Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Personal Musings, poetry

Standing Strong

As the downpour continues unabated for more than two days in a row, getting across the lawn to even close the gates at night are a hassle. From hopping between the deep pools to stepping on the stones laid across the path and below the tall branches laden with green leaves breaking down the torrential downpour to drips of rain. Though the skies are mostly laden with gray, the mornings are spent on assessing the visual damage across the fields and lawn. The scene of dead branches and a tree split by lightening, brings about the dark reality of life to surface.

The cycle of life as one may call it. The birth of life and the scene of destruction. Nature has her own way of showing her love, the cycle of balance and the end of an old or on the other hand, fresh beginnings.

All these and the words of Herman Hesse come to mind, on seeing the scene of chaos. Though fast forward a week ahead, the colour of the fresh flowers and the shades of varied bright colours across the fields, show how much beauty and revival is possible, once the mess is cleaned up. Likewise, our lives be so. After every fall, we pick ourselves by self or with help, clean up the mess and move on. Staying in the flow, eventually we will reach the point where the rainbow ends.

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow. Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother. So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” Herman Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

Posted in Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, poetry, Random Thoughts, Reflections, Work

Hazy, but in Form

The usual say, is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Sadly no one ever mentions, how to get the going part. In short, where or how does the inspiration for the going strike. For now, the skies offer some comfort.

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go. They merely determine where you start.” Nido Qubein

Have you ever seen the shape of clouds ? They flit, they float, they reshape and they transform. The new game was a chance discovery by the kids. From heart shaped to fluffy shaped pillow like, or the wisps that looks like boots, the skies offer a break from the mundane and the lag of the present. The beauty of the endless forms of white scattered across the dusky or bright to dim skies, show one of the endless possibilities of the world.

“Often it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the little pebble in your shoe.” Muhammad Ali

While nature has it’s own furies and wrath, the clouds in the skies offer a semblance of comfort in the tough moments. Each time one falls, look to the skies and the answer shall come to the self later. As for the cloudy and rainy days, the skies after may hold the rainbow in the vastness of own.

 

Still I Rise
BY MAYA ANGELOU
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1994)

Posted in Family and Society, Life, poetry, Reflections

After the Stay

Switching by-lanes while on the long awaited drive to the office, courtesy of the slow lock-down restrictions being eased; the traffic queues were no longer an impatient. To see various expressions through the eyes, behind the masks, movement across the roads as well as the small flow of people, the feeling of belonging to a social structure was there. One never realizes how relevant each minute of our life is, unless we have been deprived of the routine. While the lock-down had seen the start of new routines, techniques and ventures; it has also opened up a whole new meaning to being complete from within.

“What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet.” Anne Frank

Staying in a place, and trying to phase out the schedule between work and home was no mean feat. Bringing the benefit of being closer as a family, exploring new interests or simply picking where one had left off like a project started years ago, brought back the essence of family and helped to re tune ourselves. On the other hand, the camaraderie at the work place, the weekly meet-up between local friends and interacting with the local townsfolk were some events which weren’t the same, even when done through video-conferencing or through social media. Fact is, those were some of the things sorely missed.

Human Interactions. It is what makes each of our days special and complete. As we hear and watch the experiences of others, we learn not just a lot about them, but also open up a fresh insight into ourselves and things to ponder about. While the past few weeks have been a time of finding oneself, setting new challenges as well as getting back in touch with ourselves; donning the masks and learning to blend in with the situation and re-enter society within the limits of the new guidelines teaches us how fragile and precious each second of the day is.

Slowly reentering back into the routine, the changes brought on will stay; but they have also taught us a lot about being human. Which is why, to be gracious and being kind should be always a part of our innate nature. And as we try to do so, we heal within and start off each bend in the road, with courage and stength with the promise of an experience worth our while in the world that we live in.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Dan Millman

And People Stayed Home

And people stayed home
and read books and listened
and rested and exercised
and made art and played
and learned new ways of being
and stopped
and listened deeper
someone meditated
someone prayed
someone danced
someone met their shadow
and people began to think differently
and people healed
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
even the earth began to heal
and when the danger ended

and people found each other
grieved for the dead people
and they made new choices
and dreamed of new visions
and created new ways of life
and healed the earth completely
just as they were healed themselves.

