top of page

The Imitation Game


If you want to enjoy this blog with some music, try this: Raaga Maund


As I grow older, I am able to solve fewer of my problems. There are fewer moments of joy and even fewer of meaningfulness. It feels burdensome to carry a face of adulthood & maturity. It is becoming increasingly difficult to pretend that I really know how to navigate this. I understand very few things around me & even fewer things about myself.

Though with time my problems have grown in complexity, the subject of my drama or root cause is still me & I have been living with "me" for more than 30 years now. Ideally, it should have been easier to solve my problems now. Imagine learning a guitar for 30 years & still finding yourself difficult to play. How ridiculous is that!

Obviously, I know learning guitar is comparatively much simpler & its comparison to learning human mechanisms is not fair. But there is also a difference in our approach in learning guitar versus learning to live which generates this difference in outcome. While for learning guitar we take a bottom-up approach, in life we follow top-down approach. Meaning that while learning guitar, you learn about how it produces sound, what are its body parts, how to use your fingers to produce sound, learn to play each string, then chords and so on in that order. But, in the course of life we first work on arranging external environment, then our body, then our emotions and then our mind.

This is not accidental of course. We have been fighting for survival for large part of human evolution. Neutralizing external threats and creating comfortable external environment has been our long-standing priority. Necessity paves the way for effort and action. Observe how well trained your outward looking faculties (senses) are compared to your internal emotional responses or internal feedback mechanisms. Former is a well-developed adult and later a tantrum throwing baby. You can see what you want to see and close your eyes when you don’t want. You can touch what you want to at your will and retract when you want to. Never will it happen that you want to throw something to your friend standing in front of you and instead your hand throws it right at your face! This can only happen with an untrained toddler. As adults, we have focused and trained our senses and limbs for so many years (almost our whole lifetime) to work with & for us. But same can’t be said for our emotions and definitely not for our minds.

We don’t usually hone our internal senses and work with them until our 30s or 40s. Similar time and effort is required to train with internal senses so that our own thoughts and emotions work for us most of the time.

Understanding and training with our internal mechanisms is essential to a peaceful and happy life. With the focus on mental & emotional health in current times, most of us have realized this or at least heard about these topics. But, where should we start this work? Where should we start untangling this messy blob of emotions? What should we resolve first?! I think first we should learn and hone the skill to just observe. We should be able to see where the hands and legs are before we start to train with them. We should therefore develop the internal vision or the ability to see inside first. Observe this messy blob which is you and patterns will start to emerge. Observe honestly, intently & over time vision comes. Simplest yet toughest of asks, right? Take time and mull over this idea. I am also working on this for frustratingly long time now. But not long enough, I guess! This takes time.

Meanwhile, in this blog, I would like to share something which can be of immediate consumption for all of you and hopefully of immediate help on this journey of understanding. I will share one of these patterns which I have observed and understood over time. And at the expense of being a cliche in psychological explanations, I will start mine also from our childhood. As soon as we start becoming aware of the external world, our nascent mind starts observing & learning through actions of adults around us (which are projections of their understanding of life & their societal conditioning). And we start imitating them. As we grow, through observation, imitation and practice, we gradually become adept at handling our body parts. Then we move on to train our intellect. Again, imitation becomes our primary source of learning here. We learn words which are spoken around us. We start to think about how adults are doing the things that we want to. Imitation is also subsequently encouraged by our educational institutions to a very high degree. If you encounter this do this, if you encounter this problem solve it like this, speak a certain way, write a certain way, behave a certain way, memorize, get good grades etc. You get the drill of the mill. It’s understandable that we try to impart the skills required for solving the external problems which a typical human being will face. Most of them have already been dealt with in some form or another throughout our history. So, it's easier to use those solutions/practices instead of starting from scratch for every problem. Thus, we start to believe that imitating is essential to survival and learning. We are also socially conditioned to look for existing templates for solutions of our problems. Society (I am using this term as a representation of the societal elements which tell us to fit in certain roles which will help the overall group to thrive. In that respect it includes our parents, relatives, teachers etc) tells you what you should be. For starters it tells you to be a well-mannered kid, a good son/daughter, a good student. And of course, initially you don't know what it means to be any of these things. So, the society gives you a template for it. A well-mannered kid usually does this, a good son/daughter usually acts in this way, a good student spends his/her day doing all these activities. Instead of running around driven only by emotions, society tells you to take responsibility and gives you something to aim for. We slowly get coddled into the comfort zone of these templates & start feeling that all of our problems will get solved through some or the other template from society. And thus, imitating them becomes our habitual crutch. We imitate all kinds of roles - a keen student, a good son/daughter, a cool teenager, an innocent drunk, a traveller, a know-it-all, a rich person, a good colleague, an efficient project manager, a successful person, a responsible citizen, a good writer, a good athlete, a family man/woman, a mother/father, a grandfather/grandmother, an old person, a dying person!

