Every now and then generous folks at Guardian put out some clever observations of human nature. This one has become my favorite of late.
PVME is an acronym for Please Validate My Existence. Originally it stood “PLEASE AUTHENTICATE MY EXISTENCE” but I think “validation” is closer to the ball. Google the phrase and it will come right on top.
The author cuts straight to the chase with summation of the entire modern book industry – spreading one sentence of advice over hundreds and hundreds of pages of “escalating bibble”. If you ever been to a bookstore it’s hard to disagree – there are tons and tons of books that don’t say anything useful. He then takes a jab at screen writing with a quote about producing Doctor Who, which is a hit British TV show about nonsense (feel free to disagree). “Dialogue is just two monologues clashing,” it went.
That’s a very astute observation – everyone is always thinking and talking about himself, maybe not literally about himself but at least about his personal world view. It’s always a running monologue because no one really tries to see the world in any objective way, and, being conditioned by maya, they literally can’t see it objectively.
This is not an absolute rule but rather an observation of where the world is heading in this information age of social networking and stuff.
And then the author takes us to his main point – all our attempts to communicate with other people are really about validating our own existence. We need to hear that we’ve been heard, understood, acknowledged, sympathized and so on.That is the only reason we reach to other human beings. Not always, of course, but that’s where the modern civilization of rights and liberties is heading.
We are not completely selfish yet and we happily validate other people’s requests but only because it takes us closer to our turn to ping for validation.
What does it mean for us as aspiring devotees? First of all, we are not immune. As ordinary people seek validation of their existence we seek validation of our devotion. We want to be noticed by our guru and fellow devotees.
I was thinking about book distribution and it occurred to me that the number of the books sold is almost like watching karma at work. Sell more books and get more praise. Sell less books and no one will remember your name. If you break some sort of a record than the guru will be practically obliged to glorify your effort. Get into the top three and your name will surely be mentioned at the next sankirtana result announcement.
On its own, however, it doesn’t say anything about your actual devotional progress. You could have sold the books under completely false premises and didn’t encourage a single act of sankirtana but you’ll get your dues regardless. I’ll talk about it some other time. Today I just want to point out that externally our lives are not that different from non-devotees. We still don’t know our spiritual nature and we are still under the influence of the false ego. We are still enjoyers and controllers, albeit sometimes at God’s expense, and we still seek validation of our illusion.
That’s the gist of it – we are in illusion, it doesn’t satisfy the soul, and so we seek external validation.
Devotion, real devotion, is totally opposite. It should be atma suprasidati, it should completely satisfy the soul (SB 1.2.6), and it doesn’t require any external validation. As devotees we don’t ask anything for ourselves, we should only give people Krishna and only share our devotion to Him.
There was a time when such approach shocked people into full surrender to the preaching devotee but these days the crowd has become tougher. These days people know the trick themselves – even Guardian has figured it out, and once you get through with your sincerity they say “Okay, you got my attention, now what do you want?” They’ve been exploited for so long they can’t even fathom that anyone would offer them something without asking for anything in return. And even if they get past that step they still have the audacity to try and exploit the gift of devotion for their own ends, try to take advantage of the devotees.
Sometimes I feel that these people are hopeless. Other devotees, however, still try to get through, try to speak common language, play their own game. This means if people can’t take devotion for free then devotees offer them trade instead. This is not pure preaching, not preaching of pure bhakti as was done by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Prabhupada but it’s better than nothing.
Personally, I think it’s a slippery slope but I’m not the one to judge. Important thing for us is not to get sucked into Please Validate My Existence vortex ourselves. There’s nothing there for us, this is the mentality we should try to give up.