Mukti spoke aloud. The utterance did not even make a ripple in the green surface of the still water in the pond. She did crave for appreciation but she never expected so much hate from her colleagues. It was as if they were waiting for the opportune moment for the hate to fructify. So called friends, were exposing the cloaked fire of jealousy. The gloves were off and the fangs were exposed. Suddenly, she was amidst the werewolves. Silently gnawing away the meat from her calves as she dragged herself up from the blow of reality which exposed the masks. The real faces were gruesome.
It all started from the ‘rise’ in her popularity in office. Display of her multiple facets and new levels of performance split the people around her into the opposing camps of ‘Liking her’ and ‘Jealous of her’. As she drew her joy from the accolades of the ‘Liking her’ camp of people, she also enjoyed the misery it caused to the ‘Jealous of her’ camp. This misery was the root cause of the hatred towards her from the ‘Jealous of her’ camp. This misery was turning out to be a greater source of her joy and she thrived on it more than the accolades from the ‘Liking her’ camp.
More she relied on the misery of her detractors as a source of her joy, more miserable she felt. She, kind of absorbed their misery. She no longer felt any joy from the appreciation of her friends, rather she felt the anxiety of not scoring over her detractors, far more.
Her core was being consumed by this reflected misery and soon she started sinking in self loath. She was sinking into depression. And ironically as she sank into this gloomy depths, she saw the joy in her detractors, which further pulled her down to greater depth.
As she was in the throes of her depression, she found herself at the steps of the temple pond. The waters had become murkier as though mirroring her mind.
The stress ball, counter intuitively shaped like a smiley was being gnawed by her nervous finger nails. The smile pasted on the ball was ironically making her more irritated as it seemed to mock at her.
In a fit of revulsion, she flung the spongy ball into green thick water of the pond.
The yellow colour stress ball remained buoyant over the green surface of the pond for a while. The viscosity of the murky pond keeping it afloat. However, the jubilant joy was short lived as the spongy core of the stress ball, ill shielded by the porous skin, started to absorb the surrounding filth. It remained buoyant till its core was filled completely by the green filth. That was the time the stress ball started to sink. The essence of the bounce was lost. It sank rapidly to the slimy bottom of the pond. Deeper and deeper in the vicious depressing abyss.
As the last of the smiley on the yellow ball got subsumed by the green slime, the yellow stress ball taught her what Archimedes understood in a very different context. A lesson no self-help book or a psychiatrist would have explained or applied. She learned, or she was revealed the secret law of the ‘Buoyancy of Joy’.
Buoyancy of the stress ball, as per physics, is dependent on the effect of gravity on the water surrounding it. This differential downward pull of the gravity on the water in turn pushed the stress ball up, thereby making it feel buoyant. The fall, therefore, of the surrounding water gives the up thrust which kept the stress ball floating with joy. Interestingly, like the dead Sea, greater the density of the surrounding water, greater is the buoyancy. The starkness of the similarity with her own life was uncanny.
More the grief in the surrounding, greater is the buoyant joy one experiences. She remembered how she felt buoyant with joy as she received the positive feedback and appreciation from the people around her. So much so that, the awareness of the jealousy among the people who she lived and competed with was also a source of glee and joy. The effect pretty similar to the increased buoyancy of the murkier water.
The sight of her detractors being unhappy was the buoyant force which made her joyous as, she rose higher on her popularity. She rose higher as, she lived of the ‘likes’ and also the ‘jealous grouse’. Therefore, she felt ironically full of gratitude for her detractors to provider her the buoyant joy. She also realised that slowly she had started being affected by the crave for her detractor’s unhappiness.
She observed how the stress ball was invaded by the outside water and it lost its exclusive identity. It was filled by the similar heaviness of the surrounding. The gravity which was relatively more on the outside, was now within the stress ball. It therefore, no longer felt the buoyancy. It sank deeper and deeper into the murky depth of the pond till it settled on the mushy floor the pond. There it rested in the depression created on the floor by its own weight.
