Necessity of Relationships – Eknath Easwaran
To keep the ego from becoming inflated, it is essential to have active personal relationships. Without other people to related to, we end up brooding more and more on ourselves, until finally we live in a world of one. Unfortunately, this is the tenor of our times. I was reading not long ago that the number of men and women living alone in this country has doubled in recent years. It is a sobering comment on what inflated self-will can do.
When some of these people were interviewed, the reasons they gave for choosing to live by themselves were often worthy of a three-year-old child. “When I come home from work”, one said, “I like to throw my clothes wherever I want.” She was serious. Another said, “I like to turn up my stereo as loud as I want.” And a third: “I do not like to have to argue about what I am going to watch on television.” If we find it difficult to get along with others, that is just the reason to be with them more. Difficulty in relationships is a clear warning signal: “Watch out! The ego-load is getting wider.” It is in the give-and-take of life that we learn to be flexible, to smooth out the angles and corners of our personality so that we can relate easily to those around us.
The other day I was listening to a two-year-old boy trying to get his mother to give him something she thought he probably should not have. All I heard was “I want…I want…” and then a prolonged cry. It is one thing for a two-year-old to cry when he does not get what he wants. But at some point we should grow up, which means learning to go against our likes and dislikes when necessary. This is something we can work at systematically, simply by putting our own preferences last and the welfare of others first. When we are able to do this gracefully, we can be called adults. Until then we are children.