Sunday, August 04, 2013

Ship of Theseus


Before I begin, let me say this up front. Ship of Theseus is a weird movie. Yes. I believe any film which starts with a huge human eyeball filling the screen and bobbling around can be considered weird. In fact, any film which does not have the likes of Salman Khan or Govinda in it has a potential of being weird. Some how these heros have the ability to kill any creative urges (read shaky camera angles, off focus frames, random scenes which don't really go anywhere) that the director might have. But just because it is weird does not mean it is not good. I liked it a lot (says something about me now does it?).

Trying to understand what the creators of this film were trying to 'say' through it does not make much sense. So i will not go there. Everyone will look at it through their own eyes and their unique circumstances. To me, it seemed like a series of questions. Questions meant not to get definite and unambiguous answers but to wonder, ponder and explore our lives and minds. It starts with this one.

The Ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus's paradox, is a paradox that raises the question of whether an object which has had all its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.

Is the whole just a sum of its parts? Or is there something more to it? This is true about most of the human body as well. Our cells are constantly dying and getting formed. So perhaps my hand is not the same as the one i had last year. So am i a new person now? Aristotle was an intelligent man. He proposed this. Every object is made of some materials, granted. But that is not all there is to it. It also has a design. It has a purpose for which it is built. In this case the materials changed but the design and purpose remained the same.

Fascinating how this might apply to us and not just inanimate objects. When do we say we have changed? With time? Sure, but that changes us only physically. Like this ship we are talking about. Ever heard someone say that they feel like a new person? Ever got that feeling yourself? Perhaps that is related more to purpose than materials. If i find a purpose, a passion, in this lifetime i will surely be a changed person. When someone says they don't feel like themselves anymore perhaps they might have lost their sense of purpose.

All the three main characters in the movie experience certain things which change them. Physically as well as mentally.

There was a photographer in the movie who asked me an interesting question. If we create something by accident and it turns out to be great. Should we take credit for it? A photo, a painting, a piece of code. The character in the movie did not want to take credit for the great shots that she got accidentally. She thinks that way she will loose control over her art. I wouldn't mind it so much. I guess art is anyways a little beyond control. So whatever you do or create you cannot take the whole credit for it. But it is also unique to you. If you ask someone else to do the same thing it will turn out different. So you cannot discredit it completely either.

The monk asked me how far am i willing to go to uphold my values. Values are tricky contraptions. The trickiness comes from the fact that they need to be consistent. If they are not consistent they are not really values. If you follow traffic rules, then you need to follow them even when you are terribly late for the most important meeting of your life. This monk takes it to the extreme. By his standards i don't have any values at all. We say we will not steal, stealing is bad. But in the face of intolerable hunger, will it hold? Should it hold? We find the easiest way out of a situation and say chalta hain yaar. There is ample time to justify our actions later on. The problem with that is we become inconsistent and confused ourselves. Meaning and purpose become harder to find. Is it better to be consistent even if you might be wrong, or is it better to be haphazard and perhaps get it right?

The third character was a typical one. Fed up with the 'social work' in his family he goes straight and hard for the mullah. He is in a hospital for a surgery where he sees a shocking incident of a poor helpless person being swindled big time. He finds himself fighting for that person. But fighting for someone else is not easy. For one, how do you know its over? That you have won? Your definition of winning might differ from the person you are fighting for. Is it best to accept the victim's judgement in this regard, even if you know it is wrong?

But i guess most of us won't be bothered by this question much. We usually don't find ourselves fighting for anyone but our friends and family, do we? :P


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