We live in times strange, of false claim
Of calling all we own with our own name
How far have we strayed from who we are
No we aren’t our jobs, we aren’t our car
A layer of garment that’s fit to size
Becomes a part of elegant lies
Until fickle fashion changes its way
And those perfect dresses are cast away
Isn’t it the same with that gadget too
How it brings you a thrill and becomes you
Until they come out with a newer range
And make you believe it’s time for a change
With changing trends, it only gets tough
When they say what you own isn’t you enough
And we retire our respect for all good reason
Lest we commit an economic treason
If your identity is determined by all the rest
Your power will be the easiest to divest
And if all this tamasha feels odd and absurd
The time is ripe to steer your course inward.
Beware of that hypnotic popular call
You feel momentarily big, but, forever small
Seek instead that priceless core
Set out, discover, and bring it to the fore.
It won’t be easy as all forces seek conformity
As your deviance is deemed a deformity
But follow you must, beyond all fuss
The undeniable light of your inner compass
And though you might wear an old-fashioned dress
And wield tools that might fail to impress
You will shine in glory, and get way far
In the journey of discovering who you really are.
If there were any godliness in cleanliness, then the sorry state of our rooms have long proclaimed us as non-believers!
Isn’t it fascinating, how a room that feels perfectly habitable to our eyes is deemed as an uninhabitable island by our irate mothers?
Perhaps the bias is in the perspective, for we often fail to see the disarray around us. We see the overflowing laundry bag as if it had an undeniable aesthetic relevance in the room. It takes another pair of startled eyes to make us realise that sooner than later, we must wield the broom.
And once we decide to wield the broom, how deeply do we wish that we were the menacing witches in cartoons who could leave behind immaculately clean premises while sailing under the ceiling on their magical wooden brooms. Alas, such witchcraft eludes us.
But isn’t the discovery of the resolution to start cleaning magical enough already?
We look around and wonder where to begin!
That complacent colony of cobwebs, a civilization that was weaved with an unremitting trust in our lethargy, tries to hide in plain sight. The ceiling fan ails for our attention. It curses its distance beyond the reach of our outstretched hand, a moot justification we’ve been humouring us with for its dirt ridden dilapidation.
We are reminded of the day when we stopped looking under the bed when we learned that there were demons dwelling in that dungeon. And today, after aeons, we must finally confront that neglected underbelly. We pray for bravery.
We begin our ungainly dance with the broom and are faced with our diminishing range of motion. Amid thoughts of the apparent endlessness of the task, a cool bead of sweat plummets from behind the ear, and we know we’ve switched to the right gear.
A newfound zeal snowballs, and we get the rare feeling of wanting to dust the carpets out. We move around the furniture and try reaching corners that haven’t seen sunlight in years. We dwell in the archaeological wonder of finding the old museum of lost articles behind the study table – a forgotten batch of stationery, an old sock, a toy we believed to have been stolen all these years and that dinged up orange Ping-Pong ball that doesn’t smell of camphor anymore. If there were a zip code for all things lost, this would be it!
We shift our gaze to the shelves. The books feel moved as we touch them after ages; as if still nursing the wish that we’ll keep the word of lending them our time. We find a layer of neglect on the bookshelf. We think of dusting the room after we’ve swept the floor, leaving no doubt how little we know of the chronology in cleaning up.
Once we’ve dusted the room, we catch a breath. A shaft of sunbeam pierces through an opening and the dust motes dance a slow waltz. Intermission.
With a heave, we get up again, step on a stool and glance the corners of the room for gossamer. As the ceiling fan feels close enough to us, we do what’s due, and it relishes in a rare clean-up.
We change partners and now it’s time to dance with the mop. After moving about so much, this feels easier now. The aroma of the disinfectant makes us feel a sense of cleanliness. We choose to believe it.
After we’ve been through it all and we put everything back in its place, we sit back and wonder how we could do it all.
And we realise a presence in the room – the presence of the room itself! We realise how we’d allowed morbidity seep into the living entity our dwelling place is. We regain intimacy with our room.
In the stillness we find after cleaning up, we wonder what exactly it is that we did.
