Monday, October 6, 2008


Today is one of those rare days when I don't have a ton of things to do at work. I am 'relatively' free. This word 'relative.' I really think the 'relative' nature of our experiences is what drives our perception of these experiences. And perception in turn drives action. In other words, I am driven by the demands of an often overactive mind that is continuosly making new perceptions and updating (or refusing to update!) its old ones.

The human mind exists between two extremes. The difference between the two extremes is the point at which perception is formed. A judgement is passed. I categorize an experience or event as "good" or "bad," "exciting" or "boring."

These extremes are essential to the human experience, so I'm not saying they're all bad (oops, a judgement again!). After all, it is my experience of darkness that allows me to appreciate the light. And vice-versa. When I'm tired and ready to hit the sack at the end of a long day, I turn off the light, and that moment of darkness is so welcome! This is the same darkness that I would probably curse when I want a glass of water at 3 am and can't find the light switch.

I ask myself, has the darkness changed? No, it is my need that has changed. And therefore, my perception of the darkness has now taken a complete u-turn.

The moment I detach myself from my mind, which is usually self-obsessed and in cahoots with my ego, I open myself up to a more compassionate reality. One in which I am able to observe the vagaries of my perceptions and not allow myself to become their victim.

The 'relative' nature of it all really hit home as I was driving to work today. I always end up waiting at the Ber Sarai crossing each morning, in front of a tottering and half-broken traffic signal. I seriously think that signal is going to fall down one of these days.

Anyways, as i sat in the car, I watched a group of street children run around, some going up to cars ahead of mine, begging for money. For me, it's heartbreaking to watch these children sit around in rags, nearly get run over by cars, and beg for money that they will surrender to whoever 'owns' them when they go back 'home' at night. As I watch them each morning, my thoughts race to all the possible people responsibile for them being on the road: the government, the police, society, criminals...

One of the boys must be only 6 or 7 years old. And he's carrying a little baby in his scrawny arms. He runs around trying to get to as many cars as possible before the signal turns green. And when he runs, the baby is jerked around in his arms. I shudder to think what would happen if...

I choose not to think. I have to learn to shut these thoughts out, it's the only way to survive this traffic signal every morning. I must admit, though, I'm not very successful at shutting things out.

I continue to curse. "This bloody government... how can they allow this!! Bastards, sitting in their swanky houses, and turning a blind eye towards these poor children..."

The boy is now standing beside the car to the left of mine, hand stretched out. Begging. Almost mechanically.

Sensing that he's not going to get anything here and needs to move on to another car, the boy starts to walk away (more like gallop away) from the car. In that split second, the baby in his arms makes eye contact with the person in the car. The baby flashes a brilliant smile. There it was, an innocent, heartwarming, "I'm enjoying my day" kind of smile.

It shattered my perception of the conditions that I would ordinarily associate a smile with. The smile I just saw came with tattered clothes, skin caked with dust, sweltering heat, the absence of a mother's comforting hold, and life on the edge (literally!).

I bet not one of us in our airconditioned cars would be able to muster up a smile like that.

And I said to myself, in amazement, ... it's all relative!


Sandeep said...

nice post !!

Maanya said...

Sadness,happiness,darkness,light are all relative based on the "vagaries of perception."

"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven."
John Milton