To The River And The Mountains

We are immersed deep into the quiet now — the quiet of the gurgling river and the humming crickets of the night, the moonlight dancing peacefully as silver varak on the water as it navigates the rocks and pebbles, the mountains rising high in the backdrop, black in the night, but not pitch black.

It feels good to press the accelerator of the car. The cool wind on my face feels good — so also seeing the profile of your smiling face, the changing landscape on land and in the sky. A long drive feels good.

We started when the sun was setting, driving into the sun, the pink, purple, and deep blues. Now the pink and purple have eloped with the sun and the sky has adorned itself with that one regal evening star — the queen of all the stars that will soon make their appearance.

“Where do you wanna go?”

“That river.”

“Good that we have our camping gear in the trunk. We can camp there for the night if we want.”

“Let’s see.”

So we drove. To the right of town. 70 kms away.

.

It is 8:30 p.m. now by the time we have reached here. There are mountains on one side, the gurgling river beside it, and this open land on this side of the river — covered with grass interspersed occasionally with boulders — nature’s chairs placed so thoughtfully for us.

“I just want to sit with you, in your arms, beside this gurgling river for a while — before we fix dinner.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“I am looking forward to the sushi though.”

“I am looking forward to the beer.”

“Ok. You, your beer, and patient me — but only two cans. Then we dive into dinner.”

“How about diving into the water?”

“In the morning. Am too tired just now.”

So here we are — on this flat long rock, a natural bench that mother nature has placed for us.

“I love you.”

Your lips on mine. Not kissing. Just there. For long. At least it seems long — eternal.

Then you turn your face to gulp beer again, and pull me close.

We are immersed deep into the quiet now — the quiet of the gurgling river and the humming crickets of the night, the moonlight dancing peacefully as silver varak on the water as it navigates the rocks and pebbles, the mountains rising high in the backdrop, black in the night, but not pitch black.

“I am hungry now,” I say an hour later and spread the sheet on the ground. You light a fire. Roasted veggies and garlic bread for you, cold sushi for me. You toast the bread on the fire and warm the veggies. We eat. The fire sings a crackling composition for us.

***

It is the wee hours of the morning. The sky has not opened into clear blue, nor its special sunrise hues for the day. The birds are up and about though. With a gentle snore, you are still sleeping. It’s fascinating how I feel more relaxed and peaceful if you are relaxed than if I am relaxed. I go to the river and splash my face with the crisp clear water, made crisper still by the morning chill. Soon I’m immersed in the water — immersed in the flow of never-ending love.

After a good easy half an hour I finally step out of the river. You are squirming in the sleeping bag. Your eyes open dreamily. Our eyes meet and there is a silent acknowledgment, a gentle love. My heart settles further into the soft bed of contentment.

On the patch cushioned with lush grass, I do some yoga — nothing fancy, just some Pawan-muktaasana, and fill my lungs with the fresh morning air. You catch a quick 10-minute meditation on the rock where we’d eaten dinner. For long you simply look at the shaking branch of a tree on this side of the river, then a small bird with rich blue feathers catches your attention. Now, for long you are immersed in how that tiny frame is so full of the most natural life. You feel as though you are communicating with it — which you are. Eventually, your eyelids gently descend as, in your being you make the universe your own.

We pack up. All camping gear dismantled and folded into the trunk of the car, we head back. Soon we will partake of some piping hot idlis and chutney at our favourite morning joint before you drop me off at my office and carry on to yours — but right now, as we drive back with our eyes and chest filled with the peace and life of the entire universe, we are silently One.

The Joy Of Work Well-done

A piece of work well-done, boulders and roadblocks broken down (technical roadblocks, in my case), is reason for much joy.

If I was working from home I would have stepped out of my room and gone and hugged mom. Since I am working from a co-working space right now, this post is the alternative. But the joy of a good old physical hug is in a realm of its own.

I would go to mom, grinning wide. She would ask me, “क्या हुआ?” and I would say “कुछ नहीं” — for most of the time the reason for the happiness would not amount to much in the worldly sense or be too complex to explain. In any case, joy that erupts within us without reason is the most sublime. “Unnecessarily Happy“, is the technically correct term for it.

