By S. Shah
18 April, 2014
It gets really exhausting sometimes, and you really don’t want to forgive yourself for succumbing yet again. You feel utterly impotent when it happens. It’s such a terrible strain, and you know it’s not doing you any good—it’s bad for your soul, mind and body—but yet you feel compelled to repeat what’s turned into seriously obsessive compulsive behaviour. You want to say and do just as you think and feel but then you hold yourself back. You want to speak your mind and act as your heart tells you, but you don’t allow yourself. What will the other person think? What will he feel? What will she say? What will they do? The fear overwhelms you and you again succumb into being a hypocrite. You fear you might harm yourself.
Your boss will be wild and he’ll sack you. Your mother will be upset, and God’s going to punish you for that. Your father will be wild, and you can’t allow that to happen. Your husband will accuse you yet again for being unthinking and selfish. You will be shouted at or beaten up by your wife and she might even dump you. Your friend will think that you are uncaring and selfish and he will give up on you.
You can’t allow any of that to happen. The consequences of doing as you truly want are just too scary, you feel. And so you put on an act. You shut the voice of your heart up, say what you don’t at all mean, stick a well-rehearsed smile on your face, nod your head in apparent agreement or approval and go ahead and act against your conscience. You just hate doing it—yet again—just as you resent the person you are doing all this to supposedly please. And the irony of it all is that this person isn’t at all pleased with your behaviour. Deep down inside, he or she knows that you are faking it, just as you do. Your body language and the tone of your voice tell it all.
Imagine if God had made just a little differently, adding just one more part to the human body: a little computer-screen on the top of our heads that depicted every thought that entered our minds. Everyone would then be able to know exactly what everyone else was thinking and feeling, including about them. Would that have put an end to the compulsion that many of us feel of constantly putting on an act, of concealing our thoughts and suppressing feelings and acting contrary to them? It would certainly have made it pointless for us to try to camouflage our thoughts and feelings under a veneer of fake politeness, but this would have come at an immense, certainly unbearable, cost. The chaos that would have ensued would have been so utterly devastating that human life would probably not have been able to survive on this planet for even a day!
All our negative thoughts about each other, thoughts driven by feelings of resentment, revenge, hate, irritation, lust and rage—would be out in the open for everyone to see! All the plastic smiles we put on, the polite noises we make to please others at the cost of ourselves and the masks we wear for much of the time when in the presence of others in order to make a good impression or for fear of what they might say or think would serve no purpose at all. People would know us for what we truly are. No longer could we lie through our teeth about what exactly we think of and feel about them.
Imagine what that would mean for families, friendships and other human ties. We’d all be at each other throats— especially with those we think we are close to—if we really knew everything that others think of us! Parents would disown children if they came to know what their children sometimes feel about them. Children would sue their parents for cursing them in their minds and sometimes wishing that they hadn’t produced them. Almost every marriage would end up in instant divorce if husbands and wives came to know all the thoughts they harboured about each other. Members of religious communities who barely manage to tolerate each other’s existence might set about trying to exterminate each other if they learnt what thoughts actually underlay the facade of civility that they struggle to maintain. Imagine what politicians would do if they realized what their sycophants actually thought about them!
With computer monitors on our heads displaying our every thought, we’d at last be our natural selves. No longer would we need to put on a constant act, of speaking and acting contrary to what we think and feel simply to please or flatter others or out of fear. We could at last drop our pretences, because they’d no longer be of any use at all. What a relief, you might think. But the price of being so ‘honest’ and ‘open’ about what we truly think of others, positive as well as negative, would be the end of human civilization as we know it!
Just the other day, I read somewhere that almost 80% of the 60,000-odd thoughts that an average human being thinks on an average day are negative. That’s almost 50,000 negative thoughts, most of them repetitive, every day of our lives! Frightening, isn’t it?! Imagine if others came to know all the garbage we think about, including sometimes about them! We’d want the earth to swallow us up that very instant!
Thank God that God didn’t make us with screens on our heads that depicted all the negative thoughts that swirl about in our minds, day in and day out! I’d probably not be living to write these lines if He did!