Monday, December 27, 2010

A Speck of Cosmic Dust

I am fortunate to be the alumnus of a prestigious business school in the country. As you might imagine, folks land up in business school so that they can become the CEOs of the future, so that they become the hot shot investment bankers, so that they can become. Most folks who come to business school have big ambition. Most folks are extremely driven towards success. And yes, there are some folks who already feel successful even before they have started. Some folks are already acting like CEOs. Some are already the hotshot investment bankers they intend to become. The place is full of ambition and achievement.

Going back to the time, we were in a frenzy to achieve our potential and to make it big in life. Between classes, library, project work, group assignments and house parties, we didn't have much time for anything else. But thankfully, the house parties gave us time to let our hair down and do the many foolish things that we would remember, laugh over for years to come. It gave us the time for unadulterated friendship, unadulterated by anything significant other than some spirits. It was also in such settings that some of the most heated debates on life and its significance took place. And it is here, in the midst of all this, that friendships were formed that last a very long time. Isn't it funny that you go to college to make a career, but more than anything else, you typically end up making lifelong friends.

I remember, today, one such friend. A friend who with one simple statement provided the antithesis to the whole ambition and achievement frenzy. It was in one of these house parties where the world was a haze. A complete haze of unclear and anxious ambition, at least for me. Everyone seemed to know what they wanted to become...everyone but me. I had to make up my mind because I need to be counted,  and you need ambition to be counted. There were probably a few others like me hiding behind their "I know what I want" facade. So, in the midst of all the budding CEOs and investment bankers, the mist of uncertainty began to rise. And that was around the time, that my dear friend imparted his Sufi wisdom and I was his ardent disciple.  He said to me, " We spend our time worrying about what we will become, about our future, our dreams. But really, while we might love to believe otherwise, in reality none of that is in your hands completely. Do your best and go with the flow. The world is not only about you. You are but just another speck of cosmic dust!!". While we treated that as comic relief to the stress of living a forced ambition, it was a statement that stayed through with me for a lifetime.

Every time I got a promotion, a newer bigger job or a simple pat on the back, it reminded me to not let it go to my head. Every time I got the blues, a problem at work or a talk-down from the boss, it reminded me again to not let the situation affect me. It provided and continues to provide perspective to most things. It shows your place in the grand scheme of things. It lets you take your ambition and your achievement a little less seriously. It reminds you that you are significantly insignificant or insignificantly significant, and either way that is not much of a difference. It helps you remain grounded. Thanks to my friend and philosopher for his all enduring perspective on life - a perspective that lightens the burden that ambition places on you. Yes truly, what are we but specks of cosmic dust?

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