A child was trying to build a sand castle on the beach. He ran around collecting sand in his little fists to fill his little bucket. Each time he picked up a fistful, some sand would escape from his hands and he was left with very little. The tighter he held on to the sand, the more the sand would spill out. He got more and more annoyed and ultimately gave up the idea of building the castle altogether. If he had carried on without bothering about the sand that escaped and focused on the one in his hand, he probably would have been able to build his castle.

This little boy is, in reality,  is like most of us. Each of us has a desire to make a sand castle of our own. We all have our aspirations and goals that we wish to build little by little. The grains of sand are the efforts that we put in to achieve them. However, like the little boy we focus more on the things that are slipping out rather than the things that are still in our hand. We get more and more frustrated by the things that slip away, that we give up on what we set out to achieve to begin with.

All of us have an inherent need to be in control. We wish to control the things and people around us. A sense of control often makes us secure and confident. A knowledge of the situation or the consequences makes us feel better equipped to deal with the situation.

What we tend to forget however, is control is never absolute. For everything that we can control, there are several things that we can’t.

There is another story that I had heard as a child. A monkey stole a handful of nuts from a group of humans on a picnic. He grabbed the nuts and ran up the tree. As he was trying to climb the tree to escape, he dropped a couple of nuts from his hand. He didn’t want to lose even those few so he scrambled down the tree to retrieve them. As he came down he was seen by the group of humans who chased him away by throwing stones at him. In his flurry to escape the monkey managed to lose all the nuts in his fist.

Well we haven’t exactly learnt much from our ancestors, have we? We want to have everything in our hands, in our closefisted hands. We do not want to let go of the things that do not fit in the fist.

There are several instances in life which would have been less stressful if one can accept the unexpected and allow a few grains of sand to slip away from one’s hands.

The parents of the little boy who was trying to make a small simple castle tried to control his idea of the castle. They insisted he build a bigger castle, not just one but many big castles. A castle called academics, another named sports, another for music etc. They told him where to collect his sand and every single minute told him how he was not putting in enough efforts in collecting the sand. They told his how he was wasting his sand on unnecessary things and how he should look at how other kids his age were building bigger and better castles. The little boy grew more and more resentful and ended up trampling all the castles he had built.

The budding professional who wanted a grand sandcastle. He worked hard to build a group of people who would help him collect the sand needed for his castle.  He not only wanted to control the way he worked but also how everyone else on his team worked. He was often critical and demanding,  dictating how the others should collect the sand. By the time he realised he could not control others, he had lost control over his own self. He found that while he was keeping a watch over how much the others had collected he forgot to collect sand himself. Eventually the others lost interest in his castle and went away to build their own castles. His castle remained half built.

The couple wanted to build a castle together. They each thought of collecting the sand and make a castle for themselves. Unfortunately each focused and tried to control the sand that the other brought. They paid attention to the quantity and quality of the sand the other had bought. They tried to tell each other the best way to collect the perfect sand. Eventually both started feeling that the other was not putting in enough effort in making the castle. Both did not once look at the sand they had bought (which was best in their control). The bitterness grew to the point that they stopped collecting the sand altogether and the castle was abandoned.

The young student who wanted to be the most popular student in the college. He wanted the entire college to contribute to his castle. He chased and forced people who were not interested in his castle to collect the sand. He left no effort to convince everyone to collect sand for him. He however lost focus of the people who were actually interested in his castle and were contributing, his true friends. He neglected and failed to appreciate their effort. Sure enough he lost out on these people and was ultimately left with people who only pretended to collect sand or collected sand of poor quality. In the end the castle was a mere illusion.

We as a species spend most of our time trying to control things which were not ours to control anyways. The more effort we put, the more things got out of control. We tried to control others and ended up fighting wars. We tried to control nature and ended up destroying it. We tried to control what people believed in and ended up faithless.

If only we had tried to control ourselves instead, held on to what was in our hands, we would have had a castle like no other…..

 

Dr. Gauri Nadkarni Choudhary
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