Wednesday, January 02, 2013

An open letter to my children

1st January 2013

Dear ________,

On New Year’s Eve I realized suddenly that you are at a crossroads, where momentous decisions have to be made: career choices, journeys with new life partners, etc. I am confident about your ability to deal with life, for I’ve marveled at your growth from childhood, through youth, into adulthood. Yet, both of us know that the future is an unpredictable void. I asked myself what I could give you to help you deal with the turbulence life splashes in your face, and have below listed some of the things that have steadied my own ship on its storm-tossed journey through the sea of life.

The digital world that is taking over our lives at the speed of light has implicit within its core the ability to draw you away from the real, three-dimensional tactile world we live in. You could keep in touch with every single person you know in this world via the magic of digital social media, but can you physically touch them? Can you hear their belly laugh; wipe away a tear; give a hug and receive one in return; hold hands; share a meal; play a game … yes, there is this reality we miss out on in cyber land, and believe me, the list can be as long as one wishes to make it.
     So in this New Year try and make time to anchor yourself to the real world, peopled by friends and family in flesh and blood, pulsating and palpating with life and emotions. Meet people, empathize, converse, laugh, argue, share meals, walks, books, movies, theatre … but be present with them physically, not digitally.

The pace of humanity’s life on earth is much faster today than it was in my youth, or that of my parents’. While you hurtle through your multi-tasked life, I urge you to make time for quietude, for reflection, a moment for yourself. Take time out to simply sit, to just be, and think. Spool backwards through the day’s episodes before sleeping, stopping to ponder a colleague’s off-the-cuff remark that made you laugh; the reason for a sticky situation; the antecedents of an unnecessary altercation with a loved one. Make such moments work for you daily. You will see how your thought process deepens into the ability to analyse behavior, actions, reactions, ideas and situations; how the cogs of your mind that lead to cognition begin to rotate. The difference between thinking on the fly and pondering at leisure is that of seeing a single frame and absorbing an entire movie. The ability to synthesize thought cogently is not a genetic gift, but the result of training yourself to sit quietly and think, so that you just don’t skim an issue superficially but delve into its multiple-angled intricacies to understand it in totality.

Get physical, and indulge in sport. Too many youngsters follow sport on digital, and print media. Believe me it is nowhere near the real thing. Whether you chase a ball around a squash court or swing it gracefully into the mantling blue from a green square; whether you cleave water in the local club’s pool, or sweat buckets of it in the gym; whether you walk, run, do calisthenics, push weights, climb, bicycle, or whatever, make time to workout. As a descendant of hunter-gatherers, your body is tuned by evolution to thrive in these vigorous physical activities, that are nothing but replacements of those antediluvian straining which is no longer required. Nothing gives your body that vital boost of adrenalin than a sporting indulgence. It is the garnish, the high octane that will fuel your appetite for a fuller life.

I know you read and I celebrate that indulgence of yours. Words define life for us humans, and their innumerable and myriad repositories are books of every conceivable genre. I have nothing against digital books. If they work for you, so be it. The act of reading is of primacy. But books do furnish a room with their symmetrical physicality. They stand in dignified silence upon your bookshelves until you take one down and open it. Only then does it speak to you. It is nearly impossible to get such a human companion in real life, for the sense of power unleashed by an unsolicited opinion far exceeds the self-control required to stop one from blurting it out. The battery of a physical book does not run down, nor does its software expire, neither does the hardware require frequent replacement. A book does not die when accidentally dropped.

Reading is the bedrock of good conversation, the grist for your cerebrations. There is no other medium yet invented by human ingenuity that conveys so much through so little to so many [with apologies to Churchill]. Written descriptions and thought has not yet been successfully transmuted adequately into any other visual or aural medium. Such is the power of the written word. Embrace it, and you hold the world in the palm of your hand. Shun it and you embrace ignorance.

Get passionate about something in life. Allow that passion to energize you with its own purpose. Find a niche and chip away at the block of stone till whatever you’ve envisaged emerges into the shining light of our world. Always remember it is the journey, and not the destination that matters: for the fun is along the way, as is the satisfaction of research, discovery, and implementation.

Take every opportunity to travel and see the world; experience the bouquet of civilization’s cultures and achievements; immerse yourself into the solace of open spaces; occasionally move your horizons from cityscapes to wild landscapes.

The completely changed perspective of a wilderness area is the only panacea for a mind benumbed by the endless friction that our lives have become—for the simple reason that not a line, not a curve, not a gloss, not a hue, not a sound, not a silence, not a stillness, nor even a motion, not a light, nor so the shade, not the perspective, not the haze bears the mark we run from — that of fellow human. In such surroundings you renew yourself by either discarding all your baggage, or you will internalize thought and brush away the cobwebs from your mind. An epiphany will then resonate through your being, that sentience is not the prerogative of humanity, but a means to better comprehend the world we live in, and our place in it. Such an understanding is the beginning of every journey.

I wish you Godspeed, joy, and luck on your wanderings. 


Anuradha Shankar said...

This is so beautiful!!!! You have put together so beautifully just what I would love to tell my son when the time comes... all the very best to your kids on their journeys and quests.. am sure they will do well in whatever course they choose.

Aasheesh said...

Thank you Anuradha.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful,something we all wish we could have told our kids a bit earlier in life ,a sort of mid course correction I guess.But apart from that an essential must read by all our friends.Asheesh your literate skills are abound ,keep writing my friend you will certainly take in a Bookers too one day.Of that I am certain!