Proportion and the city

That persistence yields results that are strong and permanent is well known, and yet proven a thousand times over. Yet again. Three magnificent human beings that are my close friends will start the next phase of their lives in magical New York. Not only have they maneuvered through what seemed like a quagmire of diffidence, they have done it with uncommon grace. I cannot but be in admiration of their quiet sense of resolve and their unhindered capacity for hard work. Being a witness of this almost empirical proof has brought with it lessons of its own for me, and as fortunate as I feel to count them as my friends, I also feel a sense of gratitude. These personal triumphs are more than just personal stories – they set an example and help others muster through challenges of their own.

Clarity: a sense of proportion

The past couple of weeks have been quite nice. Buoyed by the the sheer magic that is New York city, a resurgence of aerobic exercise and new aquaintances, the past couple of days have given me a chance to pause and connect the two hemispheres of my brain. The tyranny of the left hemisphere over the right, as explained so powerfully by Jill Bolte Taylor, is a difficult reality to deal with.  Allowing the left hemisphere to dominate would mean focusing on ‘yourself’, as a distinct entity from the rest of the world, aloof and not bothered about anybody or anything other than yourself. Those uncommon souls who are right-dominated are those that are likely to think about others before thinking about themselves – for whom ‘me’ and ‘I’ take second place to ‘us’ and ‘we’. There seems to be little doubt that not only are these people the better angels of society, but lead happier lives and are more content than the rest.

Those that tilt towards the left hemisphere are those are that choose to focus on themselves more often than not. While it can be argued that the extremely left-hemisphered can be grossly self-centered, focusing on the self with a view towards betterment is not a bad trait in itself. In fact, it is healthy and sometimes quite essential. One cannot hope to usher in better things for the world at large without first changing themselves – of paramount importance in a world where time seems to fly at the speed of light. I suspect that most New Yorkers would agree with this assertion.

I have thought and long hard about choosing one of these paradigms over the other, and have come to some fairly simple and obvious conclusions. It is a unique trait of all forms of life to focus on the self – an essential tool for survival and sustenance. One has to muster the temerity and wherewithal to swim through the the challenges of an increasingly complex world. Yet, to be so full of yourself so as to not see the world as anything other than you and you alone is a sign of mental illness. Caring and empathizing for those around you magically produces happiness and contentment on a very generous scale. Indeed, it appears that for a more peaceful world, there needs to more of this to happen. The right and left hemispheres then, are abstractions of interdependence and independence. And it is worth noting that one cannot choose one over another, for they are both indispensable.

This then, is the answer. A balance between independence and interdependence – a sense of proportion, a conscious and sustained effort to allow both hemispheres of your brain to hold equal sway over your thoughts and actions. I will never forget how beautifully JK Rowling articulated this in her Harvard commencement speech – extolling the benefits of dealing with failure and the underlining the crucial role to empathasize and to imagine oneself in the shoes of others.

The magic of New York city

When I first arrived in New York last summer, little did I imagine of what it had in store for me. If truth be told,  I  was  intimidated by its size  and anxious about how I would manage my summer without knowing a single soul in the city. My apprehensions were confirmed by the end of my first two weeks here, for I did not like the city at all, and was rather taken aback by the attitude people – they seemed to have neither patience nor courtesy. People looked like they were in a great hurry for everything and seemed to be reluctant to dispense with any need for niceties. I couldn’t wait for the summer to end – my only solace was my best friend from school who was also in the city for the summer.

But as with all things that endure, New York started to grow on me. As I began to meet more new Yorkers and making a lot of friends, I started to understand the attitude of New Yorkers better. Living in a mammoth city, with its lightning pace of life and its many challenges, had forced people to wear a tough mask. Beneath the masks however, people were as nice and decent as you’d ever meet in any other city. As I started to go out almost every evening and meeting many wonderful people, my opinion of the city was radically transformed.

There has been no looking back ever since. I have come to  deeply admire and love New York. It has brought me great luck and also introduced to me several extraordinary human beings. I stand in awe at its culture, its intellectual vibrancy and its remarkable ability to teach you the virtues of tenacity and resilience. I have every reason to believe that it holds many more remarkable things for me.

Downtown New York is beaming in all its radiance, as if to herald a most sparkling and brilliant summer.

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