This post will take 10 mins to read through, if you would rather listen, here is the link to the podcast version on Spotify
Whilst pondering on life’s purpose, I thought one of the possibilities is that we have taken birth to fulfil our soul’s journey or a small part of its journey, and things that give us satisfaction are somewhat checking the boxes of our soul’s desire. If you feel a compelling need to donate to someone poor, and you feel good after doing that, it is like a small tick mark off the list. Similarly, when you have dreamt of that designer watch/fancy mobile phone, saved up for it and bought it, the happiness that it gives you is also a check in the box. Anything within this wide spectrum, apart from actions that harm or are selfish or put you in debt, I feel serve some purpose deeper than the apparent material level fleeting happiness.
This thought came about stronger when I watched two documentaries the other day, each documentary showcased the life of one woman. Each of them is worlds apart, but living life to the fullest of their soul’s desire. The first woman has dedicated her life to save/serve the African nomads, living in the harsh desert of Ethiopia last 25 years. She claims she is happier than any of us, living in this hostile environment with close to nothing around, not even the bare necessities. The temperature soaring 50- 60 degree Celsius most of the year, no clean potable water, camels and goats are the only possessions and key to survival. These nomads go 2-3 days between decent meals and one out of three children die of malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia or TB. She is a nurse by profession, and she sometimes travels by foot covering up to 50kms in a day, with a camel laden with medicines, to find remote wandering tribes and provide them the medical help required. She feels young and walks with a leap in her step like a 16 year old. A truly inspiring personality full of energy.
She says she has seen what actual poverty means, what hunger really means and what death looks like. And she would not trade her life for anything, she also doesn’t believe she is sacrificing anything in life. She wishes everyone could live and experience her way of life and experience the happiness in it. She is fit as a fiddle at 59 and she can walk 10 hrs a day to find remote tribes and save some lives in the middle of a massive desert. This documentary really made me stop, pause the video and think. With so many people now turning towards minimalism, whole plant based vegan lifestyle, people preferring to leave high end jobs and plush cities, to move into tiny self-sustained houses with solar energy and rain water. Are we looking at happiness in the wrong place? Is possessing very little completely liberating? I can understand choosing a minimalistic living within a city or a habitable environment, but this documentary took it to its extreme. A place that is inhospitable, extremely harsh, no potable water, no lush trees , hardly any rain, wandering the nothingness of the desert with possessions that can fit on a camel’s back, no permanent houses, just make shift huts, and what struck me was, this woman looked genuinely at peace and satisfied. The genuineness was apparent in the video, she did not seem to be just talking philosophy, she is living it. Her spirit was not burdened, and she seemed to have accepted every negative aspect completely, including the death she sees so frequently around her. Salut to such souls who are working in silence and seem to have found heaven where there seems to be only hell.
The second documentary was about an 83year old woman, a rich elite from Bangkok, whose love for fine clothing, dining and partying is still very much alive. She takes the time to do her make-up, her team helps her with the designer clothes and expensive accessories and even at that age, she is a well-known socialite in her city. She grew up in a rich family, wealth coming in from her grandmother, she has not know any other life. After her husband passed away, she now lives alone in her plush apartment with her pet dog and support team/care givers. Her apartment is filled with antiques collected over the years in high end auctions. She loves her life and even at that age she doesn’t want to stop. And I admired her spirit, she came out as an honest, kind person who just loves her life and by God’s grace has the means to live it large. She acknowledges that she is privileged but why should that make her feel guilty for living her life the way she wants. She too had a genuineness about her that is not deniable.
This cute 83 year old, well dressed old woman, going out for parties, slow dancing with grace. Giving interviews and doing photo shoots, aware of her age yet instead of retiring out of the public view, she chooses to stay very much in sight. Inspiring in her own way.
The discussion here is not about morals and society inequality. These documentaries got me wondering about the soul’s journey. We sometimes refer to someone as an aged soul, what does that mean? One hand we see a soul whose love for a lavish life is so apparent and its beautiful to watch the person live it with grace. On the other hand, we see a soul that seems to have seen it all and lived it all, and now has reached such a state that the external environment doesn’t matter no matter how extreme and harsh. These two world views can make us feel two ways, we could feel petty and useless looking at the woman missionary working to save lives and we could feel jealous of the socialite and her privileged life. Which one is true? I believe none of these feelings are true. Contrast exists for a reason, contrast reveals to us our own soul’s journey. These extreme ways of life showed me what my soul may want, I say may want because I haven’t reached that clarity yet. But this contrast helps me moderate and reveals the path for my inner peace. Let me explain, both these lives are realities, and both are also vantage points to shift our perception. Our so-called morality forces us to judge people, we all look at Mother Teresa as an angel, a saint but how many of us are willing to follow her footsteps? There is a saying in Marathi language about King Shivaji, the warrior king who fought valiantly his entire life for freedom from the Mughals & the British. The saying goes like this, “Yes we wish another Shivaji to be born but in the neighbor’s house”. This is to say, we know the sacrifices he and his family had to make for independence, we would love to watch but not get involved.And then, we also look at the rich and the elite and we wish we had the privileges and the opportunities they had. We also say, if I get rich, I will donate more unlike this person. I will do lot of social service whilst enjoying my life as well.
By now you get where am going with this, I hope. None of this matters, none is superior to the other, all these scenarios and realities are valid and perfect in their own way. So, ask yourself, what excites you more, stop and listen to your soul’s wishes. If it is social service and a minimalist life, go for it wholeheartedly, if its earning money and partying hard, then do it. Of course, be vary of not hurting others or bulldozing people around, and also be vary of not judging people too soon. Addictions and habits that hurt us, I truly don’t believe are part of a soul’s journey, but then what do I know. Isn’t it fascinating to observe how each soul chooses to live this life on earth? And if we can silently observe people and give that few minutes of silence to listen to our own soul, it would open up more answers to the question, why am I here? The answer need not be fancy, need not be esoteric, as long as it does not involve hurting or snatching from someone, you know it is from within. We all spend a lot of time on the internet, I would encourage you to try and search documentaries like these. Observe how different people and tribes around the world live, how is their life experience, what are their challenges, what is their perception of happiness and satisfaction, you will learn a lot about yourself on the way.
We all have an inner explorer, let that Indiana Jones out once in a while, you don’t have to physically travel, the wonder of the internet is like Aladdin’s magic carpet, just take it for a ride and look at life from various vantage points. I hope you find the genie within you 😉.