This weekend, I was lazily leafing through one of the all time great books (walden) when I came across this quote:
‘A man is rich in proportion to the amount of things he can afford to leave alone.’
When you think about it, its a profound quote. It doesn’t say you are rich if you amass wealth, it doesn’t say you are rich if you have richer relations, bigger industries, more land or even more knowledge. Interestingly, it also doesn’t say you don’t have to have all these things either. What the quote says is that the “have part” is irrelevant – you may or may not have all the goodies in the world – in either case you aren’t rich. Its the ability to leave them alone that makes you rich.
The more I think this through, the more the clarity on life I seem to get (and I may not even have got Thoreau’s meaning right in the first place!). One question that all the reflection seems to lead to though is “how many things do we leave alone” today.
A quote I saw on twitter promises to throw some light:
The opposite of love is not hate, its indifference. If you hate someone, you still care!
Now, things that we love, we will probably leave alone (we may know it as “giving our loved ones space”) – for if we truly love someone, we want “them to be their true selves” and not “who we want them to be”. If your kid loves soccer and is good at it,no matter how much you want him to become a lawyer – you will let take up soccer and the world will richer by one soccer champion.
Its the hate part that I think its tougher to leave alone. When you think about it, most of the time we don’t leave the object of hate or ourselves in peace – and that is why our lives are so poor. Think about a simple incident where someone cuts ahead of you in traffic. Blood boiling, we drive our car abreast and abuse him, he probably returns the favour in kind. We get home but cannot enjoy life – the incident fuelled by hate keeps doing a looped playback in our heads!
I did an inventory today of how much of my time was spent on stuff that I hated – and perhaps would be better being indifferent about. A quick check and I realise if I could just knock this one trait into my system, I probably would gain many, many extra hours of peace everyday. Perhaps this is what sadguru jaggi vasudev meant – he seems to be recommending we loosen our personality (of which the hate is an integral part!) to allow awareness to flood in. After all, its perhaps nicer to be empty and host a god than be full of hatred and host a demon inside? And our families, friends and colleagues I am sure would love that as well?