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.

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Wanderlust

During our Kashmir trip in 2011, we met a gentleman who was not enthused at all with the gorgeous snow clad mountains, river streams and beautiful valleys. He said, “its all the same!”

Wanderlust is as much about exploring our inner selves through journeys outside as it is about our internal openness to embrace change and uncertainty.

Loved this wonderful essay titled “The Art of Wanderlust” by Cody Delistraty in The Paris Review.

Hat Tip: Kenneth Mikkelsen for the pointer. Here are some excerpts.

“Not everyone can travel, but anyone can sit in front of a canvas, an image. To wander no longer requires one to have resources; instead, it is universal and should be depicted as such. No matter how much we travel—no matter which mountains we hike or which cloud-swept vistas we position ourselves in front of—it is only an internal openness to change that will ever really allow it to enter us.”

No matter the scene or the artwork, no matter what is in front of us or where we are, it is ultimately up to us how we react. Travel, geography, physical movement—these Romantic ideas of existentialism hold far less sway over our internal being than we’ve long thought. What most matters, rather, is how we’re made to feel, how we choose to feel, and how we allow ourselves to feel.

 

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!

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)

Joy is in the Work

“Where is the joy in writing, dancing, film-making, or any art or entrepreneurial venture? It’s not in the praise; it’s not in a paycheck. (Though there’s nothing wrong with praise or paychecks.) It’s in the work itself. The sweat of it and the grind of it and the happy moments when it gets rolling all by itself. Krishna said that’s all we have a right to, and he hit the nail on the head. The joy is private and silent.”

– Wise words from Steve Pressfield via his post “The Fruits of Our Labor

Immersion

In 1923, the German thinker Eugen Herrigel, hoping to master Zen philosophy, visited Japan and immersed himself in archery. He wrote in his classic study “Zen in the Art of Archery”: “Archery is not practiced solely for hitting the target; the swordsman does not wield the sword just for the sake of outdoing his opponent; the dancer does not dance just to perform certain rhythmical movements of the body.” The target may be hit, the opponent outdone, the dance technically perfect – but those outcomes will be merely the happy by-products of a deeper absorption with the activity itself. And that is best achieved, according to Herrigel, by avoiding prescriptive goals and techniques.

Excerpt from “Are We Too Professional?” by Ed Smith More Intelligent Life

Paper Boat Memories

paper boat

“These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination.” – Tagore

This one was floated by my daughter last year when first rain of the season soaked not just the parched earth but also our hearts. The fragrance of the wet soil filled our souls as we breathed a sigh of relief from scorching summer heat!

My daughter had a big smile on the face as she launched her maiden paper boat into the water. Seeing those folded words moving with the water, I reminisced my own childhood when I used to tear pages from school books to make paper boats and play with them in the puddles and streams.

Each time I would launch a paper boat, it merrily sailed along trying to protect the sides, putting up a valiant fight before finally giving up. And then, I launched the other ones till parents noticed and got furious about the reducing size of my books!

That day, I joined my daughter and made a few paper boats myself experiencing immense joy of revisiting simple things in life.

Selfie World

selfie_tanmayvora

I love selfies. It is my chance to focus on myself for a moment and take a picture.

But “selfie” is also a hallmark of the culture we are seeing increasingly – people excessively focusing only on their selves. When we start putting ourselves before others all the time, it impairs our ability to serve others which is so vital in the collaborative and networked world we now live in.

I am reminded of a wonderful quote in Huffington Post article titled “Selfie World” by Michael Rosenblum quite aptly sums up what we really need to focus on: 

As the sage Maimonides wrote, “If I am not for me, who will be?” But he also followed with “If I am only for me, what am I?”

We sure have the first part down.

Maybe it’s time to focus on the second?

What do you think?