All in all, we’ve swept away a few grams of dust, a layer of grime evaporated away with disinfecting water, a few tufts of hair that swirled in the corners have reached the bin, and the shelves shine a shade deeper…
In material terms, we’ve displaced merely a fraction of matter that existed in the room.
But the workings of cleaning happen on a psychological, and dare I say, mystical paradigm.
We feel uplifted from the slow release of happy hormones. We bask in the feeling of potency once we see we’re capable of changing the world around us. Depression melts away, and the energy within and without buzzes with positivity.
The act of cleaning burnishes the soul. The arena inside feels airy and light. A tide of tidiness tip-toes on our shores. We feel consecrated, just as our revived dwelling-space.
But after all that cleaning up, we feel a bit dirty. We resist the invitation of freshly laid bed sheets and jump into the shower.
When we’re back into the room, with droplets dotted as dewdrops on our body, we turn on the switch to the beaming ceiling fan.
A torrent of air fills the room.
The water on our body disappears slowly, leaving behind a cool sensation.
We smile. We feel rewarded. We sense purity.
We feel good.
Isn’t that akin to godliness?
We are clouds.
Thick and grey,
brimming with rain,
brimming with potential.
We are aware, that a single droplet we contain
can send ripples of revitalization in a placid pond.
We have the energy to share.
We’ve done it before.
We know this.
Yet, we hover in the skies above.
We look eagerly for a pond to rain into.
But there’s none in sight.
Meanwhile, time elapses.
The wind, and life, not caring for our indecision drift us aimlessly.
We fail to realize that we have to rain down first to create the pond.
But, for once, we decide to act.
The immutable law of the universe,
gravity, aids us on our journey.
We fear the contact of the Earth,
the impact on the crust, on the rocks,
But we have no choice.
And we rain down without inhibition.
Drops turn into rivulets, and lakes,
ponds, and streams.
Before we know, we become a river,
chiselling the rocks smooth on our advance,
The very rocks we once feared.
And from being a nebula of meek, diffident droplets
We culminate confidently into the might ocean.
We rest in deep satisfaction.
Soon, the sun shines on us.
We rise up as vapor, ready for another challenge,
across the Pacific.
So, I ask you my brooding cloud,
I ask you, my tiny droplet of promise,
‘When are you going to rain down?’
In this period of a lockdown, this
is a simple message from one artist to another. Now, you might be thinking that
this message might not concern you because you might not see yourself as an
I can empathise with you for this ‘non-artist’ self-image that you’ve cultivated over the years. But I would like to make you believe otherwise.
We have become experts at reducing the magnificent scope of our creative energy to a badge or title that we believe represents our identity. The chances are that you refer to yourself as a coder, a teacher, a marketer, a manager, or the underserving frown inviting ‘housewife’.
And in doing so, in closing the door, on drawing a circle around yourself with this identity, you are reducing your capacity to grow and embrace the 3-dimensional sphere of possibilities you hold (or thought once held, likely when you were a child).
The prevailing time of a total lockdown—where you have 24 hours that seem to feel miraculously too long, when there’s no one breathing down your neck, pointing to a work deadline, when you have time on your hands— present a wonderful opportunity to re-evaluate who you are deep inside.
We usually associate all social prestige to our occupation, rightly so because that’s how we keep ourselves occupied during a typical workday. But today, when there’s an infinite duration of hours to pass, how would you keep yourself occupied?
And would the way you spend this time tell something about what you have turned into while toiling away in your work-life?
It is a revealing time; indeed, when no online streaming service is capable of satisfying your stream of consciousness. When, in these moments of quietude, the conscience knocks gently on your heart and asks,
‘What could you do to add beauty
and meaning to this seemingly unforgiving hour?
With a strict curtailment of all ‘non-essential’ forms of work—when you find yourself sitting at home and realise how dispensable your occupation has become in the light of this tragic humanitarian crisis— you will wonder what counts as an essential form of work.
When you’re past all that period of resting, you’ll wish to be a part of the task force that is currently and rightly so, essential. The feeling of wanting to be meaningfully engaged is deeply human, after all.
As you think about the question, of what counts as essential, I invite you to peep into the bedroom of a writer, who writes still, late into the night. I welcome you to the studio of a painter, who still paints and brings a canvas to life. Come and watch the dancer who still sways to the beat of changing times, or the poet who, even in this dark hour of our lives, pens down songs of hope.
