The moment is gone

imageIt was the 1996 World Cup Quarters at Bangalore and two older stalwarts of Pakistan, who singly and together had done it so many times, were fighting it out in the middle. They were trying to retrieve a lost game. They failed. As Javed Miandad walked off late in the innings, his very last departure from the international arena, a highly partisan Indian crowd, let him know that his moment was gone.

This happens so often. In my history of following sports and really even watching life, there comes a time when your moment is gone. It actually happens to all of us in life. Just that some recognise it and deal with it, while others fight on desperately, slowly losing this battle, till one day they depart with less than grace. Nevertheless, it is a riveting sight, sad, melancholy and yet, the spectators watching almost one and all are wishing for success to happen again. It would be a great human story. Alas it almost never happens.

The statement which typifies this journey was made about Rod Laver. Master and king of tennis, and dominant for a decade. At 37 in 1973, he was playing the Aussie Open, and the newspaper wrote, ‘Lavers mind was making appointments, which his body simply could not keep’. That is the spectacle. A former king, not recognising his ageing, his mind still forming the visionary pictures, yet his body gives out.

For me the greatest of these stories, was the one of Muhammad Ali. Boxer, brash, believing, crusader and darling of the world, other than the old conservative red necks. He was not simply a boxer, he was the icon of the 60s and 70s and people pinned hopes of revolutions on him. It was the most instantly recognisable face in the world. He did what few ever did. Reached a pinnacle, sacrificed it on a principle, took on the US government, won, came back from the wilderness, and reached the pinnacle again, not once but twice more. No wonder we thought he was invincible. Maybe he believed it also. But, in the background a wasting disease was already working. In the slow decline spread over years, Ali kept trying to climb the pinnacle once more. He got beaten and only then the body gave out enough for him never to return to the ring. It was a terrible spectacle, yet it was fascinating as a human story, played out in front of the worlds billions. Very few of those did not wish him one last success, but this never happened. What a man and what a tragic decline. What a human story.

There have been many others in our sports, in politics and even conquerors in history. Stanley Matthews played football till fifty, losing his magic in the end. Adlai Stevenson fought elections till no one would vote for him. Alexander went on conquering lands till his army gave out on the banks of the Beas. Napoleon fought till he was washed away by the hordes of his retreating army at Waterloo. None of these and others like them grasped that for reasons of age, or of changes in circumstances, or belief, their moment is gone. But, they add fascination, colour and history, in this life of ours and are part of the effect of the nature of life.

So to today. In the sporting world two such stories are being played out nowadays. Roger Federer, king and master of tennis for long, has been struggling for years for that one last big moment. Its has eluded him these many years and so many of us want him to have that. Only nature is matter of fact and has no sympathy or emotion about this. Similarly, in the world of golf, Tiger Woods, revolutionary golfer, has not won a major in seven years. He is desperate and works and enters all the four majors. Yet at almost forty, is his time past? So many want him to have one last big day, before he goes off in the sunset. One hopes that both the above do not descend to the level of ordinary mortals, as they have been kings in their domain for long. Such a sight is generally unbearable. One prays that they have their day in the sun and then fade away gracefully.

To all I would suggest there is a time and space for success and the limelight. Then the moment is gone.

*picture from countermail.com.au

Advertisements

A Third Metric – give something back

image

Based on Ariana Huffington commencement address to Smith College recently.

Success has largely been determined by money and power, but we need a third metric. That should include or be one based on ‘well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back.’

Above 40..the time of self actualisation..?

Much earlier, I had written about the enigma of time in the context of Surah Asr. This relationship of time to us and its effective usage, remains our single most important struggle during this lifetime. That is, if you believe life is a continuum and soon we shall proceed on to a spiritual plane, where we shall have a different life.

However, even without this feeling of creeping death and its consequences, I have found that normal humans, who have crept along in life for a time, eventually reach a state, where they want to do meaningful things in life. It is quite amazing this aspect and its universality. Leads me therefore to believe we are programmed that way by our Allah.

I have watched many of my friends and acquaintances in their daily struggle for sustenance. This recording of our timesheet, changes in its constituents as we go along. From the learning and adventure minutes in the early years to a discovery of a rose petaled world in teenage, to a discovery of our gender in late teens, which then graduates into worldly ambition. This worldly ambition eventually changes into some form of reality and cynicism and we are already mutating into another form.