Kathleen O’Meara (1839–1888)
(This poem was written by an Irish-French Catholic writer, Kathleen O’Meara (Dublin 1839 – Paris 1888), who also wrote under the pen name of Grace Ramsay, and is to be found in her novel Iza’s Story, set against the background of the Polish struggle against the occupation and partition of their country in various stages by Russia, Austria and Prussia from 1772 onwards. She compares the Polish-Russian situation to the Irish-British situation. For the present, this poem when set against the background of present makes way for a thought provoking read.)

Posted in Family and Society, Life, Photography Art, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Being Civilized

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

The last couple of weeks or even months saw subtle to drastic changes in the world around. From being quarantined to social distancing, restricted movements, early school holidays and “work from home” days or few spending more “at-home” time. Throughout all these weeks, numerous thoughts, worries and emotions have been flitting through the mind. The worries of being affected or quarantined to the economic implications of the changes brought about and the trouble in keeping the domestic front active as well as purchase of essentials. All in all, these weeks required plenty of common sense, restraint, social consideration and etiquette.

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” Charles Darwin

Though the initial impact based studies showed it was the outlying ages who were primarily at risk, as documented by epidemiological and disease experts; later it was the chain of transmission that was under focus for it caused more harm. Technical details and contact tracing were done. Then the most difficult part was convincing the need to restrict and make an effort to break the chain. One of the lessons learned from the society where the epidemiological disease curve had flattened out, was the collective effort of those who were part of the chain.

When each and every member of the social strata, be it the young or the old, the healthy or those with underlying diseases came together to support each other; the curve began to flatten out. Each one knew the role they played and strove to protect the other. It was the humane concern that underlined their activity over the next few weeks.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr

Being civilized is defined not by how many degrees one has or the per-capita income alone. the civilized society is defined how each member of the herd contributes to keeping the network strong, safe and protected for all. When one vested group sticks tot heir interests of their own, it harms the social fabric. While the harm may seem to be to one side; on the long run the harm caused may directly or indirectly affect all the social levels. The worth of the civilization lies in how all the members face any crisis on their respective fronts. For that is what makes the human different, from not being blinded by their inherent and primal instinct; but to bring together and forward their social structure as a whole.

“Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.

But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.”

We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized.”

Ira Byock, in his book The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life (Avery, 2012)

Posted in Life, Personal Musings, Reflections

Roads that Curve

While visiting university friends who had relocated to another city, getting to the city wasn’t an issue but finding their residence was. With Google giving directions, the traffic being routed by the city police and previously gotten directions, we eventually got there but it was an enlightening experience.

The entire journey reminds one of how similar our lives get to be. As one goes through the days, there would be plenty of instructions, chaotic thoughts, previous knowledge, creative ideas and misled information to sort through before nightfall or the eventual end. Amidst all the hullabaloo, to take control or discernment of the right isn’t easy.

“A highly developed values system is like a compass. It serves as a guide to point you in the right direction when you are lost.” Idowu Koyenikan

While on some days, following set instructions maybe easy other days it isn’t as direct. Along the process one makes plenty of errors, experience more downhills than uphills and redefine own understanding. Amidst all this chaos one learns to direct the self with the help of inner values, instincts, conscience, humaneness and Faith. These are few of the many factors that take the lead in finding a way out through the pandemonium thoughts and situations. Letting them all lead in solo may’t help us, but together, the mayhem settles and the terminus maybe in sight.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Gandhi

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, poetry, Reflections

Series of the “Little”…

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” George Eliot

After the long two hour commute was dragged to three hours by being held up in the traffic, the mental list of “things to do” kept on going longer than the usual. Consequently while walking into home after doing the daily grocery shopping, instead of the expected mess in the kitchen, it was a pleasant surprise to witness the orderliness at the domestic front. With my “better half” in charge, the kids had instructed me to put my feet and to enjoy the hot steaming cup of joe. Though eventually the domestic front had to be tackled, the few minutes of silence and solitude improved the frame of mind.

