Where is your true north? What are your immutables? What is the irreducible core of your ethics that you will surrender but with your life? List them out for yourself and question each of them; and at the end of your enquiry, see how many remain true and everlasting, like old iron that rings true when you strike them.
I try to do this at certain moments in my life, more so these days than earlier, and the uncertain answers turn me into a troubled and cantankerous quester, finding no solace in those totems I once had unshakeable faith in.
God? Cold logic rules me now and the magic I once imagined in church and temple is fled. Surely, the principal of the Original Cause is difficult to reject; but where is my personal Father who once heard my prayers and gave me comfort from despair and misfortune. The Christ Himself, lying in unspeakable pain on the Cross had cried out “with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Despite His sure assurance of his resurrection, the agony made him question his own identity as the Son of God. The Lord Himself wavered in His faith. Then, insignificant human that I am, who am I to insulate myself against the flight of faith. Reason and logic proclaims the unstoppable dance of the genes and the inexorable progression of the species that this planet abounds in. There is nothing special and exalted about us; I know as best as it is possible to know, that there is no divine light gleaming for me at the end of our journey through the galaxies. God save me from my many doubts.
Country? It moves on like a juggernaut, impelled by a momentum that will brook no patient and reconciliatory wisdom. It sees no merit in harkening to the still, small voice under the growl of the storm. In some tiny measure, I have been part of that faceless machine that governed this monster of a land. And now that I am out of the main stream, I see and feel so clearly its many fault lines and tremors. Nationhood, as defined by the powers that be, has the last word: all else is ignored and condemned on pain of suffering. There is one drum beat we all have to march to. The understanding that surpasses all differences; the largeness of heart to embrace things diverse from us; we search for these and find them not. And each moment, ‘a million mutinies’ break out across this land of ours.
Family? Each day, we splinter and break away from what held us all together: from the day we are born, we curl away in tangential flight and the rest of life is but the journey to find ourselves. But do we indeed find ourselves? in the daily to and fro of living, of feeding and bodily functions, in the unending task of making our lives more comfortable each passing day, we make and unmake plans, commitments are struck and broken, and may the devil take the hindmost. The passing of parents loosens the bonds that had held us all together when they were here. There is the odd telephone call, the occasional meeting, the greetings on festive occasions. But we all have our own lives to lead, don’t we, special and particular to our own circumstances. So centred are we to our own needs and demands.
Friends? In a life peripatetic and wandering, friends are like ships that pass at night; brief, bright moments of camaraderie and laughter, all too fleeting and momentary. I am glad that some of them are still there, even though we may not meet or even converse for years on end. And when we do meet, few and far between though such meetings may be, it is as if the days in between never were. The ubiquitous smart phones strengthen the social connections. Some solace indeed, and I guess one should be grateful
Myself? In the end there is oneself and one’s extension, my wife. The years of joy and tribulation, the tears and the laughter, the quiet breathing in the nights; the two of us merge into a single body and mind, each knowing what the other thinks, or is about to say, steering clear of things uncomfortable to each other, revelling in the bonds that strengthen and bind. You are lucky beyond the power of words to tell if you can still feel blessed in each other’s presence. And though there are some terrors in the night, at times filled with dark thoughts of health and other failings, of loss of the clarity of thought, of unavoidable mortality, of reluctant sleep, in the overall, there is something positive in this litany that pours out.
I stop for a moment and read what I have written and I get the distinct impression that much of what I have written portrays me as a cross and disgruntled senior citizen, unsatisfied with all things around me and impossible for anyone to suffer or tolerate. I must correct that image I have created for myself in these lines above. Let me come back to my early questions. Then, where is my true north? What then, are the things I believe in. Let me list out the things I hold firm to, and redeem in some small measure the foul picture I have drawn for myself in this blog.
Don’t let your woman cry. Keep your children, and the children of your children, joyful and full of love.
I believe I must strive to extend respect to everyone around me; of whatever shape and size, colour or belief. There is none who deserves contempt and disdain.
In the same way, do not let others tread on your self-respect and pride. Be firm, be polite, there is no need to be as foul-mouthed as the other person is to you.
“First, do no harm’: by word of mouth or by dint of action. Do not enter the private space of each other, respect boundaries. It is when you encroach on what is personal that you tread on toes.
Forgive and free yourself. I believe that there is no sin that does not merit forgiveness. And though forgetting may be difficult, it is possible to ride over the hurt and pain and go on with your life. Or else, you are shackled forever to your hurtful memories and the hateful people who have hurt you. Remember too that we do not know where that person is coming from, what hell he or she is going through. Allow the forgiveness to sweep you away to a better place.
Lies breed lies. A bad deed admitted is worth more than a good deed pretended… and, if possible, let not your love for truth hurt others inadvertently.
When illness strikes, clench your fist and know you have to bear it yourself. And though your loved ones will mill around, it is you, and you alone, who must come to grips with it. In time, the pain will go away. If not, you still must go on, trying to keep that smile on your face.
Above all, let it be. Do not presume you have to set all broken things right. Some things are best left alone. Let it be, leave the debris on the side of the road and move on.
And when you get old, feeble in body and mind, as you will one day, be at peace when you go, with no regrets and easy of conscience.
I read my lines again. I know I sound self-centred and egoistic. But then, if I take care of myself, then the world takes care of itself.Or so I believe.My true north is not a set of rules and regulations. It is but an everyday to-do list, a diurnal prescription to guide you in the travails of the world.
From out of that inventory perhaps comes the True North I hold dear.