Serendipity

There was this one time, I was in town for a concert at the Moore. 12 mins from the start time, I was searching for a curbside spot in the busy streets of Seattle, circling the blocks, amidst rush hour and the one ways. My friends say, I have good “parking karma”. It was now 6.59 p.m. and I hadn’t still found a spot. And nope, I wasn’t going to shove my car in a lot as is my wont.

Up until now I’d stuck to the higher streets as my luck is better there, but I finally made my way to the busy 2-way cluster that is 1st Ave. As I approached the intersection of 1st and Lenora, I caught something from the corner of me left eye, there was this man standing on the opposite pavement of Lenora (so diagonally opposite from where I was) waving his hands. I turned to look and it was this homeless guy flailing his hands wildly and seemed to be looking in my direction. Perplexed. I looked around me, was it me? I wondered if my headlights were off? No. Was something broken in my then 13 year old car ( 🙂, which I ultimately drove for 16 years)… Not that I could discern. From his hand movement he was trying to indicate something to me. And all this while the light was Red, so I had the time. He wouldn’t stop. I have to say I was a bit weirded out, but then I noticed something else. There on Lenora, behind a big-ass truck, which was blocking my view, was a vacant spot and he seemed to be pointing me to it. I was a bit skeptical at first, often these spots are vacant for a reason and then that whole left turn would be a wild goose chase and a waste of a few more mins delaying me further. Then the light turned green and I did turn left and slowly pulled up to the spot. It was indeed vacant and did not have any timing restrictions on it either!!

First of all, how did this guy know I was looking for a spot? Amidst all that traffic, its not even liked I’d circled 1st ave multiple times. My then vehicle, an old silver Honda Civic (nothing that stands out really) couldn’t have attracted that much attention. What was it about that moment that he just knew and decided to communicate to some gal at the light? I was overwhelmed. I emptied my pockets of whatever change I had (Had no notes on me that day) and gave it to him. He accepted them (it did not seem to me like he was looking for anything at all). He seemed to have this “knowing” look on his face. Our eyes locked for a bit. And he said “just beautiful”. I was just grateful. I went on to walk toward Moore and enjoy the rest of the evening, but remained stunned by the experience prior to the concert. Parking karma indeed.

And then just the other day, I was returning from a morning run, the last leg of my circuit being a hill. I’d just crossed Mercer and was on 5th, hoping to run another 5 mins or so, but just stopped with a big audible gasp and switched my Garmin off and was thinking to myself just how out of shape I was. A combination of self-chiding and acceptance. There was this homeless guy dragging his belongings in a trolley and walking on the pavement. He saw me stop and said “You coulda gone another 1/2 mile easily there!!” and smiled revealing big gaps in his teeth. I smiled back at him and shook my head and said “Thank you”. He said “Nice job there lady”, very encouragingly.

How much outside their own heads must these men have been to think about someone other than themselves, with no other agenda. And they had every reason to not.

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Interconnectedness

12+ years ago, I fractured the 4th metatarsal of my right foot. At the ER (thankfully I was with a friend at the time it happened and got a ride to the ER), the doc put a brace around my foot and handed me a pair of crutches. I was not to put any weight at all on the right foot for a good 2.5 months and could choose to use the crutches if I needed to move. Needed to move!?! After the 2.5 months, I’d be able to walk with the brace on until my foot was ready for me, if I’d healed well.

Thinking back now, it sounds simple enough. But back then, living by myself, a hospital-phobe and a somewhat self-contained person, who was juggling a bunch of complexities in life, living in an apartment that did not have an elevator, having lost the use of my right leg entirely (and my driving foot along with it), and having to hold on to crutches for every single task, to get up from bed and go to the bathroom, get me a drink or make me a meal, leave alone anything else like getting out of the house, driving to work, or do anything at all, was an interesting experience to say the least and very revealing. (Oh and speaking of getting me a drink, there was no question of carrying my drink “with” me, since I’d need both my hands to hold the crutches to move back to the couch or the bed.)

