Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.
— Doris Mortman
William Butler Yeats’ poetry reminds us, that, we are “hunters and gatherers of values.” This points to another reality: that our very distresses are affecting us the most. But, there is hope in the face of agony.
We are also tearing ourselves apart. As scholars Colin Greer and Herbert Kohl argue in their powerful anthology, The Plain Truth of Things, “We are blaming each other at great cost to our sense of community.” At the same time, they maintain, “We feel quite uncertain how and who must take the first steps out of the quagmire of self-interest and suffering which we seem to be floundering in.”
What does this mean? When it comes to moral decision-making, a host of diverse and complex voices call on us. These are the voices of our own conscience, and of those we admire, especially those great men and women who embody our highest ideals. One great example comes to mind, naturally: Mahatma Gandhi.
The most that Gandhi would say of his life was that he was completely committed to understanding the truth, and helping make it manifest in the world. In so doing, he never claimed to have had more than a glimpse of the “truth-force.” Yet, he was certain that he was right in devoting his life to pursuing it. Moral living, for Gandhi, was not about being right – it was about being awake, awake to suffering in the world, and aware to the need to reduce rather than add to that suffering.
What’s more, the complexity of contemporary life may not yield itself to simplistic solutions that our movies and soap operas are made of. It confronts the moral reason and imagination with new challenges too. But, we can always try to be what we want to be and face adversity with self-assurance.
How? By a practical way of coping with difficulties of life. To begin with, we’d think of taking a journey into the past, and consult the ancient traditions of wisdom – the Upanishads, and other scriptures – that offer us the high standards which can sustain and guide us in life.
It is not easy, though. But, it is possible. Only thing is, we have to make strong, sincere efforts to bring good, old truths into our lives through the particulars of our time and our circumstances.
Think of Gandhi, again, to find the Gandhi within us.
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