Saturday, August 16, 2014

What matters most to you, and why?

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately,
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
To put to rout all that was not life,
And not, when I had come to die,
Discover that I had not lived.”

--Thoreau (also quoted in the movie, Dead Poets’ Society)

Since childhood, I have been a proud member of the secret Dead Poets’ Society. I have wandered into the woods in the recesses of my mind, and it is in these woods that words conjured by dead poets and writers transformed me into a Tom Sawyer or a Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It is these words that gave my incessant, restless yearning to constantly push the envelope wings to take flight; flights that allowed me to soar and explore, discover, and rejoice in the beauty, colors and mysteries that this world has to offer. Like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, what matters most to me is flying and “sucking out all the marrow of life” in order to reach the end of my own limits and that of the horizon, just to see what lies beyond. And each time I reach and step beyond that limit, I discover a new horizon and continue my quest for the absolute and apparently, infinite.

Honestly, I don’t know what that absolute or infinite is and why I pursue it, but I know that if I stalled, I would fall into an abyss of grayness and wither away. I also now understand that Newton and Leibniz both probably suffered from the same inexplicable affliction and hence, devised calculus in their attempts to reach the limit of infinity. Of course, I am by no means a genius, but then Richard Bach would say, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they are yours.” Ha, so I might just be a genius in the making, who knows. Apologies, I digressed.

I had never quite understood what poets meant by the phrase “Love sets you free”. But as I sit back and reflect on experiences and moments in which I felt in love, it was those which truly set me free—free to fly and explore perceived limits and then move past those perceived limits to the next horizon. Pursuits, friendships and relationships in which I experienced most such moments were the ones that went onto become my passions.

It is the desire to fly which drove me to spend hours of leisure time poring over mathematics, or to wield a cricket bat and become a student of the sport for life. Cricket, apart from being a physically challenging sport, is also one of the most mentally challenging ones-- outcomes for each ball are literally countless because of the sheer number of variables involved. In those hours when I strove to prove a theorem or pitch a ball at the perfect spot, I came alive in the beauty of the struggle to push limits and step closer to that ungraspable absolute; I flew.

It is the same quest for infinity that led me to the 18th century corridors of College Hall on Penn’s campus for Philosophical Society meetings, to sit up till wee hours of the morning with my hall mates absorbed in some animated discussion, or to sift through various religious texts in the library when I should technically have been doing my homework. Oops.

It is the same desire to expand horizons that drew me to CommuniTech in undergrad, and to Echoing Green once I started working. Through both, I learnt about the struggles of my counterparts and social entrepreneurs across the world, and by doing my bit to help, I enabled them to push limits and take flight of their dreams; with them, I vicariously flew.

Forever, I shall remain a proud member of the Dead Poets’ Society dedicated to “sucking all the marrow out of life”. You may call me a fool or a dreamer, capable of doing great things or being perpetually lost, but if you’re slightly more daring, you may also call me, “O Captain! My Captain”.


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