Two Shades of White
A trekker finds a precious stone in a mountain stream. The next day he meets an attractive woman who has lost her way and is starving. The man opens his bag to share his food. The woman sees the precious stone and asks the man to give it to her. He does so without hesitation. The woman leaves, rejoicing. She knew the stone was worth a fortune.
But a few days later, she comes back to return the stone, “I have been thinking… If one can gift a gem so precious to a stranger, how much more he will do for one of his own! I am returning your gem in the hope that you can give me something even more precious, i.e. your heart that enabled you to give me the stone. Marry me.”
The story radiates goodness. The man was a good human. But so was the woman. It takes a lot to recognize goodness, to wage an inner battle, to change self, and to pursue a righteous path. The two souls were pious and made for each other. A heart-warming tale, indeed! But the story isn’t over yet.
The two got married; however, an unexpected saga unfolded. Much to the woman’s dismay, her husband’s detachment didn’t apply only to materialist possessions, but to relationships as well. She felt as if she was married to a monk, one who was unattached to anything or anyone around him. How she wished she had never come back to return the stone!
So why the unpleasant twist to a beautiful story? To illustrate the difference between two human traits—our stand-alone vs. group identity. The hero in the story was a remarkable selfless “individual”. But when it came to his “social” identity, his personality left a lot to be desired.
When we live in a society, we have a set of obligations towards the ones who surround us at workplace and at home—our colleagues need to feel special on their birthday, our parents need to feel wanted each day, our spouse needs to feel important each moment, and so on.
Just being a good human being is not good enough. We need to be a good social being as well. Selflessness is good, but aloofness is not. Detachment is good, but lifelessness is not.