperfection. The ideals impregnated in our young minds are to override the natural ease to sin and err. Thus, the necessity of a formative inculcation of morals, ethics and character makes complete sense in a world that does not encourage it.

The obligations imposed on nobility of character seem an additional encumbrance and inconvenience in life. However when we observe the heroic and amazing outcomes from such circumstances, we see humanity rise above its mundane standards as heroes and saints are born. The life of any exemplary human being is embedded with trials and tribulations, but the fact remains that the story of this life far transcends the biological age of the person. The legend always outlives the hero and as the story is told and retold to infuse the positive character of the protagonist in the minds of the masses, the hero grows to magnanimous proportion. We tend to add fiction to the fact and forget that the life when lived was a day-to-day struggle, with immeasurable misery, deceit and sorrow. The glory is mostly posthumous and rarely the heroes are commemorated in their lifetimes.

All this observation reminds me of the famous poem by Robert Frost. The road less travelled by has always been my personal favorite. When we chose to live exemplary lives and be better than everyone around us, we forget that we must make extraordinary sacrifices and give up on the dream of a normal life. To get exceptional rewards one must forego the common pleasures and not complain about the deprivation of ordinary joys. A hero at a warfront loses life or limb to pay for the medals of courage and endurance. A saint practices abstinence from simple indulgences to rise above his congregation. It makes complete sense that we humans need the presence of a God and religion in our lives to justify the hardships endured, hoping for a reward in the hereafter. Otherwise all the collective stories of deities, moral and ethical standards are a futile effort to make the world more inhabitable for our future generations. There are a hundred shades of gray in a life where we were taught to expect black and white. The only way we can get pure white or pure black is to remove all other colors that muddle our canvas. All those other shades are the colors of life one has to forgo to become larger than life.