Friday, April 03, 2009

On Fulfillment

From the dawn of sentience, humans have tried to free themselves, and those for whom they care, from suffering. The history of humanity is also a history of the various attempted solutions to this broad problem.

Suffering can be due to various causes and unfulfilled needs or desires. As a human being, one has various categories of problems. The body can present its problems, care of the body and of one’s dependents can be troublesome, maintaining relationships can be challenging, earning a livelihood can be stressful, finding fulfillment can be elusive, and so on. Those needs and desires can be categorized, as per Abraham Maslow, into a hierarchy:

Physiological: Breathing, Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing, Health.

Safety: Security of having enough resources, security of body, family and property, security of livelihood.

Love/Belonging: Friendship, family, community, sexual intimacy.

Esteem: Respect in society, self-esteem, confidence.

Self-Actualization: Creativity, living a moral life.

There are at least two important questions about the above conception of human needs and desires:

1. Is it worthwhile for a person to advance from one level of needs to another, and be unsatisfied there instead of here?

2. Is it possible to be a fulfilled human being in toto?

Both are extremely important questions, and are also related to each other. If there is no ultimate fulfillment, then why not be unfulfilled here and now, rather than there and then? Why even try?

My answers to the two questions are:

Those who are struggling with the first two categories of needs (the physiological needs) usually do not worry much about the psychological ones. And since one sees no end to psychological suffering, and doesn't see anyone fulfilled, it is easy to conclude that psychological fulfillment is all bunkum. But that is no commendation for physiological struggle, in which one is lives and dies more or less a primitive mammal.

The progress of science, of economic systems, and of social institutions is eminently worthwhile insofar as it seeks to provide the greatest number of human beings with a reasonable level of fulfillment of the first two categories of needs. By a “reasonable level” I mean providing a level of satisfaction, security and health which leaves a person with the possibility of at least 6 hours of wakeful leisure everyday. A person may still choose to work overtime, or generally undertake compulsive activities in that leisure time (e.g. watch television) but those choices are not then enforced by outside agencies or circumstances. And I assume that the person will not be too tired after work to spend time on other activities. I also assume that caring for dependents and for the family are required activities and are part of work. “6 hours” may seem an arbitrary duration, and maybe 4, or 2, hours will do. But the point is the existence of leisure time.

The other three categories are those of psychological needs and, according to me, can never be completely fulfilled. These are desires, which can be somewhat satisfied, but never completely satiated. One can have occasional peak experiences in each of these categories, but these experiences do not fulfill one for all time. A human being dies unfulfilled if he seeks ultimate fulfillment in these realms. There is no “true love” which lasts forever, there is no societal respect which is permanent and free of fragility, there is no self-esteem which is not beset with doubts, and there is no morality which is completely livable 24x7x375.

The desires for love, for respect, for self-esteem and for being moral are desires which have an elusive “being”, a lonely psychological entity, at their foundation. “You” can not be fulfilled. “You” are forever destined to be unfulfilled. But fulfillment is possible if “you” cease to be.

That peak experience, that experience of perfection, does not require either love, or others’ respect, or being creative and moral. That peak experience is available to all, irrespective of their background. Being healthy and being safe in one’s person and property is required for one to feel at ease, and feeling at ease can lead to feeling happy and content, which can precipitate such a peak experience of perfection. To chase love, beauty, and morality is a hindrance to that peak experience because in these one is ever unfulfilled and striving, and moreover, since the feelings of love and beauty and morality keep “me” in action.

That peak experience can enable something far better than love and belongingness, something far better than beauty, and something far better than a conscientious morality.

(The Sombrero Galaxy, image courtesy www.spacetelescope.org)

It is therefore worthwhile to enable the fulfillment of the first two categories of needs for oneself, and for others. And needless to say, it is worthwhile to experience perfection, and to share one’s experiences and findings in what enables this experience, and what prevents it from happening.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Peak experience of any kind is a very personal defination, hence doesn't fall in any one category or heirarchy!

Life does reveal itself in its small miracles if one can realize this at category one and two of AM. But human nature doesn't stop there. Even taking care of these two, one gets to indulge in the other three, and follow it by falling for love / belongings / friendships / sex / family / creativity / moral. There are no hard and fast preventions in this regard. Most have to go / live through life and its categories and subcategories to finaly grow beyond such entanglements and learn to truly live its mysteries without getting stuck in the above. Try stopping a young boy or a girl in love using all the philophy of the world, and see!!

