Stories, Friendships and Traditions – Apprentice #15

We began our sharing circle with a hypothetical situation: If we had a chance to go to Japan, would we rather click photos of all the fun experiences we have without really experiencing it fully, or experience everything to the fullest in real time without taking any pictures and come back with no memory of what we’ve experienced? That was quite the dilemma.

A game of Jenga

Majority of the class seemed to favour the former choice; they would rather forfeit the chance to experience their moments fully than have no record of what they did and where they went. As for me, I’d rather live my moments wholeheartedly than take pictures. Of course, in reality I would have a balance of both – carve out moments to do one or the other. I have found that when I take continuous photos of an event or experience, I tend to forget that I even had those moments in the first place. Since I used to outsource all my powers of retention to my camera, my emotions were not engaged in processing the elaborate details of that moment, and hence, my brain wouldn’t think about it further. Inevitably, I would lose the memory.

To boost our intellectual playtime, Captain Preetham brought out a box of Jenga. After taking turns removing blocks from the bottom and placing it on top, the tower grew dangerously unstable and toppled over. At that moment, we were asked to think about why the blocks fell (apart from gravity’s fault) and how it related to the project we were to take up soon. There is always a chance that our efforts on the project would also come crashing down if we didn’t examine the Root cause and simply examined the Proximate cause (the root cause that sets in motion a chain of events which brings about an outcome.)

We had to be careful and considerate while taking our steps, and venture into our project with eyes wide open. We played another round to reinforce those thoughts, knowing full well that it was just a matter of time before the tower fell, yet we would still make our move, enjoying the daring quality of the game. We then proceeded to share our findings and thoughts about the project, tossing around the advantages and disadvantages pertaining to each topic.

Discussions on friendship, led by Mr. Murali Menon of Valley School

Soon after, we gathered around with the rest of the learners at Abheek to partake in an exchange with Murali Menon (from the Valley School) on “How to find a friend in someone”. Mr. Menon would pose a question to the children and collect ideas in return. Various responses to what we considered as friendship, who were our “best” friends, why we are hesitant to approach people we don’t know to establish a new friendship, were pitched forward.

Our unease at approaching unfamiliar people for friendship became the hottest topic of discussion. One of the biggest issues prevalent in the world today is loneliness; a disengagement from our natural-born ability to reach out and connect with someone wholeheartedly. Hands went up repeatedly as children were eager to share their disappointments over why their intentions and efforts at making new friends didn’t reap results.

The common denominator in most cases was the interference of their parents’ own fears – a legacy passed down from several generations which subsequently affected their children’s views as well. The circle of thinkers disbanded after a couple of hours, taking with them fragments of the discussion that had shed light on some outdated ideas. The road to friendship was paved with fresh hope today.

After lunch, the Captain served us some food for thought. He shared a story of a cat who interfered with the monks’ vipassana meditation (apparently, the monks meditated better when the cat was tied to a tree). As that intriguing story came to an end, we were asked to unearth the gem of wisdom that was buried between its layers. Traditions are curious and complicated things, because WE are curious and complicated beings. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all category. Some traditions last only as long as the person who created them.

Whereas others last for several years, long after the person or group who came up with it has left this world. It’s traditions like these that we need to examine closely, for as time goes by, they adopt a certain mysterious quality to it that almost becomes sacred. We often forget that we don’t need a cat tied to a tree to meditate. We lose sight of the original intent and, over time, the tradition becomes more sacred than what it surrounds. Sometimes we follow the rules and traditions so well that we forget why they’re there in the first place. This is probably how superstitions develop – there may have been a logical reason for how it all began, but eventually people just do it because they believe they should.

Our final circle rounded up the chosen topic for the project: Water Scarcity. We are going to reach down into our well of ideas and spring forth with solutions while we go with the flow in our day-to-day routines. A great voyage awaits.

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