I like collecting things people say. It helps me think of things in a certain way. At times, it also allows me to explain to someone else an idea that I couldn’t have worded any better. Here’s one I found from my collection that’s quite obvious but can be difficult to grasp. It is like persistence itself, so easy to think one can persist but sooner or later we all give up, to preserve our sanity. But persist we must, it is the only way to find answers to our questions and solutions to our problems.
I read somewhere long ago that you can put people into one of four groups, although for most people it overlaps but still most of us have one major group, and they are people who,
- Run towards what they want
- Run away from what they don’t want
- Run along with the herd
- Run into and against the herd
When it comes to making mistakes, I’ve always been in he second group of people. I ignore, avoid, deflect everything that I am not sure of. And it has served me well to avoid clutter, extraneous things and things I’m not good at. Why would I try to learn how to ski when I don’t like being in cold outdoors far away when I can just sit at home and improve my fairly decent chess skills, right?
The problem is, one gets used to the comfort in the comfort zone. Gee, that’s why they call it the comfort zone after all. And growth lies only outside what’s familiar, what’s comfortable and what’s known. But nothing stunts growth more than constantly trying to avoid making mistakes. No kid ever learned to walk without bumping into things, hurting himself and just plain falling on his face trying to get up every time.
And as far as getting comfortable with making mistake goes, I remember I worked for a teacher years ago and he said this to me one day I made a mistake,
“So, you goofed up! What you did was wrong and you know that now, right? I won’t scold you for it. I don’t mind when my people make mistakes. Just remember this– when you realise you’ve made a mistake, contemplate, reflect on it and learn from it. You know there a gazillion different things you can do wrong everyday? Just once you’ve made a mistake, don’t repeat it again or else I’ll kick your butt. Make a new mistake everyday. Don’t ever repeat them.”
It has stayed with me all these years somewhere in the background of my consciousness. Perhaps, it’s time to bring it forward and this post is an attempt to do that. That, and to express my gratitude for that lesson.
Some of the most profound wisdoms are also some of the simplest ones. And that’s what makes it hard. We are used to ignoring overly simple solutions.
The hardest thing to accept when trying to change is the fact that you will change. There is no other situation where one so badly wants to both meet and prevent the outcome. To change means to be something you are not already. One cannot change and still be what one is already. Of all the difficulties one faces in trying to change, this is the biggest I think.
Change is hard. But it does not need to be.
Finding a purpose for being alive is a difficult thing. Very few are told from birth what they are meant to be, most others have to hunt for it themselves. And in the absence of a definitive purpose, we keep roaming around meaninglessly collecting experience after experience until we die one day and it matters to nobody that we once lived. My attempts to find my purpose for being have been futile so far and so it adds to the feeling of inadequacy that’s already been implanted there from childhood. So I figured, constantly trying to better oneself could suffice for a default purpose for life until a better one is discovered. For if success is indeed a combination of preparation and chance, one better be preparing whilst waiting for the chance.
Honesty, in this journey, has become more and more important by the day for me. Honesty among all people but in particular, among people that stand to affect you in some way is a very important but underrated quality. People at work, neighbours, friends and/or relatives that observe you and critique you, let’s call these people ‘friends’ regardless of what they really are, for friendship is the best of all relations one makes. It turns out, and many people seem to know this but I’ve only recently discovered it, that people love living in groups of people that are almost of equal stature. And if one particular person tries to better oneself much more than the rest of the group, one faces nothing but discouragement from the rest because most people would rather bring one to their level than rise up to theirs. And in a group like anywhere else, if it is one against many, the one either succumbs to peer pressure compromising ones personal growth or dares to move on from the group and continue bettering oneself. It is easy to see why most cases eventually have the former ending. Our need to be with people that like us are far greater than our need to better ourself. So it requires a great deal of courage to leave the familiar faces and onto your own journey. Perhaps, on the way, one finds another group much more equal now to ones grown abilities but one can never be sure that it would last either.
It works the other way round too. Because the group would rather have everyone on almost the same level, one is also forgiven a lot of mistakes. Group members try not to be too critical of their own kin and they exaggerate the mistakes of someone from another group if one member of their group was in conflict with them. This makes the group feel like a secure and protected place to be in, of course, but growth happens outside not inside of ones “comfort zone”. If group members always try to ignore each other’s mistakes because in turn, it guarantees that their own mistakes would not be punished either, it is far too comfortable a place to grow. And it’s not honest.
