Sometimes in life, you see a scene that requires no explanation. The picture probably existed for thousands of centuries, but if you were not privy to that vista, you probably would never have seen it. I have flown all through my life, but for some reason never looked out of the window to watch the setting sun. I don’t quite know why. I have been up in the air at the time, but have either been preoccupied with some book or catching up on sleep, reflecting on the events of the day. But, last week I did look out. And the sight was surreal. It made me think of the experiences in life that we pass up. It also made me think about not judging people without knowing all the facts. But mostly it made me think about the calmness of the heavens and the how when the manic craziness of life was drowned out, the world does seem like a beautiful place.
There is nothing more enjoyable than an early (relatively speaking) morning drive on the weekend. The sun barely rising and shining its lukewarm resonance at me while I drive still drowned in last night’s sleep. The streets are empty and I barely see a soul or two, fellow early birds stumbling towards their haunts for breakfast, which in my case consists of a warm cup of mocha and maybe a bagel. People like to vacillate between iced coffee and warm coffee based on the iterations of the weather. Not me. For me, the sensation of sipping on warm coffee is one of the purest joys in life, one that does not depend on the weather but only depends on me and my motivation to go out there and seek it.
It is a brutal world that we live in. Everything points towards the inherent cruelty of life. Even the sweltering heat of the summer seems to be a metaphor for that feeling. Life has become a race, a race where the finish line does not exist. We chase invisible dreams and are forever left with a feeling of longing. We are left unfulfilled. We travel the world, we work tirelessly, and we swim in the sea of life and fly into the expanse of the universe in our inexhaustible quest to become a fictitious version of ourselves. We are travelers.
As I stopped momentarily at a traffic light, my jaded mind wandered aimlessly and I looked around. This is the same light that I have stopped pretty much every single day for the past three years but for some reason, never saw what I did today. It was a reflective sight, in the sense that the image reflected the thoughts in my head. I wondered whether the birds were a manifestation of our place in this world. Whether they were a surreptitious message asking me to pause of take a deep breath. The birds seem to be doing just that. The birds tell me that sometimes, all that a tired traveler needs is a little break in your journey.
A few weeks ago in celebration of the warmer weather and the festival of spring, me and some family went up to a lake in Wisconsin. This is a fairly popular lake and one that is frequented by thousands on a weekly basis. There are many businesses strewn along the harbor, Hotels for tourists to stay at, restaurants for the hungry and there is even a beach, that too with real sand! Like all travellers who visit lakes in summer, we too decided to shell out some money and ride a boat. It was a clear sky and the blazing sunlight bounced brilliantly off the waves and made it seem like we were sailing over an ocean of diamonds. The shores of this lake were populated with homes of the wealthy and the weary. Those who could afford the luxury of living comfortably and found relaxation in the sounds of the waves splashing against their backyard and those that were tired of the chaos of the developed land and wanted peace and serenity.
On the boat with me were a few of my relatives. One particular member had a bad case of the “nerves”. Every time a minor wave would even rock the boat slightly, this relative would burst out in tears and start panicking. To the others in the boat, this was quite an amusing sight. We were all having fun, so why would someone else be so upset. This got me thinking. Why was this person crying anyway? Were they afraid that they were going to drown? Or was it just the sensation of rocking over a not too deep body of water? Or was it just because they were experiencing a feeling that was a departure from the “norm”? I think it was the latter.
Like the countless drones around, we settle into a comfortable routine. We find solace in waking up in the same bed as every day, putting our feet on the same spot everyday, driving to work on the same path that we do all the time, ordering food that we have tried (and liked) before and generally speaking do things that contain “no surprises”. But what does that accomplish? When we look back at a lifetime lived in such a way, we would probably not find any moment worth remembering. Surprises are not always fun. Some are rude and unwelcome and for a lot of people, their arrival is fiercely lamented. I hear that everyday…at work, outside of work, at home…everywhere. But there is something that cannot be denied. The moments that surprise us are the moments that we end up remembering the most.
The few moments between our life and our death contain many such memories. I want to seek them out. Travel to a land never visited before. Talk to a stranger. Do something outside of my element, you know…live a little. That would be a lifetime worth remembering. Nestled somewhere in between the noise of the everyday, it would be the few surprises that I call my second life, The life hidden between everyday moments. These are moments which are lost unless we search them out. Moments that would never exist unless we make a consious effort to live them. Moments that become worth remembering due to the fact that they are unique and not commonplace. And yes, we returned from the sail safely that day with a new memory locked safely into the annals of our minds.
There are days and then there are days. The former consists of endless worry, stress that has no end and no finite beginning, days that seem to stretch from the ascent of time and seem like will continue until judgement day, and then you have the later. Days that are relaxed. Days when all you have to worry about is the fact that you have nothing to worry about. Where you can have a lazy stroll through the wilderness staring at the trees or the nape of the horse, or walk down a quaint neighbourhood eating homemade chocolate covered pecans. A day that you spend sipping coffee out of a chipped mug and just talk with a friend about nothing in particular. Its those days, that make the experience of living seem real and the Joy of nothingness is felt and reveled in all its glory.
Days come and days go. Hours elapse but nothing is gained. The din of life drowns out the precious moments of existence and all that is left is a vague memory of the past.We are immersed in the daily rigors of our lives and become so preoccupied that we often forget the purpose of our existence. What is the meaning of life. I like to believe that it is some kind of a journey. A journey that each individual makes for himself (or herself). A journey that leads us to a path that carves out our destiny. A journey where we hopefully end up more mature and learn from the lessons strewn along the path.
My travels for work and pleasure brought me many such paths. These are some of the pictures that I was lucky enough to have witnessed. Sights that we take for granted but when reflected upon have the power to provide comfort and can be source for reflection. The sun shimmering through the sieve of the spring trees, the dusking warmth of the sun blinding all who dare gaze at it, the patina of old bricks seen through the windows of a commuter train, An unknown diner housed in a crumbling theatre showing movies to an invisible crowd, a narrow alleyway in an unknown city, the brief second where the spurt of the waterfall seems to freeze…
These are memories from the paths of life. These paths often intertwine, some lead to a closed wall, and some lead the traveller astray, but I like to believe that every path holds a story. They say that the road less travelled often makes the difference, but it is the road often travelled that defines who we are.