…Continued from Of Apples and Applesauce (II)
After almost an hour of an intense, unending debate, Adarsh was fed to the teeth with the whole thing. He was standing alone against a seminar hall full of people- all against him. Even his wife didn’t support him. He was despondent and glum. He begged to be allowed to withdraw from the exercise. Raman told him the only way he could be excused is if he agreed that there were five apples, not six. Adarsh couldn’t agree to this and the arguments began afresh.
Nearly two hours after the exercise had begun, Adarsh was exhausted. He didn’t have the energy to argue any more. He was no longer very certain that he had seen six apples. Deep within him, he was shaken. A steel wedge of doubt had broken open the airtight bubble of his certainly. He asked himself if he was losing his mind. He questioned his perceptions, his beliefs and his eyesight. He has turned into putty.
He chided himself for not being observant enough. He berated himself for his inattention. More than anything, he was angry with himself for having wasted two hours arguing about something he wasn’t sure about. Two hours of time and an incalculable amount of energy to waste over something as silly as whether there were five apples or six! What difference did it make anyhow? It was a silly game, not life and death! He wished he hadn’t come to the seminar at all. As for his wife!!
“Alright Raman. I agree with you all. There were five apples.” Adarsh felt sick. He’d have given anything not to have volunteered for the stupid exercise!
“Now that Adarsh has agreed that there are five apples not six, I think we can proceed with the exercise. What do you say Adarsh?”
“Alright”, Adarsh mumbled dispiritedly.
“Please put your hands together for Adarsh, ladies and gentlemen. I think he has played the game very well.”
The seminar hall burst into applause. Adarsh stood silently, head bowed, unsmiling.
“And now for the last part of the exercise.
“Adarsh, I owe you an apology. I am sorry for all the anguish I made you suffer. Please don’t be annoyed with your wife. She was under instruction from me… as were the rest of the people in the seminar hall. You were right all along. There were six apples… not five!”
Adarsh couldn’t believe his ears! He had been right all along! There were six apples!! But then why…….!!!?
“I know you are wondering why. I will explain why I did what I did. But first tell me, am I forgiven?”
“What do you mean? I don’t understand anything”, Adarsh said stiffly. Forgiven? After what they put him though in the past two hours?! No way!
“I know you must feel resentful. You are perfectly justified in being angry with me. I more than deserve it. I’ve put you through a terrible time. Most humbly I beg you to forgive me. Nothing would have put my point across as well as this exercise has.”
“What point?” asked Adarsh, a little mollified.
“I’ll tell you but first, will you forgive me?”
Adarsh’s last defenses gave way. For a man of Raman’s stature to apologize so humbly!
The two men shook hands. There was an expression of relief on Adarsh’s face as if he had just woken up from a nightmare and realized that it was all a bad dream.
“Tell me the truth Adarsh, did you begin to doubt yourself?”
“Yes I did, especially because no one in the seminar hall had any reason to contradict me.”
“It couldn’t have been easy, rejecting the evidence of your own eyes, how did you do it?”
“Well, you are right. It wasn’t easy. But after all, how could so many people be wrong?”
“This, THIS statement: How can so many people be wrong? is the stone we tie to our feet before we ever think of spreading our wings. We allow the certainly of other people’s opinions to fade away the vibrancy of our own perceptions. We let them drown out our truth with their loud untruths. We throw away our light and consent to sit in their darkness. We find it easy to trust their judgment even though it contradicts our own evaluation.
“This willingness holds you back from your own glorious life. You are not defeated in a clean, chivalrous battle- you voluntarily throw away your weapons. You aren’t imprisoned; you crawl into a cell and wear your shackles voluntarily.
“No one can force you to accept their point of view. In this exercise Adarsh, did any one threaten you? Was your life or the safety of your loved one at stake? No, right? At some point, you agreed to give in. Were you angry with yourself for having given in?”
“Yes”, said Adarsh in a low voice.
“Don’t blame yourself. Public opinion could have been ignored, though it is certainly not easy. But to go against your friends and family is the toughest thing of all. As all Harry Potter fans will remember Dumbledore words, ‘It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.’ You stood up against strong public opinion for nearly two hours Adarsh. Many would have given up a lot sooner. You have my respect and appreciation for your strength of mind to withstand it for as long as you did. Kudos!
“The question here wasn’t of apples. It never is, is it? The debate wasn’t about how many of them there were. One apple more or less wouldn’t really have made much of a difference. The point of the exercise was that you have an obligation- and a right- to protect your apples from being reduced to mere applesauce (slang for Absurdity, Nonsense, Bunkum).
“Better men than I have warned us not to let public opinion rule our perceptions. Let me quote from a few giants of thoughts.
“Bertram Russell: One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.
“William Ralph Inge: Public opinion, a vulgar, impertinent, anonymous tyrant who deliberately makes life unpleasant for anyone who is not content to the average person.
“Edwin Hubbel Chapin: At the bottom of not a little of the bravery that appears in the world, there lurks a miserable cowardice. Men will face powder and steel because they have not the courage to face public opinion.
“Vincent Van Gogh: Painting is a faith, and it imposes the duty to disregard public opinion.
“All the giants spirit who have ever walked the earth must have dealt with the opposing tide of public opinion. I am sure Mother Teresa must have been told by many that she was being a misguided fool to think that she alone could alleviate the suffering of Calcutta’s poor and ailing. Gandhi must have been scoffed at for being delusional. The man who discovered fire must have been ostracized from his clan.
“Over the many millenia of human existence, countless people must have been told by the ‘public’ of their time how wrong, misguided and delusional they were. They would have been told what they could- or could not- do. They would have been told to surrender their knowledge to public’s opinion. The public of their time would have been ready with its pots and pans; knives and chopping boards; to reduce their apples to applesauce.
“People who pronounce a judgment on your abilities aren’t ever right. Even you don’t know what you can accomplish, how can they? Human potential is an infinite, immeasurable bounty. As soon as you think you finally weighed, measured and tagged yours, off it goes on a brand new flight, taking on a stature you find difficult to hold into your eyes, transforming you into something you hadn’t ever imagined into becoming. If you could just get out of your own way, you will amaze yourself. I am as sure of that as I am of the sun rising in the east tomorrow morning.
“When you are faced with opinions which belie your own assessment, when the world appeals to you with its emotional entreaties to throw away your vision, just ask yourself this question, “Will I stand by my apples or let them be turned into (mere) applesauce? Apples or applesauce? Apples or applesauce? APPLES OR APPLESAUCE?!”
Raman finished to a standing ovation. He stood on the podium with his head bowed, accepting the tribute. No one clapped as loudly as Adarsh did.
The question floated buoyantly in the hall: Apples or Applesauce?