By Pulkit Sharma
When the renowned tennis player Arthur Ashe was on the verge of losing his battle against AIDS in 1992, many of his fans expressed shock and despondency, asking him why God had chosen him for such an untimely death when he had not done anything wrong. Ashe placidly responded to these concerns: “All over the world some million teenagers aspire to become tennis players. Of them, only a few thousand play some circuit and only a hundred or so play the grand slam. Finally, only two reach the final of Wimbledon. When I was standing with the trophy of Wimbledon in my hand, I never questioned God ‘Why me?’ And now what right do I have to ask God, why me?”
It is heart-wrenching to see someone close to us reel under a severe illness, especially when their chances of survival are grim. A gamut of emotions sprouts in our mind. One part of us tries hard to imagine that it is a bad dream. Then, there is fear: fear of losing the other person, fear of our life becoming meaningless, fear of losing our sanity. There is yet another part which feels extremely angry: anger at our loved one for not taking adequate care, anger at ourselves for not being able to protect him, anger directed at the healthcare system and finally, anger towards God.
During such times, our assumptions that life is generous, we can control disasters, God is benevolent, and that good people are spared from suffering, come crashing down. No matter how hard we try to distract ourselves from this emotional mayhem, it keeps chasing us incessantly, making us miserable and utterly dysfunctional.
In these moments, we need to understand that despite being harrowing, all these feelings are normal and appropriate, and if we can muster courage to face them, a process of healing would unfold.
Sri Aurobindo suggested that when confronted with such adverse circumstances, we must keep faith that they are not the most fundamental thing in our existence. They are just superficial aberrations, bouts of darkness and once we meet them with faith, persistence and equanimity, the immense power that they hold over us begins to diminish. When we confront these aberrations while keeping our faith in the Divine, initially we may feel overwhelmed but slowly, the intensity of our emotions comes down, and then gradually, there is peace, clarity and wisdom.
With this new perspective, there comes a realistic optimism, making us realise what needs to be done, what can be accomplished and also what cannot be accomplished. Consequently, we can do our bit with full zeal and concentration and surrender the rest to the Divine will, without any fear, guilt or bitterness. If our loved one bounces back to life, then there is gratitude and celebration but if grief strikes us, we can allow ourselves to mourn the loss and find ways to accept the painful reality.
Our journey towards self-growth and wholeness must continue, finding solace and reassurance in the message of Krishn that there was never a time when we and our loved one did not exist. We existed and we will continue to be.
The writer is a clinical psychologist in Puducherry
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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