looking up from a well

looking up from a well,
for help, you yell.
but they glance and turn away.

laughter and smiles abound,
in pain you’re bound.
their joy is all but betray.

Life hasn’t been kind. But it hadn’t promised it ever would be. So why should anyone hold such expectations?

A slew of difficult situations have deprived me of decent sleep and the time to write. I began to contemplate how life is presented from the perspective of the ‘victors’ – those who have not been hindered; those who have not faltered; those have had a smooth-sailing journey. Social norms dictate our actions; public opinion weighs more than personal choice. Yet when you’re stuck in a rut, which of these voices shall be responsible for your fate?

The feeling was like being stuck in a well and which had walls pressing in. The fear of losing those we care was enough to crush a soul. In desperation, calls for help were greeted with disappointment. I wondered how people could take, but never give; how they could share your laughter, but never your sorrows.

Maybe as George Carlin puts it, “Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist”. Who is to blame then, but the faith we had once put in Man?

man on a journey

Having just returned from a multi-city trip, I was filled with inspiration and new perspectives to life. I climbed 509 stone steps to the top of a Cathedral; I walked over 430 steps to see a Buddhist monastery. And of all things that got me writing here, it wasn’t the view – it was a man I met on one excursion.

I stepped out of the Jade Emperor Hall, which took another 69 steps or so to get to after reaching the main monastery ground. A Caucasian man, breathing heavily, appeared at the steps. He was in his sixties, and had come alone. He held his camera  precariously as he took his last step and walked towards the Hall. For a moment I stopped and observed.

His movement was slow; his right hand was shaking vigorously, and he had a slight hunch as he made his way forward. He packed his point & shoot camera into his pocket and smiled briefly. Parkinson’s, I first noted. Then it came to me that there in the advanced stages of the disease, dementia might occur. It all hit me with a bunch of questions, and a strange surge of emotions brought me close to tears

His hands were shaking, but his determination wasn’t. He had walked so far up the hill to see this religious compound. What about the local people? How much has tradition died out in the country, that it has only become a place where foreigners visit?

Some day he might not remember, but his photos would give him an impression that he had been there; or maybe not. But he still chose to take a shot. See if before he could no longer. What about us – what about the rest of us who choose to sit and whine about wishing to do something, but never get down to it?

I watched him for awhile. He looked up at the religious statues, and I wondered what went through his mind. I quietly hoped that all would be well for him, and took my leave.

This man on a journey got me to realise that if there was so much I wished to do, I had to do it without procrastination. While we all have this resolve, we don’t seem to keep it in mind long enough. Let’s try…

they say, they say

they say – you give some, you take some,
they say we can even make demands.
they say in life all comes and goes,
they say tears are also part of the fun.

can you tell that a soul is broken?
am I still within your sight? 
do you hear the words unspoken?
will these thoughts remain unwoven?

they say – memories don’t fade,
they say feelings won’t abate.
they say my fears are unfounded,
they say my thoughts have been mislaid.

can you still remember?
am I who you used to know?
do you sense my constrained behaviour?
will this memory last forever? 

yet I fear you will forget,
as you cross the bridge and take the step.
I watch as age soon catches up,
and all that grows is more regret.

can you tell that I still care?
were you ever angry?
do you see now life is bear?
will this pain some day repair? 

“willst du einen Schneeballen?”
the shopkeeper kindly questioned.
but festive as the dessert might be,
I knew again that tears had fallen.

can I take back what I’d said?
have i made you suffered?
did you know what laid ahead?
were you feeling once betrayed?

they say – life is over, it is too late,
they say you’ll be fine at heaven’s gate.
they say there’s nothing more to ponder,
I should’ve known – they could never relate.

they say – they say… but they never knew.

when words once meant something

There are people who speak a lot and sound like they care.
There are others who don’t speak too much and do what it means to care.
Yet people often like to hear it rather than sense it.

But talk is cheap. People say things they don’t mean, because they are seldom held accountable for empty promises and figurative expressions. For the sensitive, walking away becomes harder, because those words muttered meant something; erasing memories got tougher when words could lure the shadows of memory hidden in the corner of the mind.

Those spoken words once meant something to the listener. But that began to fade, and it came to light that all was merely glib talk.

a spectacle on spectacles

Remember some time ago I’d mentioned about “the bug list”?
I think it is coming to good use.

I notice a rising trend of distaste towards the need to wear spectacles; women find the need to put on glasses uncool, of which would taint their image of perfection. One after another they fall like dominoes, submitting to such beliefs that the evils of the glasses overwhelm any form of natural beauty they might possess.

