A GOOD DEED

Many of us do not have to live with the constant worry of making ends meet. There is enough to provide for physical health and well being in the foreseeable future. In fact, there is some excess. They often look for ways to use that excess for a good cause. For doing something good.
What kind of good would make sense?

The typical notions of public good, organized in the private and public sectors, are relief in disaster, helping people arrange for basic necessities, income generation for the needy, building systems for education, health and communication and so on. Those who have excess resources but are unable for some reason to personally engage in these activities, sometimes draw satisfaction from donating for a good cause. For some, this is not enough. They look for more options.

How does one do something good? That depends on whom the good is done to. We generally do not apply to ourselves the methods we find for doing good to others. We gladly donate used clothes for relief, but do not look forward to the joy of wearing a stranger's clothes. On the other hand, the pleasures we plan for ourselves - going to a restaurant, acquiring a new electronic gadget - are unthinkable options for charity. Perhaps the logic is that my needs are different from the needs of those I want to help. I give my surplus old clothes to those who need them. People whose needs are similar to mine can help themselves.

This distinction is evident in most initiatives of this kind. Some do good, others are done good to. One barely knows the other, and that too as a group. Besides, a good deed has a direction of flow. One man's debit becomes another's credit. The debit is often more than compensated by a sense of accomplishment, a good name, an award, an honour, a perceived credit in God's account and so on.

Doing good in the absence of these perks is not easy. Why should I do it? If I do not know my beneficiary, if I do not even know what pleases him, then the whole exercise amounts to groping in the dark. I cannot count on deriving satisfaction from the other side's pleasure. Of course there are many who try to get a measure of the locality and the local people before getting down to work. This is indeed a useful preparatory step. However, a man is more than a mix of his history and geography. Average indicators of the circumstances give no clue as to what makes a real person happy.

Is there anything that makes everyone happy? Never mind strangers, is there any common key to the satisfaction all those whom we know well?

Happiness of being in a relation is something everyone longs for, irrespective of social or economic status. It is different from the relief of having met the basic needs, from general entertainment, or even from the pleasure of achieving something. The sense of fulfilment that comes from being one with the other is special. A relation need not necessarily be between two persons. If a young boy plays with numbers, if he is in relation with numbers, he does not know the pain of learning arithmetic. Music comes to some people so naturally that you cannot separate them from their music. Work of some craftsmen bear the signature of a man in unison with the work. Living in relation has a taste of its own. Work done in that state might strain the body, but one does feel exhausted.

Yet a prominent lacking in most of our lives is that of relation. Whether or not a student passes examinations, a relation with the subject is rarely seen to grow. A doctor treats a patient, but does not have the opportunity to relate to the specific body that is ailing. While trying to do good to others, people throw in help from a distance like floral offerings to a god. The contentment of simple  exchanges within a relation is missing. Some people happen to accumulate money so easily that there is no scope of gradual building of a relation with every bit of the money. The healthy instinct to economise is missing from the use of that money. Even in the familial context, a relation with no hangover is much rarer than discharge of responsibilities, meeting expectations, pursuit of common interests, rivalry for power and control, playing out of emotions or sentiments, and so on.

Our relation with the world is through sensory organs. Eyes for seeing, hands for touching, ears for listening. Listening is impaired if ears are damaged. Impairment comes about through internal noise also. We are often in a hurry to process and set in order the new sights and sounds, by comparing them with past experience. This mode of receiving inputs is very different from the unconditional encounter of a child with the surroundings. The more experience we gather, the data base for comparison and classification becomes larger. In the process, the sensory channels get more clogged. We end up seeing what we want to see and hearing what we have heard before. The world does not surprise us anymore. Being engaged in a relation becomes ever more difficult. We get stuck in the world of thought and ideas - products of what has been acquired already. As the live flow of Natures inputs through the body and mind ceases, both begin to suffer from symptoms like constipation, indigestion and breathlessness.

If we can cleanse the sensory channels of the cobweb of experience and its derivatives - thoughts, ideas, concepts, - then that would amount to doing a lot of good to ourselves, if not to others. Bringing health to oneself is not selfishness. Sound health and selfishness do not go together.

Like any medicine intended for beneficial intervention, any plan to do good to others can also have side effects. The very intent to do good often comes with the urgency of reaching a target. There is an allied urge to forcibly remove any obstacle that stands in the way. Use of force can lead to violence. Also, one cannot do good without a clear idea of what is good or bad. One has to keep comparing everything to those notions of good and bad. The persistent comparison and classification blocks the way of fresh perception and new relationships. Sound health and spirit eludes the one wanting to do good. If sensitivity is blunted in the process, violence can come about. Either way, when one starts with the goal of doing good to others, it is difficult to avoid violence.

What will we be left with, if we were to shun the pursuit of a goal, shun expectations and even shun comparisons? Perhaps a bit of healthy living. Looking and listening with eyes and ears wide open. Keeping the doors and windows open for all the wonders of this world. Letting relation with nature and with other humans grow. Making that relation count. Making it suffice.

Sufficient living can lead to other things. There can be developments in terms of community health, education , environment or other aspects. But none of these are definite goals. The goals can take shape along the way.

This may sound like an absurdly modest end to the ambitious search for a good deed. On the other hand, the search was for a starting point anyway. If the end is known at the beginning, there is no fun in the journey.

66, Amritalal Dawn Road
Kolkata - 700035

[Paramesh Goswami]


No comments:

Blogger Widgets
Powered by Blogger.