What is truly important – and knowing when to let go

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

At the pinnacle of glory, having gifted the legacy of Apple and its multifarious innovative devices, the i-inventions (i-pad, i-phone …) each more sophisticated than the earlier model, to the world, Steve Jobs stepped down from his company and handed over to his No. 2.

This is the same Steve Jobs who was thrown out of his company several years ago, but had to be called back to get it going again – and he did the magic, wizard that he is. At a commencement address he gave at Stanford University in 2005, he did not hesitate to confess that ‘I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation.’ He went on to say that he had been adopted as an infant, he had been fired from Apple and being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer with which he is now struggling: ‘three serious reversals that illustrated rejection, exclusion, and near extinction.’

But he rose again, like the proverbial Phoenix, not through microchips and circuit boards, but ‘India, the Beatles, LSD and Buddhism,’ showing his ‘elasticity and endurance.’

It is worthwhile to ponder his words: ‘Remembering that I’ll be dead soon (he is 54 years old) is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important…’

What a lesson in humility from one of the most influential people in the world, who will ever be remembered for his enduring works.

 The Talk of the Walk 

For several days at Trou-O-Cerfs octagenarian Ton Maurice has had a field day, bubbling with joy and poking fun at other fellow walkers. The reason: Manchester United beat Chelsea football club three to one last weekend. Even Liverpool supporters could not but help sharing in the manifest enjoyment of Ton Maurice, which was almost infectious. It takes only simple matters like this to warm the heart in the early morning, allowing us to start the day on a positive note and helping to maintain good humour as it rolls out, wherever one happens to be.

But we are also reminded that fortunes change and that the wheel of life keeps turning: we recalled that many years ago Chelsea did beat Man-U, when the latter had a star player in the person of Eric Cantonna. Although I am no football fan, I do remember this too. It may well be therefore that at some time in the future fortunes may change again, but this did not prevent Ton Maurice and others – who as fanatic supporters of Man-U must surely know about its previous loss – from fully erupting in glee at their favourite club’s current victory!

There is no other way to live one’s life but to bravely march on through the ups and downs that it throws at us, bouncing back every time we suffer a setback, and putting in reserve some of the capital that accrues when times are good. Typical La cigale et la fourmi scenario, but one that we tend to forget in the euphoria of victory. Let us, therefore, keep such examples in front of us always, and we will be spared the rougher rides, learning the lesson that both loss and gain will keep alternating and we must sober up as time goes by so as to be able to cope with whatever comes our way.

The milk of human goodness

This is the situation that a walker friend faced recently, which led us both to comment that we can easily despair at the ugly face that society shows to us daily, especially in the pages of the gutter press that revel in sensationalism to boost their sales, never mind the adverse effect on susceptible and tender minds that such muck causes. However, there is the obverse of the coin too, and my friend had something good to report that gave us reason for optimism.

He had gone to Rose Belle to do some shopping at a bargain sales over the weekend, and he had carried a saddlebag which contained about Rs 8000 which he had to give to his daughter, money that was due to her, and which he planned to do after his shopping. He picked a pullover and went to the fitting booth to try it on; he hung his saddlebag on the clothes peg before doing so. After he’d finished he came out, made the payment and walked out. It was only after he had gone a short distance that he realized, in panic, that he did not have his saddlebag with him.

Naturally he rushed back to the store and shot straight to the booth: as he had half-feared, the bag was gone! He contacted a security officer person, who took him to the counter to help him find out — but too bad, the bag could not be found. He met a policeman who advised him to go to the Police Station nevertheless and make a statement. He duly complied, and by that time it was getting late and dark. Out of the blues he got a call from a stranger who asked him whether he was so and so, and whether he had lost anything, to which he replied in the affirmative, giving a description of his bag at the request of the caller. The latter then asked him to come over to Nouvelle France where he was waiting near the Police Station.

The friend took a taxi and reached there, to meet a man in his thirties who had the bag with him. My friend introduced himself, and as the person handed him the bag he asked him to check his money. My friend said no, he would not do that, because, he told the good Samaritan, ‘I trust you.’

He confided to me that if the person had been honest enough to call him to return the bag he would surely not have tampered with anything in it, and that’s why he did not want to offend him by verifying that his sum of money was intact – which in fact it was, to his great relief, along with his ID and other things that were in there. He thanked the young man for his kind gesture and left for his home in Curepipe.

After he had narrated this episode to me, we reflected together that all was not lost, we still could hope for the future. Not all people were bad; it is quite possible that most people are in fact good, a silent majority that is pursuing its goals quietly and making steady progress in life. As elderly people, we were pleased to take note that the person who had displayed such honesty belonged to a younger age group. Given the general tendency of the times he could easily have been tempted and kept the money for himself. But clearly he had been brought up differently and was guided by sound values, walking the talk as it were – backing his words with action.

We blessed the benefactor, and made a common wish for his tribe to increase so that society would be safer.  

* Published in print edition on 23 September 2011

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