What’s one to do? I cannot possibly presume to know the answer mostly because it can depend on context a lot of times what’s the right thing to do and even then one can never be sure. But I think, as a good default, the truth can lower the burden by a lot. I’ve come to appreciate, and not by experiencing it frequently but more by the lack of it really, when friends tell each other how bad they suck. It’s unfortunate that I don’t have friends like that and more unfortunate even when I look around and I see not a lot of people have friends like that. We are a society based on comfort and convenience. And while there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it does not get preferred over what’s right and necessary, we should all be alright I guess. As far as the unfortunate reality goes for most of us, I think I’d try to be that friend first for people that matter and hope that I’d be told the bitter hard truths too along the way myself that save me years and years of failure to otherwise learn from on my own. And if I don’t find enough people like that, it wouldn’t be too bad to get rid of the existing ones that won’t change. Over time, a circle will emerge with carefully selected friends that most of all do each other a favour by speaking nothing less than the cold hard truth.
Life’s tough. That’s why it’s important that we are tougher.
I was waiting at the railway station this noon for the train I usually take to get to work. I saw an old guy, walking towards me. He was dark in colour and had no expression on his face. He hardly blinked. It was hot but he wore a shawl as thick as a mattress and he carried a stick to support his slouching body. While I was busy day-dreaming about my life, I had observed the people sitting on the nearby benches and a few standing beside me. There was another old man sitting on this bench and his character seemed to contrast the others. He was dressed in formals, seeming to be going to work as well. He had a brown briefcase too to support this fact. And he looked healthy and had a calm feeling about him unlike the one walking towards me, towards us.
As he came closer, he began to slow down until eventually he stopped. It aroused a little curiosity in me. I turned my head towards him so I can see better than I could from the corner of my eyes. He extended his hand to the sitting old man, apparently asking for money. He looked into his eyes, not with an attitude that an inferior might carry, but of expectation as if demanding something this was his. And it worked. The guy gave him a few coins, I’d assume about 5 rupees. And then he kept walking.
It reminded me of myself years ago, when I had just joined college and had to use the train everyday. I was very annoyed to have to deal with beggars every time I was at the station as it is quite a norm to find them there. On second thought, I was not as annoyed as I was unsure of the correct way to deal with the situation and hence, uncomfortable. Over the years, I’ve had many discussions about it, a few arguments as well with most of my friends and at times even with beggars themselves. And I’ve learned that if one is of the opinion that giving them money is encouraging them to continue begging, like I am, then the best option is to ignore them completely. A lot of practice has made this an unconscious habit now. So, as he was passing me by, I turned my head the other way, so as not to make direct eye contact. However, I could still see from the corner of my eye that he wasn’t going to ask me or anyone else standing beside me for any money. He just kept walking. After walking about fifteen steps, he stopped in front of another bench, this time where a few old women were sitting and chatting. He looked, no, stared for about 6 seconds before he extended his hand towards them and he did so in the same fashion as before. The women refused to give him any money though. And he did not push it any further. He just looked ahead and kept walking, seeming to be in control of the situation, as if that rebuttal was expected. He walked slowly with his stick and one slightly bent leg but he left with grace and without losing face.
I boarded the train that was now here and I couldn’t help but think of what I had just witnessed. So I took my notepad out and started writing. I kept thinking of reasons why he was so selective with the people he chose to ask for money. Perhaps, he was good at reading body language and he could get by the expression on somebody’s face if they’d offer him something or not. Or maybe, he was too proud to beg and found little spurts of courage only once in a while to humble himself and extend his hand I fancy to believe in the former theory as it sounds more exciting to me. But whatever the reason might be, one thing fascinates me as I just thought of it— one extends ones hands both when asking for help, in this case begging, and when offering help figuratively. That must mean something, right? May be it doesn’t. Maybe it does. I don’t believe in co-incidences. So, I’ll believe and leave you to figure it on your own. Another thing about the incident that didn’t excite me much, made me a little sad actually, was how the bum had more grace than most people I meet everyday. He begged because he had to or perhaps he was used to. I am not to judge him for that. But he was selective. He believed that he could afford to be selective. And just the previous day, someone talked about being so desperate for money that he mentioned he’d take money thrown at him like a dog. And one would say he had enough money! What contrast! Most of us in life are defaulters. We default to whatever is the trend or whatever people around us are doing . We default to habits and attitudes because we find them normal just as everyone else does. But to go against the flow, to make a choice that no one can and to select rather than accept everything requires courage. If a beggar can, why can’t we? To him, he’s not a beggar but to us he is. And to me? He was a hero, in his own way. My hero for the day.
