The Subtle Little Things in Life

It’s only after a lifetime of going through life’s ups and downs that one can finally and truly appreciate the truism that it’s the subtle little things in life that matter the most, that give life its profound meaning – especially when one has had more downs than ups.

We then realise that name, fame, wealth and power are ephemeral and have no intrinsic value but only an instrumental one, with no inherent capacity (as we falsely think they have) to give us that will-o’-the-wisp that seems to ever elude us: happiness. We assume that happiness resides in things – which name, fame, wealth and power are the epitome of – only to find that at some stage they all are shed, and immaterial when we make up our life’s balance sheet.

As contemporary events both locally and abroad demonstrate, some people seem to be so lucky that they surf on a wave of rise, rise, rise. They gain calculated flattery and much public exposure. They are called upon to emit their opinions on every subject under the sun and they oblige very willingly to the splash. This euphoria gives them a sense of permanency at the top. But we know that according to natural law everything that goes up must come down. So the day of reckoning does arrive, and the higher one rises the harder is the comedown when it inevitably happens.

We fall deeply in love with things, even more with the ones mentioned above, and superficially so with people. Too late do we realise that it should be the other way round – that instead we ought not to fall, but as someone put it, to rise in love with people, in the sense of developing a connect with them that enhances our humanity mutually. There are those who will resist or be indifferent; we simply have to let them go their way and follow our own path. And since charity begins at home, that’s where the starting point should be.

I came across a recent ‘Buddhist life mission’ post on Facebook (NB: Fb is not all bad, depends how we use it) about how we tend to ‘love things and use people’ that is worth sharing in full. It goes:

‘While a man was polishing his new car, his six-year old son picked up a stone and scratched lines on the side of the car. In anger the man took the child’s hand and hit it many times not realizing he was using a wrench. At the hospital the child lost all his fingers due to multiple fractures. When the child saw the father with painful eyes, he asked, “Dad when will my fingers grow back?” The man was so hurt and speechless that he went back to his car and kicked it a lot of times, devastated by his own actions. Sitting in front of the car he looked at the scratches: the child had written ‘I LOVE YOU DAD’.  The next day that man committed suicide.

‘Anger and love have no limits; choose the latter to have a beautiful, lovely life. Things are to be used and people are to be loved. But the problem in today’s world is that people are used and things are loved. In this year let’s be careful to keep this thought in mind: Things are to be used but People are to be loved.’

This may or may not be a true incident, but the story does send the poignant message powerfully across. It must probably remind us of instances of overreaction in our own lives, and caution us to restraint and calm before we do anything. The wise ones say that if you get angry, pause and take a couple of deep breaths before you act. Hopefully, the UN’s International Yoga Day to be celebrated this month will help more people to develop that serenity so essential to peaceful living. Achieving the latter is an uphill, never-ending task, and much needed in our world in turmoil.

Such a simple, little thing, taking a few breaths – but it can have such a mighty impact, and turn around a situation.

I used to carp a lot about the rotten weather in Curepipe, but by the by I accommodated myself to it, and now take it in my stride, finding and having plenty of things to keep me busy with during ‘la grande saison de petites pluies et la petite saison de grandes pluies’ for which this town is notorious. Not later than last week we had such a wonderful several days of glorious sunshine, only to give way – courtesy some malfrat south of the Mascareignes – to a spell of showers followed by practically incessant petites pluies, accompanied by rather strong cold winds beginning during the night on Friday and lasting through to Wednesday morning.

And yet Friday had started off so beautifully, with a bracing walk at Trou-O-Cerfs in the early morning, in pleasant company, sharing much laughter and gaiety. The day also had gone on in similar mood, and I had dear company with whom to sit outside in the afternoon and enjoy the warm sun, as despite the bright sunlight there was a cool breeze blowing. Everything, it had seemed on that Friday afternoon and the preceding angelic few days, was the best in the best of worlds! And then, come Saturday, natural law took over…

In the late morning on that Friday I had taken a stroll around the yard and the garden, enjoying the thrill of fresh air caressing the skin on my forearms and face, why, even on my baldy scalp! And looked on in wonder at the play of sunlight among the leaves, listened with joy and awe to the chirping of the birds, and admired the blossom of some plants that were braving the cold to expose their leaves to the light so that photosynthesis could take place and green them. ‘Little’ things, but oh so profoundly touching, giving such penetrating inner peace.

In those moments of celestial connect through these ‘little’ things, with thoughts flowing to near and dear ones, life assumed a different meaning altogether…

RN Gopee

*  Published in print edition on 5 June 2015

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