A spate of recent events has confirmed what we already knew- that fanaticism and unmitigated lust lead only to self destruction. The Dera episode is so fresh in our minds that its details are not even worth mentioning. Suffice it to say that not only did the so-called Baba self destruct, he also destroyed the lives of innumerable others through his perennial misdeeds and through the recent incidents of unimaginable violence.
The Blue Whale video game which seems to have spread its tentacles even to traditional cities like Lucknow is another instance of blind and senseless belief in a dictum or decree. For the uninitiated, this computer game challenges participants to a series of ‘dares’ and the last stage is the commitment of suicide by the ‘player’. What is appalling to note is the fact that several Indian youth and many from other countries have fallen prey to the wiles of the creators.
Both these examples are similar in certain ways, even though they may not appear to be. The commonality between them is the so called craze, bordering on madness, to a certain ‘cause’. What compels a young 14 year old to give up his life for either of these ‘followings’? This is something which needs to be examined in some detail.
Jon Krakauer called them “people who are seduced by the promise or the illusion of the absolute!”
Wikipedia defines fanaticism as “belief or behaviour involving uncritical zeal or obsessive enthusiasm”. While we all know that enthusiasm and motivation are the keys to success in any sphere, it is the obsession and desperation for anything which obviously leads to disaster.
Students who are made to go into over-drive in their teens, in order to prepare for “higher studies” at hallowed institutions, actually find themselves utterly depressed; their mental health suffers a great deal. Youngsters who spend a few hours on the sports field or pursue extra-curricular activities, end up winning many more laurels even in academics than the single-minded studious sorts. There are exceptions to every rule, but parents would do well to encourage their wards towards being all-rounders rather than becoming uni-dimensional in life.
Jilted lovers are known to indulge in acts of vengeance against the objects of their desire if things do not work out. Stalking someone or being constantly obsessed with one person obviously leads to counter-productive situations.
Sports persons have to tread a very fine line between giving all that they possess to their endeavours and becoming over-desperate to achieve their goals. And this holds true for each of us, in any sphere. When a marketing man has repeated nightmares about his targets and the dreaded consequences of not being able to achieve them, he is clearly in a state of near-fanaticism, perhaps by compulsion.
Greats like Roger Federer or Usain Bolt have clearly been passionate about their sport and have left no stone unturned to scale the heights that they have, but over-indulgence has certainly not been their method. By playing some music at times, or going hiking with the family, Federer follows a balanced, not fanatical, approach to the attainment of brilliance. Bolt too must have spent years waking up at 5 am and toiling for hours before he accrued the marvellous abilities that he had, but he just does not seem to be the fanatical sort.
Many scientists and inventors, hundreds of corporate honchos and even some serving government officers, spend most of their lives driven by an unseen force that just pushes them harder and harder towards their work. The family often suffers but they do not relent. Life ultimately passes by and they realise then that they did not have time to enjoy any of it.
According to Philosopher George Santayana fanaticism means “redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.” Even the scriptures state that over-zealousness for anything will never yield results. The mindless pursuit of an objective somehow overtakes all else in the life of such a pursuer and leads to an unwanted end.
Winston Churchill described such a person most perfectly, as one “who cannot change his mind, and won’t change the subject.”
It is clearly a balanced approach that becalms the mind and leads to happier endings!