Who am I?

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I am not religious, but I don't mind calling myself spiritual. Religion, I believe, has, over the millennia, been used as a prop to perpetrate a lot of human suffering. Faith is what matters. I don't believe in the definition of God as a creator. According to me, my God resides within me. Some call it conscience, some call it the sub-conscious, some call it the soul. I don't mind calling it God. So by definition I am not an atheist or an agnostic, but by essence, I may as well be. My God does not reside in a temple, church, mosque or gurudwara. It is right here, within me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Hidden Hype of Hypocrisy

Recently, I could not help but come to terms with a realization that made me shudder with contempt for my own species. Though it also made me peep into myself and realize a characteristic of my nature - one which is a subset of the universal nature of all of homo sapiens. The realization I talk of has made it clear to me that every human being is tinged - or inundated, as could be the case - with a deep rooted and outwardly imperceptible predilection towards hypocrisy. I do not, for the record, keep myself out of this superset. And the proof of this is omnipresent, if we care for a good hard look around. If we define hypocrisy as "an expression of agreement that is not supported by real conviction", then are we to believe that whenever we say one thing while having in mind the other, we are not embodying the odious essence of this very word? No, a judicious fellow like yourself would reply, we are not to believe that. In fact, if we indulge in this kind of lip service, we are truly being the paragon of hypocrisy, you would add. But wait, let me complete what I have to say. How many times does it happen with each one of us when we truly want one thing, or are following a certain train of thought, but end up saying something quite different - due to varied reasons like fear of appearing impudent or brusque in manners, not feeling close enough to our company at that moment to spell out what we truly feel or out of respect for our elders lest they be appalled and hurt by our extreme outspokenness? If we do it for the sake of smooth functioning of the society, you would say, then its raison d'etre is acceptable enough and it would not be bracketed under hypocrisy. But who are we to decide whether the reason for putting up an appearance by a certain person is good/bad without compromising our sense of objectivity? Should we be audacious enough to believe that we won't bring our prejudices into play if we appoint ourselves as the decider of the good reasons versus bad reasons when there are examples galore in the whole of history to prove that right/wrong is wholly subjective?

So my question is - is it not hypocrisy when we put up a false face, for any good/bad reason whatsoever, and say something, which is quite distinct from what we actually had been thinking? If we were to stick to the semantics, this is exactly what hypocrisy is defined as. Why, even great writers have withheld the publication of their autobiographies until after their demise for fear that the outspokenness of it would hurt and injure the people who were close to them and who inevitably found an honest mention is the journals. (Mark Twain is a case in point here, who had left instructions to release his 5,000 unexpurgated pages of memoirs a 100 years after his death. The 1st part of the trilogy hit the stores in November 2010. A widely believed reason for him keeping his personal life under wraps for so long is that the time lag prevented him from having to worry about offending friends). And there are many others who dilute the harsh mention of relatives and close friends. Surely, this action of propriety should not be classified as hypocrisy. Thus one has to definitely draw a line. But then again, won't drawing a line be tantamount to bringing the subjective into play? Won't your line be different from my line?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Fish Called Self

What is the purpose of philanthropy? To help out the poor and the marginalized, you would say. But why does one indulge in philanthropy? No doubt but to provide help to others. Is it a selfless act? Does one not benefit even if a bit from this act? And if one would admit the possibility of such a benefit, isn’t the premise of this act being a completely selfless one completely decimated?

I believe that every action that one takes, every move that one makes, has ultimately a selfish rationale behind it, deep down as it may be. The very act of philanthropy that we talk about, does one not derive a sense of self-worth after helping someone out? Deep down, does one not subconsciously want every one to know about that act? I would not, you would say. Alright, assuming one does not tell anybody about that act of philanthropy, but even a word of thanks or a blessing from the person we helped would create a sense of self-worth, a sense of happiness that one derives when one knows that he/she is doing the “right” thing. Is the very act of deriving that pleasure not enough to safely admit that the ultimate motive might have been this intangible benefit for our own selves?

Let us consider another form of feeling which is poetically defined as a completely selfless act – Love. Loving someone ought to be completely selfless. The sacrifices that one makes, especially the ones that our significant other is not aware of, can they be any more selfless, you would argue? But no. Look closer. Don’t we feel happy loving someone? Isn’t there a pleasure derived when we hand someone the reins of the carriage of our life? In fact, there can be no act more selfish than the very act of loving someone with all our heart. And that need not be a bad thing. In fact, evolution has told us that being selfish, acting on our interests is the best thing that we can do for us, as well as for the society around us. According to the powerful statement by Adam Smith, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”. And how true it is! The world goes round because everyone acts in their own interests. I would almost go as far as to say that there can be no act which does not have a flavor of selfishness attached to it.

But I used the word “almost” as one has to admit the possibility of a completely selfless act. An act of philanthropy in which we do not let the thought of our act linger on longer than it should. An act of love which does not make us feel worthier of ourselves, or which does not make us feel “good” about ourselves. Do such acts sound sweeter? I would not like to go into that debate right now, but, admitting the possibility of such an event, how sustainable such a selfless act would be, how pleasurable it would be, or how beautiful it would seem, can again be questioned.