Actually, there is always a reason for joy — but like I said, often that reason is not valued much by the world. The most sublime reason for joy: when, in the most natural manner, we feel unlimited.


Image credit: Gerd Altmann from Germany at Pixabay.com

Fiction continued: The Wise Wild Woman

As the morning opened into its full light, she saw a mud hut with colourful paintings on its walls. A short wooden pole had a wooden board nailed to it, which said in rough carving – “Wise Wild Woman”.

A gentle voice was singing inside to the strumming of a string instrument. She bent down to enter through the low door, propelled more by curiosity than anything else. Sitting at a low wooden table, a young girl, seeming sixteen years or so, was singing to her heart’s content, strumming on an Ektaaraa. Somewhat paler than the people of this region, she wore shorts and a loose cotton top with short sleeves. Her short hair was tied up into a bobbing pony-tail.

This is in continuation from the post: Seeking A Wise Wild Woman.

This is part of a fiction series that is unfolding. All episodes in order so far:
1. Shimmering Blue Water
2. The Grasslands Bristled
3. Like The Sky Itself
4. Something Stirred Inside Her
5. Seeking A Wise Wild Woman


As the morning opened into its full light, she saw a mud hut with colourful paintings on its walls. A short wooden pole had a wooden board nailed to it, which said in rough carving – “Wise Wild Woman”.

A gentle voice was singing inside to the strumming of a string instrument. She bent down to enter through the low door, pulled more by curiosity than anything else. Sitting at a low wooden table, a young girl, seeming sixteen years or so, was singing to her heart’s content, strumming on an Ektaaraa. Somewhat paler than the people of this region, she wore shorts and a loose cotton top with short sleeves. Her short hair was tied up into a bobbing pony-tail.

Seeing someone enter, the girl stopped singing, and gently said, “Come.”

She entered and joined the girl at the table, surprise written all over her face, her eyes locked in staring at the girl.

“It is good that you came,” said the girl.

The kindness in the voice assured her a bit, but she still continued looking at the girl, feeling confused.

“You were looking for me isn’t it?” asked the girl.

“Yes…” she said vaguely.

“So here I am,” said the girl, “Looks like my clothes are tripping you up. Are you interested in me, or are you interested in my clothes?”

“But… I expected you to be much older. Even wrinkled with years of experience,” she said.

“Oh ok, age. Same difference, my friend. Are you interested in me, or are you interested in my clothes?” said the girl. The kind eyes now danced with a naughty playfulness, and she added, “And if it makes it any easier for you, I am a million trillion zillion years old — just as any good Wise Wild Woman should be. Just as you are.”

She broke into laughter. The playfulness, more than the import of those words put her at ease.

“So, what is your name?” asked the Wise Wild Woman.

“Shubhra.”

“Aah… white, pure, resplendent… the confluence of all colours of light,” said the Wild Woman wistfully, and broke into song, “shubhr jyotsnaa pulkit yaaminee…

She seemed lost in another world, as if connecting to a force.

Coming back a few seconds later, she added, “Shubhr jyotsnaa refers to moonlight. Pulkit yaaminee, the happy night. The full moon, the One Mind, that soaks the sleeping world in caressing light.”

“Sometimes I feel that way — resplendent, gentle and caressing, like the full moon. Sometimes I don’t know where it all vanishes. Everything feels like the dense dark night. There is no moon and I cannot find myself. I am unable to recognize myself. I know I am there somewhere — for I did experience myself,” said Shubhra, her voice tightening up into emotion and desperation.

“Is that what brings you here?” asked the Wise Woman.

“I think I am pregnant. I want to retain you as my midwife,” said Shubhra.

“But you don’t look pregnant,” said the Wild Woman quizzically, her gaze moving to Shubhra’s tummy, and then searching her face.

“Are you interested in me, or are you interested in my clothes?” said Shubhra naughtily.

“Aah… You learn fast! I like that. So what do you think you are pregnant with? A project?”

“Myself? Maybe?” said Shubhra, her eyes seeking support and assurance.

“That is a nice proposition. That, my friend, is called the process of Self actualization — quite an exhilarating and terrifying process, and yes, indeed like a pregnancy. There is a crucial stage in this process, kind-of like the breaking of the water…”

“What is that?” asked Shubhra.

