January 24, 2012

Mindfulness - being aware of the consequences of our actions

In a discussion today, a friend brought up the subject of the relative merits of my kind of advocacy in these blogs. How much do people read and actually want to change the way they are doing things? For instance regarding “where have all the grandparents gone?” he seemed to be of the opinion that this world is changing so much and however much we believe in the truth of what is being said, and accept it intellectually, we go back to the same life milieu and just forget the good words read. So how do we move people to action?

True, the obstacles are immense, for the modern development paradigm shows us all the enticing reasons to be separating ourselves from the crowd so to say, and taste the pleasures life has to offer just secluded in ourselves. It is rational too, for given the money most of us make, how can we live a life with others that will compel us to share what we have, and the work culture too: what when we have no control over where one has to get a job and have to relocate? All true and no one can argue that these are reasons why we do what we do. But perhaps, we can look at our arguments from another angle too if we so desire. Forget for a moment about this specific topic of living in nuclear families, moving to a larger house, or sending the kid to an international school. Let’s reflect on why we do it. All these are actions we take may be because we see our friends doing it or it is the way society is moving along in a new era of global habits and values.
To begin with, a few of society’s elite take this route because it is possible only for them because they have the money or because they want to be different from the others who don’t have so much. But soon, someone makes it a business model and it is made available to every one for a price that is affordable to many, but because this model already has the elite brand (the commercials do a great job of it – like enticing us to take our kids to McDonalds or the like --just because it is the in thing to do – even thought it may be to have a meal that is full of calories and which may not be good for you to indulge in too often) we all lap it up for the ego basis of our minds precedes moral value. As the masses grow into this fold of modern behavior so to say, slowly, the exclusiveness that defined the move in the first place is soon no more and the market quickly makes adjustments in look and rationale to entice the elite again in an upscale model. Soon the cycle starts over again. The masses are kept fooled every time (human desire is a very powerful thing and the market uses it superlatively) and big businesses mint the benefits.

The issue for us to understand here is about the consequence of all this. The separations and divisions these movements create in society and the ensuing conflict because of it. Given the specificity of vested interests in our societies, there will be arguments to the contrary, but a universal law cannot be negated. “Division precipitates conflict”. Whatever value is the basis of this separation --social, economic, political or religions – we have to accept that there will be conflict where there is division. For social harmony to prevail, getting out of this morass of view points is crucial -- to come to a common understanding “temporarily” through discussion and compromise or to come to a “permanent” consensus through acceptance and deference to majority views. If neither is possible, then the reversion is to measures uncalled for in a free society.

So in our society, the way to go about would be, as my friend and I finally rationalized and accepted, was to make ourselves become aware of where these desires of ours arise from. Mostly it is through our bloated egos – that intense desire it compels us to indulge in just to be different from what our brother or sister is; to feel for a moment that we are “better than’ our brother or sister. This competiveness is what propels us to want more and more. But yes, after we have this pleasure or that, we soon get tired and bored of it also and would want to move over to yet another glittering vista which will also wane sooner than we might expect. Be it a new house, a new car, new position in society, new friends and icons, and even life partners too if our thoughts only dwell on the surface where desire only reigns. Sad but true. But just being sad and being momentarily sparked is not enough to change our situation. To really want to live with our grandparents and see them as value to our values, we need to move towards greater self realization and self awareness by learning to be more mindful and understanding of the consequences of what we do. This will lay the foundation to healing. Being blind to the consequences of our actions, by believing that freedom is about doing whatever we want without being mindful of the consequences of our actions is to say we are very irresponsible as individuals, as parents, and ultimately as leaders. How can we build a sustainable and caring society with shallow and temporary mindsets?

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