Friday, December 12, 2014

So what's your thing?

"Come. We must go deeper, with no justice and no jokes."  Michael Ondaatje

Someone said this to me in a mail recently:"It's kinda strange when I think that I have only met you once - and yet I know you, in ways that matter, more than I know some of my closest friends.:) "

In the park the other day, in the lazy meandering funny-serious crazy-deep conversations that seem to happen only when lying down under trees, where the silences are punctuated by birdsong, someone said that he didn't like stories about unicorns, in the context of a Murakami novel. And I asked why and he said "Unicorns are not my thing."

And then we all laughed and did a round of "So what's your thing?". What are the things that most define you. What you most value. What you stand for. What has been a constant in your life. Single word answers. It made us think though it started out as as joke. It wasn't that easy. We don't usually stand apart from ourselves and think about this.

And then we wondered - do the people who are "close to us" know that these are our "things"? Would they get the answers right if someone asked them? Is that why some relationships disappoint us? And others feel like "home" though we know so little about what those people do for a living?

The standard "getting-to-know" questions give society a framework within which to place us, I guess.

Where do you work?
Where do you come from?
Are you married? Do you have children?
What does your spouse do?

After that the conversations tend to be about things you do, places you went to, the travails of city life, your opinions about everything under the sun etc etc. Rarely about who you are, and who you are evolving to be, and your struggles between them.The bigger the group, the more shallow the conversation. The one-to-ones, the small groups, sometimes go deep.

Some of the best conversations I have had have been where the questions above did not figure, or did not matter. Not having been led into that box, people felt free to talk about what they are beyond all this, the core of who they are, which is not defined by spouses, children, parents, jobs.

Does a general dissatisfaction with life have to do with an unfulfilled need to be understood? Do we feel more real, more at peace, when we are able to communicate who we are? Listen me into being.

Each individual, a deep well we rarely look into. So full of stories. All waiting to be told.

Who are you? What's your thing?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Extra Chair

My French hairdresser tells me that back in the olden days when he was growing up in Marseilles, they always placed an extra chair at the Christmas table for a stranger, or someone who had no one to celebrate Christmas with. And the chair was never empty.

One of my American Support colleagues once told me how at Christmas time Tech Support gets a lot of calls from lonely people who don't really have any technical issues, but just want to have someone to talk to. Because it's Christmas, everyone's spending time with their families, and they have nobody.

An extra chair at the table. What a difference that would make to the world now.


These streets remind me of quicksand
When you're on it you'll keep goin' down
And there's no one to hold on too
And there's no one to pull you out...

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Of late I have been fascinated by the rotting flowers and leaves in the park. The thick layer of various shades of brown and black, with fallen flowers on it, waiting to be transformed. The moisture from the rains heightens the sense of intense life among the stillness. A life whose movement is imperceptible to me.

Imagine what's happening in there, so quietly. The sheer magnitude of the constant transformation! The brightly coloured flowers and leaves losing their colours day by day, breaking down into thinner and thinner strands that merge with the soil, to go back to the earth which once fed their birth. And in the process forming a rich layer that will nourish all new life waiting to burst out from underneath. I am blown away by the sheer drama that is unfolding all around us, unnoticed.

All around us, death preparing carpets to nourish new life. So quietly, without fanfare - and without fail. The green blades of grass bursting out of what once used to be bright orange Rudrapalaash flowers. The sheer magic of this endless alchemy. 

"...Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years."

Wendell Berry

Each time I kneel down in the park to look closely at this layer under the plants, I am moved by the thought that someday I too will form part of this humus. That someday I will be of the earth on which trees will grow. I cannot imagine a better way to serve. The very thought fills me with joy.

And there will no longer be any duality. No me and the world. No me and others and the huge chasm between.

To merge with the earth must be the end of all separateness.

I cannot wait.