Experience shapes life. We are who we are, not just because of what we can do, but also of what we cannot do and the lessons we learnt along the way. The lessons we learn colour the glasses with which we see the world. Though we wouldn’t have chosen those circumstances if it were upto us, it is only through them we would’ve learnt some lessons that serves us today. Some lessons that I learnt the hard way but have been useful to me:
A friend recently declared he wanted to cultivate one thought process which he believed will give him peace – to have no expectations. A lofty and difficult goal. It reminded me of my trials with it. I had in the past and many times since then wanted to make this a part of my life but faltered. It’s now just a figment in my mind that keeps popping up whenever I expect and keep getting disappointed.
The book ‘Monk who sold his Ferrari’ starts with a hi-fi, big shot lawyer, walking away from his life. He disappears into the Himalayas and becomes a monk. Why? When the lawyer suffers a heart attack, he pauses to look back at his life just to realise that no matter how wealthy he was, how successful he was, he was still unhappy. ‘What do I need to become happy? To be content in life? What do I need?’, he disappears to find the answers for these questions. This concept is not new in Hinduism where it is known as ‘vairagya’. Unhappy with life, a person abandons everything in search of peace, to identify what they actually need in life and want from life.
A few days ago, I realised I worked better when I wrote down the tasks I wanted to get done that day in a notebook and ticking them off from there than directly referring to them in Omnifocus. This lead me to buy a softcover moleskine with which I fell in love with. At the same time, I happened to open an old notebook where I had written a few passages from a book I was reading then and towards the end, added my thoughts on those passages. I didn’t even remember I had done this. But, it was so good to see the author’s thought and mine side by side, that I wished I had written more. From there started a desire to add more notebooks to my workflow. This raised a problem, albeit a first world one. I just didn’t want my highlights, quotes I collect, thoughts I write in different places. I wanted one solution, preferably. I could not decide if my workflow should be digital or analogous. I was debating both the sides. I started making points.
A few days back, I sent a message to a few friends that caused much debate, – ‘it is only our parents I guess, who love us unconditionally. Rest all, value us only if we add some value to them’ My intention of that statement was – what is important? Existence? or Doing? ‘I think, therefore I am?’ or, is it, ‘I do, therefore I am?’
Consider friendship. Why did your friends gravitate towards you? For what? What value do you bring to the relationship? It could be simply be humour, or a listening trait that you have which they appreciate. Now, what if you don’t listen? What if you don’t crack any jokes? Will they still be your friends? By logic, no. You don’t bring anything to the table anymore. So, why would they still be happy having you around? Slowly the relationship would fade. So, am I, my actions? Or, should my existence be valued? irrespective of whether I act or don’t?
At the end of every summer vacation, two weeks before the school started, my father & I would go to school to get a list of notebooks that I would need for the coming year. Our school canteen which also housed the bookshop sold premium Lepakshi Nandi notebooks. But, well, they were ‘premium’. So, I would sit on the scooter with my dad and goto this place called Chatta bazaar, a wholesale market in Hyderabad, where books could be bought for cheap. These books were cheap indeed, both in price and quality. I was not happy. Not because of the price. But, that they never emanated the scent I associated with a new notebook.
As a kid, I saw a movie where a family is brutally murdered before their child who helplessly watches the crime but is unable to do anything because of his age and limitations. The child, of course, then grows up to avenge his family’s murder, just like countless other movies that come out every year. But, the scene of the helpless child had a profound impact on me. Would I be able to save my family, if something happened to them? The answer was frustratingly ‘no’.