Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Perils of Traveling

Traveling is a dangerous thing.

It shakes the very foundation of stability that the world has so carefully conditioned us to believe in and aspire for. It melts the strong chords that bind us to the motivations which keep us going for the race everyday. It opens windows, the views from which were never meant to be savored. Finally, it makes us question if indeed the beliefs we hold about the ideal life hold any element of truth in them at all.

Every time I am back from travel, the life I am leading seems more purposeless than ever.

The family went for a trip to Trichy last week. We don't have our relatives there. It was a place I was visiting after almost 12 years. Dad wanted to go on a 'temple-sightseeing' marathon of sorts. I didn't mind. I like temples; the ambiance in them.

There was that initial resistance, of course. The possibility of a quiet weekend at home, lying on the bed, dreaming, reading fiction, watching movies, and browsing random sites, was indeed tempting. Interestingly, activities of the like are what I have been doing over all weekends since work life began and yet, till date, I have never felt completely refreshed. So, it was worth giving something different a shot.

It was a spectacular trip - to say the least. Nothing mind-blowing in particular if I had to point it out but on the whole, I have never felt so rejuvenated in a long time. That is the beauty of travel. It got me wondering - How often do I go to places that I have absolutely never been to before? How often do I get out of Chennai?  I decided then that no matter what, I would strive to leave the city and go elsewhere - anywhere - at least once a month. 

During the trip, there was a feeling of homecoming, as though man truly belonged only to the road; He wasn't meant to be caged in giant concrete structures, chasing deadlines and sales targets. After the trip, there was this stir within - a restlessness that I am going back to an artificial pointless system, a rat race of constant hurrying for no reason that was going to make the world a better place i.e., either add beauty, add knowledge or help another human being.  It made me ask myself "What the heck am I doing with my life?". Is this what I would do if I had just a month to live? I think if most of us had just a month to live, we will surely quit our jobs. 

Work is meditation. True. We were not built to lie down sleeping the whole day but somehow the system of career today seems so unnatural and stifling to the human spirit. By nature, we are all nomads within. What we find ourselves in today, truly goes against our innate nature. Is there a system possible where we do not have to go for a nine to five job?  Or is it too late to revert back to that kind of a living? Yet, I am sure - if every person were granted the freedom to develop in a conducive manner without any restrictions and rules, there would be a flourishing of inventions, art, literature and beauty. 

There is a gross murder of creativity in the pattern we are following today, where we move like a herd of cows. It has made us all prisoners of mass thinking, prisoners of routine - incapable of free thought, incapable of rising beyond mediocrity and carving a unique niche for ourselves. Unfortunately, our system rewards lavishly those who follow this pattern most devoutly and sincerely - the punctual ones, the conscientious ones and hardworking ones. Our system has its own way of punishing those who deviate by pushing them down all the orders - financial, social and legal.

Success then, is a measure of your ability to not get distracted in this race and have single-minded focus on results, productivity and target without pausing to think of the relevance of it all. The dreamers fare poorly. The ability to dream or hold ambiguous thoughts is a huge liability and survival makes it necessary not to develop those skills. 

The good news -  it is possible to be completely oblivious to any of these disturbing thoughts for a long time. There many safeguards in place to keep us in check. The key then is to avoid those triggers which get us thinking otherwise, of seeing the big picture - triggers like TRAVEL. 


This is why travel is bad. It makes me think of all these things. It makes me want to escape and never come back to the order. It reminds me of all the possibilities in another world. Travel not just makes all the problems and stress of the usual life seem small, travel also makes the gratifications and joys of this life seem insignificant. 

Sometimes, I kid myself into believing that someday, I will surely find a way to get out of it.

Image sources:
articles.nydailynews.com
http://2backpackers.com/

15 comments:

CHIBI said...

When i read the first line of the blog. I thought 'wow, did you experience some kind of dangerous accident during your trip..' and as i read the blog, i came to know, you did have an accident, philosophically and Any accident changes life.

I guess we all experience this after travel.. I feel so bad about being in USA after a trip to India.. have a big identity crisis, then it slowly fades away with monotonous life.

Every time i go on a long drive, i think why not Do a road trip across the continent of USA and visit places, but that idea dies in thoughts only, cos we avoid risk thinking about Work.

