This Too, Will Pass ~ LOOK BOTH
WHEN WE THINK OF IT,
it is easy to see how we are influenced, conditioned
and taught to be greedy and covetous, to always try
to satisfy our desires; we live in a world gone mad
with greed. We are pressured in school to get good
grades and 'succeed' so we may get well-paid jobs
and respect in society. TV bombards us subtly, blatantly
and incessantly with countless appealing images, wheedling,
inviting and persuading us to acquire and own, and
if we don't have the cash or don't want to pay then,
we can 'charge it' and pay later.
It is nice to have the latest fashions and
models in clothes, cars, appliances, etc., and lots
of them, too, but at the same time, what happens?
By continuously giving way to our desires and indulging
ourselves in whatever we want—but often don't
need—we weaken our will-power, become discontented,
and easily fall into the negative habit of complaining
and feeling sorry for ourselves. Surrounded by things
that even 20 years ago we might not have dreamed of,
are we happy? When we buy something new we are happy
with it for a while, but when its novelty has worn
off or we see something better, our happiness fades,
too, and it becomes just another possession.
Don't get me wrong, however; I'm not suggesting
we should eschew modern things, but that we should
understand what happens to our minds in regards to
them, so that we remain in control, and avoid becoming
possessed by our possessions. We would be silly to
wash clothes by hand if we have a washing-machine,
for example; there is no need to do things the hard
way when we have the means to do them easier and better.
To refuse to travel by motorized transport because
it's 'unnatural' would be rather extreme and neurotic,
would it not? The problem is that we soon grow used
to things and take them for granted; then, when they
break down or are lost or stolen, we feel helpless
and don't know what to do.
The old analogy of a bottle with 50% of
its contents is still useful; would we say it is half-full
or half-empty? We could say either or both, could
we not? But what we said would reveal something about
us; an optimistic would say it is half-full, while
a pessimist would say it is half-empty. The situation—here,
a bottle with 50% of its contents—is the same,
but the ways of looking at it are different. There
are always at least two ways of looking at everything.
Some years ago, while traveling with a friend
on a highway in Malaysia, we were passed by a motor-cyclist
doing probably close to 100 mph. As if prophetically,
I said: "We'll see him later." Sure enough,
about 15 miles down the road, there was his bike in
the middle of the highway while he was sprawled on
the grass verge, as if dead. We stopped to render
assistance and found that he wasn't badly hurt, so
while some villagers undertook to look after his bike,
we lifted him into the back of our car and drove him
to the nearest hospital. He had been eager to return
to his home in a distant town to celebrate the Muslim
New Year the next day, and so was sad that he would
not make it in time; he probably felt he was unfortunate,
so I tried to console him but telling him he was lucky,
as he could easily have died. As he couldn't undo
what had happened, this would have been the best way
of looking at it.
Some people regard philosophy as being somewhat
out-of-fashion today, which is a pity, as we all need
the support of it at times, and the nearer the philosophy
is to reality, the more efficacious it is.
We often compare ourselves with others,
and measure our 'success' besides theirs. But in our
comparisons, we usually look at those who have more,
and not less, than us, so consequently, we become
envious and dissatisfied, and feel sorry for ourselves.
If we looked at those with less than us, however,
our situation would appear quite different; it all
depends upon how we look at it. Always there will
be people better-off or worse-off than us, richer
or poorer than we are; we are always somewhere in
between, and no-one is 'top' in every way. If we must
compare ourselves with others, let us look in both
directions, like before crossing a busy street.