I am happy with too little

I am happy with too little

Contributor : Philip John

My problem is I am happy with too little.

A little work that I enjoy,
A little writing that turns out right,
A little love after a long, dark night,
A bird singing in the tree outside,
A small luxury, like a wireless speaker.
All these things fulfill me
Disproportionately.

It’s not a good thing, I tell myself;
I can work more, write more,
Love more (read: start a family).
Sometimes I chide myself:
You’re not hungry enough.
You’re happy with too little.
You’re an anomaly, a beautiful loser,
A problematic outlier
In the otherwise Olympian story
Of human success.

But then I write some copy for a brochure.
I wrestle with the sentences,
Trying to get them to cohere
Around an idea I have.
I like this process.
It’s like composing a symphony.
Then I counsel a friend, try to get him
On the path of reason, of compassion
Without losing my temper.
People can be so stupid, so stubborn.
I have to be patient.

All this takes a lot of work.

Then I have my simple, home-made lunch,
And open the novel I’m reading.
I read just two pages and I come away
With almost supernatural bliss,
A mental orgasm if you like
(Such beautiful, pitch-perfect writing),
And by now, (I am embarrassed to say),
I am so ridiculously content,
So happy. And with so little.

I know my happiness is small when
Compared with marketplace happiness.
My happiness comes too easy.
It’s not big enough, not bright enough.
But my happiness has all the
Self-sufficient, narcotic bliss
Of a glass of wine.

Is this self-actualization?
Or fatal contentment?
I don’t know, really.
Who can say for sure?

Since definitions are uncertain
I decide to say instead,
“My blessing is I am happy with little.”
I can live on a well-written sentence
All afternoon, after all.
Now that, fortunately or unfortunately,
Is my reality.
So yes, my blessing,

My innate, ennobling, damning blessing
Is I am happy with little, too little.

No use fighting it anymore.
Best to sing it out loud,
Best to be proud.
So this then is my bittersweet song to myself
My elegy for opportunities foregone,
My resignation letter to marketplace happiness,
My making-peace-with-myself declaration,
My moment of sublime self-acceptance
(Or sophisticated self-deception,
I don’t know. Best to be
Healthily sceptical always,
Even of one’s own philosophy).

But if it is indeed a blessing
Then I know it is just like
A gift for language
Or a cleft lip
A talent for cooking
Or a sixth finger on one hand.
What a mixed blessing this is;
Being happy with (too?) little.

I am going to the park with my book.
Join me if you like,
All you beautiful losers,
You poets, you philosophers,
You worriers, you misfits,
You self-proclaimed failures,
You quietly desperate beautiful children
Of the god of too little happiness.
We shall hunt for a ladybird in the grass.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen one.

About the contributor : Philip John co-runs a boutique creative agency in Bangalore. He is also an independent creative consultant and writer. His short fiction has been published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Out Of Print, and Helter Skelter. Philip teaches a creative writing program at Bangalore Writers Workshop. He is an alumnus of Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad (MICA). Any comments about his poetry will be conveyed to him.

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Elon Musk, Success, and bad poetry

Elon Musk, Success, and bad poetry

I think Elon Musk is very cool. Not just because his name sounds like an expensive cologne, or because he has only taken 2 weeks of vacation in the past 10 years. And certainly not because he is rich. That even the Ambanis and Trump are.

He is cool because he pursues his passion with everything, and puts his money where his mouth is. It is not everyone who at 31 earns 180 million dollars – mainly from selling his business (Paypal), and then starts two hugely dreamy, hugely dicey businesses : one to make battery powered, self-driven cars, and the other to make reusable rockets. And he then invests so much in his dreams that he has to mortgage his house after the 180 million were consumed.

Fundamentally he is trying to change the world for the better – make it safer and eco-friendlier and expand human horizons.

I can see many great examples of similar, driven individuals around me – whether it be Ramya with Centa-TPO or Jo & Ramakant with Touchkin or Kavita with Adhyayan. Each of them, in their own way, is trying to change the status quo and make a difference.

