Monday, February 27, 2023

Propriety and Success

The strange thing about Success is that it has many fathers. In more than one way. Yup, once you succeed there will be a lot of people who will claim their contribution to your success. Even if their contribution was only one of deducing that you would become great from the way in which you sucked on your all-day sucker as a babe in the cradle. But that is not all.

There are so many characteristics that also clamor for the role of being the parent of Success. Talent, hard work, persistence, self-belief yada yada. Now there is one more adding on to the list - Propriety of conduct. Or so Tiru would have you believe.

Ozhukkatthin eidhuvar menmai; izhukkatthin eidhuvar eidhaa pazhi - Tirukkural

Propriety of conduct leads to greatness; improper conduct leads to disgrace - Loose Translation

So, there, if your conduct is not proper, success is unlikely. This proper conduct in this context seems to be not just the usual thing of 'moral conduct'. As in, it probably DOES cover conduct that may be considered 'immoral' but is probably not restricted to it. Because that word 'ozhukkam' can also mean decorous and not just moral.

After all, almost every language has something about how you dress making a difference to your success. 'Clothes make a man' proclaims English. "Aal paadhi Aadai paadhi' declaims Tamil. (The meaning of that is that the impression a man makes is half-determined by his personality and the rest by his clothes.) And so on. And clothes ARE the first thing that are looked upon for 'decorous conduct'. (YES, clothes ARE used by most people to assess a person...of ANY gender and not JUST by the culture police. If you do not believe that, just ask yourself which stranger you are more likely to admit inside your home - someone dressed in rags or someone dressed in a suit.)

So, the way you dress, the way you speak to others and of others, the way you comport yourself in Society and Office - all of that has to be 'proper', which translates to appropriate to the circumstances. What is appropriate in various circumstances can vary. What IS invariable is that you need to stick to propriety as defined in the place you are in. Otherwise, you will not be able to succeed.

THIS failure to adhere to propriety of conduct is what will get you the ultimate kiss of death in organisations - 'He is not a team player'!

So, yes, there are occasions where Tiru is absolutely right even in the context of the modern world.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Love is life?

That must be about the most cliched of cliches in the world, this statement that 'Love is Life'. I mean, literature is rife with romances where people feel unable to live if they lose their love, so one does get a surfeit of this idea in books.

But is that what Tiru means when he says this?

Anbin vazhiyadhu uyirnilai; Aqdhilaarkku enbuthol portha udambu - Tirukkural

The soul exists because of love; those without love are but skeletons clothed in skin - Loose Translation.

It is a strange thing that, when we talk of love, all that we instantly think of is romantic love. That, though, is not what Tiru means here. Or, rather, that's not the ONLY love that the Tamil word 'Anbu' means. What Tiru means is all sorts of love - parental love, filial love, sibling love - and affection and short the entire gamut of positive relationships that make up the tapestry of your life.

What you call the 'soul' has its being in the love that you have and can express in all these myriad ways. If there be such a person who feels no love, Tiru says that he lacks a soul and is merely bones clothed in flesh and not to be considered human.

Which, in another way is true. There IS a difference between merely existing and living. And living, as opposed to existing, IS to dive into the experience of some or all of these multiple forms of love.

What price renunciation then? Does Tiru then say that the ascetics are but bones clothed in flesh? No, that's a misunderstanding of what asceticism means. Asceticism is not the renunciation of love, it is to expand that love to encompass everything in the universe equally. And it is to renounce the ATTACHMENT to the objects of your love as much as to the objects of pleasure. So, Tiru does not mean this as a trolling of ascetics.

Love may or may not make the world go around. But it is certainly what makes the difference between you being merely a passive spectator of life or being really ALIVE!

Monday, February 13, 2023

Done unto you

You get advised to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The presumption is, I suppose, that the way you behave with others is the way they shall behave with you. It very seldom works that way because, if you are polite, generous and kind to others, they take it as their due; very very seldom do they think that any reciprocating is warranted.

Yet, there IS a thing where you can expect to be reciprocated. Yeah, yeah, it is true that most of the evil that you do unto others can get returned to you in spades sooner or later PROVIDED that the others are capable of doing those things. THIS, though, everyone is capable of doing and so...

Piranpazhi kooruvaan thanpazhi ullum tiran therindhu koorappadum - Tirukkural

He who speaks ill of others will find his defects discovered and publicized - Loose Translation

Ah! Well! One will have to be prim and proper, invariably refusing to talk ill of any facet of anybody's character unless he is among those present, I suppose. Become an almost insufferable prig, then. I mean, come on, take any average half an hour's conversation and I'll change my name if at least half of that was not disparaging of someone - your boss, the actors in the latest movie you saw, the troll on your social media post...

But, then, Tiru is not such an ass, really. What he means is that if you are the sort of person whose conversation is constantly about disparaging the people around you, then you shall yourself be the target of ridicule in absentia by all those around you.

Stands to reason, does it not? I mean, if someone points out a flaw in you, no matter how kindly, is your reaction not one of 'As though he is a paragon of perfection' and going on to thinking up all the times when the other person erred? Of course, our man is not disparaging you to your face but, after he has pulled down the third person to you, you'd be the ultimate idiot not to understand that he'd be pulling you down in someone else's company. Once THAT point is reached you'd then start looking up all the reasons why that chap is a bigger idiot/cheat/whatever than the rest of you.

So, yeah, if you want to eventually get a comprehensive listing of all your flaws - real and imaginary - make a career out of criticizing people in their absence. You'll be astonished at the number of defects one person can have and still remain functional!

Monday, February 6, 2023

Unworthy people?

The easiest thing in the world is to identify unworthy people, isn't it? If someone holds opinions different from yours, he is obviously unworthy. On THAT, most people have no difference of opinion - that he who is not with me in my beliefs, is unworthy of respect. That, though, was apparently not always held as self-evident truth.

Tiru has other ideas about that as may be expected.

Nayanilan enbadhu sollum payanila paariththuraikkum urai - Tirukkural

He, who is worthless, displays his lack of worth by elaborating on useless things - Loose Translation

Alas! What the heck do we do for conversation, then? I mean, come on, you cannot sit over drinks of an evening discussing String theory and M-Theory OR Existentialism and Nihilism OR...! Though, perhaps, Tiru would consider these as 'useless things' too considering that it would be only talk-talk since we would not be doing anything about any of these unless we are physicists or philosophers respectively. Maybe, we should be discussing coding or, in my case, accounting entries even as we sip on the Single Malt. Yuck!

But, no, I do not think that Tiru can be that heartless. I think that when he speaks of 'useless things' what he means is gossip. Nor, indeed, is he totally against gossip, he is only against someone who spends all his time elaborating on gossip.

But what is it about all these hoary old sages and their opposition to that harmless pastime of gossip, pray? Because, I suppose, gossip is seldom all that harmless. I mean, really, when you think of something as 'juicy gossip' does it ever turn out to be complimentary to the person about whom it is? Nonsense! What is juicy is only what is uncomplimentary OR, at least, what that person has done which Society may not completely approve of. AND one who elaborates on that...and does nothing else...I mean, really, if you meet some such person in a party, do you think that he is a worthy member of Society during the day OR a useless piece of gossipy junk?

THAT, then is what Tiru was saying. That someone who keeps elaborating on useless things is worthless and is seen as worthless.

Though, yes, Tiru did not live in these days. THAT person could well be growing into becoming a Social media influencer, because of his following. After all, nothing goes as viral as juicy gossip!