The Original Attempt to Understand
It’s been a few years since I wrote about my experience with perspicacity, or, at the very least, how I attempted to understand and take it all in. Since then, I have to admit that in spite of what I believed I understood about it, or what I thought I meant it to be in my life I should say, it’s been a bit of an utter failure. How’s that for trying to soften the blow to the self, by the self. For me, at the outset, perspicacity was all about some sort of magical wisdom that would reveal itself to me when the time was right. However, I now realize that it is something that I have to be willing to accept into my life, only after I have been able to recognize it working in my overall existence so far. Or, maybe I don’t realize, and this is yet another step in the journey towards that idea, where as defined by the dictionary, it refers to “the quality of having a ready insight into things.” There are times when I suspect that I have had insights which later turned out to be true, only to have quashed them in my mind because I wasn’t able to understand them, or worse, because I was told they were wrong, or would otherwise be harmful to both myself and those I loved. But maybe, this is the perspicacity that was being talked about, a sort of realization of realization itself, and what it means to have realized something, and how this realization affects the way forward, how it alters that path that we set out to follow, and why.
In reality, not only was I in a different place and time in my life then compared to where I am now, but for all practical purposes, I have had to shed an outlook that happened to have me in its grips, making me believe that I lived in a world that was somehow malleable to my very will, if only I was able to will it into bending and twisting with every whim and fancy of mine strongly enough. But, that world has fallen away, and what exists is, well, not even an empty shell of its former self, but a series of disasters that seem to be slowly unraveling. While I seem to want to avert these disasters in some way, it’s been hard trying to first convey the ideas that appear to make this a compelling case for doing otherwise in general in the lives of the people I attempt to convey this to, and that is when I realized that I hadn’t understood what I thought I had. At least, not completely.
What started out as a comment to me by the late John Roberts, one cool evening in Bangalore, has been a journey that still has many miles to go. From not having the confidence to see what he saw in me when he told me that my apparent cynicism would turn into perspicacity later in life, to making the effort in slow, measured and often backward steps to arrive at the understanding I sought before being able to accept it wholeheartedly, there have been many twists and turns, but in some way, I believe I further along the path than I was before. It hasn’t been easy, to say the least, but it’s been a journey that I have come to accept as my own, one that I now believe in undergoing, not for the sake of travelling this path, but because it appears to be something of a kind of purpose that I am better able to define for myself. I understand now that having the opportunity to have learned from such a person, and most importantly, to have been given the opportunity that he was confident that he would do such a thing for me, in spite of what little he stood to gain from it himself, has given me more than enough courage to stumble if I have had to, and to pick myself up and keep on going.
The In-Between Years
It came as quite a shock to me when I received word of his untimely and unfortunate demise. Sure, I missed him and wished he was around to see the progress that I had made, but I felt sorry for all the people who would be unable to gain from the wisdom that he possessed, in every facet of his being. Whether it was the way he lived or the way he worked, he taught me more in the time that I knew him than I had ever learned from anyone else, certainly in comparison to anything that any formal education could ever teach me, or for that matter, any other mentor would ever deem necessary to present to me as something of utility in my own existence. From my earliest and most formative years, where I had to struggle with self-doubt and the fact that I couldn’t explain why I would be abandoned by the people in my life that I turned to for love and affection, to attempting to better understand that the life that I would lead would have been made so difficult by the circumstances that cropped up, as well as my interpretation of and reaction to them, it was a veritable boon that as fleeting as my association with John was, it helped me get started on the journey that I would rightfully come to claim as being “my life,” my very existence.
When I first left him behind for what I believed to be a necessary move in my life, it wasn’t too long before I realized that I had committed a hugely grievous error of judgment. Lost and kind of floating between the events and happenstance of life that I found myself coping with, or perhaps being forced to deal with them through my own actions, the way my life seemed to turn upside down and go from good to near unbearable is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. Still, he was around for me to reach out to when things got bad, and while I didn’t see it fit to dump on him all the woes in my life that I had invited upon myself, he was always there to offer me a friendly word of advice when it came to matters of a professional nature. In fact, through the deepest, darkest hours of my life at that time, he was still willing to reach out and offer me a helping hand in the form of a return to grace, whether it was a job that would get me back on my feet, or another similar opportunity that he was able to muster thanks to his extensive network of contacts. Personally, I am not one for regrets and have always tried to see the positive outcomes of the seemingly random events that collectively form my life, but from first leaving him to strike out on an erroneous path, to learning that he would never be around at all was all too much for me to bear at that point in time. I’m not afraid to admit I wasn’t able to make heads or tails of what was happening, although I may not have shown it, or perhaps, did a poor job of hiding it, but in reality, at that moment, I couldn’t have been further from any potentially perspicacious point of view in my life if I had planned it.
It seemed like a good time, when floundering around to find the threads of a career that I had so willingly abandoned, to try to take some time out to get a grip on what was going on. The constant battles in my head of what should be still assaulting the reality of what is that I saw all around me seemed to suggest that I was no closer to finding any of the answers to the questions that I had let run my life from as far back as I could remember asking those questions in the first place. Whether it was issues about the environment and how we were damaging it most willingly, or the manner in which there were convenient paradigms and arguments made for the rationality of human existence in its civilized form, when really there was no shred of evidence of it in the things that seemed to be happening all around me, it became ultimately difficult and more paradoxically agonizing to live with these dichotomies, or so it seemed. It was as if much like the world that I inhabited, I too had lost my sanity, only to replace it with some sort of madness that I would be hard-pressed to call a philosophy of any kind. It was as if there had become a different set of rules that no defined a reality, that though unwise in its very conception, seemed to become the underlying principle by which I and all other life existed in the world. Then, and in almost fairy-tale fashion, in the midst of the darkness, one that continued for a period of years, mind you, came a little spark that seemed to provide the right kind of illumination that would help me get back on my feet, and that too, without making any promises of where it would lead me. I didn’t really realize it then, and truth be told, I am still going through some aspect of this recovery, to refer to it thus, but when it seemed most improbable that something would emerge from the mired confusion that I had to refer to as my life, it did.
