Friday, June 10, 2011

On success...

To some, success means getting in to an Ivy League college, landing a dream job, and getting that promotion. To some, it comes in the latest model of Mercedes-Benz, that private yacht for transportation to and from a private island. To some, it manifests in a having family, being a loving parent, and boasting the greenest lawn in a five mile radius. A person's concept of success will take on multiple forms depending on his or her stage of life simply because human beings are so incredibly adaptive. We can grow used to the harshest of conditions, but also to the luxuriest. We become accustomed to praise, approval, to a new job, new car, new spouse, the easy life. If success were an immutable object, the ultimate gold star one can reach out and grab and declare, "look here, I've finally got it - Success," I'm not sure I would want it. What happens after success? Do you bathe in its wonder and sweetness until death? Or do you stop living because you've crossed the finish line with years still left in the bank? I doubt I'll stick around knowing that I've done everything I needed to do in this life.

However, we know from exemplary individuals in human history, that as nature has given us the will to live, to cling to life however much we may already be dead inside, it has also given us a basic urge to work. Success in material form is not enough to satisfy the immeasurable power of the human spirit. Will never be. Maybe we feel the need to regain some kind of a paradise, a utopia, once ours but now lost, seemingly forever. However, our need to work doesn't and shouldn't come from perfectionism, a sense of inadequacy, a need to prove ourselves, or any motivation of that sort. It comes from taking life seriously (although one should never take himself seriously), stuffing it full of experiences from the widest spectrum, stretching the limits of Man set by previous generations, and not by putting it aside because you're "bored", "haven't got time", or "tired". When we can steadily improve in the face of both criticism and approval, working not for some external aim, but out of a deep sense gratitude at being alive, then maybe we will have succeeded. And by then, I dare say, the journey towards "success" would render the reward meaningless. Those who have truly succeeded have always been the least concerned with their achievements. Therefore, work because you can, out of joy, gratitude and need. Of course, we have to define work, but that's for another time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cheers to an insect

She taught me how to believe. In dreams, in people, in storybook ideals.

It all started with a tennis ball, one summer day by the pool. Wet clothes, watermelon, walls taken down. There was instant recognition as if we have known each other before, a long, long time ago. And the digging started that day, layer after layer, lasting until the present. Colors, foods, hobbies, pastimes, aspirations, worries, sorrows, fears, insecurities. She knew my deepest secrets as well as my proudest achievements. We fought over silly things mostly stemming from my selfishness, often making up an hour later. We cried together, late at night underneath the safety of our covers, sometimes out of mutual sadness, often out of joy that fate brought two physically distant people to a meeting point. We created music, art, stories, imaginary worlds and fantastical adventures. Mostly, we laughed.

With any serious friendship, you give a part of yourself. Some may take a cursory look and move on. She looked, stared, examined every flaw before deciding she still liked what she saw. There is tremendous comfort in realizing that someone in this world knows you well, perhaps not completely, but well enough that you continue to communicate, reveal, share with others. She taught me it was okay to take a risk with people and friends forever, it is not just another cliche made false by the harshness of growing up. For that, and reasons too many to name, I'm eternally grateful.