Nothing, absolutely nothing, is going with you

So, why cling on to stuff, why fight over them?

I was amused to note that the Times of India Group has served a legal notice on Arnab Goswami asking him to desist from using his now famous phrase – “the Nation wants to know” – on his TV shows in the future. While the TOI notice made quite a sensation on social media, it left me with several questions. Why do people cling on to stuff? Why do they want to fight over them? Why try to control the actions of other people in contexts that are best left alone?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not against protecting intellectual property or material wealth or physical property. But a large media group, a behemoth, wanting to restrain a former editor from using a ubiquitous phrase, that had come to be identified with him over the past decade, to me, personally, smacked of a certain lack of spiritual depth.

The truth about our lives is that we came empty-handed and we will leave empty-handed. In this time that we are here, everything that is with us, is given here, is taken from here. And everything that is with us, will be taken away from us. Either when you are alive. Or when you die, it will pass on to someone else. So, spiritual awareness demands that we stop clinging on to stuff. If you are spiritually aware, if you are awakened, you will understand the futility of fighting, of wanting to control, of desiring to possess.

I must confess I was never this way. Life’s experiences have changed me.

AVIS-Viswanathan-Everything-will-be-taken-from-you-you-go-emptyhanded

To be sure, I was pretty much in the Times of India thinking mold. Everything – and everyone – I reasoned, had to be controlled. And just when I thought I had arrived, by clawing my way through Life, by fighting and winning so many battles, everything I had created or acquired to cobble together my little empire, everything was taken away from me!

The bankruptcy hit us in end-2007. (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) But it was an episode in 2012 April that made me understand and awaken to the transient nature of Life.

We had long closed down all our offices, including the one in Chennai. We had taken up a small two-bedroom apartment, which primarily served as a holding area for all our files and documentation – that were statutorily required to be maintained. The premises also held our personal collection of over 1500 books, all of them dealing with management, self-help and spirituality, collected over 20 years. But soon, we were unable to meet the rental commitment for this space too. So, in April 2012, we worked on vacating the place. All month we sat, Vaani and I, on the ground, each day, sorting and shredding stuff that we couldn’t shift to our home. Among stuff that wasn’t going to make it with us were those books from the private library. We gave away 1300 of them to a friend who runs a training company in Bangalore. He drove down to pick up them up. I also personally shredded the wall-mountable props of the Vision and Mission statements of our erstwhile Firm. It was catharsis. It was as if I was completing the last rites for our dream child, our Firm that we had found 16 years ago with the Vision of being a global consulting Firm.

That night, over a drink, I cried. Literally and figuratively, I was presiding over the ruins of an empire that once was. And now there was nothing. As I soaked in the futility of my grief, I made peace with myself. I understood that Life is not only about dreaming, striving, achieving, owning and controlling. Life is also about losing – what you have owned, what you have created – and about not getting what you want. It was a magical moment of awakening.

Ever since, I have found myself getting better dealing with denials, rejections and loss. So, while I still believe you must take adequate measures, living in a real world as we all do, to protect what is rightfully yours, you must avoid this urge to want to control, to fight and to possess stuff – things, people, opinions – and claim them as your own. Such a struggle will only take you away from living in the moment, from being happy. And, besides, without a shred of doubt it can be said that nothing, absolutely nothing, is going with you!  

There are a lot of Tim-like opportunities and Shaktimans waiting for us

If we make an effort, however small it may be, to touch another Life, we will live meaningfully!  

Reading the news this morning of Shaktiman’s (the horse in Dehradun who lost a limb after he was brutally beaten up by a local politician over a month ago) passing saddened me. A Life so unfortunately, so heartlessly, snuffed out.

174B3D6D-EC3B-484D-A8D0-6D271B8F5AED
Tim Mahoney & Shaktiman Picture Courtesy: Internet

The Shaktiman episode assumed a political overtone no doubt. And people took to social media to express their angst too. Understandable. But the story also leaves us richer with the learning that every aspect of creation gives us perspective on Life’s larger design, it’s purpose. Because, among the many who shared their grief over Shaktiman’s plight, two people actually went to work on it. Jamie Vaughan, an artificial limb expert, who was treating Shaktiman after one of his legs was amputated following the incident, posted, on Facebook, the requirement of a prosthetic leg to be sourced from Virgina and shipped to India urgently. Jamie, who works for an NGO treating animals in Bhutan, was hoping that someone traveling to India would volunteer to carry the precious cargo to her for Shaktiman. But Tim Mahoney, a former Bank of America employee, decided to do something better. He traveled from Kentucky to Virginia, picked up the prosthetic limb and traveled 12,000 km to Dehradun, at his own expense, all for a “call of heart”. Both Tim and Jamie had never known or met each other. Both of them were trying to help the distressed and injured horse – obviously expecting nothing in return.

I read about Tim’s compassion in the Times of India a few days ago. Ever since, I have been thinking of how this reminds us about how much we can do to help Life around us. Truly, I believe that with all that we have, we can do a lot, lot more, within our circle of influence. We don’t have to travel 12,000 km necessarily. What Tim’s selfless, magnanimous gesture does is it inspires us to pause and to think.

All of us are created compassionate. We become self-obsessed because either we are busy fighting our own battles and insecurities or we are busy earning a living. I think if we step out of our shells and look up, there will be a lot of Tim-like opportunities and a lot of Shaktimans waiting for us out there. Make time for someone today, go make a difference!