On Raising Children!

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

― William Martin

In the pic: My kids watching the expanse of Sukhna lake with Shivalik mountains at a distance.

 

What Death Teaches Us About Life..

Sometimes, witnessing death teaches you about life that life itself cannot.

This week, I encountered two deaths – one of a relative and one of a neighbor but it was the stark contrast of how they passed away that taught me something important.

Our relative passed away on the stage at the age of 70 years pursuing his passion for singing and music. He was performing at a religious gathering when he collapsed of a sudden cardiac arrest resulting from a rather long history of cardio-vascular disease. He was a parent of a special child and life wasn’t really easy for him. But he would always wear a smile as gentle as his nature and radiate joy whenever he met others. Music was his passion and to pursue it full time, he opted for a premature retirement from his banking profession.Music was also his defense against the trials of life – whenever he found himself tangled in vagaries of life, he would lose himself in songs that he wrote, composed and sung. He often mentioned that he would like to pass away gently while singing in devotion of the higher power. Universe granted his wish.

On the other hand, I heard the news of one of our neighbors who committed suicide at the age of 40 leaving behind wife and two boys aged 5 and 8! Though no one knows the reason why he chose to run away from life, everyone thought what he did was horrible. Escaping life to avoid being confronted with problems leaves those left behind with much bigger problems for rest of their lives!

Events like these makes you think hard about life and how to live it well. We often get too caught up with our problems whether it is financial, relational, physical or emotional. Problems are there for a reason. We evolve as we go through those experiences, face the challenges and solve our problems. We cannot let the dark clouds of despair take us over.

We all face problems and challenges in our unique contexts. A few things really help in dealing with them.

Having a strong support system in form of family and friends with whom you can share and communicate your feelings, emotions and concerns is important buffer we have. More important is to actually choose to communicate with our loved ones regularly. Having exposure to right kind of reading and thinking can help in dealing with problems wisely. Having at least one passion that you can lose yourself into completely can be a savior. Doing something to serve others can help in taking away focus from the self even if for short time. Having a spiritual hook in any form can help too. Living in the current moment and doing whatever you are doing with full focus can keep you away from anxiety of the future.

The life we have been bestowed with is precious. We got to use life energy as a tool to overcome challenges, to create meaning for ourselves, to serve others, to tread gently on this earth, lose ourselves in something bigger than ourselves and be open to learn along the way.

Voltaire said it right:

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living it well.

The Empty Boat

He who rules men lives in confusion;
He who is ruled by men lives in sorrow.
Yao therefore desired
Neither to influence others
Nor to be influenced by them.
The way to get clear of confusion
And free of sorrow
Is to live with Tao
In the land of the great Void.

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty.
He would not be shouting, and not angry.

If you can empty your own boat
Crossing the river of the world,
No one will oppose you,
No one will seek to harm you.

The straight tree is the first to be cut down,
The spring of clear water is the first to be drained dry.
If you wish to improve your wisdom
And shame the ignorant,
To cultivate your character
And outshine others;
A light will shine around you
As if you had swallowed the sun and the moon:
You will not avoid calamity.

A wise man has said:
“He who is content with himself
Has done a worthless work.
Achievement is the beginning of failure.
Fame is beginning of disgrace.”

Who can free himself from achievement
And from fame, descend and be lost
Amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen,
He will go about like Life itself
With no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction.
To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace. He has no power.
He achieves nothing, has no reputation.
Since he judges no one
No one judges him.
Such is the perfect man:
His boat is empty.

 – Chuang Tzu

Came across this wonderful philosophy of life by Chuang Tzu

(Hat Tip: Charlie Amber at Heart of the Art blog)

Leisurely Doing!

The Simple Pleasure of Doing!

” The promise of our civilization, the point of all our labor and technological progress, is to free us from the struggle for survival and to make room for higher pursuits. But demanding excellence in all that we do can undermine that; it can threaten and even destroy freedom. It steals from us one of life’s greatest rewards — the simple pleasure of doing something you merely, but truly, enjoy. ”

– In Praise of Mediocrity- NY Times

Choosing our Pursuits

Does your work make you a better human being?

The work we do and the stuff we accumulate are much like adding more zeros to life. There is no end to it and the sum total of all you accumulate is still zero.

Haven’t we all seen miserable millionaires and poor people (materially) who are blessed with contentment?

In a world where you can do almost anything you want to, our choice becomes ever more important. And it is the choice of doing the work that not only makes a bigger difference to the outer world but also enriches your inner world as a human being.

We see people doing menial mundane jobs with great joy and we see people in meaningful and deep work doing it with a feeling of drudgery.

Work itself means little, unless we assign a meaning to it. It is pretty much like a stone cutter who thinks he is busy building a cathedral. Stone cutting is mundane, building a cathedral is not.

It is this kind of work, and the meaning we assign to it, that adds a one before all the zeros. That which makes all the other zeros meaningful and valuable.

That is how we create value in life. Not by simply accumulating stuff and external validations. But by also doing the work that makes us a better human being.

👋

The Real Purpose of Education

We think of education very narrowly. Education is not just a means to find your vocation, education is an enabler in designing a good life.

As far as earning your daily bread is concerned, even uneducated people end up making big fortunes. At the least, they know how to survive.

But on the other end of the spectrum, we see many educated people (or lets say,  people with impressive college degrees) in a dire state of affairs when it comes to living a good life. We see people around who have been handed over a good fortune that they squander. They have loving kids who they ignore in the busyness of work. They have caring parents around who they take for granted. They have a good career but their finances are messed up. Their relationships broken and they have a toxic view about life and others.

I feel that the real purpose of education should be recentered around living a good life and not simply have a good career. A good career is certainly an essential element of survival, but that’s cannot be the whole point of our life.

Where will we lead our society if we always place a premium only on vocational growth and position in the pecking order of society instead of celebrating people who are able to live a balanced good life?

A life built around the highest human virtues of love, compassion, contentment, relationships and generosity.

That’s what society needs today, more than ever before!

Elimination

The sculpture of David, one of the most famous sculptures of all time, surrounds itself by as much myth as its maker himself. When the Pope saw Michelangelo’s work for the first time, he looked at it in awe, and asked the famous artist how he could possibly create a sculpture of such utter beauty and precision. Without hesitation, Michelangelo answered:

“It’s simple. I just removed everything that isn’t David.

Via Negativa

Start from what is absolutely needed. Keep things simple. Eliminate the clutter of stuff and thoughts.

Elimination inspires focus. It provides clarity. Simplicity, they say, is the ultimate sophistication.

On Brevity of Life

“You can think of death bitterly or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of an eternity of personal nonexistence, and seize it as a brief opportunity to observe and interact with the living, ever-surprising world around us.”

Our time here is but a blip, and when we leave, the great world continues to spin. As such, the appreciation of our own lives has much to do with the ever-increasing awareness of its relative brevity. It is this — an awareness and acceptance of our own mortality — that makes us human. And it is the impetus, I’d argue, for living our lives to the fullest.

Today this awareness of the temporal nature of it all leaves me determined to seize, observe and interact with the days that remain. It is the knowledge of how quickly, sometimes tragically, things can change or disappear that fuels my urgency to be in the present.

– Excerpts from NYTimes Opinion piece Life Is Short. That’s the Point. by Allison Arieff

Gratitude and Generosity

Gratitude is the prerequisite for generosity.

If you think what you have is not enough, how will you be able to share generously with others?

You will rarely see someone who is ungrateful and generous at the same time!

In the photo: A beautiful colored wooden house at Suomenlinna Island, Helsinki, Finland (2016)