The essence of life is struggle,
and the effort to overcome odds generates a thrill,
an elevated state of existence which is its own reward.
No man who ever lived on this earth has escaped confrontation with the most baleful fact of existence: that one’s journey through life is beset with inequities; that selfishness, unreason and sometimes-downright wickedness vie with justice and fair-play. The treachery of one against another has been the leitmotif of some people in the tapestry of human civilization.
Conspiracies arising out of the “motiveless malignity” of the Iagos against the Othellos of the world have not only been hatched in all climes and communities, but what is so unsettling is that often they have succeeded also, exterminating perfectly lovable and honest human beings. History abounds in instances of the crucifixion of some of the noblest men who had only the good of mankind as their ideal. Jesus was nailed to the cross, Gandhi was shot dead and Socrates drank a cupful of deadly hemlock. They all made the supreme sacrifice in the service of mankind.
What wrong had the 59 ‘kar sevaks’ done, who were charred to death at Godhra in S–6 coach of Sabarmati Express on Feb 27, 2002? Or what was the crime of 1267 people butchered in riots that broke out across North and Central Gujarat after the Godhra carnage? Or what reprehensible act had the Sikh community indulged in that they had to suffer the pogrom in November 1984 immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi?
Many other instances of injustice also come to one’s mind. Many people who have committed no crime have gone to prison or the gallows when they should not have; and those who should have been behind bars, got off scot free. Recall a more personal experience you must have had in your school days when you may have sometimes been punished for something you didn’t do and at times you were not taken to task for something you had done! Who to blame for the unfortunate death of about 25000 people in the Bhopal gas-leak disaster in December, 1984 at the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL)?
Often human or clan pride has led men to the battlefield; personal ambition of tribal chieftains has caused a lot of bloodshed. Self-aggrandizement, craving for money and power, and lust for sensuality have occasioned many a butchering. Wars have been fought in the name of religion inspite of the fact that no religion professes it; on the contrary it teaches us to live in harmony and peace.
Not only humans but even Nature is no less cruel. A falling rock may tumble down on a perfectly innocent wayfarer, a snake might lodge its poison in the tender body of a sleeping infant in a jhuggi, or an earthquake may entomb the entire unsuspecting, slumbering population of a town. The devastation of Latur in the 1993 earthquake comes to one’s mind immediately. Tornadoes, Hurricanes and Tsunamis may cause havoc by way of wanton destruction and death. One recalls with trepidation the ruination of the Pacific Coast of Japan caused by the 97 foot high Tsunami in March 2011 that also triggered the nuclear crisis at Fukushima. The fury of Nature is etched indelibly in the human psyche.
At times, fate also may strike an apparently fiendish blow to a thoroughly guileless man. A notable example of the Everest hero Maj. H.P.S Ahluwalia immediately comes to mind. He was felled by the dreaded paralysis reducing his magnificent and irrepressible limbs to deadwood-like mockeries, imprisoning his soaring spirit in un-obeying flesh. Was Nature not cruel to Beethoven - the greatest composer of symphonies who couldn’t listen to his own music? Has Nature not been cruel to Stephen Hawking, a great physicist, in confining him to a wheelchair and also not being able to speak?
Again, the success that man achieves in acquiring fame or riches may be, at times, inversely proportional to his merits and efforts. Now, that surely is not what ought to be, yet it is so. Fretting about it, though justified and understandable, is just an exercise in futility.
No two individuals think alike, they being the product of different environment and endowed with different genes. Naturally, their opinions differ greatly. Consequently, whenever two human beings get together there is bound to be difference of opinion, occasionally leading to friction causing much tension. Even a happily-married husband and wife have their unpleasant moments of petty quarrels, sometimes on trifles, in their effort for one - upmanship.
Although the instances given above make the world look a gloomy place to live in, yet it need not be so. We have to think coolly. Undeniably, many an innocent soul has been put behind bars but justice has also been done to thousands. No doubt Maj. Ahluwalia was paralyzed after being hit by a bullet in the 1965 Indo-Pak war but Nature gave him an indomitable spirit to face life boldly; single handedly he set up a Spinal Injury Centre at New Delhi, a unique medical institute in the country.
I have observed that most of the time whenever one is deprived of some power Nature ensures that as compensation, some other faculty gets strengthened. Also it is worth remembering, that at times what appears injustice on the surface, on closer and deeper examination, turns out to be absolutely fair. Some decisions taken by senior people may appear bizarre but we must not forget that at any given time decisions are taken on the basis of information available then and seeing the ground realities. The aggrieved party, oblivious of the full facts, always grumbles. No doubt while you struggle, many people get undeserved promotion or an award but let us not forget they are outnumbered a thousand times by deserving, hardworking people.
