Sunday, June 23, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

OP-ED: Gotta knock a little harder

All we know is that we don’t know enough

Update : 09 Jan 2021, 11:52 PM

In the 20th century, mankind saw one of their biggest ambitions brought to life. 

For time memorial, we have looked past our limits, towards the stars, wondering how life would be among the mass grave of distant planets. 

We have made songs and poems about them, as a tribute. During the infancy of human progress, we even went as far as mapping out our position against the heavens, in an effort to finally understand our position in the realm of nature. 

Things came to a head in the last century, when David and Goliath went head-to-head in a race that would come to define the modern race. When the bell rang, only one of them was left standing, but all of us won. As the saying goes: “One small step for a man, one giant leap for a mankind.”

Fast forward to the 21st century, and only one of them is left standing. And with how things are shaping up, the second one will be soon to follow. The optimistic future of the past has become a nostalgia for the future, as we gear up for a dystopian landscape that has nothing to do with the achievements of yesteryears. 

And still, the stars shine bright as ever. Still beautiful, still impossible.

It’s 11:36 on a Friday night. There’s approximately a day left for the publication of my next column. I have been thinking about writing this or that for the past couple of days, but no idea was good enough. 

Nothing came to fruition.

I’ve been here before. The nature of my job dictates that I publish a piece each week, and while some of them were truly memorable, others, not so much.

You suddenly stumble upon an idea that you think is truly mesmerizing. You write it down and send it to press. For the weeks that follow, you rack your head upside down, thinking of some way to go beyond what you have just done. 

But lady luck is a cruel mistress. And it’s no wonder that us puny humans can only best her so many times. 

A structural way to solve this would be to take more time between each write up, and publish a piece only when one is ready.

But the real world doesn’t work like that. In the modern landscape, you have to maintain a steady output. If you are lucky, you can buy your freedom. If not, you work for a bit, retire with the worst ahead, and then die. 

And even then, without constant grinding, one might not even get the ideas that matter in the first place.

We are insect-like, inconsequential things in a vast, unimaginable design. There were millions of years before us, and there will be a million more after. The job of the artist is to understand all there is, to push at the limits of our understanding of this design. But a single life is barely enough for something of this magnitude. A single life is not enough for anything. We barely scratch the surface, and catch a glimpse of the truth. And then, we kick the bucket, and wait for the next generation to pick up where we left off.

As such, on an individual life, grand ideas might not even matter. There is always work to be done, always an avenue that was not considered. All we can do is look at past mistakes, and try to move onwards as much as we can. An act which in the grand scheme of things might not even matter, but an act that we still carry on with till the day we die. 

The space race was finished long ago, and all we know now is that we don’t know enough. But hey, even that is a win, and with missions to Mars appearing to be the future of space exploration, we might just understand our insignificance in a better way. 

But still, that understanding would be richer than the past’s, and we can always carry onwards from there. It is not clear exactly how far we can go, but if mysticism is the answer, then we might not be able to go far. 

But we are sentient beings modelled after the star system itself, and if there is anything that is innate to us, then it is the desire to push forward. Be it with science or art, we will always push forward. It might all be for nothing. Many lives are extinguished in this foolish pursuit. But still, it is better to push than to stagnate. It is better to hope than to despair. 

Nothing good can come out of despair, but something good might come out of hope.

Just as it was the case for Van Gogh, the sight of the stars will always make us dream. And if there is even a single chance that we can extend our palms to reach them, we will always do so, even if it means the ultimate sacrifice.

Nafis Shahriar is a student of business and a freelance writer.

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