Let me pose a good ‘ol maths question to begin with - what are the minimum number of dots needed to form a straight line? Two, right? In the same fashion, the minimum requirement for the formation of a value hierarchy (click here if you wish to know more on this) is of-course two values then. Not that we keep a count of the values we have formed. We aren't robots that we start listing the values created from our experiences and hardwire them into mental databases in the form of spreadsheets. We even don't have a Dumbledore’s Pensieve – a kind of a memory storage tank with a silver liquid that Dumbledore in Harry Potter series used to store memories in, by pulling them out of the side of his head using his magic wand, only so that he could store them, access and review them anytime at a later stage (Oh! I so wish I had one). Neither can we keep a track of the nature of values that get written in our memory drives through our experiences nor can we access them whenever we want to. All this is subjective, arbitrary, and kind of automatic. But there is one, amongst all values, that is right there at the top. This value is like a lens through which we view everything in our life. That’s called the ‘God value’. Nope! It’s nothing to do with the God particle discovered by scientists in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. Simply put, it’s the topmost value that occupies the topmost shelf in your mental cupboard or is lodged or hooked onto the topmost step of your mental staircase or occupies the topmost position of your mental ladder, however, you may want to think of it. An oversimplification yes, but that’s how you can visualize it to be. It’s this God value that forms the filter through which you formulate all narratives. It’s this God value that helps us attach meanings to the experiences that happen to us (like in this COVID-19 pandemic). It is this God value that we have faith in to produce the best future reality for us. It is this God value that gives us the most hope. As for us, it fuels hope like the nitro-boost button in Fast and Furious cars.
Some people have money as their God value – so they view life and its experiences through the lens of money. Some base it on self whereby they go on to become narcissists and start viewing life from the perspective of their own interests. Others see life from the lens of their religious deity they are devoted to. Yet others rest the Godliness on someone they love or someone they look up to for hope in times of adversity (Does it ring a bell?) We all do and we all have such ‘lenses’. I have one inch thick ones by the way! Take the example of religions. They too have their own God values around which their entire community revolves. The subjects of these religions a.k.a followers have this as a kind of a blindfold on them - that their religion’s God value is their very own, for them that’s the only truth there is, and that's the only lens to view life.
But nothing can be farther from that perception. The subjects actually imbibe this from their inherent human sense of belonging to something. We all like to 'belong' or be a part of something (bigger or smaller or something more or less), hence we adopt those values as our very own creations. Little do we realize, that if on being completely 'blinded' by those values, which aren’t actually our own creation, could at times be contradictory to our own perception of us i.e. they could later emerge as actually contradictory to our own self-beliefs. With time this contradiction may begin to pop-up like an irritating notification in front of our mental mobile screens if it isn’t synchronous with our identity or who we actually are.
GOOD NEWS IS...
Between stimulus and response lies man’s greatest freedom – the ability to choose”, as quoted by Viktor Frankl, the Auschwitz concentration camp survivor and the author of Man’s Search for Meaning.
Just like we all can choose to attach a meaning to a particular experience, we all can choose our God value too. Great na! It’s like saying that we can choose to put any book on the topmost shelf of our mental cupboards. and yes, that's what we can do. Now, I am not talking about any righteousness here. Neither am I against or for any religion nor am I asking you to stop valuing what you currently value. All I am trying to drive home is this - the lens that we use to view the world can be replaced either consciously or can get dislodged from its top position circumstantially. Sometimes this occurs by happenstance and sometimes we consciously can do so. Experiences lead to the creation of values, and too many of the similar experiences may create a God value - as we land up attaching the same narrative always to that experience.
BAD NEWS IS...
The real challenge that we face is that in making a choice of our God value, we get stuck in a kind of a mental tug-o-war, the push-and-pull of it, the acting of the centrifugal-centripetal forces on us leaving us on the fence of decision making, creating an imbalance.
