Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Speaking Tree - Service Is The Highest Form Of Self-Expression

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Speaking Tree - Service Is The Highest Form Of Self-Expression


With elections round the corner, we, the people, are witnessing not only the familiar and seasonal vote bank politicking and pre-election freebies, but also public leadership reeking of self-aggrandisement, inflated ego and recklessness. 

These are so far removed from Gandhiji’s precepts and his leading the Civil Disobedience Movement during the Independence struggle as ‘Chief Servant of the Nation’.

Political leaders like Nehru, Radhakrishnan, Rajendra Prasad, Ambedkar and Lal Bahadur Shastri were public servants first. 

We have business leaders who are role models, like Azim Premji of Wipro and Narayanamurthy of Infosys. Spiritual icons like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Maulana Wahiddudin Khan and others like them are working to bring disparate groups together and get them to live in harmony.

Those of noble intentions from the past like Florence Nightingale who nursed soldiers during the Crimean war; Anne Sullivan, who mentored Helen Keller into becoming one of the most influential people in history and Albert Schweitzer, with his philosophy of “Reverence for Life”, cannot be easily forgotten.

Increasingly, though, we find that those who hold public office do not care much for accountability or selfless service. 

Even in a democracy like India, those who get elected to high offices let power go to their heads and they forget why they are there in the first place.

Today, self-promotion and sycophancy of those in governance have become hurdles to true empowerment of the people. 

While we live in a politico-cultural milieu in which individuality and fearless self-expression, personal growth and development are important aspects, there is the danger of not being able to take these forward to a larger constituency to include all people and not just individuals or select communities. 

To be able to promote common good, we need to revisit the values of selflessness and compassion that will only promote greater democratic expressions.

At first sight this might appear strange. Does not self-expression mean that we reach the heights in our career through ruthless competition and self-promotion, in any which way possible? 

Education then becomes a key to personality growth and self-development that manifests in relentless promotion of self. 

But what is missing is self-expression that flows from self-giving. But it is the highest form of self-expression. It may involve some amount of sacrifice, but the final outcome can only bring benefit to all, including oneself.

Many good people sometimes rather depressingly feel that all they do and say are mere drops in the ocean, when surrounded by such a sea of misery and despair. 

But, deep down, they know they are following a call, taking forward a divine inspiration and intervention in their own lives and that of others. 

If they treat the work they do and the help they give to others as a divine calling, it becomes a form of self-expression that is divine.

 Aid workers to this day go to zones of conflict and war to give humanitarian assistance -- not for ulterior motives but to save lives. 

Sometimes, they even put themselves in the line of fire, extending a helping hand to those in need, hoping for the best. But service is more than just a humanitarian call. 

It is a divine call. That is why the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “Master, grant that I might never seek so much to be served as to serve” is the highest form of prayer.
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