Understanding the Duality of Existence

Sudhirendar Sharma*

Each of us have multiple identities, which for the sake of convenience, can be broadly clubbed under two categories ie., what we reflect ‘outward’ as a bio-physical person, and the one that is ‘inward’ but is not fully reflected outwardly. However, the ratio between these ‘two’ manifestations in a person may vary for reasons. Another way in which this duality is articulated is as an outward identity that is termed ‘resume virtue’ – summed up as the accomplishments that we list on our curriculum vitae, and the second is termed ‘eulogy virtue’ – the things that our friends and family will say about us when we are gone. You might ask: should we care what others think about us when we are gone? Even if you may not, the fact of the matter is that all through their life, most people are bothered with this nagging question – ‘what others think’ (लोग क्या कहेंगे)! The only difference being that while alive our concern is related to how our ‘resume virtue’ gets seen by others, and not as much our ‘eulogy virtue’. Much of it gets reversed once we are gone. Isn’t it?

As humans, our identity is reflected in what we accomplish compared to others. Therefore, most of us present our ‘resume’ as a mark of our distinct identity because that is the only stuff we seem to be made of, and which can be publicly shared. Without resume, what else is there to mention? Is that so or there is more than ‘resume’ that constitutes us?

Whether we like it or not, there are any number of those who are ahead of their ‘resume virtue’. They radiate their eternal strength – goodness, humility, and a feel-good feeling about their presence. We often meet such people at some point in our lives, and quote encounters with them all through our life. I am sure you will recall many such people whose ‘resume virtue’ is lesser known then what they reflect. You value them for what they are/were. Think over it to realize that such people rarely say what they think about themselves, and what their ‘resume’ reflects. They present before us what we end-up eulogizing about. It is more than sum total of their accomplishments.

If ‘resume virtue’ is so great and is carried as a ‘banner of identity’ that we don’t tire of repeatedly projecting, why are a vast majority ‘depressed’ or carry a feeling of ‘perceived helplessness’. Why is our ‘emotional ecosystem’ so vulnerable? A friend told me that despite one of the best CVs, nobody wants to touch base with him after he’s relinquished the office he was holding due to his CV-driven credentials. No wonder, he feels lonely and somewhat depressed as if he has no value. After years of being a ‘resume person’ he has ceased to exist, almost reduced to a vegetable in life-time continuum.

Some recent research in ‘Nature’ (the journal tracks the nature and cause of depression frequently) has reported that not only parents but kids too are heavily stressed. In 2017, World Health Organisation (WHO) had assessed India as the most ‘distressed’ country. Look around and you will find that the actual situation may have worsened. Isn’t it the reality of times we live in?

Structural reforms to address the malaise may not be within our reach to turn things around. But emotional reform is within us to make a difference. Can we not make difference in our own lives? It occurs to me that despite a decent level of career success, not much has been done to build ‘eulogy virtues’. Have we achieved that generosity of spirit, or the depth of character? Think before saying ‘yes’ because self-praise is no recommendation.

 I have come to realize that we are clearer on how to build an ‘external career’ but are oblivious about building ‘inner character’. Even though we have done well in acquiring assets and valuables to showcase to our family and friends that we have done better. Despite all that we might have achieved, we still remain ‘inadequate’ within. Beyond a point, these don’t help. A void remains! I am not delivering sermons but wonder if building external achievements do not rob us of exploring the deepest parts of ourselves which often remains unexplored. As long as we slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity, we remain in a trap of ‘resume virtue’.  I think the challenge is to draw distinction between your ‘actual self’ and your ‘desired self’.

To draw such distinction and to search the ‘desired self’ is a huge undertaking. A part of the answer lies in being aware of over emphasis on ‘resume virtue’. In simple terms, ‘resume virtue’ has expiry date firmly embossed on it, whereas ‘eulogy virtue’ is timeless.


*Sudhirendar Sharma is an environmental journalist and a development professional. He has also written extensively on Hindi film music. Some of his Music Notes can be seen under Taan-Tarang (तान-तरंग) category on this website.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author and do not reflect the views of raagdelhi.com which does not assume any responsibility for the same.


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