This article relates a personal experience of mine, which illustrate the points made in the book article ‘Sin and Guilt – monstrosity of mind’. It’s about how I came to recognise what Ramesh Balsekar was saying through a close friendship with a dear friend of mine – she’s female so let’s call her X. X has been central in my life since 2012 – she rented a room in my flat, then a flat in my house. Thus we have had innumerable interactions.
X was born with a genetic condition which causes multiple malformations of the body, which include that she was born deaf and only gained very minimal hearing after an operation when she was five. It’s a long story and I’ll spare you the many challenging details.
I think I can reasonably assert to being, nowadays, fairly empathic and constructive. But I must say, that it took me about seven (!) years of frequent contact to halfway understand how she ‘ticks’, and how her experiences have formed (and traumatised) her. I see the reason for this as the fact that I had much easier personal circumstances in my life – robust health, loving parents, intact family, well educated, earnt enough money and in general had an interesting life. So there was just no personal experience in me which could be in resonance with X’s extremely challenging circumstances and experiences. I could imagine such (external) circumstances in my mind, but not how the subject would feel, or how that person would be shaped and traumatised.
Of course I was sympathetic and supportive, and tried to be as patient as I could, but sometimes I was frustrated with her, cross and full of silent reproach: Why so long-winded, so inflexible, so caught up with fighting circumstances and the shortcomings of society… and so on. After about six to seven years I slowly began to get a better feeling for her limitations in everyday life, especially those due to the very real problems of being hard of hearing (and totally lacking directional hearing – something I had to observe for a long time to halfway understand the problems this causes).
Then one day I had just reread my own summary of ‘Sin and Guilt’ – and I realised that X could not be otherwise than she is. If ‘I’ had been born in exactly all her circumstances (including temperament) and been through all exactly the same experiences as she has, then ‘I’ would be exactly the same as she is. The only difference would be that ‘I’ would be experiencing her life, rather than X.
To realise this offers up at least three further thoughts:
- Feeling (general) frustration may be an understandable organismic reaction, but thinking that someone else should be different to how they are completely misses the point – they cannot be different to how they are!
- Obviously this principle must apply to all people, all beings, all life; so we can extrapolate and understand that things (in general) cannot be other than they are.
- If ‘I’ would be experiencing exactly X’s life, what does this tell us about our oh so prized individual identity? Seems like it isn’t so special after all