Posts Tagged life

Jobs

(No, I’m not talking about a certain individual who works at a company whose name is that of a fruit.)

They say every human has some basic needs: food, clothing are the most basic of these without which survival becomes ; shelter from the elements and medical facilities boost one’s chances for survival; education helps us make the transition from living to pondering the purpose / meaning of one’s existence.

On a more practical note, our studies at school, college / University help us earn a better living, or make the earning of a livelihood a little easier. It is unfortunate that our (so-called) education today is seen mainly as a means to earning a salary in a certain range, and not as something that can make our life purposeful. That’s a topic for a different post, so for now, let’s return to what is sometimes called the secular purpose of education: a job.

A job is often seen as the end of education (pun intended!), but what does a job really enable us to do? Save the world? Uplift the poor? Alas! Those are noble tasks that seem to be best left to those with a loftier ideal in life. For the rest of us, a job is a means to pay our bills; a vessel on which to sail smoothly through life without difficulties; a cause to lose ourselves in; less frequently, a means to find self-satisfaction. Commonly though, it’s the first and / or second of these. If that’s the case, then it shouldn’t really matter what we do: we may be farmers, butchers, construction workers, or IT workers, artists – it’s all the same. And that’s indeed true for many of us. We know not why we pursue our present profession and not something else.

For a few others, a job is a single-minded pursuit. What of, is something that varies from individual to individual. (I deal in computer software, so it would be best if I limit my examples to it. However, no matter what profession yours is, the ideas I’m trying to talk about should remain the same.) A typical software engineer these days, at least in the country where I come from, has a vision that’s unwavering. A vision of a great amount of money making its way to his bank account every month. If the colour of that money were to match that of an American dollar or a British pound,  his joy is greater. In the steadfastness of this vision, he is willing to sacrifice any ideas that he may have had earlier in life of the kind of work he wanted to do. Money, to him, becomes, not a means to an end, but an end in itself.

Thus it is that you find these “yuppies” willing to sacrifice their time at the altar of their god: the bank balance. Time which they could have otherwise invested in creating a more well-rounded life for themselves; or finding a partner to live the rest of their lives with; to pursue their dreams. What these people have lost track of is the fact that the prime of their life is being used to gather money, probably in the hope that their fattened bank balance will enable them to retire early and enjoy life. Maybe it will, but what sort of life would it be if you couldn’t spend time with your kids as they were growing up; if you couldn’t put your heart and soul into interests that you had always wanted to pursue when you were younger and had the energy to go after it?

Life, I think, has to be looked at as a whole, not as fragments of unconnected times. To think that money alone can solve your need for happiness is to delude yourself.

Which is why it becomes essential to find out early on in your life what motivates you, propels you to become better, keeps your flame of passion burning. And once you’ve found it, never let it go. A job, until then, should only be a vessel keeps you afloat as you search your heart for what it truly wants in the sea of life.

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Play for a win, or play for perfection? It’s all in the mind

I was playing tennis earlier today. We were just the three of us, so we played one man against a pair, and alternated every two games. Initially, the only thing I could do well was serve, but thanks to some hopeless hitting, I lost my service games rather quickly. Unable to win, and unable to hit a decent shot, I told myself that it was only a practice session, and that I could afford to concentrate on playing well, not necessarily on winning. Surprisingly, I started winning a few games, both while playing alone and playing with a partner. Three games in particular were really satisfying. In the first one, I was serving 0-40, and came back to win it with some good serving, setting up easy volleys for my partner to put away. In another (playing without a partner), I broke the serve of one of the best players here, and then held serve with a couple of aces and an equal number of service winners. Needless to say, I lost the next game ;-)

The insignificance of the morning session aside, the thing I want to talk about is the approach I had to the game today, and how it seemed to have made a difference. When I started off playing with an intention to win, I was losing miserably, and not getting any sort of timing or control on my strokes. But when I started playing with an intent to hit the ball well, my winning percentage improved. It reminded me of my college days when I would play to achieve perfection in stroke execution. (I had once mentioned to a friend of mine that I was trying to find self-expression on the sports field. That’s true of me even today.) Of course, winning mattered to me then even more than it matters to me now, but somewhere along the way, I had let the desire to win subjugate my desire to play a perfect game, and my game has suffered for it.

