Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Seriously Serious

As often as I lay my thoughts on this matter, I fail at each instance to realise the profound complexity of this problem whose solution stands on this rather softly lit alcove waving out to you and then crossing its arms across its chest and smiling: smiling in the know that you will not come over to shake hands with it. Well, it is a rather terrifying solution in all its simplicity and nudity. Why else would I be writing about it and not spending afternoons with it under an apple tree?

The seriousness of the world grips me and makes me wonder about the taut expanse that we call life. This outpouring owes itself to the oft heard (and now in India as well) phrase of "quality time". A mother tells me that she will spend quality time with her son. A son tells me that he will take his mother out to dinner on Saturday thereby spending quality time with her. And what about other moments in life, dear? They lost their quality in the light of your serious activities? God bless you!

What I fail to understand is how did the artificial routine of life and the notion of dedicating all of it to serious pursuits come about to infest this earth. I do not debunk the position that seriousness holds in this world, but think about it, my friend. Why is there so much seriousness?

I think most of the seriousness in this world stems from the sense of personal worth and the money that is involved therein. People want to be taken seriously and that is usually ensured when their personal station is fortified and puffs its chest from the ramparts. A poor but extremely talented artist is usually not in high regards as is a moderate artist who knows how to make money. Recently, a friend and colleague of mine from UK was discussing his career with me and was amazed to see that I had surpassed his rank in 4.5 years what he couldn't in 30+ years. It only made me ashamed while I pondered over how naive I must be to assume that I can do all that he had acquired over 30 years. I do not deny the edge that my education or my career path has given me, but still, look at the difference. The funny thing is that I wasn't serious about most of the things in my career and let a lot simply happen. But let's not go there.

So in the quest for personal worth is this need to establish oneself in the ranks. I smell work here. So did they, and the industrial revolution of the West brought in longer hours and more driven men who wanted to do it all. They worked hard to improve their worth and acquire money whereby they promised themselves and their dear love that they would have a lot to enjoy life. But I hardly see that happening, then or now. You might want to visit this page, and click on each of the individuals in there (on the right panel): http://www.mckinsey.com/aboutus/careers/people/dayinthelife/consultantdiaries/tj.asp And we go on and on...

Do you know that I would give my right hand to be in McKinsey and dash around solving problems in a jiffy? But such hours!? Life isn't something that happens around work, is it? Work is an element of life that provides means to realise several facets of life, but what be said of that work which denies the opportunity to transform the gains into the desired provisions of life?

With such rushing around, comes the need to pile all good things on a weekend. TGIF. I never quite understood that. Friends would mail me or SMS me sharing their relief that the weekend was arriving and I would frown and wonder: "What's so exciting about it?" I do not say that there is nothing good about a Saturday or Sunday (given that most theatre shows and the like are scheduled on weekends and I get to cook a variety of new recipes) but why do people not try to enjoy their weekdays and not associate "quality time" to weekends? And that is when I read this (which in turn made me write this post): http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CEED6153EF93BA3575BC0A967958260&sec=&pagewanted=2

I agree with him-who-has-a-difficult-surname and would love to read the book (anyone kind enough to gift it to me? I can cook up some occasion! :-).
This article and the contents of the earlier link in this post jumped in with memories to raise the stench of this question: What are we doing with our lives? Seriously, what are we doing with it?

People love talking about passion (and I raise my hand here) and the courage it takes to follow your calling (I lowered it). People admire the John Woods and Muhammad Yunus of this world as much as they admire the Chandralekha and Shankar Mahadevan but all this is better for others.

In all this maddening rush to be serious and achieve and augment, we seem to have lost the essence of simply living and doing nothing. I tried it this Sunday, switching off my faculties to recall (couldn't help switching it on while I cooked the new pulao. I had to reel it out to my mom!! ;-). My Sunday disappeared in doing a lot of nothings. What did I achieve? Nothing. But I feel at peace and I got to speak to a few relatives in Bangalore and friends around India and did a lot of reading and writing... I feel happy.

