Connecting the Dots

May 16, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Traversing the thin meandering paths between our wants and needs in life may be a very demanding journey, but it is just as necessary. We cannot choose not to take it, we can only choose when we do. While our ‘wants’ make themselves obvious, it’s the hidden ‘needs’ that usually forge the paths that our lives take and although some of us are blessed with knowing what we need, the rest of us are destined to stumble our way to it. Do we really need to stumble or have we missed clues that were placed along the way?


Penthrall: Connecting the Dots

Image Courtesy: Doug Geisler

All of us must have had the experience of reaching someplace and knowing we were meant to get there. A vague sense of reassurance that we are where we were always meant to be. A warm intuitive knowing that everything we have been through has added up to this very moment. This can be a life altering moment like finding your partner or staring at parenthood in the eyes of your new born child, or something far less dramatic but just as significant like discovering a hobby or finding out you are good at something you never cared to attempt all this while. What is that knowledge and where does it come from? If we always knew we were “supposed” to get here, why then did we wander so much along the way? Traveling backwards from this moment is always easy. In retrospect we find the signposts and guidelines all along.


 “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” ― Steve Jobs


Do we have to be so helpless or can we find patterns that are emerging with the connections we have made so far? There have been many occasions when I have been lost and in need of guidance and I found the counsel I needed right in my own house, in a book I had purchased years ago and not cared to finish, or in a note I had carelessly scribbled into a journal on a sleep deprived night. In these times I found, a simpler mind had traversed the very path that the now bemused mind wasn’t able to see. These notes and bookmarks led me to make choices I was struggling with and I felt in a strange way that my life had folded on itself to teach me something or to open a door I never knew existed. While these instances seemed small back then, looking back, I know they have left an indelible mark on my life. These moments are the dots that are eventually going to connect. But standing in these moments and looking at our life can give us clarity on where they are leading us to, and more importantly what we should be on the lookout for.


On one level, it does seem stupid to want external clues to decipher what we truly need in life. But that knowledge is locked away in the innocence of a simpler mind, a mind that barring a lucky few, the rest have left behind in an attempt to prepare for the reality of life. The reality that seems to get effortlessly unlocked by the uncomplicated clues tucked away in the pristine virginal mind we once had. A child knows what he needs, an adult knows only what he wants and this really is the poverty of growing up.


The good news is however, that the dots want to be connected just as much as we want to connect them. To understand the difference between a want and a need, we need only to discern their way of communicating with us. A want tempts us while a need feels like a calling. Distinguishing between the two is easy, but we seldom permit ourselves this discrimination. We get so mired in all the complicated choices that the simple ones go unnoticed. We fail see the forest for the trees. While we run after all the superficial details, the really important ones get pushed for later, scribbled in notes or stashed away in a to-do list. The same notes, lists and bookmarks that a future self visits on a forlorn night looking for guidance.


I got greedy one day and decided to look at all my bookmarks, notes and every other bit of information that had escaped my attempt to categorize and label afterwards. Those undisguised droplets of inspiration waiting to be consumed. I spent a lot of time on this exercise creating excel sheets to place all the information in and tag them according to relevance. To watch my life in bits and pieces. Reflecting on my history with the wisdom of someone who has lived it rendered new perspective. A perspective very different from the one who had lived through these events while they were happening. Now is when I could step back and see the forest. Somewhere in there, I thought, is every goal that had ever enthralled me, every dream that I had put away for later, every dormant seed idea that was waiting to be watered.

Connecting the Dots

Image Courtesy: Bala Sivakumar

As ludicrous as it sounds, the exercise wasn’t completely wasted. By the time I was done I was looking at years of notes, trying to find patterns in them. I couldn’t find patterns, but I did find the things I really loved doing in life. The tasks I would relentlessly set myself reminders to get back to and miss, the small hobbies that persevered despite the hellish untidiness that had consumed my life. In those nudges and whispers my needs had prevailed. My ‘wants’ may have screamed their way into my life, but they had no way of matching the tenacity of my ‘needs’. Staring at all this data I realized both that this was my way back to that simpler mind I had tucked away deep inside of me, and also that this was a symptom of all the chaos that I had cultivated to help me ‘survive’. Maybe this journey of going back was what most people called a mid-life crisis. A point of letting go and returning home.


 In the gnostic gospel of St. Thomas, Jesus says, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.


Contrary to what the cliches claim, you don’t have to give up the life you have to get the life that is waiting for you. The life that is waiting is hidden within the one you are living right now, you just need to find your way to it. When you do, you have already blossomed it into existence by merely walking into it, or stumbling, if that is how you ended up there. But no matter how you find your way to it, you were preordained to end up there because that is where you always belonged, and when you arrive you will know that you were meant to get there. A vague sense of reassurance will inform you that you are where you were always meant to be. A warm intuitive knowing will spread its way into you, softly whispering that everything you have been through has added up to this very moment.


Subscribe for more