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Posts tagged ‘philosophy of happiness’

About Finding the “Ikagai”

Dalai Lama in one of his seminal speeches had said that “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions“. It’s not what you have or who you have but rather what you do, how you act and how you live, that many philosophers and thinkers say is the key to happiness.  The concept of “Ikagai” stems from these principles and in Japanese, means something akin to  “a reason for being” and translated in English it refers to the “reason you wake up in the  morning”.

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This idea of having a reason to wake up in the morning is beautifully explained and illustrated in a brilliant and precise work called Ikagai – Giving Everyday Meaning and Joy by Yukari Mitsuhashi . In this book, Ms. Mitsuhasi , takes the reader to the very root of the Ikagai word, explaining that the Japanese word of “Ikagai” consists of two Japanese characters, “iki” meaning life and “gai” meaning value or worth. The life that the “iki” refers to is not the big life and its meaning, but rather daily life – seikatsu; and about the joy a person finds living day to day , without which their life as a whole would not be a happy one. She further shares that while in West, the concept often leans towards finding happiness through work, in Japan, most people find their “ikagai” from their hobbies or their loved ones and not something they are necessarily paid to do. The concept of Ikagai per Ms. Mitsuhashi is so ingrained in the Japanese culture, that through their art and language, the Japanese people are constantly reminded of the joy that can be found in everyday life and will lead to a fulfilling life. Thus, Ikagai with its features of Everyday life, the act of giving, understanding and accepting emotions and active way of living leads to a stable state of mind, growth and progress and most importantly finding a purpose of life. She illustrates this concept by sharing stories of lives of people, both famous as well everyday man/woman, who have found their ikagai, through a variety of sources, including, hobbies, food, volunteering, or through their work, by getting better at their craft or seeing the impact that their work brings. Through several interviews, the author weaves stories of writers, business men and women and athletes, who have found their Ikagai through their work or by finding something worthwhile, post their retirement and how this finding of Ikgai has helped them succeed and find contentment. She brings the circle to its close, by showing how pursuit of Ikagai is the actions that lead to happiness.

This is a short, but a mighty book! It’s thought provoking and forces the reader to reflect on his or her life and  the directions it is heading towards. The author’s examples are well chosen, in the sense these are successful men and women, but they are like us and their life and pursuit of Ikagai, has helped them succeed, thus providing the reader with role models and inspirations. The author has written with simplicity, which works very well, as the ideas that the author puts through are contemplative and require thinking as the reader navigates through the book.  Furthermore, the concepts are clearly enunciated and the “plot” keeps moving forward. One of the most exemplary things about this work of non fiction, was that Ms. Mitsuhashi does not beat a concept to death, by constant repetition, but manages to find the fine balance of emphasizing on an idea and moving to the next concept.

To end, I would strongly recommend this book to everyone. It is good to sometimes sit and think about our lives and the good things in it and this book helps you value those good things and channelize them into your “Ikagai”

This book was part of my Non Fiction November Reads.

A Musical Lyrical 2015

Happy New Year Everyone!! Here’s wishing you all a wonderful, prosperous and peaceful 2015, surrounded by everything and everyone you love!! Ring in the new!!

Just so that we have some fun on this first day of the year, I break away from tradition and not post about books and poems and such like. Instead I share with you all 15 cheerful, happy and optimistic songs, with a prayer that your year is filled with all these good things!

So here goes – hope your dancing shoes are still on :

Cheers All!!

Random Notes on Illness, Books and Love…

I have been so ill…for the last two weeks I have been confined to my bed with multiple disorders including a low blood cell count that has led to such weakness that standing on one’s own two feet for more than a minute is risky (On account my loosing balance and falling) I have not been this ill, ever in my adult life – never been this sick to be unable to stand, write or even read. Anything remotely difficult or challenging makes my head ache and eyes water…I mean Shakespearean Sonnets are not even difficult but there, cannot read it!