Note: I wrote this a few months ago but couldn’t get around to posting it here.
Some people do. Others make people believe they’ve done.
I’ve always held a high regard for one of the greatest scientists this planet has ever seen. He was like the Batman. In that, he was more than just a scientist. He invented things and tried to make this world a better place and never bothered about his reputation. I first read about his real story in a Linda Goodman book and then, he was everywhere. I think the world owes him a word of gratitude, if not anything more.
It is not what I am underneath that matters but what I do that defines me.
The world may not understand,
May even deem me weird.
But you know, Oh! my Uranian friends,
Rules are meant to be bent, not feared!
That you can read a symphony,
And listen to a book,
Earn a friend, not money,
And make love while you cook!
The words are mine but the message comes from the OOber Galaxy uttered by an angel we’ve all known here on earth as Linda Goodman.
I tried to speak with a golden tongue
And it failed to make a difference
So I lashed out with fierce words
But that couldn’t earn me any reverence
Against my nature, I could turn violent
If it only budged you an inch
Guess I’ll just be, forever, silent
Inch by inch, everything’s a cinch!
It has been long since I wrote something. The length measured not by the amount of time that has gone by between the last and the current post but by the amount of comfort and nurturing that is provided by self-expression, the highest of all expressions. There has been none.
I have tried a few times to come back and write both here saving half-written posts in drafts and in my mind where things don’t stay but they don’t leave either. I cannot find a way to express mys-elf right now. Not to people around me, not here, and not even to mys-elf.
Understand that silence does not always mean that there is nothing to be said. It often can mean that there is more to be said than can actually be said, sometimes due to fears of our own and other times due to the lack of understanding and an earnest ear to hear it. I shall be back again when I’ve found a better outlet. Till then, I am withdrawing mys-elf from this.
One of my favourite Batman movies, Batman Begins has the quote:
And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.
Thomas Wayne asks this question to his young lad, who was to one day grow up to become a vigilante, a hero and perhaps more than that. Behind that mask, that Bruce would wear for the rest of his life fighting criminals during the nights, hid the face of a man who had grown up to become more than what he ever was to. Inside him was the same boy who was still afraid of bats. But he had learned how to tame his fear and use it in his favour instead of letting it work against him.
Had he never fallen in to that hole filled with bats, would he have ever gone this close to having his fears materialized? And had that not happened, would he be the fearless fighter that he was? I doubt so. That was just a movie and it was based on just a fictional superhero comic series. But the lesson was and is nonetheless worth learning.
I’ve been going through things that I’ve never thought I’d have needed to face ever. And that is the reason why I never gave it a thought or had any practice in handling it. They say everything happens at the right time. I don’t know “them” but I want to believe what they say for it seems true. The thing to remember always is that whenever we fall, it is our responsibility to take it as a sign and learn to grow from that experience. Otherwise life will have no choice but to make us fall somewhere else. We will fall in a different hole, hurt ourselves at different places, but the lesson will remain the same.
“In life there are no co-incidences”, used to say my shero Linda Goodman and I choose to believe her. And if everything is there for a reason, does it not make sense to not fight things and just accept them as they are? A person who does not know how to swim sometimes in trying to save himself from drowning, ends up making it difficult for him to be saved when he just keeps flapping his arms and legs. When I learned swimming, I learned to trust my body to come up and float automatically when I trusted it to do that and just let go of any control. That is the secret. And it’s not that difficult to trust either. You just have to accept the fact that there are things which you can’t understand but you have to accept them anyway.
When I say all this, I don’t really know who it is that I am talking to. Sometimes it seems like I am talking to my imaginary friend, other times as if I was talking to myself in the mirror. Even other times, I feel like I am sending out a message for someone in need and going through the same situation I am right now. We might not know each other or our situation, but the lesson and the wisdom in it connects us.
I have to learn: When things don’t go my way, they need to be some other way and I’ve to accept it. The more I fight, the more I’ll drown myself.
Listen to the song and prepare to feel the message.
I just came back home. I’ve been out all night. I had gone to visit my brother to talk to him about myself. I can hardly remember a time when I went to him for any kind of advice or help. But this one, I needed. So I didn’t think, didn’t tell anyone and just left. It was about midnight then.
