“Rocinate! turn thy head in many directions”!
This was the war cry of our teenage times when we got drunk and strode through the town of Colombo. In particular, it was the war cry of Pip, a handsome youth who strew poetic phrases into the wind, drank madly, laughed crazily and drove a motorbike with hair flying in dare devil fashion. Pip was a Byron like figure who wooed the girls and lived life to the full. “Rocinante! turn thy head in many directions!” he would shout when he was drunk. But even in that inebriated state he had a moral message. And it was a message we all shared. Life is too short for us to just be content with one small aspect of it. We passionately believed then with our teenage innocence that we should open ourselves to wider existences; that we should take in as much knowledge in all fields as the world, and our lives would allow.
Rocinante was the name of the horse that Don Quixote rode into battle with the windmills.
I never knew why Pip used that name. Perhaps he imagined himself as the new Don Quixote, but it was a potent, if ironic battle cry. There was another chant we used as we plunged through the Colombo crowds in the evenings and that was not so salubrious. We chanted “compulsory public copulation”. Don’t ask! It just sounded good. Luckily for us very few people around us at that time spoke English.
But let me get back to the theme of the post. There is so much knowledge about, and there is so much fun to be had out of all the things around us. There are the books to read, films to see, people to talk to, places to visit, ideas to bounce about and try and skills to develop. Yet most of us are content with letting google take care of our knowledge base and have all the fun of discovery while we worry about our food bills and our malfunctioning cars. Life holds worlds of wonder we do not even begin to sample before we die. Don’t you think that would be a waste?
But purely from a practical angle there are many ways we can improve our lives and our philosophy if we only know how. My father used to visit outposts in the country where small dispensaries and doctor’s surgeries existed, mainly in isolated villages and sometimes in the middle of a forest. It was his job to supervise these health care clinics. Once he took the family to this particularly isolated clinic in a remote forest area. The apothecary who was a part paramedic and part dispenser of drugs met us and took us to his surgery home. There we sat in his living room in front of a large tank of tropical fish. I was about 12 or 13 and I was fascinated by what the man said to my father and to my mother. He said he sat for hours in front of the fish tank. He said it developed patience. He had time to think, to be a better medical practitioner. He talked about how he would sometimes take his patients into the garden and show them herbs with which they could treat themselves just as well as with drugs. He would also read their palms and reassure them of their worries. He had to be a psychotherapist as well as a doctor and a confessor. He read a lot and would tell the patients stories from his books. He learned folk wisdom from them. He learned to live off the land like them, sometimes fishing in the river or hunting in the woods. He was a man happy in his own world. I was fascinated. Here was a man who lived in wider existences! Someone who did not limit his time to just a narrow definition of his job or to household chores; someone who expanded his life to embrace a larger sphere than was expected of him.
Living a fulfilling and rewarding life is essential to living a healthy life. We are all living longer. Let’s make it full of effervescence! Full of spangles and sparks! That does not mean just getting drunk. It means turning our heads in many directions and seeing and absorbing more out of this world of ours so we do not die of boredom. Go actively out to look for things that turn you on and get back that sense of wonder that I spoke about in my earlier post.