The windows of my soul I throw
Wide open to the sun.
The modern thinking man is leading his life just on the superficial level, so much so that the concept of self-development or of reaching the soul is simply out of place. Instead, what dominates is the egoistic feeling os the self as man is just busy feeding his ego. The masked identities veil the real self that is greedy, selfish, jealous and so on. The serenity and a calm mind is what is lacking in the modern man, living in a society torn apart by frequently occurring acts of violence. We have had two World Wars but things haven’t stopped at that. A continuous war has been going on in the form of cold war or bickering on several other fronts.
Mata Amritananda Mayi in her speech at the United Nations on August 29, 2000 exclaimed that ‘we stepped into the new millennium with great hopes and expectations of change. But though numbers denoting years are different, essentially nothing has changed. The real change must happen within us. What we are faced with today is that phenomenon, which is termed as erosion of values. This erosion has emerged out to be a process that has come to stay in our lives. We, especially the youngsters, have been so overpowered by the foreign cultures that we are continuously drifting away from the traditional moorings, leading to our alienation. The tendency of self-understanding and introspection is a trend that has been long abandoned by the generation X – every individual of which has come to be nothing more than just being one of the crowd.
Wordsworth has rightly pointed out in his famous sonnet:
“The world is too much with us
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”
We, as humans, often waste our energies over trifles like choosing our materialistic ideals and goals. And it is often in such type of pursuits in which we are so much engrossed that we are cut off from our own selves. This is precisely why we are unable to hear our conscience’s words of warning at the time of committing a wrong deed. The face of it can be seen in the degradation of the moral standards, especially in the youngsters, who love everything that is fast – be it swanky cars or racy bikes or the urge of making fast money.
Hindrances on the way of Self-development
Before we take steps for the development of self-concept we must first of all identify all the hindrances that block the path of self-development – because only then will we be able to chalk out a targeted plan of action to reverse the damaging process in operation First of all, let us have a look at the much talked of term, that is, modernization. Often being modern is taken to the blind imitation of the West – call it slavish mentality or the weakness of character but we are always trying to adopt the western values no matter how damaging they may be for us and we are always ready to relinquish our own, howsoever cherishable and practical they may be. This very nonchalant adoption of Western values by the youngsters construes that they live their life on a superficial level – trying to be something what they are not. So there is no question of self-development.
A related trend that is being observed in society is the vulgar display of wealth. In this way the economic progress of particular section of society leads to dissatisfaction, frustration and a lacking feeling among the have-nots, it even promotes crime. Self-development is not a narrow concept. It includes the development of peace of mind, feeling of satisfaction and a sense of completeness; rather the reverse is happening.
Healthy competition among fellow beings (whether students at school or persons in a job) is a must. But too much of it can cause problems. While talking of students, too much of academic pressure exerted upon them by either parents or teachers can cause more harm than good. It can prove to be a major hurdle on the path of the development of ‘self’ as it generates negativity.
Lest we forget, the changing lifestyle is also a major stumbling block. Today’s kids no longer play the games the earlier generation used to. There is lack of physical activity – video games being the most popular recreational activity, thus hindering the physical development. And self-development is not possible until and unless there is harmonious development of all the aspects of one’s personality. The teacher should encourage participation of more and more students in physical activities at school and also spread awareness amongst the students.
Our society structure is in a flux at present. The institution of joint family system is fast giving way to the nuclear family system. The growing number of old age homes is a strong indicator of the degeneration of our society. The parents are busy with their jobs with little time to spend in company of their kids. All this leaves the child with very few options as far as expressing his emotions is concerned. The teacher, along with the peer group, can play a dominant role. The proper channelization of emotions will mean constructive use of energy otherwise the child might stray from the right path. Simply lending an ear in the time of crisis can work wonders. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan has rightly remarked, “One good schoolmaster is worth a thousand priests.”
Education is the best means through which we can boost the positive image of students, overcoming all the hurdles that obstruct the path of self-development. Kahlil Gibran in his famous book, ‘The Prophet’ writes in the chapter ‘Self Knowledge’:
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales to weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.
Therefore, we can say that we cannot measure how much the self has been developed. Moreover it is an inner journey and it is the teacher who can influence the child in treading the path of self-development in a more effective way. “A teacher affects eternity, no one can tell where his influence stops”, says Henry Adams. So let us all as educators pledge today to do our bit honestly. Remember every drop counts!
By Amritbir Kaur