“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence,” and “As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons,” are the next lines of the Desiderata.
There are people who are working their whole lives just waiting for their retirement; then they will relax and enjoy. And they know perfectly well: six days they work in the office and wait for the seventh day, the holiday, and hope, “Soon Sunday will come and we will relax and enjoy.” And they cannot relax and they cannot enjoy. In fact, the holiday seems to be so long and so boring; they have to fill it with something.
They go for a picnic. The same things that they would have eaten at home, relaxedly, now they rush towards a picnic spot miles away to eat. And they are sitting in the grass, and ants are very clever; they know perfectly well where the picnic spots are. Their astrologers tell them, “Go ahead, that is the place!” And the mosquitoes, they are always there waiting for you. They say, “Hello, so you have come!” And then quickly people finish because they have to reach home, and they rush. And cars are going there bumper to bumper. And many more accidents happen on Sunday than on any other day, many more deaths on the road than on any other day. Strange! Some holiday!
And the whole city is going towards the same picnic spot, the same beach! I have seen pictures of beaches and I cannot believe what is happening. There is not even space to walk! They are packed – no marketplace is so packed! And all kinds of fools are there. Six hours it takes them to reach the beach, then for one hour they lie down amidst this whole mass of fools under the sun, and then back home… And the whole way they were quarreling with the wife and the wife is quarreling with… This you can do at home more at ease, relaxed in an armchair – nag each other, do whatsoever you want! What is the point of going to the beach? Nobody is seeing the sea, nobody is seeing the sun. Nobody has time.
And these same people think that when they are retired they will rest – they cannot. Sixty years of habits, how can you drop them? Impossible. They have become so deep-rooted that people suffer more when they are retired than they have ever suffered, because nobody knows how to rest, how to relax. This is sheer madness!
And these people go on saying beautiful things. They say, “Time is money.” They have beautiful proverbs to drive you crazy: “Time is money, so save time.” And everybody is always looking at his watch – as if they are missing something. They have to reach somewhere, and there too they will do the same thing. If the train is five minutes late everybody is complaining, all are angry.
I had been traveling for twenty years all over this country and I was puzzled. Just if the train is one hour late, everybody is so angry and condemning the government and the society and everything. Why can’t you rest? If the train is one hour late it is a great opportunity. One hour is yours! – you can rest. You have at least one excuse: “The train is late, what to do? So I rested, relaxed.” But no, they cannot; they become more and more boiled up. They start spitting fire.
And these same people when they reach home will sit before the idiot box, TV, for five hours. The average American is doing that for five hours per day. There is a great danger for America through this idiot box. If you look at an idiot box for five hours it has a hypnotic effect – you are bound to become idiotic! And only an idiot can look at a box for five hours. And they are glued to their chairs; they cannot get up. I have heard they will take their food just sitting before the TV. Not only that – they will even make love just before the TV so they can do both the things, making love and watching the TV, because something may be missed!
Now these idiots are in the majority. And they will play cards and if you ask why they will say, “Killing time.” One minute the train is late and they are angry, and then what do they do with the saved time? They kill it! Going to the movie, killing time… sometimes going to see the same picture again! Stupidity seems to be infinite. Now what are you going for? The same picture again? But the time has to be killed.
They will go to the Rotary Club, to the Lions Club. And all these clubs exist for people to kill time, to meet the same fools, to say the same foolish things, to gossip about the same old nonsense – to kill time. They will go to the restaurants, to the hotels, to the parties – to kill time.
And look at their faces – they are bored everywhere. Whatsoever they are doing they are bored, obviously, because they are not into it. They are trying somehow to finish it to save time, and then they have to kill time. Killing time, saving time, killing time, saving time…. The whole life is gone! And you come empty-handed into the world and you go empty-handed.
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
The only thing worth remembering again and again is: what peace there may be in silence. Give a little time, energy, to silent moments, because only in silent moments will you know what peace is. And the person who has tasted something of peace is rich, is immensely rich – all others are beggars – because he starts knowing the inner kingdom of God. Peace is the door to the inner kingdom of God. Silence helps you to know peace and peace leads you into God.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Just to avoid unnecessary troubles. As far as possible, without surrender… Don’t compromise. Don’t surrender to people. That’s why the Desiderata says: As far as possible – without any compromise – because if you compromise with the mass mind you will never be able to become that which you are here to become. You will remain un-grownup, you will remain retarded. You will never come to a flowering, you will never know fruitfulness. Your life will be barren, uncreative.
As far as possible, without surrender… So two things have to be remembered. Don’t surrender to the mass mind; but that does not mean continuously fight with people, that everything has to be argued about because if you do that then you will be wasting your time in that.
Be exactly in the middle. Without compromising, avoid unnecessary quarrels be on good terms with all persons as far as possible without selling your soul, without compromising on any ground, without surrendering at all. But there are many things which can be avoided. In fact, ninety-nine percent of the problems which create fighting, argument, can be avoided.
The child asks you, “Daddy, can I go out and play?” and the immediate response of almost all daddies is “No!” Now the quarrel starts. And all children know how great your patience is. They will tramp their feet in front of you, they will go into a tantrum, they will cry, they will start throwing their toys, tearing their books. And then finally you will say, “Go OUT and play!” This you could have done before, you could have said yes, because there was nothing wrong. But somehow our whole upbringing is quarrelsome, argumentative.
