VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE

“Variety's the very spice of life that gives it all its flavor [sic]” said William Cowper, an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. Poets are a breed of extrasensitive people. They understand life in all its subtleties, because they have experienced and ‘lived’ life to its fullest. When William Cowper, a great poet, whom S.T. Coleridge himself called "the best modern poet" feels so about life and its variety, what can I do but concur? Without variety, life is bland. Following a routine, whatever the benefits of it being time-tested, day after tiresome day, is disadvantageous and should be avoided at all costs. Life sans variety is frankly not worth living. Even nature knows it. A variety of genes in an organism enable it to adapt to changing circumstances. Every organism, including humans by the way, seek to continue their generation with the maximum chances to survive. And the instance of maximum chance of survival coincides with higher adaptability, which corresponds to variety in the gene pool. William Cowper also said, “The earth was made so various, that the mind of desultory man, studious of change and pleased with novelty, might be indulged”.

Variety in life makes it enjoyable. We see it all around us. Variety enables us to pick and choose, a luxury which we would otherwise not have had. It relieves the monotonous boredom of life. It is true in any field. I repeat, any field. “The variety of all things forms a pleasure”, said Euripides who was the last of the three great tragedians of classical Athens. From the sublime game of cricket to the sublime art of essay-writing! Not only does variety have an aesthetic sense, or rather, beauty, but it also enables us to increase our standard. For example, 1

in cricket, a batsman possessing a variety of shots, all around the wicket, aerial and along the ground possesses a much higher chance of survival and of scoring runs than one who goes for only one shot, or more commonly, one type of shot. Adaptability is key; and for adaptability, it is needed, absolutely needed, to have variety. Another example can be made of essay writing. No one, not me at least, likes to read an essay which is bland and lifeless. I think anyone who reads this will agree with me. A writer must think of ways in which to make his\her essay interesting and what better way to make it interesting than injecting variety to the essay in the form of idioms and avoiding clichés?

“We need a variety of input and influence and voices. You cannot get all the answers to life and business from one person or from one source”, said Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker and whose life was a typical rags to riches story. In the uncompromising and merciless world that we live in these days, it is of utmost importance that we choose the best measure, the best direction to follow. In the cut-throat competition, the dogeat-dog type, which we find encompassing the world today, a slight miscalculation or, more often, a lack of means may cut short our chances. If one does not follow a life rich in variety, one may fail to take advantage of certain circumstances, which may have otherwise helped us, which we may rue later. To prevent such catastrophes from happening, one should at all costs try to exercise variety in our lives. “In the time of your life, live - so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite variety and mystery of it”, said William Saroyan an ArmenianAmerican dramatist and author.

So we see that having variety in our life is not only interesting but also advantageous while compared with a monotonous life. A person with variety in his life can be said to have a very fulfilling and satisfying existence. He wakes up

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every day knowing that he will be living that day in a different way compared to other days. He thus is buoyant. Variety thus improves the quality of life very much like how spices improve the quality of our food. Our ancestors also had another use for spices. Spices were used in olden days to preserve food and we can see that variety too preserves our life and makes it longer by infusing excitement and unpredictability in our life. Unpredictability in small quantities is good as it sprinkles a certain amount of zest and enjoyment in our lives and makes it radiant. ‘Aurea mediocritas’ is a Latin phrase that denotes ‘the golden mean’. It is meant to convey a philosophy of not partaking too much in something. ‘Nec Dextrorsum, Nec Sinistrorsum’ which means neither to the right nor to the left also means the same. It means that people should neither veer too much to one side nor to another, but must undertake to walk in a path which follows the Greek ideal of ‘moderation in all things’. Failure to follow this ideal will be disastrous. Take a case study of alcohol. A small amount of it everyday is said to be very beneficial according to doctors. But take it in the form of a heavy dosage and the effects are not so benign. So is the case in all things. We can also construe that too much of variety is not good for our health, in the same way that too much of spice is not good!

In every field of life that we see, we see that variety plays a very important role. Even in language. How can variety, I can hear a person ask, play an important role in language? Well it’s fairly simple. A person with a good vocabulary can articulate well, as different words have different shades of meanings, and thus express himself without any hesitation or trouble. This is the reason why lawyers need to have a good vocabulary; otherwise they may easily fall into legal pitfalls. Good orators need to have a variety of words at their disposal. Words, especially in the English language often can imply more than what they mean and the subtle putting together of words, mainly adjectives to form coherent phrases or sentences can often be hilarious, laughable or just plain

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funny. A case in point is the three adjectives that I used towards the last of the previous sentence.

It has been thus seen that variety is important for any person in any walk of life. It revitalizes the mind and makes life ‘worth living’ to say the least. People in all walks of life have to try to include an element of variety so that their life becomes more fruitful and interesting. People should not live their lives according to timetables. When one follows the same routine again and again one automatically feels disinterested, as it is after all human nature to be disinterested when the same old things happen again and again with no variation to occupy the mind. Some people may say that it will be quite good if we are able to control our lives completely, so that nothing untoward may happen. A rigidly controlled life with a lack of variety is the model of this type of thinking. Shakespeare, makes his Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus say “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety”, while referring to Cleopatra and the charm she had on men in general and General Antony in particular, in his well-known tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra. The keyword here is ‘variety’. Shakespeare, an acknowledged expert on the varied subtleties of human character, here himself acknowledges the importance of variety in a person’s personality. I rest my case.

PRATHEEK PRAVEEN KUMAR

prytheek@yahoo.com

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