Thought I will take a break from my travellogue of China and tell you another story.
I met a very dear and old friend the other day who I met some 22 years ago. We worked in the same organisation and in the same function for more than ten years. There was no particular purpose in the meeting, except to catch up with each other after a long time.
We sat down with tall glasses of chilled ice tea in the Bangalore afternoon, in a laid back coffee place, watching people passing us by in a languid pace. After a bit of chit-chat, my friend looked at my face and said: “your eyes are looking rather sad, how come”? I was taken aback; for multiple reasons; first I did not think that my eyes were sad and secondly, my friend was never in a habit of being intimate either for himself or towards others.
I laughed, it seemed incredulous that it was coming from this person, but he persisted. He then went on to add: “you are one of the most optimistic persons that I have ever come across; you never settled down for a peaceful untroubled existence”, he pasued, and then added with a naughty smile, “if at all, you created trouble for yourself and for others”. I joined him in the laughter, that was true, I thought, and who better than him can say it? I made his life miserable with my incessant counter system modes at work and put him into considerable trouble from time to time.
He also talked about the missing sparkle in my eyes and urged that I get it back as soon as possible as accordingly to him, the world would be a poorer place if it did not have trouble makers like me and dreamers like him.
We then talked about dreamers, mad hatters and trouble makers – about us and about some others that we knew. We also had reminiscences about what does it mean having a little bit of all of the above in oneself? It left me with some musings …..
Optimism or hope has always been a major life force for me – I dont think I could have lived my life or even ventured into the kind of things that I did, if I was not optimistic or did not value hope above all else.
Personally for me, I can not envision life without optimism, but I also wonder, whether the sheer force of optimism is just as much a denial of those aspects of life or of oneself that force us to look at the dark side, the unforgiven, the unseen and the undesirable. Whether the lure of the bright side actually blinds us from looking at some of those parts of ourselves that are essential, not for survival but for understanding life as it is, rather than an “as if” view.
Similarly the Mad Hatters and the Dreamers and the Trouble Makers are the most cherished parts of myself – I feel alive, throbbing and vivacious with life and its endless possibilities and the sheer force of flow that is called life. For me envisioning the future whether for myself or for the systems that I am a part of , are impossible without these friends. The reason I can take endless risks and start life all over again, repeatedly, are possible because they have been there by my side.
Today, where I am in my life, I am beginning to believe that all of those entities while having been my most cherished compatriots, may have also contributed to my being quite ambivalent to other essential parts of being human, i.e. being part of a larger map, being one of the many, putting others’ interests before mine, withdrawing the need for gratification for greater good and abiding by the rules that the larger system has evolved over a long period of time. Do I believe in all these axioms ? Perhaps not all. Do I believe that some of these rules are nothing but a controlling mechanism of the patriarchal and often unjust social system? I do. But like I said, I also have to concede that pushing these thoughts aside have most times helped me to be a little more self centered that I should have been, to not be sensitive to others as much as I could have been and most importantly, not look at those aspects of me that are like the system that I am so ambivalent towards and not acknowledge to myself with courage and conviction that I am also complicit in the same system.
It is not easy to stride both these horses and I have often slipped, and erred on the side of optimism and may be that is the sadness that my eyes carry today – there is an emptiness that I experience these days for looking for purpose of life all the time. Sometimes to not look for anything perhaps is an alternative that I am yet to explore.
But, will I give up hope? Nah, I would rather be dead. 🙂