Yesterday we had our project managers meeting, where everyone contributed to the discussion, listened to presentations, asked questions, ate lunch together and exchanged ideas. These monthly meetings are helpful, fosters team work and camaraderie, though one’s ideas are not always appreciated, and for those who are sensitive, liable to have hurt feelings with a trace of paranoia, like ‘why doesn’t anyone understand what I am saying’? It is a jostling contest where one tries to be better than the rest, though one admits to a tendency towards dominance, a superiority complex but in fact shadows crossing the mind. But one learns to accept the majority view, to descend into a point of tolerance and acceptance, instead of paranoia and anger, a gift of Thomas Jefferson by enshrining into the independence declaration, the pursuit of happiness. It’s an Eastern concept, seeking harmony with the rest despite the rancor of debates, political plots and bitter fights; to be able to rise above petty differences and tolerate acceptance. Nevertheless, one feels a tinge of existential fear, that others don’t really accept you despite the outward appearance. Leaving the meeting, one was happy of the communion but the mind active to lurking doubts.
After work, a journey to the gym, meeting coworkers and having a chat, one losing his keys that one wonders if he should have helped. Thirty minutes spent in the treadmill, looking at the aerobics class where one thinks about social commitments, feeding the mind with uncertainties, adding to the brain’s feverish state, as earlier in the office one responds to emails, with perceived slights in the wordings, plus a nasty dispute with another. Visits to the gym are normally therapeutic, but one wonders why the mind was not relieved, where thoughts from work still fester. Perhaps the lost opportunity of not swimming, where the waters cleanse confusion away, instead rushing to the shower and back to the streets as one journeys to a Chautauqua event, held in a fine arts center. Perhaps it was the audio book one was listening to: ‘Anti Fragility’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, whose venomous tirades against economists, bankers, suckers and the rests of the non-comprehending humanity set the stage for more feverish thoughts, clinging to the illusion of intellectual superiority, goaded by the logic of his arguments. It is this constant quest to be better that’s driving the culture, to be like sports heroes, or Internet millionaires, or having the best house or luxury cars that drive consumerism; the quest to be exceptional.
It was a musical event, an elegant piano player, middle aged with a full white beard and pony tail, standing under a spotlight, at the center of the concert stage, talking about Leonard Bernstein, playing Chopin and Bernstein’s music from ‘West Side Story’, regaling the audience about Stephen Sondheim and the great George Gershwin. The usher kindly led me to the concert room, walking through the exhibition hall, looking at artworks, settling into my seat and enjoying the show. I thought an evening of music would relieve my mind, but the situation seemed alien, not a part of me, trying hard to blend in the scene but one felt like an outsider. It felt foreign, the chat with the elderly usher, the discussion by the musician, although I did understand the cultural aspects, I was uncomfortable. I arrived home at 9 pm, ate a light dinner and watched the lectures in the online course. I went to bed at 12 pm but I couldn’t sleep, lying in the dark surfing the Internet by phone, looking at old friends in Facebook and Pinterest, familiar faces now old or young ones with a tinge of regret. I felt like I was waiting for something, perhaps the fate of my parents, waiting for the call from home or perhaps the hidden urge to go back, to overcome fear, to meet parents enfeebled by dementia or stroke or the decay of their bodies. A confrontation with reality, to accept mortality, the truth one is no longer young, unsheltered by the protection of fathers and mothers but alone, facing life without their embrace.