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Sunday, 17 June 2012

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To live and let die

"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace...."

Reinhold Niebuhr (The Serenity Prayer)

The title of this article may bring back memories of the film in the James Bond series, and Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. Nevertheless and most certainly, this article is not about the film nor has it anything to do with the film except for the head, a coincidental connection.

What, in fact, it implies is that a lot of us lead our lives insensitively and with an 'I do not care' attitude to the rest of humanity. Apart from the callousness of this attitude, it reveals the character of the concerned person.

You and I are the latest chapters of a story that is unfolding for billions of years - a story that is more intriguing; more than fascinating; greatly challenging; and ever evolving: the story of life.

Life, per se, may be about survival of the fittest. However, the development and growth of life - evolution - is often based upon, and favoured by, the policy of cooperation, collaboration, and give and take.

To live and let live; or still better, to let live and live; is the best way to experience the joys of life; understand the purpose of being; gain happiness, growth, vitality, through existence - however brief or endless, real or idle, it may be.

Nevertheless, like a culprit sensible of his degradation; many a person, blunted in feeling; deprived of understanding; devoid of passion, emotion, or sensitiveness; lacking gratitude in being born human; insensible and senseless; aspire: to live and let die.

That they should only live, their life ought to only matter, and care nought about the rest of humanity appear to be their attitude. This seems their choice in life.

Dependent

The choices people make are usually dependent on their psychological conditioning, which takes place through exposure to life from the moment of conception, to the point of completion of their socio-cultural programing.

This social, cultural, programing is similar to the programing of a computer's processor with data that is factual.

The computer then compares all incoming data against its programmed intelligence, to generate a conclusion. Similarly, the human intellect processes incoming data based on the morals and values to which they have been exposed, and conditioned to.

Some of these morals and values are inherited through genetic sources; whilst others are acquired, and learnt from the environment to which the absorptive mind is exposed.

Indifference is an unacknowledged immorality. Indifference becomes immoral when we ignore or neglect the sufferings of others when we are in a position to help, aid, or eliminate the cause of such suffering.

A little self-sacrifice, a bit of concern, for the good of others, is not only humane; it is simply a component of a healthy life. The psychiatrist and author Scott Peck tells us in his book 'The Road Less Travelled': "If an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love.

There are no exceptions". A wider, more altruistic attitude is very relevant in today's world. If we look at the situation from various angles, such as the complexity and inter-connectedness of the nature of modern existence, then we will gradually notice a change in our outlook, so that when we say 'others' and when we think of others, we will no longer dismiss them as something that is irrelevant to us. We will, no longer feel indifferent, said the Dalai Lama.

Many of today's attitudes and concepts are alien to this truth. Life, be it here or in another state of being, is not about the minimum, the average. Contentment and peace; love and joy; are only achieved when one goes beyond the expected.

Anything less, is moral suicide and could lead to a road to hell - a hell of a life - which is paved with the frame of mind called indifference. Aloofness and apathy; callousness and carelessness; detachment and disregard; may seem the path of least resistance, the most appropriate way, in leading our life. But, it would invariably turn out to be an empty life - a meaningless life.

Meaningful

The meaning of life, for us humans, is to make life meaningful. It is also about growth: physical, mental, and spiritual. It is about travelling down different paths of our life and making decisions. We will make some mistakes, as all of us do.

We learn from them and grow stronger. Life is about being true to ourselves, standing alone sometimes when we really believe in something, and fear not retribution.

It means to love those around us, help where we can, and become a person who can be trusted, who will do his possible best in all matters entrusted. If we did not feel sadness, we could never experience happiness; if we did not get angry on occasion, we would never know peace; and if we did not trust our hearts, we would never know love. Yes, life has much to offer, if we open our eyes, ears and heart, and listen. Someone who cannot find contentment cannot find peace. A person, who cannot find peace, cannot find fulfilment.

Prosperity, power, and popularity are not the solutions to human suffering. None of it can assure happiness. We may have them all, and still feel incomplete.

Of course, the meaning of life is not the same for everyone. Your life has one meaning, the life of another person will have another meaning, and my life will have another meaning too. You are the one to give meaning to your life by making something of it.

Brilliant in its simplicity, the Serenity Prayer is one of the key spiritual tools used by many to find peace in life.

However, the defining qualities in one's character, that of grace, courage, and wisdom that is required to lead a fulfilling life is within all of us. There is no need to seek from somewhere the strength to face another situation, to take another step, and live another day.

However, many people in desperate situations, seeking contentment, fortitude, and sense in life, have come to believe that these qualities can come only from a power greater than the self; and because they believe, they find the serenity, courage, and wisdom they seek, from outside themselves. Every person has the choice to choose, and lead their life as they want to.

Find the path of your choice, and live your life along the chosen path. Give thought in choosing the path. Be happy. Be healthy. Be loved.

The 8th-century Indian Buddhist scholar Shantideva of Nalanda University expressed a similar sentiment when he said: "For every ailment under the sun, there is a remedy, or there is none.

If there be one, try to find it; if there be none, never mind it.

If there is a remedy when trouble strikes, what reason is there for dejection? And if there is no help for it, what use is there in being glum?"

See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking; keep laughing. Life is mostly about these two activities.

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