Coming back for the view

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“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” 
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

It’s been a while, its been a long while since I wrote anything in here. I was always meaning to, but life had other plans for me. I have been trying to find my way through twists and turns of life and time. Sometimes I took the wrong turn, got lost and spent a good long while trying to get back on to the path. I have been trying to make sense of it all, and been looking for the light and finding it, losing it and finding it again. I’m older, a little bit wiser and a little bit sillier. But, for the most part, the mists have faded. I still lose my way but I know when I do, and recognise the path I should be on. This blog was always about finding my way, figuring things out, starting afresh and seeing things in the cold light of day.

However, this isn’t a final redemption story. This is no “here I am, I see the truth and now I’m saved”, because truth isn’t a place you come to and stay forever; truth is a place you keep coming back to. Because no matter how lucid the view, how much wiser you get, how much older you become, how perceptive you are of the world, we will make mistakes, we will take wrong turns and the mists will appear. We will wander off from truth. But, what we learned on the way will help us find the way.

It is strange writing on this blog after four years. It feels like I’m looking at souvenirs left behind for me by my younger self, as if she intended me to come back and look at them in time – to understand better. She would be glad to know that I do. I have written a lot about pain, coming to terms with it and dealing with it. In fact, I aced my relationship with pain, I embraced it to unhealthy levels. I became so comfortable with pain I settled down with it. I was almost proud of my endured silent suffering. I became hard-wired to accept it and do nothing about it. It became so normal, I was afraid to be any different. But, like everything in this universe, it also needed to change. I started to see how the palace of pain I built for myself was slowly engulfing me into darkness and oblivion. I no longer wanted to be comfortable with it or commit to it. So, I decided to come outside and hope a little and want a little. I was crippled from staying too long in my pain palace it took a lot of getting used to. And, I did. I started to relearn happiness, love and freedom. I learnt to build meaningful relationships, look out for myself and see things for what they are. I embarked on a path of self growth and change.

So, is that it? Am I OK now? Is the past forgotten? It’s not that straightforward, it never will be. I’m more capable than before, to identify, understand, learn and navigate. I will try to be OK in better ways, in fact, I’m more OK now than at any other time in my life. And the past…. it shows up every now and again but I see it differently, even the pain, and instead of reliving it, I see that the past is over for good. Like time, truth changes everything, and truth is often revealed in time.

“Nothing’s ever the same. Be it a second later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and roiling. And people change as much as oceans.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 

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Changes, changes, changes! Here’s the prelude

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Image Credit: Christopher Drake

Greetings everyone! ‘Tis the time for that sort of thing. Yes, I’m still stranded on this planet, although this blog gives the impression that I have left it already. I know it’s been a while, it was never my intention to neglect this place, but I think I did just that by taking a long time off from it. I have a bit of news to share with you.

I have felt the need for a change on this blog, and decided to give it a new address. It will happen sometime in the future and before I do that I wanted to let you all know, because I know that some of you still like to pop by for a visit. So, if you aren’t already a WordPress or email follower of this blog, please subscribe via email so I can send you the new link – only if you want to know of course! I may also need to set the blog to ‘private’ for some time, and I thought I would give you a heads-up before you stumble upon that in the future. Yes, I’m complicated like that, and I can only apologise.

While I was away from writing, I read some of your blogs and I’m happy to see that everyone is doing well. Best wishes for the season, and thanks for reading.

Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun

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Image Credit: Daniel J. Splaine

GIVE me the splendid silent sun, with all his beams full-dazzling;

Give me juicy autumnal fruit, ripe and red from the orchard;

Give me a field where the unmow’d grass grows;

Give me an arbor, give me the trellis’d grape;

Give me fresh corn and wheat—give me serene-moving animals, teaching content;

Give me nights perfectly quiet, as on high plateaus west of the Mississippi, and I looking up at the stars…

Walt Whitman (1819–1892) –  Leaves of Grass

Its been a while since I last sat down to witness a glorious sunset. The opportunity never seems to arrive. However, longing for a such moment, reminded me of this poem. Reading it, I realised how much I miss those peaceful simple things, or have they now become luxuries amidst the hurly-burly of life? There are some poems that help you to close your eyes and transport yourself to a mesmerisingly tranquil place, by the sheer power of words. Its almost like therapy. This is one such poem.

