Give me the Brush
At every point in history, walks a person among the people, who feels an intuitive need to evolve humanity to a higher plane of consciousness, rebels against the prevailing conventions, challenges the existing system of right and wrong, and thereby resolves to be a pathfinder by being a path breaker.
The person disobeys the prevailing social practices, aligns to a new path of principles, assumes social leadership, owns the responsibility to empower fellow citizens to follow new ways, and when that following attains a critical mass, we call the person a revolutionary and the new social way takes its position in history as a revolution.
Every turning point in the evolution of mankind is called a revolution, and the individual who seeded the revolution is called a revolutionary.
Every revolutionary, at some point in life, found the world at one end and them at the other end. Yet, they chose to disobey the social norms that were being slavishly followed.
Through sustained disobedience they began to empower most and more people, validated their approach with substantial and sustained results, and soon the world began to follow their path. The world looked up to them as a revolutionary and thus they became the seed of a revolution.
Such revolutions become a turning point in history and the revolutionary is celebrated as the ‘History Maker’. Jesus Christ, Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, Mahatma Gandhi, Rajaram Mohan Roy, Annie Besant — all of whom we consider as the architects of a new social conscience, caused political and social revolutions through some form of disobedience.
If we study history objectively, we cannot but accept that disobedience is one of the greatest virtues. From barbaric life in the caves, we have evolved to this civilised life in the modern world, led by men who at various points in history chose disobedience over obedience.
If the history of the world validates that disobedience is a virtue, and if these are the people we worship, revere, adore, admire, follow and model, then what is the story of our house?
Who is considered the nice kid of the house — the one who is obedient or the disobedient one?
Who is considered the best-behaved child in school — the one with the eternal head-nod or the one who questions what is being taught?
Who is the boss’s favourite — the ‘okay sir’ mud plaster or the one who articulates her ‘why(s)’ and ‘why not(s)’?
Who is considered socially well behaved — the slavish ‘herd mentality’ follower or the trailblazer?
Though in prison, Nelson Mandela held his ground for 27 years. In Nelson Mandela, this quality was called ‘grit and determination’. If you find the same quality in your child what would you call it? Stubbornness, isn’t it?
Mrs. Indira Gandhi is known to have taken stand points in all crucial situations in her life. Margaret Thatcher was called the ‘Iron Lady’ for her uncompromising leadership style. In Mrs. Gandhi and Mrs. Thatcher, this quality was considered ‘Resoluteness’. If you find the same quality in your student what would you call it? Adamancy, isn’t it?
Steve Jobs followed many unconventional business practices to make ‘Apple’ what it is today. In Steve Jobs, it is called ‘enterprise’. If you find the same quality in your employee, what would you call it? Obstinacy, isn’t it?
How come, that which is considered as strength in legendary people is called a weakness in us? Isn’t the whole phenomenon paradoxical? Yes!
We need to understand the process of human development to understand the cause of these paradoxes and the ways to transcend them.
An infant is totally dependent on the environment. The child hasn’t yet developed the faculties that are required to be independent.
Parents and guardians make all the choices and the child just lives by the consequences of their choices. The child’s name, primary language, religious identification, food habits, style of dressing are all choices made by others and the child merely receives the consequences. So, a child by nature is a consequence receiver. A ‘consequence receiver’ is called a PSYCHOLOGICAL CHILD. At this juncture of life, the child is both psychologically and physically, still a child.
As the child grows physically, the child observes the environment and the actions of people around. The child notices that the world around seems to operate out of choices. Instigated by the environment and also by the very impulse of life striving to express itself through the child, the child begins to display his/her maiden attempt to make choices. The child takes the first initiative to evolve from a ‘consequence receiver’ into a ‘choice maker’. A ‘choice maker’ is a PSYCHOLOGICAL ADULT.
Though the child wants to be a choice maker, the child yet does not have the maturity to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad, higher and lower. So, the child’s choices are basically born out of indifference. The child simply chooses to go against others’ choices. The child simply refuses to eat what is fed, but insists on eating something else…
That something else is usually anything other than what has been offered. The child wants to wear something other than what was selected for him/her. When shoes are suggested the child wants to wear slippers, and when slippers are suggested the child wants to wear shoes. When the child is asked to recite nursery rhymes to the guests who have come, the child won’t; later when everyone is watching an important program on television and they want the child to be quiet, the child begins to recite the rhymes louder than ever. Sheer indifference, but children want to toy with this new faculty that they have discovered in themselves, that they can be a choice maker.
The adults around get irritated at these signs of adamant behaviour. In their adult wisdom they also know that the child is not mature enough to know what is right and what is wrong.
So, everything from physical admonishment to verbal tantrums to threatening gestures to emotional blackmail, every approach is taken to ensure that the choices continue to be made by the adults and the child continues to receive the consequences of the adults’ choices. The children being highly dependent and owing to their vulnerability succumb to adult pressure. Amidst lots and lots of crying, the child gives in.
The child finds that the transition from being a consequence receiver to becoming a choice maker, from a psychological child to a psychological adult is too traumatic. So, the child gives it up temporarily.
However, the child repeats similar attempts to evolve into a choice maker again and again, when they start going to school, when they enter adolescence, during prime adolescence, and then when they become financially independent…
He/she who succeeds against all social odds becomes a choice maker and grows into a psychological adult. One who succumbs stays a consequence receiver and remains a psychological child.
All human misery is directly proportional to the gap between the physical adult they have already become and the psychological child they still are.
A psychological adult is like a painter. The brush is in his/her hand and he/she has the choice of strokes. The painter creates what he/she chooses to create. Even when they make a mistake, they have the choice to make fresh strokes and correct their mistakes. A painter is a choice maker.
