In today’s Vlog, I point out that success and failure are mere labels that society tries to pin on to us. To be happy, we must take neither seriously!
Viewing time: 2:38 minutes
You are not what, or who, you think you are.
A reader pinged me and asked me these questions: “Why are we made a certain way and all our lives asked not to be that way? Why do we have expectations and ambitions and then we are asked to not expect results of our actions? We have anger, we are asked to control anger. We are selfish, we are asked to be compassionate and selfless. Why are all cherished moral values always about what we are not?”
Now, those are beautiful questions. The last one, particularly, sums up the conundrum that we humans cannot escape. I too was plagued by that question. But then through awareness, and evolution, came a greater understanding of Life. And with that came the answer to that question. The reason why we are battling with our identity, why we think we are being asked to develop qualities that is not naturally us, is because we are not what, or who, we think we are.
Consider the time when you were an infant that was still trying to make sense of this world. Did you have any anger, any hatred, any jealousy, any grief in you? You just were. You lived in the moment. You were true to yourself and true to your immediate Universe. Apart from your biological needs, you had no wants. You were not bothered about what people thought of you even if you were wearing no clothes! Over time, society began to impose dos and don’ts on you. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Go to school. Be properly mannered. And surely, subconsciously, you became a hostage of social norms. In fact you, me, everyone is this way even today. Our true nature is selfless. But we have to put on a show of being selfish – otherwise we fear that we will be cheated. You don’t want to go fight with anyone. But if your neighbor irritates you, you have to show your anger to tell her or him to back off. You don’t think much about money, but society expects you to have it to the extent of being able to pay your bills. So you end up keeping a job you hate. And so you are unhappy. Because you are unhappy, you are frustrated. And angry. And jealous. So, you see how these dots are connecting eerily, scarily? Truth is, this is how you have become something that you are not. And because you are living this lie, this fake Life, you are suffering. And it is your suffering, however benign it may be in some cases, or however pronounced and rabid it may be in others, makes you ask these questions. You hate being this way. And you hate it even more when you start imagining that it is impossible for you to be any other way.
In fact, if you understand Life fully, all about you that you think of as being extra-ordinary, and not always attainable or sustainable, is actually your natural state. For instance, your natural state is happiness, you are naturally compassionate, selfless, loving, calm and giving. But because you have become a slave of societal norms and expectations, because you are conditioned to a thinking, feeling and behaving in a certain way, you think to possess all those qualities you have to become extra-ordinary. Actually, you don’t need to become anything. If you just un-become all that you are not, you will be who you really are.
There is no lack of love in the world. You don’t find it because you are looking for it in the wrong places.
A friend feels that she has gone far beyond the “normal marriageable age” and is worried stiff that she is still single at 40. Her family adds to her sense of insecurity by painting dark scenarios of how lonely her Life will become in the next 20 years. Hearing her share her predicament, I wondered if she was actually sounding like Mahendra Kapoor in Kismat (1968, O.P.Nayyar, S.H.Bihari, Manmohan Desai)! On a more serious note, I believe if people say they can’t find love in Life they are probably looking for it in the wrong places.
First let us understand that being in love (as in the context of two people and their romantic liaison) need not necessarily entail marriage or living in together. True love is when you can relate to someone. And often you will find many, many, many people who you can relate to if you can drop conventional definitions of what your companion should be like.
A friend of ours has been in a bad marriage for 35 years – of which, in the last 20 at least, he has been living separately. He has still not got a divorce from his wife because they spar every time they discuss it. He is 60 now. 4 years ago he found someone, who is 20 years younger to him, who brought meaning and joy into his Life. She has a daughter in high school and our friend has a daughter who is married (she just had a baby girl making our friend a grandfather!) and a son who is 30. Our friend and his lady friend have come to an understanding that they enjoy each other’s presence in their lives. And at the end of the day, he says, he feels cared for and happy. “Sex is important. Physical intimacy is required. But I don’t need to live in with her for these. We are celebrating each other’s presence in our lives. Our companionship means the world to me,” he adds.
This maturity and pragmatism is required when you are looking for love. Just because, per our social framework, a marriage is deemed as “sacred” and “mandatory”, it doesn’t mean that those who can’t either get married or stay in a marriage are “unholy” and “anti-social”. It doesn’t also mean that people who are single are incapable of receiving love or of loving another.
Here’s a disclaimer: I will never know what it means not to have companionship in Life. If there is something that I feel blessed about in Life it is the friendship I have with Vaani and the beautiful journey we share. So, forgive me if my perspective here does not come from personally relating to the experience of those who are seeking love in Life. Even so, I feel, from just looking around me, there are so many, many people out there who are wanting and waiting to be loved. If you drop your fixed ideas of who will make a great companion, you may well find love and companionship in a nano-second!
Your circumstances are no indication of your true nature, your capability or potential.
Last week we had lunch with a prominent industrialist who sought us out after reading my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal (Westland). He confided in us that he was on the verge of bankruptcy. He feared that if he came out and told this to the world, he would lose his reputation and his social stature. But he was not liking hiding the truth either. He felt he was unable to face the world living this dual Life – of putting on a rich-and-famous front while actually borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. He sounded broken and beaten. He wanted to know how he must handle his situation.
We did not offer him business advice. Instead, we asked him to first understand that resisting or hiding from his reality was not going to help him at all. He had to realize that only facing his reality could help him deal with the situation. So, we suggested to him that instead of running away, he must actually be open about his problems, wear his bankruptcy on his sleeve and deal with it one day at a time. His bankruptcy was just a phase of his Life. He has been very successful over the years. And this phase does not mean that he lacks business acumen or that he is a poor human being.
Consider this: if a Mercedes Benz were to be driven through a dirt track, does it mean the Merc has lost its class? Of course not. So it is with you and me. You are who you are. Period. Sometimes the going’s great. Sometimes it’s tough. To imagine that what’s happening to you is a reflection of your capability or potential is not abundance thinking. It is plain, unimaginative thinking and reflects a poor understanding of Life. But if you have been thinking so, like the industrialist we met, let me comfort you by telling you that you alone are not to blame. Your upbringing, our society, all of this has conditioned you to think that you are as good as what you have. And what you have is evaluated by society only by its material value – mainly fame and wealth. Since peace of mind and happiness have no material value, they are worthless in society’s eyes! So, by social standards, if your business is doing great or if you have a paying job, if you have an apartment with no lien on it, if you have enough retirement fund in the bank, you are great! And if your business fails, you lose your job, if you have your apartment taken away, and no money in the bank, well, then what? Well, then, you are a failure! And interestingly you will believe what society thinks of you and will not even want to consider who you really are!
This conditioning has crippled you. Stop that thinking. Know that all the money in the world cannot buy you your peace of mind or a good night’s sleep or even a moment’s happiness. Your circumstances may be bad, sad, ugly, devastating and torturous. But you can remain untouched, unaffected if you know and believe that you are not what you are going through!