Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Springing Free from Moorings
Meeting people can sometimes be an interesting affair.
Once in a way, you meet this someone and as you get to know the person better, you realize that this is who you were just a few years ago. It is as if you are looking into a mirror that is showing you an aspect of yourself, a quality or an attribute that you possessed some years ago, but had not been really aware of.
Occasionally, it is a good quality, a softer sweeter side to you, which you lost, dropped or forgot with the passing of time.
Perhaps, with the changing of circumstances, you got tougher and harder and acquired a steely frame to cover that vulnerable spot that someone in the past had touched with a careless finger…
Or perhaps, no one had appreciated that quality nor encouraged you to cultivate more of it.
And today, when you are looking into the mirror, you wonder why, when and where you left behind that wonderful part of you, and you want to revive it. You feel grateful for having met this person.
The above is not always the case.
It could also happen that you begin to get irritated and uncomfortable with the ways of this person you met a few days ago. When at last you have figured out why and are able to point your finger to a specific habit or a way of behaviour, you may suddenly realize that this was the very quality you had possessed a few years or even a few months ago.
The way people had behaved towards you on some occasions - distancing themselves, counter-arguing for the sake of it, becoming offended when you did not mean offense - is exactly how you find yourself behaving towards this person now. Back then, you wondered what wrong you had done them. Now you know. The mirror is showing you exactly that.
You feel grateful for having met this person too. You feel grateful to know that you are no longer the way you were, that you have grown, moved to the next level and changed for better.
Most important of all, you feel grateful for the lesson you have learnt from this. “You are entirely responsible for the way other people feel towards you.” Well, almost.
We often talk about being misunderstood, mistaken or misjudged. But, somewhere, somehow, we are responsible. For the impressions we make, for the perceptions we create.
Recently I had an opportunity to meet one such ‘person’. Initially he came across as intelligent and conversant. I have always liked a good argument and I thought that after quite a gap of time, I had met someone who could debate on almost any subject for any length of time.
But within a few days, I began to get irritated. He turned every conversation we had into a detailed analysis or argument. He would pick up a word or a phrase or a sentence coming from me and undertake a microscopic dissection of the same. Sometimes, it would be such a waste of conversation - when I casually remarked about something and he would pick that up for dissection - something or someone that did not even matter to us. It would often be a very trivial thing.
Everything I said would be subject to rationalization.
Sometimes I would feel like screaming “Can we talk casually? Without caring about political correctness of every word, every statement?”
Just imagine, conversation would become such a liability to you if each and every word that comes out of your mouth is subject to rationalization, dissection and then correction by the person you are talking to! If you have to speak deliberately, pausing before every sentence to think if its correct - syntactically, semantically, politically and morally - for fear that the one you are speaking to may pick on something and start dissecting it!
I will leave my friend to do what pleases him. That was just an example.
But surely he got me thinking as to why certain people rationalize so much. I am sure it’s a strain to them too.
After some pondering, I thought, perhaps it has to do with the genesis of their identity. Or evolution of identity. At first they believe that they are rationalistic. And their belief in turn creates in them, a habit of rationalising everything around them, and after a while it becomes their nature. We become who we believe we are!
That got me thinking about my own identity.
As we grow up, groping for identity, we hold on to many crutches for support, before we finally find ourselves. Each crutch represents a phase of our life. Each crutch is an image we have of ourselves in our mind – an image of who we are or who we want to become – impressed upon us by those we admire or trust or want to please. As we carry this image with us all the time and everywhere, our actions and our behaviour are determined by that image and also reinforce that image.
I don’t remember when exactly my search for identity began. When I was 12? 13? My memory permits me to go only as far back as that.
I think that for sometime I found my identity in idolising. I lived in an apartment complex and there were a few boys and girls slightly older than me and very popular among all the children. I idolised one or two of them. I admitted their superiority and would talk about them all the time, about the qualities they possessed and the fact that all of us should respect them and those who had messed with them were the villains. Fortunately, this was for a very brief period and I moved on.
Later, was a phase when I found my identity in moralising. I would use words and phrases like moral values, morality, immoral, moral dilution etc. very often in my conversations. I would categorise all people, all their actions as moral or immoral. After listening to what my people had to say, I would moralize. I watched my own actions carefully, with the intention of being ’moral’ and took pride in lending my tuition notes to those who had wronged me. As time passed, I let go that crutch too.
Meanwhile, I had for company, these elderly cousins of mine who were extremely critical. Wherever they went, they found faults. They judged everyone. They were eager to nitpick. Whether or not the matter at hand and the person in question concerned them. And all this criticising, they did with a great relish. And flourish.
Today as I look back and ponder, I realize that they were groping for identity. They perhaps believed that they had high standards in life. They felt a sense of pride in not approving most of what they saw around them. Most of the people. Most of the arrangements. Most of the world. They were above the others. And this, they had to often prove to themselves with a lot of armchair criticism.
Fortunately, I escaped their influence before they could pass their habit to me.
A few years later, an elder, respected by all, visited our house. At the time of his departure, everyone present offered him their respects. Men prostrated and women genuflected. My mother called summoned me but I escaped saying I had to use the bathroom.
This was my rationale. “By touching someone’s feet, I must admit that I am inferior to that person and he is superior. Since all beings are equal and the almighty resides in all, it makes no sense to fall at anyone‘s feet.”
Thank God I did not voice my thoughts. I would have received a blow!
That was the phase of my life when I was beginning to develop newly, a spirit of scientific enquiry and reasoning. I found my identity in being rationalistic. I began to rationalise. I would use logic and reasoning for everything. Blind faith had no appeal, whatsoever.
My turning into an atheist temporarily perhaps was a result of this “being rationalistic“.
As my intellect developed and I started debating, discussing and conversing about various subjects, with people from different backgrounds, age groups, I enjoyed analyzing and subsequently theorizing. I AM analytical and enjoy pondering over various issues.
This blog would not BE if I weren’t analytical.
But I wasn’t particularly selective about the subject of analysis. I would, for hours together, dwell upon all kinds of issues in this world.
More importantly, it was not always ‘I’ who controlled the choice of the subject. My friends, acquaintances and anybody, for want of occupation, could get me to discuss in length, a subject that they fancied. All they had to do was to ask me what I thought about something and I would start. Then, they would go on countering me, no matter what I said. At the end of all the analysis, I only felt strained. Perhaps, this compulsion to analyse was a result of the image I had of myself – that of an ‘analytical person’. And again, this had to do with identity.
I continue to be analytical but I am also selective. And ‘I’ decide what I want to analyse and whether I want to analyse at all. If somebody wants to dissect a subject that does not interest me, I don’t feel compelled to talk, but simply shrug and say “I am not sure…”
Having said all that I have, I cannot declare that I no longer hold a crutch for support, that I have ‘found myself’. Perhaps a few years, or months from now, I will look back at today to find out that I was leaning on some support, if not holding a crutch.
But one thing is sure. I feel free. I feel freer and lighter than ever before.
Today, I do idolise. I do moralise. I do criticise. I do rationalise, analyse and theorise. But not because I find my identity in doing so or being a certain way but because I feel like doing it. It is incidental, not intentional. There is no compulsion, conscious or unconscious.
It feels so good to spring free from the many moorings and simply drift at will, on waters of clarity, away from a perplexing shore, towards my true calling, as the winds of instinct and intuition guide my path, on which I discover, deliberately and serendipitously…not pearls, not emeralds, not rubies but Myself.