Love and Life are two four-lettered words about whom volumes have been written by poets and writers alike. And yet, like writing about Nature, God and Beauty, there is always something more to write.
There is a great deal of confusion whether Love is a selfless emotion or the most selfish of the emotions. It is selfless because when you love, in near absolute terms, you come to a point when you are oblivious about yourself, your needs and desires. Amongst the popular lovers of yore, Majnu was so much in love with his Laila that when asked to write God’s name in school, he wrote Laila. He was caned so hard by his teacher (maulvi) that it was feared that his hands would start bleeding. Lo and behold, the hands that started bleeding were those of Laila. Love is so selfless that you can lose your identity in love and assume the identity of your beloved.
“Duniya pukarti hai mujhe tere naam se…”
It is also a selfish feeling since you love a person to the exclusion of others and that person is called ‘my love’, ‘my life’ etc. As the holy book of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Granth Sahib brings out, my is roughly tranlated to ‘haume’ and loving someone to the exclusion of others is like claiming something for yourself and hence has an element of selfishness about it.
A mother’s love for her child has both elements in it: the selfishness and selflessness. A few decades back, in an earthquake in USSR a woman was buried with her child under the rubble for three full days and nights. She kept her child alive by feeding it her blood! It is a feeling of supreme selflessness. However, the feeling with her, “The life that I am saving is my child, my creation, my life, my love. If I die it would die. So I have to keep myself too alive”, is indeed a selfish feeling.
Lets put it this way: would you expect Laila to bleed for the entire humanity? No, she bled for her own love. Would you expect the mother in USSR to do such a sacrifice for other children? No, she would do it for her own children.
Selfless or selfish or a mixture of both, Love brings out the best in human beings. Yes, one has to get rid of ‘haume‘, as per the scriptures. However, the highest attainments of Leadership through Love are only possible if there is ‘haume’ (my-ness or ego) involved. Soldiers lay down their lives for the love of their country. Cricketers win matches, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat by having the feeling of my-ness for their team, province, state or country. Getting rid of ‘haume‘ is to be rid of belonging and attachment. However, if you are rid of it Love dies for everyone except for paramatma (Supreme soul) or God.
So, don’t think too much whether it is Selfish or Selfless to love. If you are thinking of it, you are aware of ‘Self’! It can’t be the purpose of Life to reach back to God. To love one another may also be the will of God.
I have always challenged the oft-held views. In my ‘An Alternate Philosophy of Life‘, for example, I have challenged our obsession with seeking God for ourselves. I have, on the other hand, suggested that we get out of this obsession and think of the society, the way the Westerns do. In India, most people love God but are not so prone to love one another, cleanliness (despite the renewed stress on Swachchh Bharat (clean India), and values. We would if there was some self-interest or ‘haume’ involved in these.
Here are some of the things that I suggest that we love:
1. Love Life. The greatest gift that God has given us is that of Life. We should love ours and those of others. As Indians, when we drive, pardon my saying so, but, it isn’t apparent whether we love ours’ and those of others. Perhaps we should demonstrate it in more ways than the present one of furiously honking and abusing another person off the road. Each one of has the feeling of self-preservation in some degree or the other. Yes, it is selfish to love one’s own life. However, if you don’t love your own and value it, you cannot be expected to value others’. Last year’s Alejandro Inarritu movie The Revenant (a movie that I didn’t like because of its raw and relentless violence) won him the Best Director’s Award as well as Best Actor award for Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie is all about the quest for survival under extreme harsh conditions for Hugh Glass whilst seeking revenge against John Fitzgerald, a fellow trapper who left him (Hugh Glass played by DiCaprio) as dead after stabbing him. Take the opposite extreme, that of a Jehadi or a Mujahid. He doesn’t value his own life and those of others in the mistaken belief that by killing himself and others he would, perhaps, serve some purpose of God. Loving Life is the first signs of gratefulness towards God for having created beings, mountains, plains, rivers, seas, etc.