When I look at such people it invariably makes me wonder – what am I doing? How am I changing my world?

And my answers are much smaller. Sure, I am helping a few individuals become better writers and published authors. And a few of my consulting clients succeed in their start-up ventures / businesses. And one day I will write my Magnum Opus. But something else has changed that makes me feel “successful”.

To explain my success, I have to rewind to 2014. Back then I was never home. I used to work long hours, travel a lot, and even when home I used to spend a lot of time on the phone or on the computer. But I wasn’t changing the world. I was just earning an income and paying EMIs. My kids missed me a bit when I was gone, but not much. They were largely indifferent to my presence or absence as I was hardly ever there anyway.

Then last week I left home for a 4 day work trip to Chennai from here (Satkhol Village).

My wife called and said my son A was feeling really sad. But he said he felt better by remembering some lines of a poem he recently learnt.

“Prithvi Kehti Dhairya na chodo, jitna bhi ho sar par bhar.”

(The earth says don’t lose hope, whatever be the pressures on your head.)

Evidently that made him feel better. Sniffle. She also said that when I travel my daughter R counts down the number of days to my return.

So while I am not changing the whole wide world, I have changed something in theirs – and mine – and that sure is satisfying.

When I get very emotional and soggy eyed I write poetry. I think I am a terrible poet, and my poetry should be banned, but since this is my blog I will burden you with some of it. Although it might be in your interest to sign off here.

(Title here)

The first card – Gold. Then Platinum. Titanium.

From what precious metal will the next rung come?

The carrot. The bait? the next level will entice

We dutifully pursue it. That is our choice.

 

Wharton. Kellogg. Stanford. Yale.

Same version of the exact same tale.

Economy Class. Business. First. Private jet.

No, that isn’t the end of it yet.

Full price from Nordstrom? Or cheap end of season sale?

Will tell your worth – that one small tale.

 

We bow to the scale, the glitter measure.

A few pursue a different treasure.

How many smiles from the little child?

How many sunsets in the wild?

How many deep green miles did we walk?

How much more silence? How much less talk?

Give up the abject slavery of time.

Enjoy writing poems that barely rhyme.

Go from Titanium to home-baked bread.

Fight the glitter tongues in our heads.

 

Then he turns up and looks down his nose

At all my choices – school, car, clothes

Retiree. Slacker. Runaway. The label.

How about Real? Conscious? Able?

 

My friend, if your choices I don’t grudge

Don’t wield your gavel. Don’t be my judge.

You won’t get it, I can’t explain

birdsong can’t enter the pressurized plane.

The attempt to explain my belief is futile

Can you hear your footsteps in the carpeted aisle?

(Dont tell me I didnt warn you)

 

*The guy who wrote this post, along with his friend Roy Abraham are hosting the Himalayan Writing Retreat next month at a gorgeous Himalayan locale. He thinks he can help people write books (Can you believe that? Thank god for Roy!). You can learn more at https://uncityblog.wordpress.com/retreat/ .

Comfort in the Box

Comfort in the Box

Contributor : Lakshmi Anantnarayan

 

Fold the cardboard

Nail the sides of the crate

Make sure it’s sturdy

It won’t fall apart will it?

Use the thick marker

Is the paper water proof?

Laminate it so it will prevail

Let the font be bold

God forbid it be mistaken

For something else

Stick the label on top.

Open the lid

Climb right inside

Crawl into the little bed

You made for yourself

Stocked up on your essentials?

Now seal it tightly shut

And be safe

That this box

Your box

It is the best one yet.

 

About the poet : Lakshmi Anantnarayan describes herself as “just a 40 something person learning to feel happy taking pictures and scribbling I guess”.  We would like to add that she does much more and, amongst other things,  is an excellent photographer. You can learn more about her and her work  at https://storygarage.org/about/people-contact/ and read more of her prolific “scribblings” at https://oldbrownshoes.wordpress.com/ .