It’s cozy to be in the cocoon of a self-made narrative that leaves little room for change or interpretation, isn’t it? Sometimes it does help to be shielded from reality for a short period of time. And it’s so tempting to stay there, stuck in a state of perpetual pseudo happiness or constant self-pity. The inherent vice of staying in this condition longer, though, is that it robs you of the chance to find out and do what matters to you and the rest of the world. Imagine what a tremendous lost opportunity that would be. Maybe this will help you take a small step – a word or a simple gesture – in shaping your true story. Or maybe it will be the stranger or friend you’ll see when you dare to peek out of your cocoon. It will be worth it.
“It is dull in this world, gentlemen.”
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol, “The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich”
Today I agree with Gogol’s remark. What a compelling way to end “The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich” that I just finished re-reading!
Gogol’s peculiar, often detestable characters and his vivid, witty language takes you on a captivating journey. A journey that leaves little room for other thoughts. It makes you smile and frown. It’s absurd at times (just like life can be), but no matter how bizarre it seems, it does remain real, and everything falls into place at the end. When you finish reading, you know that every word and every punctuation mark played a certain role in the narrative. And despite the dullness you wish for more. More meaning, more experience, more of this bizarre life story. I’ll end a dull day with that wish for more, mesmerized again by the power of good literature. Experiencing it is one of the best things this world has to offer. We should do it more often.
Intense experiences – positive or negative – can make you see your situation, priorities, and seeming contentment differently. It’s like seeing clearly after cleaning a steamed up window. That’s when a simple question materializes: “what’s next?“. Thinking and doing something about it can be tedious and exhausting. Looking back usually doesn’t help – what used to make us happy (a relationship of any kind, a job or personal interests) might not be the same anymore, and sometimes it becomes obvious that holding on to it longer is detrimental to everyone involved. Looking ahead is challenging. It’s tiring to seek change, persevere, and work on new ways to fulfill your potential, be happy and make others happy. Especially if you have done it quite a few times. But it’s the only possible way to move on staying true to your purpose as a human being.
It can be hard to imagine what could come next. So hard that you feel stuck and miserable. And yet, the sparkle will be there or has even been there already in the form of a kind gesture, inspiring conversation or someone, known or unknown, who is just one word away. I admit that I hesitate to utter the word today even though I know I probably should. What if I say the wrong thing or say it at the wrong time? Would that matter? I still don’t know what my next opportunity to be happy and spread happiness will be, but I started building a bridge to it. Do you know what it will be for you?
Handshaking in Ghana is special. So are the smiles you receive at every turn. I had a lot of both during my short stay in Accra. 72 spectacular hours filled with so many, so diverse, so moving experiences felt like a month or a year of happiness. A walk to a beach that uncovered hundreds of human stories and ended up being different than expected. Remarks and conversations that seemed random, and were at the same time heart-warming and relevant. Sharing time and experiences with an open heart has rarely felt so easy and gratifying.
Accra, thank you for a lesson in humanness and a reminder to cherish the moment. Now let me try to spread it as much as I can.