“You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it.”
– Alan Moore
What is an authentic life? It is a life perspective from the standpoint of Self; a life in which one is morally and spiritually answerable only to him/herself. This is not selfishness but rather Self-ness. We are born solo, and we exit solo. In between, it is a choice. The relationships that we forge can be beautiful fillers or bridges that span the shores of birth and death. When one walks over the ‘bridge’ that he built, enjoying the ‘walk’, he is still an individual. He is enjoying the panorama of life and relationships from the standpoint of an individual. He is social, but retains his authenticity. However, the problem occurs when one identifies himself with the bridge itself and tries to make the ‘bridge’ his home. This is when authenticity gives way to demeaning fakery and individuality loses itself to degenerative commonality. Just like how a point or dot is the basic unit of geometry, individuality is the basic unit of an individual’s existence. One’s society is his circumference. It may expand or shrink, or may not even be there depending on the individual’s choice, but the unchanging reference point is the center of the circle—the individual. This individuality is the Self-ness, which is the essential character of an authentic life. When the two important incidents of life—birth and death–are individualistic, then it only makes sense that one retains this individuality in between these two incidents and lead an authentic life. Above all, living an authentic life is a great liberating experience.
“Dialogue means trying to understand the other with an open mind. Dialogue is a rare phenomenon and it is beautiful, because both are enriched. In fact, while you talk, either it can be a discussion – a verbal fight, trying to prove that I am right and you are wrong – or a dialogue. Dialogue is taking each other´s hand, moving together towards the truth, helping each other to find the way. It is togetherness, it is a cooperation, it is a harmonious effort to find the truth. It is not in any way a fight, not at all. It is a friendship, moving together to find the truth, helping each other to find the truth. Nobody has the truth already, but when two persons start finding out, inquiring about the truth together, that is dialogue – and both are enriched. And when truth is found, it is neither of me, nor of you. When truth is found, it is greater than both of us who participated in the inquiry, it is higher than both, it surrounds both – and both are enriched.”
Think outside the box – a cliché in business world. If you agree that creation is essentially dual in nature, and that seemingly opposite principles are ‘bound’ to each other by tangible or intangible forces, then it should not be difficult to understand that the conceptual opposites – problem and solution – should also occur in pairs. In highly competitive business environments where heavy-weight words like radical change, groundbreaking technology, breakthrough invention, innovation, etc. are tossed around abundantly because they are required at times, misunderstood some times, and sounds fashionable many a time, it’s difficult to see the sensibility and practicality of ‘thinking inside the box’. This approach looks at the problem as a part of the system that has one or a few ‘wrong notes’; a local-area malfunctioning that requires fixing and that is all. The fixing or the intervention is done from within the system using the very elements and processes of the system. This is an organic approach, and by its very nature thinking-inside-the-box approach gives a sustainable solution to the problem. It is sustainable because the solution is brought about from within the system by using its own constituents without introducing a foreign element. When a totally new element or process is brought in to a system to address a problem, which is what a think- outside-the-box approach would do, the new element dominates the existing system due to the importance attached to it by human intervention, and it tends to change the entire set-up around it in compliance with it’s own nature. Eventually, the whole system is subjected to unnecessary change, when all that is required is a simple, local addressing of the problem area. Yes, sometimes the very foundation requires change. But that is altogether a different situation. The situation in this case is a need for invention. And this requires out-of-the-box thinking because thinking out of the box is essentially a creative and inventive act. But for finding solutions to problems and even for improving a situation, the way is to think inside the box. It would do much good if we know what we are addressing and what we want – whether a problem or a system-change and whether a solution or an invention. The following quote sums it well:
“If you never venture outside the box, you will probably not be creative. But if you never get inside the box, you will certainly be stupid.”
– Christopher Peterson
It is very important to understand the difference between barriers and boundaries, especially in relationships. A barrier is a complete shut out of any kind of communication – physical, verbal and non-verbal – against a person or entity or even a thought. It is an extreme act, almost irreversible especially when the barricade is against a person because of the hypersensitive nature of human beings and is advisable only when there is a strong ground to do so. But whereas boundaries are barriers with doors and windows – in other words, privacy and socializing are balanced in a delicate manner. Unlike a barrier, which can be forgotten for good once it has been erected (usually, against someone), a boundary is a dynamic act and requires constant defining and re-defining. It is a mutual silence and simultaneously a mutual dialogue too, across the boundary; it is an acknowledgement and respect for each other’s need for nurturing his or her individualism and also each other’s need to share. The one who knows to draw and re-draw dynamic boundaries will have get to enjoy the best of the two opposite worlds – privacy and society.
