Daily Prompt: Popular 


I think most of us, in our childhood, have dreamed of becoming popular. We wanted to be liked, to have the most number of friends, but as we grow older, most of us realize, we do not need that many people in our lives. We just need our real friends, and they are usually fewer than what we originally thought.

These days people, young and old alike, gauge their popularity by the number of “likes,” “comments,” or “shares” they get for their post in whatever social media platform they are using. I was genuinely perplexed one time when a student asked another student in my class, “How would you feel if you find out your best friend ‘liked’ the post of one of your friends, but didn’t ‘like’ yours?” I really didn’t think it should matter. But then again I’m “old.”

If you’re popular, you will never have peace. People will always want to get your attention or get something from you. (I heard about Ed Sheeran refusing to use a celllphone, so he can get away from people who are always asking something from him.)

If you’re popular, you’re an easy target for criticism from people who do not like your popularity. And there are always that kind of people. And if you’re the type who value popularity, most likely you wouldn’t like criticism.

The desire for popularity, like any other form of desire, causes suffering. If you want to be popular, better be ready to suffer.
Daily Prompt: Popular

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A time to weep and a time to laugh

  

   

I read something this morning as I was sitting on a bench facing the lake on campus. It said, “Being grateful protects you from negative thinking.” I read those words after shedding tears. Over life. 

I was, and still am, grateful for the time and place for quiet that I  had this morning. For two months I had neither, and I felt like I was drowning. 

Some people like to be around a lot of other people when they are going through a difficult time. I just need peace and quiet. And I finally had both this morning. 

I know that there is a time for everything. That the weeping will pass too. And that I will laugh again. I’m already grateful for that time. 

I can’t wait. 

On Living to be 100

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A few weeks ago, a friend and I exchanged thoughts about living to be 100, and this was my reply: “Nah. I really don’t want to live that long. Not even if I’m healthy. I’m curious about what’s on the other side. If there’s nothing, then at least I won’t be disappointed. ” 

And my friend replied: “Consciousness is probably overrated. “

For Christians and other believers of an afterlife, death is not scary as it means reunion with the Creator. It means eternal life of happiness. (I came across this post about death a few weeks ago, and the writer beautifully expresses, not exactly the same but similar, thoughts that I have about life and death.)

I have no idea how many there are like me , but I am one of those who are more curious about what’s on the other side, rather than prolonging our earthly life. I am not saying though that I would willingly abandon my responsibilities as a mother, daughter, wife, sister, aunt. My point is, I simply prefer not to live too long.

However, I have thought about the possibility of living a longer life. I once met an 86-year old medical doctor, who was quite spry — travellling back and forth from the US to Asia, attending medical conferences, seeing patients, doing Zumba. She’s enjoying her life at 86. Would I want to be able to do that at 86?

With discoveries and inventions in the fields of science and technology, people are living longer and healthier lives.  Not only that, it probably won’t be long before immortality ceases to be mere imagination and becomes reality with the ability of human beings to create cyborgs.

If I could stay fit till I’m 100, perhaps I would be able to do all the things I would like to do but in which at the moment I am unable to indulge. I have talked about this with a friend. We both could not understand how people could be at a loss as to what to do when there’s so many interesting things to do when you have the time and health to do them

I’m not sporty nor sociable, so I do not need to be with so many people all the time. If I could live to be 100, I would spend my time reading all the books I’ve been meaning to read. I would take photographs of beautiful flowers and landscapes, learn more about the human brain, study astronomy, volunteer to help children with special needs and starving children, go.out for morning walks, watch the sunset, and write down my thoughts about all these things.

So does this mean I want to live to be 100?

No. Not at this time when humanity’s mortality is still very real, when one can still witness the human body aging, when you can still hear people groaning in pain and watch them suffer emotionally , as they struggle to remember dates and names of people they used to love so passionately,  and suffer physically as they can no longer move what used to be nimble limbs that made them jump, run, throw or catch or hit a ball.

Having a body that slowly stops functioning one part at a time is torture. Seeing it happen to others is a scary enough reminder that it can happen to you too.

So, no. I do not want to live to be 100. “Consciousness is overrated.”

How about you?

