By Arjun Juneja
Life is not simple arithmetic. It can be measured but not calculated. Numbers should add up when we tally them. Both the left and right hand side columns are supposed to agree. They must match and leave their onlookers elated. But that does not happen- at least not always.
Notes burn and coins melt, but not the ones trapped in your pocket. You don’t let them, won’t ever let them fade into obscurity. Their purpose may be subverted and their raison d etre turned around. But they won’t be sidelined. Not soon enough. Numbers and figures possess the ability to transcend our idiosyncrasies, and howsoever callous we are, we care. Even if it is care for things and not people.
The hours clocked, tallied every week is one measure. It stands for who we are as people. The very number retains an ability to raise or condemn us in the eyes of many. But we forget that we don’t deal in numbers. Our conversations are in words, not digits. The feelings we harbor for each other are expressed, not counted. We may be measured; but our lives need not be measured. But logic, that is beautiful, remains unaccounted.
What is not marvelous is how we spend our waking hours. The 80-90 hour weeks we boast of to our peers are meaningless. Aiming to squeeze the most out of each day, we become prescient. We delude ourselves of how numbers were created to combine; Of how mathematics, the purest of sciences, insists that one and one make two. And so, our one and one must add up to at least a two. The presumptions of age ravage us and we succumb to ignorance. We fall prey to well-thought out career plans and graphs.
No graph can trace your life’s highs and lows. No sheet can list out your achievements and demerits. No number, grade or black mark against your name can convince you against your purpose. We invented numbers and made up the grades. Black marks were conceived at a moment when all creativity seemed lost. And appraisals persist as a method of making people work harder than required.
Focused as we are, we often lose our footing. Stumbling into the woods, tripping over toadstools, we mull over life forms in the infinite depths of the grass instead of picking ourselves up. We need somebody to act as a pick-me-up, a friend, a pill. What we don’t require is a man with a sheet noting our hours of productivity. Nobody actively pursues a caretaker who pulls no punches in describing how little we accomplish. We leave that to ourselves, and to to-do lists.
We push ourselves to the edge, and often fall, head over heels. The drop is not far, not when you’re dangled over it each day. The cavern’s floor isn’t hard when you meet it daily, with more purpose, than the day before. Resigning yourself to a life of productivity is admirable, stepping into one of purpose, even more so.
No one knows if the hours add up. Time spent perfecting our duties and responsibilities could repay us. But we don’t know, not for sure. Measuring the productive hours of each man every day remains the sole constant. The opposite of what you were meant for continues to be practiced, religiously.
The days have to count. Time should add up, but not the hours. There is no direct relation between the hours spent on a job and productivity. If anything, it is the other way round. The mind does not work better when occupied day in and day out with a similar task. Your actions are faster, reflexes easier, but they come with a price. And that is lowered brain activity; the last thing required to be productive.
The clock keeps ticking, but work and education are not measured by its hands. Nobody has to race with anyone as long as they strive towards a purpose. You’re not against anyone, if you’re for yourself. And that matters. In a productive time with lowered brain activity, you matter.