Purposeless on Purpose

There are a lot of things we “know” but don’t know.Sometimes,thoughts have to be framed just the right way to start making perfect sense and for us to experience that ‘Aha’ moment.A thought-provoking article from Brain Pickings helped crystallize a lot of my loosely framed thoughts.

Alan Watts, the British philosopher stated –

“Money is a way of measuring wealth but is not wealth in itself. A chest of gold coins or a fat wallet of bills is of no use whatsoever to a wrecked sailor alone on a raft. He needs real wealth, in the form of a fishing rod, a compass, an outboard motor with gas, and a female companion. But this ingrained and archaic confusion of  money with wealth is now the main reason we are not going ahead full tilt with the development of our technological genius for the production of more than adequate food, clothing, housing, and utilities for every person on earth.”

When we become willing slaves to the money-making machinery and devote every moment of our lives to the blinkered pursuit of money, every voice that detracts us sounds irritating.As we run our race, all we can think of is reaching the finish line. At times we are at a loss to remember why we started running in the first place or why we were still running and what would we do when we reached the finish line, if there was one. We shudder to lose that one goal that threatens to leave us rudderless in the world, without a sense of purpose.

“Wealth” as Watts defines,is anything which enables us to live a fuller life.Going strictly by that definition, the meaning of wealth could vary vastly for different individuals.However, it would be reasonable to assume that some things might more or less be broad enough to be considered as contributors to a fuller life ; for instance spending quality time with loved ones, bringing up a child to be responsible and a confident adult, savoring good food etc. Wealth could imply enriching one’s own personality in terms of creating works of art, beauty, literature etc and could also be inferred as enriching one’s life by supporting other lives.”Some” wealth could be enabled by money.

When we disassociate ourselves from a money-based evaluation system and wait for the haze to settle down, we find new roles which hitherto didn’t figure anywhere in the leaderboard. Many homemakers who have had to struggle with a sense of purposelessness or have had to ward off uncomfortable questions, suddenly find themselves well-placed in a wealth-based system. It all starts making perfect sense, when you view that each homemaker is creating wealth for the family by supporting other members in differing capacities and roles. Many people in their pursuits of art, literature, theater, academic research etc are creating wealth, though they sometimes might not be making too much money.

The importance of viewing money as just an enabler and not an end-goal marks an important step,in how we perceive others and evaluate our own self-worth.

Whether it’s creation of wealth or money, we are inclined to look at both as fulfilling a sense of purpose – the reason we were born and what we were meant to do. Some of us keep looking for that elusive purpose all our lives. Some of us get dispirited when it doesn’t turn up in an all-encompassing magnificent vision and tragically spiral downwards in an existential crisis.

Considering the bigger scheme of things, we are an infinitesimally minute part of the cosmos. Nothing we do today, is going to live after a 1000 years or 10000 years.For all we know, humans might have long vanished off the face of the earth. What is the purpose of life of an ant or a bee ? It lives and it dies. Was it’s living and dying purposeless. And would we as humans, be able to live with that sense of purposelessness or the apparent randomness of the whole thing. Wouldn’t life come to a grinding halt ? So we indulge ourselves by our prescribed sense of purpose, that which will enable us to live a fuller life.

Now let’s change that logic to see things in a radically opposite manner.What if, right from the day we were born, to the day we die, we have fulfilled all our purposes. All that was ever destined for us. No life was,is or will , ever be purposeless. No bee or ant died a purposeless life.Every life is meaningful and is being lived the way it was always meant to be. So when one’s life is over, one should always be able to look back at it,as having done exactly what one was supposed to do, fulfilled everything that one had been born for. Does that mean that we don’t look for and try to pursue things that makes us happy or increase our self-worth or our wealth. Of course not, because that too is a part of living but that doesn’t change the intrinsic value or the bigger purpose of our life.

So, either our lives are completely purposeless or each and every one of our lives has a very deep sense of purpose. Whichever way we choose to look at it, we are all, definitely, in the same boat and if there’s really a race, we are either all winning or all losing. I would prefer to think we are all winning  🙂

Sunset at 60 ?

While gender stereotyping is a very prevalent topic these days, there is another which is equally pervasive and might be harder to classify as black or white.Stereotyping of the elderly and the overarching expectation to conform or to risk being judged.A short while ago I happened to chance on this article on Facebook.

http://www.themetrognome.in/grey-space/why-i-refused-to-take-care-of-my-grandkids

And it brought to the fore a lot of thoughts I had on the subject of stereotyping of elders in the society.

sunset

Young grandchildren invariably imply a duty for the grandparents,if the parents happen to be working professionals. While it is perfectly understandable and a great arrangement,if both parties are amenable to it. It is most certainly not,if the grandparents would rather have a choice and freedom on the subject. Implicitly assuming that one’s parents should drop everything on their plate and come to look after the grandchildren smacks of inconsideration. Whether they really have a lot on their plate or not, is also of little consequence.