All of these people who we see as artists are still following a discipline they used to every day for years. They practice and perform as usual, in the pall of a looming threat, in these times of a complete lockdown.
This period of gloom has only seen the artist to have taken a more proactive step towards making art and sharing it with the world. Suddenly, the real importance of art is shining through in this dark hour of humanity.
Whom one would usually deem as a struggling singer-songwriter, is adding a priceless value to our time when they put out a grainy phone recorded video of a song that springs from the heart, as it always did. Why are people choosing to watch them instead of the mundane cute kitten videos that would usually relegate the artist to the bottom of the stream?
Perhaps we are learning to find the essence, of what’s true and beautiful and most importantly, human.
These times of a lockdown call for three things from us—
1) Validation to art, its value in our life, and the respect every artist, no matter where they are in their journey, deserves.
2) Gratitude to our brothers and sisters who are working hard to secure our future, and making sure that our lives still run smoothly.
And most significantly
3) Acceptance of the artist in you, who’s struggling to break out of
the cocoon of conformity that’s loosening as you squiggle in discomfort to find
the butterfly in you.
Your work may have been deemed non-essential at the moment, but your life is still every bit essential. Art can help exalt that life.
It is an opportunity to make something with your hands. Go don that apron and try to make an omelette, even if you haven’t set foot in the kitchen, ever. Dust off the layer of civilizational history that’s sitting on top of your old musical instrument. It has been longing to channel a song through you. Do not worry about how good the art you create would be or how functional or relevant it is. The value of art is in the process, not in the outcome.
You might forget the importance of art when things normalise, but if you emerge out of this lockdown with the acknowledgement that you are an artist at heart, art will blossom in the rain of that realisation.
I invite you to switch off the internet* for a few hours every day and apply yourself. Make art. It is therapy.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.
P.S. *Really! Switch it off 🙂
Consider sharing this if you found value in it 🙂
A welcoming smile, a moment of laughter…such priceless gifts of expression.
A life bereft of either of these expressions is absolutely unimaginable. When you smile with a loving intent, your eyes gleam and invite others around you to borrow a part of your disarming expression. A smile makes it presence felt first in the eyes. The face merely dons a charm to feel consonant with the way the heart feels at that moment as the smile rides silently, from one set of eyes to another.
However, when you indulge in a moment of laughter, the eyes respond much too differently. Your eyes open up wide at first in a vain attempt to contain the amazement, and soon enough, they shut shop, drawing a blind over the visual world around.
Laughing is a bodily act, where each body part joins in—in its own unique way—to celebrate a mirth-filled moment in time. First your facial muscles jiggle with the giggle, then your shoulders jig up and down as the resulting resonance reaches the epicentre of our gastronomical desires—the stomach. The bouncing belly belches an air of celebration as a loud guffaw hitches a ride on it and laughter echoes in the surroundings, arousing the curiosity of clueless bystanders. If the moment calls for an even greater celebration, the laughter travels through the spines to the legs, making it impossible to be seated to enjoy the moment fully. You stand up, stamp your legs in a vain attempt to douse the flaming source of laughter, for it only intensifies, as your hands join in the celebration in the need to meet the pressing urge of patting your own thigh, or stroking the back of a friend, or best of all, meeting another palm in mid-air to add a smack of a layer in the gamut of giggles infected by laughter.
The success of a smile is in reciprocity while that of laughter is in finding communal consonance. Both expression celebrate our similarities. A smile is an acknowledgement of how we are all seeking the same things and a shared laughter celebrates the pleasure we derive from a common occurrence.
It is interesting to observe how either expression develop in a human since the time of birth. A child learns to smile first. The capacity for laughter develops at much later stage of understanding. Then, perhaps a smile is a more natural expression, a primal state of being.
Laughter being always open to exhibition makes for an attention seeking cousin of an introverted smile. A laugh is perceptible and has more to do with the air (think of the air you expel when you go ha ha), while a smile, subtle by nature, has an almost ethereal quality.
