The true philosopher
If, by the oddest chance, you are a regular reader (I chuckled) of this, by now annual, blog, you would have inferred by now how much I tend to drown in nostalgia every now and then. Usually, it is during such periods that a blog post like this one oozes out of my being. This past week, and I can’t recall for the life of me why, I was reminded of simpler times, when a much younger, more rotund version of me would spend quite stubbornly in bed, submitting myself to the whims and fancies of the Agatha Christies and Wodehouses of the world, exploring quaint English towns and acquainting myself with quirky characters, every single one of whom fancied drinking tea to inappropriately high volumes. That was the world I was most comfortable in, and to a degree still am as evident from my varying degrees of social awkwardness. As is the case with most of my bouts of nostalgia, this led to me wanting to part with some amount of cash, albeit this time not in purchasing Scotch. I went on Amazon, which is a thing only millenials or people with a urge to part with cash say, and bought myself a Wodehouse collection for the unreasonable price of 1$. The first novel was ‘Mike’ (first published in 1909), a story about a young cricket prodigy earning his stripes in a boarding school environment. It has been quite an enjoyable read so far and quite distinctly reminded me about the Harry Potter series, with the titular character in both these works usually committing shenanigans and then weaseling their way out of tight spots. Only, there isn’t anyone whose-name-shan’t-be-uttered out for blood in this novel. At least not yet.
While reading through, in the early hours of today, I came across this passage which I re-read many a dozen times. It goes thus.
“There are situations in life which are beyond one. The sensible man realises this, and slides out of such situations, admitting himself beaten. Others try to grapple with them, but it never does any good. When affairs get into a real tangle, it is best to sit still and let them straighten themselves out. Or, if one does not do that, simply to think no more about them. This is Philosophy. The true philosopher is the man who says “All right,” and goes to sleep in his arm-chair. One’s attitude towards Life’s Little Difficulties should be that of the gentleman in the fable, who sat down on an acorn one day, and happened to doze. The warmth of his body caused the acorn to germinate, and it grew so rapidly that, when he awoke, he found himself sitting in the fork of an oak, sixty feet from the ground. He thought he would go home, but, finding this impossible, he altered his plans. ‘Well, well’, he said, ‘if I cannot compel circumstances to my will, I can at least adapt my will to circumstances. I decide to remain here.’ Which he did, and had a not unpleasant time. The oak lacked some of the comforts of home, but the air was splendid and the view excellent. To-day’s Great Thought for Young Readers. Imitate this man.”
As someone who is now closer to his thirties than to his twenties and has seen his fair share of ups, downs and turnarounds career-wise and in matters of the heart, I wish I had read this passage earlier,before my hair greyed and my spirit wavered to a sliver of its former glory. I eventually did come to learn this lesson on my own. But the thing is, I might never have. Depression is an iceberg I managed to steer away from ( Titanic reference, check. ). But every so often chunks of ice do drift into my path which I can’t evade. But fortunately this hull has held itself together.
When people I care about break down about things out of their control, I tell them, much to their annoyance, to forget about it. There’s only so much the human spirit can take. You’re not Superman. Wodehouse put it best, a century ago. Go to sleep. Sometimes, that’s also the bravest thing to do.