But this is not about me (though I give you samples to assure that this is not mere banter or preaching). It is about looking at life as a whole and not looking at it as fragments, some of which require you to only give them "quality time". Life is a composite. People who look at their career or their family as being the one most important thing, seem to be missing something. It is easy to go piecemeal about life. It is vital to look at it as a whole. Seriously, you have only one life.


  1. Pingu7:58 PM

    I agree...I see so many who are more tired after a weekend than after a whole week of work! I wonder, what is the whole point??Quality time is just a glamourous word...I mean, I meet my washing machine every sunday for an hour...does that mean I'm giving it quality time??We have learnt to treat humans like machines, i guess...Not doing anything and lazing on the weekends is not so cool anymore...who cares? I like to do a little bit of everything everyday....for I hate waiting for the weekends :).

  2. E, here's a blog that you may like! :) http://bharathiyaar.blogspot.com You may want to link it up!

  3. Dear P,
    Glad we concur! :-)

    Dear SCS,
    I would be interested in it, once I get to read in Tamil. :-O But the latest post seemed to be for people like me... :-D

  4. Pingu and E, couldn’t agree more. I wait all week for the weekend (to spend some quality time doing the things I like OR things that are important to me) and in the weekend I have some ‘quality time’ sleeping, vacuuming, washing, shopping and cooking.....hey, it’s Monday again and the next wait for the subsequent weekend has just begun!

    I sometimes wonder what I'm doing with my life! Guess I'm just taking it through this 7 day cycle over and over 'n over again!

  5. E, the entire BLOG is for non-tamil readers specifically. (If you notice, I'm following the Alvibest translation template) So you will love it I'm sure! :) I guess these days a translation of this order is needed because the number of people who won't understand meanings of some Tamil words used in poetry written a few decades ago has gone up. :(

    Coming to the actual post...a very relevant one. Somehow I fell this entire era is blowing things that don't matter one bit into out of proportion - 'Quality time', 'Shopping experience', 'Relationship management', you name it. We've somehow lost the knack of keeping simple things simple. Life I feel is slowly being packed in tertrapacks with thermo-sealed plastic bags and sold on shelves in air-conditioned shopping malls... :(

  6. Parvati9:06 PM

    There can be an intrinsic motivation to excel in and perfect one's work that ceases to see long hours as a sacrifice of goodlife. Singlemindedness/focus/ concentration and dedication to one aspect of life is a valid way of living for many.

    # And since when did Eroteme (for all your denials to the contrary)start giving universal solutions and advice as to how all SHOULD live their lives? Remember your post on the invalidity of motivation and the Eighteen verses that time and again reiterate that one man's philosophy is just that one man's?

    # Such flow of varied types of posts invite me to return to blogging , at least as a commenter. for now. Very enjoyable repast you are offering in your blog.

  7. Dear X,
    :-) Happens...

    Dear SCS,
    I realised that about your blog... Will read it more often.

    Dear P,
    I read my post over and over again, to find out where E said about anything that "should be". Do help me. Balance is what I seek...

  8. Parvati11:00 PM

    Oh. The "should be"s are every where in the post, if not overtly, there is a claim that people who are single minded about any thing in life shouldnt be so as this precludes them from enjoying life -what they would call dissipation of energy all over the place in the name of "balance", is for you true enjoyment of life.

    There is a whole spectrum that is there in "Life". Matter to Spirit, and some pick this, some others the other; it depends on their comfort level....balance and intensity are mutually exclusive components of life; and sincerity often needs almost an obsessive exclusive concentration on the work in hand, be it bringing up children or saving a marriage or working at Mckenzie.

    I think your "balance" is more like that of a flitting butterfly and only creates a person who ultimately is undependable - he will leave a task incomplete on a monday, because he wants to be balanced and wants to leave for home early to be with kids or paint pictures.

    You have made me blabber too much today. Unforgivable on your part