This is a remnant post from our destination-less journey that Sharmila and I undertook last month. My school friend Partho, his wife Jaya and his daughter Rohini and the two of us had just spent a beautiful evening on the Jersey shores – entirely unscripted. Finding a place to have dinner was a little chore but we did find one and settled down there.
Not sure how the discussion progressed but I soon found myself in a familiar zone. I was the only one fighting for one side of a debate – pitted against three others in this case. Rohini kept a diplomatic silence thru the debate. I can argue for a case with so much passion that I can come across almost self righteous – triggering many an opposing view from others as an instinctive reaction. This case was probably more than that.
Again, I am not terribly sure how I landed up there but I know I was explaining the concept of “Memento Mori” (remember, you will die) and how that drives what I do. In essence, I wake up every morning and remind myself that I am going to die. I have one less day left. And that helps me set priorities on what is truly important for me that day and over the longer horizon. Many of the things I have done in life will be considered counter-intuitive. Some may even call them stupid. But as I explained that evening, it all starts with the end. In fact, I think I talked about the book “The Top Five Regrets of a Dying Man”.
There was spirited – and I am not merely pointing to the spirits in the glasses – pushback from the other three. A big catalysis was that discussions around death and regrets cast a negative cloud on the the whole perspective. Such a gloominess should not be the framework of how we live.
In fact, after about twenty minutes of back and forth, Partha succinctly put it – “Do you wake up in the morning happy? If you do, that is all”.
I resisted all the knee jerk reaction to give an answer. He repeated the question. I let him know that I understood his question. And strangely, I found myself very conflicted to answer that question. I let him know that I will think about it and see what I come up with.
Frankly, nary a day passes without me thinking about that conflict for some time. And I am still not sure where I am on it. Thought it best to pose in front of you.
At the root of it, the conflict is the following: Does contentment work against improvement?
If I wake up very content and happy everyday, would that imply that I will never seek how to better myself and achieve them? On the other hand, if I am constantly thinking of proper priorities because of an impending end, will I be incapable of fundamental happiness?
This question can be extended from the individual to the larger human kind… If everybody imbibed into the “Pura Vida” spirit of Costa Rica, would we make great strides in our lives? Doesn’t fundamental change for the better come a lot from being unhappy with the current state of affairs – that triggers the desire to change the world?
Wake up every morning with a sense of happiness and contentment – for we do have a lot to be happy and content about?
Recognize that the number of mornings left is down by one and refocus your life to make it more fulfilled at the end of it?
Is there a way to think of this where they are perfectly compatible with each other?
What do you think?
P.S. Sharmila, Jaya and Partha, I hope I have represented your side of the argument well here. I know I have my own biases and that can come in the way of articulating the opposing view.