Monday, June 29, 2020

Paired opposites?

Having trained all my life, since birth (My mom used to say I was too lazy to cry, even as a baby, and did even that as little as possible), to idle and having honed my skills to procrastinate since then, I expected to take to the life of a retired person like a fish to water. When I actually quit, though, there was some savor missing in life. To my total surprise, I discovered that work was necessary to really enjoy the joys of idleness.

I mean, yes, I really love the idea of procrastination. The problem, though, is that you need to have something to procrastinate about. If you have nothing to do, then what exactly will you be putting off doing? The tang of idleness, I realized, is the thought that there is some work around which you are not doing.

I could have been one of those who enjoyed idling because others are working and I am not. But, still, you see, idleness has to be juxtaposed with work in order for you to savor it.

That set me off on an unexpected  activity - thinking! And I find that almost nothing in life seems worth having unless there is the opposite sticking around like a Siamese twin. Like you feel the flavor of success only if you have tasted failure before or because you compare yourself with others around you who have failed. (The gamblers by nature are one step worse. They want to be toying with the danger of failing all the time.)

Take pleasure or happiness, for example. You feel the pleasure of the views and the weather of a Hill Station. Do the locals seem to be enjoying them? It takes the heat and concrete jungles of your Delhi, say, to make you feel the savor of the beauty and cool weather of a Manali. Without the one, the other is not worth it.

Which is what are called 'pairs of opposites', I suppose. Pleasure-Pain, Joy-Sorrow, Success-Failure and so on. The one is not merely the opposite of the other but actually the other face of the coin. You need both to get the full experience.

You know, somehow, this idea of constantly looking at others, to check if they are worse off than you, so that you can feel happy about yourself is...yucky. Sort of sadistic, if sadism is taking pleasure in other people's misfortunes. Yeah, you are not exactly happy that they are unhappy but you certainly are happy that you are better than them, right?

So, I did what I do best. Postpone my own work. So what if it is only paying the electricity bill or buying vegetables etc which get postponed to the last possible day. Procrastination IS procrastination, regardless!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Journeys and Destinations

Practically all through my life I have been known as the chap who walks. (No, no the man with the mask and a skin-tight body-suit, that's the GHOST who walks.) It can get tiresome (NOT tiring, tiresome) really, like during those times in Delhi when I used to walk 8 kilometres to office every day. I used to reach office drenched in sweat and, every single day, there would be someone who would ask me, "Is it raining outside?" and expect me to be in splits. It is stretching a sense of humour too far to be expected to find the same joke funny day after day after day. Except, of course, on the days on which it actually rains...but in Delhi that happens probably once a year if you are lucky.

The thing, though, is I seldom got asked why I walked so much. Not that I would have answered honestly if asked. That type of honesty in office would have got me shunted to counting pins, without a salary if they could manage it. The answer was, actually, that that was the only time I could procrastinate without guilt.

I mean, the moment you hit office there is such a lot to do. Files keep piling up like some tectonic plate movement was building the Himalayas on my desk. (The world was quaint that way, then. We used to really use paper to do office work.) People keep popping in with queries, phones was all too much. Once back home, there is the new set of jobs which I have had reason to cry about before in this blog. Clothes accumulate artistic stains and beg to be washed; dust keeps coming in as though I had given it personal engraved invitations every day; and the damn spiders spinning away industriously.

So, you see, the moment I hit any destination, there was too much work to do. But when I am traveling between them...ah, bliss! There is nothing I can do till I arrive, anyway. So, the mind is silent about my idling, for I am not idling am I? I am traveling to or from work, which counts as DOING. So, is it surprising I wanted to prolong this period when I could just BE and not DO? Which is why I also preferred train journeys to flights. Who wants to arrive in a jiffy and be plunged into all sorts of DOING?

That idea is also a quaint one, apparently. That there can be something called 'BEING' which is not associated with 'DOING'. I mean, even when you come back from your dratted vacations, you get asked "What did you do to enjoy yourself?" Huh! You cannot even enjoy yourself without DOING? Sounds too much like work to me.

I don't know whether I am all alone in this. Most people are always in a rush to hit their destinations, the journey being considered only a necessary evil.

Well, Life is a journey towards one final destination for all of us. Death! So, if you never learn to enjoy journeys...

Monday, June 15, 2020

Evident truths

People seem to have so many things which are evident truths, so evident that it is only a moron who would question why they are truths. As usual, I never could understand this instinctively and, so, quite obviously my friends and family wondered about when my IQ would make the big leap to double figures. If ever.

I was fine when I was a child. You know the basic evident truths you start out with - 'Mommy knows best' and 'Daddy knows best'. Well, I was keeping up with everyone else then. The first problem came in my teens. There was this sudden 'Mommy knows nothing' and 'Daddy is out-dated' which were evident truths, then. THAT's when I started losing the race. My mind was not nimble enough to make that transition.

That comes of missing out on an essential component in what passes for my thought process, I suppose. As a child, you accept people telling you what to think. Once an adult, you respect people who ratify what you already think. Parents presume to criticize you, they do not look on you as a budding Solomon, so, by definition, they have to be stupid, right? (Generation gap? Nonsense, did you not have friends who disagreed with you on some issues? True, you thought them stupid on those issues but did that make you think that they were totally stupid and not worth listening to?) 

