Math Formula

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is Your Mant(r)a?

No, this is not about the famous German car from the 80s.
Also, this is not about the "flying" fishes.

(If you have a proper "oh no", "fucking bad joke" or whatever picture of gif at hand, the stage is yours. I didn't find a suitable one.)

No, this is about mantras, which according to the Oxford Dictionaries is: 

(originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation:a mantra is given to a trainee meditator when his teacher initiates him

a Vedic hymn:her high, sweet voice began chanting the mantra of life
a statement or slogan repeated frequently:the environmental mantra that energy has for too long been too cheap

late 18th century: Sanskrit, literally 'instrument of thought', from man 'think'

I also don't want to talk about Hinduism, Buddhism or meditation. What I want to focus on is the literal translation, "instrument of thought". An instrument using which you keep your mind in good shape. Something you repeat to yourself, over and over, maybe even in a truistic way (or, as we guys with thick glasses like to call it, a tautology, a statement that is always true just by being true).

Since my very childhood, I remember having come across several sayings by the grown-up world (sorry for the quite literal translations from German; if you are aware of a similar phrase used in native English, please leave a comment):
  • Nothing causes nothing ("von nix kummt nix"). I understand that this should encourage you learn more, work harder, live a busy life altogether ...
  • Until you marry, it will be fine again ("bis du heiratest is' wieder gut"). Said to children when they are a little bit hurt, or, ironically, when they are full of grief because of being left by their first sweet heart
  • And, finally, my probably most hated one: Those who can go out can also work ("wer fortgehen kann kann auch arbeiten"). Something you would typically hear from your uber-orderly colleague at work about your hangover. Big BS!

Lucky me, I've turned old enough to question those sayings. My current point of view is that even though there might be a piece of truth in some of them, I would say that they show a heavy gravitation towards huge pieces of shit.

Admittedly, this might appear quite bold statement, since that is what most of us have been told since years. Most likely even so by people we know for quite a while already and whose opinion we typically highly value.
For some people these mantras might even play an important role in their daily lives. Thus, I will now not start arguing about my opinion. Just be invited to question those sayings that you might have taken for granted since ... well, ever since.

Just to be clear, the above sayings might provide some useful guidance through daily life. However, from my point of view most of them are too much focused on normalizing towards a proper, daily-from-9-to-5-working-nice-wife-nice-house-nice-children life and consequently lack universality.

So, no mant(r)as at all?
No, that is not to say that I consider mantras and sayings a dull thing in general. On the contrary, I think it is very useful if you have something to hold on. Something to come back whenever in doubt. For me, these are:
  • You always make the right decision
  • Everybody looks for individual happiness
  • It's gonna be ok
Take the time, and read the above again. Yes, you always make the right decision! If you feel like doing so, read it once again and enjoy. Isn't that incredible freeing? Free yourself from the burden of questioning yourself all over, and tell yourself that you did right!

Of course, you might do and decide differently if you would face that same question now again, but that is great! It only shows that you learned something and grew, and actually, the opposite would be sad.
Whatever it is, with regard to everything that you knew when facing that question, and everything you could possible know, and all your values at that point in time - you did make the right decision.

While that first mantra is rather egoistic and oriented on self-esteem and self-confidence, the second is about dealing with others.
Whenever I'm dealing with somebody who I cannot quite cope with, or when I cannot understand others' decisions and actions, I tell myself that everybody looks for individual happiness. Naturally, people have different needs and desires, but hold on for a second, and think about people surrounding you.

Whatever they might be looking for, in the end it is happiness. Keep that in mind the next time you are facing a tricky situation, and feel the difference. I promise you won't regret it.

Third, I'm quite convinced that in the end everything's gonna be ok. Whatever it is, it helps me to face it with a fundamentally optimistic attitude. Of course, there might be challenging days and phases in life where this is hard to imagine, and things might not always run as expected, but this way or the other, it will be ok.

P.S.: Credit for the first two mantras goes to a former professor at university, for the most useful thing I learned there. The third I cannot quite track back any more, but it always remembers me about Bob Marley's Every little thing's gonna be alright.
P.P.S.: I decided on a posting schedule. Expect posts here every Wednesday (starting next week, not tomorrow). I'm writing this here, because once I told the whole world about my plan, I know I'm much more committed and there is no way back ... and I'm sure this is the right decision!

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