It is times like this one really misses one’s true blessings – never a very active child (I mean physically! I hated sports, though I was always active enough to run around the house doing all I want!)I was never weak and this past two weeks I am all namby pamby . Make me lift the serving spoon and my arms ache. Make me walk from my bedroom to the drawing-room and my head spins! I hate not having control over my body which in turn impacts how much I have control over my mind and me losing control over my mind – a very very bad thing! But now as I write this post, I miss the strength and the stamina to go on and on. In a brief spell of time, I seem to have become this wishy-washy person who is no longer in charge of her life and this makes feel worse because I never really appreciate good health and stamina as something that makes life better! Now of course, I know better and once I get back to my old self I am going to make sure I never go back down this road again!

What have I been doing these last two weeks – no prizes for guessing: reading? I read Conn Igulden’s War of Roses, I read Arnold Bennett’s The Grand Babylon Hotel,  I read Claire Benson’s Murder at Sissingham Hall, I re-read all the Harry Potters (Trust me there is no better antidote to bad humor or ill health) as well as all the feel good classics – Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Jane Eyre and Little Women. I also started on New Grub Street by George Gissing and am loving it. Somebody should do a study in sick room and reading patters – me thinks it will show a lot about the psychology of the person and may even give correct prognosis about by when the sick person will be healed (I know the last part is a very 19th century, but one never knows! These days I am trying to live with a mind over matter principle, because I would otherwise be unable to get through simple tasks of the day like taking a bath!)

The only upside of this illness is again to make me aware how blessed I am. As you can figure out, I am pretty ill and incapable of simple acts like cooking cleaning etc. My parents are very old and 2500km away from where I stay so dragging them so far is out of question. My sister is in teacher’s conference and out of the country….so who is taking care of me at home (I refuse to be admitted at the hospital; I am sure I will become more sick!!!) My flatmate/my best friend/my mentor all rolled into one. Very rarely does one come across in life a friend who puts his or her life on hold for your sake – well I am truly blessed to have her. She has taken care of my meals, ensures I eat the right stuff at the right time, cooking, cleaning and managing my ill humors when they raise their head! She has been an angle though she hates the comparison and would rather be called a mysterious la elegante damsel. Well damsel or not she was my knight in shining armour and I am so blessed to have her in my life. The doctor said that my body was reacting to some unpleaseant shock which may have happened months ago but to which I did not react properly then and its coming out now. I can think of what happened and now that I think back, I did bounce on my feet very early, perhaps a bit too early! However if betrayal and dishonesty were the root of my illness, surely the love and care of my flatmate, my friends and all my well-wishers (and trust me I have many for I was besieged during this illness with cards, flowers, calls and a genuine wish on everybody’s part to actually help me!!) should serve as the protective shield against any such damage.  May be it’s my illness that’s making me maudlin or too much of Dumbldore’s advice (When you read 7 Harry Potters in two days, Dumbledore is as real as it gets! Besides wisdom is wherever you want to see it) but love does make a person a whole lot better!!!

P.S. I will for sure go back to review of all the books I have read from next week – big time catch up needs to be done!!

And Now For Some More Inspirations….

I have been planning to write this for a while, but there have been so many things to write about lately, this kind of got late, but I guess better late than never. This month’s The Classic Club Meme was provided by Ruth and is again one of those questions, that one has to write about those –

Which character from classic literature is most important or influential to you and why? Or which character do you most despise and why?

I could somehow never really despise a fictional character, maybe because I knew they were fictitious and my hope was and is that art here is stranger than reality and mankind is capable of far more goodness than despicable actions. Though to quote Jane Austen, “The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” But one cannot help but hope that good will triumph over evil and therefore I always remember characters who inspire me more than the ones I find despicable.