“Kill mother. Kill father,” said the Wise Wild Woman.

Seeing the hint of startle in Shubhra’s eyes, she added, “Mother, is representative of all those things in which we place our sense of security. They can stifle our creativity. Father, is the rules of society. We slay these when we have practiced them long enough and can see that they have outlived their purpose — when we must step-out of the boundaries they set.”

Shubhra thanked the girl and left. All the while, as she was retracing the miles to get back home, the girl’s words percolated in her, “Kill mother, kill father… things in which we place our sense of security… self-expression… rules of society… outlived their purpose…”

Fiction continued: Seeking A Wise Wild Woman

The days were getting warmer. Three weeks had passed, she hadn’t gone to office. Her backyard had burst into purple flowers, and she would spend hours sitting at her backdoor …

This is in continuation from the post: Something Stirred Inside Her

This is part of a fiction series that is unfolding. All episodes in order so far:
1. Shimmering Blue Water
2. The Grasslands Bristled
3. Like The Sky Itself
4. Something Stirred Inside Her


The days were getting warmer. Three weeks had passed, she hadn’t gone to office. Her backyard had burst into purple flowers, and she would spend hours sitting at her backdoor feeling the cool breeze filtered through the leaves of the lone tree in the region. Sometimes she walked around the house with her eyes closed, enjoying the new perspective of her world seen through her fingertips. As she fingered the textured wall, finding her way to the bedroom door and then onto the kitchen, she thought, “What a broad, strong chest you have.”

One morning she went out on a walk. The idea was to keep walking, on and on, to test just how far she could go. It was 4 am and the eastern sky was just beginning to open up to light, above which only one star remained – Venus, these days visible as the morning star, shining regal and kind. It filled her with a sense of confidence and assurance. “I am with you,” the star seemed to say. She started walking towards it.

Twenty minutes or so in, the land started getting more arid. Dawn clothed the sky now with gently rustling colours. There he was —at the edge of a drying lake. A giraffe stood was with him. They seemed to be pals. Playfully engrossed in their morning ablutions, they did not notice her approach.

Something about seeing the man made her feel ‘normal’. Normal and ok in a manner she hadn’t felt before. The scattered particles of relentless searching settled down easy inside her. His trailer stood in the background.

“That is my home,” said her heart. While she stood still, her heart started walking towards the trailer.

“No,” said a voice in her.

Turning away, she resumed walking, this time towards the north.

The gait that had been easy, and exploratory so far, became brisk and adamant. The landscape changed. Dried grass became few and far between. Gravel and sand covered the land here.

Then, as the morning opened into its full light, she saw a mud hut with colourful paintings on its walls. A short wooden pole had a wooden board nailed to it, which said – “Wise Wild Woman”.


Image credit: Patricio Hurtado

Fiction continued: Something Stirred Inside Her

This is in continuation from the post: Like The Sky Itself

This is part of a fiction series that is unfolding. All episodes in order so far:
Shimmering Blue Water
The Grasslands Bristled
Like The Sky Itself


Everything was not hunky-dory. This raw energy whizzing around in her head made her nervous. “What did it all mean?” she sometimes wondered after an intense experience.

Longing for something physical, something tangible to hold on to, she said to him, “If you love me so much, why don’t you take physical form and appear in front of me?”

In response she heard him say, almost inaudibly, “I love you,” and then, nothing else.

So she oscillated — between euphoria and despair; between being one with the universe, being the universe itself, and being a cowering mite engulfed in darkness; between seeing herself as a light in the heart of every being, and being ravaged with self doubt, convinced of being abandoned and alone. Sometimes she felt raging anger towards the people her life. Trying to make herself see reason, she gently said, “How can you feel love for every being, and then, moments later, feel anger towards the people in your life? That is no way to love every being, is it?” This only increased her frustration with herself.

Racing thoughts kept her awake in the middle of the night. If she slept, as soon as she woke up in the morning, the flood-gates of thoughts would open up in her head. It was like a morning sickness. Even so, she loved and honored these morning times. She knew these thoughts, however messed up they may be, were part of something significant brewing inside her.

