“Problems call forth our courage and wisdom, indeed they create our courage and wisdom”—are the meaningful words quoted by the famous American Psychiatrist and author of the bestseller, The Road Less Travelled,
M. Scott Peck. There have been countless occasions for many of us, wherein we lose track of a sense of time burdened by inner tempests like the pursuit of love, relationships, contemplation of failure, financial and professional burdens or even, the meanings of life. Do we really desire this, or even deserve this? We will see, after a short hiatus.
An island is a land-mass, surrounded by water on all its sides. Islands in modern day world have redefined their traditional meaning in that; we now have artificial islands springing up for commercial and recreational purposes as well. There are islands like the Seychelles and the Mauritius, whose thoughts transport you into a new dimension of fun, pleasure and adventure while there are dreaded ones as well in the Persian Gulf, for instance, which are used as prisons, where people literally spend a life of bondage till death (Remember Azkaban in the Harry Potter? Yes, in similar terms.) You even have the riverine island systems as in the Sundarbans in India and some in the Amazon basin in Brazil. Nevertheless, islands are what they are because of the water that surrounds them. Water again can take two forms— the life-giving eternally gushing liquid or can also transform itself into the Nature’s most potent weapon, in the form of tsunamis, typhoons etc. Nature interweaves this beautiful definition embedded in its roots to Mankind in a similar fashion, reminding them that what makes a man are the problems and emotions that surround him and what he makes of them.
So, what exactly can a man do? What are his issues, his goals, his desires, his objectives, obstacles, his journey and his destination? Can he meet them all alone? The most important and utmost solution is humanity and the virtues and qualities that define it. In Indian culture we have this deeply vested concept of “Mata-Pita-Guru-Deva (Mother, Father, Teacher and God)”, this is the starting point. A person imbibes learning from his parents and teachers as a child. Then he contemplates and invokes God which can also be his inner sense leading to wisdom. They build up his desires, aims, will and goals. These are all steps leading to the self-actualisation of an individual. The skills and knowledge that he imbibes and equips helps build the structure of his journey of life. In this complex but interesting journey he is influenced by two important concepts: Influences and Temptations.
Temptations are mostly vices which try to make him stray off his path or delay his journey, while the influences can be a vision guiding him on his path. A human is subject to various influences in his journey of life. They include his friends, rivals, competitors, acquaintances, his beloved and relations. Each of these characters plays a key role in influencing him on his journey, but the relationship is symbiotic.
A person may have to forsake his career for his loved ones or change his professional tastes. He may be influenced by his friends to various vices. He may develop envy in others owing to his aptitude or sometimes have to deal with a tough and demanding boss. It all depends on what he makes of it, just like someone said : “Life is what you make of it”. If you are thrown a stone, the onus is on you to make a wall or a bridge out of it.
The real beauty and charm of life is living it, experiencing the good as well as the bad, the trials as well as the triumphs. The common thread that runs through life is humanity. It could be anything from gifting a chocolate to your friend’s child, spending a day with the inmates of an old-age home, hugging your spouse and sharing a thank you for what he/she has done for you on the day, thanking your friend for a lift to the bus-stop, social service and philanthropy etc. An important precept of existence is “live and let live”, mutual coexistence on a foundation of tolerance. Human being has been blessed by nature to be the most intelligent and pragmatic of the living beings. The human is not perfect. He has to account for barriers, shortcomings and hurdles like criticism, envy, rivalry, jealousy and even hatred. LIFE redefines itself as an acronym slated as “Live Influenced with Friendship and Envy”. This is universal but appears magnified when the life accounts of celebrities are considered.
We can consider the case of Sachin Tendulkar, arguably one of the greatest cricketers of all times. Despite his prodigious talent, he had to wait for six World Cups to see his dream of an Indian World Cup victory realized. He made his debut in 1992 and India won its second World Cup in 2011. Despite his genius his career was marred by injuries and the unwanted side-effects of being a cricketing sensation. His wife Anjali, a doctor and brother Ajit had to forgo their careers for him. But if he is asked about his journey, he would not have asked for a better one. Social workers like Baba Amte and Mother Teresa are renowned for their service to the poorest of the poor, the suffering and the afflicted. They are renowned for their single minded determination and clarity of purpose on realising their goal of service to the human race.
Life is a give-and-take policy of pleasures, pressures, sacrifices, losses, victories and accolades. The famous poet John Donne (1572-1631) had penned the following lines:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
These lines indicate that no human being is an autonomous entity by itself. Each human being is inextricably connected to other human beings in some way. Just as dirt and sand clods are part of the European continent, so too is each man part of the entire human race; the removal of a clod diminishes the continent, and the removal of a human life diminishes mankind.
Man is a repository of knowledge, skills and emotions. The various natural disasters that wreak havoc on humanity and nature diminish it. For e.g. the devastating Chennai floods of 2015-16 were responsible for huge damage and diminished nature.
Man occasionally turns into an island. This state is due to the ebbs and flow of fortune that he encounters. He can however transform his problems into solutions by building bridges with his fellow human beings. He can build kinship with fellow humans through love, peace, humanity and hard work. In today’s hyper-connected world, technology has helped man to communicate and keep in touch with his fellow human beings. This has strengthened the bonds of kinship and cooperation among human beings.