The Grand Inquisitor

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Photograph by Jim Richardson – Westminster Abbey, London

“Anyone who can appease a man’s conscience can take his freedom away from him.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

The other day, I popped into my local library for a very specific search on Russian Literature. Browsing through, I came across The Grand Inquisitor by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Having seen this as a reference in various places, I had to take it home with me. I have not read the brilliant and monumental work that is “The Brothers Karamazov”, which is the book where you find the prose poem, The Grand Inquisitor. However, this particular part of the book is available separately due to its importance as one of the best-known passages in modern literature.

The Grand Inquisitor, the most famous section of The Brothers Karamazov is a parable told by Ivan to his brother Alyosha. The story is set in Spain, during the Spanish Inquisition. In this story, Jesus comes back to Earth, to Seville, and begins performing miracles, and people recognise him for who he is. People weep for joy, children throw flowers at his feet and a large crowd gathers outside the cathedral. And naturally, he is arrested by the Inquisitors for heresy and is sentenced to be burned to death.

The night before his execution, the Grand Inquisitor visits Jesus in his cell. Jesus doesn’t speak, but the Grand Inquisitor speaks to him at length about how the church doesn’t really need Jesus anymore and how the church is running just fine without him. He says that since Christ did not take the power, and instead gave people free will; the Church has now taken the power in his name by taking away people’s free will and replacing it with security. “We have corrected Thy work and founded it on miracle, mystery and authority”

The Grand Inquisitor reminds Christ of the three temptations by Satan that Jesus rejected. He argues that Christ should have turned stone to bread and offered mankind freedom from hunger instead of freedom of choice. The Inquisitor says that people are too weak to live by the word of God when they are hungry; they follow the ones who feed their bellies. “Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!”

The Grand Inquisitor says that most people need to see the miraculous in order to be content in their religious faith. He says that Christ should not have refused to throw himself off the pinnacle of Jerusalem to be caught by angels. If he did, he would have assured people of his divinity and they would have followed him forever without a speck of doubt.

Finally, the Inquisitor reminds Jesus of the third temptation where Jesus refused power in order to give men their free will. The Grand Inquisitor says that the Church now has regained that power Jesus rejected. “There is nothing more seductive for man than the freedom of his conscience, but there is nothing more tormenting either. And so, instead of a firm foundation for appeasing human conscience once and for all, you chose everything that was unusual, enigmatic, and indefinite, you chose everything that was beyond men’s strength,” says the Inquisitor to Jesus.

He goes on to say that in fact, Jesus’ return at this point is just disruptive to the overall meaning of the church, and the church’s mission in preaching Jesus has become more important than Jesus himself.

Jesus silently listens to this lengthy statement and the old Cardinal waits for him to say something, anything for that matter. Jesus simply stands up, walks up to the Grand Inquisitor, and kisses his “bloodless, aged lips”. The Grand Inquisitor shudders, but the kiss still glows in his heart. The Inquisitor does not execute Jesus after all. Instead, he sends him away, demanding he never return.

The Grand Inquisitor has become an Atheist Manifesto, sort of, however, it gives out a different message. And it doesn’t pander to a childish fantasy of who God is either. Dostoevsky was a fervent believer but his personal views are similar to the Inquisitor’s low opinion of the common herd.

It seems that the Grand Inquisitor knows of the truth himself, however, he also knows that the truth which sets us free is too demanding for us, and that it is a lie that grants us happiness. He reasons out that people desire worldly things and not some impossible ideals they are too weak to follow. They need the worldly, in order to make up their minds about the otherworldly. In fact, it is a prerequisite for belief. They want the bread of Earth first, before they can believe in bread of Heaven, and they’d rather surrender their freedom to a benevolent authority who will care for their earthly needs and relieve them of their spiritual suffering, than bear the burden of freedom and freewill. “Better that you enslave us, but feed us.”

