LIVE – MEANING OF LIFE

Albert Camus

‘You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.’

Religious texts, prophets, saints and the newest fads in wholesome living all advocate you to find the meaning of life – find out your purpose and live the way you ‘ought’ to live life.

Quite frankly and I’ll be blunt about it, I don’t get it. I don’t understand why we are so preoccupied with the true meaning of life. What I don’t understand even more is what finding out the meaning of life has to do with religion, because life, in my opinion, came before we found religion. In fact, at the cost of being branded an atheist, I’ll admit here that I feel life is far bigger and more complex a concept than religion. It may be just a four letter word, but it encompasses within itself concepts that none of us mortals will be able to figure out within one single lifetime, and that religion is only a part of life itself. Even if someone served us the meaning of life on a platter, it will take a much more evolved human brain than ours to grasp its entire meaning. For who are we, but puny human beings, living on limited air and time?

To me, the exercise of devoting one’s entire life to finding the meaning of life is a life not lived because life has so much to offer than trying to figure out what it’s about. To me, the question is rather subjective. The meaning of life could mean different things to different people. If a saint comes and tells me that the meaning of life is blah, blah, blah, I won’t nod my head in mute acquiescence. I’ll say, ‘that’s your way of thinking, not mine’.

To give you an example, a few months back India was witness to two parents abandoning their toddler to the care of her aged grandparents, in order to become Jain monks. They relinquished the world and embraced monkhood. For those of us who do not know about this, please read about it here. I don’t know about you but when I read the news I felt that they had wronged their toddler daughter by relinquishing her to care of their parents. They relinquished their duty as parents, something that should have come over and above everything else to them. But that is not what they think. To them the true meaning of life lay in religious pursuit.

My reason for giving you this example was not to tell you my opinion of whether their action was wrong or right, it was to show you that there is a difference of opinion in what matters in life most. There is thus, inherently, a difference of opinion in the assumed answer to the question ‘what is the meaning of life’.

To a pauper, the true meaning of life may be to earn enough one day to leave the footpath for good. To a rich man, it may be finding a balance between his work and home life. The purpose of a mother may be to ensure the good upbringing of her child, but the purpose of a career woman would be to be the CEO of a good company. A priest may find peace in devotion to religion, while a scientist may find it in a new invention. Who do you think is right or wrong? None of them!

So when two people, their desires, the way they think, the way they attain their goals, their very raison d’etre are different, how can they concur on what is the meaning of life?

Life is so many things to so many people, it’s meanings cannot be ascribed to a few set ways in which a few of us perceive it. To me, life is about a careful balance of pleasure and duty, ambition and sacrifice. I believe there are a set of duties that all of us mortals were born to fulfil, and some pleasures that every one of us must be entitled to enjoy. If we have ambition then we must remember to let it not trample on the lives of others. That is a kind of sacrifice and a duty. And that is not the only sacrifice that a human being must make in his life. When a person achieves a near perfect balance in these two sets of extremes, is when I believe we have found meaning in life.

My point is, and you may not agree with it, but that’s your opinion, that figuring out the meaning of life is keeping you from fulfiling your very purpose of existing on this planet – living your life – which is why you have life running in your veins. All of us have a life because we were supposed to live it. We have different ways of living it and that is fine, because there cannot be a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way of living. We all live according to what our circumstances allow.

I believe that we have only one life to do and be all that we wish to do and be. I feel that if we do not forget to be ‘humane’ at all times and lead a life of peace and harmony, balancing our duties against our pleasures at all times, is when we will not need to search for the meaning of life.

A LETTER TO SELF – SILLY THINGS I DID AND WISH THAT I HADN’T

Dear Pradita,

I hope this finds you in good health.

I have noticed of late that you have been dwelling on your past mistakes as a child, when you see your own child making them. What can I say, genetics works in weird ways! You have been telling yourself that you hope your child does not make the same mistakes that you made. Well, that is what I’m writing to you about.

As your oldest friend and observer, I have witnessed each and every one of your silly mistakes and helped you get past them. Sometimes I may have forced you to commit those mistakes and then stood aside to watch you suffer. It was fun, but I’m sorry. I should have warned you.

A child’s beliefs are based not only on what they see and feel, but also on what they’ve been told. So, some silly story an Uncle cooked up on how clouds are made in a factory in the sky became a part of your belief system, till you grew old enough to figure out that the Uncle was only joking. Take care, therefore, that you do not tell you child such lies. You never know how far genetics may have affected her!

Then there are mistakes you made as a child because you didn’t know any better. Those added up to your belief system too and became your first life-lessons. Don’t get me wrong, dearheart, I’m proud of you… But some things you believed in and some mistakes you made were way beyond my comprehension. Here I present a list of those silly things, and I sincerely hope you have learnt from them and will prevent your child from following in your footsteps –

  1. Chomping on a fistful of chillies, does not prove you’re cool. It proves the opposite. Shame on you for falling for that trick. Full points to the naughty neighbour who goaded you into doing it.

  2. It’s -6 out there. It’s your first snowfall. We get that you’re excited. But, you do not thrust your hand into the snow with measly woollen gloves on. Also, if you did that, don’t bawl like a baby when your fingers burn because of frost-bite.

  3. Drying woollen gloves and socks (from your previous silly mistake) onto a coal-heated deghchi only gives you charred and crumpled wool… not dry gloves and socks.

  4. You do not grow a full garden in your tummy by swallowing a few fruit seeds.

  5. Yeah sure, bunnies look cute, but they can bite…ouch!

  6. Falling into a ditch is a common side-effect of cycling and letting your eyes wander from the road to the cute guy on the other side of the road. On the plus side, its euphoric when the same cute guy comes and helps you out, even if he thinks you’re an idiot to fall into a ditch in the first place.

  7. When you are only minus 5 feet, it’s very much possible for you to drown in the shallow end of the pool.

  8. There’s no point in showing some any skin in the middle of a bitter Delhi winter. Keep those tights and socks on, sista!

  9. Those sanitary napkins weren’t meant to wipe off ink splotches. Your Mommy lied to you. Likewise, those rubbery tubes aren’t transparent balloons…You get the rest, don’t you?

  10. Do not ever rub your eyes over hands that have been doing things with chillies.

  11. Those somersaults on TV are conducted by experts. Do not try them on your own bike and then cry about that twisted ankle.

  12. Cheating is not meant for you. You do not know how to cheat with stealth. You cheat like a sloth, then cry like a baby about being caught.

  13. When your teacher offers you the lead-role in ‘the’ school play, you do not turn it down to look gracious! There goes your possible-ticket-to-Bollywood!

  14. Likewise, in a rickshaw full of school-going kids, you do not offer your seat to a porky kid and then end up balancing yourself on an iron rod for the remainder of the 2-mile journey home. That’s not graciousness, that’s foolishness.

  15. On the day of an examination, do not trust anyone who asks for your pen/pencil ‘just for a minute’. AND REMEMEBER, you do not know how to cheat!

  16. You do not turn into a chicken when you get chicken pox. Stop freaking out!

  17. Mommy does not have eyes on the back of her head… Just very good common sense and a killer sixth sense.

  18. You do not grow old by staying in water too long.

  19. The moon does not have a giant bunny living on it. What’s with you and bunnies anyway?

  20. And finally… you do not get pregnant by watching someone kiss on TV!

Sincerely,

Pradita Kapahi

Blog – The Pradita Chronicles