February 7, 2021 6:30:46 am
Covid-19 has made my life busier than ever. It seems that everyone wants to expand their world by discovering a new talent, hearing a motivational speaker or by simply learning new recipes. Because I write, cook, teach, motivate, and even sing when encouraged, I’ve always had many opportunities to observe others trying to “find themselves” through these endeavours. But over the past year I’ve been doing just the opposite. I’ve been trying to lose what I’ve found around the world, to go deeper into my core, to be one with our shared humanity, and to slough off the clutter I’ve collected over 48 years.
Every January, we make all kinds of resolutions, pledges and plans, oblivious to the fact that every year we perform this same charade and end up failing in keeping up with those new trends, diets and missions. We are creatures of habit who are vacuous in our thoughts and actions, ruled by mob mentality and a hunger for perfection and popularity. We live life mired in distraction and self-destruction, with appalling ignorance concerning our own health and well-being.
My parents taught me to be comfortably imperfect. They pushed my siblings and me to do our best, but never demanded that we win prizes, come first in class, or chase medals. Our relatives’ kids seemed like poster children of perfection; we were disorderly and chaotic, in contrast. Yet, as we all came of age, I saw how little the awards and medals meant. Success isn’t dependent on them at all. Fulfilment rarely comes from achieving those metrics. I have seen the top of the class broken beyond repair while the stragglers from our bunch are, today, leaders I would bet everything on. My parents and teachers wanted us to give our best, have rounded personalities, connect with people not just books, and discover hobbies and talents inside us and put them to work. They saw value in that holistic approach to living, even if it meant that we were perhaps viewed as less than perfect.
And, so, I left home at 18, not to find myself, but to discover the routes and the roads, the highways and the muddy trails that would make me one with the world and show me its sapience and follies. The farther I travelled and the more time I spent in the company of others, the more I found myself growing exponentially and returning home a fuller version of myself. Those trips and journeys showed me how disconnected we humans are to our shared humanity, our common core. That inner sanctum where all of us are the same, where we breathe, live and pulse, even dream and envision lives pretty much the same way. My travels made me question our disconnect with and within ourselves, a disconnect amplified by our indifference, or worse, our hatred and disdain for the other. But, I believe, we have within us the energy, resources, tools and abilities to mend what is broken. All that is needed is the will and the desire to use them and to be mindful in this endeavour.
As I experience being marginalised in a mostly-White America by some of its misguided citizens, as I see minorities across the world living with their own fears, I begin thinking of us humans as archaeological ruins. I find myself not learning from the world, but unlearning and working hard to excavate my humanity and pursue ways to connect with it. The restoration of an ancient ruin most often has the surveyors and restorers focus on the core. It is here, in the foundation — when it is discovered — that they see potential for investment in sustainable repairs. Most ruins, unless razed to the ground, regain glory with deep investment in mending those broken bits and bobs.
Life and time are two of the greatest teachers. My mother has shown me that in how she uses both to her advantage and as her strength. Life, she has taught me, beseeches us to make the most of time. Time leads us, if we live with eyes wide open, to understand the value of life.
Life and time afford us discoveries and practical lessons. Mindful living gives us an education that schooling cannot and that medals and honours do not guarantee. A certain darkness is essential for us to grasp the connected brilliance of shimmering stars and see beyond them. When we see them in that umbra, only then can we understand that the sky is above us, the earth is below us, and inside us is a fire. A fire we need to learn to moderate for our benefit lest it destroy us.
As we rush to get vaccinated, as we deal with the restlessness many feel due to COVID-19, I find myself wondering if there exists a vaccine that can bring us inwards to understand life and live more collegially. I struggle to understand how we can feel lost when inside us are the answers we need. Buried under layers of societal and cultural conditioning, we are hiding behind religious dogma and chanting. Blinded by the opinions of others as “lost” as ourselves, we accept fake news and wrong conclusions, those we might have been taught when we were innocent but to which we have held fast even as we were matured by life and time.
If we want to live freely and wholly in a post-COVID world, if we want 2020 to have counted and 2021 to count as worthwhile, we must not allow ourselves to remain as excavation sites. Rather, we should remember the “us” deep inside, which has always been there with us and for us. It was there before the world got its hands on us, and it is waiting for us to get unshackled from all the madness which we lose ourselves and our humanity to and to come back home to where, when one with self, we become one with all others.
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