The Fluidity of human shapes
In the broadest connotation, humans can be of two kinds (if I may)- those that live life very intentionally and those who go with the flow. The former are the ones who are very certain about which piece of the puzzle they were born to solve. It would seem as if they have it all figured out and are on their way to hit their beautifully planned milestones on, if not ahead of, time.
And then there are the rest of us who are going through life with a little bit of intention and a lot more randomness. We mean well (in most situations) and want to make a positive difference. We care about relationships but also get consumed by our ego, every now and then. We know that it is more about the journey than it is about the destination, yet we complain about how difficult the ‘path’ is. We know that our journey is our own and try to avoid comparisons but inevitably fall into that trap. We try to be better individuals but also believe in luck, timing and the said randomness of it all. Some days we show up, some days we fail. But we do not cease to try.
If I was to close my eyes and think about life and its meaning, many images and thoughts come to mind. If I was somehow able to pull out those images and thoughts from my head into a tangible canvas - people, experiences and personal struggles would dominate the core of that canvas.
That, to a large extent, sums up life for me - and these people, experiences and struggles have shaped me as they have, each one of us.
People and experiences
Friends and family (Framily, if I may borrow the term from a friend) influence our lives more than we know it. We are a product of the people and relationships that we have, around us. While authenticity is a real thing, most principles and styles are a result of inspiration. And inspiration is often borrowed.
Borrowed from behaviors and opinions of that inspiring coworker or that hard working parent; From that dutiful relative or that really honest friend; From a sibling’s life choices or from that neighbor who never misses her routine of walking the dog; From our selfless grandmother or from the unconditional love from our partner. The inspiration often comes from the ordinary people in our lives who do extraordinary things. All this is not to say that we have no element of ourselves in the principles we abide by. It is only to emphasize that our communities and tribes influence our lives, significantly. And for them, we should be thankful.
Our authenticity, then, is the final and arguably the most important ingredient in shaping us as individuals. While the actions of our fellow individuals are inspiring, we are not making extensive notes nor analyzing behaviors of these people. We are not repeating words, verbatim or imitating actions, blindly, of these people.
Instead, we bring our own touch and personality to every event, conversation and relationship that we are a part of. The authenticity is what makes the rendition a natural one. It is what denotes that while we are influenced by our surroundings, we have a voice and perspective of our own. And if we don’t have it yet, we care to get there in time.
We shape up, borrowing bits of learning from every experience and relationship. And this shape is not as rigid as a closed circle or a sharply edged triangle. On the contrary, human beings take on more fluid shapes – the ones that are constantly evolving and transforming with every passing experience and relationship. The kind of shapes that are imperfect, free-flowing and raw. The ones that communicate that rigidity and definition is overrated. And that fluidity, ambiguity and change is what makes us human.
Here's a personal instance I’d like to share - I was very motivated by a friend to start a blog of my own. His ability and discipline to show up every day and write about things that matter, inspired me to a great deal. I have been blogging for 4 years now. While I did take to writing because of my friend, I did not imitate his writing style, word for word. My own life experiences and perspective influenced the style and topics of my writing. This was my authentic touch to the inspiration that I acted on. Writing has helped me think better and be in touch with my emotions. I am ever grateful for my friend and the inspiration.
The role of struggles in shaping our personalities is significant.
Whether it is going through a hard first job or having a dysfunctional family. Whether it is having a body that is not conventionally ‘right sized’ or having social anxiety. Whether it is being born in an unsafe country or being in an abusive relationship. Whether it is overcoming substance abuse or recovering from a deep injury caused by an unfortunate accident.
- All of these are the unique struggles that shape us. While they come in mini doses, they inspire action and leave us with timeless wisdom and self-awareness. Similar to ‘suffering’, we try to avoid struggles. We pass on a seemingly difficult path when in fact, the path might teach us a whole lot about ourselves.
It is so ironic that we try our best to avoid moments of pain, yet the pain is what leads to progress.
At this point, I am reminded of my favorite Latin phrase.
If I was ever going to get a tattoo, this would be it:
The phrase goes by ‘Amor Fati’
(Amor means ‘love’ and ‘Fati’ means fate. Therefore, ‘A Love of fate’)
The phrase does not mean that we accept fate in a defeatist manner. It means that we complain less and appreciate our present struggles, more- that we do not merely accept our present condition but instead, obsessively love it.
Struggle is what gives life meaning and depth. This knowledge should allow us to operate with optimism even when we are experiencing unpleasant moments.
Additionally, each struggle consumes the person going through it, fully, irrespective of the intensity of the struggle. You can’t peg struggle against each other and conclude that one type of struggle is better or worse than the other.
Struggle is a relative term and anybody who is struggling is consumed by it, fully (whether it be facing the loss of a loved one or losing a job).
The fact that we are all going through our individual struggles, given our relative thresholds, should make us feel more together than apart. This knowledge of ‘we are all in it together’ should make it easy for us to be warm, kind and compassionate to those around us, instead of trying to get a leg up on one another.
Therefore, struggles play a huge role in roughening the edges of our human shapes. The kind of roughness that we should be grateful for, the kind that makes us better individuals.
For these reasons, whenever I think about the perspectives and principles that we take to, as we shape up, I think about our people, our experiences and our struggles being the big influencers.
Each human develops his or her own shape –
- Shapes that are less fixed and more fluid
- Shapes that are less artificial and more raw
- Shapes that are less static and more dynamic
- Shapes that are less selfish and more compassionate
- Shapes that are more humble and less ‘know-it-all’
- Shapes that are less centered and more inclusive