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.