The wife says, “We should go to this movie,” and the husband immediately says, “No, that is not worth going to. We should go to another.” And the husband knows perfectly well, the wife knows perfectly well, that when the wife has spoken she has spoken – it has to be done. But now before it is to be done there will be a few hours’ argumentation, nagging, and a thousand other things will come up which could have been avoided. And finally you will see the husband following the wife to the same movie, just hiding his tail between his legs, following the wife. Now you are going to the same movie, so what was the whole fuss about?
It seems we never learn anything. Just watch and you will be able to cut out many unessential things in your life. The word desiderata is beautiful: it means the essentials.
Mahavira has said that the most fundamental quality needed by the seeker is to know what is essential and what is nonessential. He calls it vivek – discrimination – because if you don’t know what is essential and what is nonessential you may be lost in the nonessential, because the nonessential is ninety-nine percent and the essential is only one percent. The nonessential is a vast, thick jungle; once you get lost in it you may never find the essential. And people get in every way entangled with the nonessential.
Just watch how many things can be avoided without compromising, then avoid them; how many words can be avoided without any trouble, then avoid them, because each single word uttered may bring some trouble for you. In fact, except words, what brings trouble to you?
You say something and the wife jumps up, and she says, “Why did you say this?” And you go on explaining, “I didn’t mean that,” and now it is impossible to come to a conclusion. Soon there will be a banging of the doors and throwing of the pots and pillows. And you simply uttered a word which could have been kept inside; there was no need to utter it. Just a single word can cause so much trouble which was not essential at all. If it is essential utter it, say it; otherwise, avoid it.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
The man who is in search of truth learns listening not only to the wise; he learns listening even to the unwise – or the otherwise – because everybody has a story to tell and everybody has passed through a life, and something of his life may be of tremendous help to you, may give you an insight.
It is easier to have an insight into your own life watching others because others are like mirrors. Every other person is a walking mirror around you. If you are capable of listening you will see some of your own qualities reflected in them which you were not aware of directly, but via the other you become immediately aware. You can see the stupidity of the other person more easily than your own stupidity. But seeing his stupidity you will become aware that “These are the things I have been doing myself. This is the foolishness that I go on and on doing myself.”
When somebody else is angry you say he is insane. It is easy to see that he is insane; it is a momentary insanity. But how many times do you get angry? But then you are so much involved in the anger you cannot watch it. Watching others is a way of watching yourself, and it is easier because you are not involved.
That’s why a very strange thing becomes possible: the psychotherapist can help his patient but he cannot help himself, because he can see the faults of the patient very easily but he cannot see his own faults. He can give good advice to the patient; he may not be able to follow that advice himself.
You can watch it. Everybody is a good adviser to others; when it comes to his own life he is as much a fool as anybody else. Much can be learned by observing, by listening, by seeing, even from those who are ignorant – because you are also ignorant – even from those who are dull – because you are also not very intelligent. And this will be the beginning of intelligence, the beginning of wisdom.
The intelligent person is one who learns from every opportunity, who never misses a single opportunity to learn something, who makes his whole life a school, a learning, a discipline, a search, an inquiry.
But remember not to compromise, not to surrender. As far as the essential is concerned, beware. Even if you have to risk your life, risk it, but don’t surrender as far as the essential is concerned. And as far as the nonessential is concerned, don’t even waste a single moment on it – agree.
This was one of the agreements between me and my father. When I was a very small child I told him, “Listen, I will agree to every nonessential thing. You can tell me what clothes to wear, what shoes to wear; what to eat, what not to eat, you can tell me. But as far as any essential is concerned, beware – I am not going to agree to it.”
And slowly he watched and he was convinced, because whenever it was a nonessential thing I was always ready to agree with him. He would say, “Go to this college, not to that,” so, “Okay, because to me each college is like any other college – they are all stupid so it doesn’t matter. I will go to this college.” “Study this subject.” “Okay, because what does it matter? – economics or politics or history or geography or philosophy or psychology, anything will do.
But as far as any essential is concerned I told him, “This is an essential point, I will not agree with you, so you better not say anything about it because that will be an unnecessary misery for you.”
When, I came back from the university it was a natural thing to ask whether I wanted to get married or not. I told him, “This is an essential,” and that was the last time he inquired about it; then he never inquired again. “If it is an essential then you have to leave it to me – I will not compromise. I will not compromise at any cost.” He never asked again; he kept his contract. “For nonessentials,” I told him, “you can tell me anything – I will do it.”
Any fool would come into the house and he would say, “Touch his feet,” and I would, because he was an old fool, an old relation: “Okay, it doesn’t matter, it is just an exercise.”
Once you become very clear about what is essential and what is nonessential, things are never so confusing as they seem. You go on fighting for nonessentials, wasting your energy and others’ energy, and then when the question of the essential arises you don’t have any energy to fight. And then sometimes you have to compromise on the essential.
This has been my approach:
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
But as far as possible… That does not mean that I have to be absolutely on good terms. I am on good terms with everybody, but as far as possible. Whenever the question of the essential arises, then it is not a question of being good or bad, it is a question of life and death. Then I can rebel, then I can fight back, then I can sacrifice everything.
And the advice of the Desiderata is of great significance to all those who want to find truth, because the very finding needs great energy. If you become a reservoir of energy, only then is it possible to know, to be, to come to the ultimate realization of life’s mystery.
Osho, Guida Spirituale, Ch 1, Part 3 of 3
Featured image: Turning In by Deva Padma – www.embraceart.com