Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
The simple philosophy for a sane life is do notlet somebody else’s perceptions of you, become your reality; and no matter how hard you try, you are never going to meet and live up to the expectations of others.
If you can follow this two-pronged way of life, trust me, you will be saving yourself from serious grief and heart break.
Perceptions and expectations are the two least talked about burrows of sadness and gloom. Once again, like reacting to situations, these two emotions encage most of us in their maze of darkness. The worst part of it all, is we live our entire lives trying to meet up with the expectations and perceptions of near and dear ones, friends, and the world at large and fail miserably, as the fact is, you can never meet up to the perceptions and expectations of one and all.
I mean God, Goddess and Guru have not been able to live up to the perceptions and expectations of Their followers. Imagine, if They have not succeed, what chance, we poor, dimwit human beings have in trying to live up to the views and hope, others have about us.
Look at our lives. Are we not all the time trying to meet up to the perceptions and expectations of one and all. It starts from the family. The parents or one of the parent, wants a child to be encased in a certain personality or a career or a way of life or a way of belief or a way of diet. The grooming or brain washing begins from there. A simple reinforcement through a sentence like, ‘my child is very obedient, s(h)e will never disobey me’, is conditioning the child, that no matter what, the child is not supposed to speak up his or her mind to the parent; as that would mean disobeying the parent; which would mean ‘this is not what we expected out of you and you have let us down’; which means ‘make my perception of who you are into your reality no matter what’.
In fact, so often, two loved ones, may have a completely different view of who you are and how you will handle each situation.
A simple example being that of a married man. The parents have a certain perception of their son, and with their views and opinions and judgments they have various expectations based on their perceptions. The wife, is going to have a different set of confirmed opinions about the same man, who is her husband.
Very often, what may suit the parents might not suit the wife and vice versa. No matter how hard the individual tries to live up to either, parents or his wife’s expectations, he very often, will not be able to make all involved happy. Eventually either the parents or the spouse is going to make it clear that, ‘ I did not expect this of you and you have let me down’. It happens to both, men and women, thus husband and wife.
One thing is certain, the parents might get away with their demands or the spouse, but for the man, it is a lose-lose situation, especially if the poor, daft man has tried to meet up with everybody’s perception and expectation of who he should be and how he should have handled the situation.
The best part of it all is that as parent you want your son to behave in a manner but as in-laws you will want your daughter to be married to a man who uses his own brains and is not dictated by his parents.
The wife will want her husband to stand up to his parents, but the same wife, will want her brother to stand up to their parents and not be influenced by his wife.
The blasted game never ends. Use your bloody mind; not as a son, husband or brother, would be the sensible way out, but how many of us imbibe this simple way of life.
It is only when the man decides to live true to himself, irrespective of what the parents and the spouse, thinks and feels about him and the situation, only then will he be living his life and living a life filled with a sense of truth and calmness. Otherwise he will either get a pat on his back for living up to somebody’s belief or get kicked between the legs for letting somebody down.
Now take the same situation about the poor harried sod, and apart from the parents and the spouse, also get his kids, his friends, his colleagues and then the world involved. How can one live up to so many different perceptions. What may make you an ideal child, could make you a lousy spouse and a truly spineless parent. After a point, the individual begins to doubt himself or herself on every aspect. Begins to have no self respect and then slowly moves into the abyss of darkness and negative.
‘This is not what I expected out of you’ means basically, ‘I have a leash around your neck, so when you feel the tug do as I wish’. Being true to oneself is not easy. But very often it is the only way to live if one wants to live a centered life.
But the fact is we all are very often not living our lives but the lives others want us to live.
So often peer pressure is nothing but trying to live up to other’s view of how we must dress, speak, behave and live. I have met so many parents, scared witless about how peer pressure affects or will affect their child. But instead of enforcing self belief in the child, they are only scared of how the world will manipulate their child but very often, they themselves are leading the brigade of manipulation and how they would want their child to live his or her life; how the child must behave with them and their society; what career to take; who and when to marry; and it just goes on. So either one is grappling with society or family. It is only when an individual says, ‘I will give my best and do what I feel is right in every given situation irrespective of how you or the world perceives me and my actions to be’, does an individual begin to lead his or her life, for the first very time. As parents do we really give this grooming to our children?
