Apart from Harry Bosch, Jack Reacher is another favourite character of mine. Long back I written about how both are quite similar. Won’t go on about that. What sparked this post (as it happens, not the first time I have read the following passage but trigger happens when it is meant to 🙂

Jack Reacher – “I carry a spare shirt, pretty soon I’m carrying spare pants. Then I’d need a suitcase. Next thing I know, I’ve got a house and a car and a savings plan and I’m filling out all kinds of forms”

Pretty sharp statement about how people lead lives, if you ask me. Process of evolution we call it. From the Stone ages when all that mattered was foraging for food, we move on to various things – clothes, shelter, transport, community, society, values defined by society. We keep adding stuff or bettering what we have (we call it process of evolution). 

Somewhere along the line, the size of the suitcase gets bigger and bigger… and heavier. We have started stuffing it with stuff that society and the world around us tells us should go into the suitcase. The suitcase doesn’t carry fun stuff anymore. It carries the weight of responsibilities. They are taking up all the space. Also taking up space are our expectations. You are lugging it around, burdened by what you are carrying. And mind you, it always is YOUR suitcase. No one will help you carry it because they are carrying their own. If anything, they would expect you to carry theirs too!

But the thing is, all along, your life as a suitcase  became fancier to match the stuff you got inside. You don’t even realise the weight of it all till one day, you try lifting it. First with one hand and then with both hands. But the weight is so much! Probably the handle comes off. The suitcase is bursting at it’s sides.

And that’s the time you sit on that very suitcase and wonder. How did it get this way? What was I filling it up with? What was I thinking?! What did I do wrong? I was doing precisely what I was expected to do. 

Last week I was having a discussion and the person said (not verbatim) – ” isn’t life about being born, growing up, having a great job, getting married, having kids, taking care of kids, taking care of parents, grand children and then dying”

My question was – ” who said this is how life is supposed to be?” The answer was – “society”. Question – who said you have to follow what society says? Answer – “Samir we are social beings, part of a larger society and we should conform to what society says.

Can’t argue with that.

Of course the discussion carried on much longer but the point of mentioning this bit here was, the suitcase… this thinking leads to it becoming heavy.

My point is, it is our suitcase. Shouldn’t we decide what goes into it? Don’t we fill our suitcase with the stuff WE want when we travel? We don’t let others tell us what we should carry. If it’s weekend travel, we know what to carry. If it’s a longer trip, domestic or international, we know what to carry. If it’s air travel, we know how much weight to carry etc.

So why did we go wrong with the suitcase called life?? Why have we let others decide what goes in? Why have we let others dictate? We kept stuffing it because there was no limit to how much can we carry? If we carry 20kgs else airlines will ask us to pay for more, why didn’t we have a limit in mind as to how much we should carry. Of course if the airlines didn’t have the limit, we would have probably carried our whole household!

Greed and wanting more is what makes us fill it up. Bigger house, bigger car, more money, status,…. we keep it making the suitcase heavier. We look around and see people carrying bigger ones and we want ours to be even bigger.

We had looked at duration of travel and filled our travel suitcase accordingly. Why didn’t we look at life as a length of travel and filled ours too in keeping with the length?

The difference perhaps is that we look at life as work travel and not holiday travel. Work travel is all about files, documents, gadgets, formal attire… while holiday is fun! Somewhere through the travel called life, we stopped having fun. There is nothing in our suitcase that says life is fun. It’s a pity.

The strange thing is that only when the travel is supposed to end is when we start wondering about the weight. Too late.. the handle has come off, we can’t get a suitcase any bigger and stuff is overflowing and that is it.

Yes am pontificating because I have also been guilty of filling my suitcase with a whole lot of unwanted stuff and now it is not possible to let go of all that. But am going to give it a shot. Can’t empty the whole suitcase out but perhaps start putting some fun in and remove the baggage of expectations.

Ryan Bingham in the movie “Up in the Air” uses backpack as a metaphor and back in 2009 when I watched the movie, the thought had crossed my mind but back then too I was busy filling up with what is considered right. This is about taking stock again.

Worth a watch again. This scene.

Flights of Fantasy

Come on.. You can’t deny.. Everyone has taken a flight of fantasy or even multiple flights.. It is a fun thing to do…

Most such flights though crash and burn. There are only a very few that soar higher and higher till they get to the escape velocity and go way beyond…

Why does it happen though? Why do most flights crash and burn? Why can’t every flight go beyond.

Because we overload them. Go ahead.. If you are the pilot of a flight currently up in the air… Turn back and look at the seats…imagine 30 rows.. 6 seats to a row. Every seat would be occupied with expectations. That’s 180. And don’t forget the cargo hold.. That is packed with expectations too! What are you flying people? You are not an airline? That can easily carry 180 people. You are carrying expectations… And they are heavy… Very very heavy.

They get heavier as you fly towards what you think is the destination. But nope that destination is a mirage (remember it is a fantasy). And soon enough, you will come crashing down and your fantasy will go up in flames.

That is what we do with our lives. We move towards the future and at every step, we burden ourselves. With expectations of course. The crash landing in this case is the disappointment.. Of reality not quite matching the fantasy. And no guesses for why it didn’t match.

The rare flight that doesn’t crash… Why doesn’t it crash.. Why does it go far and beyond and make even the reality so sublime? The answer is that it is not flying on an aircraft overloaded with expectations. The flight is not pushing for a destination and focused on thrill of flying and the fantasy. No expectation is bearing down on it. Perhaps shades of the iconic book by Richard Bach.

The person is reveling in the flight and where it is taking him or her… Enjoying the view, taking in the experiences that are coming along the way and the thrill is more about the journey than the expectation of reaching the destination.

Isn’t that how life should be? Free of everything we load ourselves with and set for disappointment.

Of course, the conventional amongst us… The left brain thinkers would vehemently oppose what I say. You are talking rubbish Samir. What you are talking about is not how humans live. We always have to work towards the future and work hard at it and achieve so much in life… Only then life will be lived well… Can’t argue with also guilty of that..

But the fact is, when we are doing all that..have we lived our lives? Or have we just existed and living life was just markers that symbolised a living…

It is not easy..and surely is not easy in the context that we live in. When it is not about our expectations but the expectations of the world around us that are working on us… We call them responsibilities.. We call them commitment.

Choose moments within all this.. Little moments where the flight is not burdened.. Make them your own little oasis…