Employee engagement at Timbre Media goes beyond daily discussions. We are constantly in touch with each other whether we are working in office and meeting deadlines from home. We discuss not just official issues but what we are going through during an unprecedented global pandemic. We realise that our responsibilities go beyond just creating corporate podcasts and streaming radio shows for our clients. We understand that at this time we must use our expertise to reach out to the world in general and share verified information about COVID-19, tips about mental health, life hacks, and more. We have created blogs, recorded interviews with experts that you can have access to free on our social media pages.
As the world scrambles to make sense of the inconceivable and unpredictable everyday, we too are turning to the great thinkers and philosophers of times gone by to put the pandemic in perspective.
Russian-American poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky comes to mind first whose writing in his native Russia had been labeled as “anti-Soviet” and yet decades later he went on to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.
In this blog, we will share his life hacks and the wisdom of many such thinkers that continue to inspire us with their insight into adversity.
On December 18, 1988, as reported by literary site Brain Pickings, 25 years after his writing had been denounced as anti-national in his native Russia, Joseph Brodsky gave a commencement address to the graduating class at the University of Michigan. His wisdom outlining the meaning of life during this address was later included in the 1997 anthology On Grief and Reason: Essays under the title “Speech at the Stadium.”
Spend your time constructively
Here are some of Brodsky”s timelessly inspiring ideas.
He says, “Life is a game with many rules but no referee. One learns how to play it more by watching it than by consulting any book. Small wonder, then, that so many play dirty, that so few win, that so many lose.”
One of the biggest things he thinks we can do at any given time is to learn to be precise with our language and try to build and treat our vocabulary the way we treat our checking accounts. He says, “On a daily basis, a lot is happening to one’s psyche; the mode of one’s expression, however, often remains the same. Articulation lags behind the experience. That doesn’t go well with the psyche. Sentiments, nuances, thoughts, perceptions that remain nameless, unable to be voiced and dissatisfied with approximations, get pent up within an individual, and may lead to a psychological explosion or implosion. To avoid that, one needn’t turn into a bookworm. One should simply acquire a dictionary and read it on the same daily basis — and, on and off, with books of poetry. Dictionaries are reasonably cheap, but even the most expensive among them cost far less than a single visit to a psychiatrist.”
In this lockdown, hence we could all dust our dictionaries and take the time to find new words for the inarticulable experiences we are going through right now. Maybe if we had the words to express what we are feeling at the moment, we would be able to find some catharsis in articulation.
Another piece of advice Brodsky offers is to stay humble and modest. As he says and rightly so, ” Try to be modest. There are too many of us as it is, and there are going to be many more, very soon. Thus climbing into the limelight is bound to be one at the expense of the others who won’t be climbing. That you must step on somebody’s toes doesn’t mean you should stand on their shoulders.”
Less blame, more accountability
Brodsky recognises also that many of us when hit by a sudden calamity feel tempted to see ourselves as victims or to blame someone else and here is his matter of fact advice. Just don’t do it. As he says, ” At all costs try to avoid granting yourself the status of the victim. Of all the parts of your body, be most vigilant over your index finger, for it is blame-thirsty. A pointed finger is a victim’s logo — the opposite of the V-sign and a synonym for surrender. No matter how abominable your condition may be, try not to blame anything or anybody: history, the state, superiors, race, parents, the phase of the moon, childhood, toilet training, etc. The moment that you place blame somewhere, you undermine your resolve to change anything. However abundant and irrefutable is the evidence that you are on the losing side, negate it as long as you have your wits about you, as long as your lips can utter “No.” Whenever you are in trouble, in some scrape, on the verge of despair or in despair, remember: that’s life speaking to you in the only language it knows well.”
The lesson he is offering is that when the chips are down, we can either feel perpetually sorry for ourselves or learn what life is trying to teach us. Maybe it is nudging us to take a detour and change our course. Maybe, it wants us to slow down or to finally chase the dreams we have buried deep down. And instead of blaming others for what is happening to us, maybe we could take charge of our emotions and channel them towards positive action?
Find the stillness within
The world is no longer moving at the pace it once did. Nor are we. Then how do we deal with the ennui and frustration of being constrained?
“Wisdom comes with the ability to be still,” wrote spiritual thinker Eckhart Tolle once and added, “Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.”
There is something to be said about the state when the mind is still and devoid of chatter or novelist Franz Kafka would not have written, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Remember also how for 30 years, the songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen studied Zen Buddhism and even lived in a monastery to understand the virtue of being still? And then distilled his experience to write songs that continue to remind us that there is a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in?
These words at a time when a global lockdown is teaching us patience and introspection seem eerily relevant.
Brigid Delaney, a writer cited these examples in a piece for The Guardian to underscore that stillness causes things to move. As she says, “Feelings or ideas that were stuck become unstuck. There is a clarifying force to the insights that come along when you are still and quiet. When you just wait.”
So you see, as we wait for the world to get back to normal, we can in fact take the time to be still for a change and then see what shifts within, what new insights appear to make us look at ourselves with fresh eyes.
Brigid’s understating of the current pandemic is this,
“The quieter and stiller you get, the more you can see the interconnectedness of all things, and the wonder and beauty in small things and the natural world.
There were no big insights – just wonder in everyday that comes from stilling the mind.”
She cites the example of Cohen who wrote an entire song about motes of dust falling through a beam of light in his room. Imagine what you and I would notice if we took the time to be mindfully still!
Don’t resist what is
Life in every epoch has thrown up its unique set of muddles and conflicts and we create a lot of stress when we try to run away from what is.
As philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be a reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
Silence is a source of Great Strength.
Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”
To the mind that is still,
the whole universe surrenders.” Unquote.
It all boils down to recognising the power of Now, to stay in the moment and deal with it because that will build the foundation of who we will become in the future.
Words of hope also come from Eckhart Tolle who says, “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life. Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” Unquote. And while we wait, he says, acknowledging the good that we already have in our life is the foundation for all abundance that is still to come.
Take this time as a test
John Authors penned a fantastic piece in Bloomberg recently where he said that the coronavirus pandemic is a test. He said, “It’s a test of medical capacity and political will. It’s a test of endurance and forbearance, for believers a test of religious faith. It’s a test, too, of a different kind of faith, in the strength of the ideas humans choose to help them form moral judgments and guide personal and social behavior.
The epidemic forces everyone to confront deep questions of human existence, questions so profound that they have previously been answered, in many different ways, by the greatest philosophers. It’s a test of where all humans stand.
What is right and what is wrong? What can individuals expect from society, and what can society expect of them? Should others make sacrifices for me, and vice versa? Is it just to set economic limits to fighting a deadly disease?”
We have lived our lives so far in so much hurry that we forgot to address the fundamental questions about our existence and the planet. Now is a good time as any to address them.
Do we want to be empathetic or oblivious? Cruel or kind? Isolated or connected?
Now is a good time as any hence, to comfort one another and know that pain and joy are universal experiences that make us more alike than different.
We cannot hence at this time believe in the notions of supremacy and ego because COVID-19 is a wake-up call for governments and individuals to dig deep and find new solutions for new problems rather than staying stuck in old toxic patterns. This is as real as it gets and we have to be our most authentic selves to deal with where we are and what we are feeling. The question remains, “Do we have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?” Keep tuning in to us to find inspiring content that we at Timbre Media are curating just for you.