It dawned on her, that to remain buoyant, she should not have allowed others to affect her. Just like the murky waters entered the spongy core of the stress ball, the negativity had invaded her. It made her lose her buoyant joy. It made her lose her ‘me-ness’. The negative emotions outside started mirroring the same emotions within her, it replaced the happy emotions with the heavier, darker and sad emotions. These heavier, darker and sad emotion were dragging her down the murky depths towards her own created depression.
She also realised the futility of relying only on the external feedback for her joy, since it could only raise her up to the level of the external expectation. Just as the stress ball relying only on the water for buoyancy, can only rise till the level of the water. Her fate was like the floating stress ball bobing up and down at the water surface based on the expectancy of others. Her joy was hostage to others ‘likes’.
Just like the porous skin of the ball, no skin is so resistant to sustain the onslaught of this external invasion unless there is an internal pressure that keeps the water out. She needed to find her belief in the ‘me-ness’ that pervades the inside. Only her essence was capable to raise her beyond the petty level of the others ‘likes’. Our ‘self-ness’ is self-buoyant, willing to soar irrespective and oblivious of the forces outside – favourable or not. Soaring not particularly above but in the direction that is mine.
The state of the stress ball either soaring high and rising above the limits of the water surface or the stress ball placed on the mushy floor of the pond do not guarantee joy or grief. For the soaring ball, as the buoyant force propels it higher, the threat of a grand fall looms larger. The ball continuously seeks loftier heights after every rise. At the same time, the sunk ball calmly sitting in harmony with the slimy floor may find solace in the vast opportunity the state offers. Therefore, the state of joy has no relation to one’s state but is more related to one’s view towards that state.
Buoyancy and gravity, she realised, both lead to movement which were relatively opposite to each other in direction. The end state of both was subjectively judged as favourable or unfavourable.
It was her moment of realisation to perceive the joy in going beyond the forces of buoyancy and gravity.
She found herself connected to the blissful stress ball which lied calmly at the bottom of the slimy pond. She had experienced the eternal truth.
Mukti rose joyous, glowing within. Glowing with the ‘buoyancy of the real joy’.
It was another one of the days of chasing the deadlines. The misses of the previous dates were accumulating into an astronomical wave. The baggage of the ‘Could Nots’ was weighing me down as much as the expectancy of the exit through this competitive tunnel.
The meeting tomorrow was a make or break one. I had heard myself saying this before, but this one seemed more real than the real.
My mind worked simultaneously on the multiple possibilities and worst case scenarios while remembering the previous mistakes from which I seldom learned. My thoughts, while flipping between the two divergent ends of past and future, seldom rested on the presentation at hand. It was lonely and restless for the head that wears the crown. I was heading the marketing for the largest region in India. With great powers, I realised comes much greater responsibility. And the HR at the head office had knowingly skewed the ratio, far in favour of the responsibility vis-a-vis the power.
I had many things to prove.
The disapproving look and the dismissive attitude of the CEO wasn’t something which escaped my empathetic eyes and the eyes of the competitive compatriots. They waited for the fall. I hung on to the cliff edge with my nails. In times such as these, even the shadow wasn’t part of the inner circle of my trust. I couldn’t rely on any one else. I had to do it myself. One thing that many of them wanted to share, and I was not letting it be shared was – The Credit.
So I remained glued to my PC in my lonely cell. The radiating illumination from my PC escaped my cabin into the dark vacant office space outside. The same office space was to transform itself into the battle space – the Kurukshetra, where my battle of survival would be raged tomorrow. The battle was part of the endless war I fought in the bid to stake my claim of existence. It formed part of the war which I raged with myself and my many contradictory roles jostling for the same click of the needle in the turning clock.
I had made my choices well, as I moved up the ladder of success.
The doting father, the romantic husband, the dutiful son and the fun-loving-butt-slapping friend were put on the waiting list as the deligent bullock went round and round turning the wheel of time. I was racing against the time. I perpetualy remained two moments behind, slowed by the baggage of the past and pushed back by the incapacitating dread of the impending future. There was so much at stake.