A psychological child is like a painting. It is a consequence of the painter’s choices. The painting has no say in what it is becoming. A painting is a mere consequence. Mona Lisa may be one of the worlds’ finest pieces of art, yet a consequence all the same, a consequence of Leonardo da Vinci’s choices.
Millions of Mona Lisa(s) can be duplicated; will there ever be another Leonardo da Vinci? And that’s the glory of being a choice maker.
Your parents, your society, your religion, your constitution, your organisation, your community and your peer group — everyone wants to play the role of a painter in your life. There is no point in placing your life in someone else’s hands and then cribbing, crying and sobbing that you are not happy with your life. An obedient painting should gleefully accept what it has become, for it had chosen obedience to its painter.
Do you want to be a painting?
Do you want to be a psychological adult?
Do you want to be a choice maker? Then, ask for the brush.
Express your soul’s voice and let your world hear you loud and clear: “Give me the brush.”
They had their life and if they have missed the chance to paint their life then it is their missed opportunity. Now, the canvass of your life cannot be used for their experimentation.
You may not have the genius of a Leonardo da Vinci, but that’s okay. Make the strokes you can! Scribble the way you want! Remember, what comes out will be your making.
Now, your life becomes your responsibility. You might make mistakes, but they will be your mistakes.
If your life is a product of your mistakes, then you can correct them; but what can you do if it is a product of others’ mistakes?
You have to helplessly sit and weep; blame your fate and stars.
The lion in the zoo is always secure. Everything is provided from food, shelter, medical assistance, and even a lioness in heat. Zoo life isn’t about ‘survival of the fittest’. Even the meekest is protected. The lion in the zoo is secure but it is secured SLAVERY. Contrastingly, the lion in the wild has no security. Nothing is provided for and it has to fight for every aspect of its needs. Wildlife is a life of ‘survival of the fittest’. The meek cannot survive. The lion in the wild, though insecure, experiences insecure FREEDOM.
A consequence receiver is like the lion in the zoo, living in secured slavery. A choice maker is like the lion in the wild, living with insecure freedom.
Most people can never snatch the brush from their painter’s hands. It is not out of respect for their elders, but more because being a consequence receiver offers security in life. People stuck up in their family business, entwined in a wrong marriage, bonded in a hopeless job, exploited by a selfish society, sheepishly religious, and these people 90% of the time keep doing what they never would have done in life, had they been choice makers. These are lions in the zoo looking through their psychological cages at a select few lions in the wild, and they wonder how God has been so special to those few lions in the wild, which live with such freedom. What the consequence receivers do not understand is that the choice makers traded their security for freedom, while every consequence receiver traded his freedom for security.
And remember, there is no such thing as secured freedom. It is either secured slavery or insecure freedom.
God is not partial to a few, God is not partial to men or women, but the design of life is such that the bounties of life go to psychological adults.
Physical adulthood is a burden to those who remain a psychological child. The higher rewards and realisations of life are reserved for psychological adults. The good news is that this transition from a psychological child into a psychological adult can be made at any physical age; there are no age limits. You can begin now…
Of course, the process of a psychological child attempting to become a psychological adult is always painful for everyone involved. It rarely happens without tears.
It is through practice of disobedience that a consequence receiver becomes a choice maker. The consequence receiver disobeys the choices of the choice maker by overriding it with his own choices. The choice maker begins to feel that he is losing the hold he always had on the consequence receiver. If you succeed in becoming a choice maker, he cries; if you fail in your attempt, then you cry. Either way, the birth of a psychological adult or the failure to become one always brings with it tears. But those are life’s ways of evolving a new humanity. This is the history of the world.
Either tearfully become a history maker or tearfully remain a history reader.
The inevitable question is, if all of us try to be choice makers, won’t it lead to disharmony in the world? Doesn’t being a choice maker imply selfishness? Won’t it be ingratitude to the people who have brought us up in life?
Let us resolve this paradox. This AND That is possible. On all the inconsequential matters, choose to be a consequence receiver and in all other aspects, which are consequential in nature, be a choice maker. Every time you confront a situation in life, ask yourself, “What I am encountering right now, will it have a consequence on my life?” If the answer is ‘Yes’, then be a choice maker on that issue.
If the answer is ‘No’, then choose to be a consequence receiver on that issue; let the world make the choice. By being a choice maker on all the major decisions of your life and choosing to be a consequence receiver on all the trivial aspects of life, you will have your way and you will also let the world have their say.
Ironically, most people give in and remain a consequence receiver on all the major aspects of life, like ending up doing a family business they never wanted to do, living in a city they never wanted to live, marrying the person they didn’t want to marry, and doing a course or degree they never wanted to pursue. And foolishly, they keep fighting about what was made for dinner, what time to wake up, what dress to wear, which TV serial to watch, and which function not to attend. Instead, when it comes to career, business, profession, higher education, marriage, purpose of life, faith, spirituality — all these aspects that have a permanent bearing on your life — ensure you hold the brush and paint what you choose to paint.
Choose to be a choice maker on all major aspects of life. And there are so many inconsequential issues of life — which TV channels to watch, the menu for dinner, some social rituals, what to wear for today, whether to go for the night show or not — leave the choices to others.
Choose to be a consequence receiver on all trivialities of life.
Not all disobedient people are disrespectful. Not all obedient people are respectful. Lord Mahavira said, “Live and let live.” Christ said, “Love thy neighbour, as you love thyself.” Even such messiahs asked you to put yourself first and then the rest of the world.
A choice maker merely puts self-respect first, before he attempts to respect others. So, practice Respectful Disobedience. Tell the world, “Give me the brush.”