Updated: Jun 1, 2021
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”
I read this multiple times to understand what it really means. I was under the impression that they both were interrelated and inseparable to a large extent. I read a book by Viktor E. Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning” and that introduced me to the ultimate power of choice that humans are equipped with. If you search for Viktor Frankl on the internet, you will see that he is introduced as an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and ‘Holocaust survivor’. Yes, he was a holocaust survivor! He has seen some of the most unfathomable horrifying stories, that many of us would not want even for our worst enemies to experience.
He has seen all of it, the gas chambers, the barbaric mass killing, bones sticking out of people’s skin as a result of starvation and so much more. The mere thought of which sends shivers down my spine. Wouldn’t we agree that he had all the reasons to dwell on hatred? To become a bitter person? But what he did instead was, develop a theory which later came to be known as “logotherapy” that explains how only and only through searching for meaning and purpose in life can one endure the sufferings and hardships arising from time to time. I like to believe that we are inherently well-intentioned, it’s the challenging circumstances that shake us and our untrained mind leads us on the path of hatred and anger.
It's no surprise that some of us blame politics for the condition that we are facing. I have a friend who posts articles about Hindu-Muslim clashes and there is a lot of rage in his captions. I don’t mean to label him in any way as his intentions (according to him) for posting such articles is to create awareness amongst people how Hindus are different from Muslims but just feel the shift of energy when you read the topic of his choice. Some of you may feel “what’s wrong in that? What he’s saying is true!” while some may think “what’s this nonsense! He’s bleeding agony and he is a toxic person!”. What if we made a deliberate choice for a greater goal here? In a group of “diamonds cut diamonds”, what if we voluntarily choose to be “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”?
I watched a movie recently on Netflix: Ajeeb Daastaans and I loved it. Every minute, every second of that movie was a learning for me. I’ll explain what was my takeaway from that movie.
Everybody has a different perspective and their actions are based on the situation they are in. The moment we zoom out of a situation and analyze it as a neutral observer, things start to look a lot less complicated than when we were in that situation ourselves. I was not able to conclude or put the blame on anyone. Everyone’s action had a justifiable reason to back their stories up. Nobody was at fault.
Now, here’s a little something for you: People who haven’t watched it yet may think that it sounds like an interesting movie but the moment you hear about the stories, some of you may start to feel uncomfortable watching stories about a gay couple, lesbians, Dalits, a newborn been pressure-cooked by a child and extra-marital affair. My invitation to you would be to watch the movie with an open mind. The deeper you dive in, the more clear it would become that the concept of right and wrong that we so dearly hold on to is subjective, it is questionable depending on the time and space we are in.
The ability to zoom out and observe needs persistent practice because we will be faced with different situations in life that may challenge us both physically and mentally but if we can observe this from a broader perspective, the urge to label things into categories disperses gradually. Remind yourself that you always have a choice. Not to choose is also a choice! I choose to take the one that is for a better me not a bitter one!
~ Anila Andezhath