The Grand Inquisitor is not without ambiguity. While it explores human nature and freedom, and makes some really valid statements, it doesn’t offer its closing argument to us on a platter, which is to say that Dostoevsky leaves the thinking to us.

At the end of the story, Ivan, who is an opponent of religion asks his brother Alyosha who is a firm believer whether he renounces his beliefs after hearing the story, to which Alyosha responds by giving Ivan a soft kiss on the lips, mimicking the actions of Christ in the poem. The kiss isn’t a symbol of overcoming the logic in the argument, and neither can the logic in the argument be triumphed by a kiss, but it represents how well Alyosha understands the problems of faith and doubt in a world characterized by free will. It is a gesture of love over reasoning. Through this profound and moving ambiguity at the end, Dostoevsky has his major opponent of religion, Ivan, acknowledge the power of faith, just as Dostoevsky himself, a proponent of faith, has used Ivan to acknowledge the power of doubt.

The story reflected my own beliefs about the world of religion and its institutions. I have always believed that if Jesus ever returned, he would be utterly disappointed at the way people depict him, represent him, illustrate him and celebrate him today. His ministry bears no resemblance to him anymore and he would challenge the very religious institutions who claim to speak for him. However, in order to truly appreciate this masterpiece of literature we have to respect its middle ground and its two very powerful points of view, and I hope you would too, if you get the chance to read it.

Fire and Ice – reflections on time gone by

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Photograph by Gordon Esler. A couple caught in the snow in the 17th-century Greenwich Naval College, London. To the right, shrouded in mist, is the River Thames.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

– Robert Frost

Greetings bloggers, and readers! Hope you all had a good Christmas and a delightful New Year day. If you didn’t, then I’m sorry about that, and hopefully it will get better this year. It’s been a while and I have been experiencing a Shakespearean winter of discontent. In some ways it was the end of discontentment and in some ways, just plain ice cold discontentment. 2013 was an important year and in its final months I struggled to make sense of a lot of things that occurred in the year. But there is nothing like seeing everything in lucid reflection and being able to understand things more clearly and concisely.

I managed to learn something new everyday, or rather life taught me something everyday, almost everyday. When you add it all up at the end of a year, you realise that living and learning is the best education you will ever receive. Last year I learned a lot about loyalty in friendship – that apart from brand loyalty, not many people really know what the word ‘loyalty’ really means. It has become a strange and an unknown word, but after all it is a strange world where everyone is more or less is unknown to us. This same realisation, made me want to treasure my true loyal friends even more.

I reconnected with such an old friend who I lost touch with for several years thanks to my desire to be a recluse. And in doing so, I was reminded again of the best advice I received in life – ‘it is what it is’. Although ‘it is what it is’ is very much a straightforward statement, there are times when we refuse to believe or understand things as they really are. We sometimes look for an alternative explanation in order to make the truth taste a little less bitter. I guess we all want to believe in something that is greater and better than the stone cold truths. In the past I have paid too much attention to the nuance of human condition, I was looking for the best in every human being, hoping to find a ray of light even in the darkest places of their hearts, and suddenly hearing this phrase again, made me want to be less obsessive about trying to look for things that probably do not exist.

2013 was also a year when I revisited my childhood past and some of the happiest times of my life. This revisit helped me rekindle not only friendships but also the excitement for the things I was passionate about. They were like dying embers and I think I saved them from turning into ashes and traces of a more sensible me.

However, 2013 was not the year I hoped to have closure with my emotional engagements. It wasn’t the year where I resolved my emotional issues, and according to professionals of the tradition, they are still unresolved. I doubt they ever will be otherwise, but I’m hoping that I will want to do less with those issues and occupy myself in the things that made me happy prior to losing myself in the tempest and turmoil.

The past taught me a lot about human nature and how rapidly and unexpectedly people change, how they go from being a friend to being an enemy in a heartbeat. However, last year, I got the opportunity to see that not every human is alike and there is still hope for those of us who champion humane qualities among humans.

