Mike is an accountant at a tire shop. He is what you call ‘the dullest person’ that you can ever meet. He is single and has never been in a long term relationship. The social life of Mike is limited to his workplace and the grocery store. His neighbors are afraid to say good morning to him because his reply is a sure shot for a dull morning.

We all know Mike. In fact, many of us have innate ‘Mike’ness inside us. Even though the character description may not fit us, the dullness is evident. Despite the efforts that we put in to celebrate each moment, life appears purposeless and drab.

Why is this so? Is there some secret potion that can make life exciting? As it turns out, there is one.

Social Responsibility

Human beings are social animals. Through millennia we hunted, ate and slept as groups. Our purpose in life was to survive, reproduce and work together for the welfare of our group.

In the modern world, we make sure that the first two purposes are fulfilled. We work hard in our jobs for our survival and go to ridiculous lengths for sexual companionship. But we do not bother to act upon our role in society. This creates a conflict.

We forgot that our well being is dependent on the well being of the society that we are part of. We do not feel comfortable when the people around us are suffering, though we are not physically affected.

The Obstacle

We cannot exist by ourselves just as a caveman cannot go hunting, gathering, cooking, defending, making fire and so forth all by himself. But we try just that so that we don’t have to share the resources.

The roadblock on the path to happiness is this self-centeredness. We are so consumed by the selfish motives that we neglect our duties. But this makes us miserable because we know in the core of our being that we are responsible for the society.

They alone live who live for others. The rest are more dead than alive

Swami Vivekananda

We put the blame on authorities, government and so on for the social evils. But we never acknowledge our role in it. Our greed for money, comfort and pleasures is the reason for poverty, discomfort and pain for someone somewhere.

Indeed we should know by now that materialistic cravings can only lead us to a sense of futility. Our self-centeredness imprison us in the cell of dissatisfaction. It thus leads ultimately towards a dull and purposeless life.

Freedom of Selflessness

The only way to break out of this prison is to embrace altruism. When we are driven by our sense of duty, life is filled with purpose. The kindness towards our fellow beings can make our life meaningful.

In her famous book, Jesus in Blue Jeans, Laurie Beth Jones narrates the story of a person she met at the State of the World Forum. He aroused the author’s curiosity when he said he is a Catholic Buddhist settled in Cambodia. He says Catholicism is his religion and Buddhism his philosophy and science.

Years before when he was walking to the immigration office in San Francisco, he saw a woman crying hysterically in the Cambodian refugee camp. He learned that she lost her 2-year-old girl in the rush of the crowd running for the boat. The guy promised to get the girl back to her. He traveled to Cambodia and carried the picture of the girl the mother had given him and walked from village to village. After a long 2 years, he found and returned the child to her mother. When the author asked him how he managed his work while he was searching he explained that the quest was his work.

The incident gave him direction and he settled in Cambodia as a Catholic Buddhist.

Joy of Self-sacrifice

The story deeply touched me. I, and many others for that matter, may have consoled the mother if I were in the same situation. But to give up my own life and travel for long and far for her would not have occurred to me.

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.


The willingness to sacrifice himself for a total stranger gave purpose to the person’s life. Of course, he would have endured great difficulties in a foreign land with an unknown language. But imagine the satisfaction of the quest and the joy when he saw the mother and child reunited. Those are some things that we will never enjoy in our selfish lives.

A path to a meaningful existence

Only when we come out of our cocoons and fulfill our social responsibilities will we be free. Getting enchanted by the luster of money and hesitant because of self-centeredness can only lead to despair and dissatisfaction. A meaningless existence awaits those who choose that path.

If we really want to get Mike out of our lives, we should invite the Catholic Buddhist and let him stay with us forever. That level of altruism can bring with it exciting new experiences and unforeseen happiness.

So whom do you prefer; Mike or the Catholic Buddhist?

Thank you for reading. Please post your valuable opinion in the comment box below





9 thoughts on “More Dead than Alive!”

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  3. A very good post. But I would caution against the idea of grand gestures. I often read these types of stories and while I think it is grand it is also impossible for most. The fact is what we need most is to think about the small acts of altruism we can engage in within our own circles. There is so much that can be done. Raising your children to be kind and compassionate would be a good way to make a huge difference. Being kind to the waiter or cashier. Listening to others. Trying not to judge what we do not live (though I acknowledge this is very hard). Trying to be a better human every day again and again (because we do fail so often) may seem futile and small but if we all did it what amazing things would we do together.

    1. I agree to that. We have to cultivate an altruistic attitude. It will guide us in the right direction time and time again. Make your contribution, be it small of big.
      Thank you for the comment.

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