It is worthwhile to experience one's peak, whatever it is and settle into the bigger picture of reality at the same time.

Life well lived, is worthwhile to be shared irrespective of what category does it fall.

And it is needed to be said that enabling the fulfilment of one thing more worthwhile than the other for others is under-estimating the approach of life. Life will happen in all its branches/categories, inspite and despite of few trying to put one category(as specified here) over the other.

Each category, its destined fulfilment or unfulfilment has a role at individual and collective levels. Someone yearning for belongings, love, beauty, self-esteem, morals, creativity or self actualisation at his/her own level without even intending could be the ones amongst the people behind the progress of science, economic systems, etc that further help in fulfilment of physiological and safety needs of many. Even while fulfilling one's own desires and self defined needs of all kinds/category, could be in someways contribution at multiple levels. e.g. dhiru bhai ambitiosness, not such a great example, but okay, many have run their basic lives with shareholdings with his companies.

This is not to deny that ultimate wonder of life that can happen for many without much of hue and cry. A human being has that potential to live upto quite a great extent of peace and fulfilment by reasonably fulfilling the basic categories a bit here and there. To such men of acceptance, life tends to unfold and reveal its wonderful mysteries without much of an effort.

Degree and categories of contributions towards others even in this state would vary from individual to individual coming out of one's own natural tendencies. There are quite a large number of human beings developing countries who are reasonably fulfilled physiologically and in terms of safety, life in action doesnt stop there for most of them. They as human beings have some destined roles to play and have thier own unique place in the bigger picture, including all those who feel to be well tuned in their peak-experience/fulfillment.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Anonymous:

Thanks for your comments.

You set me thinking. If someone wants advice on how to find love, would I help? If someone wants advice on how to live a beautiful life, would I help? If someone wants to live a moral life, would I help? I think not. I would rather advise him/her to investigate what love, beauty, morality is.

But that doesn't mean I would stop anyone from doing all these. They are free to try, fail and learn on their own, and they will probably only learn that way. But it is a perilous path, and many suffer so many scars in the pursuit of love and morality that they stay wounded for life.

However, if I have the opportunity to prevent disease, famine, death, lawlessness and violence for some human beings, I would do all that I could. Even if somebody wants to marry for love, and is being hounded by regressive parents, I would help him/her, because it is an issue of safety, not of love.

In that sense, I consider fulfilling the first two categories of needs (in the short term and in the long term) worthwhile, and Enabling the experiences of perfection (through sharing one's findings) as eminently worthwhile.

And I agree that one's understanding of life, whether well-lived or not, is well worth sharing. This sharing can tell others what works, and what doesn't, because we are, deep down, quite similar to each other.

I notice that you use the following phrases: "truly live its mysteries", "one's peak", "bigger picture of reality", "destined roles". Do you believe in an intelligence beyond the human mind?

And if I may ask: what is your understanding and experience of "the ultimate wonder of life", which you think can happen without much hue and cry for some people?

Surbhi said...

"Life does reveal itself in its small miracles if one can realize this at category one and two of AM. But human nature doesn't stop there."

# the small miracles are nothing but chance discoveries or incidents. Because we have not imagined such wonder, they appear as miracles. That I am alive in his wonderful world is the biggest miracle and the rest is discovery.


"Try stopping a young boy or a girl in love using all the philophy of the world, and see!!"

# it is very easy to recognize that the 'love' that is between them is hormonal rage for sex. Get them to mate for 24 hours and they may pretty much 'get over' the 'love' they 'feel'. That happens a lot on youth. However, chances of appreciating the qualities of a person you are inclined towards, once the sheen of 'love' wears off, are more as one matures.And reason and logic returns after being deserted in frenzy of hormones.

"It is worthwhile to experience one's peak, whatever it is and settle into the bigger picture of reality at the same time."

# It is worthwhile to experience peak because it makes one realize that the 'peak' exists and can be sustained for a long time or life time. What is the bigger picture of reality? Does reality gets any bigger than life itself?


"Life well lived, is worthwhile to be shared irrespective of what category does it fall."

# Do you mean experiences so that other could draw inspiration?

"And it is needed to be said that enabling the fulfilment of one thing more worthwhile than the other for others is under-estimating the approach of life. Life will happen in all its branches/categories, inspite and despite of few trying to put one category(as specified here) over the other."

# Yes. But quality of life may differ. While i understand that you are protesting against imposition of any prescribed or set method to live life happily, but you do realize that some methods will work better than the others and hence validity and effectiveness of these methods will be categorized.

