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.