Author’s note: While rummaging through old papers, I came across this short essay I wrote while in college. It was published in the OU International’s special edition on Peace and Understanding. I think it is still relevant. Let me know what you think.
Abraham Cowley, in his essay “Of Myself”, quotes an ode (claimed to have been written when he was only thirteen years old), two lines of which particularly interested me. Says Cowley, “ Acquaintances I would have, but when it depends not on number, but the choice of friends.” There is a great measure of philosophy in his tender words, but I feel, had he lived in these days he would certainly have broadened his views. The fast pace of modern lives and the technological developments in recent times are tending to bring the nations and cultures of the world together. The need for interdependence and coexistence has almost become a necessity.
True, a Man cannot live alone, but what is the scope today to make a choice of the people we come across? How should one understand and “get along” with persons of differing cultures and backgrounds? Is it good to specifically stick to our own views or make compromises in avoiding greater tensions?
Buchard Jacob observed that “ we generally suffer from an optical illusion in favor of those parties and their members with whose interests and our own are in any way connected.” If a person is accommodative, his broad field of interest would contain an illusion of the whole world. He would have no enemies and very few whom he does not like.
I agree with Norman Cousins, when he wrote in last week’s Saturday Review (February 13, 1965) — “To the extent that any religion speaks only on behalf of its own interest, to the extent that it places itself above or apart from the whole; it jeopardizes its own interest and injures the whole.” I strongly feel that the same is true of our dealings with our friends. Conflicts and differences are inevitable. But if one tries to differentiate between a true inner person rather than his outer “actions” (which sometimes betray us) one finds that it is easier to have more congeniality and understanding and “togetherness.”
As one of the writings in the Hindu scriptures says, “No one need be punished (or hated) for an unlimited period because of a limited number of mistakes (or differences).” The parenthetical additions are mine.
I doubt if anyone would disagree with Cicero, who in his exposition on friendship writes, “We must ever be on the search of persons whom we shall love, and who will love us in return. For, if goodwill and affection is taken away, every joy is taken from life.”