Going Clean…

A few weeks back I had an interesting conversation with a young student. The student is one of the most talented and enthusiastic kids I have seen in an engineering college. What is most impressive about him is that he has his priorities straight and has a crisp way of handling situations.

While discussing the latest projects he had taken up, he was explaining how he was handling a bunch of students under him and his brief exploits with high ranked individuals in different companies. My colleague at this point joked saying that with this much experience and contacts it might be a great idea to consider a career in politics. The boy surprised us by telling thats what he eventually intended to do.

The conversation moved to politics from there and he was explaining as to how he intended to follow ‘clean politics’. Intrigued, I asked him what he meant by ‘clean politics’. The boy charmingly said that he intended to do act only for the benefit of the people and avoid anything that harmed anybody.

The comment metaphorically stirred up a hornet’s nest in the room. As my colleague smiled and then laughed at the idea, I admired the boy’s resolve; Despite everything it seemed like the boy’s choice of path was for an imaginary destination.

I explained to the boy that the only action that has a high probability of not causing harm to other people is inaction. And choosing that path will almost certainly cause harm to him. We discussed about cause and effect; and about how any decision can trickle down in time to cause harm to some random person. I told him that the best anyone can do is to ‘try’ to cause more good than harm.

The whole conversation reminded me of the Zen story “We’ll see”. The goes something like this:

There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“We’ll see,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“We’ll see,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“We’ll see” said the farmer.