A state of grace


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Category: Reflections Date: 29 Oct 00

‘You have to dream. It’s only this one life, remember! Watch the very old; many look shell-shocked, like they’ve just got off a dizzying roller-coaster, their faces asking: “How did an entire lifetime go by in a flash?”’


In the last century, the celebrated writer Virginia Woolf lecturing to a group of women graduates in Cambridge, told them what they needed if they ever wanted to write was an income of £500 a year and a room of one’s own.


Take that statement and apply it to your deepest impulses: Woolf’s was to write. Yours may be to sail or surf, paint or sing, or be an architect, doctor, lawyer or poet - whatever.


You have to dream. It’s only this one life, remember! Watch the very old; many look shell-shocked, like they’ve just got off a dizzying roller-coaster, their faces asking: “How did an entire lifetime go by in a flash?”


It’ll happen to us all. So dream, dream. Don’t ever stop, or you will have nothing to look back at, nothing heady to recall. Ok, we’ve got the dream, and now we’ve got to translate that £500 a year to a realistic figure. What will it take for you to fulfill yours?


In this game, simply making more money for the sake of money does not count as a dream. It is merely an exercise for people without imagination, who see cash as an end. Who buy into the fake cardboard dreams of houses, cars, and growing numbers in an account, rather than see money as a tool to allow them to lead lives rich with experience.


Getting married or longing for the perfect relationship doesn’t count as a dream. Neither does meeting prince charming or winning that perfect woman. Attaining your freedom from unhappy liaisons counts as a dream. Because harsh as this may sound, once you base your entire happiness on someone else, expect someone else to complete you, then you are condemned to live the life of a puppet, based on someone else’s life (even if they are your children).


What Woolf means when she refers to the £500 a year, is the need to buy time and space, physical and emotional, so you can do what you’ve always wanted to do. For some it’s a multitude of unexplored possibilities, for others it’s carving out of a sanctuary. For the lucky few, the work they do is itself a fulfillment of the dream - they enjoy every moment of it and if it’s paid, then they’ve arrived at Nirvana.


Right. So we’ve done our calculations. We will be practical, hard nosed and disciplined to stamp our dream on life. No compromise. We will have to work at least part-time to support ourselves. Economise, do without little luxuries, maybe one or two necessities, maybe even dip into our savings. Whoever said dreams come cheap?


So when I saw the cucumber-coloured room by chance, overlooking the remnants of the felled Bagshot House and stumps - and what a remnant! a massive Samaan tree with its long vines floating in an old world breeze, perfectly framed in the cream and emerald green curtained latticed window - I saw a passage leading to my own deepest impulses. A place to write, uninterrupted, to be still. Sanctuary!


The human heart is made up of so much yearning, for love, for money, for beauty, for fame, for recognition, for excitement, for comfort, for diamonds and silks, for having what everyone else has and more, and making sure that everyone else knows they have more. And people who understand marketing recognise that human beings will take many roads, any shortcut to assuage yearning.


But, are material things the road to real happiness, or are they like drugs, a shot in the arm here and there, a band aid, to keep you going? Do they stop you from examining your deepest impulses, drawing from the core of your being? Can you have both? Probably, but we all know how easy it is to be sucked into the addictive and potent vortex of the material world, so we can forget who we are and why.


But now that I am established, in this room, with nothing but blank pages ahead of me, yearning is suspended for this moment. If this is all there is for now, I think, looking at the vines swaying in and out of my window frame, in an old world breeze, then that’s enough.


Life, the real world, will intervene as it always does. Ugly apartment blocks and concrete car parks will replace these vines, and if I walk up to the window, I will see the large tree stumps, the harsh yellow heat of lost shade, the profanity of concrete. But right this second, the lawn dappled in moving light and shade, two emerald-coloured iguanas clambering up this trunk to loll on the wide spreading branches above, the distinct trill of a bright bird, the moment is filled, the dream possible.


I would like to think that in everyone’s life, there is a point - seconds, a moment, some hours, day - where there is respite from yearning, a state of unadulterated grace.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur