Fulfillment And Unfulfillment.

“No one achieves complete success in life but, even partial fulfilment is attained by but, a few. Unfulfilment is the normal condition of man.” ~ Irawati Karve.

This post has been inspired by Ekoshapu’s post on Reunion. Since I attend reunions regularly, what the poem says resonates with me.

The heartthrob of the school,

is a man grim and somber.

That lanky little girl,

is now a weightlifter.

The topper of the class,

is a happy homemaker.

Back bencher of the lot,

is an entrepreneur.

The flamboyant fashionista,

became a dreaded lawyer.

Oft ignored average Joe,

turned a well known writer.

The one who failed math paper,

is a fashion designer,

and one who often got to stand outside the class,

is a respected army officer.

The reunion taught me how,

people come with many layers,

and told me why we should,

never judge a book by its cover…

Let’s remember this every time we step into our classes;

Each child is a potential success story!! Lets help them write it

On reflecting on the topic, it also occurred to me that in these reunions, one rarely comes across someone talking about how s/he has failed whereas irrespective of whether one came from a background of privilege and money or the absence of it, the successes inevitably talked about it and maintained that they are self made successes. As a corollary, I suppose that the failures are also self made failures but, they are unwilling to admit it. They will blame everything possible other than themselves for their failures. Usually, the government, competition or often, bankers.

To reinforce this trend of thought, I have recently had to interact with two young friends of both categories and I dug up the Nightingale quote for the latter. He was quite stunned that it had not occurred to him and we spent quite a long time discussing how things could have been different had he done somethings differently or not done somethings at all. Since he is quite a determined sort, he has perhaps understood the situation and will try again.

To the former, it was easier to point out the advantages that he had to start with before he became an entrepreneur to deflate his ego a bit and give some credit to his parents and background. Subsequently, his father rang me up to thank me for doing that! I must have done something right for the news to reach the father!

Which brings me to the second quote on unfulfilment being the norm for most of us.  I think that Irawati Karve has hit the nail on the head but, am willing to be corrected by any of my reader/s who may think otherwise.

Retirement.

As should be obvious, that man could well be me, a retired old geezer solving crossword puzzles to keep himself out of mischief.

Since I started to work when most middle class Indians were still in college, my great ambition was to retire when I was fifty. I was not able to but did retire at the age of 52. At that point of time, I had very valuable assets, a reasonably good pension, money in the bank and most importantly, an empty nest with an independent son having flown the coop.

I was however pulled out of retirement on other occasions on short term assignments but, by and large, even those did no take away my attitude towards life, one of taking it easy and not being ambitious to achieve big goals.

I am now 75 and so when I came across this piece of information it was an Aha moment for me. Just look at this table from the article.
Table 1 – Actuarial Study of life span vs. age at retirement.

And just as I was planning the outline for this post, I came across another very interesting piece of information which is even more interesting. I hope that this young man succeeds and spends many more relaxed years solving crossword puzzles or whatever else that may interest him. I wish that I had had that kind of an environment when I was that age!

Enemy.

This is one of my all time favourite quotes and when someone sent this image to me on WhatsApp, I immediately wanted to share it with my readers.  It is innocuous to begin with till one starts to reflect on it.  And then, bang, it hits one like a thunderbolt that this is a very profound and true statement.

Another great writer went a step further and came up with some more profundities – “Like every man, I am my own worst enemy but, unlike most men I know too that I am my own saviour.” ~ Henry Miller.

Let me share a story of a man who I know well. He is a very wealthy self made man in his seventies with extensive properties in and around Pune. His world and conversation revolves around his wealth and how much he benefits from it as well as how much he suffers from it. He is suspicious of every one and therefore is lonely and bitter but unlike Henry Miller does not understand that he has to be his own saviour. He has become a hypochondriac as, at least in my opinion, he has nothing better to do. He comes to me often to let off steam because I give him a patient hearing and have no interest in his wealth. When I point out to him that he is lonely because he is unable to stop showing off and be considerate but, he is unwilling to accept that as a character flaw. He continues to be miserable and all his wealth goes to finance his constant consultations with medical practitioners of all specialities.

On the other hand, there is another friend who is far from wealthy but a great human being unfortunately prone to panic attacks and depression. We became good friends a few of months ago after we became closer to each other than we were before due to a series of unintended developments. I shared with him my experience of overcoming depression through consultation with a psychiatrist and suggested that he too does that. He took my suggestion, and today accepts his failings with his relationships, has made amends and is better off for doing just that. He now understands that he is his own saviour.

