It is common experience that most of us, if not all, treat our own opinion as the final judgment on an issue and be ready to take up the cudgels if it is opposed. Many relationships are damaged by this neurological habit and have even engendered fist-fights between individuals when carried too far. There was an occasion, way back in the sixties, when one of the writer’s friends was sitting in an evening club in Chennai (India), playing carom-board. Others were engaged in card games, chess etc. Two people were conversing about cricket, analyzing the England team in particular. One of them was in favor of Colin Cowdrey and the other opined that Ken Barrington was the better batsman of the two. At the beginning the debate was innocent enough but soon it gathered momentum along the wrong lines. It became hot and they began to exchange blows! The on-lookers had to abandon their games and rush to separate the two opinion mongers. One of the Good Samaritans passionately asked, “While Barrington and Cowdrey themselves are friends, why are you doing this?”!
Now, we all sense similar trends in our opinion mongering but, perhaps, are wise enough to veer away from the hot lines at some point. If we look into the matter in order to get to the bottom of this black business, we begin to wonder how this monster of a habit arises and keeps us under its thumb. Self-awareness sets in and the exploration into ourselves begins to tell us the whole story behind the neurological process underlying opinion mongering. The thought-running habit is primarily responsible for sustaining the ‘I’, the image about oneself. From our young days, we groom this habit and the ‘I’ gets tougher and tougher as the years pass by. The ‘I’ is built around one’s conclusions which give a sort of identification to it. This includes the emotional attachment to those conclusions too. By the time we reach 25 or so years of age, this ‘I’ strongly influences our neurology and the monster becomes uncontrollable. Because we are interested in understanding this process, the awareness takes us to the bottom of this issue and the monster begins to shake in its foundation! As it is no longer supported by the unawareness that gives it its life, the monster has no alternative but to dissolve. Watching it dissolve can be fun.
What is purported above can be considered a matter of oversimplification. Yes, it is true that the matter is not so easy. Nevertheless, with patience and sustained interest in that direction, the hard ice begins to melt. When we see this happening, we sense the power of self-awareness and how it can dissolve centuries-old neurological habits.
The deeper the self-awareness flows into us, the more peaceful we begin to feel; the calmer we are in our interactions and opinion mongering no longer figures in them. For purely practical purposes, however, exchanging opinions has a rightful place but it will not involve the ego, especially if we are alert about how the monster can take charge and vitiate the harmony. We would no longer indulge in converting others to our view points, religious or otherwise. All these transformations pave the way to living a naturally spiritual life; we would be deeply passive inside but be very active in our practical life.
By the way, we are reminded here of the Shakespearean lines: “Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice; Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.” Though this advice can be considered to belong to the realm of Dos and Don’ts, understanding the essence of those words is what brings about the transformation and not the conformity to a bunch of instructions.
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