In summing up the good and the bad, the pleasant and unpleasant experiences, I wanted to sound wiser, however, I gave that job to the rightly deserving Robert Frost. His words at the beginning reminded me of a post I wrote last year called “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.” In conclusion, the lessons I learned this year about human nature, friendship, love and self are far too important to merely leave aside as typicality of life, and the greatest mistake I can commit is to allow them to be forgotten.

A walk in November rain

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Photograph by Balazs Kovacs

“Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.”
― Roger Miller, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley

It rained yesterday, and I walked in it. No umbrella, no raincoat, no hoodie, no hurry. With every drop of rain that fell on to my skin I felt an icy sensation of gloom, joy, freedom and peace – yes, all that at once; my mind took a masterclass of mixed emotions soon after I was born. Also, rain has an ethereal power to make you a little bit pensive, a little bit melancholy, a little bit carefree, and a little bit merry. It was one of the funniest men that ever lived who gave rise to one of the saddest quotes about rain: “I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.” I used to do that you know…just like Charlie Chaplin, but I wasn’t crying yesterday. I felt a little gloomy because the falling rain splashed on to me the stinging memories of the yesteryear, but then I was happy because the road led me on invitingly, casting away my fears. I felt free because I left behind the pain I once felt when walking in the rain, and I felt peaceful because the November rain that covered me was inexplicably beautiful

I felt the rain as if it was trying to comfort me; I felt it like it was singing to me. Maybe it was all the tears I cried since three Novembers ago, now falling down to soothe me. The chilly air didn’t bother me; they say a frozen heart cannot feel colder; maybe that’s what’s happened to my heart finally. I didn’t care that I was getting wet, instead, letting the rain fall on to me almost tranquilised me. “Will people think that I’m out of my mind if they see me?” It did occur to me, but I didn’t care. We should all walk in the rain once in a while, just to feel it. There isn’t a madness in it, but there is sincerity in it. Letting people know that you are choosing to feel the rain isn’t the same as the helpless alternative of getting wet in it. And so, it should be included in cultural ethos.

The thing about rain is, if you watch it for long enough, it can call out to your deepest memories to rouse and wistful thoughts to flutter. The thing about walking in the rain is, if you take it all in, those deepest memories and wistful thoughts will wash over you with a strange palpable feeling. No matter how synonymous sunshine is with happiness, rain can make you feel equally better. Whether it falls in a soft drizzle or in heavy sheets, it has a magical element that can come to our rescue at various times. “No clouds in the sky” is great, but if there are clouds in the sky, I hope they fall away as calming rain, comforting us in our bad times and reminding us of the bitter-sweet taste of life in our good times. At the end of the walk, I felt like, for a short time, I lived another life – a life where walking through the rain is a rite of passage, to be a little bit wiser when you are a little bit older.

You survived the fall, now what?

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“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections

I absolutely adore Neil Gaiman (as some of you may have already noticed), and his remarkable creation, Sandman. Today, I searched for this quote for some reason and looking at it, I realised how much I relate to it. It is a quote that speaks a fascinating underlying truth, a reality far greater than it seems.

To survive the fall and fly is what we all hope for when the fall is inevitable, to die in the fall and escape suffering is the alternative option, but there’s a third instance, when neither happens; you survive the fall but you lie there broken. Your mighty soul torn apart, your thoughtful mind messed up, yet your heart still beating. Your courage shattered, strength faltered, limbs numb, yet your heart still beating. Then the bruises start to bleed each time you remember the fall, and the scars start to hurt in a Harry Potter kind of way. You wish you didn’t survive or that you got to fly, but instead…..you are a scattered mess. I can understand the need for “all the kings horses and all the kings men” to come together to put broken beings together. It doesn’t matter how several hundred hooves can help put together a broken egg, you just want to be complete once again somehow, just like you were before.

But as Humpty Dumpty or his rescue army would have told you, once something is broken, its original shape is lost forever. No matter how well you try to fix it, how strong of a super glue you have or other sophisticated fixing material, it will never be the same; in the same way, once broken, we too will never be the same again. Signs of brokenness will show, evolve and ultimately will become a part of us. That’s the thing about the fall that doesn’t kill you – the survival will leave a mark. You will carry it on for the rest of your life; but it will be the reminder, the compass, the navigator, the escort, the chaperone, the mentor and the counselor. It becomes your northern star, guiding you away from cliff edges and roof tops, and it becomes the commander of your emotions, warning you, reprimanding you, urging you to move forward, retreat and surrender.

