A man once passed by a frog who lived in a well. The frog was silently croaking and didn’t want to attract unnecessary attention. But the man thought it would be nice to goad him. So he went up to him and said, “Your vision is limited to the well in which you live. How will you ever know the bigger things in life?” The frog was miffed but courteously replied, “Why, sir, even you live in a well. It’s just a bit bigger than mine.” The man smiled knowingly, ”The difference is that I have been aware of that all along. And, in my case, I know how to escape my well and what lies beyond it.” The frog, slightly disconcerted because what he had expected was a puzzled, tortured man, who would spend the rest of his days spiralling into ruin, tearing out his hair searching for the ever elusive meaning of life, not a grinning monkey; frosted his words with sarcasm to cloak his curiosity and said, “You do? Please elucidate, O enlightened one, for the benefit of us pitiful mortals!” The man’s smile broadened. He gazed into the distant horizon and asked the frog some fundamental questions, some that every mortal should ponder on at least once in his miserably short life. He asked, “What is life to you, my friend? What do you consider to be the most important things in life? What do you think your purpose on this planet is? What do you want to accomplish in your short time here? In other words, Why do you live? Answer these questions of mine and I shall answer all of yours, if you do not see those answers for yourself by then.” “That’s easy!” shouted the frog in glee, for he thought himself a philosopher par extraordinaire. “I have thought often and long on these questions, and my answers are as follows: Life to me is a chain of experiences and emotions, a roller coaster ride that never stops, where sorrow is lightened and joy is made true only when shared, a lemon from which the last drops of juice must be squeezed out, till nothing remains but completely dehydrated rinds. So, to me the most important things would be friends and family, because if not for them, you would not have this life, and without them there is not much point left in living. Why would I live with no one close to me to share my burden and joys with. As for my purpose, I believe it is to live reasonably, settle down somewhere with a beautiful wife and continue my lineage, and live out the rest of my days in peace, causing no trouble and being troubled by no one. People should remember me with tears in their eyes, not with sighs of relief, and my children should have someone to look up to. That is why I live, and that is why everyone lives, eking out an existence somehow, trying to leave a mark of their legacy on the world. Don’t you agree with this?” Smile unwavering, the man said, “The real question is, do you believe all that you just said? If so, you couldn’t be any farther from nirvana. In this world, there is only one truth, only one reality. The self. The great guru Laghima once said, ”The only true love in the world is self love. The other “loves” are simply our attempts at concealing our utter indifference towards other beings.” The only true life is a life is the life you live for yourself. His immortal poem mocks our perception of reality thus:
“Verity, a joke,
recited by many fools.
The cake is a lie.”
Because he discovered the great truth, he spent the rest of his years untethered to the ground, blissfully floating. You see, all that matters in life is to be happy. One comes into the world with nothing and one leaves with nothing too. Sure, you might say that one leaves a mark on the world, but you aren’t there to see it, are you? It makes no difference to your corpse how big or small that mark is. And those grieving relatives? It’s all a show, a pretence, to make it seem as though somebody actually cares. Don’t get me started on “friends”. A more miserable class of human beings I have yet to see. Not even being blood relations, friendships are just an opportunity to plunder benefit, without even the necessity to put up the show making it look as though you actually care about the other person, the biggest scam of them all. So, you see, it’s all about you living with yourself and finding happiness in solitude.” The frog was now more than a little confused. He stuttered, ”W-what? B-but that goes against everything I have ever known or believed in! That cannot p-p-possibly be the only truth!” Then, regaining a bit of composure, he coolly tried to argue his way out. “What about what your family does for you, eh? What about when friends help you out? That’s pure and selfless love, right there. What about your parents, huh? Who’s gonna help them out in their old age? What about marriage? Is that love not real too? Isn’t it true that a man cannot live without the help of society? Or is that a sham too? You seem to be an ingrate who takes all he can but never gives back. What kind of life is that, one where you always walk alone and you have no shoulder to weep on, no one to share a smile with? One would rather die than live such a painfully dull existence, I think. Don’t you know, a form of punishment in the Arabic countries is to lock up the guilty person in a dark room for the rest of his life, with no one to see or talk to. It would be a living hell if no one ever had relations with anyone else! Don’t you see that?!” The man never even batted an eyelid. All the while, his smile seemed to broaden, as though he were expecting these questions all along. Then, looking straight into the eyes of the frog, he said clearly, “Have you ever thought of it this way, when your family decided to bring you into this world, they accepted responsibility for you, and it became their duty to care for you. You will also consider it your duty to take care of the people you are responsible for. It is the natural way of the world, it happens even in the wild. However, in nature all relations between the parent and child cease as soon as the child is able to fend for itself. The beast never asks its child to take care of it after its “retirement” either! We are born, we live and then we die, all alone, that is the way of the world. And as far as “friends” and relatives are concerned, with them it is just a system of favours given and taken. If you don’t do anything for them, they won’t do anything for you. It isn’t very selfless if you think of it that way, is it? In fact our entire society is just a group of individuals who don’t really care about each other, just pretend to so that they can reap the benefits of living in a society. In fact, we put on a mask for everyone we meet, living many lives with many lies, juggling these masks, pretending where there is no need to pretend. The only person we are totally honest with is ourselves, the only person we don’t show a painted-on face to is our own dark self. What we might feel for a person of the opposite sex is either lust or a strong desire to pass on our genes with the most fertile-looking mate, a very basic animal instinct. Love has nothing whatsoever to do with it. Everything you see around you is an illusion, only it has been fabricated by us, unwilling to face harsh reality, we cower and hide behind the “safety” of “society” and “relationships”. In this way we dig ourselves even deeper into that well, firmly rooting our feet in the boggy mud at the bottom, tying ourselves down to the well, never able to get free like we were meant to be. It is only when you are alone that you can think the deepest thoughts, sing the loudest songs, dance the liveliest dances and live the fullest life. The presence of others stifles us, constricts us. Get rid of those earthly bonds and you will find the meaning of life.” “B-b-but…” mumbled the toad, all he could manage to say before his head exploded into tiny fragments of grey and red. “I guess not all of us can handle the truth.” said the man, flicking specks of brain off his tunic. He shrugged, took out a panda phalanx and chewed distractedly as he continued on his journey, taking long strides, his feet not quite touching the ground.