I flipped the hour glass over. The ritual of keeping time was being repeated. The hour glass remained the measure of time as I moved from the expectant past to an uncertain future. In this state of distress the senses were at highest state of perception, ready for the fight of flight eventuality. In this state of heightened sensory state, I noticed the sand slip down. Time moved forward.
The sand slipped in a heap at the bottom. Each grain of salt jostling with the other to cross the stem of the time. The narrow stem of the hour glass differentiates between the space above filled with sand at the beginning of the time with the eventual resting place of the sands of time at the bottom.
The benign hour glass was silently trying to tell a sacred wisdom as it emptied it’s last grain of sand into its eventual resting space. It waited to start the same cycle once more. Move the grains of sand from the upper past space to the lower future space. The combative competition keeps getting repeated in an cruel cycle. The stem dividing the past from the future. In the rush of the grains through the stem, the moments pass. The time moves a notch as each grain moves through the stem. That place in the stem is… the moment. Unnoticed, it goes through the fog of the worry. Remembered, only on either bulging sides. The worry and urgency of squeezing through and reaching the other side misses the experience of the moment.
I looked up at the pendulum as it struck midnight. It moved back and forth, back and forth…past and future. Between the swings from the past to the future, I observed, it missed the present. Swinging…swinging…perpetually in motion. As the pendulum rises from the nadir of the swing towards the zenith, the urge to return back to the nadir increases. It pauses at the zenith temporarily only to race back. However, as it races back to the place it seeks to be, the very same rush takes it helplessly past it. Never able to pause even for a moment at the moment. It moves rapidly past it towards the next high. And the cycle continues as it chases time.
Like the grain of sand, the pendulum remains precise in keeping the time interval. However, missing the sweet spot of the moment while flitting between the regrets of the past and the worries of the future. Always anxious to move to the other side. Like the grain of sand, existing either at the top or the bottom of the cone of anxiety.
I realise we also live trapped in a similar Cone of Anxiety. Proudly carrying the cross of the privilege granted to the wise humans. The privilege of remembering the past and to imagine the future. These form the bulging sides of the cones – The cone of the future and the cone of the past. The cones intersect at the moment – the narrow stem of the hour glass. As we move into the cone of the past we are engulfed with the gloom of regret. The future cone floods our minds with the worry of imagined scenarios. As my mind moves back and forth in this cone of anxiety, I am a co-sinner with the pendulum and the grain of sand. I commit the similar unpardonable sin…I miss the moment.
I grabbed the pendulum to a pause. I placed the hour glass on its side. They resisted for a while, till the string no longer pulled, till the grains settled in stupefied motionless state. The clarity occurred. The realisation dawned. Now is the only truth. The past is merely my flawed interpretation of event that already occurred. The future is a only an abstract speculation. The only truth is in the Now. Everywhere in the cone is the source of anxiety. There is no anxiety of judgement in present moment as it lies in the future. There is no worry in the present moment as it is left behind in the past. The moment of now is pure and unsullied.
The realisation of the moment cleared the mind of worries and regrets. The vacuum created was soon filled by clarity of thoughts.
As the illuminating screen of the PC shut down, I felt radiant and sure. The past would not be allowed to sully my present. The future would not be allowed to steal the moment
I took the news, as just another tragic news on TV. But then, what seemed surprising, was this was the death of a colleague. It wasn’t someone who I knew personally, but stayed and worked under the same roof. We belonged to the same institution. I thought, it was reason enough to form a relationship. But my lack of true grief was surprising. The way I have wondered, on the source of my happiness, likewise, I searched for clues on the source of my grief.
If death of a human is a tragedy, it ideally should be a source of grief. But in this very case, there was no true grief. The news was discomforting and possibly could by far be judged as threatening rather than sorrowful. It was discomforting, for the fact that it wasn’t something I was accustomed to hear first thing in the morning. Threatening it was, for tbe fact that it warned of similar consequences for me too. In crude terms the death was not sorrowful but the possibilty of such an event occuring was discomforting and threatening.
