Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Change or Accept

I had a somewhat interesting conversation with a friend today morning.

The conversation centered on whether one should accept oneself (to "be"), or whether one should attempt to "become".  "Being" is generally associated with peace and happiness, while "becoming" is associated with desire and frustration and suffering.

This is a nuanced topic, and while spirituality advocates a wholesale "being", many forces in the world relentlessly try to coerce, inspire, influence or shape an individual: to "become".  Some of these forces are probably with good intentions (parents, teachers, etc.) while others (advertisers, peer pressure) are often vicious in their intent.

Which features or characteristics of a human should be accepted as innate?

Which features or patterns of a human should be attempted to be changed in order to live a better life?

And lastly, at what point should one attempt to transform the circumstances instead of oneself?

To make the question more specific, let us consider three hypothetical individuals:

1. James likes to live large.  He has a busy corporate life, and out of office he likes to drink, party, and spend money.  He likes to buy new gadgets and show off flashy possessions.  He has some credit card debt.  His parents are old but he rarely calls them.  He meets many women but none of them are found suitable by him for getting married.  Maybe he doesn't want to get tied down.  He likes to live "in the present" and not think too much about "life".  He sleeps well but is sometimes stressed about the possibility of losing his job.

2. Matthew is an introvert.  He likes to work from home.  His parents are chronically unwell and he grudgingly takes care of them.  In his leisure time, he plays video games and eat simple food.  He doesn't like to meet women (or men, for that matter).  He is mildly overweight and he tries intermittently to exercise without much effect.  His needs are few and he has no significant ambition.  Of late he has become interested in existential philosophy.  People would consider him sober and mild-mannered.

3. Leah is driven, and very focused on self-improvement.  She is extremely fit, quite ambitious but emotionally vacuous.  She earns a lot of money as a Vice President but is often lonely.  She focused on her career in her twenties and early thirties and given her age, motherhood is no longer an option.  She is a vegan by choice, likes to volunteer to help the poor, and likes to travel to exotic places.  She never wants to retire but has a nagging feeling of emptiness and purposelessness.  She ensures that she sends birthday and anniversary cards to her parents every year.

In each of these three individuals, one can see shades of self-acceptance as well as self-doubt, "being" as well as "becoming", contentment as well as discontent.

If James, Matthew and Leah come to you for advice on whether they should continue to be the way they are or whether they should change themselves, or their circumstances, what will be the way you begin to form your response?

Complete acceptance of oneself and the world might be sub-optimal, but so might advocating a change which is in conflict with one's "nature".

Is it important to investigate the kind of discontent that one has, and after due consideration, to advocate: (a) accept the situation, (b) try and change yourself, or (c) try and change your situation?  Or a mixture of all three?

(to be continued)

4 comments:

larrydarrellblog said...

It's easy for the mind to select "the right way" from the three, and for it is easy, it is tempting. Life, however, is often more complex than can be tackled with easy thumb rules. One should embrace life's complexity and realize that there are no easy thumb rules or the right way. It's situational.

I believe the mixture of all three is the way to go. In that too, the composition of it would vary from person to person.

Arun Kumar said...

I think there are only two options accept/change. Change can be further divided into changing self or situation but essentially both are changes. So, as the saying goes - Change what you can't accept and accept what you can't change!

Anurag Jhalani said...

A bit off the topic, have been a avid reader of your blogs and also on a personal journey with actualfreedom...
Recently had been watching quite some videos from Nithyananda, a since beginning of this year scientific claims regarding new DNA and teleportation with 100s of gurukul students demonstrating it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpJ-gzxv08E

Would like to get your view on this topic. I am thinking of taking a big step of going with my young children.

Thanks and Regards
Anurag

Thucydides said...

You write very well and pose some really wonderful and subtle questions regarding being and becoming. I am most interested in reading your follow-up blog on what you think should be the approach. So please do hurry up and write the follow-up!