Two little mice fell into a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.
That one is a classic… words to live by to be sure. Grit after all is the single most important ingredient for any sustainable success story. However the story that got me thinking came to me a few days back and this too had two mice in it. I don’t have the exact text anymore but this is essentially what it said:
“There were two mice, both lived in a full jar of rice. One took to eating the rice that was given to it, the other would jump out of the jar everyday and go work hard looking for food outside and eat that never touching the food that it stood on. As days went by the rice in the jar where the gluttonous mouse lived kept reducing, nothing happened to the rice in the enterprising mouse’s jar. Eventually all the rice ran out in the jar where the mouse that ate the rice lived and that mouse died because now the opening was way up high and he couldn’t climb out of the jar anymore to go look for food and escape death through starvation. The mouse in the jar that was still full continued to live going out to scavenge for food every morning and coming back to sleep in his cozy rice jar on top of the rice all night.”
At this point the story switches to pontificate about how one should never get used to the trap called “COMFORT” and should always operate in the area that is outside of ones comfort zone, always work hard to succeed in life. Fair enough, after all a complacent laid back existence is possible only for the Bertie Woosters of the world, the rest of us need to work hard. I though had a different take on the story. Here goes:
Two mice on a particularly damp monsoon evening landed up in the store room of a wealthy rice merchant. Both accidentally fell into drums full of rice. The mouse with a bad ear, let’s call him Reginald, couldn’t believe his luck. He had a filling meal and went to sleep in the rice drum. The other mouse, let’s call him Rajan, couldn’t believe his luck either, of all the places falling into a rice drum. He spent the better part of the night trying to crawl out of the drum and fell asleep out of exhaustion in the end. Rajan when he woke up in the morning was relaxed and had had a comfortable nights sleep. He had the spring in his step to jump clear out of the drum of rice and go scrounge for food. This is a good thing, he thought, I can come back to this place every night and sleep in the cosy rice bed, wake up all relaxed and live happily for the rest of my life, and that’s what he did. Never ate even a grain of rice from the drum because that would just mean he would end up becoming complacent.
The other mouse also went out but not to look for food. He just went out to hang with his homies have a chill life in general. He ate the rice in the drum and slept peacefully at night. Every morning he would wake up relaxed, smoke his weed, watch TV, chill in his comfortable pad, whip up a nice breakfast using the rice flakes (made using the rice from the drum)…. Oh yes he had seriously pimped out his pad with a Bose home theater system, a bunch of cozy couches, color changing lights… the works. When we was ready to go have a shower he would jump up high clear off the edge of the drum and go find a clean stall in the public bath to attend to himself. Properly coiffured he would then go find his homies and spend the rest of the day shooting hoops or drinking at the rat bar planning a vacation (from the vacation that was his life). Come night fall he would find his way back home settle down at his desk with a nice cup of coffee and type out the next few pages of his personal diary.
A few years of this went on. Reginald merrily depleting the rice in his drum and Rajan never touching even one grain of rice. As with everything finite one fine day Reginald realized that the rice in his drum was over. He just hopped on to his computer wrote the last few pages on his diary and sent it off to his agent to get it published. Then he logged on to OLX and sold off all the exotic stuff he had used for jazzing up his pad. With a wad of cash in his bank and a spring in his step he jumped clear out of the drum… for you see with all these years of jumping out of a the drum every single day he could now manage to jump so high that he could clear the edge right from the base of the drum. Much like how Hercules started by picking up the calf in his arms when he was a child, went on to pick the calf up every single day of his life and by the time he was a grownup he could heave a full grown bull and run with it. After all the calf also grew up…. so yeah similarly Reginald did not have to die of starvation in the empty drum no sir, he could jump clear because he did that every single day while still depleting the stock of rice.
Once out of his drum Regi went looking for a new place. He saw Rajan’s drum. Rajan he knew was a bent over old fellow now having spent most of his life saving for his retirement. Having always thought about his old age and having always avoided any adventure Rajan had ended up attracting old age much sooner than it was due. They used to cross paths once in a while when accidentally a very high (on weed mostly) Regi would jump into Rajan’s drum and then upon realizing his mistake, because the rice’s level was not low enough, he would just proceed to go off to sleep knowing Rajan would be too busy with his routine to notice the colorful mouse curled up on his couch and then yelp in shock on bumping into Regi diving into the shower… he thought of knocking on Rajan’s door and letting him know that he was moving out of the neighborhood and that he wont be bothering him anymore… As he approached Rajan’s drum he felt something was not right. It was just his sixth sense tingling for now. Regi jumped effortlessly into the drum (because he could, given that he was still fit from a life time of jumping in and out of a drum). At first he couldn’t see anything odd. Then he heard a muffled moan from the bedroom area. Cautiously scurrying over to the door he realized what had happened. Rajan was in pain. He had slipped on a floor mat and twisted his delicate ankle. Since he had never had any time to make friends no one had missed his presence anywhere and no one had come looking. He had been lying on his bed, in pain and hungry for the past three nights.