Imitating these prescribed templates saves us considerable amount of time & effort as we don't have to solve all the problems ourselves. Certain amount of imitation is good because all the problems in life can't be back-tested and acted upon. Life is forward looking and path forward, through any problem, is always unknown. For example, after my examination results of 10th standard I was asked about what I would like to pursue – Science, Commerce or Arts. I didn’t have any clue as to what any of those options meant for me. Similar choice was given to me for choosing my specialization (branch) before joining engineering college. Same thing again – I didn’t have any clue as to what undertaking any of the options meant. After completing my engineering, it became clear to me that there was no way to actually know what is a good choice before going through that choice. And as you continue in life, you realize that this is true for most of the decisions you have to take. There is no way to know exactly what company is good for you until you work in one. There is no way to know what marriage entails until you get married. And I am sure the same goes for becoming a parent. There is no way to know how much responsibilities come with these roles, which part will you love, how much of it will you hate, what changes will you need to do in yourself to keep moving on, which parts of you will die during this journey, will there be meaning at all for you in taking this? So, a certain template of leading life and these roles pushes you to take some action. Also, these templates save you from getting consumed by anxiety and chaos on your journey & following them keeps your surrounding environment conducive to a large extent. But, like all things which comfort us with sense of security, imitation also imprisons us to these templates or patterns. Imitation & practice - that's what we become and are for the most part.

But you need more to become emotionally healthy, peaceful and happy. For happiness, you need meaning. For meaning, you need growth. For growth, you need some adversity or chaos. So, either you move out from your fort of templates handed by society (your comfort zone) or make a window or a door for little chaos to enter into it. Either way you have to break the template or at the least keep modifying it. Understand the imitation game, modify it to invite chaos and experience life a little more. You definitely need to protect yourself from overwhelming chaos so that it doesn’t destroy you but you absolutely need to invite right amounts of it to be happy.

First significant stage of my adult development came from understanding that societal order gives safety but over-dependence on it constricts you. As you might have understood, this blog is not supposed to be a complaint for imitation or of societal order imposed on us, this is supposed to be an understanding of it. Understanding brings clarity on how to move forward. We have to keep exposing our existing order to chaos continually to test its founding pillars (beliefs/actions). Weakest ones will get destroyed by the chaos - discard them. Some will shake - understand and reshape them. That's how I have seen growth and found some sort of meaning in my life. That's how I started becoming more of myself. In pursuit of this I have strayed sometimes more towards chaos & sometimes more towards order. But gradually my life has transformed into a fluid yet cohesive amalgamation of order and continual chaos. The journey has certainly become more enjoyable after I understood that I become alive in formation of these new parts of me. Cycles of gradual dissolution and rebuilding will ultimately leave you with clarity(truth). Or you can say that what remains is the truth. Alternative is to suffocate and completely lose yourself which is not fun at all!

Author's Note: I am tugging at a lot of threads simultaneously in this blog. Therefore, to isolate them into a single coherent piece was difficult and can feel slightly reductive or simplistic in few instances. I wasn't specifically aiming for this to happen. It's a by-product of my laziness. After certain time of working on the blog I forced myself to put it out , however incomplete it may look, to get myself started with writing. I am sure lot of aspects are not fully covered. I will try to cover them in coming blogs. Feel free to engage on these topics in the comments.

If you want to explore this topic further, you can explore following topics:

  1. Mythology behind Ardhanarishvara form of the Shiva (Purusha) & the Parvati (Prakriti). In Hindu mythology, one of the beautiful interpretations of this form is unison of masculine (order) & feminine (chaos) energies to bring forth life.


Art by: ashdei-san


2. The Taoist philosophy of Yin & Yang. Again, a beautiful depiction of life in the form of a continuous play between order & chaos.

Symbol for yin and yang

3. Dr. Jordan Peterson's enriching YouTube lecture series on the same topic in which he explains the concept of order & chaos & extends it to connect with the meaning in life.



96 views4 comments

4 Comments


Pragnya N Nadig
Pragnya N Nadig
Sep 19, 2022

I have started my own journey of shedding the pressure and expectations from society and walk in the understanding myself and my patterns. This blog addresses and acknowledges the need for knowing self to live a little better, be a little more happier , complain a little lesser. Waiting for more such content. Thank you.

Like
Sanjay Singh
Sanjay Singh
Sep 19, 2022
Replying to

Thank you so much Pragnya !

Like

Sanjay Yadav
Sanjay Yadav
Sep 18, 2022

I really like the name of this blog, 'the imitation game' :)


It's a great start.


Keep on expressing yourself.


- Your admirer


Like
Sanjay Singh
Sanjay Singh
Sep 19, 2022
Replying to

Thanks Sanjay for the wonderful comment !

Like
bottom of page