In a previous blog post we talked about the three axioms that one can adopt in order to not limit enlightenment to the spirit alone. Let us now delve into some practical aspects of applying these axioms, specifically the third axiom, in our day to day lives. Here is the third axiom again:
The sole purpose of life is to propagate itself.
Leaving the obvious biological aspect of propagation of the species aside let us look at a different context in which this axiom is relevant to human beings: the state of mind required for existence. The state that immediately comes to mind is “Happy”! It would be interesting to note at that this is rarely the de facto state of the human mind and the pursuit of this state is what this blog will try to address.
We shall start by making a clear distinction from the school of thought that claims that happiness of the mind can be decoupled from the state of existence of the body. While one would agree that material luxuries for the body cannot guarantee happiness for the mind it is unconceivable that the mind can be happy unless the basic necessities of the body are satisfied. Biology would not permit it! Instead, let us look at a way to achieve happiness that balances the material and spiritual needs of a human being.
George Carlin, by far one of the most talented comedians of our time, did a piece on “Stuff” as a part of one of his standup acts. Catch it on YouTube here. In this piece he talks exclusively about the material things that we make a part of our lives and how we prioritize them over other peoples “stuff”! There have been many more such discourses about other baggage that we tend to carry around with us but one in particular that address both the material and non-material baggage is from the movie Up in the Air: at a convention the character played by George Clooney, Ryan Bingham, delivers a speech titled “Whats in your backpack?”. Catch it also on YouTube here.
While such discourses talk about how to deal with the baggage that we carry about, both material and spiritual, they fail to address the life experiences associated with the collection of the same. Our lives, after all, are the sum total of our experiences shaped by our choices. Let us then talk about the life experiences that shape us and define us and in turn are the ones that we tend to reminisce upon the most, i.e. carry around in our backpack. The origins of majority of these experiences would be based in three basic human emotions:
Lust: Leaving the sexual aspect aside we shall refer instead to the meaning of lust as per the Oxford English Dictionary as: “A passionate desire for something”. We surely remember the things and the people for whom we have felt this kind of want; especially the people with whom we were lucky enough to share such a feeling with and the things that we managed to acquire for ourselves. The feeling of happiness that follows is what burns these memories in to our brains!
Love: Beyond a doubt we remember our first love, our true love, and all other loved ones that fall in between those two extremes. Excluding the unrequited love that only led to fleeting misery and suffering, we can all agree that being in love is certainly way up there in our list of experiences that were a source of happiness more enduring than the rest.
Loss: Again out of the various meanings of loss as per the Oxford English Dictionary let us understand loss as the feeling of grief after losing someone or something of value. Surely any experiences of loss are not easily forgotten especially of losing someone that we have truly loved or something for which we had experienced wanton lust! But how can we find happiness in such experiences? Are we not better off by suppressing them never to be discussed again with any other living soul?
The words of the great poet Khalil Gibran from his seminal work The Prophet can help us achieve this magical transformation: “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding…”. The full text of this particular chapter can be found here. The poet encourages us to look upon the cause of our pain with bewildered awe and appreciate that we were lucky to have experienced the happiness that preceded the pain. Needless to say that this is easier said than done but is certainly worth a try lest you find there are fewer and fewer experiences worth remembering being added to your life.
In conclusion pursue every opportunity for an unique life experience no matter how unconventional the source but do not let the outcome deprive you of happiness. Instead, find happiness in acknowledging that you were brave, or in some cases foolhardy enough, to have seized the opportunity in the first place.
The Padma Bhushan award winning Marathi poet, Mangesh Padgaonkar, best summarizes this aspect of pursuing love in his poem “Akherache Yetil Majhya”. Catch it on YouTube along with English translation here.