The next question was whether we grieved for the death or for the deformation of the mould of life we had prepared. The mould of life we believed, was there forever. The mould of life stood for the certainty associated with the occurrence of our daily lives. The death by itself seemed to be only a cause. However, the greater influence on our minds was the effect of the cause. Greater the effect of the cause on the present way of things, far more was the grief over the cause, i.e, the Death.
It was as if the gaping hole in our fabric of life pained us more than the part of fabric which was lost. Larger the piece of fabric of present life that was lost, greater was the hole and therefore, larger was the consequent grief. The larger hole also had greater and wider effect on the connected weaves of the fabric. This analogy, explains to me, why more number of people grieved an important or an influential person’s death. Greater the influence of a person, greater is the piece of the life fabric he takes away, and therefore the grieving ones are more. It explaines the extent of influence and not the depth of influence. The explanation of the depth of influence of death is observable in the intensity of grief which is inversely proportional to the distance of the relationship. Greater the distance in a relation, lesser is the grief. Or in other words, closer the relationship, more intense is the grief. The quantum of grief is directly proportional to the size of influence of the departed soul and inversely proportional to the closeness of the relationship.
The analogy strikes me as a tragic Eureka. Grief is like gravity. The postulates are similar. Greater the mass (influence or Size of Personality) greater the grief. Farther the distance in relationship lesser is the grief.
Like gravity, grief also binds us together. The threat and discomfort related to the consequent grief of losing something or someone, make us gravitate towards those very people or things we love. The larger the mass of the personalty, greater was the effect on the fabric of life in terms of the hole created. Death is the cause of that gaping hole in this fabric of life which gives rise to the intensity and extent of grief. In congruence with the Gravity – Grief analogy, effect of death in the fabric of life is just like a the effect of black hole in the fabric of space-time. Like black hole, nothing comes back from death. The black hole has enormous gravity, likewise, death is also associated with enormous grief. Death likewise has no effect on itself but has profound effect on others around it.
I rely on the Gravity – Grief analogy to give me answers to my quest of the source of grief associated with this inevitable truth of Death.
The obvious question is what should we do about it? How do we reduce the grief associated with the Death? Well for once, as with gravity, we can do nothing about it, till we are in this world. It is inescapable. Grief is felt by those who remain in the world and not surely by the one who has left this world behind. So when we are worried for our death we are actually worried about others. It is not the occurrence of death, but the grief associated with it that worries us. The anxiety and grief associated with death is accentuated by the connections or attachments we have on people or things in this world. It has a implosive effect like the self implosion of a star as it consumes itself under the crush of its own gravity. Therefore, what we need to reduces is grief of death or in the analogy of gravity…the Gravity of Death.
To reduce the Gravity of Death we need to start by eliminating the very reason for the gravity or grief. The first factor was the mass or our own influence. It would be prudent to reduce the dependency of others on you. Empowering people around us would reduce our mass and thereby the effect of the gaping hole that we leave behind. Severing of the threads of our attachments to the objects of desire, would make us lighter. It would free us from the pull of Gravity of Death and allow us to live a fulfilling and free life.
My dog is my happiness. He fills me with the fuzzy happy feelings. The wagging tail, the twinkling eyes and the unabashed grin is a deadly cocktail for a happiness potion. He has instant effect on our mood. The entire focus of our household revolves around this canine. He is so central to our well-being that it is unimaginable how life can be without him. Our happiness was like anchored with this sweet drop of life. The story of this happiness started six years ago with a stroke of profound unhappiness.
It was six years ago, yet the memories of ‘Simba’ lingered as a distant but vivid images in our minds. The feelings were muted as we felt, we had moved on. We felt, we had lost a source of happiness, as death took him away. Many memories, happy and sad had piled up over those memories, obscuring them to their best. There was a gaping void which we all felt. We were painfully reminded of the loss by the uncanny habit of the Facebook, to bring back your memories on your timeline. As the memories broke the barrier and entered our conscious mind, it became a source of motivation to look for another pet. Our search was futile as nothing seemed to be matching our memories. We were kind of looking for our old memories in the present. The search was on the internet, through the circle of friends and strangely even on OLX (an online portal for selling your old stuff). The irony was classic, here we were, looking for our old memories and here were some people selling the same.
