Arguing endlessly and being bitter is not going to change any reality.
Suddenly, the US of A is divided. Shockingly polarized. I have been to that great country so many, many times. And I love the people there immensely. Our son lives there, just as several members of our extended families do. Yet, I have never seen so much division out there, ever.
Just look at your Facebook feed and you will know what I mean. So many, many, many people hate Trump and fear ‘his’ America. Yet, an apparent majority sentiment against him, and all the fear-mongering and protesting, isn’t going to prevent Trump’s inauguration on January 20th next year. His election is an act of people’s will, of a duly laid out constitutional process. No amount of debate is going to change it. No protests are going to make things any better or different for the protestors.
Free speech is enshrined in most democracies in the world. And USA’s is a beautiful, thriving democracy. Yet, even as people are expressing themselves freely, there’s a great deal of angst and intolerance that’s visible, palpable. Political ideology has divided people at a social level. And that’s a sad thing to happen. I believe a conversation that cannot allow a candid, calm and constructive discussion is not a mature one. What we all have to recognize is that whether someone supports one leader or the other, the core issue here is that everyone want better leadership. Each one feels the person he or she is inspired by is a better leader. Now, if you don’t support someone’s choice of leadership, discuss and debate about the leader and leadership – don’t rubbish the person you debate with hoping to win an avoidable, vitriolic argument. This serves no purpose. Actually, honestly, even social media posts serve no purpose in such debates. But they do serve as a means of expressing ourselves freely. Such expression must be respected and any personal or acerbic remarks must be avoided ideally and surely expunged!
I have learnt that arguments over anything – not just over a political or academic or religious or ideological viewpoint – serve no purpose. They end up raising the decibel level and increasing acrimony. An argument is really an ego game. It is always fought over who is right than what is right. Interestingly, at a deeply spiritual level, even right and wrong is relative. What may be right to someone may always appear wrong to someone else. Or what may be right now to someone may appear to be wrong to the same person at another time. So, when what is right is debatable, what’s the point in deciding – that too, over a painful, often wasted, argument – who is right?
Osho, the Master, explains this beautifully: “Life is not divided into black and white – a lot of it is more like gray. And if you see very deeply, white is one extreme of gray and black is another extreme, but the expanse is of gray. So one can see it as white and one can see it as black. It is as if a glass is there, half full, half empty. Somebody says it is half full and this is the truth and somebody says it is half empty and this is the truth… and they start fighting. All arguments are more or less like that.”
The upcoming Trump Presidency offers us all a chance to evolve into being more tolerant. There’s an opportunity here for us to learn to avoid the urge to belligerently argue. And stop wanting to be right and to be seen as right. If you have an opinion that is fair and constructive, and if you think all parties in the discussion will have the maturity to accept it, express it. If you believe that maturity is lacking in the forum, exercise your right to not participate. Ideally every perspective shared in a discussion must be constructive and must create value. If you can’t ensure that, it’s a simpler and intelligent response to just remain silent.
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To follow your bliss, all you need is to decide what you want from your Life. Nothing else is either necessary or matters!
I curate a monthly Event Series at the Odyssey Bookstore in Chennai called The Bliss CatchersTM. Each month I invite guests who have gone on to do what they love doing. I talk to them to understand how they have followed their bliss. Last evening, as the June edition of the Series wound down, a member in the audience asked me if following your bliss was really possible when one had financial and familial responsibilities and commitments? Besides, he added, if someone’s bliss – like traveling – required money, won’t it be important for that person to first save up that amount and then follow their bliss? Which means, is following one’s bliss then the exclusive privilege of a select few?
I am often asked this question. So, I was hardly surprised when it came up again.
First let us understand what bliss really is. In recent times, American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell (1904~1987) has demystified bliss and has made it both understandable and accessible to those who are ready and willing to follow what they truly believe in and come alive with. Bliss is definitely not what you attain sitting under a tree. It is who you are. It is what makes you come alive. Which is why Campbell says follow your bliss. So to someone it may mean cooking, to someone else it may be gardening, to another it may be traveling and so on. Another way to know what your bliss is, is to ask yourself what would you like to be doing in your Life if money were no object. If you didn’t have to worry about earning money or paying your bills, what would you want to do? That which you so absolutely love doing is then your bliss.
However, in the real world, you can’t escape money or materialism. So, how then can we pursue what we love doing without upsetting our material ecosystem? There is no straightforward method or answer available here. Just as bliss is uniquely personal, so is the way to follow it. To each one their own. So, at best, we can try to follow a simple thumb rule though.
Decide what you want from your Life. First understand what your bliss is by asking what you would be doing if you didn’t have to earn money. Then, examine your current reality and ask yourself: Are you working for joy? Or are you working for joy and profit? Or are you working only for profit, only for money?
In any context and in anyone’s Life, all three scenarios are possible. You must address all three before you decide which one you prefer. Obviously, a no-brainer is that the best scenario is when we can get both joy and profit from the work we do, from the bliss we (wish to) follow. But if you are stuck in a job or business that gives you only profit and money, and if you want the money more than your inner joy, then there is no point grieving over the lack of joy in your Life! And if you are experiencing joy doing the work you are doing, and are not making enough money from it, then don’t grieve the lack of money in your Life! Either you can try and bring joy into your Life if you have only money or bring money in your Life if you have only joy! Be clear. Be decisive. If you want a different scenario from what you currently have, remember you have to change your Life! Be clear about what you want, and go for it. Please don’t complain, please don’t whine, pine or grieve. So, really, following your bliss is not a limiting philosophy or idea. You limit yourself with your thinking, with your arguments, with your logic, fear and insecurities. Period.
If you examine your Life, all your unhappiness comes from not doing what you want to do or from doing what you don’t want to do. So, to do what you love doing, you must decide what you want from Life. Like so many, many others have done. Look around you. You will discover that almost every story of world-class performance and success (in purely real-world, material terms), in any field, conforms to this philosophy. Simply then, if you want to be happy, if you want lasting inner joy, go be the best at whatever you love doing. Money will always follow.
You don’t have to win every argument that you end up getting into.
Last evening we sat with someone who was willing to consider our business plan and help us with finding potential partners who may be interested in working with us. He is a person with a genuine interest in wanting to help us. However, Life doesn’t operate with logic alone. Our story particularly defies logic at many points. It is at the same time both miraculous and absurd. As the conversation progressed I noticed that the gentleman was coming down with a scathing critique of our Life so far which bordered on being dismissive of our efforts to rebuild our business and implored us to ‘get out of our comfort zone’. It soon became apparent that my efforts to explain why some things have not worked out the way they logically should have were not being considered. Beyond a point, Vaani and I did not see value in justifying what has been or envisioning, with this gentleman, what will be. We sat back, smiled and remained silent.
I have nothing against this gentleman. He has the noblest of intentions. And what he suggests we do is something we have already been trying to do – with often limited or no success. So, while we see synergy in the direction and options proposed, I still gave up trying to explain and justify because it is not my trip in Life – not anymore – to convince anybody of who we are or what our intentions are. I find arguments and debates totally worthless. It does not matter if you are not seen as doing right or being correct. At least to Vaani and me, it doesn’t matter at all. We know who we are. We know what we are going through. And we know what we are doing to get out of what we are going through. As long as we are true to ourselves, as long as our efforts are genuine, we really have stopped getting frustrated, anxious over wanting – and failing – to convince someone of our intentions.
Whatever disturbs your inner peace must go out of your circle of influence. Even if it is your desire to be seen as doing right and being correct. So, whenever you can’t convince someone, don’t fret, simply smile, fall silent and let things just be!