I know I have talked about this in the past and that too several times, but one cannot help but talk about this again and again, because the character is such. No character has had a more significant or profound impact on me than Atticus Finch. When Ms. Lee wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird”, she knew what she was writing about; for here was a character who was actually asked to stand up for the values that he professed – honor, integrity, truth, equality, and justice.  There are so many times when in our lives we stand at those crossroads, where there are really two paths – one that is simple and easier to take and the other which has more hardships that one can count, but it is also the path that defines who you are. Atticus Finch is a beacon of light and inspiration for all us who have or will be at such junctures; if you don’t speak up when you should and do not act to what you profess , well then you are not what you are who you think you are! And like I said before Mr. Finch taught at a very young age and Thank God, I learnt this lesson early, that unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!

But when you read so much, there are other characters who stand tall and inspire you and while I can write a whole 100 page of them, neither time nor cyber space memory will allow me such liberties, so U restrict myself to only three –

Mrs. March, Jo March and Beth March – Yes I know they are three characters and no they are not “the three” but I club them in one category because they are progeny of one book, the seminal bible of all independent young women Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”.  To begin with Mrs. March, who I think is often overlooked among the glamour or aura or squabbling of her four daughters.  We forget that here is a gentlewoman who is no longer in the comfortable circumstances she was originally born or married to, yet she tries her best to single handedly bring up four,  albeit difficult daughters, manage a household with diminishing funds, and yet instil joy and faith among all. It requires a lot of courage, what I call quiet courage to face the world everyday alone bravely. She is first single mother of modern literature and by far the most intelligent, kind and strongest of them all. Jo March I think almost all of us relate to while growing up, fierce in temper, independent of thought, extremely intelligent and emotional to the T….she is as human as one can get. Most importantly, in the lines of Jane Austin’s Elizabeth Bennett, she refuses to marry for the sake of convenience and though Laurie is much better candidate than Mr. Collins, the logic is the same – marriage for equality and companionship and most importantly love and not for material or other escapist gains. Call me idealistic, call me foolish (in the light of recent events, trust me foolishness is a strong emotion I feel these days!) however marriage should be because of love and for no other reason. Jo March, in the lines of Elizabeth Bennett and Emma Woodhouse, stands as one of the first feminist of modern literature. Beth March I realize I bore much more affinity to as I grew older and re-read “Little Women” and though I cannot profess to 1/10th of her goodness, nor do I have her gentleness, shyness or lack of character flaws, I do find a lot of joy in the simple domesticity of lives, where there is such joy in doing things for others that your own self does not matter.

Larry from The Razor’s Edge is yet another character who inspires me; he convinces me that there is more to life than acquiring a house, a car and a million dollars. While money is important and necessary in today’s life, one cannot be a slave to it and one has to find one’s identity and belief to really enjoy  and find meaning in life and that no money, no wealth can provide as was evident with Isabel’s meaningless wealth and her uncle’s lonely death.

The one final character who inspires precisely because, like all human beings I struggle to achieve and become a better individual and at times even succumb to the softer options is Andrew Manson from The Citadel by A.J. Cronin .  The book starts off with an idealistic Dr. Andrew Manson who is eager to help the people of small Scottish mining town and is sensitive enough to understand their wretched conditions and wants to elevate them. His research and subsequent success takes him away from his original plans of helping the less fortunate and follow a life of luxury and only a tragedy makes him realize what is truly more important. He returns to his plans of helping others and overlook the immediate selfish gains. This struggle to leave behind softer options for a greater good and its ultimate triumph is something that makes me go on day after day when all things that are more lucrative in short terms is also mundane and mind numbing and temporary and drives focus on what is truly important.

 

The End….