Age doesn’t always bring wisdom. In many cases, it corrupts our mind, making us forget our joys as children / young men when we toiled to develop certain skills, unmindful of the innumerable hours spent training our bodies and minds to obey our will. The joy of producing a well-timed shot – even if it is not an outright winner – is far greater than that of winning a point by waiting for your opponent to commit an error. Though all this may seem to apply mostly to amateurs, even professional sports-persons like the legendary tennis player Steffi Graf have been known to play with the hope of hitting “the zone” that some, or probably most, of us are familiar with.

Letting go of the desire to win lifts a heavy weight off your mind and allows you to be free and unshackled. This in turn lets you concentrate on the immediate present: you no longer play with a view to winning the entire match right from the word go, playing instead to win the point. Of course, if you continue to play well, you may just win the last point, which, at least as far as tennis is concerned, is the same as winning the match :-)

The quest to attain perfection is not necessarily an abstract pursuit. It’s an attempt to be the best you can be; it’s an attempt to find the latent superhuman in you; it’s a technique to detach yourself from expectations; it is a test of, and a push to extend, your limits. It is also a way to focus your mind, emptying it of everything but the present moment; a way to stay at the cutting edge of awareness. In many ways, it’s like a quest to attain the state of Zen – ever mindful of the goal called perfection, never of what that success might bring.

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We’re humans, every one of us!

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings:
“At the end of it, all are humans! How we look at things, how we deal with them, how we deal with ourselves, how we try and get over [sad events], how we get on with life without degrading ourselves. All in our hands.

The ball’s in everybody’s court. Upto [us] to play it.”

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Fight we must!

Life’s never fair. You know that, and you’re probably wondering, like the inimitable Calvin in “Calvin and Hobbes” why it’s never unfair in your favour. Here’s one corny answer: because!

All of us start life in different ways. Some of us are born into so-called middle-class families, while yet others are born with silver spoons in their mouths; some are born normal and healthy, while others are born with physical or mental deficiencies; some are born with a superior mental apparatus (the world knows them as geniuses), while the rest of us just get by with average intelligence. And so on it goes. So, what are we to do? Resign ourselves to our fate,and go through life with a sense of defeat?

Never! Fight not the world, but that which you assume to be your limitation; not against what you assume to be life’s unkind blows, but for the ideals that you hold dear to you. If you want to be a topper in your class, and you know that some of your classmates are born cleverer than you, then make up for it by spending more time on your studies than they do. Sure, they may still outscore you, but you’ll be better off for the toil that you put in. If you’re a sportsperson and your hand-eye coordination is not in the league of an Agassi or a Federer, then what you must do is spend more hours on the sports field honing your abilities: movement, footwork, racquet / bat skills, speed, etc. Sure, you may never win over critics, but you’ll certainly win over the hearts of people who see you fight with every muscle and sinew.

If you are more emotional than the average person, and tend to decide more with your heart than your head, then try and learn to be aware of your feelings all the time. Remember, your tendencies and feelings are strengthened by yielding to them unthinkingly; it’s not for nothing that resisting temptation is said to build character. For while anyone can yield to temptation, it’s only those with a strong will who can overcome temptation and emerge stronger. If you look at it from that perspective, your being emotional is actually a blessing in disguise for it gives you a wonderful chance to become a stronger-willed person. In fact, that’s just what difficulties in life really are: a means to overcome your weaknesses and emerge stronger.

Remember, “there is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts,” and “You are never given a wish without being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.” (Richard Bach, Illusions)

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If things are too good to be true..

Ever had the feeling that everything is going your way without your having to break sweat? That things are just perfect? That more things are going for you than you imagined would? That all’s well with the world; your world, at any rate? If you’ve answered yes to even one of the above questions, then I say to you, “Watch out!”

