The Twilight called life

When I was trying to describe this photo, and what it meant to me, myriad thoughts came tumbling forward. On one hand were the obvious thoughts, on how I had enjoyed playing around with the shadows and the ambient light while keeping in focus the massive temple edifice illuminated with artificial light.

However, at a more subconscious level, I have become aware that this visual represents something, that I strongly believe in. Jeff Daniels’s character Will McAvoy summarizes my belief quite nicely. In S2E09 of ‘The Newsroom’, he is accused of not being a true Republican since he keeps on criticizing different Republican candidates. He says and I quote:


“I call myself a republican because I am one. I believe in market solutions. I believe in common sense realities, and the necessity to defend ourselves against a dangerous world, and that’s about it. Problem is, now I have to be homophobic. I have to count the number of times people go to church. I have to deny facts, and think scientific research is a long con. I have to think poor people are getting a sweet ride. And I have to have such a stunning inferiority complex that I fear education and intellect – in the 21st century. But most of all, the biggest new requirement, really the only requirement, is that I have to hate Democrats.” – end quote.


In today’s world, absolutist philosophies seem to rule the roost as far as our public psyche is concerned. If you support one ideology, you MUST oppose all the tenets of a contrasting ideology. It matters not if the rival ideology has certain valid points that can be appreciated and incorporated. It is Them v/s Us, or vice versa depending on which camp’s ideology you subscribe to.
It is right v/s left. It is Republican v/s the Democrat. It is the Sanatan Dharma v/s the Abhramic religions. It’s BJP v/s the INC etc.
For me the most important question to ask is this –
“What value is added to me by adhering to a particular ideology?”


Let me take religion as an example, since the photo is of a place of worship. People more often than not follow a religion and thereby the emanating religious beliefs, because they were born into it. They were conditioned and influenced by their parents, teachers, neighborhood surroundings etc. These days especially, religion thereby has become a source of the person’s identity. The implicit value add is that you become part of a community, and thus share the benefits of living in a community. However, if you criticize any practice or tenet of the religion, or how it is being appropriated by those who don’t give two hoots about its principles, except maybe polarizing communities, beyond a point below are some of the responses that one receives:

“We are atleast better than them. They indulge in…”
“Why are you questioning only tenets of your faith? What about them?”
“What about the things they did in 19__?”
“You don’t have the maturity to understand the nuances”

If things are worse, you could be put in jail or killed for questioning. In this process, the fundamental question that I mentioned earlier, and the solutions that a religion offers are often, completely lost. The benefits that one derives from belonging to a community be that of a local church, or a mosque in a locality or even a sect in a polytheistic Hinduism are all – according to me – secondary order effects. The primary value add of religion was and is to provide a framework to answer life’s questions and challenges.

I know you could be getting a bit impatient and want to ask — what does all this have to do with the photo I have clicked.
Look at the photo. The temple is a representation of the religious framework of beliefs, practices, laws etc. The artificial spotlight is your search for answers in the framework provided by the religion. The reflected light from the edifice is some of the answers provided by this framework.

HOWEVER, try as hard as you may, the twilight which is a natural phenomenon representing ever evolving life and its challenges, which will never completely go away. Some of the solutions will be illuminated, but newer questions and challenges will be thrown at you – these are the shadows accentuated in the twilight, by the light being thrown all around.

This is what I believe in. No man-made construct (yes, I believe religion is one of them) can answer all your questions since your life is yours own to live and discover. It can at best, share guidance that may or may not be suitable to the situation you are in. Our role I believe is to ask the questions and discover the answers that help solve the questions. It does not matter where the answers come from. Having said that, accepting blindly anything that is thrown at us because its convenient for the moment, without rational analysis and healthy skepticism is a disservice to us as humans. Ideally, tomorrow if a religion tells us:

Worshiping idols is a sin, lets question the dictum, to understand why it says so, without trying to point fingers at those who do so, saying it is a sin. Also, at the same time let us try to understand why those who worship idols, do so? What is their rationale. Highly possible, that both are recommending different routes, to the same goal

There is no rebirth after death, and you face the judgement of god. Let us understand where this ideology is coming from? Alternatively, if someone says that rebirth and death are a cyclical process, also let us understand what this tenet is trying to convey?

Doing karma is the best way forward, and everyone’s karma is different v/s following the instructions and principles of the book are the only way to lead an ideal life – Let us question both the approaches and choose whatever appeals to our sensibilities

The same approach could be followed for all facets of life, where frameworks / ideologies are constantly thrown at us. For that we need to accept one truth, that there is no absolute truth. There are only facets of truth. Institutions and frameworks will reflect some light in form of answers, while at the same time create more shadows in terms of questions. This is because there can be no shadow without light, and wherever there is light there are shadows, for life is full of ambiguity like the twilight. 

Most importantly we need to appreciate that others may choose a different path and ideology, and that is completely fine, since we now know – there is no one right way, but multiple correct ways to the same goal. For me that is the most important belief, above all the rest.

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