On one side of fence lies a weaker force of ‘resistance to change’ i.e. in making a fresh choice of the new God value that we wish to wrest a future hope on, and giving up the old one that we have so long followed. On the other side is the stronger force of our inherent-slippery-tendency still follow the old thing i.e. to fit what’s happening around us, which acts as evidence to bolster our already existing or old God value. We shall be tempted or lured or easily be pulled in the direction of the force that we allow to act heavily on us. (stress on the phrase, 'that we allow')
Simply put, let’s take the example of today’s times of the COVID-19 outbreak. The uber-so-called-religious-fanatics would look at this and say, “This has struck because the world is full of sinners” (like some sects are already harping this!) reinforcing their existing God value, allowing the old force to act on them, instead of making a choice. The atheists would look at this and say – “see, I told you? There is no God, as to how can some-power as benevolent, holy, kind, and pure like God unleash something like this on us.” reinforcing their existing God value, allowing the old force to act on them, instead of making a choice. The hedonists will look at this and say, “We all will eventually die one day anyway, so might as well enjoy ourselves now.” reinforcing their existing God value, allowing the old force to act on them, instead of making a choice. (I think they are hedonists only who just won’t get it - that it’s of paramount importance to stay home, and because of this hedonism that they are possessed with, they will simply ignore the risks and keep strolling out of their homes to enjoy themselves) The capitalists will look at this and say, “I think we should start investing in healthcare technologies.” reinforcing their existing God value, allowing the old force to act on them, instead of making a choice. Even the Avenger-lists (Avengers movie fanatics, okay I just made that up) will have Thanos’ dialogues playing in a loop in their minds, “Little one, it's simple calculus. This universe is finite, its resources finite. If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correcting... When I'm done, half of humanity will still exist. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be...” reinforcing in us what he said, allowing the old force to act on them, instead of making a choice. Optimists will see this and say, "all is going to be well" and pessimists will see this and say, "all is going to end", allowing the old force to act on them, instead of making a choice.
Unfortunately, the media too bolsters the stronger force of our old God value, making it even more difficult for us to change - by capitalizing on the 'us v/s them' ideology i.e. it's us against the rest of the world. The media somehow has the agility and prowess to constantly bombard you with the news, facts, studies that will reinforce the 'old shit' you value or valued and invigorate you by heightening your visceral senses. The media shows you what you want to see, and not what you need to see in order to make an informed choice. We, as 'naive' humans, also absorb those pieces of information, which will reinforce our old perceptions and macho-ly pat ourselves by thinking, "See I told you so." Instead of taking a step back from all this - and putting a mindful-conscious effort in making a choice. The uber-fanatic will see news, facts that will invigorate his ideology. The atheist will be bombarded with what he wants to believe in. The hedonists will be shown facts and studies that will reinforce their thinking patterns and capitalists will see facts and news that will show the opportunity that lies here.
YET THERE IS SOME HOPE...
A few days back I was chatting with a friend, and we were talking about 'success', to which he subtly commented that happiness & success is – good health. I was surprised, pleasantly, to hear him say that, ‘coz coming from a traditional business family he always seemed to have a sort-of-capitalist outlook like any entrepreneur. His God value was money (not that it's not right!) and viewed all success from the lens of money. But in this COVID-quarantine-lockdown-death-looming kind of situation that we all are in, his God value may have undergone either a complete switch or he might be sitting on the fence of deliberation. He may be in-process of replacing his existing God value with a new one. Maybe he is still fighting that mental tug-of-war, between 'resistance to change' from his old 'money or capitalist' God value to creating a new one that - ‘our health is of utmost importance and nothing is above that’. , and wresting hope on a new kind of a reality that he is making. The pre-COVID era (as thinkers are now putting it) was a time where money, love, religion and/or a supernatural power may have attained God-level significance, but this COVID-19 outbreak, if I may euphemistically be allowed to put it, presents us with an opportunity to rethink our existing God values and re-evaluate their true significance in our lives. Taking the time off, and doing that, is probably the best shit you can do right now.
So take the time off and focus on yourself for a bit. It should be like that for all of us. But if it isn’t like this yet for you and if you aren’t deliberating on this yet and you still will go along in the same pattern as you did before, then you bloody-well oughta give me a piece of whatever it is you are eating, honey!