After having talked to him for a while, it was time to come back home even though I wasn’t sure I got what I was looking for. But then a friend called to tell me he was out somewhere and had an accident. A seemingly minor one but it caused him a fracture in the leg which made it difficult for him to even move it.
We spent about an hour asking people and finding a hospital somewhere in the town. We found two. One was closed. The other one had no doctor and when I insisted, the nurse called one but he said he couldn’t come and we’d have to be back in the morning. There seemed no way but to go to a chemist and get a painkiller at least. Although I am against the use of drugs this way (I’d prefer if a professional actually prescribed something, but even then I am not very convinced of it always), he really needed something to put him to rest till the morning at least.
Something told me to prevent him from taking the medicines we’d just gotten and wait for some time. I still had hope and not very far from where we were, we did find a hospital which was not just open 24×7 but had a doctor available as well. Funnily, as life can always be, that hospital is just across the road from where my apartment building is! I had checked it once while coming here but the doors seemed locked and there was no sign of a light inside turned on. And this time, I still tried knocking and very pleasantly, a nurse opened and she smiled & nodded when I asked her if a doctor was available. I realized then that we should never hesitate to try or ask for something. I always try to tell this to myself but never really follow it. I am going to try to remember it from now on. An effort wasted is better than a step withheld in doubt or assumption.
The doctor did the usual check-up, gave him medicines and after the usual form-filling and payment ritual, I left him to sleep with an assurance that I’d be back in a couple of hours when the sun would have risen. It is after all only 15 steps away from my place and he has no one else there for him right now.
I came back, freshened up and made myself a cup of tea. I knew I couldn’t rest for a few minutes too because if I sleep, I’d not wake up till the evening. So here I am trying to write this in my journal and trying to keep myself up. I met a friend online before I had even begun typing this. We talked for a while and it was an interesting conversation. She has cancer and she’s one of the most optimistic people I’ve seen in a while. Although she won’t be dying anytime soon (not out of cancer anyway, knock on wood!), her life has turned upside down, to put it mildly. Somehow, she manages to get a lot of inspiration from somewhere and also passes it on. Sometimes, even without knowing it herself. 🙂
The empty cup rests besides me on a stool and the taste of tea still remains with the slight fragrance that put me to rest a while ago. The clock in the room shows the only time it is capable of showing but the pendulum keeps swinging. It’s a symbol of stillness when we keep on moving through life so fast. Four people, since yesterday, have either directly told me or given me the impression that they are busy and would rather not be bothered. I shall let them be and not complain. But I make one promise to myself- whenever someone I love wants me around, I’d lose a month’s hard-earned fortune, if that’s what it would take, but be there for them. And I called someone to tell exactly that. Someone I feel something for but have no way of expressing. And I feel like a fool when I run after her like a dog chasing a running car, when it’s certain it would never be able to catch it. If the dog could, however, read the bumper sticker on the car, he’d never give up, for it says “Keep hope alive…it’s the only way you can smile always!!!!”
I don’t believe in time. I try not to let it overburden my life. It’s not easy, but I believe if I try, I’ll manage to find the bliss that lies in what they call the “eternal now”.
I’ve unsaid and unacknowledged desires. And there are times when they become overbearing.
I imagine a kid who has no worries about life and lives in the moment. I envy kids for they are able to do it very easily. I have thought of so many times that I’ve done things I now regard as silly and unnecessary. And most of them have been things that somehow had something to do with my future desires. I want a better house, better clothes, better phone, better everything! There’s nothing wrong with wanting. Or is there? Now if I do everything to make sure that I will have a better house in the future, what happens to the current place that I live in? Even though the house I fancy would seem more important to me, is it really more important than the place that is providing me shelter presently? The house of my dreams doesn’t even exist! So how can I consider it more important than the one that does exist and is actually the one where I lay in comfort imagining better things.
I think I need to learn this ability to live in the present from a child. A child who does not care how many chocolates he’ll have left for the night if he craves for them now and eats them all from the refrigerator. A child who, when is with you, enjoys your company as long as you are there even though he’s aware that you might leave soon and he’ll miss you badly. A child who is not afraid to show either his affection or dislike for you in words and in actions too, for he doesn’t think that liking makes him vulnerable to hurt and disliking necessarily makes him bad. A child who will love you for who you are and even complain about what you are not. But still love you.
I shall be that child who will have his chocolates today. Tomorrow will matter only when it becomes today.