When confronted by a human being who impresses us as truly great, should we not be moved rather than chilled by the knowledge that he might have attained his greatness only through his frailties?
— Lou Andreas-Salome – Biographer of Freud
The notion that one’s weaknesses could be the fountainhead of one’s accomplishments is certainly intriguing and counter-intuitive. At least on one occasion I have seen that up close and personal. A certain friend of mine was driven to become an over-achiever because at a deeper level he suffered from an inferiority complex.
Someone once remarked (I don’t recall who and I am too lazy to Google right now) that the greatest strength of a country is also its greatest weakness. After pondering about that for a bit, not only did I convinced myself of truth of that claim, I realized also that it is true about individuals. In the case of individuals, it was fear of one extreme that pushed one to the other extreme. And like in a circle, if one moves far enough from one’s starting point, one finds oneself back to where one began. Virtue, taken to an extreme, becomes a vice.
One of the many reasons I admire Gautama, the Buddha, was that he realized the importance of moderation, of avoiding extremes. He preached and practiced what is called the “Middle-wayed Way.” That is pure and simple genius. It is a pity that Mahatma Gandhi, the most well-known of modern Indians, never bothered to learn the lessons the Buddha had taught about 2,500 years ago. If he had, he probably would not have been the extremist he ended up being and for which India has paid a very heavy price and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
For example, Gandhi’s insistence on self-sufficiency is contrary to the basic nature of the universe. Last year, I wrote about Gandhian self-sufficiency and why I oppose it. Of course, I got some hate-mail basically saying “how dare you!” Some take idol-worshipping to an extreme. So I followed up with a post on idol-worshipping gone haywire.
I have a tentative theory why Indians appear to be so susceptible to idol-worshipping. It has to do with Hinduism. Hinduism employs idols as symbolic representation of divine ideals. But the unwashed masses end up confusing the symbol for the real thing. So instead of worshipping the ideal, they end up worshipping the idol. It is a short step from there to worshipping their political leaders. Of course, I should hasten to add that Hindu unwashed masses are not unique in this respect. Unwashed masses of all faiths worship idols, whether in the form of a black meteoritic rock or a cross. Even Buddhist u. m. worship statues of the Buddha even though he expressly denied the existence of a god and thus naturally could not be one himself. But Hindus take that to an extreme and anything from cows to rocks to corrupt politicians are fair game when it comes to idol-worshipping. Case in point, you ask? After the last general elections, a few of the unwashed masses insisted that they would commit suicide if one particular idol declined to become the prime minister of India. Would have been better if they had carried out their threat but unfortunately they chickened out in the end.
Well, that is about it for now.