“Too much of a good thing is bad for you”
Maria was a typical health freak. True to her profession as a health consultant, her life was desciplined with schedules and diets which she faithfully kept. Starting from her morning yoga to her early bed times, she never faltered even once. All foods were scrutinised according to calories, fibre content, sugars, etc. She hardly attended parties unless they were at the office or for lunch, and if she did come, she would simply settle for the salad. Maria took pride in her looks, and advocated her healthy lifestyle with whoever she met. She was also a cover model for a local health mag. However, her life was not short of compromises. Behind the great looks and the fab body, Maria never socialised and had few friends. She avoided ‘pizza days’ at the office. Even under extreme conditions of fatigue and sickness, she continued with her exercise regimes, which if skipped would make her feel uneasy and guilty.
One day she received a call from the health mag saying she was to be replaced by a new model. The news didn’t cause much shock, but she was curious to know about her ‘match’. A chance introduction gave Maria this opportunity for a little ‘tell the secret behind your health’ chat. The conversation proved shocking! There were no health secrets. This newbie was completely slim, yet she thrived on food, sodas and buffets. She had no fixed exercises, but she admitted she was very active at work & home and used stairs or walked the mile to several places. She overslept on weekends and never heard of yoga. Counting calories was definitely not her favourite math. Maria found this unbearable. Her years of toil, sacrifices and health formulas were reduced to nothing. She was so disgusted with this newcomer, that for the rest of her life she kept a close watch on her counterpart, looking for opportunities to blame some kind of ailment or disease upon her.
Obviously we all know the moral: pride got her down! But this is just one aspect of life, let’s examine our spiritual side. Question time!:
- Do we focus more on our daily rituals and carry them out without fail, even whether sick or unable?
- Are these rituals looked upon as a target obligation for the day / week?
- Does adhering to these rituals faithfully make us so puffed up so as to look down upon others who don’t do them?
- Have you judged yourself as pious, and therefore all the rest who dont do the same things as you, as non-pious?
- Do you estrange yourself from these so-called ‘non-pious’, so as not to get their bad influence? (this may seem silly, but believe me, many people do)
- When you see a ‘non-pious’ person blessed and happy, do you search / wait for problems to befall them, so you could proudly say “I knew this would happen eventually”
- Do you see the problems that beset a non-pious person as ‘deserving’ and your own problems as ‘Divine trials and tests’?
Descipline is good, just as exercise is good for health, a good study timetable is good for a student, therefore rituals are good for the God-fearing, but we need to see the focus of the same. A Jesuit priest once advised me “too much of a good thing is bad for you”, and though at that time I laughed, I now understand how wrong focuses can get us away from God instead of closer. If our devotions have helped us achieve that oneness with the Divine, then we are on the right track, but if it has lead us to spiritual pride then perhaps we are like a clean shroud that covers a dead corpse. There is no positivity from such people, they have already judged themselves apart from ‘the others’, and have a clear pre-conceived portrait of God. They are too rigid to change or accept that God can be and do more than the Scriptures have recorded. They pull verses from the Bible to suit their needs and amazingly challenge only those who are not as much well-versed.
Something struck me as I was in a Christian meeting once, that Jesus chose 12 unlearned and definitely not-pious men to start His church. They were fishermen, tax men, etc, not scribes and priests. Simple reason: These were unlike those who by-hearted the Scriptures and said ‘God can’t possibly…’, but rather open to “Yes, God can”