An Island between Infinities

January 8, 2016 at 9:49 pm

Our narrow understanding of ‘Life‘, is one of the biggest obstacles to living it fully. If the definition of life were a vessel, we would fill it with descriptions ranging from the deeply intimate to the most obliquely abstract. Our fantasy of a limitless life and our perceived reality of a limited one wield their control on us in simultaneity. Which is real? If both are, which one must we tilt our favour towards?


Image Courtesy: azarius

Image Courtesy: azarius

The human life is an island, a pocket of finite conscience flowing through the infinite. While the mind can both grasp and swim in the endless streams of the cosmos, the body cannot. Confined within the body, we experience time, space and our ability to manipulate them as very real limitations. The seemingly endless elasticity of the human mind gravely overwhelms the bodies they dwell in which in comparison are severely limited. This creates a perception of reality that is at once both limited and limitless. We live and contemplate within both these perceptions concurrently.

What then is the true vantage point from which life must be perceived and realized? If perceived from the infinite expanse of the mind, life would appear unbounded for the confines of the body to maneuver around and if defined from the finite constraints of the body, it would be far too cramped for the mind to accommodate itself within. A good life is one that maintains an unblurred understanding of these worlds and of the boundaries where they meet. To deftly swim these deep waters and tackle this essential schizophrenia that we call the human condition is what Life is really about.

Living within Boundaries.

Perhaps as a remedy to tackle this painful inner dichotomy, we have chosen to live our lives in silos. It takes a while to realize it, but when you do, you will notice you have unknowingly settled into the habit. We bunch events and people together and label them into categories. This makes it easier to deal with it all and dispense our limited resources in their maintenance. Work, money, hobbies, vacations, career, relationships are all silos within which we live. Inside each of them is a tiny island of our life and inside that island is a tiny subset of who we are. Together, we believe, all these islands can somehow come together to form a whole. We create them to deal with our inability to inhale all of life in at once. To breathe in the immeasurable in rationed breath-sized portions.

We attempt to survive in the incomprehensible vastness of the world around us by navigating barriers and boundaries that separate everything into silos. We carve and chip away at the infinite until we create a portion for ourselves that we feel can be adequately controlled or managed. The rest of our life is then adapted towards the effective management of these portions.

But are we really controlling the world this way? No. We are merely curtailing our reach. We are curating our experience of it. Over time we forget that we have done this and foolishly believe that what we perceive, no matter how restricted, is our whole world. Our boundaries show what we control and what we control shows how we pull or push life through us. What we focus on ultimately becomes our life.

As you can imagine, this scattered living will on some level start pinching our conscience. We will sense it as a disturbance, a growing sense of emptiness or a tilt in the balance of things. Life will start seeming lopsided and in order to fix it, we foolishly attempt to add more silos in. A silo called health or spirituality usually makes its way in to fix this growing disturbance. To balance what has gone unsteady. We nurture the trees in the hope that the orchard can take care of itself. It takes over half a lifetime for us to discover that this is not how it works. The whole is never the sum of its parts. To nurture the whole, we must first develop a relationship with the whole.

Do you pull life in or push it out?

Every silo captures a part of our individuality in a uniquely personal manner. In some we are happy, in some efficient and in others perhaps stressed. We are responsible in some and playful in others. Our language within each silo is reflective of who we are being in it. It is also reflective of whether the silo pulls life in or pushes it out. By paying close attention to the words we use to describe our life within a silo, we can learn a great deal about the nature of the boundaries that define it. Notice the times when you describe your life as suffocating or stifling and look at how your boundaries in that area of your life are set up. Are they controlled by fear, guilt or shame? Is that island of your life craved by pushing life out? Look at other islands where you feel free and expansive and notice what the difference is. The way a person wields his boundaries is a true reflection of how he contemplates himself.

The nature of a silo is defined by the function of its boundary. Is the boundary meant to keep life out or pull life in? The whole experience of life within that silo changes based on this one small aspect. A person who hates his job will be very specific to point out what his responsibility isn’t and avoid it. His job soon becomes the residue of what remains after he has pushed out all that he isn’t being paid to do. Since he dislikes what he is being asked to do, he reacts by ensuring he doesn’t do more of it. Within such silos it becomes apparent that the boundary is defined by resistance. The driving force behind the boundary, its gatekeeper, is resentment with a mix of fear and that creates his experience with his job. It is never the other way around.

You will notice the dominant activity in most unhappy silos resembles a pushing and not pulling. We seldom pull into the areas of our life that are unhappy in their depth. We can see this by comparing a good relationship in our life with a bad one. The boundaries on the bad are set by pushing experiences, quirks, behavioral ticks out of it and by introducing restraints and conditions. The good relationships always grow by absorbing more life into them. They are ever expanding. Over decades these relationships expand so much, that the people in it don on many roles. A father becomes a friend, a mentor and a guide. A wife grows into a mother, a caretaker and a counselor. That one small silo over a lifetime becomes colossal. You can see this in the lives of really successful people. They start off small as a dancer or a poet and over time they pull in the whole world into this silo of theirs.

Image Courtesy: macwagen

Image Courtesy: macwagen

The intuitive leap that lead us to bottle life into manageable segments wasn’t flawed. It is in fact our most natural response to the unknown. Just like a journey is made with measurable steps, so is life lived through manageable silos. What we need to learn is how to live within one. Just look at the silo called ‘communication’ in the life of Helen Keller. What started off as the smallest and the most thwarted of her silos grew into a beaming beacon of inspiration that illuminated the world and continues to do so long after her demise.

That is what a silo that pulls life in looks like. It enables a blind and deaf person to communicate with people, give lectures, write books and articles, interpret music, travel the world, fight for the rights of women and laborers and inspire people long after her body has passed on. She has shown us that it is not our limitations but our relationship to them that matters. Reacting to the limits of our physicality by placing limits in the mind is a foolish way to live, but we have all done that and many of us continue to do so everyday. We need to instead rise into the limitless realms and breathe in as much as we can. We need to keep our boundaries elastic, just like our minds. Over time our silos will grow to be limitless. Within our silos we get a glimpse of the boundless infinite. The same infinite that we were at first too baffled and underwhelmed to attempt biting into. When our reach extends beyond our selves, so does our life.

We start by living life through the boundaries we place on it, but over time we need to re-evaluate our relationship to these boundaries. Choose your gatekeepers wisely. Do you pull life in through your passions or do you let fear, guilt and shame push it out? Organize your life around love and you will notice you don’t have to ever bother balancing it. Its the gentler boundaries that foster expansion and not the forceful ones.

Pull life in, don’t push it out. We were born into life and it is all around us. All we need to do now is to allow it in.

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