My experience tells me that in life merit does count. Of course, some differences will invariably remain but they will be in minuscule cases. Let us remember human beings will remain unequal; even in a family, brothers or sisters will not be equal. Who has heard of the relatives of Edison, Newton, Columbus, Sardar Patel, Amartya Sen or Bill Gates? Furthermore, the news of one injustice spreads like a forest fire. It reaches us in a scandalously distorted form whereas millions of cases where justice has been done, being considered as the norm, go unnoticed. Acceded that injustice and inequality in life do exist, they are not so staggering they appear to be.
Undoubtedly, there are perverted or tunnel-visioned people of the ilk of Osama Bin Laden and Hitler who are bent upon defiling the soul of the world. What, then should we do? No man is an island; he is a social animal. We are gregarious beings and hence must live with other people with all their weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. Although it may not be possible to transform this planet into a heaven where everything is just and fair, it is within our reach to make it a better place to live in.
In the joys and sorrows that human life consists of, there are moments when one is supposed to pause and take note of the process of living. Due to our myopia and ignorance we create limited frames. A framed life is circumscribed. One cannot view the whole picture. We want things to happen in our selfish way. This kaleidoscopic world can never constantly cater to our wishes.
Life does not follow the script written by us. Most of us like to live in our comfort zones. We like to play safe. We invest money at the safest place. We drive the safest possible cars. We build safest houses. We like to retain safe jobs. But there are other kinds of people also who are adventurous, who take risks. They may fail on an odd occasion but they are the ones who ultimately succeed and open new avenues for others.
The world troubles us not because there is something wrong with it but the lens through which we see it is perhaps dusty or defective! The world is never what our ego and self-centeredness demand it to be. Not everyone will see the greatness we see in ourselves. Life does not conform to our transient expectations. We are unable to see the complete reality because of our limited awareness. We are lost in our narrow existence of everyday living. If the whole world was our canvas we would not feel the world as fair or unfair. We do not realize the importance of things in our lives till they are gone. Thinking that our boss is overbearing and rude we change our job. But we find other irritants and pinpricks at the new place as well and think that the earlier position was better.
We are like magnets in the world, attracting good or bad elements as our thoughts and emotions direct us to do. In the process of growing up we form a picture of the world which is based on our experiences, beliefs, dreams and aspirations. From childhood onwards these beliefs and expectations get repeated over and over again and our view of life is confirmed. However, if we change the direction of our viewfinder the world may not look so bad. Things that seem bad are not always the worst possible. Sometimes they are just a way of the universe opening up new possibilities for us to enjoy. The outside world is at times a mere reflection of our inner thinking. If we are pessimists, the whole world will appear to be baying for our blood. On the other hand only positive things surround the optimists everywhere.
Many things are beyond human understanding. Cosmic forces have their own matrix. Therefore, to us mortals, life will always remain unpredictable; it will give us no warnings, no red signals will alert us. Pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow, truth and falsehood will continue to be a natural part of human experience. If we think “we” versus “the world”, we shall be miserable. Instead, we should think holistically – ‘we in the world.’
In becoming deeply aware of the so-called whimsical world, there comes a deep understanding and meaningful revelations of the unfathomable designs of the cosmic forces. This understanding helps us greatly in facing the apparently unfair world. Many times we experience extreme despair but that brings in its wake an understanding of the human condition. If we remove from our minds the victim mentality i.e. ‘I’ as a victim always, and look deeper into the purpose of life beyond the sensory and the immediate world, we shall discern that injustice is not so prevalent as it is made out to be.
Once we understand this, pessimism will not overwhelm us. We will regard setbacks in life as bends in the road and certainly not the end of the road. If we exult excessively at a success or surrender to despair when we lose in the game of life, either case we are losing perspective. The course of life is action and adventure. It would be defeatism to opiate ourselves to inactivity. Even if fate seems against us we must emulate Beethoven or Milton or Roosevelt who did not give in and achieved enviable success in their fields. Unsuccessful people resign to the situation and whine whereas successful people do not grumble and carry on as usual. Everybody is made of the same clay but not baked in the same kiln!
Some ups and downs in life are inevitable. We shall not be able to avoid some discomfort, some difficult moments but if we give up, something in us will die. That would be a major catastrophe. We should continue to struggle all the time. The result may not always be what we want it to be, but we should remain undaunted by the unpredictability of the fruits of our actions.
The essence of life is struggle, and the effort to overcome odds generates a thrill, an elevated state of existence which is its own reward. Were the sequence of cause and effect perfectly logical, we would indeed become mechanical and robot-like. So let us treat life as an adventure and savor its quirks and whims: be prepared to accept the quaintness of this world. If our approach towards the universe is detached we shall not feel miserable. A person who is conscious of this will understand or will be fortified by the awareness of the cosmic scheme of things. Even the Buddha said suffering is inevitable. Wisdom lies in training our mind to take the fair and the foul in our stride. By repeatedly doing this we shall reach at the “cusp moment” when our way of looking at things will undergo metamorphosis and the world will appear equipoised, neither fair nor unfair. Life would then just be. There would be joy in living because there will be hope, aspiration and the vision of a brave new world.