As much solemnity as we attribute to a smile, there are instances when we are forced to smile ad nauseam (ask the bride and groom at an Indian wedding reception), where the seemingly effortless expression, by virtue of repetition, becomes a facial torment. On the other hand, we look forward to unsolicited, belly-aching laughter, as if the pain is a reflection of the pleasure we derive from it.
The extent to which you can control either expression differs greatly. No matter how hard you try, the mirth in a moment can seldom be muffled, for if something tickles your funny bone, you cannot help but let out a loud laugh, almost as if it were an involuntary psychological function.
But the case with smiles, especially as we grow up, is drastically different. We sadly hold a distinction in holding hostage an ocean of smiles, out of fear, insecurity, mistrust, diffidence, and a void of love that we feel inside. And because we withhold our smiles and exercise our control over them to such an extent, an inviting smile from someone that beckons you to emancipate your own, feels liberating, as if a caged bird destined to sing and soar under the open sky is set free.
But if a smile is transmissible, laughter is communicable. A gaggle of giggling gentlemen is bound to pique the interest of bystanders. And, depending on how funny their laughter is, there is a good chance that passers-by find enough amusement in their expression to chuckle for a moment. The tendency of our collective conscience to be moved by a spell of laugh-worthy moment has given rise to the ubiquitous feature in the sitcoms of our generation – the laughter track. It serves as a repetitive aural reminder of what we must find funny in the act. While being constantly reminded of when to laugh can cause vexation, considering how media of entertainment are consumed these days, mostly alone in a dark living room at night, the act of laughing all by yourself, with not another soul around to share the laugh with, one’s own solitary laughter can somehow seem tragic to a viewer.
Desirable as they are, there is a dark side to both a smile and laughter. Think of the smile etched on Joker’s scarred face, or his menacing laughter, think of the Monalisa’s enigmatic smile, the echoes of the laughter of a spectre, or the vengeful laughter of an antagonist that manages to infiltrate into our dreams. By virtue of the purity of either expression, the slightest aberration in delivery invites an unsettling dread. No wonder that the ever laughing is deemed a lunatic, the ever grinning a clown, and as an act of balance, the ever smiling is celebrated as the Buddha.
Nostalgia has charming relationship with either expression. The memory of laughter shared in the past invites a cherishing smile, while the memory of a smile lived in the past might invite a wistful teardrop.
If laughter is a medicine, smiling is therapy. A smile celebrates truth and beauty, while laughter celebrates our capacity for folly, a far unsettling truth that’s best tempered by our ability to laugh it away.
A smile emanates from the core of the soul and laughter springs from the core of our body. No prizes for guessing then, on how to keep your body and soul awake, alive, and thriving.
December 21. The eve of the solstice. A local celestial event that bathes earth in different hues of light, with peculiar views of the sun, no matter where you are on the planet.
As the tilt of northern pole, reaches its furthest extremity with respect to the earth’s annual pilgrimage around the sun, the Northern hemisphere, curled up in the windy winter, witnesses the shortest day of the year. At the same time, the south pole, leans closest to the sun, as the southern hemisphere saunters in summery delight, witnessing the longest day of the year, just a few days before a Christmas celebrated sans the celebratory snowfall.
And the closer you are to the poles, the more fascinating the spectacle. Beyond the Arctic Circle, the sun wouldn’t hover even for a moment in the sky, drenching the area in darkness, while within the Antarctic Circle, the sun would efface the night, as it suspends in the sky all through the 24 hours that make a day.
The gentle tilt of the earth gives us so much to celebrate – the gift of seasons, the trade winds, a breath-taking biodiversity and of course, seemingly unearthly events of solstices.
While a solstice is a fascinating earthly phenomenon that marks the extremes of the duration of daylight, the human conception of a day, its length and the value derived from it is rarely synchronous to the event. There are cultural and psychological influences at play that dictate our relationship with the duration and depth of what we now understand as a day.
In the sweep of advancing technology, our species has successfully conquered darkness with illumination. Culturally, we’ve moved beyond the local solar day, thanks to household electrification. Being a flick of a switch away from illumination past sundown, our days have become longer for sure.
