Don’t Read This If You Don’t Need To

Attention is everything. To be attentive is to be. However, in a world that has put time on steroids, our capacity for attentiveness is diminished. Ironically, it’s our attention that such a hyperventilating world wants. People no longer face a paucity of things, opportunities or ideas, what they are feeling a lack of supply in, is attentiveness- from others and in themselves. Attention is fast replacing money as the new valuable currency. Everybody seems to want your attention. And attention, which is our most precious intellectual resource- a resource that enables us to perceive, think, act and feel, is running wasted in the gutters of the world that is flooding us with content.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is real and is not restricted to a small percentage of fidgety children, it seems to be afflicting a whole lot of us across various age groups. The harmful effects of unrestrained human activity are not just manifesting in environments external to us, but also in our internal environments. Today, it seems clear that all the things we took for granted- most fundamentally, our capacity to be- we stand on the verge of losing. Our capacity to be attentive yields us our most precious gifts- the gift of love, the gift of perception, the gift of beauty, the gift of experience, the gift of knowledge, the gift of endurance and the gift of wisdom.

Time and the space to be, are most essential to us, and no one should have the right to steal them from us. We must decide who or what we give our time and space to, on whom we bestow our attention. Save your internal environment from this constant pilferage. Reclaim your power of attention. Don’t talk, don’t see, don’t buy, don’t donate, don’t reply if you don’t need to; certainly not at the cost of depleting your resource of attentiveness. It must be reserved for things that really matter.

Freedom & Responsibility

As individuals, we feel confined within our circumstances and bound to our attachments (whatever those attachments may be: to people, ideas, occupations, fears, desires, our pasts…). These in turn, make constant demands on our time and attention. They compulsorily ask of our responsibility. And these responsibilities –we feel-come in the way of a truly free life.

We theoretically understand that we, as human beings are bestowed with free will and the power of choice i.e. the ability to choose our course of action, but we often wish we were free from the burden of making a choice itself. The responsibility that making a choice entails- is a heavy load to carry. As a result, in spite of being empowered with the ability to choose our circumstances or our responsibilities, we find ourselves perpetually craving for freedom. For if choices truly did exist, then a difference- between a superior choice and an inferior one- would immediately be evident. In other words, one of the two choices would clearly lead us from entrapment to freedom. This however, is rarely the case. There seems to be no vertical ascension on having made a choice; no release. Choosing is more like a horizontal meandering- damned if I do, damned if I don’t! What initially feels like an escape from burdensome responsibility- within no time- finds us entrapped within a new set of circumstances. In a bid to replace our old circumstances we get attached to, and responsible for the new one.

So what does that mean? Are we all doomed to a life of enslavement- forever trapped in our circumstances? Or is there a freedom that awaits us?
In society, we exist within a matrix of relationships. As an individual, my sense of responsibility keeps me bound to these relationships. I find myself moving and operating within only a specific trajectory within this matrix. And even as a sense of duty keeps me tied to my family, my environment, my profession, my country; a constant call towards a greater freedom beckons.
What does it mean to be responsible? What does it mean to be free, to be liberated? Are freedom and responsibility two separate choices, two separate paths? Must one be forsaken for the other? Or is there- like everything else within this matrix- a relationship between them?

Freedom and responsibility are internal states, not external ones. The call for responsibility is a call of the conscience and must not be confused for an external demand to meet others’ expectations. Shouldering responsibility means acting authoritatively… and here is where the problem begins… here’s where we begin to feel bound, trapped and enmeshed. We’ve never questioned the true extent of our authority, of our capacity and duty ‘to do’. In general, we have an exaggerated notion of our doer status.

The times we live in, lay a great emphasis on individuality, ownership, authority, and success and accomplishment. These are the values of our times. The ideas of today are rooted in the idea of individual doership and by extension-in individual responsibility. We’re supposedly responsible for our successes or our failures, the happiness, health and safety of our families, or the profits and losses of the organizations we work for… Phew! What a tremendously heavy load to carry!
Being responsible today also implies being willing to be held accountable; to be willing to be the scapegoat on whom the hurt and the affected can anoint blame. After all, if we’re all doers and would like the credit for all the things we have done right; we must also be willing to take the blame when things go wrong because of our doing. But let’s pause a moment… let’s examine: do we really ‘do’ everything we claim to do?