Why? Because it’s precisely such a feeling that can lull you into complacence; into blinding you to the path that you’re taking in life which may be opposed to the path that you wanted to take. And then, one fine day, when you wake up from this dream existence, you’ll find that you’re far too down the road you had meant to avoid a very long time ago to even think of any course correction.

So, if things are too good to be true, beware the comfort zone!

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Fly away

Leaving one’s country always causes, I suppose, mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m sad that I’m leaving the shores of the country that I’ve always called home, though I’ve not been proud about it at times (that happens to most citizens all over the world, I guess). I’ll definitely miss the sight of familiar faces and places. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to what I think will be a new life for me, a new beginning, a fresh start. A fresh start implies getting rid of one’s past baggage (to a reasonable extent, the extent being entirely subjective and personal), and that can not only be unnerving at times, but also painfully difficult. Yet, this is what I feel I must do, and this is what I’ll strive to do, if I have to have any chance of reviving my sagging career, my not-so-inspiring life. My personal credo can do with some updates, the old patterns of thought and behaviour being contradictory, sometimes, to my core beliefs. Knowing that never fails to make me squirm, and I hope I can successfully get rid of those mental cobwebs.

Who knows, as a result of those changes that I’ll work on, this blog might even get a bit more interesting to read!

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Lessons from movies – 1: Twelve Monkeys (1995)

I was watching a movie recently, and it struck me that movies can teach us some very good lessons in life. You know, the kind of lessons that make us wonder why we can’t change the way we look at / do things. So, I’m going to post my take on what lessons I find in movies that I watch from now on, or have watched in the past. Okay, here goes…

Lesson 1: We can’t take our life on this planet for granted. The movie is about how a deadly strain of a killer virus decimates human population, so much so that they have to scamper under the earth’s surface to survive.

Lesson 2: Not everything that sounds crazy or preposterous is really so. Sometimes, it may just be the truth that we’re not yet ready to accept. In the movie, Bruce Willis travels to 1990 from the future, but nobody takes him seriously; they confine him to a mental institution instead. It’s only when the statements that he utters casually come true that someone starts believing him.

Investigators into paranormal phenomena sometimes, just sometimes, stumble upon the truth. So while it’s good to maintain a healthy level of skepticism about findings that are dramatic in nature, it’s also a good idea to keep an open mind, even if only to ask the question, “What if?”

Twelve Monkeys

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Technology in our lives

Technology makes our lives come a full circle, but not the way we might have expected.

We invented gadgets and devices to give us more time for leisure. Then we found more things to do in our leisure which, surprise, resulted in us having less leisure. And then the realisation hit us (thanks to TVs, endless ads and gossip columns about movie stars who have “six-pack” abs) that we are, horror of horrors, not healthy and fit. So what do we do? Go to gyms, and use the ultra-high-tech stuff to become “healthy” or lose weight. There are also people who have “discovered” that doing household chores helps in keeping the surging calory levels in check too; and they trumpet their discoveries to their social peers, thereby proving their humility and social liberal-mindedness. Of course, their parents and forefathers did not know better (and don’t you dare tell them otherwise unless you’re prepared for a prolonged argument) though they might have been telling us exactly the same thing – that being self-reliant (translate that into “do your work yourself”) also keeps you healthy, besides giving you a sense of satisfaction. There, I digress as usual.

This new-found health in turn makes us feel better, and so we feel we have earned the right to indulge a little. Just a little. In no time at all, the little turns into “a little more”, and then, before we know it, we’re back where we started – we have no time.

Technology makes our lives come a full circle, but not the way we might have expected.

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Life – what exactly is it?

We’re born, we go to school, then pursue “higher education” at some college / university, start our professional careers, get married, produce kids, and then die. Of course, some of the luckier ones among us have a lot of fun in all this. My question is, is this what life’s all about? I can quite understand that as humans, we need to eat, sleep and, pardon me, pee – these are inevitable things indeed.