Now, THAT is the leap I failed to make. I mean, yes, I did think my parents were stupid to insist on the importance of grades, discipline, studying daily and other such things that parents seem fixated on (Is it some sort of infection that affects only parents? I don't know, never having been one). But, I could not make that great leap of believing that they were fools in ALL things. THAT is where I started falling back.

As time went by, I found more and more evident truths which I was missing on. I never could get the 'Boss is always right or, at least, treated so in public' OR the 'It is better to be on the right side of the right people than to push for the right decisions' and so on which are evident truths in the corporate world. But, then, that is because I never did understand the evident social truth that 'It is good to be at the top of the totem pole'. Well, I could never convince myself of that. It looked like such an uncomfortable seat up there and, besides, I have vertigo.

Essentially, I suppose, that I never could understand why the world thought that it is an evident truth that 'It is desirable to sacrifice your personal happiness for social respect'. I mean, I sort of have this idiotic thought that social respect is desirable only if it contributes to your personal happiness but, apparently, that's an idea which can rise in the mind of one with an IQ upper-bounded by 9.

And, now, apparently, people have reached to where the evident truth is 'My leader is always right' OR 'The other leader is always wrong' or both.

Now, it seems to me like they have come full circle. 'Daddy knows best' OR, perhaps, 'Mommy is stupid', I don't know which.

And I am behind the curve with no hope of catching up.

Monday, June 8, 2020

The law of unreasonableness

The most vexing thing about humanity is that they set up ideals, which they expect only other people to live by, while they themselves feel free to live by any code of conduct that suits them. And, thus, when they, say, tell you that it is good to be a reasonable person, all that it means is that it is good for them that you be a reasonable person.

I mean, come on, have you ever seen a reasonable person win an argument? Yeah, you think it is just tea-shop discussions or social media chat-fests, so what's the big deal. Is it really? The chap who is willing to admit that he is wrong, when he feels he really is wrong, is that the chap who you listen to with respect? Is that the guy who you are willing to follow unquestioningly? Or is it the guy who wins every argument who gets your vote?

The theory is all rather nice. That when you say you are wrong when you are wrong, people will accept that you are right when you stick to your point. That your opinions will be given more respect. The problem, though, is that theory, when it comes to human behavior, fails all too often.

Exactly what really happens is this.

"He was wrong that last time, maybe he is wrong this time, too."

"But he admitted it last time. He is sticking to it this time."

"It is not like he admitted to being wrong right away that time. So, perhaps, he has not just got around to realizing he is wrong now."

"Arre, forget it! He is always wrong, so why waste time discussing his opinions?"

This, in a nutshell, is how it really pans out. And, in time, he cannot even edge a word into the discussion because people have tuned him out.

If it were only chat-fests, things would not be as bad. The problem is that chat-fests are not restricted to social media or tea-shops. There are these chat-fests in office - meetings, team projects, what have you. And it really matters whether you are seen as a contributor - for promotions, raises, whatever. And if people have started tuning you out, how do you shine as a contributor?

And being reasonable also tells you that you should not say 'I told you so'. So, even when things go wrong because your advice was not taken, you do not feel it is right to go around telling people that YOU were right.

And, even if you do manage to bleat about it...

"He SAYS he told us this before. Nobody seems to have heard it though."

And THAT's that. You are not just wrong but a liar to boot.

Being unreasonable, never admitting your wrong, THAT's the path to success, folks!

And then when everyone has taken that message to heart, as they indeed seem to have, we all sit around and whine about how the world has veered around to fanaticism!

Humanity, I tell you. God must have been feeling particularly capricious on that day, when he created us!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Handling advice

When it comes to advice on how to handle advice, there is only this one that seems to have been accepted by most of humanity. Even if they had never heard of this quote by Oscar Wilde.

"I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself."

Mostly, it works that way with advice. 'You should learn to take criticism' will come from the guy who goes into towering rages even if you point out a single typo in his letter. 'You should put behind the bad things and remember the good things about people' will come from the guy notorious for nursing grudges for decades. And so on.

But, then, the best way people have found for handling advice about human behavior is to start applying it on how others behave with them; never on how they behave with other people. Oh, yes, there are a few of the latter, the ones who people talk about in pitying terms as being 'too good for their own good'. Quite the sort of friends people actively seek, of course, but friends for whom they intend doing nothing - after all, they ARE sought after because they are considered 'low-maintenance'.

Otherwise, if you read advice about how a good friend is supposed to behave, you automatically think of which of your friends fit the bill. (If YOU think about whether YOU fit the bill...well, remember the 'too good for their own good' lot? THAT's where you can apply for membership.) If you read advice about how to be a good citizen, you check out whether your neighbors are good citizens by that definition. And so on and so on.

Essentially, the best way to handle advice is to apply it on other people. Especially if it is not the sort that you can just pass on to others. And rest content about a good job done.

To apply it to yourself - too much damn work!