Have you ever seen a snow globe?
It generally has a picturesque scene with pretty houses and neat roads. Shake it and it grows hazy as if snow was falling. I saw a good snow globe once where it took hours for the ‘snow’ to settle and the houses to be visible again.
Hold that scene in mind. I will come back to it and the other observations I am about to make and tie them all together.
Mark Twain supposedly said, “It’s not the things you don’t know that kill you. It’s the things you know that just ain’t so.”
This is a profound, deeply penetrating observation.
When I came to Columbia to do my Ph.D. I made a friend. Her father was the CEO of a Fortune 250 company, and she owned a substantial chunk of it herself. She was intelligent and sophisticated. She saw films like The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and by directors like Bertolucci and Costa-Gavras and Bergman. She had seen more Satyajit Ray movies than I had. She went to wine tastings, the Opera, art museums, concerts and the theater. She hung out with friends in hot new bars and checked out new restaurants.
That, I thought, was what life should be like and she was living it to the fullest. I could not keep up and dropped out of her circle regretfully.
I became an executive in an entertainment conglomerate and did well. My calendar started to fill up but not to the extent of my erstwhile friend. I had an uncle and aunt who came from modest circumstances and lived quietly. I offered to take them out or send them on trips, but they declined politely. They had never left the village in which they were born and knew nothing of the world outside. They told me that they were quite satisfied and didn’t need anything.
I felt sorry for them. How sad to live a life so circumscribed and ignorant of what was happening in the broader world.
It took me decades to realize that I was the fool.
Frenetic activity does nothing but generate mental chatter that quickly spins out of control. It is just like shaking and shaking the snow globe and it takes a very long time for the haze to settle. What I thought was an ideal life, a life that I tried to show others, was simply a vortex of agitations that would not let me be. Mark Twain was dead on. What I ‘knew’ just wasn’t so.
Think of your life. How much of your activity – the quest for entertainment, the social obligations, the ‘must do’ experiences – is simply a way by which your mind gets diverted into channels that do not allow it to rest and be quiescent? How much of it is shaking the snow globe?
What will you do to eliminate this and bring tranquility back into your life?