People think that they have all the power to decide not only their destiny but also the destiny of others, particularly the lowly mortals. In reality, a little deeper reflection reveals that they hardly have control over their own life. They had no control over the time, date, year, and place of their birth, although advancements in medical sciences make it somewhat possible to delay or advance their birth. People have no power to choose their parents and their place in the social or economic hierarchy.
They think that the rest of their life depended on the decisions that they would take but that too appears an illusion. In their early life, they had no abilities, capabilities, or power to make their decisions. Hence these decisions were taken by their fathers or family. It is only recently, that mothers have become a partner in the decision-making process.
But could the family always succeed in taking decisions that they wanted to take? We all can recall numerous instances when the decision-making abilities were circumscribed by the circumstances that surrounded them. The socio-economic condition; position and place in the social hierarchy; inequality and inability to afford choices and preferences; were just a few that often changed the direction of their decision.
We may think that the rich, wealthy and influential would have certainly been in a position to take decisions at will. Alas, that is no where nearer the truth. Had this been the case, the mighty empires and emperors would not have disappeared from this earth. This equally applies to business tycoons and political personalities. Many a time they think that it was they who alone took the decisions but, rest assured, if they had that power, they would not have taken reckless decisions leading to their fall and decimation.
Those in cozy public sector privileged jobs may think that they would get their promotion and rise on the success ladder at will or would continue to work till they retire, which they think would happen on a certain pre-specified data. But this too is beyond our control because one of the unsaid condition of retirement is the specified date of retirement or till the person remain alive, whichever is earlier. Do we know or have control over our death. We only know that we shall certainly die but no one knows when.
This is so with everything in nature. Does a dog have the power to decide or even know whether it would die as a street dog surviving on leftovers or would be adopted by the super-rich and wealthy where it shall have the life of luxury, far superior to the majority of the people’s population in the world?
Does a piece of land know as to whether it would be used for building a church, mosque, temple, or synagogue or used for building a bar, brothel, casino, or criminal activity? Does a forest know, whether would it become denser or thinner or would disappear because each of its trees may fall prey to some people or even policies? Indeed they cannot speak and protest or we still have not been able to learn their language and thus unable to comprehend what they say.
Also Read: SPIRITUALITY
Of all the creatures, humans may think that they are the mightiest and the most powerful and have a long life, brilliance, and intelligence but in reality, we are the weakest, the most vulnerable, and probably the most useless, if not worthless. We take much longer to be borne since conception, remain dependent on our mother and others for our livelihood and survival, we take much longer to learn to stand on our two tiny feet, what to speak of walking.
The only way we are better than most others is that we have two extra free limbs comprising our arms and hands with which we can do many things which other creatures can hardly do. On top of it, we have brains that are somehow more developed than most other animals, or at least we think so. An empty mind is the devil’s workshop and with the two extra limbs to act on the inventions made by the brain, we have the power to make our and others’ life easy, comfortable, enjoyable, and thus bring peace, prosperity, and harmony. Alas! At times we use our supremacy to make our and others’ life a hell. We have no power to control to tame the devil within us.
This is, however, easier said than done. People are generally prisoners of their own thoughts which, in turn, have been formed and influenced by wide-ranging factors like behavioural traits, education, experiences, and upbringing, not necessarily in the same order. Education upbringing and experiential learning may however play a major role.
Sadly, upbringing, education, and experiences depend a great deal on the social, economic, and political circumstances, which as said earlier, are beyond the control of the individual. Does this mean, that we must do nothing and leave ourselves to the mercy of the circumstances? On the contrary, making efforts is the only thing within our areas of concern, interest, and influence and on that, we must never give up. This also means that that having made the best efforts, one must not worry much about their outcome because the outcome is not necessarily a function of only efforts. So many other non-controllable factors beyond our means come into play.
At the same time one must never give up on the efforts for it is the persistence that pays. Additional means are as important and critical as the accomplishment of goals. This calls for never compromising on ethics and integrity. This demands us from desisting lies, misrepresentation, and benefitting at the cost of others. All this becomes easier to comply with as we keep in mind the ultimate reality that our mortality is a certitude that can be averted with no fortitude.
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About the author
Dr. Furqan Qamar is a former Advisor (Education) in the Planning Commission of India. He has been the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Rajasthan and Central University of Himachal Pradesh. Dr. Qamar is currently the Professor of Management at the Centre for Management Studies (CMS), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), New Delhi.