Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Social Disapproval and Freedom

For many, social disapproval is a paralyzing force.

My experience has been quite different.  In my interactions with other people, they have generally kept their opinions (about me) to themselves.  Sometimes there is a whimper of a protest at the way I am choosing to live my life, but I have rarely had to counter any such disapproval.

It might have something to do with my personality, given that I have always been a heretic and a philosophical enfant terrible. My persona might be intimidating to feeble and consensus-minded people who would therefore rather not engage me in a debate.  But I have, after long observation, concluded that people, society, family, peer groups, etc. can influence and coerce you only insofar as you are bothered about what they think of you.

When I see someone bothered by or complaining  against the entrapment of society, I look a little deeper and see someone who seeks everybody's approval.

It might be said that disapproval is costly.  Hence, it is important to have some financial freedom if you wish to embark on a path which may not meet with society's approval.  In my case, my education and my first job in the US gave me the confidence as well as the cushion to embark on a life of exploration.

I understand others may not be that fortunate.  But I have also seen people much more financially comfortable than me feeling trapped under the weight of others' expectations.  And I have friends who may not have a big bank balance, but there is freedom in their hearts and they follow their own beat.  They and I have the confidence that no matter what happens, we will find a way to survive.  They and I have not gotten used to luxury, even as we can enjoy fine wines and fluffy beds and hot foamy jacuzzis.

What is the origin of that confidence?  I do not know.  Even when I was a young boy, I remember myself being rebellious and heretical.  Not always in a good way, but I did not simply care about what the respectable or good people thought of me.  I considered them unqualified to judge me.

Perhaps it was an early exposure to world literature and philosophy.  Who knows.

We all have, to varying degrees, a desire to live true to ourselves, and without the weight of others' expectations.  Whenever therefore we see someone actually living that way, we feel a bond and an admiration for that person.  It is as if the other person is channeling the collective heart of humanity, which seeks joy and exploration.

After I had returned from the US and decided to take many years off to study philosophy and meditation, almost without exception everybody that I met admired my decision.  And when later I re-entered the job market and explained my sabbatical, without exception my hiring manager(s) admired my conviction and spirit.

It is a real pleasure to meet an authentic person.  And I would like to believe that my authenticity, to whatever extent it exists, is also similarly a pleasure to others.  When others detect the free spirit in me, my experience has mostly been that they are friendly, helpful, loving and kind.  I have occasionally found souls which were hateful and resentful toward me, but it has been easy to ignore them or to even pity them for whatever twists exist in them.  I could see that they were suffering, and I was just the current object of their inner resentment.

There have been no "undue" influences in my life.

I meet many people who complain against their circumstances.  But when offered a way out, they feel hesitant and scared of the uncertainty.  Stagnation, resentment and certainty usually exist together.  Fear of the unknown is real, but it must be embraced.  Exploration and freedom cannot by its nature be predictable or comforting, but the reward is that it won't lead to a life of regret.

If social disapproval bothers you, try this thought experiment:

Imagine yourself thirty or fifty years into the future and only a few years away from your death.  All the people who disapprove of you at present are dead and gone.  What would your old self advise your present self?  What would you regret less at that age?  Follow that path.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Certain events boosting one's confidence (age-wise)
1. Strong command over subject (Maths & Physics); evidence - Brilliant Tutorials' tests

2. JEE19

3. Strong command over networking (Other than CS, nothing else matters)

4. Specialization in a skill based field where individual contribution is the most important aspect (not dependent much on others' performance)

5. Industry & Geography which values such individual exploration (perhaps not so much true with conventional industry in India)

So finally, be the way you are. Unfortunately many people don't realize that everyone is made unique by nature. and sadly, they kill their uniqueness to become a standardized product.