The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jan 20, 2008

Life Lessons

A couple of days ago, Shefaly tagged me about lessons I have learnt in life. Dash it. Now I gotta be introspective, and believe you me, folks, I have not examined my entrails since 1973. It is awfully hard to start doing it now.

But a courtesy needs to be answered with another. Until today, I have never meditated. I have never examined my motives and I certainly have not explored my past feelings. When I am by myself, I turn to something to read. If I am not sleeping, I am assailed by sensory stimulations from every quarter. Where, then, is the time to ponder my navel?

A few minutes of careful thought today convinced me, though, that while I have learned a few lessons in life, I haven't necessarily put said lessons into regular practice. In other words, they remain mainly theoretical. Well, with the probable exception of the first one:

1. Laughing at myself.

This is not something that I consciously set out to achieve. One day in my distant youth, something humiliating occurred, the vultures circled, and I made a self-deprecatory wisecrack. This punctured the self-righteousness of my tormentors. I saved myself from a thumping, a vitiated atmosphere turned light and I headed home without a drop of blood spilled. To maintain light-heartedness in the midst of general angst is to provide a small lifeline to fellow sufferers. To be able to see the droll in one's own foibles, to not take oneself too seriously, deflects animosity, disarms the perpetrator, and defuses a flash-point. This has worked so far for me, and I see no reason to stop.

2. I prefer humour to apathy.

There's far too much sorrow on the planet to be ignored, but life is for living, so the via media is to be able to maintain a level of detachment and analysis. Humour helps immensely. It does not devalue the suffering of others and doesn't pretend that it doesn't exist, but it makes a point, a strong point even, without being overbearing. Mark Twain did it superbly, and I hope sometimes to emulate him. Unfortunately, I am not Mark Twain, and I can't always submerge the vitriol or the pain.

3. I have no illusions about my abilities.

It is exceptionally difficult to be honest with oneself. Delusions cloud the mind; a person putting up a front to the world finds that it has occluded his or her self-perception. This may help some people push themselves above and beyond their zone of competence. More power to them. [The only time I deluded myself was during my preparations for the IIT-JEE. I was convinced I would rank in the top 100. My rank ended up 1900. I studied hard for it, but clearly nowhere near as smartly enough.] The distance between delusion and reality is stark. I realised early on that in whatever field I staked a claim, there would always be others faster, smarter, more driven, pushier, better. This realisation serves to concentrate my mind precisely on my own abilities and talents. And so I traipse through life knowing when an achievement is within my range, and when I have to let it go. Makes for calmness and sanguinity.

4. There's no point being dogmatic about these lessons.

As with all things, these lessons can be taken to an extreme. Sometimes when the wife wants to talk seriously to me and I respond jestingly, she gets upset and accuses me of being facetious. That, I am forced to say, is not the best time to point out that facetious is one of two English words containing all the vowels in alphabetical order. The result would be fairly clear. Our relations thenceforth would be abstemious. Which, as anybody would agree, is no good, eh?


Anonymous said...

Feanor: Thanks for running with the meme! I am looking forward to all the responses and in yours, I like the last one. :-)

Fëanor said...

Wow, you're up and about early! Yup, I sorta prefer a less dogmatic view on my own life lessons ;-) Can't say if that's any good for others, of course.

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