Notes from a year spent 'discovering myself'; or How much truth is too much truth?

The greatest of men have embarked on journeys to discover the darkest part of the universe — their soul. They wanted an answer to the greatest question that has plagued mankind ever since we became self aware:

Who am I?

And the process of finding the answer to that question has consumed more lives than all opioids combined. The simple three-word question has confounded philosophers from eras where time was not even a concept, leave alone a construct.

From the Buddha, to the guy who died in Into The Wild to the animated alcoholic horse who is a part of Hollywoo. Many have tried. Some failed — like the dead guy in Into The Wild. Many gave us answers too: we are all connected; we are not a single entity; we are to be one with nature; if you don’t know your plants you might end up eating a poisonous one and die, later becoming famous for being an idiot who didn’t concentrate enough in botany class. (Sidenote: So is botany important?)

Faced with this question, I was stuck in the philosophical equivalent of finding my car in a giant parking lot. I know it’s there, but am not certain of where (or maybe I took a cab?).

So, inspired by the Buddha himself — and not the Into The Wild guy — I decided to embark on my own journey of self-discovery. I did what was unthinkable in a middle-class household:

I took a break to discover myself.

Now Buddha had the privilege of taking a break. If he failed he could always come back and be the king. He took six years to attain enlightenment.

Representational image of 'man receiving enlightenment' / sxc.hu

Representational image of 'man receiving enlightenment' selected carefully from among a sea of similar stock photos / sxc.hu

I too had the privilege of taking a break. But I had no kingdom to go back to and my savings would only last me six months — even if I lived like a monk.

Unlike the Buddha, I didn't have to see suffering everywhere. I had lived amongst the cubicle dwellers, roamed around with the nomadic open office tribes and hunted with the freelance gypsies who have no homes and no land to call their own.

Hence, instead of roaming around the world in search for answers, I set sail into the ocean of self-discovery — by moving back in with my parents.

Unlike the Buddha, I didn’t have a drastic designation change from crown prince to monk. But the moment I shed the garb of my corporate job profile I realised that I was not as special as I had believed myself to be. I realised I didn’t have a personality. All these years, I had assumed that “perl, tcl scripting, verilog coding, block-chaining project manager based out of San Francisco leading a team of engineers for the APAC region” was a personality type. But a baking sheet would have gotten serious body image issues if it met my one-dimensional personality.

The first stage of solving a problem is always, acceptance. And so, I accepted the fact that my job meant nothing to this world and its inhabitants.

A fly — though it spreads diseases — also helps compost waste. My work or I didn’t even that significance in this world (although I didn’t spread diseases). I didn’t have any special skills or hobbies. In my naivete, I had assumed it was because I hadn’t tried too many things. So (to my parents’ relief) I decided to join a few classes. (Side note: Unlike the Buddha, I had to keep my parents happy — because, rent.)

But here came my next big challenge.

Since I was on a journey of self discovery, I wanted classes that would stimulate my brain and my soul. A class or a course that would be only for the joy and fun of learning something new, and no other reason. But everywhere, I was met with the same questions: Why did I want to do that? How would I monetise that? Photography? Shoot weddings. Learning Japanese? Start a translation company. Driving? Become an Uber driver. Flashing your man parts? Become a well renowned stand-up comedian, talk about feminism, get specials on every major network, your own TV show, a yet-to-be-released movie and then get called out for your f**ktardery.

I was met with skepticism, a little like Arjuna would have been had he told Drona: "I want to learn archery for funsies”. Somehow, we made fun a tangible entity that is either measured in fame, money or likes and shares. Doing nothing wasn't an option either; as I learnt, 'breaks' meant you had to do something (and travelling to Gokarna, Hampi or Goa was apparently not cool enough). With not enough money to roam the streets of Rome, I did what any human being in my position would have done.

I gave up the whole charade of trying to find myself and the truth, and headed back to LinkedIn to talk to some recruitment consultants.

That fateful night, as I decided on the font of my resume, I learnt the Ultimate Truth about myself. The Universe has a funny way of doing things and this was one of them. It didn’t wait for the perfect setting or mood, or even for me to be in a fully-dressed state. It did its job and moved on. Like a food app delivery guy, it came to me, whispered the secrets, asked me for a 5-star rating, and vanished. I had attained nirvana. I had found the answer — which wasn’t 42 (take that, you Douglas Adams loving folks).

I had become the “Awakened One”. I had become a Buddha. A Buddha in dirty pajamas, but a Buddha nevertheless. And this is what the Universe revealed to me.

You are excrement.
A tiny piece of excrement that has no value in this world.
Excrement so inconsequential that serves no purpose in this Universe.
Excrement contributes to the nitrogen cycle unlike yourself
You are not even as gorgeous as the emoji representation of excrement.
You are a piece of excrement that has no hope of redemption.

Becoming the Buddha was the worst thing that ever happened to me — because it's permanent.

Imagine a riddle you didn’t know the answer to, and then learning the answer. You will never have the joy of not knowing the answer to that riddle ever. Being the Buddha is like that, except it’s for everything in life. I had stepped into the glory hole of Truth and the answers that had splattered onto me refused to be wiped off, no matter how hard I tried. It was a burden, trapped as I was between the world of Woke-ness and Ignorance. And I was trapped in a time where I preferred Ignorance.

The world was now a different place to me. I saw both the sides of the same coin at the same time. The conundrums hit me like Jägermeister shots — except this hangover was for Eternity.

I saw a regressive father. I saw his mortality, and in turn my own, when I had a glimpse of his suddenly white-haired chest. The ignorant me knew this guilt could be assuaged with that expensive Saregama mp3 player which looks like a radio. I saw the futile attempts of my fellow humans... buying houses, cars and overpriced wine, trying to fill the voids of their empty soul and dress up their non-existent personalities. But still I missed that glorious adrenalin rush of paying those EMIs on time. I saw the futile attempts of fellow humans trying to make a difference in the world when you could just get by with a Chief-Something-Officer designation. I saw the futility in everything, but the old accustomed joy in everything that was futile remained. This torrent of Catch-22s was unbearable.

And it is still unbearable.

So, my dear humans who want to take a break and discover yourselves: Don’t. Stay in the artificial marsupial warmth of your cubicle, run for the money and those fancy cars, buy that expensive wine, go on that SOTC Europe Luxury Cruise Package, and do all the trivial things you yearn to. Because only that fake happiness prevents you from contracting this eternal sadness. Think happy thoughts and smell the Chanel No.5. STAY IN THAT CUBICLE. And do not come out.

As for me, I shall hang on to this philosophical limbo and imagine the pain the real Buddha went through.

In hindsight, he should have gotten his palace renovated, bought that new 40 horsepower chariot with a child seat for Rahula, and stayed away from self discovery. How he survived that crisis defined him as a true Supreme Being. I, unfortunately, am not him.


Updated Date: Jan 07, 2018 15:13 PM

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