|What shall it profit a man…? – MPK Kutty|
M P K Kutty
What shall it profit a man…? The human mind is naturally inclined to calculate what profit it will gain from its each effort, each striving and endeavour ; its manipulations and strategy planning are all aimed at one thing: maximizing profit. The investor, the farmer, the businessman, the broker, the real estate dealer, the politician, the lawyer, the writer are all planning as to what course of action will bringing him/her the maximum gain…
We are fortunate to live at a time when many Indians are making it big and getting included in the list of the world’s millionaires and billionaires. They are making it big in foreign lands like the United States and the Gulf region. Those days when our newspapers and magazines contained pathetic short stories with themes of poverty, despair and unemployment seem to be over, though we can not close our eyes to the fact that still some poverty remains in some pockets.
Indeed, what is profitable for man? What fascinates him? Money? Power? Beauty? Music? The kaleidoscopic picture of the spectrum of human desires is indeed fascinating. There are men like Oscar Wilde who wanted to drain the cup of pleasure to the very last drop. We read about it in the newspapers all the time. There was this actress who paid Rs 42 lakhs for a new hairstyle. There was this industrialist who built a 27-storeyed house for him to live in.
This pursuit of happiness through this earthly routes are bound to be self defeating because of the ephemeral nature of existence and the insatiable nature of the senses. ‘The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear satisfied with hearing,’ This renders all efforts to secure unrestrained satisfaction of our our earthly hopes and desires futile. Again, the futility of unbridled appetites, of coveting possessions and of pride and selfish ambitions are all analysed in most of the scriptures.
As for pursuit of wealth and power, in characteristic satire, Malcolm Muggeridge, a celebrated journalist and author, says that the Devil’s offer of kingdoms of pleasure are fraudulent: it consists of only script writers, make-up girls and stage managers.
Man’s efforts to make himself personally and collectively happy in earthly terms are doomed to failure. The journalist then emphasizes that man must be born again–undergo a change of heartto experience true peace and contentment.
Happiness lies in forget-fulness of the self, not in its indulgence.. In escape from sensual appetites, not in their satisfaction. He further says men usually live in self enclosed prisons and to come out of it to relate to the community outside in love…
This truth is again much better stated by paul E Billheimer in his book, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows :The person who has m
ade the most spectacular success but who reaches life’s end without learning love has totally failed…Life is for learning love, not for sensual pleasure, nor for accumulating riches, nor fame, not for building great manufacturing, commercial or military empires…All of these area of value only if they grow out of or contribute to the learning or the expression of love.’
But Oscar Wilde, lived like those who ignored these realities. He confessed: ‘I used to live entirely for pleasure. I shunned suffering and sorrow of any kind.’ But his mother ‘who knew life as a whole’ used to quote Goethe’s lines: ‘Who never ate his bread in sorrow, who never spent the midnight hours weeping and waiting for the morrow he Knows you not, ye heavenly powers.’
Once he believed that there was enough sorrow in one narrow London lane to prove that God did not love man, he soon understood while going through the struggles and privations of life some of the lessons ‘in the heart of pain.’
In his confessions he recalls that he wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world. His fault was that he shunned the trees on what seemed to be the dark side of the garden.
Failure, disgrace, poverty, sorrow, despair, pain, remorse that makes one walk on thorns, conscience that condemns, self-abasement that punishes, the misery that puts ashes on its head, the anguish that chooses sack cloth for its raiment all these were things of which I was afraid.’ But he was forced to taste each of them in turn. (He had to be in prison for a couple of years and that was when he learnt those ‘lessons of pain.’)
He even came to a point to recognize that ‘love of some kind is the only possible explanation of the extraordinary amount of suffering that there is in the world.’
If the world has indeed been built of sorrow, it has been built by the hands of love because no other way could the soul of man , for whom the world was made, reach the full stature of its perfection. Pleasure for the beautiful body, but pain for the beautiful soul.’ The gain of all the world in sin, will not make up for the ruin of the soul by sin.
A study of Christ’s life also convinced him that while he pitied the poor and those who are shut up in prisons, he has far more pity for the rich, for the hard hedonists, for those who waste their freedom by becoming slaves to things …Riches and pleasure seemed to him to be really greater tragedies than poverty and sorrow. Christ mocked the ‘whited-sepulcher of respectability. He treated worldly success as a thing absolutely to be despised. He saw nothing in it at all. He looked on wealth as an encumbrance to man. He showed that the spirit alone was of value. He understood the leprosy of the leper, the darkness of the blind, the fierce misery of those who live for pleasure, the strange poverty of the rich.
When Christ advised the rich young man to ‘sell all that you have and give to the poor’ he was not thinking of the state of the poor but of the soul of the young man, the soul that wealth had marred.
Likewise when he teaches men to ‘forgive your enemies’ it is not for the sake of the enemy but for one’s own sake that He says so, and because love is more beautiful than hate.
In modern society’s obsession with success, achievement and pleasure, the lessons of pain and suffering are forgotten. But it is the lives of those like Oscar Wilde, Tolstoy and Lincoln that precious lessons are learnt. Those who have known struggles, suffering, defeat and loss and have come out of their depths learn to empathize with others. They develop an appreciation, a sensitivity and understanding of life that fills them with compassion gentleness and a deep loving concern. They turn out to be the beautiful souls in comparison to those fattened by the pleasures of the world.