31/07/2015 8:18 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

What Eulogies Say About The Human Condition

MANJUNATH KIRAN via Getty Images
Students, staff and members of the faculty of the Indian Institute of Science pay a candle light tribute to former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in Bangalore on July 28, 2015. Kalam, who played a lead role in the country's nuclear weapons tests, died July 28, a hospital official said. He was 83. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

I've often wondered about a particular phenomenon that almost always happens when someone passes away - the RIPs, the outpouring of positive sentiments and praise for the departed individual. What makes us all participate in this exercise?

As I read through all the eulogies and reminiscences of Dr Abdul Kalam after his passing, this thought comes to the fore again.

Broadly, eulogistic pieces dedicated to him have fallen into one of two categories.

The first involves memories of personal interactions with Dr Kalam and how these gave someone visible, tangible proof of the things he was reputed to be: humble, wise, curious, friendly, intelligent. The second is a second-hand but no less intimate tribute to the legend of the man, perpetuated through his many public actions and speeches that created and sustained the idea of Dr Kalam as one of the most towering public personalities in recent times in India.

In his lifetime, we have, most of us, found Dr Kalam's deeds and words worth imbibing, spreading, acting upon. It is no surprise then that we do it upon his passing too.

This phenomenon does not only apply to Dr Kalam or other public personalities. We tend to do the same thing, on a smaller scale, when anyone we know dies.

We recall the good things, the positive philosophies, the inspiring values, the meritorious actions that acted as the dots connecting the lifetime of each individual. And we bask in reflection, in the pride that we have known such a good person, sometimes even been part of their good deeds.

And so we stitch our own life narrative with these strands of good. Amidst an environment where bad news overshadows good, where cynicism clouds over optimism, where the line between bullying and banter blurs, where it is easier to put someone down than to stand up for yourself, these are not merely straws we clutch at. At an instinctive level, this is a core part of the human species that is drawn to doing and being good as a stepping stone to becoming great. No other species harbours ambition. Other animals may become leaders of the pack / pride, bees may become queens of the hive, but they are driven by motives of propagation and perpetuation of the species.

The human drive towards goodness and greatness is, in that sense, unique.

And so, amidst the turmoil of the human condition, we recall the goodness and greatness of the ones who pass, and we wish them the rest, the peace that we ourselves find elusive.

By: Narayan Devanathan, CEO, Dentsu Creative Impact. Narayan leads the growth of the full service creative agency across qualitative and quantitative parameters, along with heading Dentsu Mama Lab and Citizen Dentsu. A graduate in Biology, this seasoned but eternally curious strategic planner and ex-copywriter has, over the years, earned three Master's degrees - in marketing, mass communications and advertising.

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