The search culminated in a quick succession of events. During a casual talk with one of our friend the topic got triggered. The topic of getting a new pet had become a favourite line of conversation, driven by an ever increasing obsession. Well this time it was a concrete lead. There was a vet, who had confirmed availability of a set of cream coloured pups.
My younger daughter, the insistent factor in the search was at her insistent best as she did not allow us the usual afternoon siesta. We were revving up our car’s engine when we received the call from the vet informing us of a possible delay to get the ‘other party’ to the rendezvous. We could not step inside the house, therefore we decided to take a drive a do our long pending household shopping.
As is the norm, the shopping list has was devoid of any limit cast in stone. It followed the Hooke’s law even beyond the yield point. And, this day wasn’t beyond the normal. The shopping which started out as an activity to fill in the time, ended up filling more time, than required. We, therefore, ended up being late.
As we reached the clinic of the vet, we could see the basket being carried by the representative of the breeder. we could see two fuzzy bundles of cream through the mesh of the cane basket. The tug on my hand was urgent as we crossed the street. The tenets of negotiations were all systematically ignored and violated. The eagerness was visible to the least perceptible.
The breeder, flipped the cover open to reveal two furry siblings. Cushioned by the soft quilt the duo seemed comfortable and cosy. We fashioned the notion that we would be the one to select our pet, but the selection was done by the pet. The furry ball hopped over the rim of the basket and wobbled towards me. It was a rush of emotions as the afterlife connections on metaphysical level seem to emerge and the deal was done. The decision was made. We had found our happiness. Or, to be more precise, the happiness had found us.
The bundle of happiness reached our home and the entire locus of attention shifted. There were giggles and awwwwws as the mobile phone memory recorded each moment. As the memory of our mobile filled and spilled over to the hard disc storage, our source of happiness acquired a new name – Marty.
Our elder daughter, oblivious of this momentous happenings was battling her wits on a outstation quiz battle ground. She returned triumphant, however her happiness got dwarfed as she carefully uncovered the radiating piece of happy radioactive material lying hidden in a gift wrapped basket.
His conquest was complete. Everyone had attached their cable of happiness plugged to him. It not only covered the household but went beyond to engulf few regular visitors. The garbage collector, the newspaper guy, the washer-man and our friends. All were under his spell. The enthusiasm he displayed in each meeting was similar and fair in quantum and quality, irrespective of gender, race, caste, religion and affluence. Each one plugging into this unending source of happiness.
That set me thinking. ‘Thinking’ is an evolutionary advantage that I have. So I ‘thought’ of using it.
How does this creature, far lower in the pecking order of evolution manage to be an abundance of ‘the only commodity’ that the human race (sitting at the top of the Darwinian ladder) of evolution seeks?
Where did the source lie of this ‘abundance of happiness’? Is my dog my happiness? Or do I look for happiness in him? Or does the happiness lie somewhere in between?
That became my line of thought as I observed this super being in action, trying to pry out some secret recipe of the happiness potion.
First thing that was evident was that Marty was unfair in giving. There was no relation of his “giving” to the merit of the “receiver”. His ‘giving’ was same for any of the receiver irrespective of gender, race, caste, religion, affluence, etc. There just wasn’t any criteria of fair distribution. He was just unfair. The only consistent factors was that of attention and affection.