One day she rang up her mother. Talking excitedly, she said, “Everything is so so good. Everything is beautiful. You are beautiful Mumma. Do you know that?”

Not fooled by those effusive words, her mother asked, “How have you been?”.

“I think I am pregnant,” she said.

Surprised at herself, she quickly added, “Not biologically pregnant. But I feel pregnant.”

“Seek out a wise wild woman then,” said her mother gently.

***

Fiction continued: Like The Sky Itself

This is in continuation from the post “The Grasslands Bristled

When she was done dancing to her heart’s content, she sat down to eat breakfast — experiencing each juicy bubble of the blackberries in her mouth and as the juice descended down her throat. She felt the cool invigorating energy of the carrot-saag drink rise up to her eyes. Then she went back inside. Her muscles were alive with contentment, alive with the heat of the sun that they had received with open arms. She lay down on the bed to sip on this life force a bit more with the straw of awareness, and soon fell into an alert yoga-nidra —

“It seems to me like you are a star in the sky who looks down on me, a flower on the land here,” she said.

“Have you heard the story of the lotus flower in the sky?” he asked.

“No…” she answered, with mild curiosity.

So he told her —

Neelkamal, the lotus flower in the sky

Neelpari was a blue fairy. She was very pretty. She had beautiful blue wings and was very graceful. She was sweet and had a serene and comforting personality. She had no malice in her heart towards anyone. However, all other fairies in the fairyland had sparkling red and orange colors. They thought Neelpari was dull and ugly. They were all very playful and would sing and dance all the time unlike Neelpari who was quiet most of the time. When they went to a garden, as the fairies do everyday, they would play with only the fresh blooming flowers. On the other hand if Neelpari saw a sad flower, she would sit with that flower and try to cheer him up all the time. The other fairies thought Neelpari was strange and not fit to be a fairy.

One day all the fairies had gone to a garden that had a small muddy lake. Poor Neelpari fell into the lake and was trapped in the mud. Other fairies did not even bother to help her. They played with flowers as usual and, at the end of the day, flew back to fairyland leaving Neelpari trapped in the mud. Neelpari felt very sad and dejected since her friends had deserted her. A drop of tear rolled from her eyes and fell into the lake.

That drop of tear flooded the lake with motherly love. The lake said to Neelpari: “I wish I could help you get out of the mud but I am unable to do that. However, you are so sweet that I would adopt you as my daughter and you can live with me.”

Neelpari had lost all interest in going back to the fairyland where the fairies did not care about her. So she gladly accepted to be adopted by the lake. She then became Neelkamal, the blue lotus. Every day the waves of the lake would play with her and caress her soft blue petals. Because of her, the muddy lake itself became beautiful. People came and admired Neelkamal and the lake. Many bhramars (bumblebees) came in the day and sang to her. Neelkamal was very happy with her new life.

Like all lotus flowers, Neelkamal used to close her petal like eyes in the night and go to sleep. One night, a star in the sky saw her and fell instantly in love with her. After that every night the star used to watch her pretty face but he could never see her awake. He had a strong desire to see Neelkamal awake and peep into her pretty eyes. But that was not possible, since the stars are not allowed to come out during the day. The sun is the king of the sky. He is hot-tempered and does not like to see the stars when he is awake. Only when the sun goes to sleep, the stars can come out.

The king of the night sky is the moon. He is kind and gentle. He noticed that the star has been quite depressed for many nights. He asked the star if there is a problem. The star told the moon about his love for Neelkamal and his strong desire to see her while she is awake during the day. First the moon said that it is impossible because the sun will never allow that. If the star ventures to come out during the day, the sun will burn him instantly. However, the moon was moved by the star’s love and wanted to help him.

“There is only one way” said the moon, “I can block the sun momentarily causing a total solar eclipse. During the total eclipse, the stars can come out and lotus flowers are still awake. So, during those few moments you can come out and have a brief look at your beloved Neelkamal. However, you must remember that the sun is too big for me. I can block him only for a few minutes. You must, absolutely must, go into hiding before the eclipse is over.”

The star was very happy with that suggestion and readily agreed. The moon warned the star again that he should not stay in the sky when the eclipse starts clearing. The star promised to do that and waited for the next morning.

