La Mauvaise Foi

La liberté est ce que vous faites avec ce qui a été fait à vous. (Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you) - Jean-Paul Sartre. 

You try to wake up on time every morning. Sometimes you have had a good sleep, sometimes you haven’t, because you were anxious. You try to finish your morning routine as early as possible because you have to leave home by 8AM; to reach office by 9 AM. Office, a place where you spend at least 9 hours of your day, working on things that you probably do not even make use of. But they are important, because they are owned by someone else and they would sell it to other people and make money. You will have to help them make that money because a tiny fraction of that money becomes your salary. There is another person above you, whose primary job is to manage you and make sure you work as intended. You aspire to be that person someday, as he on the other hand, aspires to be the person above him. 

To reach office, you may have had to ride a bike, drive a car or take a bus. It was stressful due to the traffic, due to the distance, but you had to do it. Because, like every other day, you have to get to your workplace. It might be a shop, a mall, a business you own, an office, a factory, a school, college or a university. You have to be there on time. Because that is the way it goes.

At your workplace, you are supposed to work at least 9 hours a day, they say. You mostly end up working more than that. However, you are allowed to take some breaks to drink some tea or coffee per your preference and eat some food at a designated time. You also choose to take this timeout to chat with your friends before returning back to work. Some days are pleasant, some are stressful. On some days, you finish your work on time. On others, you are unable to finish your prescribed tasks. The reasons to which could be many. On that given day, you might not have been in a good mood. You might have had a fight with your parents, partner or a friend or it could be that you simply can’t handle that work load or you might be experiencing a creative block. But, the day must go on. Your work cannot wait. On some days you are recognised for your effort, but there are others when you must be prepared to loose your self respect. It doesn’t matter if you are working on something that you are passionate about or not, you are constantly controlled by someone else. Even if you are owning a business, you are at the mercy of other people. Whether you are loaded with work or entirely free all day, you are expected to spend your time at this place - Working or wasting time. Every evening as you are heading back home, you think about quitting your job. But you cannot quit. You have discovered several reasons not to -

You have a family to run, kid’s education to pay for, a monthly loan instalment on the house you recently bought, a car you have bought or wish to buy, a lavish vacation you want to plan, fancy clothes or gadgets you don’t want to miss having, to plan your retirement, to pay for the medical bills, accumulate more wealth, so on and so forth. The reasons may defer from one to another, but they exist- one or another. "Is retirement the only escape from this?", You begin to wonder. You can find no other answer. There are plenty of factors that stop you from quitting this lifestyle.

Your commitments seem to stop you, the society that has established status and privileges prevents you from quitting, your assumed responsibilities block your way. Left with no choice, you accept that this is how life is meant to be led; this is how a society needs to function. In short, you accept this condition as your fate. "There is no way out", you conclude and begin dreaming of a blissful retirement - A time when you think you shall be finally free. You shall be free from the clutches of the corporate world and other institutions, from the clutches of the society, responsibilities, culture and tradition. And therefore, you accept your present as your fate. French philosopher Sartre called this phenomena as 'La mauvaise foi' (Bad Faith).

‘Bad faith’, he said is the act of convincing ourselves that our condition in life, is our fate and we cannot change it. We keep lying to ourselves that this is destiny and there is nothing we can do about it. We convince ourselves that it is not in our hands, to change our career, separate from our partner with whom we might be sharing an unhappy relationship, escape commitments, reshape our lifestyle or ignore the norms. It is funny that even our dreams for the future are shaped according to what is fed to us by the society. We want to retire in a house of our own, a big one perhaps; by the mountains or by the sea. One may want to travel the world, dragging his weak legs around the globe. Others may want to spend their old age in comfort. So what happens next? What will you do after you have built that dream house of yours? After you have done your ‘tour du monde’? Life does not end there, does it? Perhaps then, you shall think of what you really want to do with your freedom; with the rest of your life.

Those who are clueless about what they want at old age, choose to join a herd of followers marching blindly behind a self proclaimed Guru, to explore their so-called ‘spiritual’ side. Apparently, no one they know has experienced this state of ‘enlightenment’. They have only heard of someone who in turn has heard of someone who has supposedly attained it. They blindly follow this narrative because, they are unable to think for themselves. All their life, they were trained to follow one thing or another; abide by one norm or another, dictated by other people, institutions, society or religion. All that freedom that they possessed since birth, was surrendered to one or other people or institution. But then there are others, who have somewhat defined plans for their future.

One may want to setup a farm and grow vegetables and flowers. Another may want to paint, sing or learn an instrument. Someone may wish to spend time reading, writing or learning a new skill. Some may want to be philanthropists. You have thought about it already, haven’t you?

You have already envisaged that day when you are going to be completely free from the concepts of ‘work’, 'money', ‘society’ 'responsibility', 'traditions', 'religion' and 'status'. When you will have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. But, will you have the same energy, same amount of zeal and interest then? Look around you for an answer and observe those tired old souls. But yet, you have made a solid plan for your old age, well in advance.

If you have already planned a future that may or may not exist, if you dream of a time that you don’t know will arrive, has it occurred to you, that most probably, you are not really planning about what you want in the future. Instead, it is what you want right now! You are convincing yourself that what you desire today, is what you will build in the future. The question then is, when you reach that stage of your life, will you still want what you desired once? Probably not!

Have we then got it all wrong? Do we understand the art of living or are we simply following a pattern set by someone else? Is the source of our unhappiness then, the nostalgic past that we wish to return to and the dream of a blissful future whose existence is uncertain? Are we living our present, in an anticipation of a better tomorrow? And for that 'illusory tomorrow', are we ready to take all orders thrown at us, follow all norms set by someone else, tolerate all forms of exploitation and disrespect? If not, then the question one must be asking is -

"Is there a way to beat this cycle, this system?"

"Can we not smartly make use of this system, that is basically created to exploit us?"

"Can we set our own rules, to shape our life?"

Certainly there are more questions to be asked. But, one can  ponder upon those topics, only when, one has come out of the state of ‘Mauvaise foi’!


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