2. Love Nature. God made the Universe very beautiful indeed. We are part of it and we are beautiful too. However, Nature is more beautiful than all of us individually and collectively. It is our beloved. It is not ashamed to have a bath right in the open and emerge even more beautiful. It doesn’t bore us with the same shape, colour, fragrance and hue all the times. One of the most enchanting things about Nature is that it is forever changing. Just when we feel that we have seen the most alluring part of it, it unashamedly reveals another even more fascinating. Nature reflects the endless attribute of God Himself in case we are used to personifying God.
3. Love Music. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like or love; be it classical, instrumental, Western, Raaga based, or even punk. However, I would be very suspicious of a person who doesn’t like music and considers all music as jarring noise. Music is the expression of the soul. There must be some expression of your own inner self that finds resonance with some music. My family and I consider life without music to be no life at all.
4. Love Children. God gave us innocence at birth and even before it. We had it when we were children. But then, we plunged into worldly knowledge and lost it gradually. That’s the reason that we, with all our knowledge, are farthest from God and little children with their innate innocence are God-like (Please read: ‘How Unbiased Or Innocent Can We Become?’). Therefore, it makes sense to love the child in you as also to love children.
5. Love Animals. Many of you must have seen the most successful South African movie ever: the 1980 movie ‘Gods Must Be Crazy’. The movie is about the simple bushmen of Kalahari Desert in Botswana who are happy and content with what God has given them until they are exposed to a Coca Cola bottle (symbolic of the modern world) having been thrown close to them from a plane. And now, the single coca-cola bottle is the source of envy, jealousy, anger, frustration and violence that they had never experienced before. The animal world is like the world of the bushmen as seen in the movie. There is no fear, danger, jealousy, greed and guile. If you can’t be in the wilderness, the next best thing to do is to have a pet and then you suddenly start realising that God made all His beings in His own liking. You can’t help loving them. Indeed, nowadays, scientific and psychological studies have shown that loving a pet relaxes you and enriches your life.
6. Love Silence and Privacy. We like Sound. Indeed, we like all sensory experiences of hearing, smelling, seeing, touching and tasting. However, there are experiences beyond the senses and these can be found only in silence both outward and inward. You have to make your surroundings and environment around you silent. In modern-day India, for example, we collectively detest silence and are at home with unfettered noise. Considerable part of it is – hold your breath – devotional (Please read: ‘A Quieter Mumbai – Is It A Pipe Dream?’, ‘Noise Is The Newest Form Of Devotion’, ‘Sounds Of Silence’, ‘State Sponsored Noise’, ‘This Patakhawali, This Bombawali Has Nothing In Common With Deepawali’, and ‘Who Are The “People” Whose “Sentiments Need To Be Respected”?’ ) What kind of devotion it must be that uses noise as a medium and doesn’t respect other people’s privacy?
7. Love the Jawan (Soldier). As long as there is ‘haume’, there is violence. As long as there is violence, someone needs to protect us from being subjugated by violence. That chosen one of God is the Jawan or the Soldier. Whilst others have a profession or vocation, his is a devotion, a sacrifice and way of life. To love a Jawan is to thank him for risking his own life whilst protecting ours. No money, awards, gratitude on earth can ever repay him for what he does 24/7, 365 days in a year.
8. Love India. We Indians are the most vociferous jingoists in the world. We carry our patriotism on our shirt-sleeves for everyone to see. But, do we really love our country? The answer is a big NO. The person who loves his or her country as his or her own home won’t do any of the following, for example:
- Dirty it relentlessly and expect someone else to clean up the mess.
- Indulge in everyday petty corruption and short-cuts knowing that it makes the country weaker.
- Whiling away time at work knowing that the country’s well-being is dependent upon each one of us working at full efficiency and dedication.
- Sell the country’s interests both overtly and covertly to the enemies of the country within and without.
- Have no respect for the law of the land.
There, I have given you my short list of things that we ought to love as our own and cherish that we were given these to love.
One of my poems ended like this:
Some live to love,
I love so as to live.
Perhaps you can do it too.
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