A man stopped by the house of the world famous sage Puram Bam. Nobody answered his confident knock, so he opened the door and found the sage looking thoughtfully at two masks he held in his hands.
“I didn’t come for help, sage” the man said. “I’m not one of those who need you to tell them how to live their life. But I came to ask you a question.”
Puram Bam said nothing. He only set the masks on the small table in front of him. One mask was sad. Another one was smiling.
“You and others like you preach people to go after their dreams,” said the man. “I say it’s rubbish. Dreams are like smoke. They are not real. Blow at them — and they are gone. But they don’t let you see the real world, where you have to work to pay for your food and your home. You know that. So my question to you is, why do you keep telling people that nonsense?”
Puram Bam rocked in his chair.
“Are you sure dreams are unreal?” he asked. “You are in my dream now.”
The man laughed loudly.
“Spare me this nonsense, old man,” he said. “Leave that I-dream-the-world talk to the weak souls who are afraid of the real world. I don’t care for it.”
“And yet you’re living it,” said Puram Bam. “You call this a house, but for many years it had existed only in my mind. I dreamt of having a bungalow like this, with these white walls, and this fireplace, and these books, and even these two masks. I dreamt of becoming someone to whom some people would come for advice, while many would come to laugh at my words. It was only my dream, but over the years I made it a part of the real world. Yet it is still my dream and you’re standing in the middle of it.”
“Fine,” said the man. His voice was quieter now. “I see your point. But you knew what you wanted. Those who come to you don’t. That’s why they come. Why confuse them?”
“Do you know what you want?” asked Puram Bam.
“I want to have a good life,” said the man.”I have seventy, maybe eighty years in this world and I don’t want to spend them chasing after some nonsense. I work ten hours a day, but my job pays well. It gives me enough money to buy what I need, to live where I want and to entertain myself when I rest. I’m not an artist or a philosopher and I don’t have big ambitions. I only want to make enough to have a decent living. So why would I ever sweat myself making some dream come true, when my job gives me all I need?”
Puram Bam looked at two masks in front of him, as if choosing which one to put on his face.
“You’ve been sweating yourself to make a dream come true all your life,” he said.
“Rubbish!” said the man. “I’ve just told you–”
“Listen or leave.”
The man went silent.
“You’ve been sweating yourself to make a dream come true all your life,” Puram Bam repeated. “Not one dream. Many dreams. Just like all of us. Every part of the world you live in was someone’s dream once. The streets you walk, the books you read, the bread you buy, the laws you obey, the money you spend, even the words you speak — all of this had been born in someone’s mind before it was made real. The place where you work ten hours a day didn’t exist before someone’s mind created it. The world of people is nothing but dreams that came true. Some of these dreams are horrible, they are dreams of blood and pain, but they too, are someone’s dreams made real. So the answer to your question is simple. You spend your life making some dreams come true. You may as well choose your own dream.”
“But I don’t have a dream,” said the man. His voice was very quiet now.
“Everyone has a dream,” said Puram Bam. “Only most people forget it when they grow up.”
He stood up, walked to the fireplace and hung the masks on each side of it.
One mask was smiling. Another one was sad.
Archive for February, 2012
Tags: change, life, tale, tales, unmaskd
A man came to see the world famous sage Puram Bam. He found the sage in his small bungalow, reading a thick black book.
“Oh wise sage,” he said. “I need your help!”
“Do you?” asked Puram Bam, his eyes on the thick black book.
“I don’t know how to live my life anymore!” said the man. “I know that I’m capable of great things and yet everything I’ve ever accomplished has been mediocre at best! I dream of glory, but my existence is dull. I set out to achieve brilliant things, but I settle too soon. I’m always busy, yet so little gets done. I get richer, but feel poorer. My face smiles, but my soul cries. I’m suffocating! I feel that I’m not living the life I was created to live.”
“Do you?” asked Puram Bam, his eyes still on the thick black book.
“I need your advice,” said the man. “How should I live my life without feeling that I’m wasting my years? You’re so wise. Please help me!”
Puram Bam looked up.
“You’re a smart man,” he said. “You already know the answer. People don’t change.”
And he returned to reading his thick book.
The man’s face became red like a ripe tomato. He stood up.
