A Rifle, A Smile, and some Words

There I was through unexpected circumstances sitting in a small airport in India facing a security policeman.  He had a rifle strapped across his chest and a contented, welcoming smile. In broken English (much more advanced than my three words of Hindi) he was trying to find out why I was there.  After that got resolved and some polite words were exchanged between us, he then waxed eloquently into what seemed like a sermon directed at me.

“We Indians live in the present.  That is all we think about.  The future means nothing.  When you need a lot, you are always thinking about the future.  You are never here because you are so busy planning how to get more things.  I get up and exercise, do my duty at my job, come home to learn, and then take rest.  It is enough.  I am here; I am happy.”

I found out after further conversation that this nightly learning involved studying for a promotion and a continued mastery of the English language.  “Improvement takes time,” he said, “a little every night.”  After an invitation from my new friend to come to his home and meet his family, I leave.

Where I am staying I am surrounded by poor villagers, a common sight in India.  One thing that is a constant bewilderment to we Americans is the joy and contentment on the faces of these villagers.  Poverty and joy together in one place do not compute for those of us trained from infancy in the art of greed and consumption as the vehicles to joyful eyes and big smiles.  However I learn later that as villages have access to internet, they are now seeing the myriad of things they can never begin to taste, and unrest is quickly finding them.

What is this dazzle that has the power to capture the human mind and heart and hold it captive to discontentment and misery?  What is this promise of attainment that can pull us away from the pleasures of the moment?  What is this power of advertisement to keep us so confused that a restless hunger sits in us and blinds us to the joy we crave?

I ponder my day’s experience as these questions arise.  It takes so very little for we human beings to be happy and content…and it takes so little to pull us from this place.

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