July 15, 2011

Fizz-less Cola is just Sweet Water

You know why I think God gave us eyes?

One of the main reasons would probably be so that we could SEE the beautiful world He's created for us.
I knew that.

But I think, it's also because He knew how afraid we are of being in the dark. He knew that if we didn't have eyes to begin with, we'd function just fine.
But, we like to see what's ahead of us. We like clarity. We hate doubt.

We like certainty.
We hate uncertainty.

I guess a third reason He would be so that we could use colored contact lenses to change our eye color to match with our shirt.
Just as a fringe benefit sort of thing.
I've always wanted to try yellow lenses and scare the bajeezus out of someone.

Us humans are compulsive planners.
And you know why?
Because plans distract us from uncertainty.

Notice I didn't say, plans do away with uncertainty.
'Cause they don't.
Nothing does away with uncertainty.
Uncertainty is un-do-away-able.

English is such a rich language.
It has a word for everything!

What do plans do?

They tie up a kaleidoscope in front of our eyes.
If kaleidoscopes don’t float your boat.
Pick anything that does.
I got dibs on the cupcake.

And while we oooooh-aaaah our way through life, under the impression that we are following our plan- the universe does it's job.

If our plan coincides with that of the universe, we think we made it.
If it doesn't we think we failed. We sulk and then we make another plan.

And if that coincides then we think we made it. Otherwise we sulk and then make another plan. And if that coincides, then we think we made it. Otherwise we sulk and make another plan… and so on.

Sometimes, I think the universe's plan is to make us make plans.
And then it keeps foiling each plan so that we tire of making plans and give up on them all together.
That's what I think it has planned for me.      

I know…
PARADOX is the universe's middle name.
I think.
Unless it's Weatherfield.
Or Darwinkle.
Or McKinley
Or Mukerjee.
It could be anything really, but I think it's Paradox.

Anyway, I don't think anyone said it better than the Joker in the Dark Knight:

'Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just... do things. (…) Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I'm not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.'

Bravo Sir! Bravo!
Beautiful… that's all I can say.
The crux of the universe, beautifully delivered in one dialogue.
You can't see me but I have tears in my eyes.

Now goals, I think, are the enemy of the universe.
Because we are attached more to goals than we are to plans.

Plans are the path to lead us to the goal.
So one plan is as good as the next, as long as it leads us to the goal.
We go after goals with much more fervor than we follow plans.

Goals serve as blinkers.
Don't get me wrong. Goals are important.
They goad us towards action.
But inflexible, unyielding, stubborn and myopic goals spell disaster.
They make the universe's job harder.
They come in the way of it's plans.

I'm talking from experience.
I had an inflexible, stubborn and myopic goal once.

I ignored the fact that my goal wasn't congruent with me.
Or the Universe.
I ignored all the other paths, the universe was hinting towards.

It was crystal clear in my 15 year old mind.

I wanted to work in Canary Wharf, in London.
I wanted to be a highly successful investment banker.
I wanted to be paid excessively well and live in an apartment on the Thames.

I spent the first 23 years of my life pursuing that goal.
I begged, pleaded and eventually blackmailed God into getting me there.

I reached it.
And guess what?
I hated it there!

It's a completely different story that the Universe may have planned for me to make the journey but hate the destination.
The universe is complex.
It's wily.
Very wily.

But, that's the thing with goals.
We love them so much because they mask uncertainty.

If I didn't have that goal, what the h*ll was I supposed to do with my life?
Was I just supposed to walk around listlessly?
Waiting for the universe to tell me what to do next.
Waiting for some sort of dream where I'm told that I'm meant to be a brain para-glider?

The goal tells us what we need to do, where we will be, how it will feel- when we get there. To know all of that, is the most amazing thing in the world, isn't it? Goals are like our own personal fortune tellers.
No wonder we love them so much.

And they're definitely more trustworthy than most of the fortune tellers you see nowadays. Mine told me I should have turned into a toad by last year and should be having tadpoles any day now.

Okay fine.
I'm lying.

He didn't say that.
But he might as well have.  

Even with most life coaches and motivational thinkers/speakers telling us that goals are overrated and we need to let go of our 'illusion' of control, I find it really hard to let go though.

'A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving'
—Lao Tzu

I know that’s true.

But, sometimes, the temptation of the certainty a goal offers, the over-whelming feeling of achievement it promises and the general social admiration of 'goals' is just too much to resist.

Goals become the chewing gum stuck to the bottom of our shoes.
You feel it in each step.
No matter how hard you try to get rid of it, it stays.
You can scrape off the gum with a piece of paper.
You can scrub your shoe against the edge of the pavement.
You can try to wash it off with water.
Chances are, the sticky feeling won't go away.

You have to keep trying though.
You really do.
I do it everyday. With a little help.
(I've already spoken about God's cloud throne, the embedded button that makes my plans go 'poof'. It helps).

Ask me what I think I'm going to be doing a year from now.
Go on.
Ask me.
Fine don't.
I won't force you to ask me.