It was a tough first couple 3-4 weeks, draining on many levels. Physically, I experienced pains in every muscle group in the body. My arms, to my puzzlement, had become rock hard like I have never seen them (no exaggeration)… because they were doing all the hard work of carrying the weight of a 127 lb woman and propelling her forward and back, to make up for the defunct right foot. My back muscles ached due to the over work too and that in turn impacted almost every other kind of movement. I got to know every inch of my muscular body and realized just how interconnected the whole design was. If the right leg is down, it was amazing to see just how many other muscle groups (over)compensated to keep it going. I could feel exactly which muscle group was being used for which activity and that extended way beyond the obvious.

Mentally and emotionally too, it was an interesting time for a whole host of reasons and was just one of those self-defining (or was it self-discovering) experiences. But I’ll keep this short.

My realization was how in any eco-system, whether the system is an individual, a family, a community or a citizenry, when one unit hurts or is down, the other units just swing into action…and sometimes, that even sees them rise to their higher potential, like my arms did.

What is art?

I’ve sometimes been pulled into conversations where a piece of art is questioned, which then leads to a discussion on what art is after all. In this day and age, technology enables everyone to be all they can be, produce any material and even make it go viral. Every day there’s a new meme or article or concept that screams for our attention and with billions of technology-enabled people and several million other trigger happy folk across the spectrum of receptivity on any given day, you do the math on the information and concept overload. Having to parse some of this stuff could build resentment in the viewer especially if they cannot relate to what is being presented. I get it.

This got me thinking about what art is really. Generally speaking, a message or a concept in the form of a presentation, whether it is  a painting or poetry or prose or photograph or performance or procedure or proposal is considered art. But really speaking, there is a subjective element to it i.e. it isn’t just what the artist or the conveyor is trying to say, but also what the conveyee is receiving. Literally 1/2 of the meaning lies in the reception. The light bulb goes off only when the circuit is complete. Therefore the question really ought to be, what is art *to you*?

To me, something that makes me stop in my tracks and pay attention is art. It could be the written word (anything from a couplet to a novel), a picture (anything from a doodle to a well engineered photographic capture), a piece of performance art…Something that represents a concept that I have either toyed with before but not cemented in my head yet or something that just blows my mind is art to me. It does not suffice if it merely just comes in any of the forms I mentioned above. It needs to (a) have an underlying meaning (b) induce a sensation in me which could be laughter, awe, discomfort, surprise, shock or something equally potent and lastly (c) be tastefully done from a purely technical standpoint. To me art is all about its potency in inducing emotion, in raising a question or delivering some intrigue, in sparking a conversation. This is one place where both the what *and* the how matter. Merely addressing the how doesn’t suffice. If the piece of art is technically superb, but is a revisited concept, sadly, that doesn’t move me. It doesn’t contain originality or true creativity. I might patronize the artist from an encouragement standpoint, but that’s about it. For e.g. a nice photograph of a revisited concept just doesn’t cut it, unless it is presenting a different perspective, or a photograph that is technically brilliant, but lacks depth wouldn’t move me. At the same time, if the picture is loaded with meaning, but if the technicality is so poor it distracts from the meaning, that would be a pity as well.

In a nutshell, art is about the message conveyor, the message receiver and the moment itself. If it makes me connect dots and push the boundaries of my imagination, it is art to me.

To Troubleshoot or to Shop

I am a geek… somewhat. So I often find myself (or get called out for) expressing real world situations with tech world jargon. Analogies such as “sending keep-alive packets (to parents)”, “i prefer synchronous to asynchronous communication” when explaining to my arts and humanities girl-friends about why i prefer if a guy just picks up the phone and calls me rather than hide behind a lame text, or “need to reboot” when I just need some down time, are all phrases that frequent my vocabulary.

But lets not confuse cause and effect. It is not because I’ve spent 15 years and change, studying and working in the tech world , that I do geek-speak, but rather, because I have spent several more decades(centuries?) observing and experiencing psychological and social patterns and realize just how much we’re all machines and how humanity is desperately trying to recreate itself via machines and collaboration. So using “machinisms” is second nature at this point.

