If we modify our behaviours, then we reduce considerably the chances of being affected by such diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease. But it’s a BIG IF — Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
We often believe that everything is beyond our control, and that all we can do is to passively endure our circumstances and situations. On deeper thinking, however, soon enough we will come to appreciate that this is not necessarily the case, and that to a siginificant extent we can indeed knowingly take charge of our lives and set the direction. True, there are certain events that can come about most unexpectedly. For example, a disease that we cannot prevent can strike, such as an acute viral infection or a bleeding in the brain due to an anomaly in a blood vessel. But there are many preventable diseases, HIV-AIDS, for example, and other infections such as tuberculosis, measles, mumps, whooping cough, tetanus and so on for which medicine has devised vaccines that are administered in childhood.
I started with HIV-AIDS because as I was driving a couple of days ago I happened to listen to a radio programme on the subject on the occasion of World AIDS Day. It is part of a group of diseases of modern times that are known to be associated with what is known as one’s lifestyle, and which include a number of well-known ones that fall in the category of NCDs or non-communicable diseases: among others diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, cancer.
These diseases are strongly related to our behaviours, especially those that put our health at risk, such as smoking, alcoholism, indulging in fast goods, not doing physical exercise, engaging in inappropriate and unprotected sexual acts and so on. If we modify our behaviours, then we reduce considerably the chances of being affected by such diseases. But it’s a BIG IF – and that is where the problem lies. What it boils down to is nothing less than taking our destiny in our own hands, and if we take only a few moments to reflect on this, we shall quickly realize that indeed ‘Man (is) the maker of his own destiny’ – which is another way of expressing this great truism.
It applies to all aspects of our life as we go through it to become responsible participants and contributors, who must add value to what we do and to the ecosystem in which we are called upon to evolve – which starts with the family, extends to the school and then society at large wherever we find ourselves, be it in our country or elsewhere. If we act as responsible citizens, we will make responsible choices – such as in casting our votes during elections. The one that is coming up in Quatre-Bornes is a case in point.
For, by the same logic, we are the ones who also decide the destiny of our country depending upon who we send to represent us; in return, such representatives also have an obligation to act responsibly, towards themselves to start with and then in the performance of their functions vis-à-vis the country and its citizens. After all, it is a choice they have made en pleine connaissance de cause, just as others take up different occupations.
For each occupation there are standards to be maintained and expectations to be met; these are defined by, among other things, objectives to be fulfilled according to established methods of working and principles that will – indeed must — encompass ethics too. And the higher the calling and position, the higher the sense of responsibility and rectitude as regards the role one is assuming in framing the destiny of the nation. We have seen repeatedly, haven’t we, the turmoil and chaos that take place in our own and other countries when those who are in positions of national responsibility default on the latter.
And thus an early start in life to become a responsible member of society is necessary, beginning at the level of the family and as we go through the educational system, and then leave it to join the wider world of work. All through, how we do what we do is premised on what values and habits we have acquired as we grew up, which are imparted by our parents and teachers then by experienced peers. Most importantly, though, is how we supplement these by using our common sense and reasoning to learn for ourselves as we gain access to material along the way, and also build on our own experiences which we must learn from – especially from our mistakes, which must not be repeated. We do not realize enough how lucky we are in this country to have the benefit of universal, free education, and which many fail to make best use of. Besides, regularly there are activities of a learning and educational nature which expand the opportunities for enriching ourselves even further.
One such is book exhibitions: for me it’s like a sacred task to make a call at any that is held in the country, and invariably I will come up with something new or fresh, and that will add to my collection – or that is suitable to be gifted to young minds who I feel are at a stage of their lives when they need to be guided, and are in a position to make the self-effort for their personal development. This is how I found myself at the Ramakrishna Mission Center last Sunday morning, on the last day of their book sales exhibition, an annual event that I never miss. Even though I have many of the titles on display, it is always a feast to my eyes to file past the large number of books on display, flip through as many as I feel like as I go along, and then pick up the ones that I select.
One that I immediately went for is: ‘Man The Maker of His Own Destiny’, which inspired me for the title of this article. It is meant for all ages, but in particular I think it will be very useful for students of secondary schools, who enter the ‘age of reason’ – and are perhaps doing so at an earlier age now – and can start to think for themselves. They are the ones who need guidance, and here are a few topics from the table of contents which will give an idea of what the book is all about: Foundations of a strong personality, Essential values for the cultivation of good manners, Early rising, Cleanliness, Your clothes, Friendship, While at school, On the playground, Constructive utilization of time, Study and its methods, Enlightened citizenship, Facing examinations…
I cannot imagine any student who makes this a prized possession– for it should be passed on to the next generation – who will not make of her/his life a success, as this book will truly enable her/him to be a maker of her/his own destiny. Why, I am even convinced that there are many young adults too who will benefit from the valued contents.
Listen to what the Sage Immortal, Swami Vivekananda, has to say:
Stand up, be bold
Take the whole responsibility
On your shoulder
And know that you are the creator
Of your destiny;
And the strength you want is within yourself
Therefore make your own future
What more is there to add?
* Published in print edition on 8 December 2017