However, as far as we have come from being dictated by nature beyond us, we are still tethered to our own human nature. On a psychological level, each human perceives the length of a day differently. It’s an experience as personal as a dream that nobody else is privy to. A day spent in good company or spent being meaningfully engaged, breezes past elegantly. But a day spend without purpose slithers painfully, adding undesired friction in our stride.
Evidently, a ‘long day’ at work is a phrase that’s being used far too often in our cultural parlance, part due to the wear-out, part in lament of a day divested of depth. Gone are the times when daylight was celebrated as an incantation for living life outdoors in the field and the nights were a hymn that decreed us to rest peacefully.
Most of us have lost the privilege of retiring from work as the sun retreats beyond the horizon. Global connectivity and economic metrics can dictate us to work as the sun rises and sets in a more prosperous part of the world, time zones apart.
Our days have come far beyond the solar day. Incandescence has bled into our earthly night as we forget the value of the most natural de-markers of dusk from dawn.
And along with that, we’ve lost the romance for the spirited rise of the sun. We have a hard time recollecting the last instance when we watched the parting winter sun paint splendid hues in the sky, with a dazzling Venus in its tow. Perhaps the further away we are from such natural invitations for contemplation, the more unsettled we become deep inside.
We live in a funny era, where after unsettling elegantly designed natural equilibria, we run around like chickens to find balance in life!
The workdays are becoming longer, so are the commutes, and sleep is drifting further away from being a continuum of placid repose.
The best thing about a good night’s sleep, just like a good day’s work, is how you only remember the beginning and the end, while all the magic that happens in between is effortless as a flamboyant stroke on the canvas by a painter in flow. A good day at work and a good night of sleep are precursors (and pre-requisites) of each other, in our daily cyclic dance. And more than duration, what matters most in either engagements, is depth.
Nowhere else is this profundity of engagement better exhibited during childhood days. The presence in each moment of wakefulness, in each moment at play is at its zenith. And the hours of sleep are as deep as they can be, in preparation for another day full of joy and zeal.
Perhaps what we need more than longevity in life, is the elegant passage of time, both in sleep and in wakefulness. And, as time passes elegantly, the notions of length of the day would matter little, for what would matter more is the completeness in our involvement in all states of our consciousness.
Then shall we find a balance, not a perennial solstice in our workdays where the days are always long, but an equinox, with profound presence throughout, both in sleep and in wakefulness, regardless of the position of the sun in the sky, regardless of the state of our consciousness.
Today is the shortest day of the year. Perhaps, for a change, it would be nice to give up control of the luminosity around us, and watch the sun paint a silhouette in the far horizon. If we choose to do so, the Venus shall burn brighter, in its retreat into the afterglow. While the length of the day today on 21 December, might be the shortest this year, the presence in the moment, as we pore the sky in wonder, shall be a worthy consolation.
अभी तो सवेरा हुए कुछ ही पल हुए थे
कि गुप्ता जी मंदिर की ऒर चढ़ावा लिए चल पड़े थे
दूर प्रांत से ज्ञानी बाबा आये थे नगर में
भक्तों का तांता लगा था मानो हर डगर में
दर्शन पाने को आतुर आये बाबा की पनाह में
थी कतार ऐसी लंबी पुराने मंदिर की राह में
पर इस मंगल अवसर पर गुप्ता जी ने देखा कुछ ऐसा
कि जैसे कामधेनु के बगल में खड़ा हो काला भैंसा !
गुप्ता जी ने देखा राह पर झाड़ू लगाता एक गरीब
बौखलाए सज्जन की मानो बाहर ही निकल आई जीभ
सोच था होगा दिव्य मिलन, पर मिला ये झाडुवाला मलिन
इस कलमुहे को झाड़ू लगाना था क्या आज ही के दिन?
अपशगुन हाय अपशगुन, मेरी किस्मत ही है मारी
जो ढूंढता चला ब्रम्हा को और पल्ले पड़ी ये बीमारी
पावन इस अवसर का यह तो रायता फैला रहा है
जो झाड़ू लिए यह भिखारी धूल उड़ाता जा रहा है
इस तरह झाड़ू लगाने का भला कोई अर्थ है?
जो धूल तो कल फ़िर जमेगी, ये काम ही देखो व्यर्थ है !
अरे क्या दर्शन पाने का आखिर उचित है यह काल?