Both Understanding and Acceptance
A long time ago in my life, even before I met John, I had pondered how the ability to understand and the will to accept didn’t necessarily have to go hand in hand. I had toyed with faith and religion, being raised a Hindu who went to a Christian boarding school, and had close friends and people I admired who were devoutly Muslim, Buddhist and believers of other faiths. Yet, I had also noticed that those who seemed to be pious and unwilling to question their faith, or the very need to believe so strongly were in fact, struggling with understanding, having more blindly followed what they believed to be true, while those who I admired as having the courage to question and arrive at answers, as well as being perfectly comfortable in explaining the inconsistencies that were apparent to non-believers like myself, were doing a far better job of merging both understanding and acceptance. Applying this to my life, I began questioning why I had held on so tightly to concepts and ideas that I believed to be almost Gospel truth, to use this expression, and it wasn’t too long before I discovered that there were some serious contradictions in the very fabric of existence that I had come to accept wholeheartedly. When it came to the way in which I believed I should act in the professional workplace, one of the easiest of these areas of discrepancy was with regard to having to follow tenets and objectives that were set out by Management that were required to be followed by employees, without question. Not only did this not sit well with me to begin with, but while earlier I had kept my head down and forced myself to accept it as a sort of heavy reality of having to be part of the overall hierarchy, I soon began to question and it more and more, sometimes right in the face of those managers who seemed to be indignant at my constant affront. At this point in my life, it appeared to me more of a challenge to balance the delicacies that are dictated and necessitated by having to exist and earn a living within an overarching framework of a business, no matter what its size. In addition, while I often got it wrong, I was more willing to learn from my mistakes so that others would not have to endure that which was at the very least nonsensical. It was a sort of sanity that I hoped to achieve for one and all that I would never have otherwise attempted to do so earlier on in my life, choosing the path of a more likely cynical whine than being able to actually do something about it. And it seemed as though something had changed significantly enough in my life to be able to make the kinds of decisions I had once not even considered possible, let alone pragmatic or achievable in any real sense, because it was at one point out of reach of my limited thinking, my urge to simply talk more than do anything about things I perceived to be at fault with the way things were in the average organization. At some point, I guess I believed that an element of this perspicacity that John had spoken of was beginning to reveal itself to me, and now, I was ready.
When it came to areas of my life, it appeared most unfortunately, that while it was my family that loved and supported me, my connections to them seemed to be weighted down with more expectations that were born of preserving the status quo, instead of supporting the striking out and claiming of an independent path as I thought it should be. It was almost as if there was a severe case of fear that had gripped their lives, because no matter if they had had such inklings in their own lives at the same age, they had somehow managed to quash them to keep things moving along, even if it was easily apparent that things were not moving along. These were people whom I had loved and respected for my entire life, and while I still do, it appears as if there was a bit of an agenda issue, one that I was not willing to compromise on in my own existence, not any longer, anyway. And so, after much self-imposed trials and tribulations in my own life, along with a seriously unhealthy dose of self-imposed misery and suffering on no one else’s account but my own, I finally took the first step in making the changes that I thought I had to make, not because I believed them to be suddenly more true than the path that I had previously trodden upon, but because it appeared that I was able to experience the kind of changes that I believed to be necessary to me, and to the world around me. One of the biggest challenges came when trying to make sense of what I had been told, in spite of what was all too easily evident in my dealings with friends and loved ones, the same people I had looked up to previously, but making this shift seemed to give me a different kind of courage, the kind that allowed me to stand on my own two feet first, before being able to offer anyone else any support of any kind, no matter what that would have been. It greatly reduced the people in my life, and it created all kinds of disharmony and ill will, but the in the world that I saw and began to believe in, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it was a world that I had seen all along but had had to neglect because it seemed impossible to step into, this was just part of the great ordeal that would become an existence, whether it worked out in the long run or not. It no longer mattered to me that such things would define me because at some point, the fear that gripped me and had ruled my life, had to be done away with. Maybe this was the perspicacity that I sought, and while always just an arm’s length away, I had believed it to be unattainable because I had convinced myself in the course of a long and twisting life, that it was perhaps, never meant to be.
I’d like to end with the fact that while there is still a long way to go with this, and an even longer path up ahead, I would never have allowed myself this opportunity if I hadn’t had my eyes opened almost a decade ago. What John Roberts did for me was more than just give a word that I would make the effort to incorporate into my life. He had given me a chance to be myself, a self that was unlike any other self that I had allowed myself to ever be. Come to think of it, if I didn’t find it in myself to see any of the events with some element of positivity, or at the very least, apathy and dispassion, it would never have been possible to strike out down this path, even though there is no certainty where it will lead to, something that I used to crave so strongly in my life, until now. Thank you John, for all that you did for me, and as much as I wish you were still around to touch the lives of others as you had, and possibly could have continued to do so, I’m glad you’re not here to see the madness and chaos that this world is descending into, even as I write this. Hope this is the start to the perspicacity that you spoke of. Or maybe, just maybe, it's the kind of thing where you spend your whole life trying to achieve it or get to it, and end up realizing that it was in your possession the whole time.