Friday started off as a cold, grey, wet Fall day with snow flurries in the air turning to icy slush underfoot. BLAH! A great incentive to pull the covers right back over the head and snuggle deeper under the comforter. “Back Home”, one could have shouted out for domestic help to bring in a steamy cup of tea/coffee. Instead, yours truly had to rise, prepare and carry the cuppa back upstairs so that I could luxuriate in having my “bed tea” as it should be had – in bed.
Later during the day, a mentee in her mid-twenties called to provide an update on her career search. She opened the conversation with, “And how are you enjoying this beautiful morning?” Incredulous, I inquired if she was looking at the same grey skies that stretched dark, outside my window. Chuckling, she said “Quite some time ago I realized as the weather conditions remain outside my control, that my outlook depends on how I choose to look at each day”.
Plato (427 – 347 BC) had stated “Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught falsehoods in school. And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool. We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” His observation remains valid to this day.
We are living in not just strange but as many would contend, stressful times. Every day our illustrious leaders issue a new set of what used to be guidelines initially but are now instructions or, dare I say diktats on how to counter the pandemic. These are based ostensibly on reliable but rapidly changing advices from many health specialists and frequently updated predictive models. A few politicians are even said to be allegedly shaping the narrative to suit their own agenda. Meantime, devoid of our usual social interactions, worrying about not just our own safety but also the well-being of family, friends and colleagues, domestic issues and financial insecurity, a gloomy day could well remain abysmal no matter how rosily one might choose to look at it.
Each of us seeks and if fortunate, is able to discover a coping mechanism suited to individual needs. It could be engaging in strenuous physical exercise, distracting oneself through longer hours at work, meditation, finding solace in music, reading, religion or relying on faith to tide us over. Long conversations on the current state of affairs help some people unburden their anxieties while others might find that such discussions only increase their stress levels. A few brush aside all doomsday talk, wondering “Does it really matter if I stay on top of the latest number of Covid cases?” Finally, to top it all Conspiracy theorists are now adding to this brew in the witches’ cauldron.
Now consider this example. Recall the time when you last acquired a gadget or bought a car. If you were interested in say, a Honda Accord, chances are that you started to notice Accord models more than any other cars that drove past. “There goes another Accord” you would muse as you drove along. A gradual build-up of an “unconscious bias” probably influenced your final purchase. Your faculties start to register what you “choose” to see. My circle of friends are very familiar with this kafi (a classical form of Sufi poetry) by the 16th century Sufi poet Shah Hussain, that I quote frequently:
|Nii Saiyyon assi nainaa de aakhe lagge||O’ my (girl) friends, listen, I am beguiled by my eyes|
|Paak jinhaan diyaan hovan nigaahaan …||Only those that have unsullied vision …|
|… Kaddi naa jaande thagge||… are never cheated|
Our eyes show us only that which we choose to see, shaped by our own life experiences (prejudices).
So, perhaps my mentee is indeed right to suggest that one should focus on the positivity around us to maintain equanimity and remain at peace.
Here is an insightful excerpt from a recently published book – Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bergman that, according to The Guardian, UK offers “a tribute to our better nature”:
“An old man says to his grandson: “There’s a fight going on inside me. It’s a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil-angry, greedy, jealous, arrogant, and cowardly. The other is good-peaceful, loving, modest, generous, honest and trustworthy. These two wolves are fighting within you, and inside every other person too.”
After a moment, the boy asks, “Which wolf will win?”
The old man smiles.
“The one you feed.”
We write the script and control our own narrative. As the recently deceased famous shaayar (poet) Rahat Indori wrote:
|Nā hum-safar nā kisī hum-nashīñ se niklegā||Neither fellow-traveller nor a friend can remove …|
|Hamāre paañv kā kāñTā hamīñ se niklegā||… the thorn in my foot, that only I must pull out|
As a salute to all those working tirelessly to provide a healing touch, here is Michael Jackson’s 1991 classic Heal The World: