The Laughing Decades

…tick…tick…tick…

June 4th, 2015.  Just another revolution for planet earth.  But a major spin for one of its earthlings.  I turn 50.  There you go.  I said it.  Everyone tells me it’s merely a ‘number’.  That it’s all in the mind.  That I don’t look that old.  That I should look back with gratitude.  I can’t hear them.  My thoughts are elsewhere.  So many first day flashes—college, job, love, marriage, business, fatherhood.  And so many farewells—places, friends, teachers, colleagues, and above all—Dad.  A half-century of compelling reminiscences.  Yet my thoughts keep tripping back to a frivolous memory….

1990 Winter in Chicago. Rick Kleckner in front of me.  He is EVP of AFI, my first employer.  A charismatic personality.  I am in awe.  I aspire to be him.  I want to gauge the wait period.  ‘How old are you?’ I query.  ‘52’, is his reply. ‘Oh my god, that’s OLD!’ I exclaim.  Rick laughs. Then looks straight into my eyes and says ‘Mr. Nathani, in the blink of an eye, your life will fly past.  You will be standing at your ‘fifty’ crossroad and remembering today’s conversation’.  I laugh back.  I brush aside the episode and forget all about it.

Or so I thought.  Earlier this year, that wintery Chicago memory came back to me, the bygone words resonating in my head.  How ominously right Rick was.  When you are 25, the number 50 appears too far in the continuum to contemplate.  Then something strange happens.  You double up faster than you had imagined.  I didn’t even get time to prepare.  The abrupt arrival has left me perturbed.  I am unable to place a finger on my sentiments.  Except that the number carries some kind of disturbing ring.  It’s a bump that I need to sort out.  No different than how one tackles business obstacles.  Be objective.  Analyze the issue.  Address the matter.  Then move on.

Laughing-me-300x235Let’s start at the roots.  Where I am coming from.  Nothing wrong there.  Life has been kind.  There is not much I would like to change.  The years were action and laughter packed.  Positive tidings governed personal and business relationships.  Maybe that explains the flying time?  The realization is encouraging.  What is better:  Being so busy that time flies by or so idle that time drags laboriously?  Clearly, I can’t blame my uneasiness on the past.  Unless…

…it’s the highs of the past that are making the future seem bleak.  What is there to look forward to?  What can happen that hasn’t happened before?  All the major events are over.  Childhood.  Education.  Romance.  Job.  Marriage.  Babies.  Money.  Success.   I sat in the front row.  Now the show feels like a rerun.  Of course, watching my children settle, marry, have grandchildren etc. would be fun.  But it’s their moment.  I will be a spectator.  Like Tendulkar watching field action from the stands.  Surely, it’s the lackluster future that is hassling me.  But the future doesn’t even exist yet.  Therefore…

…is the issue actually about my running away from reality?  Where is my present?  It’s caught between a past vs future tug-of-war.  A poor victim.  For there is nothing wrong with my ‘today’.  Given a choice, would I swap my aging status with a college youth?  It may help.  But only temporarily.  For my new-youth is also going to fly by quickly and I will be back in the spectator stand.  Only this time, if my life does not roll out as generously, my 50th predicament could be worse!

Now our analysis is getting somewhere.  Undoubtedly, ‘running away’ from the present is not a solution.  Therefore, the logical choice by method of elimination is to ‘stay’ in the current moment.  Fortunately, this is one of those things that is easier done than said.  In fact the problem is so trivial that I don’t have to do anything.  All that is required is to keep the mind occupied like it always has been.  And the short human memory will sort out the rest.   Soon the 50th milestone will fade away into oblivion.  No different than the chilling Chicago memory.  I will have moved on.

And that, my friends, is an illustration of how we sweep problems under the carpet.  All the analytics for naught.  The data points dumped.  A perceptive decision taken.  How do I know that the decision is wrong?  Easy.  Where is the sustainability of the solution?  Can I keep my mind constructively occupied forever?  When I retire, the emptiness is going to haunt me. When my health starts failing, my logical mind will go junking.  If/when I lose a loved one, the vacuum will be unfillable.  Perhaps the biggest challenge will be the end of my road itself.  If I am happy, the thought of bidding adieus will torment me.  And if I am raving to move on, it would imply I am tired of life.  Either way, the eventual moment is destined to be traumatic.  So how do I tackle this trauma?

Stay scientific.  Kick out emotions. Back to basics.  Where is my flow of thoughts leading me?  What is that one thing bothering me about aging? The growing realization of the eventuality of life.  Eventuality signifies singularity.  If I can make peace with this singularity, the problem is addressed. The spiritual scriptures talk about the great ‘circle of life’.  But it feels theoretical.  In practice, life feels like a line with a distinct start and an end point.  The start point is considered the gift of God.  The end point doesn’t get the same respect.  Why?  Because the ‘end’ is an inheritance of the ‘start’.  We are conditioned to believe ‘we die because we are born’.  Our ego doesn’t allow us to comprehend ‘we are born because we die’.  If humans were designed to live forever, our ancestors would have started practicing birth control centuries ago.  In which case, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation today!

Our very existence is the evidence of the ‘circle of life’, one with no start or end.   I believe the more we can feel it, the lesser is the distinction between journey and destination.  And once the distinction starts diminishing, we no longer view our final destination as singularity.  Also referred to as Nirvana, from what I understand, a state where you are equally happy to stay, equally happy to go.  The moment of transition becomes irrelevant.  Is this abstract jargon? I don’t know.  But what I do know is that if you strongly believe in something long enough, that belief becomes a reality for you.  So will a scientific pursuit of Nirvana be my salvation?   I don’t know again.  But I will let you know the progress in my 2025 blog sequel.  Until then, just hang around.  In a blink of an eye, we will be there!  Take it from one speaking from personal experience happy



Life, Original, Purpose, Style

19 Comments

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  1. Awesome. I am 25 and I’m sure when I’ll be 50 after another 25 years of my life, I can connect with what you’ve said. Thanks. Keep writing such great stuff.

