“Then i looked at my hands in the flickering candlelight”
The prompt for today suggested i pick up the nearest book, open page 82 and make a post based on the 3rd line from the page. So i took this one from Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami.
I’m not a fiction buff. But most of my favorites from the genre have been written by Murakami. His tone centers around loneliness, great music and the 60s. The writing style has always had me glued on. Today when i read the line on top, i wondered if it could mean something in a different context. The only thing i can think of is to look through the darker uncertain times with sheer Pollyanna optimism. In the book the character is confused about visions pretty similar to the way we build notions and let them guide us. So let that flickering candle not dampen a moment’s enthusiasm. Believe. That’s what i really took away.
It’s Lohri, the punjabi harvest festival that signifies the start of a new year. While i had been meaning to plug back in to the blog at the start of this calendar year, its simply been harder to do than just think off. Procrastination has got the better half of me, unfortunately.
So when i stumbled on this post mentioning image search, it seemed like a good time to begin again. I googled for inspiration – something that i have been looking for lately. This one seemed to fit the bill. May be all that’s required is a fresh perspective with a focused approach to get back in action. Here’s to the new year!
It’s that time of the year, where most people here in India begin an extensive cleaning exercise for the big festival – Diwali. Home improvement, fixing the furniture, getting the walls done to much simpler things like throwing away unused items are on the to-do list. I decided to start a bit earlier than usual, considering its our first Diwali after getting married. As i dusted and picked up random receipts, card statements, brochures and bills i could retrace some wise and a few unwise buying decisions. While most of the stuff we had stashed away wasn’t of any utilitarian value, I had to keep some of it because of sentimental connect. Somehow there is always an emotional connect to inanimate things like books etc.
With every irrelevant and broken item i put away, i felt much better. It got me thinking to how much we accumulate over days, weeks and months without actually realizing the burden we are creating for ourselves. The burden, if that’s what we choose to call it for now – can be physical, emotional or materialistic. But no matter what, its important to pause and reflect. The cleaning bit is always a good way to let it off.
Another aspect that came to my mind about cleaning up centered on how a major cleaning of the mindset is required. In the past few weeks several stories have done the rounds on social media. First there were photo leaks due to a icloud hack, then Emma Watson got threatened after her UN speech and a powerful media house took on a popular actress. In most cases, women were objectified and blamed that they were asking for it. While the explanations defeat logic, all of this has left a lot of tongues wagging. Sure we are talking about gender equality, women empowerment and work place equality. But what would it take for us to break out of the regressive mindset? Some men would be intimidating the wife at home, getting intimidated by the female boss at work and end up going for the latest movie released to go watch some lead actress being objectified over celluloid. I cannot even begin to connect the dots and put all of it in perspective. All i know is that a major cleaning of the mindset is required. It’s not going to be easy. But given the number of decades and generations we’ve spent discussing, its most required now.
“The smartest, most interesting, most dynamic, most impactful people … lived to figure it out…. Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less planning and more living— to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just do stuff, even if you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead.”
– Dan Pink in his Weinberg College commencement speech
Stumbled on an idea? Well, good luck in fitting it through a logical process. Many people like to take the rational approach to make decisions and anything new makes us uncomfortable. So how do you break this down?
A neat website i stumbled on exploits all the logical fallacies that could be thought of. While you may enjoy the varieties, the one i could relate to was the “Texas Sharpshooter”. The fallacy states,” You cherry-picked a data cluster to suit your argument, or found a pattern to fit a presumption”. Now this could have anything to do with marketeers, research folks, business decision makers or even the police i dare say. Let’s figure the first one of the lot. You are in a discussion where the latest customer insight is being torn to pieces. Someone pops up saying that a variant of the new soap is doing well in some of the target markets and hence budgets need to be allocated to achieve more penetration. They drill down the data till it begins to please the quorum. Now there lies a sharpshooter. While the soap variant did do well is some of the markets, it was marketed across several others. The lack of data from other regions is also talking. A change in perspective would show that its not doing well in a majority of the regions. In that case, where does our sharpshooter go? Can he still paint a canvas sitting on a pile of budgets to put out?
Similar cases happen in several other areas. When it comes to creating new products, finalizing on target markets, to may spotting organised crime or figuring out patterns. Sharpshooters are going to be everywhere to give the pattern a voice. Will it be a rational approach or just another subjective take that is coloring decision making? I leave that to you for figuring it out.
The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind. – Albert Einstein
I was reading up and came across several references which say that being quiet helps in boosting creativity. Thinking of my own case, ideas seem to strike up more often when i’m alone and pondering over the problem. Walks help in reclaiming that bit. Albeit i don’t get the time to do it more often. There are several days where we are embroiled in discussions with the family / neighbors / relatives or colleagues. We’d like to believe that we can come up with a solution in a jiffy. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes all we end up with are short term solutions. More like fixing tape when we really need to glue things together.
At times like these, i feel its better to soak myself in solitude. That involves switching off the tv, silencing the phone and slipping in to a quite corner. Some people may count it as meditation, but for the life of me i haven’t been able to figure out how to meditate. What works for me is diverting my focus to something less complex. Like what i see around me, something as simple as nature or kids playing in a park. Add classical music as a background and i would be sorted for the time being.
Some of the really quiet people who deafened the world with their ideas were Einstein, Mozart and even Tesla. Of course there is the more enlightened lot such as Buddha who chose to roam in the wilderness to find the answers to his questions. Most of us may not be on to such pursuits, but in the meanwhile we need to value the time we have with ourselves to push the self beyond the frontier of the obvious.
