I’ve been living the Chinese adage “may you live in interesting times” this last fortnight. I could really have done without it. It’s been one of those weeks that has made me stronger, sealed my resolve somewhat, to prove several people, in several areas of my life, wrong. Screw them. This is my life and I’ll be damned if anyone else is going to tell me what to do. If I choose a path that others don’t like, then they can simply rack off. I am a very strong believer in the power of choice. Buddhist philosophy argues that we always have a choice. The choices may well be limited, they may not offer what we want, but there is always a choice. By focussing on this premise, I feel I remain in control of my own destiny.
Choices don’t come without consequences; there’s always a trade-off. We may change jobs to gain a promotion, but leave behind a workplace where we were comfortable and had friends we valued. The lure of the promotion, the challenge of new and previously untested abilities may ultimately be more fulfilling than remaining within the comfort zone of a long held role. Perhaps we move cities, to experience life in a different part of the world, a different culture. We choose to have a child, the drop to one income or even, to parent alone. Ultimately, the balance that we all seek in life is a constant juggling act, for the balls we try to keep in the air keep changing colour, size and weight.
I get very annoyed with people who try to direct my choices, who try to tell me what I should do. I rarely push friends in a particular direction, for I believe that whilst I can be an effective sounding board, I do not have to live the daily grinds and joys of my confidante and cannot know, completely, what it feels like to be them. I can put on their shoes for a little while, but the wear on the soles and the stretch on the laces will be different to my shoes and it will I never feel the same way as my friend.
I will always encourage those I care about to seek their own happiness, the peace for their soul. I will never tell them to do something that will harm them or their relationship with another. Someone did that to me last week and I am still angry. Very, very angry. People must remember that we live our own lives, we are the masters of our own souls. If we believe that we know better than another, a perfectly sane individual, then we commence on the road to disenfranchising them of their right to self determination, disillusionment and force our own values on them.
There was discussion this week about the Golden Rule. One person commented that in Christian terms, the Rule is expressed as, “Do unto others as you would have done to you.” Her comment was that not everyone wants “done” to them what is “done” to others. Christianity is the only world religion to express the rule in this way. Other religions express the Rule in terms of desiring for others what we wish for ourselves, or in not doing harm.
Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: Do nothing to others that would cause pain if done to you.
Buddhism: One should seek for others the happiness one desires for one’s self.
Taoism: Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your loss.
Confucianism: Is there one principle that ought to be aver on throughout one’s life? Surely it is the principle of loving-kindness: do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.
Zoroastrianism: The nature alone is good that refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.
Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do unto others. That is the entire law: all the rest is but commentary.
Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.*
There is a significant difference between “doing” a thing and “not causing harm”. Doing something does not always help; many of the world’s Indigenous people would argue that they have first hand experience of the negative effects of being “done”.
If we each remembered that we have our own hopes and dreams and thought about how hurt and angry we would be if those concepts of our mind were destroyed, perhaps we would not think ourselves so virtuous in shooting holes in the lives of others, in forcing our opinions on them. We should stand back and asked ourselves how we would feel if someone came and dismantled our values, challenged our choices, forced their views upon us and denigrated us if we refused to comply. Live and let live. It is a simple matter of respect. And if you choose to enter the realm of another, respect the ways of the people with whom you have chosen to integrate, rather than forcing your own values down the throats of those who have their own beliefs. Go gently, wherever you go lest you cause offence. Go gently, lest you find yourself on the receiving end of someone else “doing” to you what you do not want!
*Beebe SA, Beebe JS, Redmond MV. Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others. Fourth Ed, Pearson, 2005, p.63.