By Debbie Olujobi
There are two tragedies in life, one is not getting what you want, the other is actually getting it” George Bernard Shaw. Its a quote that is rife with cynicism and presupposes that no attainment or level of success will ever bring complete happiness or fulfilment.
It would be the explanation for billionaires being depressed or those in love having a bitter row. Success is relative; there are many things in which one can strive to be successful. One certain thing is that we must work to attain and maintain success. I think Shaw’s position is drawn from the reality that once you attain a level of success, you are now caught in the desperate attempt to maintain and surpass that level. caught in the tragedy of the What next?
No condition is permanent, no matter how dire, or how great; nothing stays the same or even static. For all of the advancement in knowledge and technology, we cant freeze time, we don’t have the luxury of standing still in the perfect moment. Holidays end, honeymoons end, promotions end, parties end and moments pass.
Often times glory days become memories and we are left wondering where the time went. Its so easy to get lost in life’s frantic pace and I find that I need to step back from time to time to catch my breath. Who we are inside is what George Bernard Shaw addresses in his quote.
An irish friend of mine translates it to mean ” we are all miserable Gits without and with; miserable Gits, the lot of us”. Normally I would agree but I am concertedly working on not being a miserable Git: trying really hard to prove Shaw wrong that it will not be a tragedy to get all I want.
So the million dollar question is how do we retain the exhilaration that comes with success and move on with enthusiasm; how do we prove Shaw wrong? I have a few ideas and they range from being involved in different things so that successes are a lot more frequent or not being too ambitious and addicted to adrenalin that is achievement injected.
Problem with the first one is that we may just drop dead from exhaustion and have a heart attack brought on by anxiety. The second is hardly any better as there is no joy or glee to be had from a lack lustre existence with no drive or ambition. My best idea is the one I find works best for me and a few friends who have tried it.
Imagine life as this big, multi-flavoured, multilayered and multicoloured cake. If the object is to eat as much of it as possible through the duration of a life time; then wisdom will literarily take the cake. It makes sense to eat the cake little by little.
Life is best in bits, living it moment by moment so that we don’t get overwhelmed!! I think Shaw’s position comes from the emptiness that always come after the big moments. Almost like a balloon coming down from incredible heights to land on the ground deflated, bereft of the glory that seemed so fleeting.
I would say without doubt that the greatest advice I ever heard was to live in the moment; being mindful. It’s not accredited to one person as it’s to be found as a staple precept in the Bible, its the foundation of Buddhism, reinforced many times in the Tao te Ching and many other books of spiritual significance. Letting time slip away by not fully immersing ourselves in it is in my view tragic.
I haven’t always been successful in living life in moments; if anything I am absent minded to an alarming degree as my mind wanders anywhere and everywhere. LIke most people I do find that there is an emptiness that comes after big moments but my favourite author, a lady called Katie Byron put forward a question that I ask myself regularly and it takes tragedy out of my moments.
In every situation she says everyone should take a step back and ask “what’s wrong with the moment?”. The truth is that when you leave the past in the past, leave the future and not worry about what hasn’t and probably will never happen; ignore other peoples attitudes and opinions, life is not so bad. From a religious perspective; I would venture to say that we become ungrateful and sinful when we lose the joy that comes from answered prayers. Its not deliberate but it is tragic.
Its taken me a while to breakdown this quote to a level where I can apply its truth to my life for more meaning. The decision to classify our moments into big and small, to divide our lives into failures and successes is the actual tragedy. life itself is a blessing; and as such no moment is greater or lesser than the other.
So getting what we want is a triumph just like wanting what we want… Wanting something says we are alive, we can desire, strive and lean towards greatness. Getting it says the forces align in the physical and the spiritual realms to make it happen.
Shaw was wrong; he died aged 94, from chronic problems exacerbated by injuries he incurred from a fall. He won a nobel prize, an oscar, rejected the money prizes and despised the adulation. He was married to a woman who remained celibate and intimacy came from dalliances with married women.
This great mind was tortured; his art came from a place of loneliness and pain. If there was a tragedy in his life, I would venture to say it was wanting the wrong things, a woman that didn’t want him, a fortune when he was a socialist, adulation and recognition when he despised applause …There is no tragedy in great achievement and there are so many, life, love, health, wealth; wanting them is a prayer; to which I say amen…