Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. These pragmatic words carry as much pertinence to humans in this day and age as they did 400 years ago when William Shakespeare wrote them in his play, All’s Well That Ends Well. Sadly, however, due to our regressive development and human frailties, not many have understood them. We hardly know the concept of love; we self-worship and self-aggrandise. Our sham, strategic, surficial love is time, space and need specific. In most of us, love – albeit in a relatively purer form – never blossoms due to multiple layers of ego and pride that engulf our predatory mind. We hardly trust anyone, least of all ourselves. We don’t miss opportunities to undermine our competitors and threats, and even our friends and relatives; our jealous, sadistic mind rejoices their failures. Our vanity and vengeful nature invariably gets the better of us.
The human world may have never been as polarised as it appears to be now. We are divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’ at all levels of our existence. Logically, the world may not be able to sustain those divisions much longer; it does not look it may all end well. Ominous dark clouds of war loom; only fools are not able to see them, perhaps they don’t want to see them, similar to ostriches known to bury their heads in sand.
Strange are the ways of life. It keeps presenting us with hurdles and challenges that keep testing our character – our will, resilience and tenacity – till we breathe our last. Only a few grow out of those challenges – wise, emancipated, kind and refined. Our adversities not only test the human in us but also allow us to grow spiritually. However, the reality is each one of us responds differently to rises and falls in our lives; some lose their head whereas some remain grounded in all shades of time. No two people emerge the same from a common adversity; one remains stuck forever to the past, while as the other moves ahead with greater acceleration. William Shakespeare – in his play, As You Like It – tries to uplift us:
Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
Differential human growth
Life reveals its mysterious shades in so many mysterious ways. How often do we see a person who, despite his personal suffering, suffers – spiritually and mentally – for the people who may have caused or contributed to the reason – directly or directly – of his suffering? Not very often! Why? People generally remain bogged and stuck to their past misfortunes because either (a) their past wounds – psychological and physical – are too deep to heal in one lifetime; or (b) they constantly nourish their past wounds with painful memories of their suffering; or (c) they keep wishing for retribution. And they may not be blamed; they are just poor humans – herd animals, not angels.
Most people cling to the memories of their personal suffering, they nourish vengeful wishes that greater suffering befall their adversaries. Wishful thoughts of revenge cloud their mind and the ability to think with prudence.
But, life kneads and moulds each one of us differently. There must be many people and, in fact, there are many people who do manage to transcend common human frailties and do suffer immensely for the same very people against whom they may have serious past grievances. Although this may sound oxymoronic, nonsensical or weird to many people, a question still arises: ‘What makes such people suffer for their past adversaries?’ The answer could be perhaps their past suffering may have churned them to the extent it brought out the best out of them and purged their soul of anger, hate, ill-will and retribution; perhaps their empathy far exceeds their personal suffering; perhaps they don’t want the history to repeat itself; or perhaps they understand that forgiveness is the best medicine for self-healing and liberation of one’s soul from a karmic cycle of perpetual pain and suffering. Such people never rejoice the suffering of other people, let alone the suffering of the people who share a common ancestry with them, those who are born from their soil, eat their food and speak their language.
Empathy, compassion and care define the level of growth in a human being. Shockingly, these virtues are also seen as the signs of weakness in many socio-political situations and as cowardice when shown towards ‘them’ in this polarised world of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Now, what do we do with these people? Should they be crucified? Are they sinners?
- Should the emotional response of empathetic people be considered socially unacceptable and politically blasphemous?
- Does empathy make one weak?
- Does compassion make one a coward?
- Should people with empathy and compassion be considered lesser humans?
- Are forgiveness and empathy not acceptable if shown towards ones perceived adversaries?
- Are humans meant to be unforgiving and revengeful towards ones perceived adversaries?
- Is nourishing and exhibiting an animalistic sense of retribution necessary to qualify one as a ‘normal’ person?
If the general answer to all above questions is yes, the world has surely not understood Gautama Buddha and Jesus Christ, both messengers of peace and forgiveness. Are we still living in the medieval ages despite looking educated, sophisticated and civilised? Are our civilised words hollow? Our suffering should have normally helped us to grow but, sadly, that does not happen with most of us.
Our past may be full of wrongs – for and against us – but prudence demands our present must be saved from more wrongs being committed if peace is allowed to prevail, or else the cycle of pain will keep moving perpetually. Two wrongs never make one right.
Anything that one would not wish to go through oneself must never be unleashed on others or even entertained as a thought. Do unto others what you wish for yourself. Your actions will return to you with multipliers. Never forget that, at the end of the day, each one of us will return to the earth as a mere handful of dust, sans our pride.
Humans strive for freedom – of expression, thought and action – which must be considered as a matter of our birthright provided, of course, our freedom does not trespass or infringe upon the freedom of our fellow beings. Humans – poor or rich, uneducated or educated – are born with an intrinsic expectation to be respected. Active listening reflects one of the most important aspects of respect that we can show towards the other person.
