Lost In Quotation: Navigating Digital Wisdom | Opinion

In today’s digital world, where a swipe of a finger brings a flood of wisdom to our screens, it's easy to feel enlightened. Bite-sized nuggets of information such as memes, motivational quotes and life advice frequently appear on our feeds or are forwarded by relatives. Whether a quote enlightens or misleads often depends on where you find yourself in your unique journey through life.
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In today’s digital world, where a swipe of a finger brings a flood of wisdom to our screens, it's easy to feel enlightened. (Representative image: Pixabay)

By Ravi Singh
You are scrolling through your social media feed at midnight and a profound quote catches your eye. It resonates and you feel inspired, ready to take on the world. But hold on a moment! Have you ever paused to consider the potential double-edged sword these well-meaning words might present? In today’s digital world, where a swipe of a finger brings a flood of wisdom to our screens, it's easy to feel enlightened. Bite-sized nuggets of information such as memes, motivational quotes and life advice frequently appear on our feeds or are forwarded by relatives. While their purpose is to inspire and guide, when plucked from their original context and applied indiscriminately, they might cause more harm than good. Whether a quote enlightens or misleads often depends on where you find yourself in your unique journey through life.
Take, for example, a cheerful morning message from a relative, sharing a beautiful quote about forgiveness. "If you suffer harm and choose to forgive, that is the way to truly vanquish your foe" taken from the Thirukkural. It resonates with warmth and compassion, but is it always applicable to your unique situation? Observing numerous quotes on your feed that praise forgiveness, you might convince yourself that you are noble for forgiving someone who takes advantage of you. However, on the other hand, renowned poet, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, in his poem “Shakti aur Kshama”, says “Kshama shobhti us bujhang ko jiske paas garal hai, uska kya jo dantheen vishrahit vineet saral hai". It means that forgiveness is becoming of the serpent that's got venom, nobody cares for the toothless, poisonless, kind and gentle one. What if your generosity is merely a shield for your vulnerability, and your kindness is nothing more than a clever disguise?
Consider the eloquent words on surrender, promoting the wisdom of flowing with life. "Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life" by Eckhart Tolle. While the message conveyed could be reassuring for some people, it could also be used as an excuse for inaction. Sage Vasistha in the book Yoga Vasistha tells Lord Rama, “In this world, whatever is gained is only by self-effort.” In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna echoes a similar sentiment when he tells Arjuna, "Perform your obligatory duty, because action is indeed better than inaction" Where do we draw the line between surrendering and exerting effort? Navigating the delicate equilibrium between the surrender of a wise sage and the assertiveness of a valiant hero is like balancing on a tightrope with no safety net. It's an individual dilemma that no quote can resolve.
The celebration of humility is another area where one can easily get misguided. Consider the quote, "Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real" by Thomas Merton. Humility is indeed a noble quality, but are we embracing it genuinely, or are we hiding our fears and insecurities behind its facade? There might be instances where you hesitate to speak in settings where your insights would be valuable, fearing that others may see it as flaunting your expertise.
Nevertheless, the reality might be that you are concerned with how others view you and are hesitant to step outside your comfort zone. When we shy away from opportunities under the pretext of humility, we might be losing chances to grow and contribute. C.S. Lewis says, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." The line between genuine humility and self-effacing timidity can be quite fuzzy.
The idea of self-love is often misunderstood and inappropriately reinforced through quotes. Oscar Wilde said, "To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance". While self-care and self-respect are essential, they can easily be twisted into narcissism and self-indulgence if misapplied. The nuanced understanding of what self-love truly means can make all the difference.
It doesn't entail loving yourself at the expense of others. In fact Mahatma Gandhi said "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.". The line between self-love and caring for others may be hazy and the individual must use their own wisdom to resolve the dilemma, instead of merely relying on advice of others.
In this ocean of quotations and advice, how do we navigate? For every quote that communicates a concept, you can likely find another saying that expresses a contrasting viewpoint. Not all of us may be lucky enough to have a wise and trustworthy mentor in our lives. The answer lies in introspection, open-mindedness and a willingness to look beyond the surface. We must be mindful of our unique circumstances and apply wisdom judiciously, not just absorb it blindly. Meeting new people and reading books can guide us towards a more thoughtful understanding of these principles. Each of us is the protagonist of our own story, and the lessons that suit one character may not fit another.
In the end, wisdom is not about collecting quotes but about applying them wisely. Our lives are complex and nuanced, and so should be our approach to the guidance we seek and follow. Therefore, I would resist the temptation to conclude this with a generic inspirational quote.
(Views are personal)
Ravi Singh is an author and an IRS officer.
End of Article
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