Tragic Optimism.

“The man I am, greets mournfully, the man I might have been.”
~ Hebbel

I contacted a Senior Teacher of Vipassana in Pune yesterday, whom I have known since the last more than two decades. He was a highly successful Medical Practitioner as was his wife but, both have quit their practices to devote their full time and energies to Vipassana. I contacted him to find out how best I can attend a camp with my health issues. Being a doctor and a teacher of Vipassana, I thought that he would be the best guide to approach as I felt that I needed a concentrated meditation camp at this stage of my life. He guided me to my full satisfaction and also assured me that he will ensure that I will be well looked after in the local Meditation Center.

It was a nice long chat catching up with each other on many subjects and I intend keeping in regular touch with him henceforth.

After the talk was over, he sent me a photograph taken during the early days of a Vipassana Meditation Center at Markal near Pune with me and two students of meditation in it. The link will take you to show you how the place is now.

This was circa 2003 when it was still in its nascent stage and accommodation and meditation hall were still in early stages of being set up. I was approached by the same teacher to be a volunteer to serve the attendees as by then I was already a caregiver to my incapacitated late wife. In this particular case, they were a group of blind students who had to be looked after, and guided around the primitive undeveloped area so that they did not come to harm and the ten days that I did this changed me for ever.

Spending eleven nights and ten days with blind people and serving them will do that to any body. One is humbled by them with their good cheer and will to survive despite their handicap and their total trust and unconditional affection for me was a high impact emotional experience for me. My caregiving duties only increased and was even doubled after my then 91 year old father came to live with us.  That period till ten years later saw the most stressful times that I have ever experienced and thankfully I was able to withstand and survive those situations due, I have no doubt, to my regular meditation practice.

That experience with the blind students changed my attitude towards life and just about that time was when I first came across Viktor Frankl and his Tragic Optimism. His profound conclusion that I share with my readers below describes my current situation at the age of 77 with health issues.

“From this one may see that there is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past—the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.”

15 thoughts on “Tragic Optimism.”

  1. Ramana
    Congratulations. I could never had imagined Ramana a tough and aggressive person to become a soft heart happily to live for 10 days with blind people showing care and affection which were alien to them. To express the mental satisfaction he derived. My salutation to you

  2. That is so lovely Ramana, I always admired you for what you did for those close to you but caring for the blind on their meditation journey is so beautiful.

    I learn a lot from you my friend.

    XO
    WWW

  3. It’s amazing how grateful one becomes of what they have after spending time with others that don’t. Quite a humbling experience I would say. Thanks for sharing. Take care.

  4. Wonderful, Ramana. And it can be a comfort, can’t? To know that accomplishments and blessings in the past are just that– absolute! We may question today but there is no questioning the reality of the past – for good or ill.

  5. Those various caregiving experiences clearly had a profound effect on you. I haven’t been put to such tests myself, but I hope I would do myself credit if I was so tested. Lovely to know that your blind companions at the meditation centre showed you such trust and affection.

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