Breaking out of Binaries

Recently, I met an old man on a long journey. With a shaven head and long robes, he looked like a renunciate. I started talking to him out of curiosity.

When he learned that I am an electrical engineer, he became enthusiastic and started conversing about the latest developments in the field. Surprised, I asked how he knew so much about electrical engineering. He replied he was an electrical engineer for a European firm before he became a renunciate monk.

Something he said before bidding farewell made me think a lot.

“Everyone considers me a failure because I gave up a high paying job to become a sanyasi. But the truth is, I have never been so happy and content before”

Our modern world is obsessed with success. Society evaluates someone based on her achievements. Its response to a person depends on the outcome of this scrutiny. People hail an achiever and scoff at the less fortunate ones.

This trend may have evolved out of the habit of equating success to happiness. An achiever gets all the respect because people blindly believe that she is the happiest person. But is this idea true?

The Black and White Thinking

I believe this binary thinking is wrong and should be changed. We tend to think in black and white, 0s and 1s. This makes us believe that there are only two categories, successful people and unsuccessful ones.

The categorization based on accomplishments has created a great ridge in society. People value their relationship with an achiever and happily relinquish that with an underachiever.

The binary thinking has tainted our outlook towards life. When we think too much about winning, everyday becomes a struggle. The fear of failure can suck out the enthusiasm within us and life becomes too drab.

An Unnatural Concept

When we look around in nature, man is the only being concerned about winning. Every living creature other than humans enjoy their life and live according to natural law.

Consider your dog for instance. What is success for him? Unless you enter him into some kind of man-made contest, he has no intention to win. He may even have no idea of the concept either.

All living things, similarly, exist without such pressure. Maybe that is why they live so freely and happily. We also knew this when we were children. We used to enjoy our life without getting concerned about whether we were winning or not.

Looking through the clear glass

If we are willing to change our perspective, we can see that life is not a collection of success stories. It is more about how much we learn and how much we have loved.

Considering every moment in our life as experience can indeed bring us out of this duality. Our success and failures do not bring much change in our life but what we learned from them truly matters.

The valuable lessons that we have imbibed from our experiences can make us grow. Hence it is more important to enjoy and learn from the events than trying to compete with those around.

When we become unconcerned about winning and losing we start to take life much lightly.

Experiencing Life

A non-judgmental approach to life can bring in great changes in ourselves. It takes away the stress that has imprisoned us, unlocks the chains of jealousy that binds and breaks free from the selfishness that confines us.

Judge not, and you shall not be judged.

Jesus

The emancipation from the wrong attitudes can give us a new perspective. Everyone undergoes success and failure at some point. Ultimately, they do not make much difference in the journey to the grave.

Life is not to be won, but to be lived

When we realize that happiness is a state of mind unaffected by achievements or losses, we will quit over-emphasizing them. We will then be free of the stress that society has brought upon us.

Those who enjoy each experience without judging live life to the fullest. For them, life is a long journey filled with mysteries. They get to enjoy childlike curiosity and excitement throughout their lifetime.

Can’t we give up binary thinking and make life an adventure?

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your opinion. Please post them below.

20 comments

  1. It’s Really awesome and motivated words.

    πŸ”₯ Success v/s Failure πŸ₯°

    Keep going brother ✌🏻✌🏻✌🏻✌🏻

  2. Love this! If the only way you can define success is power or money – you’ve lost your perspective. I consider myself successful when I overcome my own fears and reach out beyond my comfort zone. Having power over self is far more interesting (and valuable) than having power over others. Power over others generally means you’re insecure in who you are. It doesn’t solve the issue.
    I have family members who define success as the amount of money they have. They are the most miserable and self deluding people I know. That’s all they chase – they miss the beauty of a thunderstorm or the joy in playing with the grandkids. It’s heartbreaking.
    Wonderfully thought out and presented!

    • Hey Liz, you have given a new perspective to the point. Sure people see power and money as synonymous to success. Such an idea is both dangerous and venomous. Hope people will understand this.
      Thank you for your insights yet again dear Liz. It is always a pleasure.

  3. Yes, speak it loud and clear! I agree with @PPJ that, at least in American culture, the obsessions are 1) Money and 2) Power, not necessarily achievements which are often non-monetary but benefit humanity in profound ways. Ask many folks in the developing world and they will tell you that having time to enjoy relationships with friends and family brings them far more happiness and creates a higher quality of life than the illusive material fantasy pursued by so many Americans.

    • That’s is true Henry. I think the west is too polarised towards materialism and the east towards spirituality. It is better to strike a middle ground between the two. Hope our efforts to influence the social consciousness will bring about that change. Thank you Henry. It’s always good to see your comment.

  4. This is something I have been thinking a lot about. I am in a field where success is measured by the money you make and the power you have. So for all intents and purposes I am a total failure. Somedays I struggle to remember that I did not pick this profession for those reasons but for the ability to make a difference. And when I do I consider myself so fortunate and lucky. On the days that are difficult I wonder and compare if the assumption is true. So thank you for a timely article.

    • Just because you don’t make as much money as someone else never makes you a failure. If you are satisfied that your efforts are leading to the betterment of human race, that would be the greatest accomplishment. Thank you for sharing your experience with us PPJ

  5. Wow! What an insightful post! Yo are thinking quite a lot. I totally love your philosophy.

  6. Hey Manu, Very interesting post. I loved your perspective. I went through all your write ups and I really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work

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