Sharing our cares

Are we really hardwired to share? Its a question that came up during a random chat with a friend – and I thought it was best to validate the hypothesis against extreme situations. If stuff works in the extremes, it works everywhere.

Lets take the “happiness” extreme first. An executive comes to know he’s won his first big deal, the nurse informs the nervous man at the hospital that the lovely infant she’s holding is his daughter, a chess prodigy wins his first tournament – moments of immense happiness and achievement. For all of the three people, their first impulse on receiving the news would not be to place an order for a ferrari or a jet, but to share their immense joy with those they love. If you are one of the loved ones, you can expect a message from the “happy” folks within minutes. So “sharing” does appear to be the primal impulse for “joyful” stuff.

Let’s look at moments of pain now. A toddler hurts herself badly, a man loses his fortune to an event of destiny, a wife loses her husband to cancer – momentous moments when tragedy seems to take over one’s life. In such moments, after the initial denial and resistance phases, we seem to give over ourselves to a higher power – and hopefully grieve/ suffer in some peace. The toddler runs to her mother for comfort, the man beckons his god for help in reversing his fortunes and the wife probably reaches out to her spiritual guides for lending her strength and understanding during these trying times.

Thus, in moments of pain too, we seem to reach out to share. Of course, while we share our happiness with the intention of having the joy multiply, we offload our worries to those stronger than us hoping to diminish the pain. Either way, the theory that we are hardwired to share seems to hold good.

That said, why do so many of us feel stifled – the sense that we have humongous cares and no one to share them with? That we have the sense of being the unluckiest folks on earth – as evidenced by the numerous long faces, sad shares on facebook (with no responses) and the many long lonely sessions at our overflowing bars?

Perhaps, the issue is more fundamental. Not having a way to share (talking about it, meditating, journalling, dancing, crying, laughing – whatever) seems to be the biggest concern. Drowning sorrows in intoxicants doesn’t seem to be helping.

Even more importantly, not having someone to share our emotions with (a friend, a colleague, a family, a god, a belief system) is a big worry.

The redressals of course are very simple – the implementation and the will to implement it is where we seem to have the challenge. All we need to do is perhaps lighten up a little, stop taking ourselves so seriously. And perhaps perfect the skill of becoming mindful of our world through these new eyes – there are tons of people waiting to be helped and waiting to help as well.

If we can perceive reality dispassionately, we will participate compassionately. No two ways about that.

Love, hate and indifference

This weekend, I was lazily leafing through one of the all time great books (walden) when I came across this quote:

    ‘A man is rich in proportion to the amount of things he can afford to leave alone.’

When you think about it, its a profound quote. It doesn’t say you are rich if you amass wealth, it doesn’t say you are rich if you have richer relations, bigger industries, more land or even more knowledge. Interestingly, it also doesn’t say you don’t have to have all these things either. What the quote says is that the “have part” is irrelevant – you may or may not have all the goodies in the world – in either case you aren’t rich. Its the ability to leave them alone that makes you rich.

The more I think this through, the more the clarity on life I seem to get (and I may not even have got Thoreau’s meaning right in the first place!). One question that all the reflection seems to lead to though is “how many things do we leave alone” today.

A quote I saw on twitter promises to throw some light:

    The opposite of love is not hate, its indifference. If you hate someone, you still care!

Now, things that we love, we will probably leave alone (we may know it as “giving our loved ones space”) – for if we truly love someone, we want “them to be their true selves” and not “who we want them to be”. If your kid loves soccer and is good at it,no matter how much you want him to become a lawyer – you will let take up soccer and the world will richer by one soccer champion.

Its the hate part that I think its tougher to leave alone. When you think about it, most of the time we don’t leave the object of hate or ourselves in peace – and that is why our lives are so poor. Think about a simple incident where someone cuts ahead of you in traffic. Blood boiling, we drive our car abreast and abuse him, he probably returns the favour in kind. We get home but cannot enjoy life – the incident fuelled by hate keeps doing a looped playback in our heads!

I did an inventory today of how much of my time was spent on stuff that I hated – and perhaps would be better being indifferent about. A quick check and I realise if I could just knock this one trait into my system, I probably would gain many, many extra hours of peace everyday. Perhaps this is what sadguru jaggi vasudev meant – he seems to be recommending we loosen our personality (of which the hate is an integral part!) to allow awareness to flood in. After all, its perhaps nicer to be empty and host a god than be full of hatred and host a demon inside? And our families, friends and colleagues I am sure would love that as well?