सोच बैठे गुप्ता जी रख कर मुँह पर रुमाल
फ़िर शंखनाद से प्रारंभ हुआ पावन सा प्रवचन
विचलित से शांत हुआ कुछ गुप्ता जी का मन
फ़िर घंटो तक बाबा बोले सभी दिव्य ग्रन्थों का सार
ब्रम्हा विष्णु महेश की लीलाएं अपरम्पार
ज्ञानी बाबा बोले
सैकड़ो बार यह सृष्टि बनी, और सैकड़ो बार नष्ट हुई
यह महिमा मण्डित प्रकृति भी धूल में ध्वस्त हुई
फ़िर उसी धूल से फूटे पुनः जीवन के यह नव अंकुर
फ़िर नारद बोले नारायण और छूटे संगीत के पहले सुर
और इसी तरह बारम्बार चलेगी सृष्टि की अद्भुत माया
यहां देवता भी सर्वनाश से मुक्त नहीं रह पाया
पर पुनः होगी रचना, होगा सृष्टि का नवसर्जन
तू काम में बस राम ढूँढ़, कर हर चिंता का विसर्जन
भावुक होकर गुप्ता जी ने कर तो दिया दंडवत प्रणाम
पर मन में शंका थी एक, भला पूछे कैसे सरेआम?
ख़ैर हिम्मत जुटा कर गुप्ता जी ने पूछा ही लिया
कि बाबाजी उत्पत्ति और विनाश का चक्र पल्ले पड़ता नहीं
जो सृष्टि का एक कण भी सर्वनाश से बचता नहीं
जो तांडव तले कुचलेगा सब तो क्यों रचा ब्रम्हा ने संसार
क्यों झेलते हैं ब्रम्हा बार बार, अपनी ही सृष्टि का संहार?
जो भस्म बनेगा आखिर ब्रम्हांड तो ब्रम्हा क्यों रचते हैं
क्यों बार बार इस व्यर्थ परिश्रम से छूटे नहीं बचते हैं?
मैं तो सोच बैठा था की देवताओं का भीषण है पराक्रम
पर देखे तो बनता है उनका जीवन बस है निरंतर श्रम
उत्पत्ति, जीवन और विनाश, ब्रम्हा, विष्णु और महेश
यह सृष्टि है इनकी माया, या इनके नसीब में लिखा है क्लेश
अचरज को मेरी कृपा कर सुलझा दो मेरे गुरूजन
एक उत्तर ऐसा दो कि बस शांत हो जाए विचलित मन
पर ज्ञानी बाबा ने धरा मौन, हर भक्त हुआ उठ खड़ा
प्रवचन हुआ पूरा पर गुप्ता जी के पल्ले कुछ ना पड़ा
घर जाते हुए उन्होंने सोचा
जो देवता की भी हर रचना है व्यर्थ आखिरकार
जो सृष्टि का विनाश होता है बार बार
ऐसे में किसी भी काम का कोई अर्थ है भला जी?
इस सवाल में उलझे चल पड़े चकराए गुप्ता जी
मंदिर की राह में था धूल और धुंध का माहौल
मुह पैट रुमाल धरे गुप्ता जी का खून गया खौल
इस झाड़ू वाले का दिखना ही था अपशगुन का पैग़ाम
जो दर्शन हुए तो भी ना मिला विचलित से मन को आराम
रोज़ धूल उड़ाता है सड़क की न जाने क्यों ये अनाड़ी
जो धूल कल फिर वहीं जमनी है, व्यर्थ है ये दिहाड़ी
और फिर हवा चली ज़ोर से, एक तूफान सा उठा पड़ा
गुंजित हुआ शंखनाद, मंदिर का घंटा बज पड़ा
फूलों की हुई वर्षा, वातावरण हुआ स्वर्ग सा सज्जित
रौशनी हुई दिव्य, धूल का बवंडर हुआ प्रज्ज्वलित
और जैसे ही धूल का बवंडर साफ हुआ
गुप्ता जी ने अपनी ऐनक संभाली
और सामने सफेद दाढ़ी में झाड़ू लिए ब्रम्हा जी खड़े थे !