I say mundane work is the biggest distraction to success. think about it, we are so engrossed in working like zombies, we are afraid to take risk, innovate & grow up. all we think about is following a routine, spend 9 to 5 at work. there are ways to break out from this cube jail, All you need to do,is have an idea for a escape plan and execute it at the right time.

Here's a very cheesy line to end..
"Travel the road of innovation in a car called Creativity, Don't mind the bumpy risks but go along , because success isn't a destination, it's a journey." (that's the cheesiest line i've ever written.. it's definitely going on my self help book, i might once write)

ganeshputtu said...

everything doesnt have to be cut and dried like you say..there are many shades of gray in between (more than 50) you dont have to quit your job and neither should you forgo new experiences - the art is in finding the balance - between the mundane and the exciting...for if you lead an exciting life every single day- that would become monotonous too- learn to work around the limitations and have fun while doing so. ok.too much gyan- as always- something you keep castigating me for. i will shut down.

Susan Deborah said...

I was about to write down a neat comment and as the sentences were being strung, the Doktor's comment caught my attention. he almost stole what I had to say: "for if you lead an exciting life every single day- that would become monotonous too . . ." I always think about how it would be if everyday was spent as if I was on a holiday. I realised that then it would also become monotonous. A balance is what we need - Equal doses of work and play.

Joy always,
Susan

Between life's doings said...

ahhH! I agree with EVERY single word you said, and how precise, coherent and wonderful a piece.

you will find a way to get out of it! I am SO sure!

Arumugam said...

I am with you on that.The problem is that we have lost a sense of meaning in whatever we do.Job's and occupations have become so specialized that they seem mundane.The closest analogy I can think of is the economist Adam Smith's Pin factory parable.

Yes,the 'dreamers fare poorly'.But at least you have it better.I was discouraged from pursuing the Humanities as it was for 'girls':-( also,no girl would be willing to marry me,so I'd die all alone surrounded by...well,I am not into cats too,so I don't know:D

So I treat my day job as my subsidy to the arts:D and pursue other passions from 6pm-9am,metaphorically.

A 'phoren' born cousin has done a PhD on the works of Nietzsche,and now works at Harrods(supermarket). He tells me "All that insight into the meaning of life,and here I am making sure the Jam labels are facing outwards on the shelves":D

Have you seen The motorcycle Diaries,based on the life of Che Guevara? Oh we have our very own local version ZNMD,though completely different:D

Sinduja said...

@Chibi: I so agree with your point that 'it fades away with monotonous life'. That is the scary part, isn't it - we can't trust the inclinations of our mind. One minute, it says this and another, that. True, we avoid risk thinking and a few who finally overcome this fear are probably the ones who give up everything for travel or walk across continents and so on.

Mundane work is surely a huge barrier to growth. It takes a lot of effort, energy and time to put a working plan allot a part of our life for quality experience - some thing new, something insightful and different.

Ha ha.. yes, that line should definitely go into your book!

Sinduja said...

@Ganesh: Finding the balance? My question is, why have to bear the mundane at all? Why should we balance it with the better options?

Sinduja said...

@Susan: Susan, you have provided a truly valuable new angle for this discussion. Credit to Ganesh too.

"If we were to live an exciting life every single day, that would become boring too"

Brilliant. Thinking about it, yes, I agree. However, how are we defining exciting life here - one with no commitments, pressure and duties? All travel, dancing, blogging and learning? No, I did not mean that. I believe that every one of us are programmed to contribute some output to this world in order to be healthy and functional.

My point was, wouldn't a stint at social work or writing or teaching or working at an inspiring research lab or some creative art industry that we are truly passionate about feel more REWARDING than selling a product or handling accounts and so on? True, every industry has its share of politics and struggles. But certain vocations must be making a bigger difference and bear more meaning than the rest right?

I think that is what I miss - a sense of purpose.

Sinduja said...

@Aarathi: Thank you so much Aarathi! means a lot to me, coming from someone as mindful as you.

And I truly truly felt overjoyed to see that you chose to capitalize the 'so' to stress on how convinced you were. I really trust your intuition. Thanks again! :)

Sinduja said...

