I was inspired to suggest this topic for this week’s 2 on 1 blog post by a statement that I blogged about in my post Book Review – Mark Manson.

“The only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it.”

Like everyone else, I have had my share of both physical and mental pain. Some major and many more minor ones. In fact, as I write this, I am in some discomfort due to a pulled muscle which is quite painful. I however am blessed with a stoic nature and all my life have been able to bear pain of both kinds and eventually overcome it.  And it is also very true that every time something painful happened, I changed.  I think, for the better.

And that is all I have to say on the matter. Please go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the same subject.

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.”

An Unexpected Gift.

For about a year or so, I had been interacting with two young men on a group in WhatsApp. My contributions usually being witty or pithy comments with a great deal of detachment whereas theirs, more involved and passionate. The group is our local Alumni Association’s with membership running across a wide spectrum of age, gender, experience and ideologies. On an impulse, I had suggested a personal meeting to one of them last week and he readily agreed. Not only did he agree but, he also wondered if he could bring along another member, a colleague and personal friend of his. Having interacted with the other as well on WhatsApp, I readily agreed and they both called on me last evening.

They stayed for a couple of highly stimulating hours which I thoroughly enjoyed and they assured me before leaving that they did too.

The combined age of the two equals mine, or, in other words, both are half my age. Their world view and experiences are vastly different to what was mine at that age and the stresses and problems that they have to handle simply did not exist for me at that age. This remarkable difference in our life situations occupied most of our discussions and for me at least, it was a learning experience which, no amount of news paper or periodicals reading would have given me.

Apart from such commonalities, the two had very different social backgrounds which in turn impact their current life styles in different ways but, in more of an understandable way as, these are universal and quite obvious.

One of the young men, let us call him AK is a blogger and reads my blogs every day as do I his posts. Apart from the traditional gifts people take when they visit someone, AK brought a gift wrapped parcel for me which he presented to me before leaving with the ominous comment, “I hope that you enjoy this Sir! I found it very helpful.”

And that is the book that appears alongside. Before I decided on quite how to treat the book, I investigated the author and read up some reviews of the book and then sent off the book for binding as I do to books that I intend reading and keeping for repeated reference. My investigations as well as the first few pages that I glanced through before I sent it off for binding assures me that it will be interesting and I look forward to reading it soon.

Since AK is bound to read this post, my question to him is “What makes you think that I either don’t or, do?” I hope that he will respond either off blog or here in the comments. In case he does off blog to remain anonymous, I shall share his response with my readers through another blog post.