The ‘Practical’ person

Being practical seems to be normal state of being for the majority of the people. In fact, being practical is often equated with maturity, adulthood or ‘coming of age’. It is considered that magical threshold beyond which you finally understand your place in the cosmos and how it (the cosmos) works. You now can share the table with the big boys, with that glass of liquor essential for socialising among practical people.

Watching so many people make this transition (since this is the age (25+) around which most people take that leap into the abyss) gives fodder for thought and amusement. The first visible change is in clothing: you shift from the ‘Yo!’ clothing of your foolish, immature, larval/pupal stage into the big, beautiful wings designed by van Heusen or a cheaper brand. Running shoes are now, unfortunately, used only while running. Spectacle frames thin down (while your own frame fills up), your favourite sports watch gives way to a less accurate, but way more expensive, analog watch.

The second visible (and audible) change is in language and mannerisms: gone are the golden days where you could spout four letter words with gay abandon; you start to address each other with great civility, which most of the time is not very sincere. You start talking intelligently about topics you have no clue about, especially those pertaining to the economy and politics, with Facebook being the ideal place to show your ignorance and practical (i.e., worldly) bent of mind. You look forward to shaking hands with other practical people and vice versa; you would never shake hands with children or other such degenerates. Phones are now a means to balance bank accounts rather than multiple girlfriends.

Though I find practical people amusing, it does not mean I don’t respect them. It is within the structures created by practical people that impractical people like vegans and scientists (or what is worse, vegan scientists) can survive and even thrive. They are the cogs of that giant machine we call civilisation, on which some lazy, good-for-nothings get a free ride. Practical people run the world, may be even helped create it, though it is unlikely they would ever be able to conceive of it. They are normally peaceful, predictable and law-abiding, since they find comfort in following law, ritual and custom, without thinking too much about them.

Adulthood is a most unfortunate period in life. It is the time when practical people combine the worst qualities of the infantile and senile. Thus, they are stubborn, cranky, narrow-minded, think they know better, and are proud of being so. You can bully children and ignore the old, but these options are unavailable when dealing with practical people. Because of their strong conviction that they understand the world and how to go about life, they are fiercely combative when faced with something outside their ‘operating parameters’, and go on to advise the ill-informed on the correct ways to lead life.

The practical life is like the perfect prison: you know you are in it, and are proud of being in it and never want to leave it. It ensures you can keep body and soul together by an incessant performance of certain rituals and without the anguish of constant self-doubt or constant self-improvement. Practical people do admire people from outside their world, but only if they gain success in terms that make practical sense, like money or fame. However, this admiration is accompanied by the belief that they can (and should) only dream about such things from the safety of their couch.

It must have been a practical person who first thought of cursing people using the phrase ‘may you live in interesting times’. But then, this is a Chinese curse, and the Chinese are known to be very practical people. Being practical ensures you fit in, blend, and most importantly survive. Being practical means understanding and accepting the way the world is structured. It is something like travelling using public transport: Only an impractical person will wait for a direct bus from Yeshwantpur to R.T. Nagar (for example). The practical person understands it is easier to get a bus to Mekri circle, change over to a Yelahanka bus, and then finally get a bus from C.B.I to R. T. Nagar. If you don’t understand the previous sentence, you obviously are not a very practical person.

On the other hand, the impractical person, will have to wait for half an hour, finally give up, hitch a ride half the way, walk few kilometers, lose her way, ask a few people for directions, and finally land at her destination half an hour late. However, during this ordeal, she might have met some interesting people at the bus stand, some kind person willing to give her a ride, noticed a small bookstore that is only visible when you walk past it, increased her patience, humility and stamina, and probably figured out some problems with the public transport system which, if she ever gets into a position of power, she might change for the better.

A world overrun by impractical people will be unliveable; in the same way, a world ruled by practical people will be brittle and intolerant. While civilisation may be by, for and of practical people, it makes a lot of practical sense to carry along the free-riding man-children who carry in them the seeds of unconventionality which will make all the difference when what is practical today becomes impractical tomorrow.

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2 thoughts on “The ‘Practical’ person”

  1. This is far too black and white. You imply that people are either practical or impractical. In reality, most people are practical about some parts of their lives, and impractical about others. For example, my brother is very practical with his money and with his job, but he chooses to live in an impractical house, lives in a neighborhood that many of his friends consider to be dangerous and impractical, and even has impractical and unusual hobbies (e.g. playing unpopular and often outdated or out of print role-playing games).

    We all have different levels of development and growth in various aspects of our lives. We all have the capacity for growth in a multitude of areas: physically, intellectually, spiritually, musically, athletically, etc. We grow in our various roles and relationships with others at different speeds. None of us can grow in every dimension of our lives at all times. This is why we often choose to be stagnant (i.e. “practical”) in those areas, sometimes permanently, but often temporarily. Most will grow slowly, stagnate, and grow quickly in many different areas unevenly.

    I think your blog post indicates that you’re still working on growing in how you see and relate to others and how you relate personally to whatever society you live in as a whole. I’m glad that you’re questioning the conventions of your society. Most of us probably don’t do that often enough. But I think you probably have some growing to do in order to see past the black and white, easy compartmentalizing you’ve done here. That tendency is itself a “practical” and not very adaptable way of handling the complexities of social life. As a first step in moving beyond this limitation, I would suggest trying deliberately to open your mind about each person you meet. As you get to know a person, think of him or her as a multidimensional being with a variety of interests, abilities, roles, and relationships. Ask yourself where that person is trying to grow, where they aren’t growing, and how you might help them in their own personal journey. An open, accepting attitude about each person does not entail that you condone everything he or she does, simply that you see him or her for more than a “practical” or “impractical” person. Good luck and best wishes!

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