True to his promise, the moon blocked the sun next day, which caused a total solar eclipse. The star came out and, for the first time, looked at Neelkamal in full bloom. Her beautiful petal-like deep blue eyes were wide open. The star had never seen such a heavenly beauty. Neelkamal looked at the star for the first time and also fell in love with the star. Both kept looking at each other and were totally overwhelmed by their mutual attraction and love. The star forgot his promise to the moon. In spite of his best efforts, the moon could not block the sun any longer. He had to move off and the sun returned. A solar eclipse never lasts for more than a few minutes.

The sun was furious when he saw the star. He immediately released his full heat on the star. The poor star was immediately burnt. His ashes fell all over the earth. Neelkamal was terribly shocked to see her loved star burnt to ashes. She felt so dejected that she wanted to shed off all her petals and just vanish into the lake. She decided that she would not let anyone see her since her lover gave his life in an attempt to see her. The lake also felt very sad and tried to console Neelkamal. When the rays of the sun came to the lake, the lake told them about Neelkamal’s tragedy. The rays used to see Neelkamal everyday and they liked her. Moved by her tragic story, they took Neelkamal with them to the sun and told him about Neelkamal’s desire to disappear.

The sun also felt sorry and apologetic for his anger. He said to Neelkamal, “I am very pleased and impressed by your true love for the star. I am sorry that I got so annoyed and burnt your love. Unfortunately, I cannot undo what has been done. However, I will give you a boon. From now on, you will live in the sky as the symbol of eternal love. Every particle of your loved star’s dust on the earth will come alive and glow with your love. Since you are blue and the sky is blue, nobody can see you except those who are lucky to get a particle of the dust of your fallen loved star.”

Since then Neelkamal lives as the lotus flower in the sky. The flower is the eternal symbol of love and faith. Only those people who have been blessed with the dust of the love star, can see the lotus flower in the sky. When they see it, their hearts glow with the bliss of eternal heavenly love.

***

Something stirred inside her, bringing her out of the yoga-nidra.

On A Saturday Morning

Writing shall be my main activity for today. So many days have passed, I have not gifted myself the unique beautiful atmosphere that occurs while I write. So writing shall be my main activity for today

Should I write in the notebook or on the computer? I like the vibe that is created when writing in a notebook. It feels more inspired. That is not just a mindset trying to hold onto the past world in the form of a fuzzy “should” ― we “should” write on paper, it is “better” that way. No, its not that. I do like the atmosphere that gets created when I write in a notebook. But writing on the computer is so much more efficient. Less tiring for the hand too. And I anyway have to type stuff up ultimately.

Anyways, notebook or computer, for either of them I will have to get up from bed. But I want to rest a little while longer. Where did the AC remote go? I am feeling hungry. But I am not supposed to go to the breakfast table without having a bath. Ok what shall I write about?

I really want to write about that Quantum Thermodynamics article I read. But that will require quite a lot of mental energy and focus. Will I be able to sustain my mental energy to wrap up the writing into a coherent, easy-to-understand article? Why do you have to make such a big deal about every article? Write what comes naturally to you. But will my readers be interested in reading about Quantum Thermodynamics? But it is interesting! And it is important! Mighty darned important. Or should I continue with the fiction story? I have absolutely no clue where that story will go, or whether it even wants to be written. Is it ok that I present so many different, seemingly disparate stuff to my readers? Sometimes an emotional poem, sometimes about MS, unfinished extended book review of A Course In Miracles, suddenly out of the blue Artificial Intelligence, and now this fiction which desperately wants to convey a subtle feeling, a subtle truth, my deepest truth… Don’t they find it confusing, poor things, the readers? Is it ok for me to subject them to all this multifarious stuff only because I want to train my writer self? Isn’t there enough cacophony on the internet already?

Whatever! Fact is, I want to write. And I want to write right now! Not when I get out of the bed. And the present moment is all there is, so write of the. present. moment.

And so on a Saturday morning, the humble phone (not the least bit erudite in front of the notebook and the computer), and the humble tip-tapping thumb of the left hand, and this humble heart, wrote of that very Saturday morning.

