Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moral measurement

When I was young, my mom used to make us kids stand against a wall, place a scale horizontally on our heads, mark in a pencil the height we measured and wrote the date and the initials. This was done generally in one of the rear side rooms where guests never entered. This exercise would be repeated two or three times a year and comparisons made. When the height did not show the desired improvement she used to give Incremin, a child’s health supplement that had a giraffe’s picture in the belief that it would increase our heights. She would insist on our playing with skipping ropes and swing from roman rings. It is a different matter whether these helped in our growing taller or not but gave her the satisfaction that she did her best to beat the genes of a one grandfather who was short.
It is again a moot point whether height is desirable over shortness. Did the Lilliputians suffer more than Brobdingnagians by virtue of their short height, I am not aware of. Many short men have attained preeminence that the heights alone did not confer on the tall men. .Chengis khan, Napoleon, Pablo Picasso, Lenin, Tom Cruise and our own Jawaharlal Nehru or Lalbahadur Sastri are a few short and famous men whom success did not elude.. Be that as it may short men often invite negative remarks, denied leading roles and not generally considered in certain professions like army, police.
I am digressing. The purpose of my article is not on this measurement. Why is it we tend to measure ourselves only on the heights but not our growth in some vital parameters like love, patience, calmness, compassion, contentment, loyalty, truth and values? Do we grow on these as we age or keep moving up and down or never grow at all in any or all of the parameters? Is there not a need for elders or mentors to measure us against such a wall of moral growth once a while? This exercise is one that we should take voluntarily and have health supplements to feed the mind as we do to the body like attending courses on personality development, Vipasana, meditation courses and even sat sanghs.The purpose is not to indulge in self criticism but to lift ourselves from the negative traits. There are some traits that have eternal value and cannot be allowed to be lost sight of. Just as we clean the garden of the weeds to allow the flower plants to grow and our homes of the clutter to retain only the good, we should undertake such a moral measurement for cleansing at regular intervals.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What brings happiness?

What is happiness? Can anyone define it? Does it mean different things to different people? Why are we after education, a degree in engineering or medicine, a good job, a charming and good wife, nice children, perfect health and many more? Because we believe that these would give us happiness. What all we do is ultimately for acquiring happiness. We will not do anything that brings unhappiness unless it is a means to final happiness. A garbage cleaner though does an unpleasant job hopes he will get happiness through the income he earns very much like the industrialist manufacturing goods for increasing the wealth of the company and through it the happiness. The objective is the same

What makes one happy need not necessarily make another happy. It varies. While fame and name makes someone happy, obscurity makes one spiritually inclined more satisfied. It means different things to different people. It is difficult to have a uniform definition of what makes one happy or have a device to measure happiness. Happiness is subjective, a state of mind and never the same at all times. A cup of hot coffee on a wintry day gives more happiness than the same cup on a hot and sultry day. Even on identical conditions the outcome may be different at different times.

Sometimes the choices that we make thinking it would bring happiness may not really fetch it. Like changing jobs with more income or shifting to a bigger home in a newer location or making new friends-these do not guarantee happiness and may even result in a desire to revert to old situations. Even making more money does not make one happy as money beyond a threshold point has diminishing returns. The comfort level that money can buy stops at some stage. But if you give away the wealth for bringing comfort to larger number of people, earning more gives happiness. It is really not the money that gives happiness but what we do with it. Likewise it is not the job we do that matters but how it makes others better and through it brings greater mental satisfaction. The bottom line for sustained happiness beyond the initial satisfaction is what we do for others for the larger good, even for our family, than what we do for ourselves.