"Each category, its destined fulfilment or unfulfilment has a role at individual and collective levels."

# who decides this destiny? society, political system, individual enterprise? What is the role of someone's 'unfulfilment'?

"Someone yearning for belongings, love, beauty, self-esteem, morals, creativity or self actualisation at his/her own level without even intending could be the ones amongst the people behind the progress of science, economic systems, etc that further help in fulfilment of physiological and safety needs of many. Even while fulfilling one's own desires and self defined needs of all kinds/category, could be in someways contribution at multiple levels. e.g. dhiru bhai ambitiosness, not such a great example, but okay, many have run their basic lives with shareholdings with his companies."

# Desires can never be fulfilled. You fulfill one, another two or more spring up.

"This is not to deny that ultimate wonder of life that can happen for many without much of hue and cry."

# what is the ultimate wonder of life?

"A human being has that potential to live upto quite a great extent of peace and fulfilment by reasonably fulfilling the basic categories a bit here and there. To such men of acceptance, life tends to unfold and reveal its wonderful mysteries without much of an effort."

# Acceptance of what?

"There are quite a large number of human beings developing countries who are reasonably fulfilled physiologically and in terms of safety, life in action doesnt stop there for most of them. They as human beings have some destined roles to play and have thier own unique place in the bigger picture, including all those who feel to be well tuned in their peak-experience/fulfillment."

# a bit of utopia, pity that it does not exist, really!
Most of us are fed notions of happiness and fulfillment and people live and die as per someone Else's prescription.

best wishes

Anonymous said...

You got me smiling.
There is a phase of life that gets spend thinking and telling others – THINK THINK THINK THINK THINK THINK THINK THINK THINK THANKX!

Taking the thinking further from the above. If someone ASKS for self-confidence in whatever he/she is going through, maybe even love..?? if someone ASKS for help in his creative pursuits or self-actualisation, whatever that is...?? If one has it in his kitty it is better to give than to think of categories. This is in case if someone truly asks for and the one who is asked for truly has. There is not much of a possibility (doesn’t mean that there is not) of true sharing or telling others what works or not if hasn’t well worked for oneself.

At first two categories there aren’t much of glitches. In other categories, there are a lot. Specially if one tries to enable/aid it for others. On mind level, sharing/discussing does help, the best it helps is to the mind itself in clearing itself, and not as propagation (till it is well lived or realized). We as human beings have this propagandist tendency of mind to jump to sharing. When it is done half cooked it has far reaching damaging effects than our ill-famed animal like instincts. If it is done for clarification then it shall be done truthfully.

Nevertheless one must continue to do what one truthfully feels is worthwhile while letting others decide and live their worth. One who himself/herself lives the wonder of life acknowledges the paradoxes and visible contradictions and embraces ‘live and let live’ as a way of life by non-interference in other’s life until asked for. Now this is not a once and for all directives, there is no one right way and one wrong way. One tends to live life with ones embedded directives (layers and layers of it) and as per one’s life situation - together this could be called as destiny.

I do recognize the intelligence beyond the mind. Mind is widely varied tool for every individual and rarely does it arrive at full consensus with the other. Whenever it arrives it is need based and not because of itself. It is a wonderful mechanism, and works great. But it is refractory in nature when we overrate and try to cook too much with it. As one cannot move lovers from loving each other, or someone from falling for things and more and more riches, the force goes much stronger when one comes to living through more and more of mental combats. Try telling a scholar, or an intellectual to listen to what I am saying and see!!

Mind doesn’t function wonders unless it’s a clear mind. A state of clear mind also is a state which is beyond ‘the everyday knowhow’ for many, what to talk of beyond, which is a much weaker force in us comparing to physical, emotional or mental. Relating it to the five categories of AM, the last three fall somewhat in the mind-zone, and realizing the peak experience of life right from category one + two is a possibility that arises either by a clear mind, or out of old man’s wisdom (understanding or actually going through all cycles, and still unfulfilled), or by going into that intelligence that get tapped/activated by going beyond mind, and finally reflecting back in through a pure state of mind so to say.

You surely would have heard the phrase – ‘Even the trees and stones come alive before me’. The wonders of life are already there all the time in every speck, in every moment, available for everyone. Everything and everyone is in its nature. Great are those who get it this way and live through it and great are the rest of it as everyone has a place in the bigger picture of life in the nature’s design and scheme of things, a