Today I wrote this letter to my younger self. You are free to read it and decide if it makes any sense. If you find anything of value in the letter, you may take it home. In any case, please do leave me some comments (maybe I could gather something of value from them).
My dear Pradeep At Twenty,
I’ve heard people say that reality bites. Many of these people advocate the use of fantasy as a channel to escape the pangs of hard facts. In this friendly letter, I hope to offer you an alternative: a way to handle reality without necessarily having to escape from it.
At the very outset I clarify that I find nothing wrong in the concept of fantasy. A well-written fantasy novel is worth the read if it will open the doors to a new, beautiful, hopeful and peaceful world where happy endings bring showers of joyful tears. It’s worth it. It may not always appeal to me, but I hold nothing against it. A good cartoon, or an animated movie in which a mouse, a cat or a dog go bonkers is equally worth it. Even at 34 I would never like to miss “The Tom and Jerry Show”, “The Popeye show”, “The Flintstones”, “The Jetsons”, “Asterix and Obelix”, and so forth. They are all wonderful. The more, the merrier!
Does reality not bite? Yes, it sure does! It does so in different ways, and to varying degrees. At times it glides in stealthily from behind you and nibbles at your neck, driving chills through your spine. You may be able to remember such times. At other times it voraciously gnaws at your juicy buttocks, perhaps taking a big piece of your ass (read soul if you want) as it leaves. You may be able to remember such times, as well.
I recall the times when hard facts had hit me, or when reality had bit me. I discern that the wounds I have suffered fall under three very significant groups: paining-wounds, healing-wounds, and where-the-heck-are-the-wounds.
Paining-wounds are those that still hurt much, and may never heal unless I get up and decide to do something about them (I have realized that, contrary to the popular belief, time does not heal on its own).
Healing-wounds are those that used to be paining-wounds, but I had got up and decided to do something about them, and they currently show signs that they may heal in due course (due course has no exact definition).
Where-the-heck-are-the-wounds. Now, this is a surprising group. These are wounds that I had expected to suffer (as when reality had chewed off a large piece of my ass). But they do not exist; nor does the pain! Why not?
The answer became obvious after a little analysis, mixing the ancient wisdom (laughter is the best medicine) with a bit of introspection. I realized that whenever I had laughed in the face of hard facts, they could not wound me. Humor had indeed shielded my ass. Humor had saved my soul. The understanding was complete, and very satisfactory.
Although fantasy certainly offers a channel to escape the pangs of reality, it is short-lived; it offers no balm. You may enjoy a dip in a bathtub ready with warm water on a cold winter night, but that satisfaction is short-lived. You can’t possibly spend the whole winter in the tub. The moment you are out of the tub, it’s winter again.
The alternative I have to suggest is humor: perceiving humor in the very face of the biting reality. That way, you wouldn’t have to run away or escape from hard facts, but could rather face them and laugh at them with courage and vitality. It seems to work. Every time.
You may contend that creating or perceiving humor amidst hard facts is not easy, and bringing yourself to laugh in the face of reality seems impossible at times. Undeniably True. Even in my case. Otherwise I would never have suffered any wounds.
Nevertheless, I shall attempt to walk this path henceforth. If only I had understood as much when I was your age, I would perhaps have suffered much less. At least, I can now try to avoid wounds in future. I encourage you to try and do the same. After all, you have nothing to lose by your attempts, and so much to gain.
Pradeep At 34