In my 60+ years of living, 40 years of marriage and 35+ years of working there have been many thousand occasions when I have wondered whether the other person is listening? Am I making my point understood? Are we understanding one another? or are we seemingly together, but really on totally different planets?
Am sure you all have also experienced this sheer chasm…and wondered who is to blame? Am I not able to explain properly? or am I speaking to a blank wall? Communication, by definition, should enable transfer of meaning and sharing a common understanding. But actually, the mind maps and pictures of the speaker and the listener are so diverse that we might as well be sowing seeds in the wind. Even when we are going through a common experience together, your experience and mine, your reality and my reality are the proverbial East is East and West is West and Never shall the Twain meet!!!
It is not by chance that Javed Akhtar wrote that beautiful song: ये तेरा घर ये मेरा घर, किसी को देखना हो गर, तो पहले आ के मांग ले, मेरी नज़र तेरी नज़र. I am always taken in by the irony: the movie is Saath Saath, so we are supposed to be together, and yet Deepti and Farooq realise that if anyone else has to see my reality (my house, in the lyrics) then they must give up their own नज़रिया , their own perspective, their own sight – if you will – and be willing to see with my eyes, my perspective, my नज़र.
In today’s times, we all have our own weltanschauung, our own world view and … as the Bard says, “Ah!..Therein lies the rub!”. Can you identify 2 people or 2 groups or 2 communities or 2 countries who see eye to eye on everything? Do people have the same reality? Dr Raghuram Rajan resigns…media erupts with opinions and interpretations. Dr Urjit Patel is appointed…the same. Urjit Patel resigns…nothing different…millions of contradictory opinions… Mr Das takes over….even his graduation and post graduation specialization is up for scrutiny. History will bear me out, when Sir C D Deshmukh took over as the first Indian RBI Governor in 1943 there were enough detractors who questioned that appointment. Look elsewhere, you see more of the same.
Is the Prophet’s birthday to be celebrated as a holiday and an Eid or not? You will get different answers if you ask a Sunni or you ask a Shia. Leave aside festivals, the fact that Shias and Sunnis have been at loggerheads for generations is because they do not share a common worldview. Lenin, Stalin and the Bolshevik Revolution. Chairman Mao and China’s Great Leap Forward campaign to aggressively move China from an agrarian society to an industrial one might have been driven by a positive vision of Mao for his countrymen. But how can we forget, it resulted in the biggest famine in history between 1948 and 1952, resulting in deaths of 20 to 45 million people. Even these numbers differ, depending on whose reality you trust?? All the Wars & the Crusades, Hitler’s genocide, today’s terrorist attacks are living examples of how everyone’s reality is different, and how far a human being is ready to go to champion and profess his own point of view. Against these backdrops, we must also acknowledge the Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings and Nelson Mandelas and Aung San Suu Kyis who drove a positive weltanschauung for themselves and for their brethren being driven by their own reality, marching to their own different tune. And yet all of them have been opposed in their times.
So I conclude that we all live in our own worlds, surrounded by our own realities. There is precious little that we can share because we just do not share the same space, the same reality, the same worldview. And the classic thing is : we are all Hitlers and Mussolinis and Steve Jobs and Jack Welchs in our own right!! We believe our own “reality” and believe our “reality” is the best interpretation of the Absolute, (मेरी साडी तेरी साडी से सफ़ेद कैसे) and all must follow our “reality” and those who don’t, well….!!!! Our efforts to convince others of the “real reality” (of course, our pet version) increases and that to me is the genesis of all the violence; whether in thought or in acts, between individuals or teams, between groups or communities, between religions and countries.
It would be good for all of us to understand quickly and then remember…. there is NO objective reality out there!!! We all are really like the famous five blind men who are trying to “see the elephant”. We all have our own different perspectives and small “pieces” of reality and have convinced ourselves that we know it all. But the fact is none of us have really an overview of the entire elephant…objective reality is much too larger for us to grasp. This would still be alright, were it not for the fact that we are too full of ourselves, too much in love with our own experience and too dismissive of the others’ perspective. and not sensitive enough to the others’ experiences and their own brand of “reality”.
I heard from SN Goenkaji an anecdote that helped me see this conundrum in a new manner and clarified many a confusion. Let me end by recounting this story. There are 2 friends – one blind and one lame – who would beg together to fill their stomachs. Comes a day when the blind beggar is very sick and cannot go out to the village with his lame friend to beg for their dinner. The lame friend moves around alone seeking alms. He is not lucky till he reaches the last house, where the lady tells him, she had made खीर ( sweet rice porridge) the earlier day and can give him the leftover. She asks him if he has any utensil to receive the खीर in? When the beggar says he has none, she asks him to make a bowl by cupping his hands together and pours the खीर into his cupped hands. The lame guy cannot carry the खीर in his hands back to his friend and so he eats it from his cupped hands and finishes it all. When he reaches back to his blind beggar friend, he confesses that he had only got खीर and since it was dripping out of his hands, he ate it all.
The blind man has never seen or eaten kheer before and so asks ” What is खीर?” The lame friend replies it is white and sweet. “White? what is white?” Now how does the friend explain white to a blind man. Fortunately the man sees a swan fluttering around. He catches the swan and thrusts it in the hands of the blind friend and says, “this is white.. the kheer is like this”. The blind friend feels the curved back of the swan and gets a flash of brilliance, and says, ” Now I understand. तेरी खीर टेढ़ी है !!!!”
We all are alternately playing the role of the blind man and the lame. Unfortunately the lame is NOT leading the blind. Each is stuck to his own reality. And wonders why it is difficult for the other person to “see the obvious”!!!
