The Cycle of Life

There was a young boy in a village. He went to school in the morning, worked on farms in the afternoon and played with his friends later in the day. He was asked to obey his teachers at school, disciplined at home by his parents, and bullied by elder kids in the village. He was always being taught the right way to think and the correct way to do anything. He did not always agree with what elders taught him about the difference between right and wrong

He hated being young and small and wanted to grow up soon, so that he could start giving orders to others and expect others to obey him. He would grow up and be strong, so nobody could bully him. He hated school, having to study and do lessons that were not at all interesting. He dreamt of being a grown-up so he could be smart. When he was an adult, he would have his own farm, and have others work for him. He would not have to beg for money anymore, he would have his own money and spend it on whatever he wished. He would have his own family, and he would be respected as the head of the family.

The boy grew up, married and soon had his own children. He hated being a farmer. Their crops would suffer when there was no rain. A lot of the farming equipment was so expensive, he couldn’t afford it, and he struggled to pay his workers’ wages. Managing the household finances was so difficult! His wife was always dissatisfied, not having this and that and always having to work around the house, and always wanting this and that. Being married was such a curse! His kids always wanted the latest toys he couldn’t afford, didn’t do their studies, and hated school. Disciplining kids was such a headache! All the blame for everything was always put on him, because he was the head of the household. Responsibility was such a pain!

He looked at his kids playing with their friends and thought how nice it is to be a child! Those kids didn’t have to worry about money. They had no respnsibility on their shoulders and could sleep peacefully at night, unlike him. They didn’t have nagging wives, lazy workers to manage, disobedient children to raise. They didn’t know how cruel the world could be. They were so innocent and carefree! He lamented not being a child anymore.

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  • Sounds very familiar – out study sessions are often interrupted by mutual expressions of envy by father and sons on their respective freedoms 🙂

    In my experience, troubles expand to fill the available emotional field-of-vision. Leaving a book at home and facing the biting sarcasm of the teacher sounds trivial to adults, who have acquired a much broader field of vision, and see it as a small blip. To a child, however, it looms large and threatening in his limited perspective.

    I vividly remember scenes from a preschool first-day a few years ago: a symphony of tiny kids screaming at the top of their voices, convinced that they would never see their parents again. The streak of a small hand across a misted-up glass door, a desperate attempt at escape. One kid actually squirmed out and got away, running for his life, scrambling up the picket fence until he was grabbed, kicking and screaming.

    They would be out in a couple of hours; but they didn’t know it, and it was quite possibly the worst time of their young lives.

    Adults suffer in this manner too – brooding over minor arguments at the office, road rage, newspaper-induced outrage, but in their case, I feel less sympathy. They have access to a bigger library of perspective-lenses, which they can use to zoom out or change scene if they so choose. Short vacations, completely cut-off from work-related email and stressors, can do wonders. Things which appeared huge and inevitable become much less so. The most telescopic perspective zoom lens of all is the deathbed perspective: would this thing matter if I look back on it at the end of my life?

    Of course, many of our social constructs are engineered precisely for the purpose of limiting perspective and amplifying the importance of arbitrary value systems: the gold stars of kindergarten become the “Likes”, appraisals, promotions, status-seeking treadmill of adulthood.

    Your farmer-student example reminds me of the ultimate consequence of perspective-poverty: suicide. Much ink has flowed on the issue of farmer suicides which, quite frankly, is a media creation. The numbers are accurate, but carefully delivered to maximize outrage and minimize perspective. On a per-capita basis, Indian farmers are less likely to commit suicide than most populations in the world, less so than the Indian service class. (I’ve actually done the numbers, BTW, not just talking out of my hat) Much less is said or done about the most preventable class of suicide – students. It is somewhat hard to cheerily advise the destitute farmer, the terminally-ill patient or the housewife trapped in a terrible family to look on the bright side of things. But one can, with great confidence, tell the student that a failed exam or a relationship is most certainly not the end of the world.

    • Apologies for the terribly late response, had not realized I had not responded here.

      As I remarked on Twitter, this is a solid example of when a comment on a post is better than the post itself. You write remarkably well, and I am most grateful that you read what I come up with.