It is a good way to make our digital space compassionate and heart-warming!
The vitriolic reactions on social media to Tarun Vijay’s purported statement about South Indians is disturbing. I too found his comment shallow. But I responded posting lyrics of famous Bollywood songs, celebrating dark-skinned people, on my Facebook timeline. “Hum Kaale Hain Toh Kya Hua, Dilwale Hain…” (Gumnaam), “Gore Nahin Hum Kaale Sahi…Humsa Ek Nahin…” (Desh Premee). Clearly, I don’t see the need for so many people to demonstrate so much angst against what can, at best, be termed an immature point of view. Tarun, to his credit, has clarified that he never intended to hurt anyone’s sentiments. But in all the social media din, his clarification has been drowned; it is lost in all the hate that’s being hurled at him.
Of course, racism in any form must be strongly condemned. So, I am not advocating that we condone it. All I believe is that we, as a people, as a society, seem to be investing so much of our productive time, energy and emotions in reacting on social media. And almost all reactions, at most times, are steeped in hatred and divisiveness. It need not be so. An eye for an eye is not called for at all. It will serve no purpose. I have learnt that ahimsa does not only mean non-violent action; it also means non-violent thought. And if we deploy ahimsa thinking in our social media posts, we can make our digital space so much more compassionate and heart-warming.
I don’t want to belabor this point by being preachy. But I do find a simple post that celebrates being human far more enriching to engage with than a well-argued, data-driven post that tell us what’s wrong with our world or than one that spews venom at someone who is unscrupulous or who does not know how to conduct themselves in public Life.
On our morning walk, we see gentleman who walks with a group of noisy men who opine loudly on the previous day’s political developments. The group’s pointless chatter can be heard from a street away. But the man walks silently in group. We don’t know him. He doesn’t know who we are. But every day, unfailingly, when he passes me and Vaani, he will make it a point to look at us and beam a big smile. In writing today’s blogpost, and in discussing the angsty behavior most people display on social media, I found it pertinent to point out the man’s smile in contrast to his group’s mindless cacophony.
I guess you now know what I am encouraging all of us to do.
Don’t allow anything – or anyone – to make you suffer.
My blogpost of yesterday, and a similar point I made in another post from last week, that dealt with “walking away” from a confrontational or a debilitating situation, has elicited more queries from some readers. One felt that it is important for us to try and convince others of our point of view – while giving them airtime to voice their own. Another opined that “walking away” is a sign of weakness, that if we disagree with someone, we must have the “courage” to face them and debate the issue. Yet another wondered if not enjoining in a debate served any purpose at all – “what is the point of having a view if you can’t share it; perhaps someone will benefit from it, won’t someone’s view of Life change if you can convince them?”
So, let me use this opportunity today to further share my understanding and learnings here on why, when and how to “walk away”.
There are two kinds of people in the world. One who are mature, open-minded, constructive and non-combative. The other kind are those who are closed to others’ views and who are rabid to the point of being controlling and hostile. The first kind are simple to deal with. You can share whatever you feel like with them. And you can choose to disagree with them. They will debate only the issue and never get either personal or rabid with you. The second category, even if they are have a strong argument, do not know how to present it constructively, without affecting the dignity of the others concerned with the issue. They make every discussion a debate and every debate eventually ends up being a slugfest. It is this category of people that we must avoid wasting our time – and energy – on. It is from them that I advise walking away. Because, if they are going to disturb your inner peace, make you restive, anxious, angry and agitated, then it is not worth engaging with them at all. Bottomline: your inner peace is your responsibility – protect it, because nobody else ever will.
Therapists and counsellors advise a process called constructive confrontation in matters where people have divergent views. It is a very healthy method that allows both parties – let us say people in a divorce situation – to have an opportunity to present their views without being emotional about it, to listen to the other point of view, agree to agree or agree to disagree, and amicably settle matters or move on. But what do you do when the other party is unwilling or is simply incapable of being constructive? Why would you waste your emotions, your energy and a precious chunk of your lifetime on unproductive confrontations? It is in these contexts that “walking away” is a practical and intelligent response.
Of course, as it always turns out, not just people, sometimes even situations can be very debilitating. Now, when I say, “walk away”, I am not saying give up at the slightest sign of a challenge. I am only saying if you are suffering with something, with someone, in something, please don’t suffer, choose to walk away. Take my own case here. I have been, with Vaani, battling an enduring bankruptcy. But we refuse to give up. We face it every single day. It is very, very painful. Yet we are not walking away. And we are not suffering either. So, if you can deal with a tough situation or a hostile, abrasive or controlling individual, without suffering, by all means hang in there and keep plowing on. But if you are suffering, if your inner peace is disturbed, then remember, you do have an option to just walk away.
The key here is to be non-suffering. This is an art that can be learnt over time. I have learnt this too, the hard way though, and believe now that the best way to win any battle is not to fight at all. It is on this principle that Mahatma Gandhi based, and so successfully executed, our Independence movement way back in the early 1900s. He called it ahimsa. To be sure, ahimsa is not non-violence – it is the complete absence of violence even in thought. His famous line was: “I don’t hate the English. I hate the way the English rule my country.” So, in effect, “walking away” really means choosing to not suffer, by getting away from the source of negativity or debilitation, yet refusing to run away from the issue, facing it and taking it head-on. Like most spiritual concepts this is downright simple, easy to hold and practice. But if you analyze it and try to intellectually dissect it, you will never understand its value or soak in its essence. The best way to see how – and if – it works is to let go and let it work!