‘THAT BAD PERSON’ AND ‘POOR ME’


    YOUTH: So, we choose our own lives and our own pasts?
    PHILOSOPHER: Yes. There probably isn’t anyone who leads a problem-free life. Every person has sad experiences and setbacks and suffers unbearable treatment and great disappointment. Then, why do some people refer to tragedies as ‘lessons’ or ‘memories’, while others remain shackled to such events and regard them as inviolable traumas? This is not being shackled to the past. That past coloured by unhappiness is something one needs. Though it may be putting it harshly, it could be said that one is getting drunk on the cheap wine of tragedy and trying to forget the bitterness of an unfortunate ‘now’.
    YOUTH: Enough! You’ve got some nerve. ‘Cheap wine of tragedy?’ What you’re saying is nothing but the logic of the strong, the logic of the victor. You don’t know the pain of the downtrodden. You are insulting the downtrodden.
    PHILOSOPHER: No, you are wrong. It is precisely because I believe in human potential that I am opposed to getting drunk on tragedy.
    YOUTH: Look, it hasn’t been my intention to find out what kind of life you have led, but I think I’ve started to understand. Basically, without ever having a major setback or encountering overwhelming irrationality, you have crossed the threshold into a world of nebulous philosophy. That’s why you can just toss off people’s emotional scars like they’re nothing. How exceptionally blessed you’ve been!
    PHILOSOPHER: It seems you are having difficulty accepting this. Well, let’s give something else a try. This is a triangular column that we use occasionally in counselling.
    YOUTH: Sounds interesting. Please explain.
    PHILOSOPHER: This triangular column represents our psyche. From where you are sitting right now, you should be able to see only two of the three sides. What is written on those sides?
    YOUTH: One side says ‘That bad person’. The other says ‘Poor me’.
    PHILOSOPHER: Right. Most of the people who come for counselling start off talking about one or the other. They tearfully complain about the unhappiness that has befallen them. Or, they speak of their hatred for the other people who torment them and the society that surrounds them. It is not only in counselling. When speaking with family and friends, or when offering consultation, it is not an easy thing to be conscious of what one is talking about at that moment. However, by visualising it in this way, one can see clearly that what one is talking about is actually just these two things. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
    YOUTH: To blame ‘that bad person’, or to plead ‘poor me’. Well, I guess you could put it that way . . . PHILOSOPHER: But this is not the point we should be talking to each other about. No matter how much you seek agreement regarding ‘that bad person’ or complain about ‘poor me’, and whether there is someone who listens to that, even if you derive some temporary comfort, it will not lead to a true solution.
    YOUTH: Then, what can one do?
    PHILOSOPHER: The triangular column has another side that is hidden from you now. What sort of thing do you think is written on it?
    YOUTH: Hey, stop messing around and just show it to me!
    PHILOSOPHER: All right. Please read out loud what it says there. The philosopher had brought out a piece of paper folded into a triangular column. From where the youth sat, only two of its three faces could be seen. On one face were the words ‘That bad person’, and on the other, ‘Poor me’. According to the philosopher, the complaints of anxious people always ended up being one or the other. And then the philosopher slowly rotated the triangular column with his thin fingers and revealed the words written on the remaining face—the words that shook the youth’s heart.
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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