“I see,” he said. “Thank you for sharing your wisdom, sage.”
And then he left. Now his face was white as stone. And there was cold fire in his eyes that hadn’t been there before.
One day the same man appeared at Puram Bam’s door again. He looked at Puram Bam who was reading a thin white book. He smiled.
“I came to thank you,” he said.
“Did you?” said Puram Bam, his eyes on the thin white book.
“You probably don’t remember me, but years ago you said I would never accomplish anything. I’ve proved you wrong.”
“Have you?” asked Puram Bam, his eyes still on the thin white book.
“Yes,” said the man. “Yes, I have. When I left your house I was angry. Angry at you, angry at myself, angry at the entire world. But soon I realized that anger would not get me far. I wanted to show you and myself that I could change. And so I stopped doing what didn’t matter, and I let go things that meant nothing to my soul, and I started to work harder than I had ever worked in my life. And every time I was about to give up or settle for a mediocre result or let go my dreams, I heard your words ringing in my ears. People Don’t Change. But they do! I’m living proof of that. I have accomplished great things, I do what I love and I no longer feel that I’m wasting my time. Now I’m living the life I’ve always felt I was created for. I’m living every moment of it and this is the best feeling in the world! And I feel like I’m just getting started. So I came here to thank you and tell you that you were wrong about me.”
“Was I?” asked Puram Bam.
He looked up from his book and said, “Squash a caterpillar — and it will never become a butterfly. Yet it is born to be one. People don’t change.”
And he went back to reading his thin white book.
Let’s face it, most of us have faked something in life. Feelings, expertise, attention, indifference — there’s so many things you can fake. Yes, that thing too. Sometimes faking is necessary, sometimes it’s the most natural thing to do and sometimes it’s even fun. But doing it for too long is a bad idea. It will turn into poison.
Very few things will wear you down as much as constant mask wearing. Pretending to be someone you’re not may be ok for a while, but at some point tiredness kicks in. Regardless of what people think of you, you know you’re a fake. You can fool others, but can’t fool yourself. You feel hollow inside. You want to take that real feeling or lack of interest — whatever it is that you’re hiding — and shove it into people’s faces. You want them to see the real you, regardless of the implications.
But the major danger isn’t tiredness. It’s that once you wear a mask for too long you may become it. Instead of being the genuine you, you start investing more and more time and effort into keeping your mask believable. And at some point you’re no longer living your own life. You’re living the life of a mask you’ve invented. And that’s a pretty pathetic way to live.
P.S. I have no doubt this post will be misinterpreted by many readers.
Imagine this situation. A man wakes up in a world he knows nothing about. It’s full of objects he’s never seen before. It’s full of people he’s never met before.
He doesn’t speak the language they speak. In fact, he doesn’t even understand the very basic concepts they rely upon. He knows nothing about their society, history or traditions. He is completely socially handicapped and wouldn’t survive in their world without help for more than a day. For some reason, he also faces enormous physical challenges. He is much, much weaker than people surrounding him. He can hardly move. He can hardly see. He can’t speak a word even when he tries imitating others. He’s completely at their mercy.
And on top of all that he knows nothing about his past. He has no idea where came from. He doesn’t know his own name. He is clueless of who he really is. He has no past and his future is completely uncertain.
Luckily for him, the people surrounding him are nice. They feed him. They keep him warm. They help him become stronger. They also teach him their language, introduce him to the basics of their society, and make him feel more at home. They even give him a new name.
Days go by, and he becomes more and more accustomed to living in their world. Eventually he starts thinking about it as his own world. Occasionally he still wonders who he really is, how he ended up in their world and what his purpose in life had been. But the world around him keeps him busy. There’s so much to learn to become a fully functional member in that extremely complex society. So many things, customs and traditions to understand. So many facts to memorize. So many tiny goals to accomplish. And eventually he stops wondering about his real identity. He’s happy with the one his new world has given to him. He’s just too busy to wonder about things like this. And so he gives up without even realizing this. His happiness is no longer about finding out his real purpose or who he really is. It’s about succeeding in the world he lives in.
It could have been a plot for a sci-fi novel. But it isn’t. This is the story of everyone of us. You. Me. Countless others.
Whether it’s sad or happy, it’s up to you to decide.