I’ve also been “on the market”… sort of,  for sometime now, for umm… a guy, i think. At first it was just my social conditioning of wanting or needing to be with someone of the opposite gender, because lets face it, the world just expects you to and finds it really hard to fathom both energies in just one person, one body, one mind.  The world wants to see themselves in you. And its bloody hard to find others like you or that think like you or just are comfortable with your position and hence relate on a regular basis. But then, that reasoning evolved into a higher understanding of energy and love and wanting to or rather, choosing to be with another (read, taking a damned decision! 🙂 ). So yeah, back in the game for a different and more evolved reason… again for quite some time now.

The “search” for the other (or the self?) is on as I meander through life. I meet and see a range of people at various levels of awareness, of the world and of the self. For a whole host of reasons, things do not evolve or evolve the way they do, mostly due to logistics, inconvenience and egos and just a whole heck of a lot of fear (not in me! 🙂 ). (Ego is all fine and really comes in handy for some good things, but its the lack of awareness of how it plays tricks on you that can be confounding at best and debilitating at worst.  But more on that in another post. This one is really about figuring out where you are in the spectrum and how you make your choices.). So wait, is it really logistics and inconvenience and egos or is it just one’s inclination or (in)ability to dig deeper? Let me explain… in geek-speak :).

Human beings are computers. There are mainframes, PCs, Macs, laptops, tablets, handhelds, microchips. Clearly a range in terms of usability, capability (software apps), processing speed, portability, size, etc. but largely similar in value. Once you’ve identified your requirements and pick a domain or category to shop in, its a matter of a) the nuances in the feature set for price point and b) look & feel. Lets say you made a purchase or have a 30-day trial period after purchase.

Life’s good when you open the package from AMZN or elsewhere, the smell of the wrapping, the sleek finish of the shiny new object, the anticipation of first use and just the overall high of having made the purchase. In fact, there’s a lot to be said about the shopping experience itself :).   Its also pretty marvelous as you discover the feature set, unravel how it makes your life easier in many ways, shows you a new way of looking at things and organizing yourself, gives you perspective and in a way opens your world up.

Then one day, there’s an app/feature that had shown promise at the time of purchase, but is one that you can’t figure out, or maybe a powerful spreadsheet application that has some features you’re just not able to work. Ok, no harm done, take the effort, read the manual, scour online forums, figure it out and boom, you’ve learnt some new capability of your acquisition and you’ve enhanced your own skill set a bit. And then another day, there’s a situation where an app just didn’t perform or gave you results you weren’t expecting, you stomp and scream with frustration, you could return the product… but decide to dig a little and realize its you that fed it insufficient data, or expected it to work differently or configured something wrong. User Error! You live, you learn… And yeah sometimes, a call to customer support is all it takes.

In short, if you’re stumped or worse, you hit a wall, there’s usually a good reason if you choose to stop and think and work on it.  Poor performance? Reduce the overload, uninstall a few apps, check for malware, reboot, do the freaking maintenance! If you have the patience you stand a better chance. If you are a hacker and just know better, you stand an even better chance. Heck, if you can write your own program, the world is at your feet! … or you could just stay at your current level of awareness yourself and get back on AMZN for the next shiny object that might be better (easier?). So the choice is really yours.

Snapping out of the analogy for a moment and getting”real”, of course, am not saying you have to live with a pile of outdated junkware that just does not meet your fundamental needs, but… you get the idea… or do you?

Once again, it all starts with knowing your requirements i.e. knowing yourself. Are you a troubleshooter or are you a shopper?