Fiction continued: The Grasslands Bristled

This is in continuation from last week’s post “Shimmering Blue Water

Finally she fell into a deep deep satisfied sleep. When she woke up in the morning, she felt so alive! There was a distinct energy to her body, her mind alert and fresh, everything around her seemed to bristle with energy. The air itself bristled with energy.

“I won’t go to office today,” she decided, “I want to be with this energy, receive it completely.”

.

“What is her name?” a voice in her mind asked her.

“She has no name. All names are her name. There is only one woman on this planet. She has no name,” she spontaneously answered.

“Are you that woman?”

“Yes,” she answered.
“Are you that woman?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“Energy, energy, ever dancing energy — that is all that there is. And there is awareness. It’s oh so juicy and luscious — awareness. So handsome! You are awareness and I love you. Awareness is the very floor on which we dance.”

“There is no man or woman here. We are just energy. The more I experience you, the more I see how you are just me,” her being said, reveling in him.

“You aren’t man, you aren’t woman, yet you are so woman,” he said, reveling in her beauty.

“You are that woman, yet you are so man,” said she.

They were mesmerised with each other, with themselves, with this phenomenon that was occurring between them that connected them to the universe, that made them the universe. Thoughts flowed in and out, in and out through her mind. That is how he made love to her. Making her consciousness his playground. She stepped towards the kitchen to toss up breakfast for herself. Chopping greens and fruits to munch on, she could feel his presence in each pore of her body.

“I am in every cell of your body, I am in every warp and weft of every cloth, in the spaces in between, in the gorgeous designs woven on this carpet. I am in the empty space of this room.”

“You bet. I can see you.”

She stepped out on the lawn and kept her plate on the garden table. And suddenly, a whoop of joy shot through her and she fell down on the grass, her arms and legs bent. Like a frog? Like a tortoise? A bit of both maybe. She did not know. All she knew was that she is one with the earth and all beings, as she felt the texture and smell of the soil beneath the grass.

Arising in her fullness, she danced with the morning sun. Her sheer lightblue nightgown flowed with the wind, like the sky itself.

How Science Helps Me Be Spiritual

The fundamental thing about science is, to observe. Patiently. With childlike curiosity and fascination.

Science is not about analysis, mathematics, logic, problem solving, learning a bunch of theories, learning what is right and wrong. They follow sometimes, naturally, as a result of observing keenly and patiently — but science is not about these fundamentally.

It is not the scientist’s duty to achieve anything. Observe — that is the only fundamental duty of a scientist. It is also not the scientist’s job to label things as good or bad. This is happening, whatever the ‘this’ is — that means it is worthy of being observed.

When we do that, when we observe, patiently, with childlike curiosity and fascination — we automagically become spiritual. Fundamentally spiritual. Not spiritual as in the following of some rules. Not spiritual as in talking about God. But fundamentally spiritual. Spiritual in the sense of connecting to a force larger than our limited self. Spiritual in the sense of loving — for to keenly observe something means to love that thing.

We can choose to observe anything. Scientists study the clouds as well as the soil. They study beautiful flowers and creepy crawly insects too. One is not more worthy of being studied than the other. Scientists make the political forces the subject of their keen observation too — and music, painting, dance they study those too, with fascination.

And the cool dude scientist observes and studies her own thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and actions. Patiently. Keenly. With childlike curiosity and fascination. Without labeling any thought, emotion or physical sensation as good or bad.

When we do that, when we observe our thoughts emotions and sensations, we become all the more spiritual. We end up loving ourself. We end up knowing that we extend far beyond our limited selves. We end up knowing firsthand, without anyone telling us, that we are an intricately woven mesh of ever dancing energy.

We can all be scientists. It is not hard at all. In fact it is very easy and super fun. All we need to do is to observe — anything. Patiently. Keenly. With childlike curiosity and fascination.


Image credit: hjrivas at Pixabay.com

Everything Turned Around

Hans Rosling was a Swedish medical doctor and professor who worked extensively in the field of global health. This is a true story of what happened to him one day while training as a junior doctor.


On October 7, 1975, I was plastering a patient’s arm when an assistant nurse burst through the door and announced that a plane had crashed and the wounded were coming in by helicopter. It was my fifth day as a junior doctor on the emergency ward in the small coastal town of Hudiksvall in Sweden. All the senior staff were down in the dining hall and as the assistant nurse and I searched frantically for the folder of disaster instructions, I could already hear the helicopter landing. The two of us were going to have to handle this on our own.

