A friend’s son had joined first grade in a school in Chennai. His son’s teacher at his new school mentioned this incident during a PTA meeting for first graders. The teacher had asked the children about what ‘Time’ is. Different children had different things to say. One child said "Time" is......"Becoming". The teacher was flabbergasted at the profundity of the answer. "Becoming what?" she had asked. The child thought for a bit...and said "Like a bud becoming a flower". “Pure Zen!!” my friend had mused in his mail sharing this.
Contrast this with what a young lady had to say on television recently. She studied in a school which slave-drove her to get 94%. She could tick off the right answer without seeing the question in multiple choice formats; she had gone through the same format a thousand times. However, when she joined college and was asked to write a few lines on why she took up the said course, she said she just couldn’t answer that simple question. She had never thought for herself and had been perfectly tuned only to answer questions which were from the ‘marked portions’. It took quite a while for her to break out of that mould and develop independent thinking. She was almost in tears and claimed to have been a ‘victim’ of the prevalent education system. Hers was a tale of ‘Zen lost and regained’!
A critic of our educational pedagogy commented that fresh flowers are thrown into a baking oven only to come out dried and withered. This view could seem a tad harsh. Nevertheless, we would agree that ‘free thinking’ is sacrificed at the altar in the classrooms; cramming the memory takes precedence over cultivating the mind. Logic, precision, memory and unquestioning obedience are at a premium and may not be rightly so.
These qualities alone cannot lead to a wholesome experience of life without the wonder of curiosity, joy of discovery, willingness to experiment and a spirit of adventure. In fact, inquisitiveness, if handled well, is more a virtue than an irritant. Deep observation, purposeful questioning and deliberate reflection enable better comprehension; these translate into our own realities and convictions. A sense of marvel allows us to combine merits of experience with purity of innocence. The result could be sheer magic.
It is ingenuity that ensures variety which in turn becomes the spice of life. The same ingredients which make the mundane daily dishes could be creatively combined to have a new song on the tongue. It would be helpful to make a habit of welcoming and accepting the spontaneity and uncertainty associated with creativity. It is ‘one percent inspiration’ that makes the seed a sapling; perspiration that follows is for growth after this initial germination.
It is not always necessary to choose from existing options available in a situation; a few of them can be changed and new ones created. One needn’t look for what is right amongst those given, but look for what is different. It is the joy of creation that leads an entrepreneur to risk his shirt. It is a compelling vision which translates into magnificence: be it business empires or wonders of the world.
The tamed elephant carries a heavy chain and hands it over to the trainer, little realizing that it is getting itself shackled voluntarily. Man is no different if he gives up his ability to be open and think without restraint. The moment he boxes himself into standard patterns and refuses to visualize beyond, he is not ‘free’; he has enslaved himself in the beaten track. No wonder, “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains”!
Creative blue-sky thinking is a spectrum and has a beautiful range. Slipping below the lower band limit would see us missing the colours in life, abhorring all unpredictability. Life would then just be a nightmare of chaste logic and exhausting precision. Going beyond the upper band limit with unbridled imagination would be a chaos of impractical day dreams. Castles would get built only in the air.
The sky being ‘blue’ is artistic reality; the sky being ‘space’ is scientific reality. The take is contextual. So is the case with logical and imaginative thinking patterns.
The right contextual mix would solve questions about the ‘world without’ and settle answers in the ‘world within’. The heady cocktail would make us look up, into and beyond the blue sky – the bodhi tree - with an inspired smile.
(The writer may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)