Cure for Self-Absorption

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So why a picture of the sea? When I stand on the shore and look at the vastness of the sea and the horizon, I become very conscious of how tiny I am in this universe. And I am filled with emotions that I can’t really describe. Is that what happens when the soul is praying?

A sudden downpour, and for reasons I don’t really know, I remember days I spent at the convent (when I tried to become a nun.)

One of the things I liked about being there was doing the evening prayers with the Sisters. We read from the Breviary and then there was a part for personal intentions, where the Sisters (and later I, myself, having learned from them) prayed for other people we did not really know – the ones in hospitals, those who were traveling, the lonely, etc.

Looking back, I find when we think of those who are suffering and try to feel what they are going through, then we not only realize that other people are suffering so much more than we are, but also we become less self-absorbed and consequently avoid magnifying our troubles.

Right now I’m hearing someone complain about his job, and I think of those who are desperate for a job.

I pray (to God if there is one) for the people of India suffering from the heat wave, that their suffering will come to an end.

(Now I know the reason for remembering: a friend texted me about cloudburst, to which I replied “better than heat wave in India”, then I remembered days I spent in the convent.)

Serenity in Solitude

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The other day I read about a father who sang a song and played the guitar for his dying baby.

I couldn’t stop crying, and just wanted to hold my sleeping Eli as tightly as I could.

There is so much pain and suffering in this world, but since I was 19, I have always believed and seen pain and suffering coming to an end, joy taking their place, and making people stronger, until the next round of pain and suffering comes.

A friend once called me masochistic because I said I liked feeling sad and experiencing pain because the experience made me think and introspect, thereby making me know myself better. And thinking and introspecting always give me peace and the energy to go on living in such an absurd world.

When I am down or just want to vanish from this world, I am blessed enough to remember the only time I had a one-week retreat in a Carmelite Monastery by the sea. It was so long ago, almost twenty years ago when I was at the height of searching for answers to questions that my mother worried were driving me crazy. (She always complained that it took me forever to finish doing the dishes because I was always lost in thought!)

For one week I was mostly alone in a 4-story building that was the retreat house. My retreat guide came to visit me twice and did not stay longer than two hours each time. I had a room on the top floor which was close to the big balcony that faced the sea, where every half an hour, a ferry from the west port would cross to the south port. I stayed out in the balcony in late afternoons and waited for the sky to turn from orange to gray and then black; and then the lights from the ports came on, and I could see the lights from the ferry moving in the darkness. In the morning I went to a wooden gazebo on stilts right in the water connected to the retreat house by footbridge made of bamboo. I would listen to the sound of the small waves as they hit the bamboo stilts underneath, smell the briny scent of seawater, and hear the occasional squawk of a bird overhead. These images, sensations come back to me as clearly as the time I was there.

My theosophist friend with whom I used to spend a lot of time talking TO (she just listened most of the time, bless her) once told me that one reason we miss somebody or something too much when they/its gone, is that when they were there, we did not give our whole self to them. Our mind perhaps wandered to somewhere else, and so our experience of them was incomplete. So that time when I was on a retreat, I made sure I was completely there. I watched,listened and felt my surroundings. I will say I miss being there, but I can also “go back” to that place whenever I need to. I can have a few minutes of peace and serenity just by remembering my time in that retreat house.

I do not mean to offend people who suffer because I, too, have suffered, but I find beauty in suffering and pain. I get energy from knowing that this suffering would come to an end, and when it does, I will experience joy, and it will be very sweet just as sweet food tastes even sweeter after eating bitter food.

But to find beauty in suffering, one needs to get away from everything. One needs to be quiet and look within to be able see better what is outside. This is nothing new, and I’m not trying to sound like an expert on this subject, but I speak (write) from experience.

These days it is extremely difficult to have some real quiet. People cannot get away from their cellphones. For everything that happens in their life, no matter how trivial, they feel somebody else has to know. Or they feel they have to know what other people are up to. People are so concerned with what they look like on the outside that they have forgotten to look within and know themselves, who they really are and of what they are capable. There is more self-absorption than self-awareness    , and it does not help anyone.

I hope we can all find time, especially when we are down, to get away from it all and go to a place –physical and/or spiritual — where we can recharge and be better equipped to face life’s absurdities.

Have a pleasant week!