The problem revolves around choice. Do grandparents really have a choice to say ‘No’. If they do, do they risk of being judged by everybody around including their own children. The comments to the article above also interestingly implies,that to be looked after in old age, looking after the grandchildren is the price one must pay.
“And I shall have my pound of flesh..” said Shylock. If relationships are indeed so transactional , then where is the pound of flesh for bringing up the children themselves.

As people get older, our society starts putting the emphasis on religion and ritualistic traditions.The unsaid expectation of withdrawal from worldly affairs looms larger with progressing age and any inclination of wanting to enjoy material interests is only looked down upon. While declining importance of materialistic interests and progress along the spiritual path is the aspiration of many spiritual seekers, its correlation to age, puts an undue strain on an individual and snatches away the choice of how one wants to live. Spirituality as a way of life can only be by choice. Though I did take a recourse to talking about religion and spirituality in the same breath, vast differences in the way they are practiced is a topic for another day.

Closely following on its heals and an offshoot of declining materialistic interests is the restriction on forming any romantic liaisons. Do desires die when one is old ? A controversial topic by any standard, but the fact remains that desires don’t die a sudden death. One just chooses to exert a control on desires which are not appropriate.While lonely people finding companions at the fag end of life is perfectly acceptable abroad, here it would be a complete taboo. Although single men &
women remarrying is gaining more acceptance, the taboo still remains strong against somebody considered past the hill.Films like ‘Cheeni kum’ explored this topic to a certain extent,challenging accepted societal norms.

In a society which has strict codes of conduct laid out for almost every strata of society, breaking norms definitely draws eyebrows.And if those are of your own flesh and blood, then it becomes even more onerous.While the article in question did talk about a point-in-time event, it resulted from years of upbringing of the very same children who were not taught the importance of giving space and consideration for another’s view. The root of the problem which lies not in parent-child relationships but in all relationships is giving “space” – one of the most critical foundation for any healthy relationship.Again, that is a post for another day…

The Professional Hobbyist

My first post under a new category called ‘Musings’. There are myriad thoughts that arise intermittently and lead me to speculate about alternate viewpoints.I am starting this category, just to hear your thoughts on some of these subjects. The intention is not to arrive at specific conclusions nor to enforce any preconceived ideas or opinions,but to just exchange free flowing thoughts.

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‘Hobby’ by definition implies an activity done during one’s leisure time for pleasure. For anyone who’s very passionate about their hobbies, the definition itself could border on the insipid. But nevertheless, the underlying intent doesn’t vary – that it is done during one’s leisure time , suggesting one has an absolute choice in deciding when and whether to pursue. I think therein lies the crux – hobby is something that’s freewheeling, rather than getting straight-jacketed into specific schedules and timelines.

As more and more people transition their hobbies or interests into full fledged businesses, the question that often crops up  in my mind, is whether the essence of a hobby still holds good. One very important constituent of a hobby, is that one has a choice to pursue it when one wants and the moment when one changes this very intrinsic nature, does it cease to offer the same enjoyment and the sense of carefree liberation , it otherwise would have afforded. Business, of course, implies a monetary compensation imposing a very rigid outline on how the hobby progresses but at times, this carefree aspect is robbed, the moment one is under a compulsion of any sort.

Blogging networks and the blogging world throws up several interesting gauntlets.One such blogging mantra suggests one to keep updating one’s blog every week. This, to my mind immediately becomes a compulsion. Can one be a serious blogger and still consider blogging a hobby ? Plausibly, that’s when a hobby meta-morphs into a more serious pursuit and one strives to excel at it rather than it merely serving to add a relaxing distraction in life.

It can be argued whether a hobby which doesn’t result in any discernible output, is less amenable to the pressures of achieving perfection – wherein the focus is more on the ‘doing’ rather than the creation itself. For instance, reading would have definitely qualified to be one such pursuit, where one could have retreated to a private world away from the constant pressures of proving oneself. I would have presumed bird watching as well, to be a personal pursuit with out undue pressure,but now I know better.We are ‘facebooked’ and the more we ‘do’ something, the more we promote it. The minute we have an audience,there is always a need to showcase and everyday desires are not far behind.

Would you still continue a hobby if there was no audience ? Nobody to appreciate what you did. Some of course, are more audience driven than others eg. blogging. But there are others, which could obviate the need to showcase and hence could be more pursuant to an unadulterated relaxation.

If you have converted a hobby into a profession, do you still derive the same amount of joy and relaxation vis a vis when it was not ? Do share your thoughts !