I know I was away yet again and I did contemplate a lot before writing this post – but since I have shared all almost all the highs and lows of my life – this one seems proper, though as God be my witness, the idea is not to wash dirty laundry in public or seek sympathy, but to explain that while I will try to be my bouncy, bright, chirpy self – but there might be some days when I falter and I ask you all to bear with me!
I have so often read about such things, heard it happen to other and knew that stuff like this was part of life, but the reality and the fact that it has happened to you or can happen to you, does not really occur until it actually does happen! Then you go from disbelief, to rage to complete numbness! (And yes! Insomnia and writing random blogs in the middle of the night!)
So what has happened, so cataclysmic in nature to make me spew all this bizarre thoughts – oh! the oft repeated, tried and tested sordid ending of a relationship – I have been left at the altar, not practically but metaphorically for another woman. Mr Soulmate has decided that he found another soul better suited to him and was apparently with her for the last couple of months. He told me last week Monday, at work – calling me and saying lets meet for coffee and then “Well I want you to know – yada yada yada!”
I think I spent the next 48 hrs thinking it’s a bad joke that he will come and laugh it off or a bad dream that my flatmate will wake me up from. Apparently it’s not – it’s a reality and he is marrying her in December!
We worked together and that’s how the whole thing started – but I cannot seem to understand the hows/whats/when! He was promoted about 10 days ago and within 3 days after that, it was goodbye to me and hello to someone else! I am still grappling with what hit me/us?
I can’t seem to rant or rage and I do not wish for any scenes or any drama – I just feel very tired and numb and the only thing that keeps playing on my mind is –

How do I live without you
I want to know
How do I breathe without you
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive
How do I, how do I, Oh how do I live

If you ever leave
Baby you would take away everything
Need you with me
Baby ’cause you know
That you’re everything good in my life
And tell me now
Ms.Twain really hit the nail there! But I will be back, sooner than you think, but bear with me until then!

Let us read, let us dance…..

I want to ask to that part of the population that is passionate about books and reading and that too in an obsessive compulsive manner like me, who needs to read at least 3 books a week if not more, have you been asked this question – How can you read the same book twice? or “How can you waste your time reading the same book again? And the best question of them all “Do you not get bored reading the same thing again? Don’t you want to do something better in life?”

I need to find out if it is just me who is always snowed with such questions, or others have been in my shoes and felt similarly flummoxed. I usually get this question from mostly from those who not read, but what really really confuses me is when people who claim to be a readers ask me this! I need to understand this phenomenon.

A lover of books will always go back to certain writings again and again. For instance, when I have a bad day at work or have an argument or something nasty happens in way of things, I resort to what I call my “comfort” books – Jane Austin and Terry Pratchett. On the other hand, if I am in a leisurely mood, eating something delicious (yes! I read when I eat! Yes I am aware it’s a bad habit and my mother has yelled her lungs off about it…but I enjoy it so I am sticking to it!) or generally contented with life, then its Saki, Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis, Arthur Conan Doyle, J K Rowling , Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, A S Byatt and Gorge Orwell. On a long vacation, I tackle, Leo Tolstoy, John Galsworthy, John Steinbeck, Somerset Maugham, Henry James, Joesph Conrad, Thorton Wilder etc etc. The list is endless but this is not about the list. It’s about the fact that there are books we all (I am referring to the reading population) go back to time after time, because we have developed a special bond with them. The characters of these books are our friends, confidants and comrades who sooth us and entertain us. The locales give us a get away from all that is mundane and trite and allow us a break from our humdrum existence, revitalizing us for our foray back to the real world. These books are our partners in our life journey……that’s why they are classics. They are timeless; we can go back to them whenever we feel like. I do not know how many of you feel a sheer, reasonless joy when you pick up one of your favourite comfort books from the your shelves and run your hands over its much thumbed pages…I love this feeling, especially, when I have not read the book for a while. I love the anticipation of trying to reach a particular chapter that I especially enjoy, from a novel I have read so many times. Like when I re-read Pride and Prejudice, I actually wait to reach the part where Elizabeth Bennett along with Mr and Mrs Gardiner set off on a tour of Derbyshire. Or even the part when Wickham and Lydia return to the Bennett household after their elopement. I read through the entire book, just in anticipation that I am still to read my favourite parts!