We cannot also measure happiness. It is varying from time to time, individual to individual, place to place and so on. “Joy has nothing to do with material things, or with man's outward circumstance...A man living in the lap of luxury can be wretched, and a man in the depths of poverty can overflow with joy.” It is for each individual to identify what brings happiness to oneself without causing unhappiness to others and pursue the same. But one thing can be said with reasonable certainty. Happiness is contagious. If we mix with happy people, our mind also gets directed to ways of deriving happiness. Negative people bring misery. Happy people do better in their work, more welcome any where, more law abiding and are better members of family and society than the sulking ones. Happy people generally have worthy goals that make others happy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Be slow in promise

I have always had the habit of making promises to get over piquant situations or to please the others at the current moment or pep up the conversations like “will call you in a day, will drop in at your place before weekend, will explore the net for the link you wanted or will have tea at your place tomorrow.” I will forget it is a promise made as far as the other person is concerned even though I was not certain of keeping them up when I made them. I had the intention of doing them if possible but was never a commitment. Still when I make such promises I do not indicate that it is merely a wish but allow it to be misconstrued as a promise.
My wife would ask me to post a letter to her mom in the postbox en route to my office saying it is urgent and I would promise that I would do. But I would forget when in the car talking on mobile to a colleague and realize my lapse only in the evening when she sees the letter in my shirt pocket. I would see the hurt in her eyes and promise to do that first thing in the morning. But she would not give the letter to me again. We are generally quick in making small promises but lack the determination to keep them. No doubt, they are no big contracts or deals entered into in formal written documents with legal consequences for failure. They may be casual in nature but nevertheless a promise. When we do not keep such promises they would lose trust in our words and not take us seriously when we make such statements. Our trustworthiness would have taken a dip in their estimation of us.
It is not always possible to keep promises made for a variety of extraneous reasons or circumstances beyond control. In many cases we tend to forget. But these failures to keep the words should be few and far between. The best course would be not to make any promise unless we are doubly sure of performing it. As Abe Lincoln put it “We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.” Be slow in making promises as you will tend to keep them better. The one spin off would be your relationships with others would become rich in quality and people would perceive you a man of word and not a politician on an election rostrum. Your children would unconsciously learn the virtue of keeping the word and action conform to each other.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blame game

When I was a young chit, I used to stand by my sister in the kitchen and be talking to her while she cooked the dinner. When something got burnt or when she hurt her fingers, she would invariably give a knock on my head. When asked why she did so, she would reply that I was responsible for the over burnt food or her hurt. She would never accept that she was careless when cooking but preferred to blame me however remotely I was connected to the incident. This is a universal trait to look for reasons for one’s failure elsewhere than on oneself entrenched firmly on the belief that ’when in doubt, it must be someone else’s fault’

You must be witnessing often this mindset in our day to day lives. When I do not find my spectacles, I scream ‘who has touched my glasses and meddled with my things’ forgetting no one needs my glasses and that I alone had misplaced them. When our child fares poorly in the school, we blame the teachers that they do not teach properly or when we miss the bus by getting up late we find the blame on our wives for not making the breakfast ready on time. When boss pulls up for shoddy work, we conveniently put the blame on colleagues or other departments. When there is bomb blast in a crowded area or mass killing, our initial reaction is to blame the unknown terrorists or a neighboring country .When prices of food grains rise, erratic monsoons come to our rescue for taking the blame and if the inflation goes spiraling up we have the international oil price as an excuse. It is always someone else or some other country or some other source except us. They act as convenient pegs to hang all our problems. It is not only for failures that we accuse others but even for our moods like anger, unhappiness, dejection and frustration. We blame the stars or our past karma or fate, never conceding that we are what we are by our own actions and thoughts. People blame the vastu if things do not happen as expected. “It is no use to blame the looking glass if your face is awry”

Blaming others create a make believe situation and helps in deceiving ourselves.Whenever things do not go alright,the right course would be to turn the search light on us and find ways to improve our deficiencies. We should be more careful while cooking, get up early so as not to miss the bus, coach the kids if they fare poorly and look for local bad elements if there is violence. When you accept responsibility for the things, you get a different perspective and the power to set right things. So is with the rulers of the country to look for their deficiencies instead of finding scapegoats. “Not taking responsibility may be less demanding, less painful and mean less time spent in the unknown. It’s more comfortable. You can just take it easy and blame problems in your life on someone else. But there is always a price to pay. When you don’t take responsibility for your life you give away your personal power. Plus more…"

Life would be a great fun if we eschew victim mentality and learn to accept responsibility with self esteem for our own life and actions