The following are approximately the first 1000 words from Chapter 5 of Jonar Nader’s book,
How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People.
If you don’t control yourself, someone else will:
The plight of the candle in the wind
Imagine being in a hot-air balloon, moving briskly through the sky in very strong winds amid a beautiful sunset. You look down and see your friend waving to you from the rooftop of a tall lighthouse on the beachhead.
You prepare to engage in an experiment you have planned that involves you and your friend each lighting a candle to determine how far you can travel in your balloon and still be able to see each other’s flame.
Your friend on the rooftop of the lighthouse strikes a match, but the wind is far too strong, so the moment that the flame appears it is blown out by the wind. Your friend tries several times to no avail.
What chance do you have of lighting the match in the balloon when the wind is even stronger at your altitude? You give it a go and strike the match anyway. To your surprise, you can light the match with ease, and your candle is lit effortlessly.
How can a tiny flame survive in such strong winds? The answer lies in its environment. The balloon moves gracefully with the wind and becomes part of it. The flame is at ease because it is protected from the wind by the wind.
Is the flame in control of the wind, or vice versa? Neither, because within the right environment, some things can co-exist in harmony, even if those things would normally clash with each other under different circumstances. Within the right environments, incompatible tangibles (such as the tiny flame and the strong wind) neither support nor obstruct each other. In this context, one might begin to understand the benefits of ‘going with the flow’.
Deciding to go with the flow of life ought not to mean that you have given up the fight, nor given in to the stronger force. You can go with the flow without losing sight of your goals, without compromising your position, and without changing your values. Going with the flow does not mean avoiding opposition and distraction, but co-existing with them. This state of affairs is called ‘peace’. The law of peace governs the co-existence of elements. Peace is an intangible state that reflects one’s life in relation to one’s environment.
Peace be with you
To be at peace neither guarantees happiness nor removes difficulties. To be peaceful removes neither conflict nor trials and tribulations. These things are part of life, and can be good for you. They are only bad when they spin you out of control.
One can still be in control in the face of difficulty and unhappiness. Trials and tribulations can also be addressed without losing control. To lose control is to lose peace. To have control is to be at peace.
Although you cannot control when difficulties arise, you ought to control when you allow things to affect you. Timing becomes an important factor in controlling your peace. Timing does not refer to ‘time’ itself, but to when and where you decide to react to a situation.
This chapter deals with the issue of timing, so that you can control your life and how you live it.
Where do you live?
When you live, where do you live? This is not a question of geography but of ‘state’ — meaning where does life take place for you, and in which state of affairs do you live?
Where do you hurt when you lose your loved one, suffer embarrassment, or feel unloved? Can you put your finger on it and say, ‘my pain comes from this part of my anatomy’? No, you cannot. Hurt is intangible. It exists nowhere on your body — yet it consumes it. Emotions live neither on you nor in you, but with you.
Many people who study tangibles (things you can see and touch) and intangibles (things you cannot see and touch) believe that tangible things are easier to control. This is generally true. Notwithstanding unfortunate accidents or natural disasters, we tend to control the tangible world around us. However, given that life is mostly about intangible things, does it not make sense to learn to control them — things such as thoughts, desires, anger, curiosity, love, ambition, motivation, sadness, hurt, and sorrow?
Although we live in a tangible world, life itself occurs within our mind, spirit, and soul. If life and most of its issues are intangible, we could live a better life by controlling these intangibles — what we feel, when we feel, and how we feel.
Controlling your net
Long before the term ‘net’ became synonymous with the Internet, I was using it to refer to our ‘shield’. We all have a shield, yet some of us use it effectively while others do not use it at all. Learning to control your net (shield) enables you to control the intangibles of life.
First, it is important to become aware of your net — what it is and what it does; how strong it is; where it is weak; how big it is; how flexible and elastic it is; and what size the holes are. Some nets (like tennis nets) have big holes that allow big things to pass through. Some nets (like hairnets) have smaller holes that catch most things that come by. Some nets (like mosquito nets) have even smaller holes, and allow very little to penetrate unnoticed.
Second, it is important to learn how to change the size of your net’s holes. You need the ability to make the holes a different size to suit different issues or environments. If your net is tightly woven your life is likely to become cluttered and tense because you end up catching everything that comes your way. You become superbly observant and overly sensitive to what is going on around you. This can be an asset, but it can also be a burden, especially if most of the things you catch are neither important nor relevant to you, or untimely in your life.
Third, it is important to learn when to change the size of the holes. This gives you greater control of what you let into your life.