The other thing that troubled me was that he would give attention and the pricey wag of the tail to just anybody – the garbage collector, the maid, the courier man, so on and so forth. There wasn’t any sense of gratefulness. With no ambiguity, I wanted him to know, that I was his owner who provides him his food, his security and his identity (on the collar). I experienced that immense happiness whenever he came wagging his tail expectantly for the treat in my hand. It was a sense of elation I felt on the control I could exercise on this being as he stayed riveted to my hand (or more accurately to the smell of the treat that lingered on my hand). The wagging of the tail, the expectancy in the eyes and the imagined smile on the wide open mouth brought me my happiness. I would gloat over the affection or the attention I was given and would seek to own it. Therefore sometimes I do feel bad when the same tail wags and the eyes twinkle at these ‘other’ people. But what really got be wondering was that, when the same wag of the tail and grin on the wide open mouth is directed to these ‘other’ people, wby did it not have the same effect of engulfing happiness on me? On the contrary, I felt wretched, hateful and sad. An absolute opposite set of feelings from the same set of behaviour by the dog. It astonished me. And somehow, strangely and ironically, I felt greater anger towards Marty than towards these ‘other’ people. As if he disappoints me. As if he fell from the grace. Stranger is the irony, when I realise that at times like these, this bundle of abundant happiness was actually the source of my anger.
I also observed that the dog wasn’t so smart after all, because all he ever did was to mimic my emotions. He would get super excited if I showed excitement. If I was pensive he would be listless too. And on the other hand sometimes he would be exactly the opposite. There were times when I reached back home and just want to fling my work and chill. When I just wanted to dig into the abyss of social media world with my swiping fingers and punching thumbs. Or when I wanted to jog the remote till the mind got from dumb to the dumber. At times like these, Marty conveniently forgot his default wiring of mimicking emotions. He discovers his shriekiest bark and the most devious ways of gaining your attention. He just doesn’t realise, at such time the ‘most important’ thing for me is to relax and not spend time with him. He is actually dumb and irritating.
These observations were not helping me in anyways of extracting the holy grail of happiness. My observation seemed to point towards the contrary. My observation was creating this grave cognitive dissonance with my awareness and belief that my dog was the source of my happiness and at the same time the source of my anger and irritation.
It was a researchers sense of betrayal, to see his hypothesis not being supported by his own observation. The distress was palpable. The limits of thinking (which I was so proud of) had hit its keel on the walls of the horizon.
As I sat brooding over a blank screen, thoughts were no longer giving me solace. In my time of despair, in the most cheekiest Bollywood way, I felt Marty’s paws on my arm. For all those who have a dog, know what I am talking about. It is that placing of the paws which has a kind of therapeutic effect. With the paws on my arm, Marty face was resolute, sombre and yet expressionless. It allowed me to interpret any expression which I wanted to have. It was a blank canvas on which I could paint any thought.
I toyed with the idea which I started with ‘My dog is my Happiness’. Somehow the analogy of my dog being the happiness seemed to be a metaphoric explanation. As my thoughts rested resolutely on the metaphor it somehow transformed and rearranged itself into – ‘Happiness is the Dog’. The clarity emerged. The metaphoric shift replaced the abstract feeling of ‘happiness’ with a ‘physical entity’ which could be described.
And as I proceeded to describe the dog as happiness the clarity emerged. I use the word Marty – my Dog as a replacement of the word Happiness to derive understandable meaning.
Marty wags his tail and focusses his attention to the one who feeds him. He focusses his attention to the one that gives attention to him. He goes to the one who truly wants him and makes him feel important (more important than anything else). The next time Marty does not come to you ask yourself, whether I feed him or whether I give him attention? Do I want him? Is it really the most important thing in my life? Now replace the Marty with the word ‘Happiness’ and see the clarity emerge. Do we really want to be happy? Do I give happiness the required attention? Do I even try to be happy?
What I actually try to do is to own happiness, extract and store happiness. Just like I would like to maintain the stock of treats to buy myself the attention of Marty. We try and own happiness and control it. Leash it and not share it with the ‘others’. When I want to control it, leash it and am unwilling to share it, its core essence of happiness transforms into despair and anger. It diabolically transforms into a gruesome source of misery.
The clarity sends shivers of relief and bliss through my core. It seemed to lift a heaviness from my chest. As clarity swept through my being, the ruts on my neural pathways smoothened out to welcome this new belief. I felt actually happy.
That’s when I felt the wet licks and the insistent playful prod by the wet nose of Marty. It was time for us to play, share ourselves wholly to each other and extend our identity to ‘us’. It was time to brew happiness.