In my own case, my exposure to Vipassana meditation 35 years ago enabled me to look into the mirror to see the reality of myself and find ways of overcoming my weaknesses. Having kept up regular practice, I have been able to handle life’s vicissitudes with some equanimity. To anyone who asks me for guidance, my first recommendation is to learn to meditate using any technique and inevitably, those who do, benefit and learn how to manage their own enemies. I strongly believe that meditation IS learning to love oneself by handling the enemy within.

Book Review – Mark Manson.

In my post An Unexpected Gift, I had undertaken to review the book that I had received as the gift. I also take you to Ekoshapu’s post where he wondered if I would comment on two observations that he made there and I will combine both the review and my comments here.

First the language. Having braced myself for a barrage of foul language based on various comments and the reviews that I had read, I was pleasantly surprised to find the four letter word more or less disappearing after the first couple of chapters. Once Manson gets into his stride with his message, he does not seem to require the crutches of the f*** word and the reading becomes quite placid. Towards the end he does use it a few times but not to the same intensity as he does in the beginning.

Now to the content. As self help books go, this is one that people of my age, Tammy and Monk, I hope that you agree, can safely ignore. Unlike Manson who is now is his thirties and still with a long life ahead of him, there are two issues that we do not need to address. One, we have nothing to prove to anyone including ourselves, and two, we are quite familiar with the prospect of impending death.

The other recommendations that Manson makes will perhaps be of use to younger, and particularly Western and Westernised Indians grappling with the pressures of modern living and expectations. In other words, people of my age, both Western and Indian have no need for this rethinking. We made our mistakes and learnt from them in a different world with different value systems.

It is still a good read. If you are the type that would like to learn how young minds work now, this is the book for you.

Coming to the two observations that Ekoshapu wanted me to respond to:

1. You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.

I am in total agreement. Over the years, I have come to accept that I will not be universally popular and that there is no point in running a popularity contest. There will be people who will like me for what I am and more who will think that I am not worth a thought. This is indeed life and the sooner one learns this, one’s expectations from relationships of all kinds become realistic and manageable. Manson addressed this issue to those people who want to be liked by everyone. An impossibility.

2. Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect.

It is. No doubts whatsoever in my mind and my response is that I am not a participant in that value system. I am at the twilight of my life and am content with the way I am and with the things that I have. I am in the process of getting rid of things rather than acquiring them and that includs value systems too. I have nothing to prove to anyone, not even to myself.

I would like to share my experience when it comes to item number one too.

  1. Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. It’s the most simple and basic component of life. Our struggles determine our successes.

I hope that Ekoshapu takes my word for what I am about to say.  I never had to struggle for position or possession.  I grew into middle and old age at a time when just having a secure job was a blessing.  Positions and possessions just happened by my being in the right places at the right times and in the absence of strong competition. My favourite quote is and has been for decades:

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.”
~ Basho.

An issue that Manson treats with great attention is “Commitment”. To Ekoshapu, I point out that this is the single most important value to take away from the book. I speak from experience.

If there is one more that I would choose to highlight, that is “The only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it.”

What Would You Say To A Younger VersionOf Yourself?

Shackman, who has suggested this title for our weekly 2 on 1 post and I are Senior Citizens with some grand stories in our past. No doubt that this has influenced his choice of the title and I welcome it as, you can see from byline, I believe that all of us are wiser by hindsight.

The first thing that I would say to a younger myself is NOT TO SMOKE. I smoked cigarettes mostly, pipes and cigars on occasion, from when I was 16 years old till just four years ago. I am now rewarded with COPD and its attendant problems.

The second thing that I would say will be – Choose a career where you can spend a lot of time with your family. I did not and that is the greatest regret that I now have of not having found the time to do so many things that I wanted to do with my late wife and son when we were young.

The third thing would be – Learn to communicate effectively instead of efficiently. I lost out on some good relationships because of ineffective communication which led to misunderstandings.

The fourth thing that I would say – Keep your expectations low and learn to deliver more than you promise. I failed on both on a few occasions to much regret later.

“The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco.

But there’s also the possibility of bliss.” (Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss. 2004. p 135.)

And to close on a humorous note, have your escapades in ground floor flats.

Do please go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the topic that he chose.