Public glory or personal satisfaction?

The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it. ― Vince Lombardi, Jr.

This past weekend I joined nearly 1,200 other people to participate in the annual Climb to the Top event held by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The idea is simple. Climb the 61 floors of the Hancock tower (the tallest building in New England) in support of a charity that raises money to assist people afflicted with MS.

In addition to being a charity event, people can choose to partake in this event in a competitive fashion. This essentially means people try to climb to the top in the shortest possible time. As an incentive for me to get into shape, I decided to join the competitive category.

I was assigned a start time of 8.05am. I was super pumped and was feeling good. I lined up at the starting line and, upon indication by one of the officials, I began my run. In my adrenaline and music fueled fervor, I bolted into the cold, dry, and daunting stairwell. The sheer exhilaration of competition overcame me and all reason went out the window. I foolishly ran as fast as I could up the first ten flights of stairs.

As I reached the 10th floor, I felt like I had run up against a wall. I was struggling to breath, my legs were burning, and, most horrifyingly, I realized I had 51 floors more!!! At that point, I seriously contemplated giving up. The pain was simply too much.

To my surprise, I decided to go on. I decided to keep climbing. My body was yearning for a break, but I didn’t stop. My body yearned for water, but I ignored all the rest stops. I was in very bad shape and my time for the entire climb was even worse. At the top, I was so nauseous and light headed, that I couldn’t even enjoy the spectacular view.

As I rode the escalator down (thank god for that!), I wondered: Why did I keep going? Was I doing it for me or was I doing it so that people would know I did it? Did I do it to prove to myself that I could keep going or was it the allusion of glory that kept me going?

We as humans go through our lives doing a variety of things: Seek job promotions, seek opportunities to win awards, pursue a sport, learn an instrument, code up a new app, design a new medical device, study hard for an exam, and the list goes on………

But why do we strive for excellence? Is it because we want to personally grow in our job or is it because people will glorify us for our success? Do we seeks financial success because we want it or that society will revere the wealth? Do we learn a musical instrument because we want a source of relaxation or is it because we want to have a skill that not everyone else has? Do we study hard for an exam because we want to learn or because doing well brings with it admiration of peers? Do we design new apps and devices to benefit mankind or is it because we seek the fame associated with them?

I realize that the first instinct may be to reject this idea and firmly say that “I don’t do anything for anyone else; it’s for me!”. If that’s the case, why do we place so much stake in what society thinks of what we do? Could we still strive for excellence in solitude? Could we just want to be better for betterment’s sake?

Here is something to think about. I struggled to come up with a scenario and I urge you to try to come up with something: Besides biological necessities (sleeping, eating etc.), COULD YOU NAME ONE ACTIVITY THAT YOU DO ON A REGULAR BASIS JUST FOR YOURSELF?








Melodies of Life

Without music, life would be a mistake — Friedrich Nietzsche

This past weekend, much like thousands of others, my brother, my girlfriend, and I made a trip to the nation’s capital to catch a glimpse of the customary 4th of July fireworks. As soon as the fireworks ended and the spectators celebrated freedom in one of the greatest nations on the planet, we started our drive back to Cambridge, MA. DC is about eight hours away from Cambridge, MA so my brother and I took turns driving. My girlfriend played DJ so that we wouldn’t fall asleep and end the trip on a bad note!

I don’t know if it was the unique combination of adrenaline from being alert (the weather sucked!), excessive caffeine, or the open road, but I was keenly aware (more so than usual) of the lyrics of the songs being played. Themes of the songs ranged from life, relationships, love, hate, anger, determination, patriotism, and even politics. In essence, they covered the human experience!

Since I am of Indian origin, the songs being played were in multiple languages. But what struck me as interesting was that despite being in different languages, the songs were saying similar things! The background of the artists in concern didn’t really matter. What mattered was that they were human beings and being humans, they all experienced similar emotions.

While I had heard about music being a uniting force, I really felt the power and potential of music on the drive back. Music is a means of consoling, guiding, reassuring, loving, hating, and even venting. And people see this. People know of the amazing healing and uniting power of music simply because it can be related to. And as such, people seem to exhibit an amazing understanding for new music or even foreign music. I have even known of people who will painstakingly learn a new language just so that they can understand a tune they enjoyed listening to! What is more, once people listen to new music, often times they develop a lifelong affinity to that kind of music!

If human beings have such an amazing capacity for entertaining new music, why are we unable to extend our tolerance to something very similar and that has tremendous potential to unite people—religion.

Much like music, aren’t all religions preaching the same thing? Aren’t all religions calling for people to be nice and kind and do good for the world? Don’t all religions advocate for peace at an individual and global level? Sure, these religions are presented via very diverse mediums, languages, deities, and customs, but aren’t they all highlighting the human condition and struggles? If we can tolerate music and appreciate the commonness in the millions of different kinds of music, WHY CAN’T WE DO THE SAME WITH RELIGION? Why don’t we put in the effort to understand a religion that is different from our own? Why don’t we understand the underlying emotion behind differing religions?

Religions may be singing different tunes, but I have a feeling they are all playing the melodies of life……

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