Nature has – as a provision for an evolutionary fillip- designed us to be a pleasure seeking species. It is our basic instinct to maximize pleasure and alleviate pain. From the joy in the warmth of an embrace, to the alluring magnetism of a baby’s smile, to the existentially satisfying act of procreation, nature has designed our experience of pleasure to meet its longing for itself, through our perennial pursuit for posterity.
Up until a few decades ago, our pleasures were few and far in between, and certainly, not accessible at will. To even get a bowl of french fries, one had to wait for the winter harvest. Think of the ubiquity of our starch laden indulgence in our tech-dictated age, where it is just a few taps away on the screen!
Technology has ushered in pleasures at a rate far beyond a human’s capacity to experience them. The brain, stimulated constantly by novel stimuli, seems to be in overdrive from the rush of dopamine and serotonin. The ease with which pleasures are available to us in today’s age also begs us to contemplate about where exactly pleasure morphs into peril, access into addiction. How many addictions have we sanitized to normalcy?
Have we, in seeking pleasure, forgotten to discern which pleasures are worth pursuing and which ones are best avoided?
Before we talk about discernment, let’s simplify the types of pleasures we go out to seek.
At the risk of sounding simplistic, I believe that broadly, there are two kinds of pleasures:
1. The Simple Pleasures
2. The Easy Pleasures
The simpler pleasures of life are, in most cases, accessible to one and all without discrimination. A simple pleasure of life is accessible in the following two ways.
A Simple Pleasure :
a. Accessible by a Deep Presence : Think of a calming wind caressing your skin, a field of sunflowers in full bloom, glancing your finger on a touch-me-not plant, or watching the luminous courtship dance of fireflies on a dark night. These are simple pleasures accessible to anyone who is mindfully present in the moment.
b. Accessible by a Deep Perseverance : Think of the time when you created something new, a demanding pursuit that was awarded with the simple pleasure of a smile that stems from deep within, on realizing the beauty of what you’ve created. It could be a pot, a play, a sketch, a symphony, a code or a caramel cookie. Manifesting anew gives joy abound.
However, we are confronted with another kind of pleasure in today’s day and age. The Easier Pleasure.
The Easier Pleasures are :
a. Accessible as Cheap-Thrills : (vices, addictions, passive digital entertainment, sexual self-gratification, pornography)
b. Accessible as Lifestyle Frills : (Consumption borne out of wants and not needs, individualism to the point of corruption of the longing for fraternity, the culture of seeking identity from objects)
How does one discern between the two types of pleasures?
There’s a straightforward test to know the difference between a simple pleasure and an easy pleasure. A simple pleasure is borne out of creation. It could be the pleasure one gets from creating something or in marveling in being able to experience what someone else/ nature has created.
An easier pleasure is borne out of consumption. Through most of human history, the easier pleasure was accessible only to a select few. But with worldwide access to the internet, the easier pleasures have become accessible to much of our generation.
What if I were to suggest that the quality of your life is a function of the choice you make when confronted with the promise of experiencing pleasure?
While you have been designed to be a pleasure seeking being, and the body doesn’t discern a detrimental pleasure from a favorable one (it fires up the same happy hormones in either case!), the responsibility of making a wise choice rests on your own mind.
The more lasting pleasures are the ones that have been earned through perseverance, or through a solemn presence in the unfolding moment – the simpler pleasures that one is more likely to reminisce about around a warm fire-place on a winter evening.
Creating something is perhaps the most demanding pleasure of them all that calls for a devotion that is absolute. But it is a much more character building than the pleasure that comes from the effortlessly accessible act of crude consumption.
The prospect of a meaningful life rests on how well you are able to navigate the pleasure paradigm. While the easier, short-term pleasures are easy to access, they seldom qualify as prized nostalgia, nor do they chisel your character to reveal a more glorious manifestation of your self.
Steering our pleasure-seeking self in the direction that asks for presence and perseverance is the prudent choice.
And when in a dilemma in choosing between the promise of two pleasures, ask yourself which one of the two is an easier pleasure and which one is the simpler pleasure. Once you can discern that, set sail to the winds of the latter.
For wisdom lay in choosing your pleasures wisely.
© 2021 Sreenath Sreenivasan