How can we make ourselves tough?

Why should we make ourselves tough? Does becoming tough mean becoming insensitive? Does it mean ousting others in competition and gaining power? Our schooling has filled us with this notion of heroism. These books worship the conquerors and looters, people who spilled blood at a colossal scale, calling them great. Our history books call Alexander as great; his greatness lies in conquering, warring and looting. We study about the Caeser’s and Napoleans as military geniuses, secretly aspiring to become heroes like them.

In summary, we are schooled by family, society and it’s various institutions to pursue power in the name of glory. We are taught to compete and strive for status and wealth, without any regard for people and their emotions, without any regard to what is happening to humans and society in this mad race for power.

Is becoming tough all about shutting down all our emotions, except the pursuit of power and success? Well, this is how the way things are in business, politics and corporate life isn’t it? The one’s who reach the top of the ladder are those who have elbowed others out of their way. Following this heartless ethic, is this what we mean by toughness? Well some people may do this quite crudely and some may do this with polish. We are not concerned with outward behavior which can be manipulated. We are talking about inside, the desire and hunger for success and power that lurks in humans since millennia. This can be in any field, it works even in scientists, artists, writers and philosophers.

As a human being, concerned about the state of the world, I would not like to be tough but I would like to question all that is happening in the world. And it is tougher to question oneself than it is to be a tough guy. (Anurag Jain’s answer to Why is it so challenging to know yourself?)

A tough guy is only an appearance, a coconut shell with pulp and water inside. A guy who is seeking power, wealth and fame, is actually a person who suffers from a deep sense of inferiority. His outward endeavors are a constant means to escape his inner emptiness, loneliness, insecurity and inferiority. A happy man does not go about destroying, looting and competing. A person who is competing, is competing because he is wanting praise, applauds and obedience of people. Would a person who is happy want others to bow and scrape in front of him? A tough guy is tough only in relation to others. What is he when he is alone, when there is no one around, over whom he can lord and impress? A tough guy cannot live alone; he fears loneliness and emptiness and wants to be continuously surrounded by people. A tough guy is constantly trying to achieve, because he is constantly in fear of failure.

On the other hand, a person who is looking into oneself and trying to understand oneself, is unconcerned bout success, praise and failure. He is unconcerned whether anyone is following him or not. He is not in any race, any competition. He has dropped out of the rat race. It is because he has realized that even if he wins this race, he is still a rat.

This does not mean that he is insensitive or does not care about others. On the contrary, he is more sensitive becuase he is not trying to compete with anyone. And sensitivity is the highest form of relationship.

10 thoughts on “How can we make ourselves tough?

  1. An interesting view and a good analysis of human nature.
    Ambition is the very stuff we are made of , it is our evolutionary inheritance and we cannot help being what we are. Civilisation is built on power ; men and women seek education to get better jobs and a better income which gives them greater environmental power.

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    1. Thank you for taking the energy to respond. Yes, civilization so far has been built on power. This quest for power also causes enormous suffering. One is asking whether there is a totally different way of living possible? Is it possible to live life without the shadow of conflict and suffering? The inquiry can be finished by answering the question with an answer, “No, it’s not possible’. But what if we hold the question without rushing to answer it?

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  2. We are moral beings and as such recognise suffering but often the moral side of our nature is overcome by our own desire to get what we want even at the expense of others comfort.
    A very few devote their lives to serve others and only ask for sufficient for there own essential needs , they are indeed remarkable humans.
    At this moment in India the Hindus and Muslims are planning to build two new temples as the court case has ruled. It would impress me far more of they decided to build toilets together for those twenty million Indians who have none.
    The new Hadron Collider will cost 40 billion why not use this money to build flood defences in vulnerable parts of the world where they have never heard of particle physics.

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  3. Morality cannot solve human problems. Morality is a duality. One cannot suppress one side of human nature. It is always going to come out in some form or the other. No systemic solutions can work too.

    However, my question is what do you and I do, seeing all this suffering, apart from expecting things were other way than what they are presently. Is there something that we can do or just sit helplessly and watch this suffering? Do we accept suffering of humanity as inevitable?

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  4. What we do as individuals will depend on our own degree of morality and I suspect morality is like intelligence a bell curve. At the bottom we have the psychopath and at the top the self sacrificing humanitarian.
    Steven Pinker points out that the only reason war is less prevalent in the last 70 years is that it doesn’t pay not that we have grown more peacable.

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    1. As you yourself are saying; morality is suspect. The fact is, we want to carry on with the instrument of morality in a Kantian fashion. We don’t have the insight that morality cannot solve the problem. And we don’t have this insight because we are not serious enough, we don’t push ourselves to the limits of thought. We are just content with analysis and opinion. If I give my life to ending of suffering, without accepting any conditional solutions, if I have the earnestness and sincerity to deny every falsity, there is a possibility of seeing something entirely new, something beyond the dimension of thought.

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      1. You are moving into the realms of beautiful pipe dreams of the sort that spring up every so often among thinking questioning humans.
        One such dream brought about the ‘Flower Power’ movement in which The Beatles played a significant role.
        They were serious and idealistic as have been many movements before them. Ghandi was like a shining star that blazed for a season or two and was snuffed out . The rule of society from inside each member does not work so we compromise and have a law outside individuality.

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      2. I am definitely not talking of changing the masses. There are the few who reach a different level of consciousness. Since the consciousness of an individual is the consciousness of man, even when an individual’s consciousness touches a higher dimension, there is a change in the consciousness of entire humanity. The calling for this is not for everyone. It’s only for those who are ready.

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      3. That was undertaken by the Marharishi yoga who claimed to have changed the lives of millions including The Beatles by means of transcendental meditation. He has gone now and the world rolls on in much the same way run by humans who behave in much the same way.
        I’m 77 and have not that much longer to go and I expect the world to roll on in much the same way.

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      4. I am certainly not talking of any technique of meditation sir. I am not talking of any path, any method or any destination. I can understand your pessimism. Pessimism is the result of wanting to see a change in the world. I am not therefore attempting a change in the world, rather I am talking of a change at the level of consciousness. I am not talking of influencing people at all. As you have noted, all that is a fad. The change I am talking of is not a process of psychological time. It happens outside the field of psychological time. I am sorry, I am sounding sort of esoteric here but yes, it is so.

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