One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Do we need to measure ourselves?

I am confident that every culture has come up with ways to ease out the emotions that result from comparisons.  I was hearing it a lot from my father, “Our elders were saying that, if it happens in life that you feel proud because of your achievements and started looking down to others, visit a graveyard. By looking to epitaphs or tombstones you will realize that much better people are lying there that preceded you and if it happens sometime in you life that you feel down then visit a marketplace or Bazar and you will see people of different kinds that you are much better off than a lot of them”… While, the advice is practical but the question is, do we really need to measure ourselves at first place?

We can’t think to live modestly without measurements. All businesses, sciences and most of the social interactions are based on measurements.  In fact, our sense of fairness and security in our interactions with others dominantly come from our relying on these measurements. If we are relying so heavily on measurements in our daily lives then isn’t it counterintuitive that when it comes to our personal lives, the frequent advice is to not measure ourselves with others??? (Except in the cases of emotional very high or very down; first paragraph). The reason for not measuring/comparing oneself with others is said to be “Differential abilities/talents” and “Differential beginnings” so the comparisons do not makes sense but even more important reason is its cost on the overall wellbeing of the individual. By comparison with others one either becomes illusionary flattered or becomes delusionary depressed.

 While we are advised not compare with others but we are evolved to appreciate refined things. In fact, choices that we make and prices that we willingly pay are dominantly based on the refinements. We know men with most refined works in their respective fields as great men. It is repetition but just to illustrate look at following list,

Shakespeare; most refined drama writer, Einstein; most refined Physicist, Charles Darwin; most refined biologist, Michael Angelo; most refined artist, Alexander the great; most refined general, Socrates; most refined Philosopher, Siddhartha; most refined psychologist, Edison;  most refined inventor, Gandhi;  most refined politician, Muhammad Ali; most refined boxer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; most refined singer and so on…

If from one side we are advised to not compare with ourselves with others but from other side we are advised to takes these big names as role models and push against our limits. It seems that we actually got standards for our measurements and we do measure however, these measurements are NOT to find our worth but instead to make ourselves worthwhile.

But it does also have another aspect; looking to this very small sample out of pool of great names, one might wonder, these were the individuals who invested their lives for their respective goals. Does the goal in life is the same as “meaning in life?” or a life worthy of living despite all suffering it asks for? Majority of people are living a mediocre or below mediocre lives. What about their lives? Are their lives are devoid of meaning? Of course, no one agree with this extreme point of view except radical reductionists. But while having said that, if you look back to the list, you find that all of these great names are coming only from one dominant perspective and that is the utilitarian perspective of life; how much useful one is to society? Although it eases out everyone as no doubt everyone finds their niches of usefulness in their respective societies however, again it ignores the very person/individual in question.

For the individual, there is another perspective and that is psychological perspective. I don’t know any other person than Siddhartha who came with best explanation for this aspect of the question. Do not compare yourself at all. Making comparisons and expectations are wrong approaches. Life is not all about racing with others. It is much bigger than that. So, it is no wonder to see the popularity of yoga increases in places where races are more intensive. Although it is ironic but at least it is good that it is working. I didn’t want to suggest anything instead I just wanted to clarify that when it comes to our lives, we usually mix psychological perspective with social usefulness perspective.

I read a lot of complains that Philosophy has a depleting impacts on the meaning of life. It questions everything so brutally that leaves nothing under shades. To me, that is a mistake. Personally, I do not look to Philosophy as a specialized knowledge to provide specific answers. It is a practice of critical thinking in areas or to questions one cares or has interest in and it is not necessary that our areas of interests match. In short, if one wants to get a utilitarian perspective like level of usefulness to society, one might come with good answers. It might actually enrich the life but of course with due sufferings they ask for. But on other hand, if one is not concerned with society but just for wellbeing or with personal life then I am afraid that Philosophy is not a good place. For that, ancient Psychologists provide a template for practice and an explanation that rationalize well to live a content life. I always refer to Siddhartha (Buddha) as he had a secular and practical approach to personal wellbeing. My personal approach so far has been a combination of both. While I try my best to push against my limits to be more usefulness, I do not expect in return or at least try to minimize my expectations to the lowest levels.   

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