Many years ago, I used to meet Ramanand Sagar, the director and producer of the cult Ramayana series. One day we were sitting and chatting in his beautiful home. He looked at me and said, “boss you must be having a really hard time with the world?” He would call me boss for some reason and I looked at him with my philosophical look, which meant I had no idea whatsoever what he was talking about.
So he informed that as I was into channeling and spiritual writing, there would be a certain sense of perception and expectation of how I should behave, speak and conduct myself.
So I told him that I make it a point to mention and write, that I smoke, drink, swear and basically am inherently and tremendously flawed. I remember he smiled and clapped and said, ” boss, you my friend, are a wise man, much wiser that your age and how you look.”
Then he told me his experience. When the Ramayana series became mega famous, when nobody left their homes but sat in front of their television sets, watching Shri Ram, Sita Maa and Lord Hanuman’s life unfold, the world suddenly began to perceive him, Ramanand Sagar in a different light. Where ever he was invited he would be given pure vegetarian food with a glass of juice. Now, he was a normal man with a good appetite for meat and alcohol. For a long time he allowed the perceptions of others to lead his life.
“Then one day I got fed up. I love my food and drink and all the time people fed me boiled and so called satvic food. One day, in London, I was staying with a family and they asked me what I would like to eat and I told myself hell to what others think, I am going to begin living my life and I told them, get me my scotch and then a good meal of grilled chicken. I thought they would pass out but in a short while things began to get normal. So remember boss, do not try to meet up with the expectations of the world that surrounds you.”
For anybody who is following the path of spirituality, one needs to be most careful about getting entangled in this dual web, created by others for their self centered reasons. I believe that unless you are a Perfect Master, you are going to be inherently flawed, with numerous weaknesses and limitations. But people around you and me, are going to make us believe that we are God and God sent and beyond flaws. If you fall into this entrapment, either out of ego or stupidity, you are doomed, as there is no way you are going to match up with the hue of Divinity and Godhood, these chaps have enforced upon you. It is best to be your normal self, even if often you behave like an exceedingly temperamental ass. Do not try to live up or meet their views of yourself, as those views are not you, but what they want to believe, to meet their expectations and their sense of insecurities. They are going to put you up on the pedestal and you do a little wrong and they are going to first piss on the pedestal, then pour gasoline and burn you to a beautiful grilled mass of meat. I mean they have not left God. Who the hell are you and me to survive this onslaught of aggrieved perceptions and expectations.
I remember once somebody told me, ‘you pray so much but you still curse like a street urchin’ and all I could tell the individual was, ‘if after praying so much I can be so foul mouthed, imagine how much more abusive I would be if I did not pray’.
Perceptions and expectations are a pit of sinking sand which the most popular and famous section of society as well as the most humble, salt of the earth individual have to consciously grapple.
If we fall into their trap, we will never live our lives but the lives others want us to live or to be loved and liked and accepted by others. I guess that is the worst way to live. To live trying to win a brownie point, or not hurt somebody’s opinion and belief of who we are, or worse begin to believe their perceptions about us is the surest way to hell and ulcers. It is like a slow virus that consumes our very soul and our very inherent, independent being.
The world will use guilt and tears to tear you down and make you walk their path of perceptions and expectations. Do not get sucked into all this. Try to live your life. Yes, try not to hurt others. Try to be a good human being. But most important of all, do not try to bullshit yourself. That is the worst path to take as then you are deceiving yourself and thus your every thought, word and action will come from deceit as you have made a world based on the world’s perception or worse, your own false perception of who you are.
Perception and expectations of the world and your own illusions about yourself and your inherent strengths, weakness and limitations, culled together, is in short creating a monster of darkness and gloom.
Thus, avoid living in anybody’s perceptions and expectations, including yourself. First and foremost know who you truly are; strengths, weaknesses and limitations. Once you are aware of yourself, walk your path. You might fall, you might fail but you will be walking your path, aware you are responsible for your injuries, dancing to your own rhythm and you will be exceedingly aware of who is trying to manipulate you consciously or unconsciously to live up to their perceptions and expectations.
Do not make the world’s perception and expectation of you, your reality. I know it is hard. I grapple with this each day. But being aware that we have to live our lives and make the most of our lot, will slowly free us from the clutches of the views and opinions of the world around us and slowly the leash around our necks will loosen and one day we will be truly free.
Till then bow wow.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha