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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

THE LIFE VICARIOUS


The Hindu avatar and hero of the epic Ramayana, Rama was born in 5114 BC in Ayodhya, an ancient city in India. That's over 7000 years ago, if you're counting. In his youth he became very disenchanted with earthly life. He saw it as filled with suffering, the few pleasures it held being fleeting and unreliable. This plunged him into the throes of a paralyzing depression. His concerned family sought the assistance of a hoary sage to help him through his inner turmoil.


Rama asked the sage, whose name was Vasistha: “How to attain the eternal state, free of pain, frailties, doubt and delusion? What is that eternal state, unapproached by sorrow, where I shall remain unscathed by the fire of sensual objects, though moving amidst them, like a ball of mercury exposed to fire, or an eel in muddy waters?”


Vasistha's answer: “Unless you consider the happiness of others as your own, you can never be at peace.”


In other words: live vicariously. The word vicarious originated in the mid 17th century from the Latin vicarius meaning substitute. The related word, vicar, is used to designate a representative or deputy of a bishop. So it's holy. We should all be vicars of our fellow men, and they of us. We all have desires and ambitions. Sometimes these desires are fulfilled in us, but more often our aims and hopes are frustrated. Others get in the way. We stumble. Life puts up obstacles! But life often puts in our path others in whom our greatest dreams reach fruition. By experiencing their joys, we participate in successes and adventures wherever we turn. The divine energy which flows through you is the same that ignites the eyes of both friend and foe.


Looking back on my life, I have had many desires that weren't fulfilled. 
When I was 13, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. The little league team I was part of that summer had a chance to make it all the way to the national championship. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. We only reached the regionals, and two years later our 15-year-old squad didn't even make it that far. 

I quit playing baseball after high school and started lifting weights. One day at the gym I met Kelly, once a star baseball player in high school and now bulking up in an effort to make it back to the big leagues. The year before he had been called up from the minors and in his very first game as a pro hit a double off the Dodgers' star pitcher, Orel Hershiser. 

I later found out that Kelly had been on baseball teams that won national titles at the 13-year-old and 15-year-old levels. He had accomplished both my childhood dreams, and I was happy for him. Ask Kelly and it was no big deal. He lived with his mother and rode a bicycle to and from the gym. He didn't make the Braves that spring and instead got into hardcore drugs. Crack cocaine, I think. I recently learned he became a born-again Christian.

Another of life's dreams that has gone unfulfilled was to marry and have kids. I consider myself a hopeful romantic and proposed to my first girlfriend, Christina, on our first date. The rough plan was to save up enough money and elope to the South American country of her birth, where we'd have a brood of three boys and three girls. That is, once we got jobs – and got out of elementary school. Christina was 11. It didn't last. Nor did any of my subsequent amorous adventures.

Nowadays, it seems all my friends have fulfilled this dream. My high school teammate Bryan has four little ones and a lovely wife. Pete has three "whippersnappers," as he calls them, and just bought a house. I have spent time with these friends and their families and through them get to participate in the joys and cares of being part of a household. Then I go home alone and am okay with it. Whenever I'm lonely, family life is but a phone call away. My friends’ kids call me Uncle Adam.

I got into distance running in medical school. At my fastest I ran a half-marathon in 1 hour and 18 minutes and a marathon in 2:49. Those times are in the top 1 percent, baby! And I ran them after turning 40. My goal became to run a 1:15 half-marathon and a 2:45 marathon. But to do so would have meant training harder than I liked and exerting myself more than I cared to, which would have made the whole experience not so fun.


At the Los Angeles Marathon in 2013 I met Ricardo. He was a couple years older than me and had met and exceeded these dream times of mine. I called him “Campeón,” Spanish for champion. I even wrote an article on him for a popular running magazine. It was about how I'd watch him fly by me on the way to his numerous victories. In detailing his many successes, I felt as if they were also my own. And Rama went on to become king of the world.

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