01 Aug We are living in strange times.
Educators and enablers are busy selling knowledge, the kings are trading with people’s life, pundits are fighting for supremacy and service providers have become preachers on their own rights.
Bramhacharya is cut short and Grihasta preponed as school-leaving kids scurry to call centers. Vanaprastha is getting imposed as baby boomers are made to feel irrelevant and induced to take voluntary retirement. And, with life half lived and insatiation running like a subterranean stream Sannyas is better avoided.
The 5000 year old system of Varnashram which has also been recommended in Bhagwat Geeta as code of conduct for leading a ‘dharmic’ life seems to have been tossed out of our heritage to make room for quick-fix spirituality, peddled by charlatans, coming pre-dominantly from the West.
Workplace has also become quite funny. While the stake-holders play (seriously) Monopoly, workers who have embraced glorified captivity of some XPO, are twittering away the time left after having done CYA. There are talks of work-file balance in a world where no body works and nobody lives.
In this strange time, let’s zoom in to focus on what’s happening to those who are in their early fifties. Having been there done that, they are suddenly facing a relevance issue. At work as well as at home. All the qualities of being valued that they had demonstrated all this time seemed to have vanished like camphor. People around are talking of them retiring, as their children are either getting ready to go to work or are already there, living in a strange world of their own.
This guy is now living his self-fulfilling prophecy. A prophecy which was created out of age old collective social conditioning of imposed retirement and reclusion at this age. While a part of him wants to give up and call it a day, another part scares him of leaving the field as a failure. Then there are unfulfilled dreams that haunt and unfulfilled desires that seek fulfillment through covert means. It’s a life of fugitive who believes in not having the option of running away. The elephant has been chained for long and even though there is no chain now, the conditioning of helplessness and powerlessness remains.
What could be the way out for this not-so-irrelevant, significance-seeking soul? Well, at the root of this situation lies a social expectation. Said or unsaid, the colossal authority of society expects him to behave in a certain way. Sober, serious, withdrawn, reflective and definitely retired. This expectation is more a shadow being carried over generation and inherited unconsciously by us. In a hi-context culture like ours, it is re-enforced by complementary behaviors of people around. There is nothing coded.
The first step to freedom from this illusory bondage is to break the phantom rules. Just like the adolescent does it.
Some of the ways could be:
- · Engaging in right brain creative activities like music, painting, drama or even dance. No wonder, MF Husain and Pandit Ravishankar are still going strong and command a lot of respect, despite repeatedly being in the storm of controversy, suspected to be cooked up by the hi-priests of the society.
- · Being in company of youthfulness and definitely out of the company of those who are pre-maturely ageing. Be with children, be with students and become like them. Even if it means playing fool. After all, don’t you, at time also want to be silly too?
- That brings me to the powerful tool of self-humor. Even before you entertain anybody else, you kill your crying ego when you make fun of yourself. After all, a part of your playing victim is an egoic design, saying, “I am more unfortunate than anyone else” and thus being one-up. Please remember, even when you are quietly hating yourself, you respect and uphold that part of you which hates. So, turn the game on its head. You will ridicule that part of you that ridicules you and suddenly find the truth peering out of the illusion, the ‘maya’ of your story of yourself
- · The challenge of this pre-retirement stage is that something tells you to get detached. You are not supposed to binge as much as you would have done in the past. To make it a reality you have brought upon yourself pathological indicators like blood sugar and cholesterol. You are not supposed to go on a shopping spree, buying impulsively. Again to make it a reality, you have brought upon yourself financial constraints. And you are not supposed to freak out over week-end getting away to a nearby resort to chill. You have either sold your vehicle or your family has taken charge of it to carry out more important chores. Don’t bother about the vehicle. Any which way, given the traffic menace and lack of parking facility, it is more a possession of pain than pride. Hop on to a public transport. Take a day ticket. Or even go to the nearest railway station to take you a random destination. And remember do all this, quietly, by yourself. People around you won’t want you to freak out like this. They don’t know that to be detached you don’t need to leave the world. You leave the mind that the world lives in.
- Look at your close relationships. Are you really living them or feigning to do so for collective convenience? Waste no time to put in your most open and honest effort to get them back on track. If it doesn’t work out, well, the world is waiting to embrace you. Go out and create new relationships. One that you can live by choice, not survive by chance. If you are not bothered, nobody is bothered about it.
- Finally, your wisdom of having lived many more winters than most is extremely valuable. More valuable that what some bestsellers can dish out. Because it is first hand and existential. In such strange times as now, your wisdom is more than ever required to help the human race move through this crescendo of chaos to create a new harmony for itself. Look out. Many institutions need you. And if they don’t it’s all the more better. Make yourself an institution and go all out to touch and transform lives. You will feel more relevant, more significant and most importantly more purposeful than ever before.
Go out, reach out. Now. And journal it the way I am doing it now.