@Arumugam: I was doing some search on Adam Smith's parable but couldn't find a good source which could explain economics-challenged people like me. Please share a good link if you can find one. :)

From my observation, pardon me if its wrong, I have seen that male dreamers fare worse. No girl would marry you? Ha ha, they cited that as a reason? Well, had u given a shot at IAS and become a civil servant, perhaps prospects would have rushed fwd and lined up? Idk :)

Also, studies and jobs seem to have little correlation in many fields these days. That said, I wonder what are the 'humanities' jobs except academia, civil services, and what? ; which is why it is not surprising what your cousin is doing.

And you know what Arumugam, it is interesting you mention about your 'tactic' to balance life because that is exactly what I decided this afternoon - that I was going to live two lives. I did, to some extent, like my day job. But there are some voids it doesn't fill, some needs it can't satisfy. So I will use the rest of my time to address these. And yes, I did feel good about it.

ZNMD? Phew - totally din't stir up an iota of emotion in me. But motorcycle diaries - yes, got to watch! :)

Arumugam said...

Quoting from wiki page on "Business Process"

"One of the most significant people in 18th century to describe processes was Adam Smith in his famous (1776) example of a pin factory. Inspired by an article in Diderot's Encyclop├ędie, Smith described the production of a pin in the following way:

”One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head: to make the head requires two or three distinct operations: to put it on is a particular business, to whiten the pins is another ... and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which in some manufactories are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometime perform two or three of them.”

Smith also first recognized how the output could be increased through the use of labor division. Previously, in a society where production was dominated by handcrafted goods, one man would perform all the activities required during the production process, while Smith described how the work was divided into a set of simple tasks, which would be performed by specialized workers. The result of labor division in Smith’s example resulted in productivity increasing by 24,000 percent (sic), i.e. that the same number of workers made 240 times as many pins as they had been producing before the introduction of labor division."

We are the inheritors of the division of labour,the most deadening legacy of our industrial history.Did any of us as spirited children dream to grow up to spend our days doing this?Few get to draw on their diverse skills and take a job from start to finish.Instead we are doing something which is part of the whole which sometimes we are not even aware of...

Your previous comment "" I believe that every one of us are programmed to contribute some output to this world in order to be healthy and functional. My point was, wouldn't a stint at social work or writing or teaching or working at an inspiring research lab or some creative art industry that we are truly passionate about feel more REWARDING than selling a product or handling accounts and so on? True, every industry has its share of politics and struggles. But certain vocations must be making a bigger difference and bear more meaning than the rest right?
I think that is what I miss - a sense of purpose.""

reminds me of a favorite passage of mine,expressed quite beautifully

"It is surely significant that the adults who feature in Children's comics and books are rarely if ever,Regional Sales managers or building service engineers.They are shopkeepers, builders,cooks or farmers -- people who's labour can be linked to the visible betterment of human lives.As creatures innately aware of balance and proportion,we cannot help but sense that something is awry in a job title like "Brand supervision Coordinator, biscuits division" and whatever the logic given to efficiency,another principle to which no one has yet given a convincing name has here been ignored and subtler human laws violated."

Sinduja said...

Arumugam!

Phew.

If there is one wish I would like to have granted right now, one favor I had to ask of you, I' d request this - No matter how dreadful this blog gets, Please pl try your best to keep visiting it and adding your comments.

The value and knowledge that you add here are truly worth their weight in gold.

Arumugam said...

I almost thought you were going to say "Phew,If there is one wish I would like to have granted right now, one favor I had to ask of you, I' d request this,please follow the word limit:))" lol

Its your blog and your writing that brings out such thoughts and discussions,Thanks for that:D

Rakesh Balakrishnan said...

you should watch, into the wild, gods must be crazy and waking life

Pushkar said...

" This is why travel is bad. It makes me think of all these things. It makes me want to escape and never come back to the order. It reminds me of all the possibilities in another world. Travel not just makes all the problems and stress of the usual life seem small, travel also makes the gratifications and joys of this life seem insignificant. "

I have had these thoughts right from my college days.

Fortunately or unfortunately, after a while, my mind goes, "Time to get back to civilization." Once I am back, the urge to travel again kicks in. I guess some things are just embedded deep into our system that makes our life a limbo on some level.