Saturday, September 3, 2016

Measuring Happiness on an Absolute Scale

One of the joys that I experience in life is that of someone being genuinely happy for another person.  I don’t always have to be the recipient of such generosity (though I must confess, it feels nice when that happens!) but it gives me a tremendous high when I see someone looking and sounding genuinely appreciative of or happy for someone else.  But if I were to observe the world around me, I do find it in scarcity.  Of course, whenever I hold a mirror to myself instead of just a holding a magnifying glass on the society that I am part of, I see my imperfections too, both past and present.  But I sincerely feel that of the areas that I have to work on to become a better human being, being generous may not be one of them.  This is not to suggest that I am a saint.  I have, especially in my younger days, had streaks of selfishness, self-absorption and jealousy.  But I do believe that over the years, I have grown a little more assured of myself, a little more focused on what I truly want to achieve.  Which is perhaps why I feel a little less tolerant of those that still seem to struggle to completely hold their own, feel driven by a constant need to brandish their sharply pointed knives of sarcasm and smugness.  Is it the case that in an increasingly competitive world that people are uncomfortable with how tall they stand that they constantly look to the side to see who is taller and see if they can pull that person down?  Which leads me to the question - why does the height of your happiness have to be measured on a relative scale?  Why not instead measure it on an absolute scale? 

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If I were to adjust the focus of my magnifying glasses and look with a little more perspicacity, I realize that some people make it a point to live life in a carefree manner.  In order to not be weighed down by the burdens of adulthood, they puncture anything serious that balloons in front of them.  In those people, I can sense a casual irreverence, the unwillingness to take things too seriously.  It is actually a sheer joy to be in their midst.  I have seen them pass comments on others that may come across as a tad insensitive or disrespectful.  But once you get to know them, you realize that it is never to hurt or to not be genuinely happy for someone else.  Instead, it is the notion that anything that’s not feather light is too heavy for them!  They might needle you but the needle is meant to just a prick the bubble of seriousness, not create a wound that festers. 

Contrast this to another type of person that I’ve come across – the hardcore competitive person who starts to worry about others’ successes and joys.  This is where I struggle the most.  And, it is not because I just can’t relate it.  It is because I can actually relate to it.  It took me years of toiling hard in my academic life – especially during my MBA days from 2007 to 2009- and my professional life to realize that even a minute that I spend looking away from the sights that I’ve set for myself and start to feel even an iota of jealousy about others in the professional or personal setting, is a minute wasted.  As I had written in an earlier blog post*, freeing up myself of these extraneous factors has allowed me to be happier and more generous towards others.  Also, it is one thing to look around, to get inspiration from others in different walks of life.  But it is another thing to start to feel small when someone else is rising in front of your others.  The people that I sincerely admire in both my personal and professional life are the ones that can exert the tremendous self-control that it takes to just look at maximizing their own potential, staying laser focused on their goals and looking around just enough to learn, to grow and live life in an even better way.  It is an area where I feel like I’ve come a fair way from the days of my brash youth.  But as with everything else, I am sure that I can evolve even further.  For the time being, let me just cherish the heights of happiness that I have been blessed with!

* If time permits, read my companion piece on this topic:


Zola said...

Ram Murali :

I have mixed feelings about this very thoughtfully written piece. At times I'm inclined to agree but unless one is put to the test one doesnt know what our reaction will be.

Like these last two months with all the trauma of trying to settle my son in Delhi I've come across lions and tigers in very polished outer shells.

My expectations of people have undergone a change but it leaves a bitter taste.

You're still young but I hope time wont harden your heart.....

But make no mistake........ the path to success is only through enlightened selfishness.

Generosity is fine but the way human beings are wired we tend to view it as a sign of weakness which can be fatal.

That is why the saying in Tamil :"KODUKKAADHA Mahaaraasi....

Ram Murali said...

Ravishanker - thank you so much for your perceptive, pragmatic words.

"Generosity is fine but the way human beings are wired we tend to view it as a sign of weakness which can be fatal."
--> I have heard that line of thought quite a few times, Ravishanker. But I have also seen people in the professional setting, for instance, who chart their path to 'success' not just in terms of moving to upper echelons of management but also in terms of how well regarded they are and all those ineffables...I am sure that that's the way you are as a person and professional and am sure people around you respect and cherish that aspect of your personality...

"My expectations of people have undergone a change but it leaves a bitter taste."
--> I am sure that you will come out of this phase where you are feeling low because of how certain people have made you feel...will pray for the same.

Thank you, once again.

Ram Murali said...

By the way, what is the "Kodukaatha Maharasi" quote? I don't think I know :)

Zola said...

Ram Murali : Thanks so much. Thats one of your endearing qualities - your good wishes for others.

Kodukjkaadha Maharaasi is a term used to signify a person who gives OLY when the person who asks for help is in a very very dire situation but who doesnt give in general. Probably more opportunistic.

Whereas someone who gives regularly but doesnt give in one instance for certain reasons is derided by the person who has been the recipient of the giver's charity on numerous occasions.

Its a good way to denote a person who knows how to set expectations...........very low !!

I see it all the times in the office. There are some of those super kanjoos types out of whom you wont get a penny even to share a birthday cake for a colleague in the office. The person organizing the cake has to literally break his / her head to make that person pay up.

Suddenly there is an instance where that person gives a treat probably due to a promotion or something and then everyone is so overwhelmed by the "gesture" though its not a great thing.

Ram Murali said...

Oh, thanks for enlightening me there, Ravishanker.
Now that you've explained it, trust me, I think I now know of several kodukaadha maharasis and maharajas!

Unknown said...

I think you will bounce back-Sometimes when people act the way they do, one tends to lose hope with mankind-in my grandmothers words "kali muthi pochu".
But suddenly there will be a gesture from one good soul that will make you regain faith in mankind-
I know Ram will say that I am the eternal optimist. But I will hold on to my dogma that love and affection and good words are not rationed commodities-u will only multiply by giving and not the other way around.
In the long run, it is better to be a good human being than a successful rich Kanjoos creature.

newmomontheblock said...

This was a thought provoking post. For a lot of us, our happiness seems to come from what others think of us, rather than from within.

We can only strive to do better than yesterday and seek happiness out of our progress/growth.I struggle with this myself. It used to bother me when someone I knew of got ahead in career. Not anymore.

I like to think of myself as someone whobis generous with my time and in general try to help out people with careers. There is enough for everyone.

But I do understand where some people come from, not from a place of abundance mentality.

Ram Murali said...

newmomontheblock - thank you so much for your comment. It is wonderful that you are able to be a 'giver' in the professional setting. I am sure that people from benefit from your largesse are grateful for that.

Mummy (Kousi Murali) - yes, you are the eternal optimist! But I appreciate your sunny attitude for sure!

Zola said...

Mrs.Kousi Murali : Thank you so much ma'am. Much appreciated.

Zola said...

Read this again today. Awesome piece.

Gets lost among the million cinema pieces but when you look back say 5 years from now, you'll be mighty proud you wrote this.

Saththulladhu endrumay nelaichchu nikkum