I'll tell ya anyway.
I don’t know.

How about 2-3 years from now?
In my personal life-I'm guessing I would have travelled the country a bit.

I could be a writer, foreign exchange trader or home accessory designer.

Geographically, where will I be?
No idea.
The only thing I know is that it won't be here.
I don't know actually.
I might be here.
In 2-3 years.

If there's an alien invasion at my new home. And Superman's on holiday so he can't save us.
Or if I'm on holiday and I come here.
But, it's unlikely.

5 years down the line?
I know I won't be in the place that I will be three years down the line.
Geographically, professionally and probably personally.
I know.
I dwell in uncertainty.

If uncertainty was a place, I'd be President.
If it was a salad, I'd be the dressing.
If it was a chocolate sundae, I'd be the cherry on top.
If it was cola, I'd be the fizz.

I gotta admit though.
Sometimes, it's scary.

But most of the times, it's liberating.
It's exciting.
It gives me the freedom to hope.

I hope to travel the whole country, every nook and corner.
I hope to backpack my way through the quaint little villages.

I hope to open my own home accessory company.
I hope to export my designs around the world.

I hope to become a highly successful trader, with control over her emotions.
I hope to develop the discipline of a market wizard.

If I knew where I was going to be settled geographically (say Dubai), I couldn't imagine myself backpacking through Kashmir's villages.
Right now, I'm just as likely to live in Kashmir for three years as I am to live anywhere else.

If I knew with certainty that my home accessory business will take off, I couldn't hope that I will also be a successful trader.
I probably wouldn't have the time.
Maybe I wouldn't have the inclination.

Certainty is like this hoity-toity yuppie dressed in a suit with a BlackBerry in his hand, telling you how things will be.

The only way things will be.
No ifs.
No buts.
No maybes.
No room for imagination.
No space for dreams.

Uncertainty is Katherine Watson in Mona Lisa Smile.

She says:
See past the paint. Let's open our minds to a different idea.

They actually exist in the real world too.
People like Katherine Watson.
David Kelly of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Standford (d.school) says that the school teaches it's students one important thing.

Regular education requires the student to find the one and only correct answer to a question and report it to the teacher.

The d.school asks it's students to find any possible answer to a messy problem.
A problem, the answer to which, their teacher does not have.
An answer that he won't know if it's right or wrong.
They are encouraged to 'fail forward'.

'The journeys that we take students of all ages on just about always entail helping people confront and overcome their discomfort with trying to solve unstructured problems (that the faculty have not already solved -- and in most cases -- don't know how to solve)'.  

You see?!?
They TEACH their students how to handle uncertainty.
Because, as I said, uncertainty is un-do-away-able.
Not only that.
It's also a gift.

We really need to stop looking at uncertainty as the villain.
Uncertainty is our friend.

Uncertainty slows us down.
And keeps us from making mistakes.

Uncertainty develops character.
Uncertainty builds courage.

Uncertainty helps us explore.
Like an energy drink, it gives us wiiiings.

And finally.
If you can't look at uncertainty as Katherine Watson.
Or go to Palo Alto and learn creative confidence.
If you can't look at uncertainty as your friend.
If during uncertain times, you can't feel the wings on your back.
Like me…  sometimes.
Do what I do.

I try to TRUST.
I trust God.

If the fear that comes with uncertainty is all I can see, I trust that He'll be there right beside me.

And if anything bad happens, it wont be because He loves to crush me under the weight of misfortune and see me fallen on the floor writhing in pain.

I know.
Shame on me.
I used to think that.

I don’t know why God still loves me.

If anything 'bad' happens, it will be because He knows I can handle it.
It will be because He wants to feel the pride of watching me come out the other side, a winner.
To ask to see the future, to ask for clarity or certainty is to say to Him,

'You may be powerful and all knowing and all that. But I don't trust ya'
'I know what to do with the life you've given me, better than you'

It's like reading a book backwards.

It's like someone telling you what happens at the end of the movie that you've just started watching.

It takes all the fun out.

It's like cola without the fizz.
Like an ice-cream sundae without the cherry.
Like salad without any dressing.

You get my drift?

I could go on.

It's like pizza without cheese.
It's like nachos without salsa.
It's like a cupcake with no frosting.
It's like curry without spice.
It's like pad thai without peanuts.
It's like a burger without ketchup.
It's like a cinnamon roll without the cream cheese on top.
It's like a banana split without icecream.
It's like a doughnut without the hole.
It's like baklava without the nutty filling.
It's like cookies without milk.
It's like pasta without the sauce.
It's like lemonade without sugar.
It's like molten chocolate cake without the gooey centre.
It's like macaroni and cheese without the breadcrumbs on top.

I would have gone on.
I really would.
But I need to change my shirt.

It's wet from all the drooling.
I don't know why I said that.
My shirt's not wet.
I lied.

I'm stopping because I have a top secret meeting with the President.
The President of the world.
Oh yeah…
Believe it or not.
He exists.
Only really, really, really  important people know about him.

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