The dust has settled down and it is time to take stock and count the casualties.

Valentine Day has just gone by. This day was supposed to celebrate something essentially private and personal… something which must never be witnessed by strange eyes… for a public exposure makes it inhumanly cheap and vulgar. The tender feeling of love has acquired the tone of garish nudity… displayed in uncaring brashness. This day, when love finds expression, has turned into a frenzied circus.

Valentine Day might have been a day dedicated to love, but not anymore. Perhaps I have an old-fashioned definition of love which is why this whole expensive gift= sex-on-demand equation is making me feel sand-bagged. If this is what it means being young in today’s world, thank God I grew up in another era. The relief is short-lived though, for I have kids growing up in THIS era. You know now why I am tearing my hair out in picturesque handfuls.

Better pens than mine have written about the alarming spectacle of youngsters willingly becoming a part of this frenzy. Alarming though it is, yet somehow I feel as if this is merely a side issue… the main issue is something else. I am not saying that all youngsters are touched by this fever, nor that it is only youngsters affected. This is a disease that has claimed its victims across the age… and stage… spectrum.

On the surface it seems a slightly more virulent attack of the old ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ thing. Only… it isn’t ‘keeping up’ anymore is it…? It has become ‘beating the Joneses’ now. The evidence is all over the place.

It is the cute little one proudly declaring ‘My daddy STRONGEST…!’. It is a million ads extolling the virtues of becoming ‘bigger, better, faster’. Whether it is your child’s academic performance, or the tint and texture of your skin, or the latest cell phone… the list is endless. The message is clear. No matter what it is… you have to be MORE than you are. Period.

You must be more beautiful than the next gal; better… ahem… equipped than the next guy; more successful than the next person; have a bigger car than the next family; have more brilliant kids than the next couple. There is no end to our mania to be better than others. The buzzword is MORE. It goes on and on… heedlessly relentless… innocently cruel in demanding sacrifices. I don’t know about you, but just writing these words is making me go up the wall. My innards burning with the bite of acid… my heart thumping… my fingers trembling in desperation. Thank God I am not writing this with pen and paper, or my words would have flown off the paper. Which reminds me, I had better ask for the quotation for the new model of Dell… oh shoot….!!!

Ladies, tell me, have you ever found a women’s magazine which congratulates you on being perfect already…? Have you read a single article on relationship which hasn’t attempted to turn you inside out and back into a pretzel of perfection… like a bloody robot… whose each response is measured with a scientist fanatical and aseptic attention to detail…? Have they never sent you on a guilt trip because you couldn’t cook or knit to save your life…? Gentlemen, have you not been bombarded with suggestions on how to make your lady happier and happier and happier…?  Have you never felt that if you were not the perfectly ferocious predator in your profession, there is something wrong with you…? Have you never been made to feel less of a man because you haven’t even tried to have 90% of your female colleagues lust for you…?

More more more… perfect perfecter perfectest…!!!

Tell me, is there a ceiling to how high a superlative could go..? I look at the superlatives with a jaundiced eye nowadays. They make me so tired. Every time I find I am close to the top along comes someone ‘raising the bar’. Specially in my industry, that one phrase, raising the bar, has become the Holy Grail. The last frontier… which keeps pushing and expanding endlessly. Won’t we fall into the sea and drown at this rate…? Oh all right… call me irreverent…!

What happens when you get exhausted with this non-stop running and give up…? That’s simple, you poor excuse for a human being…! You are a LOSER…! You are worthless… inadequate… you cant keep up and so are good for nothing but merciful extermination. Don’t worry… it won’t hurt… not more than it is hurting already… and in any case what do your feelings matter…?

You don’t have a girlfriend to show-off to your pals…? You didn’t ‘do it’ on Valentine Day…? *Haw haw haw* You don’t hold people enthralled when you begin to talk…? Actually even your family don’t manage to keep awake when you open your mouth…? *Snigger snigger* You haven’t an hour-glass figure…? *he he* WHAT… you didn’t get a raise again…? You must be kidding me… your dad REFUSED to buy you a 15k cell phone when you lost the last one… which had been bought just a month ago…? *creeeeeeeeeeeeepy* Are you telling me you dad still drives that rattling old Maruti 800…? You don’t  have a BOYFRIEND yet…? *Eeew….!* He gave you such a cheap gift for your birthday…? God… how do you stand the creep…? I am sure you can do BETTER than him…! *That’s it…! Q.E.D* ##

The only thing clear to me is that it is other people setting the standards for me. And you know what scares me witless…? That those who set standards for me actually derive THEIR standards from me. Can you imagine the horror of that…? An empty skull holding  aloft as role model an emptier skull. Each reflecting the other… with no substance behind the reflection.

My question is simple. Why…?

Who tells me what my worth is…? Who sets the bar for me…? Why did I allow someone else to decide the shape and content of my days…? When did I abdicate the ownership of my life…?

I cannot blame the youngsters. They are only following the path beaten by those who have travelled before them. It is a rare soul who has the guts to stand aside while the herd moves on… to stand aside and seek answers. I remember a kid asking me one day, ‘My friends keep telling me I am too detached and serious and should learn to relax. What do they mean in the first place…? And do you think I should try be more like them…?’ I could have cried that day… with happiness. For I saw one soul who didn’t even know how to be part of the mindless ones.

At the core of this suspension… this betrayal… of self is just a simple shift. We have begun to live center-less lives. Our inner compass points to others… we live focused on the outer world. It is no longer a choice… it is a compulsion. We look to others for standards because we never took the time to create our own. We feel sucked into a pressured frenzy because we have never taken the time to define ourselves… to conceptualize what we are about. We follow without, but have not learnt to lead from within. We are not our own standard. Our performances are not measured with our previous performance… for we have never learned to compete with ourselves and not with others.

How many times will it be lamented…? We are human beings not animals. A flock of sheep can go and helplessly jump off the cliff if the leader decides it is a good idea. Human beings don’t have that uncontrollable urge to mindlessly self-destruct when the herd goes wrong. We can fall out and walk determinedly the other way… and let others go their way… to self-destruction if they must.

A human being is an entity capable of making choices. Choices that define his life experience. Choices that help him to experience a unrepeated… unrepeatable… life. Choices that drive him to create a pattern that has never been seen by the universe. Not choices that deepen the grooves into a path trodden by millions before and will be trodden by zillions after him. A human being by definition is obligated to be the architect of a unique life… its form defining its beauty… his ability defining its form. No two HUMAN lives ought to be duplicates of each other. There must be a difference between being and pretending to be.

When will this gap between BEING and PRETENDING close…? When will we learn to Stand Aside and let the herd pass us by…?


## Q.E.D Definition Abbreviation for ‘quod erat demonstrandum’, which is Latin for ‘that which was to be proved’… or ‘hence proved’.

This is an old post, written right after Valentine Day of 2010.

Learn to Stand Aside