Sunday, 17 January 2016

The power of alternatives.

Most of us crave for something or the other. Some of us seek a dream company to work for, some a prudent partner to go with, and some just loiter around in search for their next pursuit. One of our prime characteristics is that we never settle and we never binge till we either achieve what we set out to, or we change our track altogether to avoid the despondency. We're seldom content and we keep looking out for that perfect next stop on the path we choose to follow. But, as we do that, one ingredient can remarkably change the whole equation, and can make us feel much more sanguine than we ever could have. And that my friends, is a plain, simple alternative! 

Did you know that Thomas Alva Edison spend many years looking for the perfect materiel for the incandescent bulb filament. He tried over 1600 different materials and scrambled on over 400000 pages. It was only after having tried everything from grasses to coconut skin to a colleague's hair strand, that he finally stumbled upon a bamboo fiber that was carbonized, and which changed the world forever. But while 1879 marked this rather momentous event on the landscape of all human progress, pretty soon carbonized bamboo was forgotten and Tungsten filaments took over and ruled roost for over a decade. Panoply of companies who never believed an incandescent lamp to be a possibility, now lurched into the fray because there was one sure shot alternative - the bamboo fiber which they could produce lamps with, but they could simultaneously, and ardently explore other materials. An alternative changed the face of the world overnight, and as many companies got into lighting, lighting marked the revolution of electrical transmission and we all know what happened afterwards. 

We all need that alternative in our lives, to feel safe, to feel assured, that we are not simply tarrying on to that one delicate thread, which if it breaks, will make us fall of the cliff. While an alternative maybe just about as frail as what we have, the very sight of the alternative is pleasing. Singular is petrifying, and the alternative provides more succor than the utility of that single patron who may have served us for years. Our innards have two kidneys. Yes we can perfectly survive on one. But one who maybe living with one, may die quicker because of the fear of that failing, than the kidney failing itself. Having said that, the example of the heart and liver, which don't have a couplet, obviate the need for me to tell you that we don't always have an alternative. But if you trust me enough on that, we ourselves don't let there be an alternative more often than not! We never look very far. 

Imagine the typical school graduate. She lives her life to the fullest till she is in standard 10. And when she has to opt for what she'd pursue in her life from standard 11 onward, she suddenly finds life much more tormenting. Her options have suddenly curtailed, and the course of her entire life depended on what decisions she took on the day of selecting her stream, or when her parents and relatives garroted their decision down her throat. But the glee of the open horizon; of the feeling of having the freedom to do almost anything, suddenly gets replaced by the poignancy of her now constricted life. She finds life tough, grows pretty mordacious and tells everyone she has to study a lot and work pretty hard. But in reality, her hours don't produce the same output, she is not carrying the same optimism towards her future and she is under stress for the first time in her life. Why? Because she doesn''t have an alternative to latch on to. She's left with just one and only one option - to reek under the hegemony of that domain she choose to graduate in! 

While the above example enunciates how our systems force to decimate alternatives, we do it ourselves most of the time. We at times become so engrossed by one passion, so involved with one person, and so entangled in one endeavor, that feel seriously debilitated. We fear losing on all such fronts where we just have one option. We have only person whom we see as a dream partner, only one job that will make us feel happy, only one profession we can really seek. But all this restriction of choice we enforce consciously, is very very malefic. We're always afraid of going awry on any of the fronts and we can never be that juggernaut we once were. 

We do all of the above because we're too meek or too lazy to look any further. Just as marketing forces us to believe that there is only the iPhone which is a smartphone and all other devices are a piece of trash(They may in reality be better!), we have an inner self - our conservative side that keeps hectoring us whenever we try and drop our myopia. In fact we've now been trained to not take a rather radical stand, and everything we choose to do, we do by paying more consideration to the consequences of not conforming to the norm of choice, than considering the plethora of possibilities that galore. 

We may have 10 gyms in our locality, but we have the obligation of going to the one some of your friends said was good. And even if its expensive, even if its full of stench, even if its inferior to the ones nearby in terms of equipment, we won't look no further because someone entered it randomly, liked it and spread the word. We may have 10 career options to choose from, but we still choose the ones in which we know someone who had succeeded because there is one sure shot example of success, while at the same time we renounce all our other chances and the aplomb of having an alternative, all just for the sake of this guarantee of someone having succeeded. In fact we debilitate ourselves so much, every day, and every time, that we have started living under the illusion that one wrong step and failure looms all over our life. When in reality, that failure may actually force us to leave our self created caverns and bring us out into that corner of the world where spectacles are ubiquitous.

 Someone once said fear is the most powerful whip to make a human run. While our corporations and governments alike have been using that maxim rather effectively for about a century now, we ourselves are to be blamed. We ourselves give in to the deception that only one thing maybe good for us, when maybe that maybe everything else except for that could've been good. We manufacture fear, and then we allow it to consume us. Maybe because we're too tamed, or maybe because we've been trained by everyone to do just that. All to just live in harmony with the systems whose veracity is now testified. When ironically, the most successful people were the ones whose actions led the systems to change or to cease to exist. And yet we stay full of fear, full of anxiety, resorting to our paltry number of options, and acceding to all authority in the realm of our choice. We do all of this, and try and derive a sense of happiness thinking that one day we may succeed in that one endeavor we set out for. When in reality, all we need is to look a little further for that one alternative which will explode into a cascade of miracles. Yes, such is the power of an alternative!