Suspend all scientific reasoning and simply see how beautiful each moment is.
A friend and I got together for a drink last week. He told me that he had concluded that Life is meaningless, that it has no logic. He has been through a bitter divorce. And he has recently lost his job. He said, “I loved my wife dearly. But she wanted to reunite with her boyfriend from college. I gave my heart and soul to my company. But just because the industry we operate in is going through a downturn, I was laid off as part of a sweeping job-cut policy. There’s no logic in Life at all yaar, AVIS!”
Unwittingly, my friend has stumbled upon the biggest secret about Life. That it has no logic! To me, Life’s full of magic though!!
To see the magic in you, in your Life, around you, you must stop being an adult, abandon all logic and just see everything with a child-like wonder.
While our logical temperament has been honed by years of education and social conditioning and while it has helped us grow our careers, it has really stunted our evolution as individuals. Consider your own Life. You too, like me, like my friend there, have problems. And, logically, you want those problems resolved. So if the problem is financial, you may want your income to go up and your expenses to come down. Logical thinking. But what do you do when your efforts at boosting your income come to a naught? You get depressed. Depression leads to scarcity and negative thinking. If your problem is a relationship, you will want to sit down and resolve it. But the other party is just not interested. You grieve. You suffer. If your problem is your health, logically, medication should work. But the doctors are wringing their hands in despair, because they say their efforts are not working. You start believing it’s all over. In all this logical thinking, in all three contexts, you are tormented, you are anxious and you are not present in your every waking moment. You are living in your problems.
And this is where you are missing the magic of the present. Of the myriad opportunities that Life is still offering you. Remember that despite all the problems you are faced with and are seemingly drowning in, Life is flowing, unraveling itself. Magically. There’s magic everywhere. In the rising sun. In the chirping birds. In the smile of a child. In the few friends who are still standing by you. In the fact that you have a home, food to eat and someone to call family. When you are allowing yourself to be gripped in the stranglehold of your problems, you are missing all this magic.
Your being wedded to your problems may appear to you to be very logical – after all, you want to solve your problems. But there are some problems that you cannot solve. Only time and Life can heal and solve them. This is why being stuck demanding to understand Life’s logic kills your ability to see all the magic. As American author Nora Roberts says, “Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.”
I experienced this extraordinary part of my Life yesterday – one more time! Vaani and I were at a wedding last evening. As we awaited our turn to greet the young couple, we saw a picture from their engagement show up on the LCD display – they were exchanging rings. I remarked to Vaani that I had never given her a ring in all our Life together – not even at our wedding, 28 years ago! So I quipped that I would get her a cheap, plastic ring for Rs.10/- because that’s what we could afford now! (Read more on why we can’t afford anything better here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) Vaani smiled back at me and told me this with a straight face: “You know what, get me a pumpkin instead, I plan to make sambar tomorrow!” We both erupted laughing even as other guests looked on, amused.
That moment, that was sheer magic! Such moments are waiting to happen to you too. But are you tuned in? You don’t have to do much. Simply, love the Life you have! Know that it won’t last forever. Abandon all logic. Then, and only then, will you see the magic – and beauty – in Life!
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Whatever you do, do it for the joy it gives you – don’t do it to be the first or the only one or to be famous!
Yesterday a young man remarked to me that I needed to become more aggressive, and perhaps commercial-minded too, to stay in sync ‘with the times’. He surely means well – dealing with a bankruptcy and trying to put a business back on track for several years can perhaps take the steam out of you. So, I did take his perspective in its spirit. But what he said got me thinking.
Last night, as I lay in bed, I thought of the younger me, from just 15 years ago. I was not just aggressive, I was rabid at times as well. I could never take ‘no’ for an answer. If something was not prying open – a lead, an opportunity – I would gatecrash, barge in. If someone was not willing to listen to me, I made sure they did – I literally dug myself in, often in their face, until I got them to hear me out. And, above all, I was intensely, fiercely, competitive. Times have changed. In the last 8+ years, I have faced so much rejection and seen so many closed doors (I have talked about my experiences and learnings from this phase in my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal – Westland). But I am no longer impatient. While I still don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, I don’t stick myself up in people’s faces anymore. And though I don’t enjoy competing anymore, it’s not that I have lost my aggression or ambition. It is just that I now value the journey equally, if not more, than wanting to get to any destination!
Our education system is such that it forces us to be competitive even before we understand what it means to compete. The whole social environment of a child (particularly in India) is focused on a skewed sense of academic excellence. Memory, not knowledge, is rewarded by our system. What a child knows is irrelevant in the context of how much the child remembers. And that is measured not by how much the child has learned and imbibed, but by what grades the child has got. So, naturally, there is anxiety among young, impressionable children – they all want to be the first in class – even if not for themselves but to do their parents proud! However, the nature of any competition is such that there can only be one first. Everyone else will have to follow. So, the ones who do not get to be first in class, continue to compete, often vainly, rabidly. And the one who stood first is competing to protect and so becomes possessive of her or his first position! This continues through college. At work. And in society. Look around you. You will find this evident in all walks of Life – even in a queue in India, where people simply have to push and jostle to get into a movie hall or a plane!
Let me clarify. I am not against competing and winning. But if competing is going to make you miserable – thinking about winning all the time and feeling depressed if you don’t win – then what’s the point in doing whatever you are doing? A constant state of urgency and the often-avoidable aggression, takes away the joy that any activity can deliver, especially when the focus is only on winning, on coming first, on being hailed, on becoming famous!
Whatever you do in Life has to fundamentally give you joy! If you are not feeling the joy when you are doing something, it is simply not worth doing it. Good coaches will always inspire people to strive to be the best, deliver what they are truly capable of, while enjoying themselves in the process. If what gives you joy also gives you wealth, fame and recognition, great! But if you work with only wealth, fame or recognition in mind, if you play the game only because you have to be the first – it may just not always be possible. Because, chances are, someone may be better than you are on any given day. That doesn’t mean you are worthless. But your hunger to win and your lusting to be Number 1 will make you believe you are good-for-nothing. The Bhagavad Gita explains this simply, beautifully. Krishna says: ““Don’t focus on the result at all!” – just make sure the “motive is pure” and the “means are right (ethical)”. Offer whatever you are doing to “Me”.”
Look at any great artiste or sportsman or actor or business leader. You will find one trait common in all of them. They simply lose themselves to whatever they are doing. They are not bothered about what people are thinking or about winning or losing or about coming first. They are offering themselves, and their craft, to Life (cosmic parlance for the “Me” in the Gita!). When the doer becomes the deed, when the singer becomes the song, when the painter becomes the art – magic happens. If the magic delivers a world-class performance, and with it material rewards, fantastic. But even if doesn’t, a truly great professional will not bother. Because she or he has enjoyed the process of doing thoroughly!
How you live your Life and are you enjoying living – these are far more important aspects to consider than what you won and who you defeated! So, the next time you are placed in a competitive context, compete by all means. But do so only so long as you don’t lose the joy of living, or your sleep, over wanting to win or be the first or the only one!