Beyond these things, however, do we question our actions? Why do we go to school? Because our parents sent us there, and we didn’t really have a choice. Why do we go to college? Because we start feeling vaguely uneasy that if we don’t, then we’d perhaps not get “ahead” in life, or maybe because we feel that it’d be fun to spend some time there; more common, I’ve noticed, is the inner voice that tells us that a good degree ensures a good job – after all, an engineering degree is usually a gateway (in India, at any rate) to pursuing higher education abroad; and that higher education is a means of gaining a higher salary. A genuine desire to learn for the sake of acquiring knowledge is probably the least common of the reasons why we study.

The reason for holding down a job are pretty obvious, so I doubt if I should discuss it at all.

Marriage – this is possibly the most discussed topic among people who have crossed a certain age (ask, and I shall tell you!). It’s also the most often quoted ingredient of the act of “settling down” in life; in fact, in some communities, settling down and marrying are almost synonymous. Please indulge me as I make the (admittedly stupid) assumption that the reasons given by a very small sample of the human population (of roughly a dozen or so friends and strangers) to be representative of the entire human race. Here are the top reasons why people marry:

  1. Everybody marries! (“…so why shouldn’t I?”)
  2. What else will you do in life later on? (“come on, there isn’t much fun in life without a marriage!”)
  3. One has to settle down in life, you know (whatever that means!)
  4. We need companionship in our later years (hmmm, seems to make some sense)
  5. I love him / her, and want to spend the rest of my life with him (this makes sense too)
  6. I love to have kids! (really? Why don’t you adopt some orphans then?)
  7. Mmm, er, it’s a legally sanctioned way to, you know, make out, you know what I mean? No? (looks of embarrassment) Well, you know, you can make love with a member of the other sex all your life (that’s pretty direct!)
  8. I want to let the human race survive (ah, behold the great philanthropist at work; he’s perhaps the one that smokes so that employees of tobacco companies don’t go starving)
  9. Peer pressure (I dig this!)
  10. It’s the done thing (oh yeah?)
  11. My parents want me to marry, and I don’t want to disappoint them (duh?)
  12. I don’t have the courage to face life without a life partner (this person is at least honest)

I’ll let you form your own conclusions from the above. However, you’ll notice that a lot of people don’t really seem to have honest answers, and usually pass off other people’s views as their own, or maybe they’ve hypnotised themselves into believing those views.

The last act of any human being is that of dying – and this is something over which we don’t have any control – at least, not unless you’re a highly evolved yogi – so it’s pointless discussing this either.

In summary, I think we go through life mostly in deference to opinions that are not necessarily our own. To be fair, there are many situations over which we have no control, so that ought to somehow mitigate the charge of our actions being mindless, but all things considered, I can’t help feeling that we are mindless automatons, most often programmed by society, and somewhat less often by ourselves.

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Say "Bye bye, world!" with a difference

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!! What a ride!” Now, how’s that for a great quote. I found while reading through http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.01/ultraman.html. Though the article seems to be somewhat humorous in its tenor, I found this line spot on when it comes to the attitude one might adopt to lift oneself out of stupor and / or ennui.

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L.I.F.E.

I felt, for the first time, that I knew what Ayn Rand might have meant when she said something like, “Man must make a choice between life and death every moment of his life.” I was sitting at home, eating my lunch when I felt, not for the first time, that I couldn’t quite justify my existence; that my daily routine was simply a trick to avoid facing the fact that I had no clue as to what I was supposed to be doing with the rest of my life; that I was merely leading the life of an aimless automaton.

Am I to feel happy about that new program that I saw on the Net the other day? Am I to jump up and down, excited about a white-water rafting trip that I’ve been contemplating for some time now, and the invitation for which landed in my mailbox today? Am I to feel thrilled about my planned participation in a tennis state-level tournament in January with my neighbour? Or am I to shut the hell up and “just live”, as many well-wishers have asked me to?

I don’t know. And by not knowing, my torpid state continues unchallenged.

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