I’ve always wondered how much of what we think we see is hidden. Ditto for the kind of situations we try to understand. I’m sure many a times, we think we have understood the crux of the problem. Only to discover there were more strings attached. To me, anything that’s hidden works wonders to spark my curiosity on the subject. Maybe that’s why i kept reading up on Astrophysics and quantum mechanics from middle school. While people around me were reading comics or Sidney Sheldon novels, i was deep diving in physics. My interests kept changing all along. But it was the unexplored that had me intrigued.
There are a lot of aspects that are hidden from our daily frame of things. I once read that our subconscious mind keeps eliminating thoughts to help us focus better on what’s important. Typically these thoughts manifest themselves in to dreams. In case these are unpleasant we then embark on a journey to understand the hidden messages. All of this makes me wonder how much of control we really have over stuff in our lives. While you may choose to know as much as you can, take additional degrees or courses, work in different sectors / roles and take on as much as you can within your family, there will still be things that are hidden. I don’t know what could be good given the circumstances. Maybe sometimes, we should just let it go and believe what’s not obvious is for our best interests.
More often than not, i come across people who talk about others having all the luck in the world. Such thoughts baffle me because i think that we create our own luck as we go along in life. That also is what we learn in spiritual lessons, that all of life is your karma. What you sow, so shall you reap. But scientifically, research has proven that successful people tend to drive luck in their stride by doing some things. I love reading up on behavioral psychology so here are a few things i picked up worth noting:
1. Seize the opportunity: It’s common to feel overwhelmed with the number of things going on around you. Successful people try not to look at obstacles and rather approach every problem with solutions. In short they look at problems as opportunities. This does require an attitude shift, but it looks promising to try out. Even if you do fail, that will be a learning.
2. Pay attention to the world around: I was reading a book by Richard Wiseman and he talked of an experiment where they asked people who considered themselves lucky or unlucky to look at an article and count the photographs in it. The lucky ones finished faster with the correct number ’cause they spotted a line early in the article mentioning this information. The unlucky ones kept counting and finished late complaining. The point is they weren’t focused on what they were looking for and feared failure.
3. Use your gut instincts: Very often you do get a gut feeling about a person / situation and its always got something more to it. I firmly believe gut instincts must be trusted. Somehow we subconsciously know of the outcome just when we are going to start something. So we must trust from the larger experience our minds are offering indirectly.
Apart from the regular keep a positive attitude and appreciate change kind of tips, i felt the ones above are more effective. At the least these are backed by years of research so i do hope these help you!
I remember confusing the two some years back. During a recent situation i began to recollect how people tend to confuse the two. After all to empathize or sympathize for someone going through a tough time is a natural response for many of us. But there is a striking difference in the two states.
In the recent MH 370 flight case, what most of us can do is just sympathize. This is because in order to empathize one should have experienced and gone through the situation. To empathize is to understand precisely what the person is going through since you have been through the exact similar situation. I strongly believe that when we are being sold something with a promise or a warranty especially in case of a service, all the sales person is doing is sympathizing for your current state. Heading for the spa after a hard day, you are more likely to hear, ‘We understand your stress and physical strain and hence do what’s best for you”. Well do they? I have my doubts. At a weight loss clinic, the promising dietitian may not have put herself through years of bland food. All she / he is sharing could very well be textbook knowledge. But doesn’t she speak and empathize when you fall back? She is only sympathizing.
This brings me to larger issues we face in life, at work or in crucial stages. We are more likely to say that we empathize but we wouldn’t have really gone down the same road as others to do so. Hence i think more often than not we are only sympathizing. Empathy is also used in a more personal context whereas you could sympathize with anyone from your neighbors to co-workers. I leave you with this quote to mull over this for longer:
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
― Daniel Goleman
I hate women’s day celebrations. There i said it. To me, the very act of having a day to celebrate womanhood and equality seems non-descript. I have my reasons too. Why would you celebrate it for just one day? I’m sure most of us take pride in being women every day of the year. Starting from walking around the house in the morning brushing our teeth to being choosy over the huge variety of clothes we have bought, and even to making our selves heard at work & in the family. Marketeers would know that women are a strong influence point and that’s why so many ads are targeted to us. Listen, its the science talking. Not some random ad-copy guy’s creative. Organisations have taken note of this and leveraged this for years. Be it FMCG, Banking, Insurance to Tyres & even Politics as the recent Jaago Re campaign from the Tata’s will inform you.
Another issue is equality. Why do we need to talk about it? In today’s world men and women are equal and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to go back to school. They have a lot to catch-up on. This is the same reason why people in rural india need more education to drive down crime rates & progress. A woman is not just a symbol of objectification whom men exert power on. She is equally (if not more) smarter and equipped to make her decisions for the entire household.
Lastly, the idea of the day was born out of oppression & suffering. If you look back in history the first time an event close to women’s day was observed in 1909 when women took to the streets in USA to protest against bad working conditions. The next time they observed it was in Copenhagen in 1910 to garner support for universal suffrage for women. In the 1913-1914 period this day was just another day to protest against World War 1. Lastly in 1919 women in Russia protested for bread and peace. There was not even a fixed day for it. March 8th came much later. My point is that why would one celebrate a day remembering all the pain, suffering and fighting for equality. We must instead remember these contributions every day. Everyday, when we muster courage to fight against a perpetrator of abuse, when we voice our concern against what we find inappropriate or when we push ourselves through the work place. That would be the best way to honor what others had to go through so that we could be where we are today.
Tear those fancy brochures and pamphlets giving you a free hair spa or a fancy buffet to celebrate. Because you My Lady, are a celebration every single day of the year.