Setting an example

We have often been told by our parents, relatives, bosses and numerous others that we have to set an example to others. Younger brothers, team members and children are watching and they’ll take after us. We’ve often told our teams and family members the same – “go set an example, make us proud.”

I got to thinking about this a little today. At first it seemed very self evident – set a standard of excellence and others will be inspired. Be the bar that others in the neighborhood look upto.

But what if you failed? What if you flunked your exams, threw tantrums (that you aren’t proud of – but what the heck?!). What if you were the poorest performer in your group? What indeed if you were the guys that people pointed to in the street and said – “do your homework and respect your elders – or you’ll end up like him?”.  Were we doomed to a life of guilt – after all, no matter what the score there will be as many losers as there are winners?

Everything in life has two tails – none better than the other – could this “example setting” alone be different?

And I had my “aha” moment – “setting an example” is for the benefit of those that follow. For the student who studies an example – who he should be is just as important as who he should not be. He can learn as much from the generous (what he should do) as from the miser (what he should not do). He can learn as much from the policeman (how to correct a wrong) as a thief (why he should not steal from others).

Indeed – there is no difference at all. So irrespective of whether you set an example toward greatness or are the epitome of slackness – the value to those who look to you will be the same. The difference is in what you enjoy, what your loved ones enjoy – the fame, adulation etc. alone.

This seemed such a powerful thought, that I thought some great minds would have already explored this one  – and what better tome to reach for than Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet. To my delight, he seemed to concur with this view. Indeed he states that we are but a microcosm of our society – hence we are equally responsible for the criminal as well. Indeed – he does not operate without our sanction, albeit an unconscious one.

Here’s the prophet talking about this:

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.
But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,
So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.
And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.
You are the way and the wayfarers.
And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.
Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.

So, here’s some balm oil for all of you. By all means, try to be the best person you can be – that is your birth right and your duty. But don’t carry guilt about past failures and mis-deeds (yes, don’t do them again for god’s sake!) for they would have served as signposts too for those that are walking the same path. And that’s a comforting feeling isn’t it?

We have often been told by our parents, relatives, bosses and numerous others that we have to set an example to others. Younger brothers, team members and children are watching and they’ll take after us. We’ve often told our teams and family members the same – “go set an example, make us proud.”

I got to thinking about this a little today. At first it seemed very self evident – set a standard of excellence and others will be inspired. Be the bar that others in the neighborhood look upto.

But what if you failed? What if you flunked your exams, threw tantrums (that you aren’t proud of – but what the heck?!). What if you were the poorest performer in your group? What indeed if you were the guys that people pointed to in the street and said – “do your homework and respect your elders – or you’ll end up like him?”.  Were we doomed to a life of guilt – after all, no matter what the score there will be as many losers as there are winners?

Everything in life has two tails – none better than the other – could this “example setting” alone be different?

And I had my “aha” moment – “setting an example” is for the benefit of those that follow. For the student who studies an example – who he should be is just as important as who he should not be. He can learn as much from the generous (what he should do) as from the miser (what he should not do). He can learn as much from the policeman (how to correct a wrong) as a thief (why he should not steal from others).

Indeed – there is no difference at all. So irrespective of whether you set an example toward greatness or are the epitome of slackness – the value to those who look to you will be the same. The difference is in what you enjoy, what your loved ones enjoy – the fame, adulation etc. alone.

This seemed such a powerful thought, that I thought some great minds would have already explored this one  – and what better tome to reach for than Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet. To my delight, he seemed to concur with this view. Indeed he states that we are but a microcosm of our society – hence we are equally responsible for the criminal as well. Indeed – he does not operate without our sanction, albeit an unconscious one.

Here’s the prophet talking about this:

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.
But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,
So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.
And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.
You are the way and the wayfarers.

And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.
Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.

So, here’s some balm oil for all of you. By all means, try to be the best person you can be – that is your birth right and your duty. But don’t carry guilt about past failures and mis-deeds (yes, don’t do them again for god’s sake!) for they would have served as signposts too for those that are walking the same path. And that’s a comforting feeling isn’t it?

Song of the Rain

Its raining and the drops patter on the window. I smile in contentment, a hot brew keeping me company. At such times, the soul sings – and what better time than to savour Gibran’s celebration of rain?

SONG OF THE RAIN – KAHLIL GIBRAN

I am dotted silver threads dropped from heaven

By the gods. Nature then takes me, to adorn

Her fields and valleys.

I am beautiful pearls, plucked from the

Crown of Ishtar by the daughter of Dawn

To embellish the gardens.

When I cry the hills laugh;

When I humble myself the flowers rejoice;

When I bow, all things are elated.

The field and the cloud are lovers

And between them I am a messenger of mercy.

I quench the thirst of one;

I cure the ailment of the other.

The voice of thunder declares my arrival;

The rainbow announces my departure.

I am like earthly life, which begins at

The feet of the mad elements and ends

Under the upraised wings of death.

I emerge from the heard of the sea

Soar with the breeze. When I see a field in

Need, I descend and embrace the flowers and

The trees in a million little ways.

I touch gently at the windows with my

Soft fingers, and my announcement is a

Welcome song. All can hear, but only

The sensitive can understand.

The heat in the air gives birth to me,

But in turn I kill it,

As woman overcomes man with

The strength she takes from him.

I am the sigh of the sea;

The laughter of the field;

The tears of heaven.

So with love—

Sighs from the deep sea of affection;

Laughter from the colorful field of the spirit;

Tears from the endless heaven of memories.

Armstrong, Gibran and lessons for all of us?

Lance Armstrong has come clean on his usage of performance-enhancing drugs – and the world has another fallen hero. Lots of fans feel cheated – perhaps rightly so. Before playing judge, I wanted to check what Gibran would have to say on a topic like this – and The Prophet as always didn’t disappoint.

Here’s him speaking on “Crime and Punishment:

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder to your world.

But I say that even as the holy and the righteousness cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each of you,

So too the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,

So too the wrong doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.

Or to put it another way, we get what we deserve (heroes in this case). “Take a good look at yourself first man!“ the sage seems to be saying.

After this admonishment, he seems to suggest we ought to perhaps even thank the wrong-doer – try this piece of logic from later in the essay:

You are the way and the wayfarers.

And when one of you falls down, he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.

Aye, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, have not removed the stumbling stone.

So the fallen hero sets an example for the others who follow – and therefore is a teacher of sorts.

And interestingly, Armstrong said this in his interview with Oprah ((source BBC):

Oprah: Was it humanly possible to win the Tour de France without doping, seven times?

Armstrong: Not in my opinion, that generation. I didn’t invent the culture, but I didn’t try to stop the culture.

Uncanny huh? Eerily the Prophet’s prophecy from 1923 rings true even now – ninety years later. Maybe instead of spending our time on the “blame and victim stories”, some self-contemplation and course correction will get us to a happier, virtuous society? And time to grab a copy of “The Prophet” too?!