Sunday, 30 November 2014

Book Review: The Road Less Travelled


Prof Scot peck was an American professor and psychiatrist who died in 2005 and I just finished reading his most famous book  ‘The road less traveled' which  deals with an in depth analysis of the most astonishing element of human life which is LOVE . Well before that , let me bring in few of the key concepts that he explains .

In the first chapter he describes the culture of discipline which an individual needs to bring up in his/her life as a personal quality. For this we need to  master  four skills. Firstly the skill of delaying gratification. This is an attitude of scheduling our pain and pleasure, such that you accept the pain first to know the value of pleasure. Isn't it true?  Haven't we experienced pleasure in the backdrop of pain. For example when we have the pleasure of a good family or a good relationship, we are unaware of the pain that we will have if  we don’t have it.  So on the  reverse ,  first we should  undergo a process of pain , of not being in a good relationship and then understand its  value   . Prof Scott says that if you have an attitude of delaying your gratification or if life gives you pain in the beginning, you enjoy the pleasure later by knowing its value. 

The second skill is in developing an attitude of owing up or what he calls as taking responsibility. We have all blamed somebody else or the  circumstance for our  painful situation. Have we taken responsibility to the circumstance which gave us pain  .  We need to build up an attitude where we first blame our self  for a painful event, and not blame another individual for its cause. 

The third skill is on our ability for dedication to reality.  Our view of reality is like a map to negotiate the terrain of life. If we set our reality perfectly, then we reach the destination. This is nothing but   self-acceptance and clarity on what we really are , beyond those masks that you wear in your work place or even at your home. In a society filled with a show off culture,  this is an important skill,  to be learned. 

The fourth skill is balancing which is our ability to look at our ups and downs with composure. No elation of your emotions when you are in pleasure and no depression during pain. ( This quality echoes verse 38 in chapter 2 of the Bhagwat Gita, which reads  sukhaduhkhe same krtva labhalabhao jayaajaya;  ( look at pain and pleasure with equanimity) and in verse 15 ,where it says  sama dukha sukhaam deeram  ( the brave looks at pleasure and pain equally)).

Prof Scott concludes his chapter on discipline by asking us to  develop these four skills and  face any challenge in life. His second section is on love where he critically analyses the feeling of  love, contrary  to the way we have considered it to be . For Prof Scott LOVE IS ANY THOUGHT,GESTURE OR DEED which will result in progress in  the life of the person whom we love . When I say I love my child, I mean I am in a continues process of thinking and doing for the child’s material and spiritual progress. The same applies when you say that I love my friend or my nation.

He says that love is not just a feeling but commitment and the exercise of wisdom in a relationship. To quote from the book ‘’ genuine love is a self-replenishing activity as it enlarges the self rather than diminishing it and is  a process of judicious  giving and judicious  taking ’’  Note the word judicious which means making judgement  with wisdom. This tempts me to quote  Swamy Chinmayananda who’s central theme of talk in his Gita discourses were  on ‘’ developing the faculty of intellect without being misled by emotions and feelings ‘’ -a hard fact indeed-. Exercising  this intellect is what Prof Scott means by being judicious.

Having said what love is, he goes on to define what love is not. He says falling in love is just a misnomer and this experience is nothing but a sex-linked erotic experience where there is  breaking up of our ego boundaries which is nothing but a naturally induced brain effect and not love. So he questions the whole western phraseology of making love and goes on to say that this experience does not last long but results in rebuilding of the ego boundaries eventually making you falling out of love. Here  he breaks the myth of romantic love. 

Prof Scott has also touched upon the fact that love is also not dependency. To quote him ‘’ Two people love each other when they are quite capable of living without each other but choose to live with each other’’, He says passive dependency in a loving relationship is a disorder and is the cause of many Psycho somatic disorders.

Through this book Peter Scott have made an in depth analysis on the practicality of Love, relationships and personalities and it is indeed one of the best books that I had read recently. Needless to say the book is still a ten million copy bestseller.


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