“While everyone in this world strives to get somewhere and become someone, only to leave it all behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness. Live this life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not the decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going.”
With only one week left of this 40 day journey (seriously? It's almost 40 days? Where has the time gone...), the rules are getting serious.
So, I have some trouble with this one. As a parent, it's almost impossible to live your life as "light and empty as the number zero". I'm not an ascetic. I'm a mother. I went to see a play this evening (more on that in a bit), and in every scene with a mother, I thought of my babies. When me and my friends started having kids, I told one of them, "You realize we are never going to have a proper night's sleep again for the rest of our lives, right?" We both sat in silence, looking shell-shocked and letting the weight of that sink in. My mother, to this day, says she sleeps better when we are all under the same roof as her. Your heart goes wherever your child goes, it is no longer yours. I cannot have it any other way, nor would I. My kids might find this hard to believe because I'm so strict, but instinctively they are the same. We will always have that umbilical cord connecting us.
The play I saw this evening was a beautiful project that was a long time coming by Theatre Wallay, an Islamabad-based theatre group, and the US Embassy and Fulbright Association. The project is called "Voices of Partition", and the play is called "Dagh Dagh Ujala" ("This Stained Dawn"). It's a collection of actual partition stories told from the perspective of all those in the Indian subcontinent who were affected. I was crying, I was laughing, and my heart hurt thinking of the struggles through which this country was born. Born in blood... perhaps that's why it's so hard to shake this legacy.
When I looked at this rule earlier, I didn't know what to do with it, honestly. As I watched the partition stories before me, I understood that when stripped of our identities, we are as light as zero. People forced out of their homes within a few hours, told to leave everything behind and simply take what could fit in one bag. Forced to leave and start over in a new land, in an unfamiliar place. Wondering where we are and how we got there. Losing loved ones, friends... stripped down to zero.
As Tyler Durden's character in "Fight Club" (authored by Chuck Palahniuk) so aptly put it:
"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your f**king khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world."
Rumi would probably make some edits to that last sentence, but you get the idea. When did we let rich old men define our dreams for us, so we could make them more rich? Here's another Durden gem:
"Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."
Except we really aren't that pissed off in general. We let ourselves be blinded by the perks and forget about the price we pay for this life. I may not be an ascetic, but if I could, I'd pack my bags, grab my family, and head to a Thai beach for the whole summer to do some work (to self-sustain such a long travel period) and have fun with my girls. A mom can dream, right?
As for being light as zero, that will never really happen for me, I just have to accept it. I feel a responsibility of showing my girls that they can dream any dream, and hard work is nothing to be afraid of if it brings you closer to something that really makes you happy. Then it's not work, it's your calling. And yet, to always be conscious of "nothingness", and be grateful, not greedy. This is one that will take a lifetime to achieve.