Where a government does not listen to public, it loses respect, faith and trust of people. Where parents don’t listen to their children, they effectively lose them; children turn rebellious as soon as they grow. If parents try to confine their children against their will, government takes them away, at least in the civilised world.
It is never an internal matter for anyone – an individual or a family or an organisation or any government – when it is about human beings. Even attempt to commit suicide is a serious criminal offence in all countries, carrying a jail term, and so are acts of abortion and euthanasia in many countries.
If humans can’t enjoy free will and absolute control over themselves, how can they claim to have absolute freedom to control and restrain other people against their will? Matters concerning human beings are never an internal matter for any family, organisation or a country; a number of world organisations do maintain a close vigil.
If people are to be won, their hearts must be won. Force does not win hearts. One needs to have a good heart to be able to connect with another good heart. Broken, sad hearts are potential seeds of greater sadness for the wider world. Our political head tends to mislead us in the matters of heart. Similarly, trust is not a matter of right, it is earned painstakingly over long periods of time, with goodwill and sincerity; however, it takes just one wrong act – of lie and deceit – to lose it. One must be genuine so as to receive genuine hugs from others. One must be sincere before expecting sincerity from other people. What goes around comes around.
History is full of examples of authoritarian, repressive and dictatorial regimes that caused significant damage to the very country they ruled. The present is witnessing an ominous trend of political trickery and subterfuge across the globe. Political and social sophistication, decorum and protocol – which one reads in the school books – seem to be fast fading to a distant past. Social media and electronic mass media are tactfully abused, by authoritarian regimes and compromised (flawed) democracies, for undertaking political chicanery.
A political act that alienates others and leaves deep, painful, and permanent, generational memories in them is never worth undertaking. Pressure-cooker situations must be avoided in all cases, especially if the pressure-valve is kept closed. Humans behave as springs, the more they are compressed, the more is the ferocity with which they recoil.
A common person is tricked into seeing and believing in mirage – something that does not exist. Fear psychosis is used to manipulate people; so do false promises and hollow incentives. Common person has been made to suffer from an incurable disease of illusion, rather delusion in most cases. People regurgitate what they are fed day and night through social media and the power-controlled mass media. The so-called educated people seem to have lost common sense, independent thoughts and the ability to think critically. Blissfully, some of those who can’t read or write – and don’t have access to social media – may be able to retain some degree of common sense and perhaps also the gift of independent thinking.
Ethical and moral degradation, reflected by a blatant use of misleading lies and might, seems to have become an accepted order of the day. But truth never dies. It remains alive in the deepest nooks and corners of our conscience.
A liar always knows the truth and can never escape from oneself. A liar may tell thousand lies to suppress the truth but it will emerge, sooner or later. A liar may deceive the whole world but not oneself. As long as there is one living person who knows the truth, Nature knows it. That one person could be the liar himself.
Those who nurture the seeds of retribution and revenge, for whatever reason, legitimate or not, actually nurture the seeds of doom and death. They get imprisoned in a perpetual cycle of suffering. They don’t realise their liberation actually lies in their forgiveness of their adversaries – real or perceived.
One who derives pleasure in the suffering of another person has fallen spiritually. One who justifies such pleasure has fallen both morally and ethically. One who justifies and legitimises the suffering of another person has fallen as a human. How can we see peace if we keep nourishing the seeds of revenge and hate in our hearts? History repeats itself.
These days, it is not very easy to see a friend from a foe, or decide what is genuine and what is not. Our world seems to be messed up, by us and us alone. Perhaps we are too many people on this planet, all fighting for survival. Our population has multiplied more than 7 times in the past 400 years and in the next three decades, the multiplier is expected to shoot up to 9.5. Our demands far exceed our natural resources. We have degraded at all levels and become civilised predators. We survive by encroaching on one another’s space – physical, mental and spiritual. Our predatory growth is not sustainable by any measure; Nature will work through us and cut down our numbers significantly. We will fight war and we will see death and devastation around us.
It will be appropriate to end this article with a quote from Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain): It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. … Bill K Koul (05 October 2019)
[Author’s note: The author was born to a mother who was an embodiment of love, kindness and forgiveness. Before she passed in 2008, at 63, she seemed to have forgiven many people, including her own family members and close relatives, who had tested the limits of her tolerance and suffering at all levels – spiritual, mental and physical, some of whom she served almost till her very end. She believed digging up the past issues keep creating ever new conflicts that trap one in a perpetual karmic cycle and, therefore, advised one must forgive so as to break free.
The author is a practicing professional engineering consultant whose work and thoughts are underlined by logic and rationale. He does not regurgitate or feed to popular socio-political views. Some people may call him pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-secular for his independent views. Being in the middle, the rightists may perceive him as a leftist and the leftists may perceive him as a rightist.]