For example, if I drive my car from point A to point B and I reach point B safely; many factors are ‘responsible’ for me having reached there unhindered and unharmed. The fact that the fuel in the car did its job; or the fact that everybody driving on the road with me did their bit and followed traffic rules; or the fact that the traffic lights were working- the list is numerous! And yet, oblivious to all this, I credit myself for being a ‘smart’ driver! Now, contrast this with a scenario where there is an accident. The two parties blame each other, or the poor quality of the roads, or to failed brakes; or to a dysfunctional traffic light… the list is indeed numerous!

The fact remains that everything I think I do, I do because I am silently enabled by other responsible factors that demand neither compensation nor recognition for having done their bit. Our capacity to do is often over-estimated and is in fact, nothing more than our ability to feel and respond. To respond to situations and circumstances is really all that we’re called to do. As deep is my ability to feel, that much full and wholesome is my ability to respond. In other words, the greater the space and freedom within me, the fewer the desires and fears that occupy my mind and heart; the greater is my capacity to feel and respond. If some amongst us possess greater authority than others it is because they are internally free from the unnecessary preoccupations and fears that bog most of us down. The only thing that we’re truly capable of doing is responding sensitively to circumstances and not ensuring or guaranteeing desirable outcomes. As individuals, we can only claim ownership of our responses, not of our circumstances. And the reason by which and for which responsibility is called upon is freedom.

Bound as we are within a matrix of relationships, we often find ourselves shouldering the responsibility for the irresponsible, the reckless and the immature. So, what must we do? What is my responsibility towards another who realizes neither his folly nor the true implication of his authority?

Just as there exist numerous responsible factors that enable and facilitate my free movement through life, I too, must- most urgently and in that very spirit- free another from disadvantage, ignorance, inability, fear, falsity and doubt.
True responsible action happens only when we’re free to act in our truest essence. And true freedom exists in the realization that we’re only essentially responsible. Freedom and responsibility are therefore intricately connected: you can’t live through one without being enabled by the other!

A Stubborn Suffering

We know that we are in the midst of life
But we’re unable to apprehend its constant flux
Our minds are older than our bodies
And even though our bodies undergo continuous change
Our minds can be frustratingly refractory
Stuck in a time warp
Dulled by habit
And clouded by ignorance and delusion
The mind can be obstinately resistant to the flow of time
Fixated either in the past or future
It remains incapable of living in the present

Remaining absent to the present moment
Is the seed of all sin.

So before you condemn a man for indiscretion
Ask yourself if you speak
From yesterday’s ideas or from tomorrow’s fears
Or if this very moment
Uncontaminated by memory and mistrust
Speaks for itself

And if it doesn’t
Restore your kinship with him
Seeing in him
Christ reborn and re-crucified
Suffering once again for your sins.

In Essence

May I continue to feel pain
May I only resolve to meet life unresolved
May I allow life to learn through me
And never try to become learned through life
May I never create within me any resistances
May I continue to make mistakes
May I persist in being
May I never seek to become
May I surrender to life and let it own me
And never aspire to make a life of my own.
May my weaknesses be the source of my strength
But never the source of my fear
May I continue to have hope
And may I continue to have my hopes crushed
May I continue to dream
And may I continue to have my dreams broken
May I be granted all of these things
And may I have them all taken away.

A Tree Named Desire

Desire is the name of a tree
With its roots within me
And growing outward
Into the world
Its branches of thoughts and feelings
Entangling me in a mesh of relationships.

Silent is my demeanor
But my heart is a perpetual stirring
Dancing on the waves
Of my restless mind
Which I’ve come to see
Is not made for settling down.

Yet good sense tells me
The sounds of the mind
Are a cacophony
Lacking metre and melody
And which must be arranged
By truer feeling, by measure, by design.

And so, it must be understood
That to deny the mind
Is to nod to character
And it is character
Which will prove to be
A higher genius and a truer friend

But the mind is an enticer
That puts to test all restraint
And so now I ask it
What it wants
And why it does
What it does

In response, these lines
Flow out of my pen
And true to the mind
They are fluid, effortless
But drawing now
From a deeper, richer soil

“Indeed, I know just desire
That is why I exist
…To allow for fruition
But it’s only under the steady glare of character
That your desires ripen
And by law fall to the earth
As the sweet fruits of your patience.”