Ivan the Hopeless Romantic

On musings, evolution, philosophy, life and death


Ivan was a hopeless romantic. A single moment of calm thought was enough for him to turn inward and start the proverbial train of thought. He would just flow with the whimsical river of thought going wherever it took him — losing all track of time and other worldly things. The sound of rain on a dark night through his windows would take him to the primeval times when evolution of man was yet to be met with conscience. He would muse about the thoughts of that primordial creature on the wild planet. He would wonder what that man, millions of years ago would think of his life — his though process might have been very simple. Eat, rest, reproduce, avoid wild animals and kill anything unknown. A life dictated by simple straightforward rules.

During the dull Summer evenings, Ivan would sit outside his porch and wonder about that exact instant when conscience originated in man. What was the first thought that came to his mind - his role in this big, wide world? Or his relation and obligations to the others of his kind? Or maybe the consequences of his actions? Or perhaps life and death? Ivan would whirl these thoughts violently in his head imagining each possible thought and the reaction that thought would have caused in that first conscious man. He liked this thought because there were endless possibilities - each equally likely and absolutely no way of confirming the answer. If he had an infinite time to ponder, this would be one thought that would make that time a little less infinite.

On his long walks during Spring mornings, Ivan liked to think about history and philosophy and the journey of mankind from conscience to morality along the path of knowledge. Was man bound to become a social animal given the birth of conscience? What were the social rules that bound the first men? Probably morality was the obvious derivative of these social rules. Otherwise there would be nothing to bind a man to a social contract in the absence of a supreme power. Maybe this was how God and religion were brought to existence. To reinforce the morality that bound the society together. But then people broke out of that morality. Some said there is no morality but only will to power. Others said you create your own morality and follow it to your ruin. Meanwhile the vast majority just lived on conforming to the social propaganda. The division of these different idealizations and ideologies greatly intrigued Ivan. It was like a Pandora’s box broken open forcibly and all the terrible secrets laid open to confront his own self.

During the cold Winter nights, something trivial yet transcendental would visit his erstwhile melancholic soul — Life and Death. There was not much to Life anyway — this he had come to accept quite early in his life. He had his principles and he followed them scrupulously. He knew he had to be open to let in new knowledge or else his thoughts would atrophy and so he learnt new things each day welcoming every single piece of new knowledge.

But Death was something that always terrified and fascinated him at the exact same moment. He couldn’t decide, at any given moment whether he was afraid of it or awed by it. Awe — that was the word he chose to sum up his feelings towards Death when he is not terrified. But more than anything he was curious about the time he would meet it. Being the hopeless romantic person he was, he had this grand image of how he would meet Death. He always wanted to confront Death like meeting a good old friend. Each would acknowledge the presence of the other and be glad to see each other again as though they had fulfilled a sacred promise they had made long time ago. Each would nod to the other and Ivan, given all his romanticism, would greet Death and start asking an array of questions which he had safely stored in a corner of his head. He knew that he had all the time in the world to ask every single question and Death had an enigmatic and enlightening answer for each of them. And when he’s finally done, he wouldn’t be happy or satisfied or mad at finding the answers. He would throw a smile at Death, as though he knew all the answers beforehand, and Death would acknowledge that glance. Once he is done, he would know that his time is up and he would ask Death to take him along for the ride and both of them would slowly fade into the mist that would linger on for all eternity.

But the thought of Death dropping by his door uninvited at any instant terrified him. It was not that it was inevitable but that it can visit him any time. Even now. Especially now. Ivan couldn’t get himself to digest that fact. He thought he would get some time to live out his life — however banal and mediocre it turned out to be, and when he was finally done with life, he would send an invite for Death to come visit him. But he very well knew that this was a fool’s thought. He knew that if he’s not ready to accept Death now he will never be able to accept it. That’s how the great executor works. One is either ready to meet him any time or one is not ready at all — ever. And Ivan didn’t want to become the latter. Or else he would always be afraid of Death — which he found utterly repulsive. He knew he had to accept Death now if he wants to meet him as a friend later. Every single passing day increased the inevitability of the obvious. Ivan would have to make the choice — to accept Death now or let it terrify him forever. Ivan would have to decide who wins the final battle — the instinct that had been passed on for millions of years of evolution or the truth acquired by thousands of years of knowledge. The choice he has to make versus the choice he doesn’t want to make.