Thursday, 6 June 2013


Success In The Big Picture

In other astonishing news today, it has been learned that the word ‘school’ derives from the Greek word schole which can be translated to mean, hold your breath, leisure! Given today’s scenario where school education is inextricably linked to a fifteen year chase of ‘success’, this piece of trivia sure boggles the mind.

The ancient Greeks, bless them, meant school to mean a leisurely time set aside to learn the nature of our universe and of human life, not for cracking competitive exams but quite simply, for the sake of knowledge and enlightenment. An activity was taken up in leisure purely for the love of it. This belief that pursuing knowledge could liberate the mind and spirit was strongly held in ancient India too. A key aspect of education, then, was to support a student’s spiritual growth alongside intellectual exercises and social awareness.

In order to stay relevant to the socio-political context we live in, education has been subjected to repeated alterations in terms of subject matter as well as modes of transmitting information. But what has been largely left behind in the times of yore is the wide-eyed wonderment with which to look at the vast universe around us. There is now a significant distance between the individual and what he studies.

Children, in their most natural state are curious. They explore their environment in any way that their current development allows, be it through investigative touching or unceremonious yanking, on all fours or on tottering twos. If you have ever witnessed the unrestrained mirth of a toddler after “figuring out” how something works, you know that their reward lies in the joy of discovery.

To imagine we were like this once upon a time when today, mastering a lab experiment holds only as much enticement as an A+ is disheartening. Maybe the hunger to learn diminished when one realised whatever one learns is only as good as the grades and applause it fetches. Appreciation and acknowledgement from one’s family and peers are very important in that they offer us a warm and supportive environment for us to apply ourselves better. To hold an inadequate definition of success as meaning top grades and a high remuneration at the workplace is very narrow-minded, not to mention fraught with potential causes of mental distress and fatigue.

Success may mean material accomplishments to some, effective relationships to some and joyful involvement in activities or fields of intellectual/emotional value for others. A rich businessman and a passionate stay-at-home mother are both successful in their own rights. What makes them successful is giving themselves wholeheartedly to their duties and treating failures as unavoidable yet valuable opportunities to learn from, without lowering their expectations or standards of performance.

There is nothing wrong in looking for money and fame in one’s life. It is, however, important to realise that these are inevitable “by-products” that will happen to you anyway if you remain committed, competent and confident. Einstein put it best when he said, "We have to do the best we can. This is our scared human responsibility." How is that for some good "old school" wisdom?


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