  2. Tell you what Arun, I also stumble upon this feeling. And, as if this is not enough, everything boils down to my actions from latest three to four days in my failures and pain areas whenever I try to sum it up, as someone has just said wisely that life flashes by at nirvana.
    So childlike the human mind is that it keeps looking for something new in every moment even after knowing that the change is constant enough.
    “So many wishes, so many rhymes!”
    “Wishing you a happy birthday through the sands from the hourglass of our time!”

  3. awesome! happy 50th … living in the moment often means just being not ‘occupying’ yourself … smell the roses, enjoy the view, smile, savour moments, be ok being restless, bask i the sunshine and the shade, the solitude and the adulation …
    <3

  4. Cheers Jijajee! Happy B’day to you and Anish. I only intermittently read your blogs and many times do not post anything but this one deserves special B’day wishes. Stay blessed.

  5. dear arun As you look back on five wonderful decades of your life, as you cherish every moment with your kids and wife, as you think about those hard struggles and those beautiful days, I wish you a very happy 50th birthday.Never fear age, just enjoy life’s new stage. Let’s raise a glass and make a toast,
    Wishing joy, peace and health to you,
    May your birthday be truly happy,
    Full of love and life all day through.
    stay blessed love reshma

  6. Carpe diem !!

  7. Awesome !!!

    Thanks, Arun sir for this great stuff.

  8. Wish you Many Happy Returns of the Day, Sir!

    May all your Dreams ‘n’ Wishes come true!

  9. Carpe Diem, Arun!

    Loved the blog, but perhaps the beauty of life is not to dissect and lead it so scientifically at all times! While I do believe in life after death, I also firmly believe that it’s the journey that matters – till we all reach “the end” in this world / lifetime – we are all “in the journey”. Who knows what the end will be – but as long as we leave people we meet and love with memories that give them a smile not only on their lips but their heart as well – I think it’s a life well spent.

    Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.

    Have an awesome 50th. Cheers to many more! 🙂

  10. Getting older is a reality however getting old need not be. Wish you Happy 50th birthday.

  11. Happy Birthday Sir…!! Your writings are really very beautiful, which is a source of inspiration for us…so please keep writing , thanks …!!

  12. One of the best post, felt the same way back when I completed 25, have the same feeling as am nearing 30. Beautifully portrayed the mixed feelings and also a great solution to make peace with Singularity!

    Happy birthday and congratulations on turning 50. This milestone brings the privilege that you no longer need an excuse to stay in on a Saturday night. But as with any privilege it shouldn’t be abused so don’t forget to get out once in a while, because fun is the elixir of youth!

    If you are anxious about getting old just think, ten years ago you were worried about turning 40! 🙂

    On your birthday I’d like to propose a toast to you. My life is better for knowing you and the world is a better place for having you in it for the past 50 years. Cheers!

    Happy 50th Birthday to you sir,
    Many happy returns…

  13. Many happy returns on the Day. Wish you a very healthy life ahead.
    The song you have requested in the morning on FM was marvelous. “Dil Chata Hai”

  14. Belated, Many happy returns of the day Arun!

    It is inspiring for me to see how you look at everything so objectively and how you always wear that scientific attitude.

    Have a wonderful life ahead!

  15. Reading this blog made me feel the same about the Life.

    Life after death is what our religion preaches us and this keep us motivating for doing Good deeds .This blog reminds me of an old belief : during the initial period after birth i.e. :Initial 0-9 months a new born baby, it is said that baby laughs and cries based on the memory instances experiences of past life. I tend to believe that those must be the thoughts given by the baby to the lessons learnt in past journey. That means, hypothetically, this initial period in everyone’s life must be also for the above reason. To feel the satisfaction of reaching a destination is directly proportional to the quality of journey one has done.
    Wish you a very happy Birthday.

  16. very interesting and attractive blog and post.. i likes it..

  17. First of all Big Congratulation on passing Nifty Fifty. Your post reminds me 2 things which I have forgot in current time or in your blog post language “Stick to current” and thanks to remind me those.

    1) Steve jobs commencement speech (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiAZX4ZeSd4) at standford speech about death. “Death is very likely the single best invention of life”

    2) My grand mother words about nirvana “Someone will only dies when he or she is fully satisfied and welcome death as permanent peace”

  18. Mr.Nathani, this is a brilliant read, it resonated with me so deeply, Im in awe of your very descriptively talented writing skills. Although I d like to bring to all the readers attention Milind Soman, the once upon a time Indian Super Model just finished the famous 150 km Ironman, Swim, Run and Cycle Triathlon in 15 hrs. This itself is a fact determining age to be just a number. Happy 50th and may you have an awesome life ahead.

  19. Wonderful lines I have ever read in any blog ‘circle of life’, one with no start or end.’. Frankly speaking I have never though about being so positive about your passing life when you are in 30’s. But this blog has gave me another purpose to solve to take your passing years the way it comes no look back at least for regrets and of-course to read your 3/4 century experience. I am sure I will also have something to share and comment on and all with a positive note 🙂 And yeah since I am reading it now ‘Happy belated birthday’ stay blesses as you are 🙂

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The Laughing Decades | Arun Nathani Blog