Saturday, December 26, 2015

Jottings on 20th November 2015 ( Aftermath of a mugging)

My profound thanks to all friends who took time to read my post on the mugging that happened the day before yesterday, offered their wishes and enquired about my well-being. It is always very satisfying to receive such undiluted love and affection. Messages on Facebook, emails, Skype calls and chats inundated me. All that I can ever hope to do is to reciprocate such unconditional love, but never be able repay it. Many thanks again!!! However, there was one call that set me thinking in a different direction. It was from a close friend who pinged me on Skype and said “Bala, Why did you walk that way. Could you have not taken a different route?" A common enough question, asked with lot of care and genuine sympathy; but, as I said, it set my mind thinking.
The point is, I have walked that same path for well over two years now. A quick mental calculation revealed the number to be about 200 times, at least. And not once have I encountered anything close to being a threat. I guess then, as a thinking Human being, it is reasonable to assume that if it was safe to walk the path those many times, then walking the same way one more time yesterday should have been a matter of routine, habit and custom. But, as circumstances would have it, the 201st time proved to be different. Now does that mean what happened yesterday was an aberration, a deviation from the law of causation; or the 200 odd eventless walks before this was pure chance and this one yesterday was the real thing waiting to happen. It all depends on how we look at things. And this is how Human knowledge develops, isn't it. If an experiment succeeds n number of times, it declared to be infallible truth, and all "deviations" will be considered an anomaly. We accept the trend to be inviolable. In fact, if one looks at the history of accumulated human knowledge, it is based on this basic premise of recorded successes. The irony of it all though is that it takes only one deviation from the norm to dethrone everything we take for granted. Any major shifts in embodied systems of thinking is often jolted by a sudden discovery or proof to the contrary. In existential thinking, we call this deviation a "Black swan". Scholar, statistician and Investment analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb popularized this notion in his wonderfully accessible 2007 book "The impact of the highly improbable". In it, he argues that for most of us, security lies in the assurance that certain causes and effects cannot go wrong; hence it must be true for ever forward in time. And when something different happens, we bemoan it to be a catastrophe and something completely unexpected, when the truth is any such expectations as we entertained were only in our heads and nowhere else. If security and comfort is any measure of perpetuity, then Dinosaurs would have made merry even today. For thousands and probably millions of years, they ruled the planet, until one catastrophic event wiped them all away. No one knows why? It was a Black swan. Black swans then, are those hidden realities that now and then emerge changing the way we perceive life.
The way we handle Black swans is that we rationalize it after the event, pigeon holing the deviation, bending the unpredictable happening into the contours of the known, hoping that things will continue this way, until we encounter another Black swan round the corner. Events such as Yesterday's are typical examples of such unpredictability. Curiously, Mystics across all religions talk the same language. That life is essentially insecure, and the seemingly secure flow is only an illusion- is the beginning of deepening spiritual maturity. As a young man, I remember being deeply affected by Alan Watts’s wonderful exposition of this simple truth for modern man in his little book title “The wisdom of insecurity”
If I have learnt anything from yesterday, it is this - Be prepared for the unpredictable. It can happen in any shape, form or size. As a Close friend told me “Bala, I am glad you did not panic...” Yes true, I was only too willing to give up anything I had to those unfortunate youngsters, and I was totally open to anything that might follow. That I walked to target, chose carefully my bananas, potatoes and other essential items, making sure I didn’t cross the ten dollar I had in my back pack, went home, showered and then called T-Mobile to deactivate my phone – makes me looks like an odd man. Except for those few minutes after those boys ran and I steadied myself physically and mentally, I am not in any way rattled at all. I am still around to live life a third time. Heaven only knows, what’s in store for me. I can only smile at its playfulness.
PS : I now have a new SIM in an old Phone. So I am good now:)
God bless....
Yours in mortality,

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