When driving in India anything goes. No speed limits, no lane discipline, no right of way… do what you want, just make sure you horn so that everyone’s aware! Once, I witnessed a head-on collision, causing both vehicles serious damage. As the two drivers emerged unscathed, they came face-to-face and began debating whose fault it was. There was loud argument, fiery gesticulation and a crowd of excited onlookers who offered their “two rupees” worth. Within a few minutes, however, they came to some resolution, headed for a tea stall, and sat down together for a good old natter! It was an incredible sight! No animosity, no grudges, no bad feeling. It taught me something about their culture: chaos on the outside, calm on the inside.
Our modern culture is often the complete opposite: orderly on the outside, but chaotic on the inside! We have complex infrastructure, documented rules for everything and refined social niceties that govern day-to-day dealings. External social intercourse may be prim and proper, but many individuals experience huge chaos within. People are often inhibited from revealing their hearts, and instead lock up things within, causing destructive emotions to brew up and eventually surface in unhealthy ways. While modern culture may have succeeded in organising society into a well-oiled machine, there are clear deficiencies in the areas of community, relationships and meaningful human interaction. We’ve learnt how to live a life of organised chaos; bottling everything up, it’s often a case of smiling faces but parched hearts.
A self-development guru once held up a glass of water in front of her audience. While everyone was expecting the usual “half empty half full” exercise, she instead asked them how heavy the cup was. The answers varied from 3 oz to 10 oz. She then explained that the weight and volume of the water is not what makes it heavy – rather it’s the length of time for which we hold it. Similarly, everyone goes through challenges, anger, frustration and unrest in their life (the water in our cup). The problem is when we carry these things and fail to let go. Good social structures allow people to ‘get things off their chest’ and get on with living life. The freedom of expression helps keep things in perspective. We need to free up some internal breathing space, lest we choke our consciousness.