There are not many instances in history where genius and simplicity have melded together. Where such fusion has happened, it has been most memorable and remembered for a long time. Good examples are the Feynman lectures, the Einstein equation, and Beatles.
Kaviarasu Kannadasan has made such a lasting impression in Tamil cinema in the 60’s and 70’s, with his simplistic but highly meaningful (and at many times, double-meaningful!) lyrics. One such song that has made a lasting impression across multiple generations is from the film நெஞ்சில் ஓர் ஆலயம் (nenjil Or Alayam).
The context (to the best of recollection) is about a terminal patient who is being treated by an old schoolmate of his wife who was in love with her in the past. The husband wants to do right to his wife and wants her to marry the doctor, which obviously she refuses to do. Any simple song could do here, but Kannadasan masterfully weaves in some intense philosophical ideas with amazing simplicity and eloquence.
நினைப்பதெல்லாம் நடந்துவிட்டால் தெய்வம் ஏதுமில்லை
நடந்ததையே நினைத்திருந்தால் அமைதி என்றும் இல்லை
ninappathellam nadanthuvittAl deivam Ethumillai
nadanthathaye ninathirunthAl amaidhi endrum illai
If everything we think about happens immediately, there is no reason to believe in God.
If we keep thinking about everything that has happened (dwelling in the past without moving on), then there is no peace.
Soulfully rendered by P B Srinivas, these words still ring in many ears long after it was sung. He doesn’t stop there.
எங்கே வாழ்க்கை தொடங்கும், அது எங்கே எவ்விதம் முடியும்
இது தான் பாதை இது தான் பயணம், என்பது யாருக்கும் தெரியாது
பாதை எல்லாம் மாறி வரும், பயணம் முடிந்துவிடும்
மாறுவதை புரிந்து கொண்டால், மயக்கம் தெளிந்துவிடும்
engE vAzhkkai thodangum, atuhu engE evvidham mudiyum
ithu thAn pAthai ithu thAn payanam, enbathu yArukkum theriyAthu
pAthai ellAm mAri varum, payanam mudinthu vidum
mAruvathai purinthu kondAl, mayakkam thelinthu vidum
No one knows when we will be born, when we will die, or what their life journey will be. Paths will inevitably change over the lifetime and the journey will come to an end. If we realize this (impermanence), then there won’t be surprises.