To me, being broken was being in the hinterland between the valley of death and the sky of hope. I spent a long time lying in the same position, wishing I had died and wishing I had taken flight. Sometimes your bones need not break, to feel crippled. I felt like I no longer could see, hear, feel or move, yet somehow I had to. There was no army in the world that could put me back together; I had to do it on my own. There are some missing pieces I still can’t find; maybe it is for my own good.

So you survive the fall, barely. You are broken but stitched up; not nicely too because you had to do it on your own. Then what? I realised that it was then my life really began. I got to see every part of me clearly when I was reassembling myself. I had to learn to move again, see again and hear again. Why did I need to learn to see and hear? I too thought that those things just are and just happened, but unless you learn, you will never see and hear the important things, truthful things, the valuable things, the things that you are meant to know. Don’t wait until “there comes a time when the blind man takes your hand and says: don’t you see?”

I realised that it was my fear of falling, which broke me badly. I was afraid I would be let go of and I was afraid to let go. Should I think that it was a mistake to have climbed in the first place? But like Gaiman says in Sandman: “it is sometimes a mistake to climb, it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt.” People disappoint you all the time but you get a say in who gets to do so. Sometimes I feel like a rag doll shredded to pieces and stitched back up. I feel like I have a stitched up soul, soldered strength and wooden courage, but amazingly I’m proud of my rag doll self. You survive the fall for a reason and we get to choose whether we make it a good one or a bad one. Pain demands to be felt and we have no choice but feel it, but it is our choice to make it either suffering or freedom – freedom from the shackles that bind us to the fear of losing, the fear of falling and the fear of breaking. And if you choose freedom, neither death nor flight will really matter. You wake up!

Peter Higgs and us – a modern morality tale

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Peter Higgs won this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics for “the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.” He shares the prize with Francois Englert of Belgium.

The announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics was delayed by an hour as members of the Nobel Prize Committee in Stockholm tried in vain to contact the retired theoretical physicist Peter Higgs. Professor Higgs had not been told he had won the Nobel Prize when it was announced on Tuesday morning. He heard the news from a former neighbour on his return from lunch in Edinburgh. She pulled up in her car to congratulate him.

Until recently Prof Higgs has not owned a mobile phone, and he was on holiday without it. He also does not own a television and only recently bought a laptop, and has admitted he struggles to use it. For someone who helped unleash the first great scientific discovery of the 21st century, Peter Higgs is a remarkably low-tech man. He did his most celebrated work in the 60s, and he didn’t even have a pocked calculator, let alone a desktop computer. He came up with his theory using nothing grander than fountain pens, pencils and paper.

He has always been a reclusive genius and you may say that it is not unreasonable for a grandfather in his eighties to shy away from spotlight even more now. However, the morality tale is not associated with his age or how many grandchildren he has. Instead his story puts us in the spotlight.

There is a social consensus in the world that we are interminably tied to our mobile phones. ‘If it rings you must answer’ is almost becoming a rule of thumb, literally. Looking at your phone every 5 seconds is not considered a mania but normal. The constant need to know whats happening everywhere and anywhere in the world has become more important than resting your thumbs and eyes. I read that among the new words in popular culture that were added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online, FOMO is one of them. I had to look it up obviously. It means fear of missing out: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. I genuinely thought ODO was making things up; unfortunately, I was wrong. So, there’s a fear now, of not knowing what is going on every minute of the day. Why do we have to know? Unless of course you are working for the CNN, and wants to transmit unconfirmed news before they even happen.