There are books which I will never ever get back too. I am not going to name them, but there many so-not-worth it books out there in the market today; many of them make me feel at the end….er…why did I read this again? But that does not take away the fact that these cases are far and few in comparison with all the brilliant writing out there which can be read again and again! In the words of Oscar Wilde If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

I am convinced that those people who ask me this question, and trust me I have been asked this question many times, see reading as a task. Naturally a task that needs to be completed cannot be a joy (in most cases) and more importantly, cannot be repeated. I am completely tolerant if you are not a reader…lot of people are not; many people do not and I am sure they have many other ways keeping themselves amused! But I do draw a line if you ask inane questions about it. I mean do I ever ask you “Hey Dude! You are Go carting/adventure sporting/head banging again?”  So please, you stay at your side of turf and let me stay on mine and we will have world peace!

All ado about pathos and tragedy

Books

Books (Photo credit: vasta)

I am fundamentally a very happy person. I was not always a happy person, but a wise man once advised me that to get ahead in life especially when things are down and out, one must consciously make an attempt to be happy. This might include wearing an outfit that you never wear but you know makes you look awesome; it might be watching movies that are absolutely inane but make you laugh; in my case it was reading books which bring joy! I have tried this recipe of reading joyful books or at least books with a happy ending for a number of years now and it has become a part of my DNA. Today I can be happy almost in all circumstances – keyword almost!

This post however is not about my philosophy of happiness but my ever-increasing marvel at the sheer number of highly intelligent and intellectual people who seem to prefer everything in the way of reading that has some tragedy, heartbreak and calamity as its theme and would end in ensuring the reader’s mind is absolutely beset with the misfortunes of life. A case to the point is my best friend and flatmate rolled into one. She is an extremely intelligent woman, who has a degree in English and Mass Communication, besides picking up a Ph.d along the way. She is extremely sensitive, intuitive and can be a lot of fun! However her idea of a darn good read is Brother Karamazov and In the First Circle. I mean Gulag, murder and Siberia are some of staring features of the book. Then there is my sister – another one of such ‘weirdo” species. She has a double master and is one of the most erudite individuals whom I have the good fortune to know with a quirky sense of humour that makes you laugh out loud. What is her favourite read? Madame Bovary! I mean you know by the second chapter of the book that this book will end in a tragedy and Madame Bovary is destined for death, but that does not prevent my sister from proclaiming this is one the best books ever.

Of course I do not mean to deride the extreme versatility of these great authors or the understanding or the philosophy that they tried to convey. These books are a must read for any enthusiast of literature and can truly be considered classics. Having said that these are not and I repeat not comfort books and I would not turn to them for relief when I am disturbed. They are not the pick me up kind of reads and they do not give you a warm fuzzy feeling of being at peace with the world and they definitely do not make you smile.

I understand that life is not all fun and games and we have serious issues to address. My contention is that when I am down and out, serious issues do not help, unless you do a take-off in the lines of Evelyn Waugh. Anybody who has read “Scoop” will agree with me that it is as sarcastic a portrayal of commercial journalism as there can be. However it is written in the most light-hearted manner that not only drives home a point but also makes you laugh along the way. Tried reading “The Case of Exploding Mangoes” by Mohammed Hanif? The book covers one of the darkest periods of Pakistani historyGeneral Zia‘s dictatorship and his assassination. But it has been written in subtle black humour while being completely honest to the horrors of an undemocratic tyrannical government. The book tackles serious issues, but it does not make me feel like Atlas; It does however make me aware and appreciate democracy. So while entertaining me, the book has given me substantial food for thought without making me weep buckets!!

There will be tales where some amount of tragedy cannot be avoided. Try “The Great Mysterious” – I am told it’s not Lorna Landvik’s best book, but I love it! I know I cried buckets when Jordan dies some 10 pages before then end, but the book still ended in hope with the protagonist bonding with her nephew and finding a new worth to her life! See what I mean ….

In the end, all I can say is I will root for Oscar Wildes and Sakis and Mohammad Hanifs of the world till kingdom comes. I do not understand the whole “beauty of pathos” thing. They do not make me sigh and teary eyes at all the unhappiness of the world…they make me never want to read them a second time! Wit on the other hand is truly the highest form of intelligence.

 

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