In his book Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman, physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman narrates this story – when he was around 12 years old Feynman got a reputation for fixing radios. Once he was asked to fix a radio that made an ear piercing noise when it was switched on and it took a few minutes before the music started playing. The initial noise ruined the listening experience.
Feynman thought for a while and figured that the valves in the radio were heating up in the wrong order. The amplifier valve was heating first and started making the crackling noise because the tuner valve had not heated yet and the static was getting amplified. Feynman swapped the valves such that now the tuner valve heated first and by the time the amplifier valve heated up the radio was properly tuned into a channel. When switched on there was no harsh sound, instead the radio was silent for a few minutes and then played melodious music.
Like the valves in the radio, we humans have three lamps or three types of fires within us – To Have, To Do and To Be. The ‘to have’ or the fire of desire leads us to want the next bigger car or the next bigger house. The ‘to do’ fire spurs us to action and the ‘to be’ fire guides self-introspection and leads to deeper self-awareness.
Usually our ‘to have’ fire lights up first and makes us want more and more material possessions. This fire of desire then leads to the lighting of the ‘to do’ fire and motivates us to act to acquire the possessions we desire. We tell ourselves that once we have adequate wealth we will then light our ‘to be’ fire.
We need to pause and consider if this sequence of lamps lighting up – to have, to do and to be, is it leading to a joyful life in the long run, or is it leading to an anxious, stressful experience like the noisy radio?
Should we not shape our life such that our ‘to be’ lamp lights up first and we become more self-aware, more self-regulated and develop an internal locus of control? Would this not allow us to make more conscious and better choices? Choices that will then guide our ‘to have’ lamp – to have without becoming compulsive, to have while letting others and future generations have too, to have without compromising the larger good.
This will then fire up the ‘to do’ lamp and lead to action that is focused at pursuing thought-through choices that allow us to flourish, without harming other inhabitants of the planet or our environment.
This Diwali light the lamps within… in the right sequence.