The other day I chanced upon a beautiful poem by Corey Mohler illustrated on his website (here). Although it was titled Two Brothers, it could have been easily called The Truth of Human Existence. I found the poem so profound that for a moment, I even contemplated on just sharing it as my post today sans all the commentary or my own thoughts. Without further ado, here it is:
Two sons were born beneath the old tree.
They grew together, both loved and free.
They traveled the fields, they roamed the hill.
They crossed the river, explored the mill.
They fought with dragons and giants tall.
Mighty warriors—they conquered all.
At each day’s end, they slept safe at night.
A loving father tucked them in at night.
The father aged and then he died.
The eldest wept and the youngest cried.
The farm, of course, would be run alone.
So the youngest left, to find his own.
They looked into each other’s eyes.
Beneath the old tree, they said goodbyes.
The eldest tilled fields, beneath the sun.
With his sweat and work, the farm was run.
A wife soon came to his warm, safe home.
He was always loved, but would not roam.
Each day, he dreamt of his brother free.
Always regretting that it was not he.
Years flew by, at last they met again.
Beneath the old tree stood two old men.
He told his brother of farming life:
No adventures — only work and strife.
Oh, how he dreamt of the open road
And how he felt trapped in his abode.
The brother told of the life he led,
Of the long and weary road, he said:
Many lonely nights in driving rain,
It was a single thought that kept me sane.
That my brother was home, safe and warm.
A loving home, far from rain and storm.
Hard work I could stand, but this I swear:
The days alone were too much to bear.
His heart grew sad as he bowed his head,
And to his brother, the elder said:
What a tragic tale then, for us two:
That you had not my place, and I you.
His brother sighed, then smiled wide,
Thought for a moment, before he replied:
You’ve missed the point of this little tale.
For I’ll tell you, brother, without fail:
Whoever would roam, whoever would stay,
We both would regret it, either way.
(Do visit Corey Mohler’s Existential Comics if you wish to see the poem depicted as beautifully as its words are.)
Past the fake, or illusory, Facebook smiles most people live through a silent despair life brings with dawn every day. As if each one of us is carrying a weight inside us. It’s not always the weight of emotions. Sometimes, you are not angry, jealous, envious or discontent and yet you are not happy either. You don’t feel okay, fulfilled or complete.
Some days you may feel that life is perfect but it’s not a long lasting feeling. Almost everyone I know longs for a somewhat different life. Something different ought to happen, we feel. This fond longing quickly turns into a kind of melancholy. Consequently, feeling that our present life is inadequate and incomplete, we increasingly harbor regrets and grudges and go on to make dumb choices hoping it would erase the sadness within. All of this springs from just one perspective, one emotion: discontentment.
Arjuna once asked Krishna, “Who is a true yogi, Lord?”
“The one who finds contentment in the present moment and knows the way of moderation is the greatest yogi.”
Krishna did not call a meditator a true yogi, he did not call his devotee a yogi. He did not say that those who follow a certain belief system or practice rituals are yogis. Instead, he just simplified it. If you are content and tranquil, you are a yogi.
It is so easy to be obsessed about a pursuit. With a self-centered attitude, our obsessions lead to a sort of blindness. You fail to see the good around you. And this in turn creates frustration which ultimately brews anger. Clearly, you can’t be at peace or think clearly when angry. In such a state, it’s impossible to shed our maniac tendencies or find contentment in the present moment.
Gau dhan gaj dhan vaaji dhan aur ratan dhan khan, Jab aave santosh dhan, sab dhan dhoori saman. (Saint Kabir) IAST: godhana gajadhana vajidhana, aura ratanadhana khāna, jaba āvai saṃtoṣadhana, saba dhana dhūrī samāna. Your possession of cows, elephants, steeds, even a whole mine of precious stones is worthless compared to the wealth of contentment.
In my view, on the journey of life, contentment is the greatest blessing. By using the word blessing, however, I’m not suggesting that some of us are born with it and some others aren’t. Or that it is bestowed upon us by some external force. By blessing, I simply mean it’s the most divine emotion you can have. When you are truly content, you are compassionate and giving naturally. You spread happiness, goodness and kindness.
Like other emotions, contentment has to be cultivated in our consciousness. Anytime you step out, you will find people with better homes, cars, bodies, talents and wealth. They are all around you. When you see them, you may feel jealous, envious or inspired. Either way, it makes your present look lackluster. I’m not saying that anyone should sit idle and twiddle their thumbs. Each one of us is free to chase whatever matters to us. Having said that, every pursuit has a cost.
Contentment sprouts from mindful living, a sense that I don’t have to do something just because others are doing it. If you are not able to live in the present moment and find beauty in it, future is not going to be any better. For future is nothing more than present moments unfolding. My past in the afternoon was my future in the morning.
Life is like a river, ever changing, ever flowing. You can step into it again and again, thinking you are bathing in the same river. It is anything but true. The water that was there earlier is no longer there. Every time you take a dip, it is in new water. No two moments are alike. It is ignorant to cling to your past or a future. Life runs its own course. The river may be muddy in monsoons or cold in winter. It may be pleasantly warm on some days and crystal clear on other. At any rate, as long as the source does not dry up, it will continue flowing. Much like life.
Since we are already on the journey of life, we may as well walk with grace, with contentment. Whoever would roam, whoever would stay…
Flow if you want to merge in the ocean.