Indifference is revolutionary

Rohan Swamy
Sunday, 4 February 2018

The ability to care deeply, needs to be supplemented with an equal capacity to be able to un-care

I was introduced to a lovely Spanish saying recently, which translates to ‘Affection is Revolutionary’ in English. Over the last few days, I found myself marvelling and mulling over the line. Surely, in our times, the ability to show affection has taken a backseat; people are far more comfortable displaying it through the marvels of technology, than doing so in person.

Now I am not going to go into the merits and demerits of the same but the idea that affection can be a revolutionary thought propelled me to think about the exact opposite reaction and its need and implication in our lives. Is indifference revolutionary as well?

A couple of days ago, I was privy to a conversation about blood relatives not standing true to the test of the blood flowing through their veins. Simply put, it was a case of family relations gone sour, for want of trust, honesty, respect and love. The corollary, however, was that the perpetrator in this case felt slighted when the victim stood up firm for their beliefs. I pondered hard over this and it prompted me to connect the dots about my theory on indifference and whether it was it revolutionary. Turns out, it was.

As sociable beings, we are dependent on the comfort of familiar faces to get us through both - the good and the bad parts of life. These familiar faces usually include immediate family members, primary and secondary circles of friends, a spouse and so on. Obviously the reason why we feel connected to a chosen few is because we can afford to be ourselves with them around, without wearing any masks, we are comfortable knowing that we won’t be judged. This in turn leads us to showcase our affection during the good days, and lend our support during the bad, and vice versa. But what happens when these ties, often connected by blood, are strained? And what happens if they snap under the strain? What happens to the affection? Does it stay? Does it change? Does it metamorphose?

To answer that question, I found myself revisiting my own past. I looked at some significant milestones from it and found that there were people who had snapped off ties with me, there were some I had parted ways with and there were folks who had just fallen prey to the distances and the sands of time. The last group didn’t interest me, but the first two did. I realised that there were times I had let down folks who had once considered me their very own, and vice versa.

All these times had had a significant impact on the way I perceived life and the people that I connected and interacted with. And it is here that I found that the indifference that I had towards the ones who had let me down, and the indifference that the folks whom I had let down showed, was in fact an important aspect of our individual healing processes. The ability to hate someone or something is born out of love. Love and hatred are both very strong, powerful emotions. Indifference on the other hand is born out of a slower process of change. It replaces affection and in their own ways, both are slow and permanent changes. Like the weather and climate. One changes every day, and the other is a collective, non-reversible change that occurs once in eons. Indifference and affection are the antithesis to hate and love. The latter occur when the human senses are heightened or the person is full of passion and emotion, whilst the former occur slowly, when the person has had time to reflect, think and gauge.

In its true essence, indifference means learning to un-care about someone or something, to part with memory ghosts, to forget little quirks and details about the thing or person that once made you look at them in a different light. It means unspooling a video tape of memories, one round at a time.  What compounds this change is that far too often these are things or people who have seen us without the multiple masks that we wear. And since it is such a slow, consistent change that occurs over a long period, it changes the very identity of your being.

That is pretty revolutionary. Don’t you think so?

(Rohan Swamy is a former journalist, writer, photographer, now working at Trinity College Dublin)

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