I did an independent project under Dr. Kamla Chowdhry when I was at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
She was a noted social psychologist and had a penetrating insight into the human psyche.
In my paper I waxed strong against persons who displayed a particular character trait.
She asked gently probing questions till I realized that what I was railing against was also a problem in my life. One that I resisted acknowledging.
We never see the world as it is – we see the world as we are.
Look around you at the persons in your life and observe them closely. The persistent bore complains about how long winded everyone is. The totally self-centered lout laments the selfishness of others.
What we consistently observe about others says a great deal about us.
Patrick was penniless when he came to America. He joined a sweatshop and learnt tailoring. He worked hard and soon opened his own shop. He was ambitious and he put in long hours and in a few years his chain of upscale men’s clothing stores made him a multimillionaire.
He finally took a vacation in Europe and held court to admiring relatives when he came back.
“And when we went to Rome I had a private audience with the Pope,” he announced grandly.
There was a collective sigh as the audience tried to assimilate this momentous news.
“Yep,” Patrick continued, savoring the situation, “There was just the two of us in this huge office.”
There was more silence.
Finally an aunt ventured, “Well Patrick, how was he?”
“Size 38 long,” said Patrick promptly, “But he’s tough to outfit because his trousers are size 42.”
One of the participants in my live program, a surgeon from Ohio, summarized it neatly, “If you can spot it, you got it!”
What do you notice about persons you meet? Do you see that she is shabbily dressed or that there is genuine affection in her greeting? Do you make note that he went to an obscure no-name college or that he has a deep curiosity and knowledge about many disparate fields?
He was a good cat burglar, the best in the game.
He climbed in through the attic window and his crepe soled shoes made no noise as he moved through the house picking up the valuable mementos and putting them noiselessly in a chamois bag.
The house belonged to a hedge fund mogul and priceless objets d’art like Faberge eggs were everywhere.
But he had an enemy. Another thief who used similar techniques had already thwarted him by raiding two houses he had earmarked for a visit.
It was a bizarre truth-is-stranger-than-fiction replay of the fifties romantic thriller ‘To Catch a Thief’.
And, exactly as in the movie, his rival was also in the house.
He sensed the presence and then he saw him in a shadowy flicker.
He was resolute and he had come prepared. He rose up suddenly and so did his adversary. He raised his pistol and fired rapidly aiming slightly left and center and slightly right to be sure of hitting his target.
There was a crash. The wall was a mirror and it shattered and some of the glass fragments hit him.
It is ever thus in life. We fight with mirrors as we try to defend ourselves.
Our enemy is within us. It is in our envy and hatred and sloth and our desperate need to be more, get more and be seen as more and better.
And because it is in us we see it outside everywhere.
Why do we clean the mirror when the dirt is on our face?
Think about this.