Why are shortcuts so tempting? Because that is the nature of ‘bad stuffs’… that is their selling-point: easy and quick. Most scandals and misbehavior involve shortcuts, and it is a well-known fact that, in most of the cases, shortcut approach fails. The reason being, any objective worth attaining requires our time and energy. The experience and the consolidation of the knowledge /skill that happens as one walks the ‘long route’ to one’s goal is bypassed and missed while taking the shortcut route. This is the main reason why shortcuts fail. They are character-deficient paths. Anybody can walk a shortcut path – and that leads to the other reason why shortcuts usually fail us: since it is an easy and seemingly a ‘smart’ choice, the crowd in the narrow lanes of shortcuts is more. In other words, there is more (unethical) competition in shortcut routes than in the long routes of life. There is always less competition where discipline, dedication, perseverance and ethics are involved. None of the above mentioned qualities are any ‘quickies’. These are robust qualities that are essentially built for, and built “
travelling the long routes of life, which are the logical and definite paths to our goals.
“Short cuts make long delays.”
– J. R. R. Tolkien
“What is a rebel? A man who says no.”
Rebellion need not necessarily be violent in nature. It can also be a subtle yet firm show of individuality, courage and clarity about the self.
“We are our choices.”
– Jean Paul sartre
Choices are given to man so that he can make mistakes! I am sorry for sounding pessimistic, but I don’t have a negative outlook about mistakes. They have their place and purpose in life. But that does not warrant us to make mistakes, especially avoidable mistakes. It is natural to get confused when we are confronted with too many choices, or for that matter, even the presence of just two choices can cause great confusion. Indian philosophy has a very powerful technique to understand the ultimate reality or truth. It gets to the real nature of the self by rejecting, one by one, that which is not real or false. It’s called ‘Neti Neti’ in Sanskrit language, which means ‘not this, not this.’ Apophatic theology or the negative theology of the West is a similar concept wherein the religious experience and language about the divine good is understood through discernment. Of course, these are grand concepts that I am talking about, but nevertheless they could be applied to mundane choices of life too. When there are too many choices, and when they are all seemingly equal in ‘weight’, focus on what you don’t like or what is deficient in each of the choices. ‘NO’ is always more powerful than ‘YES’. So, start with what each choice does NOT have, and eliminate it from your pool of choices. And start from the one that has the biggest deficiency in whatever are your parameters or specifications required for the situation. This is the quickest and reasonable way to make the right choice. At the least, it will reduce the number of contestant and make your selection process more easy.
“In the end that was the choice you made, and it doesn’t matter how hard it was to make it. It matters that you did.”
– Cassandra Clare
“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” ~ Anaïs Nin
“I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.”
– W. Wordsworth
What is wrong in being judgemental ? And why is so much negativity attached to this word? We respect the words ‘Judge’ and ‘Judiciary ‘ but we abhor the word ‘judgemental’!! We are repeatedly and strongly advised against being judgemental, while every nation has a supreme or an apex court, numerous sub-judiciaries, committees, and cultures that pass judgements, which a civilized society reveres and obeys. Why is this kind of self-contradiction and hypocrisy when it comes to judging at a micro, individual level? Every sane human being will judge, either consciously or sub-consciously, and whether he or she likes it or not. We are advised to think logically. We are trained to make rational decisions. How can logic and rationality be present without the presence of judgment? Most people have no problem if a situation is judged, but if it is a person that is being judged, the alarm buzzes! Is there any situation that is devoid of the involvement of human beings? Who creates the situation? We, the humans. Then it is just a matter of common sense that in order to judge a situation, the people involved in it should be judged too. But there is one important condition here – do not judge if it is not necessary. Most of the time, most of us, waste precious time and mental energy in judging people and situations that are not necessary. Probably this is the reason why, eventually, the act of judging at individual level came to be criticized. When there is less of reason and more of emotion involved in judging, then of course, it is a definite No. But otherwise, do judge; judge with reason only those that the faculty of reasoning sanctions you to judge, and make sound decisions.