People are constantly busy reacting to news, gossip, speculations, conspiracy theories, Facebook updates and Tweets. Very few are proactive or just sitting down without staring at a 4 inch screen. It seems as if we only know how to react. I mean, there are actual YouTube videos of people reacting to everything in the world, and videos of people reacting to other people reacting. Does anyone look out of a window or take time to ponder without Googling? In order to be a good scientist, a writer, an artist or a musician who contributes great things to the world, one needs to be proactive. Neither Einstein, nor Peter Higgs had mobile phones, the internet or a computer; neither did Socrates or Plato, but they did change the world. They contributed original thoughts which were innovative, imaginative and ingenious. They did this by the power of thought and logical reasoning rather than avoiding FOMO. Whether it is the 21st century or the 5th century, cognitive thinking, creative imagination and independent musing are timelessly important.

Although Googling maybe a convenient way of learning, what you might find in a library may just be better. Like Neil Gaiman points out: “Google can bring you back 100000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” Never underestimate what a combination of silence, books and helpful cataloging can achieve.

We complain that there are no original thinkers in the world today. We are recycling ideas, remaking every movie and unreimagining every TV series plot. How do people think freely when they are industriously looking out for the next text message and next email? And even if they did think freely, how would they recognise their own thoughts when they are too busy reading the instant thoughts of others?

I’m not saying that we should all move to the Scottish highlands, although that would be great, and then again it won’t be if everyone moved there. I’m saying that the story of Peter Higgs should make us wonder about ourselves. If one of us was nominated for a Nobel Prize or let alone any prize, it is fair to say that most of us would be constantly checking our phones for updates. It is also fair to say that even if we were not nominated or even remotely considered for any title whatsoever, we would still be checking our phones relentlessly. It is the thing we normally do. What is worse is that there are teenagers who are incapable of having a conversation without being glued to their phones. I’m aware that it is the escape mechanism through which they seek emotional support from peers when they have to deal with the daunting and terrible task of talking to their parents – I was once a teenager with a phone. But it doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

Sometimes being a recluse is good. We must all make time to be one. Ignorance is bliss too; we don’t have to always know everything that is happening everywhere.  It is OK not to answer your phone every time it rings, it is not an obligation. And if you don’t have a TV, trust me you are not missing out on much excitement.

Did we take life’s simple pleasures for granted?

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Photographer H. Armstrong Roberts captured this image of women sharing a conversation along the Loire River in Saumur, France, in 1928.

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

There was a time when all we needed to do, in order to relax was to switch on the TV and lounge on the couch. Nowadays, this very act means switching through a plethora of TV channels trying to desperately find something ‘good’ to watch, although we already know that something good isn’t there anymore. Once we get through the first fifty disappointing programs and then having the foreboding feeling of more disappointment to come, we go back to that one program we dismissed with the hopes of finding a better one, only to see that it is finishing already. The manual labour involved in watching modern TV is disheartening. It is not just the constant operating of numerous controls and buttons. The relentless instructions to phone, text, tweet, vote, and apply to take part is turning our supposedly relaxing time into an exhausting one.

There is too much to avoid on TV than to watch. In an age where Keeping up with the Kardashians is an actual show meant for people to actually watch, looking for something worth watching on TV is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The simple pleasure of watching TV isn’t the only fun thing that has become ‘unfun’.

Gardening

Remember gardening, that good old hobby, and our most celebrated communion with nature? We derived satisfaction and enjoyment from a prune and mow of the lawn on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We knew the plants that flower and herbs that were good in a stew. We knew the names of insects and how they pollinate flowers. It was also the gentle hobby which gave us time for our thoughts and reflections, but not anymore. We are now stressfully busying ourselves doing our bit to delay the impending ecological doom. There is our carbon footprint to worry about and whether we are conserving water, saving energy, buying green products and growing more vegetables. The hopelessness of the health of mother Earth is driving people to read up on other people’s eco-friendly gardens than getting up to putter in their own gardens. And, who has the time anyway? When more people are busy watering, planting, weeding, reaping and building in virtual gardens they own on Facebook.

It is no wonder that our kids don’t know the names of plants, fruits and vegetables.

Going for a drive

Those days you could go for a nice drive to take your mind off things. Now, going for a drive means stressing endlessly from the point of departure to the destination. There’s the annoying traffic, expensive petrol and the guilt of not driving a hybrid. Motoring about to see greener sights is not much of a hobby anymore. There are too many reasons these days to not go for a drive.

