Shahriar Shahriari

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Message of the Month

September, 2001

Taken for Granted

When was the last time that one of your loved ones came up to you and with a lot of excitement said, "I just heard this guy talk about something very profound. He was saying... such and such. Isn't that amazing?"

And you felt a wave of strange energy, as if somebody just poured a bucket of cold water over you. You didn't know how to react, because you were thinking, "I have been trying to tell you the same thing for such a long time, but you never heard me. And now it takes a total stranger to say the same thing once, and you take it as a message for the heavens...."

While disappointed with the process, deep down you are also happy that they "finally got it", but you wished it could have been done much sooner, when you first told them.

And then, there is the other side of the coin. When was the last time you approached one of your loved ones with considerable excitement and said, "you can't believe what I just heard. So and so was saying such and such... isn't that amazing?"

And you were waiting for them to share the same excitement at receiving this revelation, and be just as inspired and energized as yourself, but all you get is "the look". They try very hard to be congenial, and eventually utter something benign, or even lame. Something like, "that's nice!"

So you are thinking to yourself, either they didn't get it, or it is one of those things that they just had to be there...

Why is it that we consider strangers to be bearers of heavenly inspiration and messengers of the divine? Why is it that those closest to us very rarely - if at all - have the same impact?

And conversely, why is it that we constantly make impact on strangers and those whom we hardly know, yet when it comes to the ones we love most and have known most intimately, we can seldom make a dent?

They say everybody is a hero in somebody else's town.

This is very evident in the stories of the lives of the prophets. Jesus was a carpenter in Nazareth, yet Christ everywhere else. Mohammed had to migrate before he was taken seriously. Prince Siddhartha could not become Buddha until he left the Palace. And Zarathushtra made very little impact in his own hometown. Only when he got to a faraway land, did he manage to change the world of his time.

While reflecting upon this notion, I realized that it is in our nature to become familiar with what is surrounding us. Our home becomes familiar, our town and the local streets, our workplace, they all become familiar. And after a while, we know exactly where everything is. We even know the potholes down our street.

And in the same way, our companions, those with whom we spend the most amount of time, become very familiar to us. We know exactly what they look like, and how they behave... except that they change and they generally grow to behave differently with time.

Just like the potholes down our street may be fixed and paved over, the potholes in the character of our loved ones also fill up - and perhaps some new ones are created - and the grooves in their features also change - and generally multiply with age.

But because of our familiarity, we rarely look at them with fresh eyes, and even more rarely interact with them with a fresh mind.

We take them for granted, and they take us for granted. We don't hear what they say because our ears are already full of what they would say. But we hear the voice of the stranger, because we have no preconceived notions - at least not until they open their mouth.

By the same token, our loved ones are not receptive to our wisdom, but venerate the wisdom of strangers. We try to justify it by nice spiritual platitudes such as "when the student is ready, the teacher appears". But that is mainly to convince ourselves that our wisdom was sound and we are OK.

In a way, taking someone for granted is a defense mechanism. A shield with which to protect ourselves against exposing our ignorance. If I can disregard what my loved ones say, then I am really no dumber than they are.

But why do we accept the fact that we are also taken for granted? Perhaps that too is a defense mechanism. If I am taken for granted, then the gems that I share become commonplace. Once they are devalued to that level, or should I say, once I have allowed them to become devalued to such a level, then these gems of wisdom are no more than colored glass and bits of quartz found on any beach.

And if the gifts that I can share, are not really of that much value, then I don't have to go through the trouble of sharing them with others. And thus I have relieved myself of my human responsibility of sharing my gifts with the world.

The less I have to exert myself and go out there to give of myself, the more I can crawl back into my comfort zone. And that gives me further opportunity to shield myself, by being taken for granted even more. What a wonderfully effective self-defense mechanism. It feeds on itself.

Except that it misses one thing. It may bring us comfort and ease, but the cost of that comfort is the loss of our humanness.

So what is the solution? Can I force myself upon my loved ones? Can I force them to not take me for granted? Should I push myself upon them, over and over again, until they finally get it, and acknowledge that I have all these gems to share with them?

Of course not. Like everything else, the solution is an inside job. The only reason others (those close to me or otherwise) may take me for granted is because I have taken myself for granted. And the only way I can stop taking myself for granted is by stopping to take others for granted.

So my only way out is to have the spirit of a child - to look at the world with fresh eyes, to hear everything with fresh ears, and to interact with everyone with a fresh mind.

So the next time we connect, if I take you for granted, don't get upset with me. Just smile at me, and wink - and I will know....

Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, CA
September 2001

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