Life is an enduring mystery! A logic-defying experience most of the time!
The other day, it was the birthday of a friend who is estranged from me. I wished him on WhatsApp but he didn’t acknowledge my message. He is a classmate from school. And he’s angry with me because I prevented him from driving back home, after we had had several drinks together, one night in 2012. In fact, a couple of days after the episode, he had told me that “I could not be trusted to be a friend anymore.” I greatly appreciate his honesty in at least telling me so, on my face, even though it hurt me then that I was being misunderstood. Yesterday, someone who I don’t know too well at all, apart from him being a social acquaintance, contacted me, on his own, and without my even asking for it, offered to help me out with a complicated situation. While thanking him profusely, I said I was not sure if he knew me well enough and therefore appraised him so that he could be doubly sure if he really wanted to help me in the manner he was offering. This person cut me short though, saying: “I know you need this help right now. Don’t think too much AVIS. I implicitly trust you.”
I woke up this morning thinking about this irony. It was both stark and beautiful. It was tragic and moving. Tragic because someone who I grew up with has said that he does not want to trust me anymore – for the most unfounded reason! And moving because a mere acquaintance was willing to trust me!
There are no answers to why Life happens to us in the ways in which it does. Consider another instance: a former colleague of mine reached out recently saying he had landed a top job at a social media giant. This, despite the fact that, according to his own admission, “he is technologically challenged”. He classified it as a miracle and wondered how it had happened to him. And I pointed out to him that “all Life is a miracle”. So, let’s stop analyzing Life, trying to apply theoretical constructs or frameworks to it.
Think about it. Everything about Life is ironical. Those who have everything material are often searching for happiness, something that’s easily, freely available! And those who have nothing, while working hard to acquire everything material, are perhaps happier, because they know they can live, as they have lived so far, without money and things. Or those who have gone through a Life-changing crisis have often found a great inner peace. Because despite their upheavals, they have understood the impermanent and transient nature of Life! But when you think logically, when a storm ravages one’s Life, you expect pain, grief and suffering. Not inner peace. Yet ask anyone who’s been tossed up by Life and thrashed down, and they will swear that Life’s trials and tribulations have only made them stronger and more peaceful.
Clearly, then, we can never understand the meaning of Life. The only way to live well is to make this lifetime meaningful! Also, let’s welcome Life’s ironies and paradoxes. Because without them, won’t Life be boring and listless?
You live only once – so go do whatever that makes you come alive.
A friend called to say that he was confused. He had secured admission to a Master’s Program at a premium University in the US. He is in his mid-30s. He has not got a scholarship to fund his Program. But his family and friends have agreed to support his two-year USD 100k+ fee requirement. His question: Should he, at his age, ‘educate’ himself at such a huge cost?
This confusion arises in most of us. We tend to perceive a strong sense of guilt in us, which we often blow out of proportion, in all matters that concern what we love to do. Simply, deciding to do what we love doing, we imagine, is tough. I really don’t think so.
Here’s a framework of questions that’s easy to employ in situations when you are confused or are feeling a pang of guilt or both! Evaluate what you love doing in Life – primarily on matters relating to career, higher education, a passion, your bliss – basis this framework:
- Do you really want to do this – as in, is your heart in it? Will you enjoy doing this?
- Will it be useful to you and make your Life meaningful if you choose to do this?
- Can you afford this?
If you can answer yes to all three questions, just go do whatever you love doing.
The third question is significant and comes in handy to evaluate your Life choice based on economic parameters – if it is higher education, for instance, will you be able to afford the loan and repay it over time, if you are bringing the funds from outside? If you can reasonably convince yourself that you are financially preparing this investment after careful thought, you must just go ahead.
Somehow, we are never quite confused when acquiring material assets – stuff that makes us feel financially secure. If you are buying a house for USD 100k+/Rs.75 Lakh, you may not seriously think so much about it. Because socially, culturally, we are wired to consider purchase of property (or gold) as an investment. But education is seen as an expense. An experience that makes you come alive is seen as an expense. A career in creativity is seen as an expense. I don’t understand why we value our (financial) wealth more than our bliss?
As I see it, a degree from a US school is just a worthless piece of paper. Like a degree from anywhere else in the world. But pursuing a degree in an international school, in a multi-cultural environment, is an experience. And you are paying actually for the experience, for the knowledge you will gain beyond the curriculum and the class room, for the relationships and the resilience you will develop going through the academic tenure of any Program. Now, I will give the same advice to someone coming in from, let us say, the US and wanting to study in India – please do. Again not for the paper degree, but for getting schooled in India’s myriad cultures and work ethic. So, my vote is for any experience that can enrich you, no matter who you are, than just make you rich.
For making your Life meaningful, you must think beyond economic parameters and constraints. The focus should always be on how can I make my Life count and be useful? And not on the fact that it costs so much money to make it count. If you can answer what makes you come alive, if you have an opportunity that will help you live every moment of your Life fully, in bliss, and if you have found the means to sustain yourself without upsetting your immediate circle of influence, primarily your family’s economic ecosystem, you must go do it. Don’t think too much. I will leave you with what I remember reading somewhere – the opportunity of this lifetime must be utilized before this lifetime expires – during in the lifetime of the opportunity!