Rest cures

The days when sickness was followed by a period of rest and fresh air are gone forever. The Swiss Alps in Heidi or British seaside country holidays in Enid Blyton’s books almost sound too ridiculous now. There are no rest cures anymore, just take two Advils or Lemsip Max and self-diagnose on Google for something terminal. Nothing takes the simple pleasure off rest like diagnosing oneself with cancer.

Shopping

There was a certain joy in leisurely walking down the high street, doing a bit of window shopping here and there, testing out fragrances, trying out new clothes and buying novelty teapots from a proper ceramic store – OK maybe you weren’t looking for novelty teapots like me, but you get the picture. Now we have eBay, Amazon.com and online shops that can bring us our shopping to our doorsteps. The taste, smell and touch of things are not what urge us to buy things anymore. It is the sight and probably some label with a fancy name. The irony is lost on us. The simple pleasures of shopping have seemingly disappeared with our ability to feel good in a virtual coat. Somehow, terminating as much face-to-face human interaction as possible also seems to be a prime motive of our culture.

The endless commercialisation and consumerism have dampened the simple joys of meaningful shopping.

Growing old

There’s no need to picture yourself knitting away in a comfortable armchair, wheeled away blanketed and frail in a nursing home, and amusing at your wrinkled self in the mirror any more. With all the modern beauty treatments, injectibles and extreme invasive surgery we can now discard the old art of ageing and re-imagine ‘better’ looking older selves. I guess ageing didn’t win many hearts.

From eating an apple with the troubled thought of whether it is organic, to the disappearance of proper marmalade that doesn’t taste like jam; it seems simple things we used to enjoy formerly have now become too complicated to actually have fun with. Don’t get me wrong, I like progress and technology. Time-saving techniques, discounted prices on eBay and modern development are all fine; however they also mean that the very thing that made things fun and simple has changed. Life’s greatest pleasures can come from the simplest things. That is why we need to enjoy the little things in life. Let the world complicate things on its own, if you look carefully, chances are that you will find plenty of pleasures in life that need not be made complicated. When you do find them, make sure to enjoy and cherish the feeling because they may not remain simple for long.

The unknowable beings

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moose-snake-river_12102_990x742

Photograph by Glen Hush – Two moose finish their last meal of the day as the sun sets along the Snake River in Wyoming.

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

We live in our own castles, in the universes known only to us, keeping all the space storms and intergalactic collisions to ourselves. No matter how much we love, give, or speak of our thoughts; there is that kingdom far far away, we seek refuge in when we know that some words are unspeakable and some thoughts are too deep for anyone to understand. In the abyss of memories, pain, hurt, anger, grief and certain joy only we know of….there are things no one else but we ourselves understand. Are we really happy? Are we really sad? Is the grieving over? Have we really stopped loving? Not a single psychologist would ever know for sure. But within our invisible citadels we smile to ourselves and wipe away our tears slowly.

I remember when I wanted to know absolutely everything someone I love would be thinking. I wanted to know their deepest thoughts, darkest secrets and unfulfilled desires. I often forgot that thoughts were soundless and people can smile and cry on the inside. But I was wrong to think that when people love you and they are loved, they can actually reveal themselves to you like a see-through crystal. People are more complicated than that. Not because they want to be, but because they just are.

As time goes on, portals to our personal worlds shut down one by one so that others can’t get in. You can hear them close, with every trust that breaks, with every fracture of our heart and with every pain that stabs our soul. The real world becomes so unsafe we leave no entrance open for anyone to cross over to our sacred worlds. People often leave a mess behind and you have to clean up after them, and that isn’t easy because our personal universe retains stains easily.

I have closed up the portals as well. It took me a while to understand why but it happened. Now I don’t ask anyone what they don’t want to tell and when I listen, I try hard to listen to the silent pain and the secret joy that fills their words. I have taken my grand universe in all its misery and glory away from the one I live in, just to be safe. The portals are closed, the bridges are burned, chains are fastened and the tidying up has started.