The earlier you understand, तेरी खीर टेढ़ी है the better off we shall be: vikas
17 Replies to “Reality: Yours? or Mine??”
I saw your second comment only while scrolling through the comments section today.
You are right . Sadness & sorrow define Joy and vice versa. One cannot exist without the other.
Much appreciation sir for following my blogs and liking them. While I write for my joy, finally every writer wants his views to be read, commented on and acknowledged. Thanks for fulfilling that imp part of the equation for me
Dear Vilas You have articulated our existential reality beautifully ..The real issue is that we don’t understand or do not want to understand this .But I do reflect many times times that we do have a choice to uplift ourselves and find some universal human values which can be the common thread to bind us all in pursuit of peace .humane endeavour,compassion and spiritual development so that we are all in the journey of fulfilment of our life on earth .
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you are absolutely right
If we get in touch with our deeper selves there is peace and happiness at that level
the violence and discordance happens when we are unable to connect to that level of values
and rather than focus on the direction and destination, we are busy with arguments and differences which lead us down side paths and really delay our progress to the destination where there is peace and joy
let us hope more people warm up to this truth and move fw unabashedly
Thanks for writing in
A very very very thought provoking blog that enlightens our vision to understand reality
Kanu bhai thanks for your kind words of encouragement
Kemal Ataturk always professed
“Yurta baris, Dunyada baris”
“Peace at “home” means peace in the universe “
All of us live in our mindscapes & communicate to understand/ negotiate those around us.
Leading to each one being insular- not insulated.
Kemal was a wise man.
And so is my friend Nikhil Buch
The joy is dealing with other people
and sometimes the sorrow is also dealing with other people
But that is the spice of living
Vikas , do enjoy your blogs
They bring a unique perspective & touch upon aspects of life which us all relate to/ experience.
Perhaps it’s the sorrow in life which is the essential condiment which defines the horizons of joy .
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Awesome post as usual…
Thanks baby….it is nice to hear such positive emotion…..I can actually fool myself that it may be true…..keep writing in
posted response JL
Shukran. Allahu rehem
You rightly wonder ,as you have put in the beginning, whether for 60 + years of your life, the other person is really listening to what you have been trying to convey.
well, as a toddler , your mother fully understood you !. She knew when u were hungry..she exactly knew what you wanted when you were crying.. she knew your stomach was aching ..without you telling her in so many words..You did not know any language..and still what you conveyed was understood! Isn’t that amazing!
the essential elements that make the other person understand you are love and empathy!.. With these attributes, one goes out of the way to try and understand what the other person wants to say.
as we grow up , we learn the language, but lose the other essential attributes. It is not that love is missing..it is the ‘counter demand’ that ” I want to be loved ” ..or “i need to be understood.” that replaces the innocence of the child . Unfortunately, these are the demands from both sides when we grow up..leaving no common space for genuinely understanding of each other.
also, both persons have had a long journey of their own..both are subjected to varied experiences …giving shape to their individual belief systems. It is impossible that the two will look at a situation in the same light.
In view of the above it is futile to expect anyone to see ‘eye to eye’ in any situation. It can only lead to frustration.
Better would be for me to see if the other person’s perspective makes sense ..and if really so, change my view about the situation ..
once i start doing this, hopefully the other person also will reciprocate.
With that ,we can live together..and be happy..
While u may consider the ‘idealistic’ i wonder if there is any option!
Congrats for picking up an excellent topic ..and the elaborations with illustrations!
Vikas sir this subject is too deep and intense. And all you mentioned here is so apt & relevant. As i reached towards the end i concluded may be because external is illusion, beside every individual is unique. So, both the combination results in different permutation-combination, hence “individual world”.
But, as i read this above comment by Mr Shah, this sounded more rational. May be we should not be too dependent on 5 indriyas (Senses) its always the heart that guides.
Thanks Smita for your comments.
I am always enamoured by this dichotomy…to relate and still be independent…to share….but to remain insular.
That is what prompted this blog.
India we are brought up on this concept that the world is Maya. I realised it is so as we all carry and experience a different “world” in our minds…so indeed it is all Maya
This makes the human condition unique and so much more colorful and enjoyable
Viva la Difference
thanks for your thought provoking comments
Indeed I agree the rapport one enjoys when “dil ke taar” are in sync really is the epitome of the highest form of communication and sharing of meaning
and soon the individual demands and agenda take over and so the chasm between two entities or groups
All religions and saints only talk of love and there is no gap or scope for misunderstanding there
in fact in spirituality and mutual understanding, the highest form of communication is silence
how can we get back to that mode?
how can we reduce the noise created by me and mine?
I accept that though idealistic, that is the only way to ensure harmony and mutual understanding
Your comment on each having had an journey of their own reminded me of something I had read long ago :
In a conjugal bed, there are actually a minimum 6 people sleeping together…. the married couple plus the 2 sets of parents of each partner!!!! We all are made up of voices and experiences that we ourselves have had, as well as the influences and voices of significant others in our physical and mental lives. So obviously the pressures and demands are too many and create their own complications. Seeing “eye to eye” as you said has a very big uncertainty attached. But as long as it does not reach the stage of an eye for an eye ….I think we are all at a good place.
Thanks for your words of encouragement. They mean a lot to me and give me the energy and enthusiasm to keep writing
Sir, You are absolutely right. The difference in personal reality and resulting conflicts runs much deeper. We not only see the world differently , we are different. If you go into the variables of our nature and nurture , it amazes. On top of it, see no two persons are same. In fact no one was ever like you and me ever in history. We not only see differently , whole world is created by us, thus says the Mandukya upnishad. Regards HCP
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