“The small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things . . . the trivial pleasure like cooking, one’s home, little poems especially sad ones, solitary walks, funny things seen and overheard.” Barbara Pym

One never realizes the importance of the little events of the day that stay etched in the mind. The recollections turn up at the most unusual moments. For the inner strength during difficult moments, the support when the temporary setbacks mount up and the drive to go ahead, all have few of their rots in the little moments of life, which now become among the treasured memories of happiness to give comfort and light for the rainy days.

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Little Things
Mary Dawson Hughes

It really is the little things
That mean the most of all…
The “let me help you with that” things
That may seem very small
The “I’ll be glad to do it” things
That make your cares much lighter,
The “laugh with me, it’s funny” things
That make your outlook brighter…

The “never mind the trouble” things,
The “yes, I understand,”
The interest and encouragement
In everything you’ve planned
It really is the little things,
The friendly word or smile,
That add such happiness to life
And make it more worth while.

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Reflections, Stories Around the World, Work

Of too Bad or Too Good

It was a beautiful morning and as a large family we were heading out for a weekend getaway few towns away. What was supposed to be a three hour journey became a five hour one; not primarily due to the frequent stops for breakfast or drive breaks but as a courtesy of flat tire, a broken jack and water logged areas on the way. Although the delay was significant, the dark clouds of anger were kept at bay and heavy dose of optimism were sprinkled by both sets of grandparents. Finally on reaching the cabin, contemplating on the events of the morning; endless blame could have been laid on the spouses or nature, unfortunate timing and other equivalent terminology of “bad luck”. Instead problems were tackled as they came along and the mood of the day remained lighthearted.

“Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” Voltaire

Looking back on the day-to-day life, there will be countless situations wherein one may encounter negative emotions and minor setbacks, either in the daily routine or when starting off something new. At times, one tends to over-analyze each and every deemed “ill luck” instead of going ahead and taking life as it approaches. Giving unnecessary importance to the emotions of that moment, instead of reacting to them with practicality tends to turn the best moments and right opportunities to missed ones.

“Concern yourself more with accepting responsibility than with assigning blame. Let the possibilities inspire you more than the obstacles discourage you.” Ralph Marston

Although everything in life that happens has a purpose or meaning; getting trapped by the emotions of event results in far more negative effects than positive ones. Instead as Tao had said, one defines good or bad in relation to how one approaches it. All the unfortunate events have a silver lining, once we remove the black cover covering it. Instead of listening perpetually to the voices around oneself, use the inner voice and optimism to tackle each “unfortunate and lucky” moments that life has in store for each one of us. Each one of us have the sole responsibility of deciding whether to let the ill luck run its course in free fall or face the bad as they come and use it to tackle tomorrow and make the latter better than the yesterday.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor Frankl

One day while working out in the fields the farmer’s son fell and broke his leg. The villagers came to the farm and said, ‘My, that’s a great misfortune. Your son has broken his leg: now he can’t help you in the fields.’ The farmer said, ‘It is neither a fortune nor a misfortune.’
A day later, the government troops came to the village looking for young men to conscript into the army. They had to leave the boy behind because his leg was broken. Again, the villagers came to the farm and said, ‘My, that’s a great fortune.’ The farmer replied, ‘It is neither a fortune nor a misfortune.’
Then one day the farmer’s only horse jumped the fence and ran away. The villagers came to the farm and said, ‘What a great misfortune that your horse has run away.’ The farmer said, ‘It is neither a fortune nor a misfortune.’ Two or three days later, the horse came back with a dozen wild horses following behind him. The villagers came to him and said, ‘It’s a great fortune that your horse came back with twelve others.’
The farmer replied, ‘It is neither a fortune nor a misfortune.’
As the teaching of the Tao goes, “nothing is long or short, hot or cold, good or bad.”
– Lesson from The TAO TE CHING written by Lao Tzu

“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” Chuck Palahniuk