I constantly strive to improve myself. Evolve, or Perish — that is the maxim I try to live by. The nineteenth century French philosopher Henri Bergson’s book title “L’Evolution Creatrice” or the “Creative Evolution” sums up philosophy to life. As I look over my childhood and teen years, I find I am relatively much better person today in many ways (although people around me may not notice such a fact readily). However, the problem is that I do not understand how I have been such a ‘sub-par’ person, at least in my own opinion, to begin with (again, though people may not notice it readily). This fact anguishes me a lot, and I find it in many ways inexplicable.
The way I used to think and look at the world, the things I used to do — when I try to sit and introspect about the years gone by — there is much in there that I cannot identify with, in the least. It is as if I was a different person, it was like me to some extent, but there the similarity ends. I do not regret about my past, though, because I think it is a waste of time to do so. But I find it puzzling that it was me who could have done such and such things, or rather, not done such and such things. When I think of the future, I hope I would not find my present self to be as strange then — although it would be so to some extent — as my past self is to me now; I may have several weaknesses still, of course, but at least I think I am on the right path. My philosophy gives me motivation and direction in life. My seeking, searching spirit, or the élan vital, drives me on.
Let me present one small concrete example to illustrate my misgivings about my past. I never exercised as a child and teenager. Now, this may not sound such an egregious defect, there are many people who do not exercise when they should, even as adults. But my case is different. As a child, and even now, my shoulders get rather frozen upon a few days of inactivity, and I experience much discomfort in that area. Fortunately, all I have to do is swing my arms a hundred or two-hundred times in rotating motion, simulating swimming strokes, to set it right. And this is what I do nowadays, of course. However, to my acute consternation and embarrassment when I think of it now, I just suffered and endured this discomfort, all through my high-school years especially, helplessly without knowing what to do to get myself out of this fix.
I could have done just anything to get a little exercise, but I did not and instead heaped up misery upon. It seems so absurd now; even a 5-year-old child could have been instinctively prompted to flex his muscles, and exercise his arm a bit, to relieve such stiffness in his arms if he is feeling any. But occasional participation in basket ball and other sports was the only relief I got, and I silently suffered my discomfort, since it was more or less at a tolerable level, without seeking any solution. Now I do not know what to call such behavior except foolishness.
Yes, I have to admit to myself sincerely that I have been foolish, in this and many other ways. I think only when we recognize, realize and admit our mistakes, foolishness and weaknesses is their any chance for working upon them to improve ourselves. And I am most keenly desirous to see such improvement happening, besides being glad and thankful all the growth and maturity that I have been able to attain in these past several years. It is a long and slow process. I admit it could have been expedited very much, but unfortunately, for one reason or other, it was not the case. It is frustrating sometimes, but on the whole it is very rewarding. A constant passionate desire for development gives purpose and meaning to life.
I see myself continually in terms of evolution, day by day, month by month, year by year. The little wisdom or philosophical maturity that I may have now, I owe it to various thinkers and philosophers, books and people that I came across over the years. But I also owe it to my mistakes, shortcomings and wrong attitudes. They have been very expensive, but I have learned much through suffering. Adversity has been my greatest teacher too, just as it is for so many other people. Much of it is of my own doing, I may hate myself for it all now, but I think philosophy cannot be learnt from books alone. One has to go through the fire of life.
I had to go through the fire and live through the fire, only to understand that there is no need to go through the fire and live through the fire — if only I was a littler smarter. Such is the paradox of life. In philosophical terms, my life so far can well fit into the framework provided by the German philosopher Wilhelm Hegel. Hegel said evolution takes places not in a straight line, but through dialectics: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. I have been antithesis to myself for so long. Although it cannot be clearly demarcated in a linear chronological order, those times that I have been a thesis to myself have been few and fleeting, and the times I have been antithesis to myself have been numerous and long, yet I have learnt to through both of them, perhaps more from the latter than the former.
Now, all I am working at is to achieve some kind of resolution, some kind of synthesis, where I can proudly again feel: this is me! I think I have been making a fool of myself for too long. Now, even if only in the very natural course of things, that phase has to come to an end. I am not expecting myself to become extraordinarily wise, but even a little wisdom would be enough to put my life back on track. It almost is back on track already, I feel great and upbeat more than ever, but there are a number of loose ends that have to be taken care of, as usual.
I am very critical of myself, which is good, but I am also very accepting of myself, which I think is even better. I can understand that it is not only me that has been and continues to be foolish, I think human beings in general are foolish by nature. So I can always console myself, I am only human, and that is the way things are. Even a preliminary inspection of our world makes it clear that folly reigns supreme here. It reminds me of a profound and serious observation made by Albert Einstein: “Only two things are truly infinite, the universe and human stupidity.”
By and large, I tend to accept myself, my past with all its mistakes and follies, considering it not too abnormal and concomitant with the condition of my being only human, all too human. This makes me capable of forgiving myself, though not forget my inadequacies which originate in my distant past and still haunt me with unswerving tenacity. As a further consequence, I am capable of forgiving people and the whole world around me despite the sordid messy state of affairs we find ourselves even in the present day. I tend to accept my friends, people and situations around me just as they are. This was not so at all just a few years ago, when I used to be so angry and frustrated with people around me, but in the recent times, I have been learning, reflecting, and maturing. I have grown more acceptant, relaxed and happy with the state of affairs whatever it is. Because I fully well realize, things could be much worse, much much worse!
However, in keeping with my basic philosophy of progress and evolution, I keep trying hard to change things with me and around me in whatever capacity I can. I can put it this way: my philosophy is not against the past, but it definitely is for a greater future. I am a dreamer at heart. Philosophy has not only to do with the nature of reality around us, but with the nature of dreams within us. I dream big and try to think far. I have a vision of endless progress.
I think I have been able to formulate my philosophy or ideology to myself in a perfectly fine manner. In fact, my present highly positive and inspiring outlook to life has been there with me for quite some time. Yet in all this time, till today and this very hour, I have been struggling to stay true to my philosophy, with only limited success — again for some reasons I cannot easily identify unless ascribe it all again to innate human folly.
From the time of Pythagoras and Plato onwards, philosophy has been regarded as something which has to be actively used to mold our lives and society. To me, philosophy is very much a practical affair. I am a dreamer and fighter constantly endeavoring to bring about a positive change wherever I can, to whatever degree I can. At the same time, I think my understanding and acceptance of the limitations of people, including myself, saves me a lot of energy that could have otherwise been frittered away in needless conflict, and channelizes it in proper and constructive directions.
Some undesirable tendencies such as laziness, procrastination, and indecisiveness still linger in me, rooted as they are in a long past, and at times I myself am very much surprised at such negative traits and behavior I spot in myself in retrospect, yet I know it is just a matter of time before I come much closer to being the person I have always wanted to be. This almost unshakeable faith in myself, my future and its possibilities is again one of those blessings of my particular philosophical attitude to life, which can be succinctly stated in a few points:
- The universe is intelligent, filled with order and beauty.
- Life is meaningful, and we can make it more meaningful by becoming focused and purposeful in our actions
- Do not fight with things. Do not fight with life. Rather, cooperate. Go with the flow. Work with the universe.
- Think big. Think far. Think positive.