Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Monday Musings 311: The worst in the worst in us

Monday Musings: The worst in the worst in us

‘’We have always goodly stock in us of that which we condemn; as only similar can be profitably contrasted, so only similar people quarrel, and the bitterest wars are over the slightest variation of purpose of belief’’ – from ‘The Story of Philosophy’ by Will Durant. The above lines were observed by the author to describe the relationship between Aristotle about his relationship with his teacher Plato, particularly during the later years.
A few years earlier during the course of a very different discussion in a group a point came up – which was roughly to say, that what irritates us about others is often a part of us only; we recognise evil/vile/mean in others only when we have it us in plenty. I am just putting two and two together to weave this musing.
Conflict is all around us. The cause of most of these conflicts would have the humble and innocuous beginnings as mere ‘differences of opinion’. There are some conflicts which remain as mere difference of opinion while others acquire layers and become monstrous – layers of hurt (real or imagined), threats to identities and finally the consequences of insatiable power mongering (fundamentally the need to be one up!) When two people do not get along well, fight, spar and in extreme cases are at each other’s throat, it is really fascinating to know what is making them invest so much of themselves to keep the fight alive.
Generally speaking and particularly at the individual level, keeping a hurt/fight alive is a full time job. It demands so much of us. It demands that we simmer with the hurt at all times, keeping the flames of all the all past memories at high seam lest the savages of the hurt do not get tamed. This all becomes easier when the two are of the same kind with only minor differences (refer to the opening para). It is amazing how easy it is now, with the wisdom of those lines, to understand the nuances of all conflicts around us – for example the conflict between the different strands of the same religion (as against between two very different religions), or conflict between two parts of the same country (as against between two different countries), or conflict between two people very close to each other (as against between two strangers).
I guess the conflict between two people close to each other is acuter and with more ferocity because both know each other too well. The understanding of where things hurt is better and so the blow, when it is delivered, is delivered with maximum impact – because both know what will hurt most and where.
Understood from a different angle the hurt is the highest because the disappointment is the highest when someone so near and so similar is the source. (How could HE/She? I don’t believe it was He/She !;). Strangers do not hurt us because we are not invested in them; we experience the maximum hurt with the ones in whom we are invested in. (I it not expect this from Him/Her!).
Finally and perhaps the heart of the point is as follows – that the hurt emerges from an anger that we have with ourselves (its just that the consequences are directed outwards). In the experience of pettiness, vile, cunningness, meanness and witnessing the ability to be vengeful and remorseless – we are reminded of all of that in us. We know instinctively that we are no better that what we are witnessing or are at the receiving end – and what a fall from grace that moment is! In that fleeting moment when our own lies get exposed, where we become aware of our imperfections, we do not know how to redeem ourselves. Anger is our only recourse – and that anger is directed outside. The higher is our disappointment is ourselves, higher is the manifestation of that anger outside.
The fire that burns inside the blade of grass often ends up burning the forest. If only the blade knew better than that.

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