May 22, 2011

Kings, Jacks and Noblemen: Part 1

I'm going to start with one of the most banal questions in the history of humanity:

How do we pursue happiness?

Hopefully I will reach a conclusion that kindles a ray of hope for those who answer with:


Because I've discovered I'm one of them.

Some people know exactly how to do it. Pursue happiness, that is.

They head out straight from high school, sometimes even before they graduate from high school. Like racehorses with blinkers on, they charge straight ahead. Brows drawn in, ambition smoldering in their eyes and their eyes, keenly focused on the finish line.

Yea, so this is another write-up about life with the racehorse analogy.
You got a problem with that?

Okay, now that we've gotten rid of the eye-rolling, judge-a-book-by-its-cover type amongst us, I'll go on.

Let's call this group of horses...
(Drum roll) (Longer, more annoying, drum roll) (a couple of trumpets, maybe a few bagpipes)


They persevere through life, with the single most important mission as their driving force. Like bees to honey, like an eagle to its prey, like a vampire to blood, like a mouse to cheese, like a bull to a muleta, like James Bond to women, like women to James Bond.

Then there are those who think they know exactly how to do it. So they start out at the same point as the KINGS. That is- they start out as prospective KINGS. They are ready, brows gathered and ambitions burning and all that.

Then something inexplicable changes and the prospective Kings divide into two subgroups:

The first group.

The noblemen.

Those who continue on to the finish line. They may still have the ambition, because if they lose it, they'll be left with silly looking blank eyes. So its there alright, just not as intense as it once was. Sometimes they get a little distracted, they peek outside the blinkers. The grass seems juicy, the flowers smell wonderful. But then the finish line flashes before their eyes. The entire race now becomes a bit of a struggle- between making it to the finish line and exploring the many distractions on the way.

When they finally reach it, they are happy. They are proud. Everyone is cheering for them. But somewhere in the deep dark crevices of their mind, they have a sneaking suspicion. A haunting doubt about the flowers that they passed by, or the funny looking pebble they wanted to have a closer look at.

I'm not sure what really excites racehorses, but I'm hoping you get the gist of what I'm trying to say.

It is the most unpleasant feeling in the world. So they avoid it. They push every thought, every doubt away- time and again- and focus on the celebrations. They rub their success in everyone's faces, because it helps them forget about the flowers and the grass.  They made it to the finish line. That's all that matters. Now everyone is celebrating them- that's all that matters. 

And then we have the second subgroup.

The Jacks.

Somewhere along the way, that ambitious fire that drove everyone else is doused. The brows straighten out because the faintest of whiffs of a nearby cluster of elderflowers makes its way to their nostrils. They inhale deeply, eyes closed and come to a screeching halt. With their eyes still closed, they follow the scent and amble to the sidelines. Clickety-clock, clickety clock- a dreamy smile on their faces. (Sometimes, tripping a few KINGS and noblemen. They would hear the profanities being thrown at them but they are in blissful oblivion. Its like their heads seem to be bubbled into one of those astronaut helmets). All they hear is the sound of the breeze, all they smell is the divine scent of the flowers and all they see is the green-ness of the grass on the side of the track.

 And whatever else, you would expect to hear, smell and see at the side of an actual race track.

Yea, so I've never been to an actual horse race, ever. I've never worn those obnoxious hats. I don't actually know what exists on the side of the race track.  Who's asking?

Then why did I pick the descriptions of racehorses to get my point across?

Meet me outside and I'll tell you why. I'll make it crystal clear.   


These second sub-category of race horses, the Jacks, are always aware of the finish line. They have friends who have reached it. They see them celebrating in the distance. They are happy for them. And they don't mind missing out on the confetti and champagne, because they couldn't bear to leave those heavenly flowers on the side of the track.

They make their little houses on the side of the tracks, with a little vegetable garden and sip on lemonade.  They stroll down the tracks when they feel like it, all the way to the finish line and then back to their huts. They explore the neighboring hills and the valleys. All the time in the background, they can hear the din of the horse race in full swing.

Before you start judging the Jacks, I think its important to realize that they aren't good-for-nothing, non-contributing rebels against society. They have different interests than the conventional finish line. Not better or worse interests, not more or less valuable than the finish line. Just different. And they do contribute, just in less tangible ways. But just as important.

So here's the simplified chart version of what I've said above:

At no point am I suggesting that you can only be one or the other kind of horse in your life. I know I've moved from one kind to the other.
But I do think, its important that each of us know what kind of horse we are. Not which kind we want to become (I'm not sure it's possible to become any) nor which kind is the best kind.

Just the kind that we are, intrinsically.

Part 2 coming soon.

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The Pious Hippie by Ms. Pious Hippie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.