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Friday, June 25, 2021

Getting Sorted: Going Beyond The Cycle Of Good, Better and Best


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Making comparisons is an odious and misguided practice. It instantly negates the original and singular individual characteristics that define the things or people being compared. It is a product of schizophrenic dichotomy of thought rather than an acceptance of how things naturally ought to be. It originates from discontent, envy and insufficient understanding of Nature and its intent in creating a teeming multiplicity of objects and beings – each endowed with special skills and assigned a specific role to create the orderly, beautiful canvas of life.

Close at the heels of Mother Nature, our ancestors, in a bid to create a stable, functional and organised society, devised the system of four ‘Varnas’ or professional classes. A person’s position and role in the social structure was not determined by the circumstance of birth but depended on his capability, natural talent and special skills. If we had recognised and respected this system based on natural diversity – essential for integrating and balancing the social fabric – extending due respect and importance to all professions and people engaged in them, it would not have degenerated into the biggest bane of caste system. Our penchant for vested interest and comparisons across the social and religious classes has been instrumental in creating the great communal divide. It has replaced the desirable sentiments of trust and goodwill amongst the citizens with suspicion, mistrust and a self-centred approach to life.

It is strange but true that our selfish, indiscriminate drive for superiority, supremacy and control has landed our planet in the worst ecological and environmental crisis today. Our tendency to compare and compete pushes us to live by greed rather than need. We forget that our time in this world is limited. Most of our pursuits are thoughtlessly planned for short term gains. We deplete and destroy natural resources and then the importance of saving the environment dawns on us. We kill other animals for sport with utter indiscretion and then talk about the crises of extinction of species. We grab and hoard, depriving our fellow beings of even bare necessities of life and then talk of social justice.

Men, intoxicated by their physical strength and role as bread winners, thought themselves to be superior to women. They failed to respect, recognise and value the contribution of women as mothers and home makers forgetting that they were meant to protect rather than exploit the cradle of human race. This led to the most bizarre comparison of the century – between man and woman – and clamouring for equality between them! Why on earth, women who carry, nurture and bring up a whole race of men would want to be equal to them. I wish the advocates of this misplaced campaign had instead taught men to be more caring, civil and respectful towards women.

Consequently, women moved out and removed all doubts about their capabilities by excelling in every profession. But every change comes at a cost and it did erode the social and family fabric in many ways. Majority of women, even today, don’t have access to the kind of emancipated lives the privileged few are leading. Marriage is no longer a stable institution since the comparison between the spouses makes them adversaries. The most natural desire and pleasure of being a parent has become an unwanted responsibility. The pursuit of ‘I’ and ‘My’ has blinded us to the point of giving up love of parents, squealing laughter of children and a secure home that beckons with warmth, love and peace. No one wants to make a smallest adjustment or sacrifice when it comes to anyone other than oneself. Do we know why and what are we doing and where is it taking us? What do we do?

Happiness being our original and pristine state, we are all propelled towards our own ideas of it. Steeped in worldly affairs we get busy scaling the comparative ladder of good, better and best. Then we wrongfully start identifying happiness with ephemeral, material acquisitions and expect it to last. Isn’t it like laying a foundation on quick sand? Our idea of progressive civilisation is linked to building skyscrapers, flyovers, expressways and bullet trains. We are so smitten with form as to become completely oblivious of the essence underneath.

We need to realise that actual progress happens within, in a space secure from intrusions of the external world. When we meet and know ourselves in that space, we get sated in such a way that being human becomes the only premise on the basis of which we evaluate others and interact with them. We get sorted, arranging all components of our being in harmony with our surroundings and the universe at large. We rise above all differences of rich and poor, high and low, black and white, man and woman. All these melt into one entity for ever and that is ‘human’ . It equips us with extensive understanding of life and people whereby comparison gives way to compassion for all. We become like a block that is content to be occupying its place in the great universal puzzle or a drop of water content to be part of the ocean in harmony with innumerable other drops. Elsewhere, the block becomes a misfit and a drop can only pretend to be the ocean.

Ensconced there, we become incapable of hatred, envy, jealousy, anger and greed. We understand that everyone out there is grappling with what Thomas Hardy called ‘human condition’ – given the resources and intelligence at their disposal. Love and compassion root out all that leads to unhappiness. We stop craving for anything in excess of the basic survival kit. We learn to forgive because we understand our own imperfections. We feel compassion for the deprived as also for the ignorant who have plenty but want more and miss out on the pleasure of giving and sharing. For the illiterate, striving to learn as also for the literate who lack education.

By turning inward, we tap an endlessly overflowing source of happiness and peace which resolves all discord and awakes us to the consciousness of being another bead on the pearl string of humanity – not a bit more, not a bit less.

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