Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Musings 205 - The fourth dimension

Monday Musings 205 - The fourth dimension
My self view about how good am I as a son, husband and father is very kind to myself and psychologists might read red into it, although I do not worry much about their theories as I recognize they have a living to make. However one of things that continues to be on my mind all the time is what kind of persons my daughters grow up to be.
A few years back I had arrived at three parameters that I will use to judge myself as a father.  First I wanted to develop in them a love for literature or fine arts or performing arts. In my mind a love for any of the above necessarily develops in a person an appreciation for the finer things in life, the ones which make a person perceptive, nuanced and sensitive.
Secondly I wanted them to develop a love for the outdoors, either through sports or through travel. I did not and still do not see enough emphasis that families and parents consciously put in developing this aspect in children. My belief is that through outdoors a child develops a sense of perspective, of his own place in the universe. It roots us to humility by making us realize that while our sense of self makes us become larger than our surroundings, in reality we must never forget that in our best we continue to remain a tiny speck in this vast universe.
Third I want them to have a virtue called tolerance, which I rate as having a high criticality. It helps us to accept people who are different than us, accept situations that are not to our liking, acknowledge practices and circumstances that might be alien to us, but real to others. It helps us live with outcomes which are not to our liking, despite our most intense desires and even after back breaking hard work. Tolerance helps us survive the vagaries of life.
I was having a chat with a friend of mine who has a pretty grown up child and who had a recent experience. I got my fourth item on my list through this conversation.
It just so happened that the child, a grown up of 20 worked extremely hard for something. The child is a go getter, extremely confident and believes that anything that one can dream of, can be achieved. The hunger for success and achievement is high and is backed up by natural talent and relentless hard work. However there are subtle indications that this single minded dedication to the goal makes her oblivious to how human interactions are taking place. There is an indifference towards softer aspects of one’s ambition particularly when others are also involved. It just so happened that the result eluded the child and it was clear that not many others who were required to contribute and help her succeed did so. It was under these circumstances that my friend raised some questions, which got me thinking and led me to add a fourth dimension to my list of three.
The thoughts began by highlighting the power of prayer – not in the religious sense but in the sense that one must acknowledge the power of some higher order which runs this universe and along with acknowledgement must come respect for it. One must also acknowledge the power of collective wishes for oneself and make efforts not to attract too much negative wishes for ourselves even if it is equally futile to try to please everyone. My friend lamented that too much of brute ambition which rubs too many people the wrong way and too much negative wishes from people impact not only the outcome but also the quality of the outcome. If the purpose is to be successful then maybe these things are mumbo jumbo but if the purpose is to be happy with that success then one must be sensitive to these softer things.
I realized that in a very different way my friend was suggesting that the child must also have a spiritual side to her – which is now my fourth dimension to my work as a parent – will I be able to help my child acquire a spiritual side?
I must.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Monday Musings 204 - The boats we get into....

Two things happened within a week of each other for me. Last week I listened to a TED video where the speaker Dan Gilbert said that human beings were fundamentally creatures who are in perpetual state of work in progress. The second thing that happened to me was that I met J.

There are stories scattered all around us. Human stories are many and magical. The more we encounter reasons to be cynical, doubtful and disbelievers, the more nature throws at us stories that raise our own sense of being to a new found level of belief, faith. J is one such story and since I promised him that I will not mention his name in my ode to his story, I must remain content in calling him J.

Many decades ago, during the peak of the Vietnam misadventure of the USA, many Vietnamese families attempted to move out- some wanting to escape the brutalities of their own brethren and some who wanted to get out of the mindless massacre by a foreign country. Many families attempted to leave the country on small fishing boats, needless to say not a a very safe and reliable way to leave a war ravaged country.

Young J, all of 6 years was made to board one such boat, the only one amongst his familymembers which   included his elder brother. I am a father of a 7 year old and I keep imagining the plight of that young child. I keep imagining what his tender mind would have made out of being on that boat and then landing in a refugee camp in Malaysia and living the next 3 years there. I keep keep imagining his fear, his wait for his parents and the the brute dawn of reality that they won't come.

Having spent those 3 years in that camp with children of that war, by propitious twist of fate, J was adopted by foster parents in Canada and so the journey of life took the young child from the refugee camps to a new house many miles away and Ina different continent. He grew up in Canada with his new parents and spent the next 6 odd years with then, by which time his elder brother traced him to Canada and joined him. J was reunited with his elder brother who also moved to canada. 

As the young child transited into an young adult, J experienced familiar rebelliousness that youth usually typify. He started to hang around with friends who were not bad but were of limited aspirations or talent. Even though J scored in high nineties during his high school and could have got through any university of his choice, going to the university was infra dig in the gang he moved around. So for two years after he completed his high schools he was almost a wage earner and used to fix frames as a construction worker. 

While life was taking its own shape as it does, a question kept coming back to J' s mind-  why was he chosen to be on that boat? Was he abandoned. Human mind is a meaning making machine and a young boy is not best placed to understand the grand sweep of destiny.

His brother, acutely aware if his talents, relentlessly tried to persuade him to chase bigger dreams, that would do justice to his talents and capability. However young J continued to hang out with those friends and do odd jobs, mostly menial and much below his calibre. And then things changed.

One night he received a warm and emotional letter from his mom, who incidentally had been united with him when he turned 20, a full fourteen years after he had stepped onto that boat. In that letter an emotional mom shared with him that there was not enough money for more than one person to be on that boat on that day and the family, too much in love with J, had chosen him. I am sure that there was much more in that letter, but J only shared that it tripped something in his mind, heart and soul. so after two years in fixing frames he applied to the number one university of canada to study advanced maths. Now a decade and half later - I am guessing he would not be less than 40, though he looked not a shade more than 30, J is a practicing actuary and a deputy CEO in a life insurance company.

coming back to where I began, human beings most certainly are work in progress. If you don't like the shape it is taking, go on and make the change you want. You just never know which boat will take to you to the shore of happiness.

God bless J