The 8Cs to Love

I am a single woman, looking for love… Well, that was my line some years ago. As I meander through life and allow myself to feel, experience and meditate, I have understood what love is and learnt to recognize it, and it really has nothing to do with being single or being coupled, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.  It really is a state of being that can be arrived at alone or together. Since I am already where I am and may one day be interested in a partnership with another as well, what my line really ought to be is — I am a woman, looking for a man who understands love the way I do and wants to walk alongside me as we continue our exploration of this beautiful journey… And of course it wouldn’t hurt if he is this, that and the other too ;).Setting aside what I am looking for or even whether I am looking for anything at all (which I shall elaborate on in another post), let me explain my formula for Love, which I’ve developed based on life experiences and relationships that have touched me in some way.  I am hoping this will be useful for the folks out there that are stumped by love in one way or another in that they either want to find love, want to understand it or are faced with quandaries about what love and partnership means to them, about whether they are in love at all, whether they are out of love and if so, how to find their way back and questions of that nature. I present 8Cs, 8 building blocks that eventually lead to Love, or 8 gates that need to be crossed on the path to Love.It all starts with knowing yourself first. Self-Awareness or Consciousness is really the precursor to success in anything in life. Leading a conscious life, with awareness over a period of Time leads to the ability to trust oneself or self-Confidence. A truly confident person is most likely an honest person. This in and of itself is good enough, but there is something to be said for synergy, sometimes one plus one could add up to three. So let’s add another person into the mix. The only way a synergy between two can be achieved is if there is a pathway between the two. Communication is the way one builds that pathway in this equation. Confidence in oneself coupled with honest Communication with the other over a period of time leads to trust or confidence in the other.

This practicing of trust over time (Consistency), results in a strong and established pathway or a very definite Connection between the two people. Now connection is the pragmatic part of a friendship or relationship and is a must to be able to function. But sometimes, connection alone may not be sufficient. There’s got to be some play in it. Connection is real and belongs to the realm of what IS. But in order to take what IS to what COULD BE, one needs a dose of imagination or spirit so that Connection can turn into Chemistry! This is the space where fun is had, whether lightness of spirit is expressed and where the world of possibilities begins to open up. When this Chemistry is founded on the building blocks of Consciousness, Confidence, Communication, Consistency and Connection, it is the right kind of Chemistry, the kind that sustains. For many people it suffices to reach this stage and many equate this to Love.

But I’ve concluded that I need more than just Chemistry to sustain a relationship. So my formula doesn’t quite end at Chemistry. Like I mentioned earlier, Chemistry is all about entering the world of possibilities. Once I enter the world of possibility, how do I progress further in a constructive manner? How do I move the needle? How do I grow? This is where Creativity comes in. Creativity to me is the ability to consciously connect the dots, bridge gaps and come up with new solutions to problems. Creativity is a way of being. (See my posts on The Science behind Creativity, Creativity Quotient). So how wonderful would it be if I can be creative in combination with someone that I share a chemistry with, and how wonderful would it be if this can fall into a sustainable rhythm over time and hence result in productivity. And productivity over time leads to…you guessed it – Contribution! And it is in this contribution or service that I define my existence.

So if there is someone that can walk alongside me (and vice versa) on the path of (combined) Contribution, something outside of and larger than our individual selves, then what exists between that person and I would cement into or flow into something undying and eternal, called Love.

There is no box

While in Shanghai, I had followed my instincts and persevered to reach Puxi on my own and ran into another spirit on the Pudong waterfront, Dr. Jean Pegouret (French Dr., engineer, linguist, free spirit, part-time Shanghai resident). Jean was a complete stranger to me and yet we ended up spending the whole day together, walking in Puxi. He spoke to me about the country, the city, the customs, culture and couture and surprised me with his fluency in Shanghainese, as he joked with the local people, ordered food at a restaurant and spoke to the metro officials to sort out my ticket situation. I was pleasantly inspired by Jean’s giving nature. He gave me his time, energy and spirit, so freely and had such a great attitude about it. Little surprise we had so much in common – a wanderlust, a comfort and one-ness in an “alien” surrounding, music, writing, very similar thoughts on spirit, philosophy, intellect, connectedness, progressiveness nature, freedom… It did not matter that he was French and I was Indian. Back home in the evening, I was narrating the day’s adventures to my parents and spoke about Jean. In an attempt to understand and place him in her head, my mom’s first question was “What’s his job?” true to the philosophy of her generation and cultural background. I just think Jean’s spirit embodied much more than what “job” he held. Such people have transcended materialism and have an almost ethereal approach to life. They may not fit in a box, but I feel like they are ahead of the majority in their spiritual ascension.