Thursday, October 18, 2007

How Happy

How happy is he born and taught
That serveth not another's will;
Whose armour is his honest thought
And simple truth his utmost skill;

Whose passions not his masters are;
Whose soul is still prepared for death,
Not tied unto the world with care
Of public fame, or private breath;

Who envies none that chance doth raise,
Or vice; who never understood
How deepest wounds are given by praise,
Nor rules of state, but rules of good;

Who hath his life from rumours freed,
Whose conscience is his strong retreat;
Whose state can neither flatterers feed,
Nor ruin make accusers great;

Who God doth late and early pray
More of His grace than gifts to lend;
And entertains the harmless day
With a well-chosen book or friend;

This man is freed from servile bands
Of hope to rise, or fear to fall;
Lord of himself, though not of lands;
And having nothing, yet hath all.

---- Sir Henry Wotton

We were taught this poem in school and I remember reading it and wondering if I would ever be that way. It was much more abstract back then, someone else's ideology. As I read it today, I realise, I am happy. I am content. I'm like this man Wotton speaks about. Or at least on my way.

My penchant for photography means that I get to peak into many different souls, only for a fleeting second but long enough to feel something. Its incredible how the people who have the least to smile about always have the most genuine smiles, the kind that makes you want to reach out and hug them. Sometimes, they can't mask the sadness in their eyes but almost always a twinkle appears, blinding you to the dirt, poverty and hopelessness. Whenever I'm feeling a bit too sorry for myself I only have to flash one of those smiles in my noggin and suddenly things don't seem bad at all. Its all relative.

By a different yardstick I see people around me all the time who only seem to wallow in their own misery, curse their lot with wailing and gnashing. Everything is hopeless, joy is ephemeral, blackness is me. Strangely, some of them even think its cool. The sad part is most of these people will never even realise what they have to be thankful for, they're so busy being self-obsessed that they don't even think of looking beyond.

Imagine standing in front of a vast vista of a landscape, looking at a glorious red orb setting into the distant mountains, while the plains drink greedily of their last minutes of daylight. Would you rather look at the real picture in all its glory or instead stand there, hold a postcard of the same thing close to your eyes and not be able to see anything else. Its a bit like that isn't it? Its always me, me, me, why, why, why. That's the postcard. The vast vistas are life. What would you rather look at?

Luckily, I'm not stupid enough to assume to that we can be happy all the time and that life will always deal us the cards that will make us that way. In those cases feel the unhappiness completely but let it go. Otherwise its like sucking on a piece of karela. And I don't even want to think about the people who block things. I just feel compassion for them.

We are what we think (the Buddha said that). And if we're constantly thinking of all that is wrong with our life, doesn't that become our life?

I recently met Mr.Satyamurthy, who at age 81, lives on his own, takes care of himself, travels everywhere by bus from his home on the outskirts of Bangalore, is involved with over 10 outreach programmes for humans and animals and stills finds time for his profession and passion of 65 years - wildlife photography. He has no teeth and has had a cataract problem for over a year now and innocently asks me about what digital camera he should buy. "Give up" is a phrase that makes him laugh. He intends to keep at it till the grim reaper comes a-calling. Even as he says that, he breaks out into a toothless grin.

I think the poem was written about someone like him. I smile as that realisation dawns, from within. :)

So reach out, reach in, smile, laugh, giggle and cheer. Its a happy day, if only you want it to be.

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