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Chapter 21: What Am I Doing Here?

Small children never look back, they always look ahead. They don’t have anything in the past to look back on - there is no past, they have only the future. Old men never look at the future, because in the future there is only death, and they want to avoid it, they don’t want to talk about it. They always look back. They decorate their memories; they make them look very beautiful. All that they have is a collection of memories, and they go on improving on those memories, but when they were actually living them, they had not enjoyed them. But now the future is darkness; one needs some consolation. They can find consolation only in the past.

A person who lives in the present - neither bothering about the past, nor bothering about the future - is fresh, young; he is neither a child nor an old man. And one can remain young to the very last breath. The body may be old, but the consciousness remains fresh, just like a fresh breeze, cool, fragrant, in the early morning sun. The whole problem is that we are caught up with our past. It is holding us back, it does not allow us to go against it. And if you don’t go against it, your whole life will be simply boredom, because you will be repeating and repeating the same past, the same routine.

The most important philosophical school of our age is existentialism, and they have brought a few new problems for the philosophers to think about. One of their problems is boredom. If you look into an existentialist treatise you will be surprised: God is not talked about at all; there is nobody concerned about the soul, about heaven and hell, and angels and the devil. The things that they are talking about are boredom, anguish, meaninglessness, society - strange subjects, but in fact far more significant than God, the devil, heaven and hell, because they were all fictions, and these are realities.

A man who lives according to the past remains in the grip of the past. He is bound to feel boredom, meaninglessness, and a kind of anguish, “What am I doing here? Why am I continuing to live? What is there in tomorrow? - another repetition of today? And what was in today was a repetition of yesterday.” So what is the point? Why go dragging yourself from the cradle to the grave, in the same routine?

It is perfectly good for buffaloes and donkeys because they don’t think, they don’t have the memory of the past, they don’t have any idea of the future. So they are doing the same thing every day, the buffaloes go on chewing the same grass their whole life; they don’t change even the grass - but they are not bored, because for boredom a certain consciousness is needed. This consciousness is aware that you have done it before, you are doing it again, and you will be doing it tomorrow also - because you don’t move from the past, you don’t let it die, you keep it alive.

This is the dilemma that everybody faces in life, and the only solution is to let the past die.

There is a beautiful story in the life of Jesus. He comes to a lake; it is early morning, the sun has yet not risen, and one fisherman is just going to throw his net into the lake to catch fish. Jesus puts his hand on his shoulder and says, “How long are you going to do this thing, every day - morning, afternoon, evening - just catching fish? Do you think this is all life is meant for?”

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