Contentment, achievement, ambition....

January 1, 2008

I too have reflected what I have been, and done, over this past one year…and it led to musing about the difference between “being” and “doing”.

I have been lucky in so many ways that it is amazing. I am lucky not to be touched by all the sensational happenings that occurred…whether it was a bombing, a plane crash, an assasination, or an earthquake…I kept the even tenor of my life and that is a blessing indeed.

I have never felt the need to “achieve”; ambition has not been a part of my life. Though this often leads my friends to exasperation …“but you can do much better in music/photography/writing/sketching!”, I personally think that much of my happiness in life comes from not striving incessantly. In the words of my son-in-law’s dad, I am a human being, and don’t need to be a human doing all the time. I love the fact that I can have leisure…I like being able to “stand and stare”.

Ambition, to my mind, is a deceptive maiden. She remains most often elusive, and when just out of reach, can leave one frustrated and unfulfilled….Ambition is what every business school teaches, but they never teach how to handle that kind of drive once the career and the money-making period is done..and the frustration and difficulties of the “retirement period” begins. Conditioned to believe that only economic activity is worth pursuing full-time, the human doing finds it very difficult indeed to accept that fact that earlier hobbies can now become full-time interests. A lack of self-worth sets in, and the years that should be spent in indulging all the creative endeavours that could not be explored, are instead spent in trying to find “something to do” (read, economic activity)…and not enjoyed at all.

Never having been a “career” person, or felt the need to be at the top of the tree in any endeavour has meant that I have given excellence in many things the go-by. I can never point proudly to myself and say, yes, at this I am better than many others.

But somehow, that never bothers me. I am content to learn things to a certain level of proficiency, and leave it at that…and turn my mind to another activity. I find it more enjoyable to keep learning things about newer fields of endeavour, rather than excel in one and let the other activities go by. I like learning and retaining enough space for one more field of learning, too…

The leisure that I get also enables me to reach out to people. Everyone else is busy, it’s nice to be someone who is not. If someone asks me to come to a play, a movie, go jauntering in the neighbourhood market, take a wildlife trip…I am ready to go along, I don’t have to say, “oh, I wish I could, but I have no time…”

My favourite story is of the visitor who saw a fisherman lying on the shore after the day’s catch, and told him how well he could do if he could improve his business. They went through the various steps the fisherman would take as his enterprise expanded, and finally arrived at the fact that the fisherman would then be able to relax and take his ease when he was finally at the peak of his profession. “But,” said the fisherman, “that’s what I am doing right now, without all the worry and work you are talking about.”

To me, the two greatest luxuries left to mankind are not material possessions, but…space and time. Not Space and Time as concepts, but space as in physical space. In today’s over-populated world, having, say, large rooms, or lots of room in one’s home is a real luxury (and an expensive one.) Similarly, to be able to have time to spare is considered such a no no by today’s world, “oh-I-am-so-busy” seeming to the mantra of achievement…but to me satisfaction comes from the knowledge that tomorrow I can go off to Lalbagh to watch the birds for a few hours if I want to.

Of course, all this can come only at a certain stage in life when one’s responsibilites have been discharged…and that too, IF one’s financial and physical health permits. That’s where luck comes in, and I have been lucky…very lucky.

I let the great events of the world go by, and do not even like to write about them. I like to write about the things that touch the ripples of my own small existence. There are far better people than I am to write about a politician dying, or a nation being born…I can write only about what I know well.

And all my troubles, as the wish to newlyweds goes, are little ones. Minor stuff that I can take care of. And when one realizes how quickly one’s life can turn topsy-turvy, that is a Great Thing.

I am lucky. So I am happy. It might be the the other way around, too.

I don’t think I have expressed or articulated this very well. Someone who reads this might mistake me as condoning mediocrity, which I am not…but true to my philosophy, I will let what I have written, stand!