Something then happens to our mind as we cross the age of forty. We have now been on this planet for sometime, seen the many luxuries life has to offer, experienced the upheavals which it throws at us, felt success and disappointment and realised that there is more to life than day to day recording of the timesheet. And suddenly our mind starts opening. In personal terms, I feel our grand human has arrived.

What is the form it shall take? That depends on the inner personality, on the value system, environment and the influencers. So someone I know, decided to quit their career and move into a social sector job. There are doctors who give up commercial practice and go off into public health, writers who change from writing commercially viable to philosophical topics, actors who want to do character roles and be involved with causes and the same with sports people. This desire for self actualisation is so strong in so many of us, that it just takes over our lives and becomes the driving force, rather than what used to be the driver…our own personal ambition.

Now some of course are doing all this for a legacy. They are looking at old age and want recognition. Others are looking even beyond death and want subsequent generations and maybe history to admire them. Napoleon was a great one for that. Nevertheless, its a space beyond our selfish interests and benefits the world at large.

So us ordinary humans then graduate onto being little heroes. We are doing mankind’s work and creating a domain where others less fortunate can grab a helping hand to climb into comfort. These others, in turn, will hopefully do the same in their later life for the world.

So, if there was an utopian wish in this context, then it would be that “those who are still opt outers of society, try and do whatever they can to help their fellow human.” There is a part in all of us which derives great happiness out of this. It is the route to self satisfaction, peace and happiness. Its a route like no other can be!

Killing the Self, our Ego!

imageEgo is a killer. Over a lifetime I have learned that if there is one certainty of attracting Allah’s anger, it is through arrogance, pride and ego. Unfortunately, during the coarse of a lifetime all of us get this rather dubious opportunity. Our test is to navigate our behaviour in conditions, which invite such ego.

Consider a situation where young managers enter the world of commerce and trade. They are fresh from education and invariably work for older and more experienced people. These young managers are generally modest people with great listening ability; they learn the traits of practical management and workout how to function in the corporate world. Over time they too become experienced and adept at it. And so starts their trial. They will soon begin fighting the ego game. They are now ‘somebody’ and if they do not watch themselves, they will behave as if they have consequence.

My personal feeling is that, if and when they fall at the gates of arrogance, they will wipe out all vestiges of goodness in themselves. Its not that those good characteristics are not there, but our ego now subdues them, dominates them and any deed done then is evaluated on the alter of ego. As the days go by and life passes, that ego dominates more and more and Allah’s punishment has already arrived. The person has become a twisted, egotistical animal, listening to none, looking at life only through his/her filters and and unable to achieve anything of goodness. But there will be a further revenge, in that down the road, the very reason to be egotistical will get taken away from the person and he or she will suffer the pangs of failure. Our time always ends. So whether by old age/death or by failure or both, our downfall will come.

We have seen this in the house of the arrogant. Napolean, Hitler, the original Jews, Xerxes, the Romans, the Ummayids and all great nations who rise through merit but turn to arrogance, which eventually leads to their failure in the world – In my consideration it is happening right now with the USA. This is a terrible signal event. To reach the top and then fall down into an abyss called ‘nothing’ is a tragedy and a travesty. Its destructive.

It happens in our houses too. We are almost all involved in it. One spouse dominates the other and mostly it is the ego of one conquering the other. Similarly, we dominate our children. Many a times a man is shaping his children into the picture of himself. But to do that is itself arrogant. We are shaping Allahs beautiful creatures (our children), when we do not have a right to do this. Its our duty to impart knowledge and tarbiat. There is no requirement to shape them. That is also arrogance. You think you are worth cloning. So the people closest to you in life, you clone to satisfy your ego.

How does one fight this insidious creep which can happen to one and all in this life. Its by watching and being aware of oneself. This bears watching every living day of your life. You must fight it. When you wake up in the morning, remind yourself you are human and have to deal with other similar humans. We are all the same, regardless of position, wealth, age and gender. If we believe that and keep reminding ourselves, then the day may pass without arrogance or ego. Similarly at night, when you are about to sleep remind yourself..that as you go to sleep, you may never wake up again. That is enough of a thought to make yourself free of ego and arrogance, till the next reminder in the morning. Disregard this need to control your self importance and you will very likely fall into the trap and become arrogant. It is inbuilt in us!

Remember, we are all here because one Iblis thought he was greater than others. Iblis in turn uses this as his favourite weapon. As Al Pacino said “Vanity is my favourite sin”.

%d bloggers like this: