Personal Growth - A Wake Up Call
by Akber Ayub
The contemporary world has been driven by the doctrine that comfort, pleasure, achievement and wealth are the highest goals that one could aspire to. Material prosperity has for long dictated our value system. The talons of this tenet have had a firm grip on our collective psyche across the globe. However, to the thinkers, to the sage and the savant, this situation has always carried an aura of impermanence, as if something was bound to happen eventually to change this presumptuous worldview.
The play of maya
Then, global recession came along and the widespread economic meltdown shook that old capitalist credo, that bondage of the material, right down to its roots. It has set people thinking. Is there really something beyond earthly achievements and material wealth? Actually, these questions have been sweeping across the globe, echoing through countless minds for quite a while, even before recession gripped the world. But to find an answer, mankind first needed to awaken from a deep slumber… for, even though the realities of our lives had been staring in our faces for long, we have continued to sleepwalk through life. Now, it appears, as though it is finally time to wake up from our delusions. As though it is time now to take off our blinkers and look at the stark picture.
Who has the time to listen to the whispers of our bodies? Let us begin with the mundane areas of our lives, for that is where we are likely to find the most disorder. Look at any domain here and what we find is mass deception. Let us begin by looking at a most unlikely area. The ad world. In no other field is the stark dysfunction of human lives visible more glaringly. Copywriters know human nature most intimately. And they know, or believe, that human nature does not change. People will continue to be sold by the same allure, the same appeal. Why? Because of the ideas linked to the allure. If you buy and use a particular product, you will be like the celebrity who is endorsing it. This is the appeal; because the celebrity has more of everything compared to you: more glamour, more wealth, more status, more standing, and more power. The key word is ‘more’. If you have more of any of these, you will be a ‘complete’ person.
The crux of the matter
Now we come to the crux of the matter. The true core of a human being is complete, perfect, and whole as it is. It does not need more of anything in order to make itself whole. Indeed, seeking is based on a fundamental assumption of incompleteness. So it is only when we recognise the inherent wholeness within all things that true joy and happiness will inhabit our hearts. But then, who is aware of the inner core, the inner essence, the soul? We live in the physical dimension and our awareness is mostly limited to only the material world. And here, our ego rules – with an iron hand. To keep it alive and kicking it demands more of everything and we are at its service, lifelong, for our very identity is tied up with it. For many of us, loss of that identity would be akin to death – not realising, of course, that the biggest hurdle to knowing our true self is this pseudo identity that we carry around. Copywriters know this only too well and exploit it to the hilt. And so the ad man laughs all the way to the bank – followed closely by the manufacturer of the product or the service provider. We help them along gleefully because we have been responding to life from our conditioned minds rather than from our inner intelligence.
Take the movies next. Here, crime sells with violence, and gore, and the need to safeguard ‘honour’. And so you have revenge, retaliation and vendetta as hot-selling themes. Then there is titillation, emotionally charged melodramas, scheming vamps and malevolent villains, the adrenalin rush of larger-than-life deeds and spectacles. Not to forget tearjerkers, making us quiver in our own skins with pathos, validating the misery in our own lives. Everything to pander to our baser instincts, our lowest emotions. After three hours of this we walk out ‘entertained’! It is the same story with TV soaps. Here again negativity sells, and how! Ask today’s most successful sitcom producers and they will quite likely wink while giving you a tongue-in-cheek reply. Even reality shows depict arrogance and impertinence. You might think that a dance or musical competition, belonging to the realm of fine arts, would show finer human qualities, but here too narcissism lurks in the shadows.
The lure of bad news
News channels? Truth be told, they operate more like crime merchants. A recent study by the Centre for Media Studies reveals that nearly 50 per cent of prime time is devoted to crime stories alone. Every such story is milked to the last drop – for gory details and lascivious elements. One is sometimes stumped by the glee with which reporters interview hapless victims, or burrow deep into decadent details. The spotlight is on human turpitude, perversion and depravity. Viewers lap it up. Any wonder television has become a mass addiction? Newspapers are no different. Crime and sensation grab the headlines more frequently than stories of the goodness of the human heart. In allowing this decadent fare to saturate our minds, we have allowed our mass-hypnotised comatose minds to be taken over by the media. Once again, no wonder, because the feeble voice of our soul has long since drowned under the shrill cacophony of our restless minds and our morbid fascination with yellow journalism.
In this scenario, can politics be any different? Corruption, greed, criminality and mountainous egos pit one against the other in this arena. Good governance and probity in public life be damned. Emancipation of our people and advancement of our country be damned. Indeed, it can be said that the strides our nation has made is despite the politicians and not because of them. This is not to ignore the rare stalwarts in the field who have stood out for their character and integrity. This is only meant to be a hard look at the stark realities in the field of politics today. So, to continue the observation, the British might have left our shores long ago, but even today, our politicians use select pages from the British book: divide and rule. Pitting one citizen against the other on the grounds of religion to create vote banks, stoking religious fires to whip up passions and polarise the citizens. All these have been tried out very successfully. Then there is mass buying of working class votes, muscling into weak vote banks through intimidation and threat, thus subverting democracy. These are the tools of the trade. No wonder again, because we the people are in deep slumber. We are physically awake, of course. However, our souls are asleep. And we don’t realise that it takes our souls to see through this chicanery – to understand the essential oneness of all humankind at a very fundamental level. As long as we deny that oneness, create fissures, and polarise people we are denying our own human essence.
What about education? Cram and reproduce is the mantra here and competition the byword. Not individual growth through acquiring knowledge, not about imparting a true awareness of the self and the world, not true erudition or sagacity, not nurturing creativity, not about the common stratum that binds us all into one and the power contained in that wisdom. The next exam is the target and a ‘degree’ the goal – that would provide a passport to a lucrative career. So this conundrum rolls on. Nothing really wrong with that, of course. It is only that chasing the lucrative career in an intensely competitive world perpetuates our mindless march towards acquiring more pelf and privilege that keep us entrenched in our ego-driven, purely materialistic world. Advancements in science and technology and the consequent rise in our understanding of the natural world has been a very beneficial spin-off though. Albeit, our understanding of our souls remains only a possibility right now and forms no part of our ‘education’.
To come to another domain where we are again led like a flock of sheep – the food industry. It panders to our palates, period. Nature’s wisdom be damned. Here, taste bud is king. Never mind that all the natural goodness of the food is processed and ‘improved’ and zapped out of it and ‘fortified’ instead with a slew of chemicals that go under the euphemism ‘food additives’ aimed mainly toward increasing the shelf life, and other profit motives. The added chemicals are invariably indigestible toxins that accumulate in our bodies. Who cares, as long as the cash registers jingle non-stop. There is no attempt to understand what our bodies really need, our dietary structure, the natural rhythm of our bodies, the biological value of the food we eat, the kind of digestive burden we place on ourselves, the toxins we are accumulating and the havoc wrought on our health. Rather, it is all sense gratification and sheer indulgence. Who has the time to listen to the whispers of our bodies?
Unlike lower creatures that are not conscious of their own nature, we humans are unique in creation. We are created to be self-conscious, to be conscious of our inner being. But when man separated his awareness from BEING he became a free radical, as it were. And all free radicals desperately seek to bond. Any wonder we are forever striving to bond to a falsely created image of a celebrity, a symbol, a group, a sect, a class, a religion and look to find our identity through these? Any wonder negativity sells – on the TV, in the movies, in the media. These attractions, these attempts at bonding, keep us tethered to our baser selves and provide sustenance to our egos, in a never-ending effort to cover our inadequacies and fill the voids within.
Fortunately, we cannot invalidate the humans that we are forever. For, as long as we keep doing that, we are misleading ourselves and denying our true heritage. We cannot be so unforgiving toward ourselves forever; we cannot forever be tormented by a mind and ego that hold us hostage by keeping us bound to the illusion of inadequacies. It is time to stop being a slave fastened to our past and our future. It is time to stop hoping and waiting for happiness, security and approval to come gallivanting into our lives, instead of realising that it is only when we are rooted and centred in our own being that a sense of safety and security and happiness will enter our lives. It is only when we understand and appreciate the truth of who we truly are that we can free ourselves from our individual and collective egos and our never-ending efforts to twist into conformity. The time has come to awaken to the fact that underneath all our sense of lack, our fears and our constant mental noise, lies our true self, our essence. And that is perfect and complete and whole. Indeed, we must realise that we are at war with ourselves as long as we resist or deny our true selves. It is time that our divine heart within led our lives, and for that we need to wake up to the fact that we are the ONE we have been craving for all of our lives! It is time to rise up and take dominion over our lives in a harmonious and sacred manner. It is time to start a transformation at the level of the soul and watch ourselves shift from the narcissistic, controlling behaviour of the ego to the power, love and wisdom of the soul.
Akber Ayub is a mechanical engineer by profession, an ex-marine engineer, ex-industrialist, member of a college faculty and finally, following his heart now a writer.
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