Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Power

Rand has been a powerful influence in shaping how I think about many things, including the opinions of other people and how much that does or doesn’t matter to me. And while age, maturity, experience, and other authors (hat tips are due to Steinbeck, Orwell, Vonnegut, and Murakami) have tempered her extremism, I still find solace in much of what she has to say in the lowest phases of my life.

One of her thesis that I’ve continued to find relevant in its entirety is the psychological profile of Power and what it does to people. The power hungry man is the ultimate second-hander, to borrow a phrase from The Fountainhead. His sense of self-worth entirely dependent on the number of people whose life he can influence and change. And in that sense he is bound tightest by what others want. 

And unfortunately, I’ve seen enough in the last couple of years to agree with this unreservedly. I’ve experienced the hatred that certain people feel when they know they cannot control you and/or influence the direction of your life. The frustration and disappointment that sends them on a senseless rampage. The smugness when they think they’ve had their way; their bewilderment when they find that what they wanted mattered not to you at all; that ultimately it was your choice, for your own reasons, and that you are happy. Then they are not. Despite having gotten what they wanted. Because it was not what they wanted at all. They were not after any specific outcome. Just the chance at power and influence. And so it is not the outcome that gives them satisfaction or Joy, rather their role in it. They’ll hurt themselves and the ones they love the most, if it means they can feel power. They’ll walk over a field full of corpses (to again borrow a phrase, and completely out of context) just to feel worthy of being alive. 

But the worth of life is measured not in how others live their life because of you but in how you live yours. Your experiences, your feelings, your choices. It is measured in the way you feel about yourself because of YOU and not because of what Others think of You, your choices, or your life. Their Judgement of your life is theirs. Relevant in the same way that your judgement of someone else is meant - not for you to change them but for you to decide your terms of engagement with them. Judge, choose, act in favour of outcomes you desire, and let its impact on others’ lives be incidental. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Another year

December makes most of us reflective I suppose. Thinking of the year gone by, the tradition of making promises for the year ahed. And in keeping with that, I find myself looking back at the highs and lows of 2017. In Bullet point fashion and in complete stream of consciousness order, here goes

1. I am writing again! YAY!
2. Greece
3. Misadventures in romance
4. Misadventures at work
5. Confronting the worst in myself
6. Telling myself not to be optimistic of others' character
7. Being okay with being let down
8. Not taking rejection personally - not chalking it up to something undesirable in me.
9. Realising that the buck doesn't always stop with me
10. I can't fix everything, no matter how hard I try
11. Travel, more travel
12. Freedom
13. The Thirties
14. Speaking my mind... without offensiveness or defensiveness
15. Anxiety - my constant companion - still refusing to abandon me
16. Living on my own V 2.0
17. Finding comfort inside my own head - after very long
18. Believing in myself
19. Learning to sleep through the night again
20. Being Kind to myself - yes, this is a thing and it's a very important thing!
21. New look and Loving it. Definitely keeping it :)

Long List. Cryptic. But this has been a year of endlessly searching within myself. Peeling away layers. And, if I were to truly find a theme, it is ACCEPTANCE and BELIEF. Forgiving myself for my flaws has been the hardest. But I am getting there. The Vanity project and wardrobe makeover has certainly helped that one.

Maybe a little more on some of these before the month is over but tonight, all I wanted was to make this list. So here it is!

Dominique


I re-read The Fountainhead often. Usually in times of uncertainty, change, angst, or just moments when I am in need of affirmation. I also re-read Atlas Shrugged as, if not more, often but that is another post for another time. 


However, this time's re-read of The Fountainhead has been one of the most enriching. I am suddenly seeing deeper into some of the characters and pieces of the puzzle that remained only vaguely understood have become clearer. One of these is the character of Dominique. 

Dominique's quest for self-destruction has always fascinated me. More so perhaps because I can never quite fathom such hopelessness. But the last year, one of the most trying ones in life so far, gave me new appreciation for her angst. Her utter hopelessness in being able to reconcile her idealism and her dream of the perfect man with the halfway that exists in reality plunges her into despair and when we meet her, she has already decided that the world is deserving only of mockery, that a to live a life well, fully and consistently and emerge victorious is impossible; for the terms of battle are those that she cannot accept. 

And so, Dominique Francon, Femme fatale, the love interest of three men who stand at counterpoints to each other, chooses to expose the pretence that the world expects by pretending openly and consciously. She is contrarian in everything she does, flinging the unexpected, making a mockery of the rules. In all this she is amused yet miserable. Miserable for the lost ideal, the wasted potential, the indignity of fighting imbeciles at their stupid games to make place for those who should not need to fight at all. 

I've always found Dominique puzzling for how can one of her obvious intelligence be so held by the opinions of others? She of all people should know better than to care. But she does. She does because what she really wants, deep down is to be proven wrong. She wants to see Roark succeed even though she does everything she can to ensure otherwise. She believes she is protecting him from the pain of falling by not allowing him to rise at all.

This fierce desire to protect, to not be used by those unwilling to even acknowledge their need of you is something I've felt in some measure. The pain at having to explain oneself to those one believes to be inferior, to have to justify decisions, and demand acknowledgement because they don't know better. To make allowances for their ignorance and then finally coming to the realisation that lies at the crux of The Fountainhead and of Dominique's transformation by the end of the novel - that one needn't base one's estimation of success or failure by the standards set by others. That one's pain and one's happiness is for one alone to define. To know, with absolute certainty, that other's failure to recognise is not a failing in oneself, that one is not obliged to fight in order to be able to acknowledge that inner sense of being.

That is my lesson from Dominique for 2017. And as usual, I am absolutely dying to discuss some of this with the few people who I know will get it.


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Stewing in your own Stew

We most often drown in puddles of our own making. Parenting is a classic case. We all want to be the cool parent, the liberal ones, the ones that bring up their kids with freedom and independence. All well-intentioned.

But then the kids grow up to be say 5, they talk back, have a mind of their own and decide when they are going to be doing what. Oh the blasted irritation of it all! If only one could get one's toddler to sit down when it was convenient to us! But the toddler doesn't understand deadlines or lack of sleep do they? And poor cool parent is then forced to bring out the rod. Be not-so-cool and remind said toddler who is boss, leaving the little tyke confused and wondering.

This situation plays itself not just in the world of parenting but in the world of team leadership. All of us want to be coolest boss on the floor if you know what I mean! But let that one day, when there is no one around when we need them roll along and we are left facing the music of our own decisions.

There is something to be said then for finding a balance. For not placing too much premium on being the "coolest" or "friendliest" or even "most approachable" leader. After all, popularity isn't the primary point right? Unless you are in politics of course! In which case, I for one, fully appreciate your dilemmas. It is good to set boundaries from the beginning even if some people don't like them. Be clear about the expectations and the kind of unit you want to run. After all, you are the boss.


Saturday, 18 November 2017

The project of Uncertainty

It hangs in the air
Silent yet full

Full of hope, hopeless
Contradiction, paradox, oxymoron

Wonderful, anxious, sadistic, masochistic. 
Envious, precious, regretted, unsaid

Frightening, exhilarating, Fantasy, agony
Hell, heaven. 

A leap into the void
Landing on my feet, shattering my heart

Piecing it together, keeping it safe
Letting it out, exploring the beyond. 

Blacks, whites, greys
Caution, abandon, melting away, freezing hard

The illusion of hard walls, the softness of snow
Salty tears, brilliant smiles, mellow sunshine and harsh cold. 

Going away, coming back
Messy and magical, rules and bent lines.

 

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