The other day, waiting at a bus stop, I noticed a well-dressed man racing to catch his bus. The last passenger was already boarding, and drivers are notorious for zooming off. A few onlookers turned to see whether he caught it. (He did.)
That’s human nature, I thought to myself: We want to know what happened.
If I get halfway through a disappointing book or dud movie, I often forge through to the end, for closure. If I hear an anecdote, I’m especially curious to know the end result. Obituaries (or even, forgive me, the name-dropping New York Times Wedding/Celebrations page) can grab me because I am fascinated by the trajectory of people’s lives.
Way back in law school, I was already second-guessing my choice to become a lawyer. So I was all ears when someone told me a story about an acquaintance who left law and tried one alternate career after another. The story went on and on, until I finally had to interrupt, “So, what happened? Did he figure out what he really wants to do?”
“No, as far as I know, he’s still searching.”
Huh? What a letdown. I expected to hear that he’d finally found his element and was a renowned artist living in Tokyo or something. He was still lost and scattered?
Back then, in my dark moods, I wished there could be a happy-ending guarantee. I could tolerate anything if I knew things would eventually pan out. While I’d long outgrown Disney, I still wanted a fairy tale.
But, really, what if an omnipotent power could guarantee that you’ll pass your boards or make partner? That you’ll live robustly till age 100 or have a good marriage? That you’ll one day do full Eka Pada Rajakapotasana I (or II, III, or IV) with ease. That you’ll pass every Iyengar certification assessment that you undertake?!
Would that make you happier today? Maybe. But it would also take the mystery out of life. And breed complacency. Besides, according to the sages, we shouldn’t aim for end results anyway. Rather, according to the Bhagavad Gita, we express karma yoga by doing our duties, or dharma, in life, without concern for reward.
So, maybe it doesn’t much matter whether the man caught the bus or whether the ex-lawyer established himself: That they were trying to do something might be the key.