Escaping a Limited Reality


“In everyday life our personality moves in a narrow circle of immediate self-interest. And therefore our feelings and events, within that short range, become prominent subjects for ourselves.”

Tagore seems to speak of our proclivity to be self-centered in this age. Because we are fueled by self interest, our life revolves around us. I wonder what Tagore would feel about the social ramifications of mobile technology and social media today. I could only imagine him shaking his head at the hours mobile users spend glued to their phones. The “mobile phone” as an object struck me as a vehicle to what he calls a “narrow circle of immediate interest”; there is no object we carry that is more immediate than the phone, and no object that more entraps us in a circle of self-serving.


“In their vehement self-assertion they ignore their unity with the All.”

“But pain, when met within the boundaries of[40] limited reality, repels and hurts; it is discordant with the narrow scope of life.”

Tagore conceptualizes in various times an idea of eternity or unified infinity in reality. I found this sense of “All” in line with with an Eastern philosophy, much like a sense of “nothingness” in Buddhism. Is our “reality” more limited in today’s age? I see this as a question regarding the diversity of experiences we may have. Is today’s technology worker, sitting at a desktop for more than 8 hours a day, his or her eyes navigating an LCD’s 2D plane, more “limited” in Tagore’s conception of reality?


“But art gives our personality the disinterested freedom of the eternal, there to find it in its true perspective.”

“To detach the individual idea from its confinement of everyday facts and to give its soaring wings the freedom of the universal: this is the function of poetry. “

I think Tagore’s solution to the boundaries of a limited reality is art. First, the expression of the eternal and infinite is possible in art; one is not bounded in any way except the limitations of creativity. Second, one escapes the limitations of a “limited reality” of real life because he or she engages in a different reality concerned with “creating”, much like the psychological conception of flow (being fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus in the process of an activity). This brings me to a question of the intersection of art and today’s technology; how is technology affecting our ability to attain what Tagore calls the “creative ideal”?

1 thought on “Escaping a Limited Reality

  1. In response to your first point:

    I don’t know if Tagore would think of social networking tools so deterministically. He seems to recognize that technology can spark our imagination in a way that brings us closer to “unity.” I think he might argue that the way we use these tools (just like how we approach what he calls “matter,” in general) plays a larger role in whether they drive us toward self-servitude.

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