“Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to the night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.”
I love this poem. As I hurtled into my 30s I wasted a lot of time contemplating all the things that had gone wrong in my life. I thought about my failures, lost friends, that shitty stuff that happened to me as a kid. I looked at my friends and saw their success or their financial gains and looked at them with varying levels of envy. Lack of progress became frustration, and frustration led to depression.
I’m happier now. The stresses I have in my life largely concern the people I care about rather than my pay grade. It would be nice to earn more but I don’t really need to earn more. The frugality of living described in the poem is akin to the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham which I blogged about a few years ago. In his own words:
“I have accumulated no money but I accumulate a lot of happiness,” he says. “If you get rich, you have an apartment with an extra bedroom – and then you die.”
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with ambition and drive – the world needs people who are competing to be the best as they raise the bar. Furthermore society needs people to feed off success and develop a desire to beat their sources of their inspiration. Art, sport, technology all would be pretty stagnant if it weren’t for the efforts of competitive and driven individuals.
But for those who dodged PE, slept through Math lessons or thought Shakespeare was pointless I want you to pat yourself on the back. If you at least tried to understand and get involved in those activities then you’ve done enough. We cannot all be champions. Strive to succeed in what you do but accept that failure, not ‘winning’ or being the ‘best’ isn’t the worst thing in the world. More importantly is to occasionally take a step back and remember the simpler things in life. You might find yourself happier for it!