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Sunday, July 29, 2007

postponing happiness

Maybe when I pay off the student loans... maybe when the mortgage is paid up... maybe when Ana goes to school... maybe when I get a better job to afford a better school for Ana... maybe when Ana is old enough and is happily married... maybe when we have put away enough to retire safely...

Quite unwittingly, it seems easier to postpone happiness till some event happens that hopefully will trigger this state of contentment.

It takes a lot of convincing and a fair amount of cerebration to bring myself around to the fact that there is no better time to be happy than Now.

The need for perfection, the need for things to be a certain way before one can feel inner peace, is clearly convoluted, and conflicts with achieving the said inner peace.

If we are striving for something to be better than it currently is, well, therein lies the paradox...

If Practice makes Perfect, then I am a Perfect Worrier. I used to even worry when I can't readily find something to worry about. Thankfully, over the years, Life happened, and small lessons were learnt, one of which is: Being content does not equate to being impassive, or imperfect, for that matter.

That's a hard lesson to learn in today's world, where everything is a race, everything is an emergency, and everything seems worthwhile only because it has been an uphill battle, done right and done now because the end-result seems right.

A complex idea to grasp initially is: One can achieve one's goals (such as they may be) without getting uptight and agitated. And striving towards a goal can be accompanied by a state of equanimity that acts as a catalyst and not a deterrent to achievement.

But how does one measure Achievement? Is it the job title? Is it the hefty paycheck or the bank balance? Is it some perceived productivity? Is it cars and house and kids? Is it the number of letters one can append to one's name?

Rhetorical as they might be, such questions seem like focal points of reality in today's world. Should you strive for what you want, or what you need? As it happens, we get what we are given, and if what we are given happens to be exactly what we needed, we seem grateful, and if we are given what we wanted, we seem happy. Shouldn't they be mutually exclusive?

While there are no easy global answers, I have always had this one piece of prose poem that adorned my room as a teen and traveled with me all the way to hang handily on the nearby wall to help me in times such as this, when Life seems oppressive and cumbersome, and am desperate for some clarity and affirmation:

Desiderata copyrighted by Max Ehrmann:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.



At 1:38 PM, Blogger Anitha said...

Nice post. Calmed my mind a little.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Kay said...

'Desiderata' used to be my fav. during my college years. I had read it in Tamil translation. I had forgotten about it since then.

What a beautiful poem - with so much meaning. Thanks for reviving it for me.


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