I couldn’t comprehend this mentality, but I realized how it has affected my perspectives as well. Years back, I had an eye injury that disallowed further use of contact lenses. I eventually learnt how spectacles could be a form of accessories as well, instead of what many deem a burden or flaw. Recently, it also donned upon me that I have been living with a luxury good – a pair of spectacles could be worth a year’s salary at less-privileged areas.

This got me thinking that it is time to make a difference. I have two aims: (i) change behavior/beliefs, (ii) help the less-privileged. People need to know that they look good in their spectacles; but folks who don’t like their glasses or who no longer need it, for whatever reason, should give it up to those who might need it.

I am not jumping into this as part of a rash decision or extreme boredom; rather, I wish to start small and see what little steps we can take to translate a complaint into something useful. I’ll do my due research prior to making any forms of commitments, but help me out, everyone! Please tell me your thoughts on having to wear glasses!

dissatisfaction can be motivational

Many around me have expressed support for an encouraging statement by American author and motivational speaker Richard Carlson: “If you are grateful for your job rather than complaining about it, you’ll do a better job, be more productive, and probably end up getting a raise anyway.”

I understand. And at times I say the same – be grateful that you have a job.
But I cannot concur that it is a motivational quote.

I tried to break down the statement: be happy that you have a job – you’ll be more productive and somehow you’ll get a raise. Probably.
Indeed we need to work to sustain our livelihood, especially given the current state of economy. However, such mindset deflates motivation and drive to look for a better opportunity, or to improve status quo when you search for a job that you like. When you like the job, you’ll care for it enough to work hard and make things happen. Someone will (or rather, should) recognise it and reward you for it. I know – it’s idealistic – but it’s also possible.

Similar to my previous post, a complaint comes from recognition of a shortfall, and if you take action to make the change, you’ll improve. So let’s try to rephrase things a little:

1. If you are grateful for your job, work hard and be productive – you’ll get a raise.
2. If you’re complaining about your job, start looking for something else instead of disrupting your employer’s plans, especially if you wouldn’t see eye-to-eye in any case. Find somewhere that allows you to be productive and which recognises your hard work – then you’ll get a raise.

Don’t just ‘be grateful’, don’t just wait for the ‘probable’ pay raise. We don’t get to control much in life, let this be one thing that we can make a decision for ourselves.

the “bug” list – good or evil?

I was reading this article on 3 East Easy Exercises to Boost Your Creativity when I spotted the “Bug List”, or “list of annoyances” and thought it was a brilliant idea! I could probably write 200 pages of it, but was immediately halted with a Facebook status update that said “if all you can do is get annoyed and complain, how about shut up.”

Many get upset with the barrage of complaints people make. The optimistic few believe that the world is their oyster and nothing can stop them from all the possibilities out there. They look with distaste at the negative comments others make. Yet they don’t realise that sometimes, that it is the very annoyance that breeds innovation. 

I put forth this argument to support healthy skepticism and my favourite term – constructive pessimism. Before you next berate the guy who posted an update about bad customer service, take note that he might have also identified a loophole that we can improve upon instead of simply brushing it off as a useless comment. There are different ways to approach a complaint – we can get annoyed by his rant and continue in our state of ignorant optimism, or we can see his problem and suggest the solution.

Let’s put this in context. someone out there must have made a remark of absolute inconvenience to walk to the TV set just to change a channel. Someone built the TV controller. Someone complained about the inefficiency of boarding a plane. Some many others applied decision sciences to come up with more effective ways of boarding. (see this)

I don’t quite understand why a cheery individual is entitled to an opinion but the annoyed character is told to shut up. Maybe as the saying always goes, negativity is poisonous and it spreads – but in my opinion, only if you allow it to. How does avoidance bring improvement? If we could look negativity in the eye and find out the root cause of it, we might just be able to make further advancements in life.

Time to create your “bug list” too! 

Are bad habits tools that help us through life?

I’ve lost all ability to be inspired; I blame it on a stagnating life and 1001 sleepless nights have not done any good to the mind.
No, this is not one of those pessimistic posts that have insidiously invaded the blog. This is an attempt to turn negativity into constructive writing.

I was inspired by a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche “How people keep correcting us when we are young! There is always some bad habit or other they tell us we ought to get over. Yet most bad habits are tools to help us through life.”

I thought about this for some time and I guess he’s right. I’ll list five

1. I find it imperative to learn the lyrics of songs I like and will not stop singing.
Bad habit indeed! You couldn’t shut me up when I started singing as a kid. Yet this might have been a first step to memory-training. I soon realised that I could learn effectively through listening (just as Plato might have advocated). Tell it once and I’ll remember– I think that’s how I got attuned with my History classes. I’m not a quick learner but it could’ve been worse.

