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Friday, June 09, 2006

When Envying is not an Enviable Choice

When in school there were a few hobbies I always had obsession for: studying everything which was not in the confines of the school syllabus, acting in school dramas, distorting teachers’ faces through my caricatures and getting their reluctant appreciation for that, talking about everything under the sky with my buddies, and, most importantly, burning my thick blood fretting over the height which simply refused to cross the benchmark of five four. The worry and loathe for my vertical length got gruesome as I was also blessed with an ordinary face. There had to be an end to this sulking, and I decided to do something concrete. I took shelter into history and contemporary, and searched for the names of people who had similar height, but stood taller, in a wider sense: : Kahlil Gibran, Michael Angelo, Socrates, Napoleon, N. Narayanmurthy, Sachin Tendulkar etc.

The effort didn’t go in vain, and ended up giving a feel of security, false and effervescent. Now I started applying my creative imagination in breeding other sources of jealousy and insecurity. And I didn’t have to try hard. Everybody I met was better than me in at least one sense. There were people who could sing better, could speak better, were smarter than me, fetched more marks or could do a thousand other things just to steal my sleep away.

But I felt these were just symptoms rather than the root cause. Deep inside, I actually wanted to better than everybody at everything. A very stupid and purely impossible thing to try for. But it was so ingrained in my psyche that I couldn’t help comparing myself with everybody I came across, everywhere.

But now I feel otherwise. Maybe I just doubt the validity of the rationale behind this habit, as ubiquitous among people as air inside a balloon. Since the day Baba Adam was born, we have been relentlessly taught to strive for becoming better than others, at any cost. And if we fail to do this, which is very inevitable, we must at least go and live in a deep sulk. This age-old teaching given by nearly everybody around us has taught us the fine art of envying others if they are better in one or more respects.

Raising my doubt, I ask if it would really help provided we become better than others. Would it help us having a happier and more meaningful life if we become the person we envy? I try to put myself in the shoes of the person I feel jealous of. And I see no reason why I should become happier and more satisfied. After all, that person may have his own problems, and may have been sulking over somebody who is even better than him in some or other way. This vicious circle has no end.

So, what’s the use of putting so much time and effort into doing something so stupid, futile and meaningless. By the way, who the hell cares whether we are better or worse than anybody else? Everybody is at least one million times more concerned with his own problems and insecurities. We are living in our own imaginary world where we are the centers of earth, and we all seem to be just too much concerned about us, only us.

I have sometimes tried to divert my attention to better things. I’ve preferred to enjoy myself by doing things I really like. Surprisingly, in those moments I totally forget to think whether I’m doing better or worse than anybody else. If I want to improve myself I benchmark myself with only myself. It helps, really. I become better day by day without bearing the burns of comparison and jealousy.

So, why envy? A little logic and understanding makes us see the entire futility in it. Then follow contentment, peace and maturity. And the realization that envying is not that enviable a choice to make.

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