Face Your Fear To Find Greatness
- 1 February 2022
‘In all my great moments I have been alone.’
H.G. Wells immortalised fear and greatness in a moment of solitude Griffin, the infamous protagonist, experiences in The Invisible Man published in 1897.
Writing an academic assessment or exam is one such moment where we can encounter our innate greatness in solitude. An exam is about self assessment, acceptance, and reliance; it is not to outsmart the system or turn prey to society’s perceptions of excellence. This is not how we have nurtured this concept though. Thanks to the oppressive legacy of the industrial revolution – an education system solely focused on producing an assembly line of trained and constrained minds. Training that doesn’t let them deviate and discover and constraints of society that instill guilt and shame if one finds and follows their purpose. Our mindless pursuit of excellence based on ranks, marks, awards, and selections through exams tends to exploit our fears and bury the greatness we can otherwise cultivate; we naturally learn to despise them. They make us feel lonely, uncomfortable and hence we endlessly doubt our efforts, solely driven by results. The end matters as it lets us fit in with the people’s idea of merit and success. We don’t mind compromising our conscience and exploiting the resources to enjoy a result-oriented happiness, the way Wells’ Griffin exclaimed:
I was invisible, and I was only just beginning to realise the extraordinary advantage my invisibility gave me. My head was already teeming with plans of all the wild and wonderful things I had now impunity to do.
How conveniently we forget that the academic exams we write in schools and colleges come nowhere close to the ultimate exam called life each one of us has to sit through every minute of our life. The prescribed knowledge-based exams in various institutions should therefore aim to simulate the reality we are bound to run into. But do they actually offer us the simulation required to be life-ready? Sadly, no. A glorious finish line is what these exams aim at and the greed of this glory fades the conviction of the efforts that lead us towards the finish line. Griffin also bathed in the glory of his fantastic discovery:
“I could be invisible!’ I repeated. To do such a thing would be to transcend magic might mean to a man—the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks I saw none.”
Until he realised he had become the victim of his own fantasy:
I went over the heads of the things a man reckons desirable. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them when they are got.
There is no finish line to cross, highest marks, or brilliance associated with the real exams of life – nurturing healthy relationships, fighting and rising above the narrow prejudices of gender, race and religion, caring for a bedridden elderly, grieving over the loss of a loved one, accepting rejection in love and work, inspiring an abused child, letting our children make decisions about their career and life partner, or bravely surviving the sense of isolation amidst pandemic. But we cannot ignore these exams, avoid them, or crack them through some market-served readymade solutions. They offer meaning and character to our living.
Today we face myriads of existing curricula, examinations, and result oriented pedagogy. Yes, the present state is not ideal but the ideal is merely a perspective because we always have the best possible in the given circumstances, and never the absolute best. Different curricula-based examinations were cancelled or modified amidst the health emergency in the past two years. And, the promotion of students without appropriate examinations in schools and colleges was questioned by all the stakeholders of the education system. The last two academic years have also been termed the darkest period of life and education; however, the darker than the darkest may not have yet arrived.
But until we find life back on track or take it on to some other track, it’s important we define and accept what an exam is to genuinely learn and grow. Is it a crisis to fear or exploit, feel lonely and uncomfortable, or an opportunity to discover our true greatness? What do I focus on – the result or the preparation? Who do I rely on? The only resource you can rely on is you. And when all you need is you to excel in the most important exam called life, why do you fret writing any other socially engineered-exam? Pay attention to life and it will start rewarding your little efforts.
By Babita Deou, English Language Educator, CBSE Grades 11 and 12th, Oakridge International School, Gachibowli.