Regi called ahead and stepped into the room. Rajan was embarrassed to be found in such a desperate situation but Regi understood and did not rub it in. He first checked his foot and massaged the ankle, followed by adjusting the pillows and making him comfortable on the bed. Next he lit a joint and shoved it to Rajan “it’ll help with the pain don’t be a prude live a little”… Rajan reluctantly took a drag and doubled over coughing, he had never smoked in his life. Regi was amused and said as much with his barely concealed laughter. He then asked Rajan to relax while he went and got him something to eat. In the kitchen all he could find was water, a tomato and some shallots. “Well guess we’ll have to make the most of this then!”. Ten minutes later Regi was back with a bowl of rice noodles and a nice onion soup. He propped Rajan up and fed him slowly patiently. Rajan didn’t have the strength to go toe to toe with Regi about what he used for making those rice noodles.
A week went by this way, Rajan was almost fixed. Regi had setup camp in the living room venturing out only to get supplies for the kitchen. There was more cheese and of more types than Rajan had seen all his life. There was even a foul smelling blue cheese in one corner. This was a comfortable life where all he had to do was wake up and get served yummy food. He was hoping it would take longer to heal but then one fine day it dawned on him what really was going on. Regi had been using the rice in the drum! Rajan was terrified, “I’m going to die alone in this drum”. He ran over to the living area and asked Remi in an alarmed tone “what have you done? I need the rice from your drum to replace the stuff that you used up over the past week. Right now.”! Regi was prepared for this. He grinned ear to ear and said “I ate it all, it’s over!”. Rajan was flabbergasted and then he was thoroughly flummoxed. “How?! How did you get out of the empty drum then?”. Regi showed him by jumping out of the drum and then jumping right back in without all the acrobatics of climbing onto the book shelf and jumping down into the drum from there. Rajan was impressed, lately he had been having issues climbing up to the shelf on top of the drum and then jumping into the soft rice in the drum. “How do you do that?”… Regi replied “quite easily actually, just takes a bit of practice”. “Teach me man” And so started a new chapter. Regi became Rajan’s housemate. He taught him how to live without worrying excessively about the future, of enjoying the fruits of ones labor while one still had them, of appreciating that which was made available and not always seeking penance for crimes that one had never committed. He also taught Rajan about faith, faith in the ability of mice to find a solution when faced with adversity, faith in the abundance of all that a mouse needs to stay afloat viz. food, sunlight, a warm bed and friends. He also drilled Rajan extensively and taught him to jump higher everytime and land safely on the other side. Rajan tried to teach Regi the importance of discipline… aah well he tried…
Comfort is the most important thing in life. Most of us spend all our lives chasing that rainbow looking for the elusive pot of gold secure in the knowledge that when we do find it we will be comfortable. Usually all such people understand that that comfortable sunset will come at the very end of our lives when we are old, tired, weak and broken by age. The present is sacrificed every day in the hope that the future will be comfortable. That golden sunset, it never arrives because we humans have a fundamental flaw in our equation, we do not know when the end is. So we keep toiling harder and harder and harder every single day of our lives because we want to earn and salt away more and more and more. Then, one fine day we konk off not having had a chance to spend all that we salted away. Betrayal is guaranteed if we convince ourselves that comfort, happiness, consumption is a trap which will halt our preparation for old age. The alternate is to enjoy fully what you have today and be thankful for it. Tomorrow will bring more and better of the same. If you make “comfort” the mission of your life and go after it with all your might then life will ensure that it rewards you copiously. You will have good health, happiness, food, friends, family, parties, fireworks, everything else that gives you comfort and above all the means to earn it all all over again even if you someday run out of any one of those for some inexplicable reason.
On the other hand if you spend your life thinking you need to save for comfort and that comfort is something that needs to be denied for a later date well you’ll be in that race forever. Chasing a target that’s unattainable by your own definition. Whatever you have been given has been given to you to enjoy not for being salted away. More will be given tomorrow. Most important what is given to you today needs to be used for building potential so that you can earn it again tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that and ….you get the picture… so make comfort your goal and all the stars will align to ensure that you have comfort all your life… and not just sandalwood for the funeral pyre…
Personally this is why I always believe in the maxim “Spend more to earn more”… and that is precisely what the whole world needs today… less saving for a rainy day and more spending today so that economies world over can be kick started. Think about it.