In Lucknow, there is a ‘Literacy House’, an institution which has done very good work in the field of adult education. Many years back I became quite friendly with its Director and used to meet him on my way to Lucknow from Kanpur. He was a retired Civil Servant who served the institution with dedication for a long time. However, towards the end of his tenure, he appeared to be quite upset with the state of affairs in the institution. Moreover, he had some serious personal problems. One day when I met him, he was in a sad mood. He was glad to see me and shared his problems with me. We started thinking why difficulties come in life and whether there are any positive aspects of them. Instantly came a few ideas to my mind which I am sharing here.
Normally, we consider the difficulties of life as something negative and retarding. We feel that they check the progress of life and delay our reaching the destination. We refuse to see any blessing in them and curse either God or the person who seemingly caused them or ourselves for our past karma. At times our cursing may be justified too but that leads us nowhere. In fact the process of cursing itself consumes a lot of our energy and thus further delays our destination. What then should be our attitude towards the difficulties?
Let us take two examples. Think of an aeroplane landing on the ground. When it lands, its speed is quite high which has to be brought down fast. For this the dampers are opened which resist the movement of the plane. Obviously it is a negative role which delays the reaching of the aeroplane to its destination. But this delay is something desirable and positive. If the speed is not reduced the aeroplane will perhaps never reach its destination and so also the passengers. Now consider a parachute landing. When one jumps with a parachute, it opens and reduces the speed of falling. If this does not happen, the person will fall under gravity and the consequences are obvious. Here also the role of the parachute is seemingly negative, that is, dampening the speed. Obviously none of us consider so and here also dampening is something desirable in order to reach the destination safely.
These two examples will perhaps indicate the message which is being tried to be conveyed. If we look at life’s difficulties with this attitude, we shall understand their utility and consider them helpful in reaching our target. The precaution to be taken is that they should not dampen our spirit so much that the movement is stopped altogether. In that case one will never reach one’s destination. It is, therefore, necessary that the propelling force should be greater than the dampening force. Then only will the resultant movement be forward. The difficulties also provide us time for introspection without which one may follow a wrong path and never reach the destination. Thus they act as navigating aids in the voyage of life.
If we compare life with a road vehicle, the role of difficulties becomes all the more meaningful. A vehicle is a device which runs on account of friction between its wheels and the road. And what is friction? Is it not something negative in the ordinary parlance? However, without friction the movement of the vehicle is not possible. Then consider the brakes of a vehicle. What is their role? Is it not negative which retards the vehicle? But will anyone accept a vehicle without brakes? The role of the brakes in a vehicle is as important as that of the engine and the accelerator. In one sense brakes are more important because their failure may prevent you from ever reaching the destination while the engine failure or low speed may only delay it. That is why while driving we generally find on the road sides a warning “Better late than never”.
Thus life’s difficulties are like a vehicle’s brakes. A life without difficulties is like a vehicle without brakes. Howsoever expensive and beautiful a vehicle may be, it is useless without brakes. Of course, here too the precaution is that the motivation for living should be more than the dampening by difficulties. Then only the movement will be forward and one can aspire to reach the goal safely.
A word of clarification in the end is necessary. There are two kinds of difficulties. Some are caused by God or, say, by nature and some are created by us. in fact, the latter are much more than the former. The above discussion is applicable to the difficulties created by nature in the path of a well meaning sincere person. It may or may not apply in case of self-created difficulties. The distinction between the two may be summed up in this manner: “Difficulties created by God are few and for a purpose, while the difficulties created by us are many and without any purpose". It is the God created difficulties which are the brakes of the life vehicle.