2. I tend to over-think everything, at times leaning towards negativity.
I mentioned that this less-than-appealing predisposition has its problems; but it has given me an opportunity to create what I could never have if life had been a bed of roses. I write & engage in creative design as an outlet. I think of contingencies, which keep me prepared to react spontaneously. Not too bad, though it gets tiring sometimes.

3. I have a high propensity to get restless.
Remember the days when the teacher tells you to stay seated and finish your work within stipulated hours? I would finish what I had to, satisfactorily too, and for more. This resulted in my tendency to keep learning/reading and thus far it hasn’t done too much harm.

4. I don’t seem to sleep very much.
It’s supposedly really bad for health. But my days are fully dedicated to work, and I can only do what I wish to in the evenings. When else would I be able to find time to do what I like to? I got accustomed to this and now I guess my work-life balance is pretty decent. Tentatively, though.

5. I am an unrepentant foodie even as a child.
That’s the greedy kid that wouldn’t stop running into the kitchen to steal some food from the pot. Strangely though, apart from developing a keen sense of taste, I figured at a young age that I’ll need to know how to cook in order to keep eating. I learnt to cook various cuisines very quickly, and am still experimenting positively with more. This is a tool that has helped through life indeed.

What about you? I’ll be happy to have all of you think through yours and evaluate if your “bad habits” are the very tools that have given you strength in life.


type, backspace, type, backspace – classic case of over-thinking

Have you had those days when you typed paragraphs, only to unmercifully hit the backspace?

I’m going through this right now. And this post is born as a result of my restless fingers failing to practise restraint. A strong urge to write, craft and send an email that is probably better off left in the trash bin.

This isn’t so much about writing the right things, even less about inspiration. Leaning on the verge of negative consequentialism, this is about “doing what will bring about the least negative results”. This is also about over-thinking – quoting a pin I saw on Pinterest, this is what “Ruins the situation, twists things around, makes you worry and just makes everything worse than it actually is”.

In all rationality, I doubt anyone has time to think in strange complexities just to complicate matters. I have also been trying to figure out how to stop “over-thinking” about the “negative outcome” that might occur from a practically non-consequential action. Yet no amount of reassurance can convince that things won’t be as bad as I imagine. Is this the classic case of pessimism? Or again, edging the thin line of cynicism?

For now, I’ll feel safer if I bind my fingers and refrain from typing what resides deep in the mind.

Scenario: An acquaintance randomly sends to you a compilation of information related to something that you had only mentioned once in a conversation dating back to aeons ago – would you be perturbed by the sudden note, suspicious of motives, grateful for the information, etc? I know reactions vary by individuals, circumstances, culture etc, but please tell me how you might feel about this?


The Optimistic Pessimist – Difference between pragmatism & negativity

So time and again I rant about how I’ve been reprimanded for a “negative outlook” in my approach to writing. I call it practicality – I don’t know what you make of it. In recent times, I have been inspired by a wonderful writer & speaker who told of how one can never prepare for all the circumstances – regardless how seamless your plans might appear, how many contingencies you organize, you’ll never be able to accurately gauge the outcomes. Regardless, I’ll leave praises to another occasion and share the main point here.

I read What the Titanic Means Today on TIME Ideas .Read it for yourself. And, my key takeaways include:

1. Never be complacent – what we see today as “comfort” and “superiority” cannot last forever unless we constantly innovate & stay ahead of the game.
2. Quoting the article “We can never innovate nor create ourselves totally out of harm’s way”.

So where’s the link to the title of this post? Here’s my take:
Negativity is when you look at Point 1 and say, yeah life’s tough. It’s transient and nothing good is forever so, tough. Look at Point 2 above, and say, yeah we can’t do much so let’s not do anything more.

Practicality, which in self-defence I wish to associate myself with, is when you look at Point 1 and say, yeah so this is going to be difficult, so keep trying. And then look at Point 2 and say, yeah we don’t ever steer clear of harm’s way – it’ll find you even if you don’t find it. Do what you can to your very best to make things less terrible than it already is.

Now, how can that be considered pessimism? I prefer to call that an optimistically-pessimistic view of the world. It’s about acknowledging the potential problems that exist around us and hedging it. Problems don’t just vanish because you chose to pretend it didn’t happen. And I could repeat again – positivity doesn’t just resolve global issues – if we don’t recognise our issues, we won’t get down to solving it.

After all,  “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill