It is not where the person stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge.
Sometimes it is very amusing and extremely illuminating to go through thoughts and writings of small children. When instructed to spell out their ambition in life, a tiny-tot gathering listed many commonly known professions.
Not surprisingly, the most popular ones were a firefighter, a policeman and an astronaut. Oh yeah, there was also one little girl who just wanted to be a mommy. There was however one small child who had a slightly different view of life. His statement was simple, “My ambition in life is to be a rich man”.
Unknowingly, the child was echoing the sentiments expressed by Tevye, the lead character of the 1964 musical hit, ‘Fiddler on the Roof”. He musingly reflects on how comfortable his life would be, if he were a rich man. What lovely musical imagery it was when Tevye day-dreams about a more worthy future!
Most of us are inwardly no different when it comes to associating worth with material wealth. A recent news story claimed that Kohli’s net worth was close to 1000 crores rupees. In that piece, there was no talk about his cricketing abilities, achievements, personality, dedication and sacrifices all along his sporting career. For that journalist, the measure of Kohli’s worth was only the money he had made.
A very old fable reflects on a similar theme. As the story goes, a poor man quite disgusted with his poverty went to a holy man. He probingly asked, “Guruji, what is the worth of my life?” Rather than giving him a straight answer, the saint chose to give him a small task. He said, “Please take this stone. Go and find out its value but do not sell it.”
The man first goes to an orange seller who was willing to trade it for a dozen oranges. He said, “My son would love to play with a shiny trinket like that.” “No sorry”, he says and moves on. Next he encounters a vegetable seller who was disposed to exchanging it for a basketful of fresh vegetables. “Ah! Just right for being a quarter kg weight.”
Apologising profusely for not making the deal, the man enters a jewellers shop. Sensing that the stone was some kind of a precious stone, the jeweller very keenly said, “Look, I will give you a thousand rupees for this stone. No one will give you more than that.”
Once again an apology and the man finally reached a famous precious stone dealer. The dealer was known to be a master of his trade. He said, “I don’t know where you got this piece from. But it is a “rarest of rare” diamond. I can offer you up to a million for this. That way you will never have to work again in life.”
Having done a full market scan, the poor man went back to the saint. Although a bit disappointed for not having sold the stone to the highest bidder, he narrated his experiences of the day. “Very frankly Guruji, I am quite confused. I now know the price of this stone. But I still do not know the worth of my life.”
Helping the poor man to make sense out of his marketing chore, the saint explained the analogy. “Every person you came across today assessed the worth of this piece of stone through his unique perspective, guided by individual experiences in life. Very similarly, people assess your worth on the basis of their financial status, knowledge and belief in you. Sometimes, their own needs, values and risk-taking ability may also matter.”
“But don’t fear, you will always find someone who will discover your true value. For that matter, the value that he puts on you may be even higher than what you thought of yourself. What you need to do is to just focus on your deeds. After all, a person’s life is just worth his deeds.”
Some say that worth of a person is linked to the objects he pursues. For others, the true measure of an individual is about how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good. A bit differently, Martin Luther felt that it is not where the person stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge.
Notwithstanding the measures we choose, we all love to be judgemental and try to assess other people’s worth. But seldom do we try to assess a person’s worth after mentally visualizing him shorn of all power, external adornments, riches, skin tones and associations. In a way, we do not let his most naked self do the talking.
The influence that person exerts on us in that barest of state probably displays his real worth to us. In fact, it is not a bad idea to do this exercise on our own selves once in a while, instead of chasing mirages of self-worth. Or sometimes the lack of it.
The standards that we apply for judging worth vary over time, across geographical boundaries and our own mental evolution. Worth is a therefore a very relative and contextual concept indeed.
Such relativity has not even spared a gentleman who at one time was the toast of not only the nation but the entire world. A great many people attributed the success of our freedom struggle to his non-violent ways and swadeshi strategy. Along with Mandela, his name resonated as one of the finest humans to have walked the earth in modern times. And at that time, this was across affiliations and loyalties.
And one fine day, his noble life was suddenly cut short by a maniac. His ilk claiming that his fame was not because he was worthy but because we were indulgent all this while. And tragically, 75 years after his death, some people are out to eradicate him a second time. Like stabbing someone who had already been shot dead quite a while back.
His legacy today being drowned in a spit-pool of social media posts and his ‘grave’ drowning during the recent floods. Nothing could be more poignant and ironic than that.
Slowly but surely, being transported from being a hero to zero. A subtle castigation of an existing hero to create space for newer idols. Once worshipped as a demi-God, an indefensible man is probably turning and squirming six feet down under. Yeah, even Gods have to prove themselves worthy over time to remain relevant.
The future might be equally cruel to many of us, I justify ‘karmikly’. I move on, seeking solace in the fact that little do little people realize that:
The lens through which we try to define other people’s worth in a way defines our own worth.
In remembrance for whatever it is worth,
First published at seekmediation.com on 26/07/23
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