Monday, June 15, 2015

A Life of Purpose

I delve into one of my favorite topics - life, purpose and happiness - and hope it strikes a few chords. 

All of us need something that we can focus and spend our energies on, in life. We need our lives to revolve around something or the other, just like how the Earth needs the Sun; simply because we do not feel truly alive if we don't have something to focus on. To use a cliché, we only exist. 

One of the most positive and yet fragile emotions that we can expend our energies on is love. The subject or object of love may be one (or more) of the following: 

(This list is in no particular order and is open for debate. There may be some unavoidable overlaps between a few areas) 

Love for: 

- Conventional work
- Sport & Physical activity 
- God
- Life (Probably through science, art or service) 
- An idea or a concept
- A cause
- Another human being or family or other entities such as animals/plants 
- Mankind as a whole or a specific community or one's country
- Food
- Power or Fame or Money & Luxuries 

There is no right or wrong.

Meera Bai chose to focus on God. Gandhi chose a cause and a country. Steve Jobs chose an idea. Romeo chose another human being. Einstein chose God and life through science.

Disney chose to focus on life through art. Wodehouse chose life through art. 
Victor Frankl chose life through service and himself (in an indomitable way). Watterson chose life through art and himself (in an unconventional way). 
Jane Goodall chose a specific community of animals. Aung San Suu Kyi chose a country. Sachin chose a sport.
 The Dalai Lama chose mankind and a cause. A lot of politicians and businessmen may start with a cause but digress and go into power or money. A lot of actors and movie-makers may start with an idea or life through art but digress into money or fame and so on.   

Each of us gravitates towards one or more items in the list based on our nature, upbringing, influences, circumstances, challenges, skills, early experiences in life and so on. The intensity with which we pursue what we choose varies from person to person. If we focus on a category that we have some control over (with exceptions such as God and Mankind) and one for which we have the necessary skills and wherewithal, we're going to be happy and busy...or happily busy. Simply because we are doing what we love, are good at and have the resources for. The caveat, however, is that if we are excessively obsessed with our chosen 'Sun' and lose our grip over it, we may fall out of our orbit and into a potential catastrophe unless we have the skills to jump on to another appropriate orbit (think lone genius scientists/geeks etc)   

On the other hand, if we don't gravitate towards at least one item in the list, life looks empty and void of any meaning. I suspect no one can exist this way unless (s)he is in a vegetative state. In related news, the common and widely accepted solution to engage ourselves with life and have something to focus on is Marriage. We are, more often than not, guaranteed to have a spouse and/or child(ren) that we will feel motivated to place at the center of our world.     

Let's take a closer look at some of the items in the list.

- Conventional work: This is adrenalin, accomplishment and intelligence based love. An extreme form of "work love"is perhaps entrepreneurship. 

- God: Inexplicable to many and enchanting to those submerged in it because you need to live in the spiritual realm and see what most people can't or choose not to see. Tricky because everything is based on our own interpretation of events, dreams and otherwise indecipherable miracles.

- Idea or Concept: One of the more fulfilling items because people who pursue ideas are generally the ones who do not wait for it to be approved by others. A great manifestation of end to end creativity. Take one idea and chase it all your life because it is one meteor of an idea or take up a series of smaller ideas one after another and jump from one fascinating world to another. Bliss of creation, accomplishment, intelligence, life and more. You might forget yourself as you transform the idea from its abstract form into tangible reality. 

- A cause: Arguably, the most noble pursuit and the one most approved by the social ecosystem. Otherwise more or less similar to loving an idea. But every cause has its share of critics who are hoping that it will cease to be given importance. It is, arguably, easier to ignore idea critics but not so easy to ignore people who become obstacles to causes. 

- Another human: Most tangible, natural, and popular choice for a majority of humans. Simple and popular way of leading your life as long as you are good at dealing with people, understanding others (or just that one person) and garnering the support of the rest of the people in your life. If your people skills are bad, this can turn out to be a huge and hilarious mess.

- Power/Fame/Money or Luxuries: Love that many people cry against but secretly pursue or find it hard to resist if it happens to them. 

- Oneself: All of us need at least a bit of this in order to survive with self-respect but too much in the wrong direction turns you into a megalomaniac that the world loves to hate. Hats off to the few people who have mastered the art of focusing on the self without alienating others.     

Finally, if you know how to engage yourself properly in one of the categories and learn to efficiently juggle a few more categories, you're likely to be a happy person. However, shifting frequently within the same category may be the result of inappropriate focus, flimsy thinking or lack of ethics (think politicians switching parties on the pretext of supporting a new cause every few years or movie actors confused about specializing in commercial vs art genres). 

So, what am I driving at? My undying love for exploring and analyzing life from my armchair.....God only knows. :-P  #kthxbye 

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