Seconds later a stretcher was rolled in, bearing a man in dark green overalls and a camouflage life jacket. His arms and legs were twitching. An epileptic seizure, I thought; off with his clothes. I removed his life jacket easily but his overalls were more problematic. They looked like a spacesuit, with huge sturdy zippers all over, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find the zipper that undid them. I had just registered that the uniform meant this was a military pilot when I noticed the blood all over the floor. “He’s bleeding,” I shouted. With this much blood, I knew he could be dead in a matter of seconds, but with the overalls still on, I couldn’t see where it was coming from. I grabbed a big pair of plaster pliers to cut through the fabric and howled to the assistant nurse, “Four bags of blood, O-negative. Now!”

To the patient, I shouted, “Where does it hurt?” “Yazhe shisha … na adjezhizha zha …” he replied. I couldn’t understand a word, but it sounded like Russian. I looked the man in his eyes and said with a clear voice, “все тихо товарищ, шведскaya больницa,” which means “All is calm, comrade, Swedish hospital.”

I will never forget the look of panic I triggered with those words. Frightened out of his mind, he stared back at me and tried to tell me something: “Vavdvfor papratarjenji rysskamememje ej …” I looked into his eyes full of fear, and then I realized: this must be a Russian fighter pilot who has been shot down over Swedish territory. Which means that the Soviet Union is attacking us. World War III has started! I was paralyzed by fear.

Fortunately, at that moment the head nurse, Birgitta, came back from lunch. She snatched the plaster pliers from my hand and hissed, “Don’t shred it. That’s an air force ‘G suit’ and it costs more than 10,000 Swedish kronor.” After a beat she added, “And can you please step off the life jacket. You’re standing on the color cartridge and it is making the whole floor red.”

Birgitta turned to the patient, calmly freed him from his G suit, and wrapped him in a couple of blankets. In the meantime she told him in Swedish, “You were in the icy water for 23 minutes, which is why you are jerking and shivering, and why we can’t understand what you’re saying.” The Swedish air force pilot, who had evidently crashed during a routine flight, gave me a comforting little smile.

A few years ago I contacted the pilot, and was relieved to hear that he doesn’t remember a thing from those first minutes in the emergency room in 1975. But for me the experience is hard to forget. I will forever remember my complete misjudgment. Everything was the other way around: the Russian was Swedish, the war was peace, the epileptic seizure was cooling, and the blood was a color ampule from inside the life jacket. Yet it had all seemed so convincing to me.

When we are afraid, we do not see clearly. I was a young doctor facing my first emergency, and I had always been terrified by the prospect of a third world war. As a child, I often had nightmares about it. I would wake up and run to my parents’ bed. I could be calmed only by my father going over the details of our plan one more time: we would take our tent in the bike trailer and go live in the woods where there were plenty of blueberries.

Inexperienced, and in an emergency situation for the first time, my head quickly generated a worst-case scenario. I didn’t see what I wanted to see. I saw what I was afraid of seeing. Critical thinking is always difficult, but it’s almost impossible when we are scared. There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.


These days I am reading the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling. In his book he teaches how to look at the world based on facts and data rather than our instinct for fear and dramatic stuff. He shares “Ten reasons why we’re wrong about the world — and why things are better than you think”. This book is based on extensive global data and his vast personal experience of working in the field of global health in many countries across the world, with people of every strata of society — high ranking officials of every industry, the extremely poor, and the majority like us in between.

The world is consistently improving and has made tremendous progress with all people, in every strata of society, on a path to a better life, he says. Even then, our tendency to be convinced that the world is getting worse is because of our instincts of fear, negativity, and a conviction of ‘us’ and ‘them’, that is further exacerbated by what is reported in the media.

This story above was taken from the chapter The Fear Instinct. Whether we are interested in the state of the world or not, it is a telling example of how fear can totally flip our mind around and we end up seeing that which is far far from the truth. If we are interested in the state of the world, this book is an excellent resource to get an important different perspective on the world.