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Relationships, 2016

Proving vs. Improving

Hari Prasada Das


I never used to look at Facebook except for when a message would come my way from a far off contact. Today, I’m afraid I look at Facebook ad nauseam, though I expect that to change soon.

It’s the prospect of running a startup that demands a social media presence. And in its infancy, you want to check up, and check up, again and again, to make sure it’s okay… At least that’s how it feels for this conflicted Facebook user.

Certainly, there’s also a lot of good that can come from this presence and exposure to others. Else, I’d not take advantage. But there are myriad drawbacks, one of which is the sheer chaos of your custom “newsfeed.”

A case-in-point that really got into my system was when I randomly saw the post of my ex-girlfriend – she whom I refer to as my “supreme beloved” in several speaking presentations.

She was the love of my life.
We were to be married.
There were no plans.
We were in college.
But it was supposed to be so…
True love.
Nothing could shake us.
Then we broke up.
Then we got back together.
Then we broke up.
Then it was final…
True love.

But I really felt that I could not fall so hard for someone again. It was very special for the good parts of the year and a half that it lasted. When it was over, that was the darkest period of my life to date. I’d always been a happy camper. This was my closest ever dance with depression. I was furious with her, and there were many airtight reasons to feel furious.

As time moved on, I subtly planned my revenge in the form of feeling superior. The more I would achieve, the more I’d leave her behind. The more I’d elevate myself with success, the more I’d rise above her ordinariness. I’d see myself the hero and triumph over the young villainess.

And then I became a spiritualist.

I began to love truth more than the notion of true love, what to speak of fury or the conceit of victory.

My stance towards her could no longer hold up. It caved with all of the imperceptibly lingering rage. And instead, something miraculous happened. Rather than leaving her in the dust, I was left with gratitude and trust. A trust in myself most of all.

But one that did not exclude a naïve trust in the other – my romantic ideal of letting the romance subside and blossom further into friendship. Because she’d introduced me to the path of vegetarianism out of compassion for the suffering of animals and rebellion against the gross abuses of the meat industry, I felt I’d grown tremendously.

Moreover, because I’d met the spiritualists who inspired me to endeavor towards self-realization at a vegetarian cooking club, I felt an un-repayable debt to the former beloved.

If you connect the dots, you see wondrous things. I saw so much wonder and have written about it extensively. Thus my gratitude to her, an instrument in divine hands, was undeniable. Of equal merit: I saw my own weaknesses and limitations in ways I’d have never known because of her.

This provoked me deeply to seek out my real self, free from the shackles of ego. Hence, in my eyes, she’s a teacher. Unbeknownst to her. Unintended. And hard as hell to learn from. But exactly the teacher I required.

The last thing I did in connection to her was try to honor that. I asked to meet after three years of silence simply to show my affection and well-wishes. I requested the presence of her new boyfriend who I eerily knew from the days she and I were together, to ensure my action was unconditional. I presented them both with home-baked vegan muffins and other goodies. Then I parted ways to remain in a purer silence for what would amount to eight years.

Enter: Facebook and the illustrious Newsfeed.

A photograph I recognized from the days of our relationship. She’d given it to me to always think of her while we were apart. I had found great solace in that photograph during the course of our long-distance relationship between NYU and Cornell U.

There were other photos I’d recognized too. One was of a slightly sexier nature and showcased her belly-button ring. The caption reminded me of how she kindly volunteered to remove it because it was not a great draw for me, being the straight-laced, sheltered boy I was.

The clincher:
“This seems to be the only photographic evidence of my belly button piercing. I hid that $%@# from my parents for six or seven years!!! Then one of my stupid boyfriends didn't like it so I took it out.”

Ouch!! Wow. I wasn’t prepared for the blow.

I had no idea how she thought of me, if she thought of me at all. But the discrepancy between the ways we thought of one another over the years clearly could not have been greater! To be relegated to not merely a “stupid boyfriend,” but one of a string of “stupid boyfriends,” struck me as not particularly honorific. If we were in any closer proximity, I shudder to think of its effect. Much more so, if not for my spiritual practice, I shudder to think of its effect.

For a little while, I saw myself through her eyes, and it made me sad.
Mostly because I couldn’t figure out how someone could think that of another human being...much less parade it around to her friends for 9 Likes...much less about someone who held her in a rather high regard.

But thankfully, I could resist the urge to retaliate as well as the urge to convince her otherwise. All I wanted was to find out for myself what would prompt someone to think this way about me and what can I learn from it.

I aspire to love each person to the best of my abilities, universally, but if ever I’ve loved someone from the core of me, that person remains in my heart – for something rightly drew that love.

And beyond this sacred principle I strive to live by, I’ve been taught so many things I needed to learn from this young girl at the time – lessons impossible to have gleaned any other way.

I wanted so much to apologize for whatever hurt or trouble I may have caused in past. In youthful immaturity and the throes of love I showcased a great many shortcomings. I still retain many shortcomings to this day. Yet, I find myself most eager to learn and grow.

This is my solitary commitment to myself. And it is a very strong but joyful one.
I wished she would somehow let me know what inspired her to view me in that light, in case I may benefit from the understanding. I wished her only the very best.

Nothing she, nor anyone else, does or doesn’t do can change that. In this way, one can experience a taste of fortitude. It isn’t easy for me to love someone who evidently doesn’t love me. But it is natural. It just takes time, practice, and a holistic view of the struggling souls on this lonely planet who each have something special to offer, to whatever degree it may shine forth or be covered.

When we view ourselves through the eyes of another, we take substantial risk. We give them power to make us what they see fit. It’s an objectification that we expressly corroborate. They cannot objectify without our inadvertent consent.

There’s plenty of humiliation to go around. But what we do with that humiliation is what counts. There is so much progress to be made in the face of failure. Fearlessness to be gained in the face of great shame.

There is no telling what leaps and bounds we can make, if only we can shake the eyes of others who would make us something other than who we are.

When faced with such menacing eyes, the question we must ask is: Will we try to prove or improve?

Hari Prasada Das

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